Friday, May 27, 2011

Strange eyes

"Strange eyes, two little whirlpools made by God to destroy fools. Two pearls of infinite cost, two paradises lost. They swallow me in all my dreams. Oh God, I'm still in love with you..."

I had a weekend with my Mammy. Here are some pictures from said weekend:

I need this jacket

Savage Beauty

Dressed to Thrill

Alexander McQueen at the Met.

by Judith Thurman May 16, 2011 The New Yorker

McQueen committed suicide, at forty, in London, on February 11, 2010. The housekeeper found his body hanging in his Mayfair flat. He had been under treatment for depression, and a week earlier his mother, Joyce, had died of cancer. (Her funeral had been scheduled for February 12th; the family went ahead with it.) In 2004, Joyce was invited to interview her famous son, by then at his own label, for the arts page of a British newspaper. In the course of an exchange that was fondly pugnacious on both sides (it was obvious where he’d got his scrappiness), she had asked him to name “his most terrifying fear.” Without hesitation, he replied, “Dying before you.” Normally, it is the parent who dreads losing the child, but the answer makes sense if you take it to mean “killing you with grief.” You have to wonder if, for mercy’s sake, McQueen hadn’t been biding his time.

While McQueen had many anxieties, running dry wasn’t among them. He was supremely confident of his instincts and his virtuosity. That ballast freed him to improvise, to take wild chances, and to jettison received ideas about what clothing should be made of (why not seashells or dead birds?), what it should look like (Renaissance court dress, galactic disco wear, the skins of a mutant species), and, above all, how much it could mean. The designer who creates a dress rarely invests it with as much feeling as the woman who wears it, and couture is not an obvious medium for self-revelation, but in McQueen’s case it was. His work was a form of confessional poetry.

Last week, a retrospective of McQueen’s two decades in fashion, “Savage Beauty,” opened at the Metropolitan Museum, in the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall. Even if you never bother with fashion shows, go to this one. It has more in common with “Sleep No More,” the “immersive” performance of “Macbeth” currently playing in Chelsea, than it does with a conventional display of couture in a gallery, tent, or shop window. Andrew Bolton, the curator of the Met’s Costume Institute, has assembled a hundred ensembles and seventy accessories, mostly from the runway, with a few pieces of couture that McQueen designed at Givenchy, and he gives their history and psychology an astute reading. McQueen was an omnivore (literally so; he always struggled with his weight), and the richness of his work reflects a voracious consumption of high and low culture. He felt an affinity with the Flemish masters, Gospel singing, Elizabethan theatre and its cross-dressing heroines (a line from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was tattooed on his right biceps), contemporary performance art, punk, Surrealism, Japan, the ancient Yoruba, and fin-de-siècle aestheticism. In most particulars, however—including his death—he was an archetypal Romantic.

Bolton has grouped the exhibits according to McQueen’s “Romantic” fixations: historicism, primitivism, naturalism, exoticism, the gothic, and Darwinism. (In his last complete collection, “Plato’s Atlantis,” McQueen envisaged the females of a devolved human species slithering chicly back into the sea in scaly iridescent minidresses.) There is a section on “Romantic Nationalism,” which in McQueen’s case means Scottish tribalism. His paternal ancestors came from the Hebrides, and he never lost his abiding rage at England’s treatment of his clansmen in centuries past. “Fucking haggis, fucking bagpipes,” he said. “I hate it when people romanticize Scotland.” The idea of its bleakness, though, seems to have warmed him—it resembled the climate of his mind.

McQueen’s pride in his ancestry had been ingrained by his mother. (A collection on the theme of witchcraft was dedicated to one of her forebears, who was hanged in Salem.) His father, Ronald, drove a taxi, and Joyce stayed home until her son left school, at sixteen, when she took a teaching job. McQueen was the youngest of their six children—born in 1969—and they christened him Lee Alexander. (He started using his middle name at the outset of his career, because he was on welfare and he didn’t want to lose his benefits.) When Lee was a year old, the family moved from South London to Stepney, in the East End. Trino Verkade, who was McQueen’s first employee, and was part of the Met’s installation team, told me that the area had been a skinhead bastion. “Lee was never a skinhead,” she said, “but he loved their hard and angry look.”

McQueen had realized very young that he was gay, but it took his family some time to accept him as what he called, with deceptive offhandedness, its “pink sheep.” His puberty coincided with the explosion of AIDS, which is to say that he was forced to witness a primal scene that haunted the youth of his generation: sex and death in the same bed. Art, swimming, and ornithology were his primary interests at the tough local comprehensive school. He didn’t have the credentials for university, but he always knew, he said, that he would “be someone” in fashion, and when Joyce heard that Savile Row was recruiting apprentices, he applied. At his first job, with Anderson & Shepherd, one of Britain’s most venerable bespoke tailors, he learned, painstakingly, to cut jackets. (He later claimed that he had sewn an obscene message—“I am a cunt”—into the lining of one destined for Prince Charles. The firm is said to have recalled every garment for the Prince that McQueen had worked on, but no message was found.) He moved to a competitor, Gieves & Hawkes, then to a theatrical costumer, and on to the atelier of an avant-garde designer, Koji Tatsuno. McQueen ended his adolescence in Milan, working for his idol, Romeo Gigli—the modern Poiret. Gigli, he said, taught him, by example, that a designer can’t flourish without a talent for self-promotion.

When McQueen came home to London, about a year later, he thought that he might teach pattern-cutting at the art school that has educated the élite of British fashion, Central Saint Martins. There was no job for him, but the administration invited him to enroll as a postgraduate student, waiving the academic requirements. In 1992, McQueen presented a master’s-degree collection entitled “Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims.” (At Givenchy, he based a collection on the character of a “mad scientist who cut all these women up and mixed them all back together.”) There is a lot of sympathy for the Devil in McQueen’s work. Bolton suggests that you consider it as “a meditation on the dynamics of power, particularly the relation between predator and prey.”

Isabella Blow, a freelance stylist who later became one of the great “noses” of the fashion world, saw the Ripper show, recognized McQueen’s gifts, and bought the collection in its entirety. (A black tuxedo with a bustle and long dagger-shaped lapels lined in blood red is at the Met.) Blow and McQueen were inseparable for a while, then, as his fame increased, less so. She, too, suffered from depression, and killed herself in 2007. Her legendary collection of clothing was saved from dispersal on the auction block by her friend Daphne Guinness.

McQueen’s five years in the Givenchy couture ateliers taught him, he said, to use softness, lightness, and draping as foils for the austerity of his tailoring—and of his temperament. Some of his best work is his most ethereal. But Paris didn’t teach him docility, and he sometimes took impolitic swipes at his bosses. Givenchy is owned by the French luxury conglomerate LVMH. In 2001, when its chief rival, the Gucci Group, offered to back McQueen’s own label, he and Givenchy parted company.

Alienation often accounts for a macabre sense of the marvellous. At the entrance to “Savage Beauty,” there is an evening gown conjured entirely from razor-clam shells. Antelope horns sprout from the shoulders of a pony-skin jacket, and vulture skulls serve as epaulettes on a leather dress. There are angel wings made out of balsa wood, and worms encased in a bodice of molded plastic. “I’m inspired by a feather,” McQueen said of all the duck, turkey, ostrich, and gull plumage in his clothing—“its graphics, its weightlessness, and its engineering.” One of his most demented masterpieces is a glossy black-feathered body cast that transforms its wearer into a hybrid creature—part raptor, part waterfowl, and part woman.

Bolton had full access to the McQueen archives, in London, and the support of McQueen’s associates (his house co-sponsored the show). Sarah Burton, who succeeded him, was busy in London with Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, but she was interviewed for the catalogue. The Norwegian fashion photographer Sølve Sundsbø took the catalogue pictures. It looks as though he bought the mannequins from a junk dealer, and it is startling to learn that they are live models disguised as dummies. Their bodies were coated with white acrylic makeup, and articulated at the joints by black strings. In the retouching process, they lost their heads. But here and there—on a torso, a thigh, an arm—the makeup has worn away, and a bruiselike patch of pink skin shows through, as if the flesh of a corpse were coming to life. The freshness of the shock is pure McQueen.

“Savage Beauty” is a shamelessly theatrical experience that unfolds in a series of elaborate sets. In the first gallery, examples of McQueen’s incomparable tailoring hug the walls of a raw loft. A silk frock coat from the Ripper collection, with a three-point “origami” tail, in a print of thorns (I mistook them for barbed wire), has human hair sewn into the lining. There are several versions of McQueen’s signature “bumsters”: drop-waisted trousers or skirts that flaunt the cleavage of the buttocks. But his outrages were generally redeemed by an ideal of beauty, and the point of the bumsters, he said, was not just to “show the bum”; they elongated the torso, and drew the eye to what he considered the “most erotic” feature of anyone’s body—the base of the spine.

The second gallery is an ornate, spooky hall of mirrors consecrated to McQueen’s gothic reveries about bondage and fetishism. One of the loveliest dresses—with a lampshade skirt of swagged jet beading—has a necrotic-looking jabot of lace ivy that reminds you what a fetish mourning was to the Victorians. Leather abounds, masterfully tortured into submission, as in a zippered sheath with fox sleeves latticed by an elaborate harness. “It’s like ‘The Story of O,’ ” McQueen said. “I’m not big on women looking naïve. There is a hidden agenda in the fragility of romance.”

“The Story of O” proves that a work of art can be distilled from stock pornographic imagery, and McQueen—who has a lot to say, in the wall notes, about the sexual thrill factors of rot, fear, and blood—manages to find beauty, as he put it, “even in the most disgusting of places.” Beyond the hall of mirrors is a “Cabinet of Curiosities,” where inventive instruments of consensual torture in the form of jewelry, headgear, footwear, and corsets are displayed like talismans. Videos from selected runway shows flicker high on the black walls, and the animal sounds of a cheering crowd and a woman moaning issue from hidden speakers. In a clip from one of McQueen’s most radical collections (Spring/Summer 1999), an homage to the German artist Rebecca Horn, the model Shalom Harlow revolves on a turntable, cringing in mock horror as two menacing robots spray her white parachute dress with paint guns. The most striking artifact from this collection is a pair of exquisitely hand-carved high-heeled wooden prostheses that McQueen designed for Aimee Mullins, a bilateral amputee and American Paralympic athlete. She modelled them on the runway with a bridal lace skirt and a centurion’s breastplate of molded leather, sutured like Frankenstein’s skull.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


As the moon rose and the hour grew late
The day-help on the coconut estate
Raked up the dried leaves that fell dead from the trees
Which they burned in a pile by the lake

The beetle king summoned his men

And from the top of the rhododendron stem,
"Calling all volunteers who can carry back here
The Great Mystery has been lit once again"

One beetle emerged from the crowd

In a fashionable abdomen shroud
Said, "I'm a professor, you see, that's no mystery to me
I'll be back soon, successful and proud"

But when the beetle professor returned,

He crawled on all six, as his wings had been burned
And described to the finest detail all he'd learned
There was neither a light, nor a heat, in his words

The deeply dissatisfied king

Climbed the same stem to announce the same thing
But in his second appeal sought to sweeten the deal
With a silver padparadscha ring

The lieutenant stepped out from the line

As he lassoed his thorax with twine
Thinking, "I'm stronger and braver and I'll earn the king's favor
One day all he has will be mine"

But for all the lieutenant's conceit

He too returned singed and admitting defeat
"I had no choice, please believe, but retreat
It was bright as the sun, but with ten times the heat

And it cracked like the thunder and bloodshot my eyes

Though smothered with sticks, it advanced undeterred
Carelessly cast an ash cloud to the sky, my lord
Like a flock of dark vanishing birds"

The beetle king slammed down his fist

"Your flowery description's no better than his!
We sent for the great light and you bring us this?
We didn't ask what it seems like, we asked what it is!"

His majesty's hour at last is drawn nigh

The elegant queen took her leave from his side
Without understanding, but without asking why
She gathered their kids to come bid their goodbyes

And the father explained, "You've been somewhat deceived

You've all called me your dad, but your true Dad's not me
I lay next to your mom and your forms were conceived
Your Father's the light within all that you see

He fills up the ponds as He empties the clouds

Holds without hands and He speaks without sounds
He provides us with the cow's waste and coconuts to eat
Giving one that nice salt taste, and the other its sweet

Sends the black carriage the day death shows its face

Thinning our numbers with kindness and grace
And just as a flower and its fragrance are one
So must each of you and your Father become

Now distribute my scepter, my crown, and my throne

And all we've known as wealth to the poor and alone"
Without further hesitation, without looking back home
The king flew headlong into the blazing unknown

And as the smoke ring hurled higher and higher

The troops flying loops around the telephone wires
They said, "Our beloved's not dead, but his highness instead
Has been utterly changed into fire"

Why not be utterly changed into fire?


"The books are to remind us what asses and fools we are. They're Caesar's praetorian guard, whispering as the parade roars down the avenue, 'Remember, Caesar, thou art mortal.'" - Faber, 451

Wayne Coyne, be my best friend.

The Flaming Lips. July.


Band of Horses

To The Lighthouse

"As summer neared, as the evening lengthened there came to the wakeful, the hopeful, walking the beach, stirring the pool, imaginations of the strangest kind- of flesh turned to atoms which drove before the wind, of stars flashing in their hearts, of outwardly the scattered parts of the vision within. In those mirrors, the minds of men, in those pools of uneasy water, in which cloud forever and shadows form, dreams persisted; and it was impossible to resist the strange intimation which every gull, flower, tree, man and woman, and the white earth itself seemed to declare (but if you questioned at once to withdraw) that good triumph, happiness prevails, order rules, or to resist the extra ordinary stimulus to range hither and thither in search of some absolute good, some crystal of intensity remote from the known pleasures and familiar virtues, something alien to the processes of domestic life, single, hard, bright, like a diamond in the sand which would render the possessor secure. Moreover softened and acquiescent, the spring with their bees humming and gnats dancing threw her cloud about her, veiled her eyes, averted her head, and among passing shadows and fights of small rain seemed to have taken upon her knowledge of the sorrows of mankind."-Woolf



"To want and not to have, sent all up her body a hardness, a hollowness, a strain. And then to want and not to have- to want and want- how that wrung the heart, and wrung it again and again."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Apples and tangerines

"I am dying, Egypt, dying."

Franco surprise


Still don't know what love means


The Miner's Pale Children

Book of Fables

Excerpt from "Broken," in reference to the origins of spiders:

The spiders started out to go with the wind on its pilgrimage...

It was not long before they gave up trying to become whole again, and instead undertook to mend the air. Neither life nor death, they said, would slip through it any more.

After that they were numbered among the dust--makers of ghosts.
The wind never missed them. There were still the clouds.

Audrey Tuesday!



"Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men..."

An Engraving of Blake

Mary Kinzie

"From the ceiling near the roof
Runs smoke of star and field:
The father brings his weather proof
That he will try, and we will yield.
The boly unwinds into the dark;
His beard is blowing in the dark.

About his eyes, no energy.
The climate falls into his hand.
We cast about as we sleep
And see, that this is as he planned--
That we should know his earth, his air
For rocks of tears and rivers of hair."

Friday, May 6, 2011

Little Edie

They Locked Into Each Other

The Puzzle

They locked into each other
like brother & sister,
long-lost relations,
orphans divided by time.

He bit her shoulder
& entered her blood forever.
She bit his tongue
& changed the tone of his song.

They walked together astonished
not to be lonely.
They sought their loneliness
like lost dogs.

But they were joined together
by tongue & shoulder.
His nightmares woke her;
her daydreams startled him.

He fucked so hard
he thought he'd climb back in her.
She came so hard
her skin seemed to dissolve.

She feared she had no yearning
left to write with.
He feared she'd suck him dry
& glide away.

They spoke of all these things
& locked together.
She figured out
the jigsaw of his heart.

& he unscrambled her
& placed the pieces
with such precision
nothing came apart.

© Erica Mann Jong

Wonderful news!
Uncensored Picture of Dorian Gray published

Over 120 years after it was condemned as 'vulgar' and 'unclean', an uncensored version of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray is published by Harvard University Press

    Oscar Wilde
    'Objectionable' material cut from Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray has finally been restored in a new uncensored version.

    Revised after it was condemned in the British press over 130 years ago as "vulgar", "unclean", "poisonous" and "discreditable", an uncensored version of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray has finally been published.

    Wilde's editor JM Stoddart had already deleted a host of "objectionable" text from the novel before it made its first appearance in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in June 1890, cutting out material which made more explicit the homoerotic nature of artist Basil Hallward's feelings for Dorian Gray and which accentuated elements of homosexuality in Gray himself.

    Deciding that the novel as it stood contained "a number of things which an innocent woman would make an exception to", and assuring his employer Craige Lippincott that he would make the book "acceptable to the most fastidious taste", Stoddart also removed references to Gray's female lovers as his "mistresses". He went on to cut "many passages that smacked of decadence more generally," said Nicholas Frankel, editor of the new edition, for Harvard University Press.

    The public outcry which followed the novel's appearance – "it is a tale spawned from the leprous literature of the French Decadents – a poisonous book, the atmosphere of which is heavy with the mephitic odours of moral and spiritual putrefaction," wrote the Daily Chronicle – forced Wilde to revise the novel still further before it appeared in book form in 1891.

    "It is quite true I have worshipped you with far more romance of feeling than a man should ever give to a friend. Somehow I have never loved a woman," Hallward tells Dorian, in one passage which was changed. The censored version read: "From the moment I met you, your personality had the most extraordinary influence over me".

    Frankel, associate professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University said "the time is ripe for the publication of Wilde's novel in its uncensored form … It is the version of the novel that Wilde, I believe, would want us to be reading in the 21st century … I'm bringing it out of the closet a little more."

    Harvard University Press said the differences between Wilde's original text and the published version of the novel "have until now been evident to only the handful of scholars who have examined Wilde's typescript".

    Among other restored passages, Hallward describes the feelings which had driven his portrait of Gray. "There was love in every line, and in every touch there was passion". Another restored line describes Gray walking the street at night; "A man with curious eyes had suddenly peered into his face, and then dogged him with stealthy footsteps, passing and repassing him many times." Gray also reflects on Hallward's feelings for him. "There was something infinitely tragic in a romance that was at once so passionate and sterile".

    In another instance, the question; "Is Sybil Vane your mistress ?" was altered to "What are your relations with Sibyl Vane ?" – one of three references to Gray's "mistresses" that were cut by the editor.

    But critics and academics in the US have not been universal in their praise of the uncensored version. Reviewing the new edition, author and columnist Brooke Allen wrote on the Barnes and Noble website that "whether the original text is actually 'better' than the book version published in 1891 is a moot point".

    "Some of Wilde's original material may have been lost in the latter … but much was gained, too," she wrote. "This annotated version, though a treasure for scholars and for anyone with a serious interest in Wilde, the 1890s, and Aestheticism, should serve as a supplement to the standard text rather than a replacement."

Lara Logan- After The Assault. Incredible interview.

Weasley is King

Yes, I totally nerded out the other night. I can't help it.