Beyond the Wall of Sleep – H.P. Lovecraft

Beyond the Wall of Sleep is one of H.P. Lovecraft‘s greatest short stories. It begins with a quote from Shakespeare: “I have an exposition of sleep come upon me.” It then goes into a wonderful mini-essay on the nature of dreams.

Whilst the greater number of our nocturnal visions are perhaps no more than faint and fantastic reflections of our waking experiences—Freud to the contrary with his puerile symbolism—there are still a certain remainder whose immundane and ethereal character permits of no ordinary interpretation, and whose vaguely exciting and disquieting effect suggests possible minute glimpses into a sphere of mental existence no less important than physical life, yet separated from that life by an all but impassable barrier. – H.P. Lovecraft

I think this is why it’s one of my favourite Lovecraft stories – there must be more to dreaming than we know. Do we really go somewhere else when we dream? Can we connect with other people and other beings?

From those blurred and fragmentary memories we may infer much, yet prove little.

Sometimes I believe that this less material life is our truer life, and that our vain presence on the terraqueous globe is itself the secondary or merely virtual phenomenon.

I found this incredible music which I believe is based on the story. It’s beautiful and eerie – well worth a listen! There’s a nine minute track which you can listen to for free.

Read the full story here.

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Strange and Poetic – There Will Be Blood

Starring Daniel Day-Lewis (giving an almighty performance) and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. There Will be Blood.

Release Date: Dec 26, 2007 (yes, it really is nearly nine years old already!)

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Rating: R

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There Will Be Blood follows a man who moves to Little Boston with his son to try his luck in the oil trade. Most people I’ve met who have seen this film love it, but I have to say: hardly anyone I know has seen it!

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There Will Be Blood is ferocious, and it will be championed and attacked with an equal ferocity. When the dust settles, we may look back on it as some kind of obsessed classic. – David Ansen, Newsweek

Boldly and magnificently strange, There Will Be Blood marks a significant departure in the work of Paul Thomas Anderson. – Todd McCarthy, Variety

I remember seeing this in the cinema a week or so after seeing the equally incredible No Country for Old Men and thinking: something magical has happened in the film industry. From now on, all films will be this amazing. Unfortunately I was wrong, but it was an exciting, fleeting moment.

SYNOPSIS: The film follows the rise to power of Daniel Plainview – a charismatic and ruthless oil prospector, driven to succeed by his intense hatred of others and desperate need to see any and all competitors fail. When he learns of oil-rich land in California that can be bought cheaply, he moves his operation there and begins manipulating and exploiting the local landowners into selling him their property. Using his young adopted son H.W. to project the image of a caring family man, Plainview gains the cooperation of almost all the locals with lofty promises to build schools and cultivate the land to make their community flourish. Over time, Plainview’s gradual accumulation of wealth and power causes his true self to surface, and he begins to slowly alienate himself from everyone in his life.IMDB

I’ve only seen it once since the cinema and that was a while ago, but the DVD is on its way for a new viewing. At 158 minutes, There Will Be Blood is a looong film and it’s not fast-moving, so if you have a low attention-span, this is not the film for you! Many critics have stated that the length of this film is indulgent, but it should be. It’s a piece of poetry. Daniel Plainview (the main character) is one that you want to watch for hours, no matter how much you may come to dislike him. What he wants is oil. Craftily working his way up from dusty prospector to roving oilman, Plainview, with his bristling moustache and courtly manner, drives the hardest of bargains. “I’ve built up my hatreds over the years little by little,” Plainview confides in a rare moment of enlightenment. With Day-Lewis’s powerhouse performance dominating, there’s very little room for anyone else to thrive. – Sky

I hate most people. – Daniel Plainview

As well as Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano delivers an excellent performance in this film. He was not as ruthless as Daniel Plainview, and he seemed a bit more in touch with his human side. – Mr Rumsey’s Film Related Musings

The Stunningly Surreal World of Jan Svankmajer

Prolific across the arts, he is best known for the dark, surreal visions and macabre comedy of his films. Combining live action, puppetry and a rich range of animation techniques, he is widely recognised as one of the most original and influential film-makers in world cinema. Cine City

Svankmajer is a Czech visual artist as well as a director, although he’s most well known for his films. These include Lunacy, Surviving Life and Alice, amongst others, with sex and death nearly always present. Lunacy, starring Anna Geislerova, is a poetic and disturbing piece which draws upon the work of Sade and Poe, using Svankmajer’s trademark of live action mixed with stop-animation.

Lunacy

Loosely based on two short stories by Edgar Allen Poe, with a leading character inspired by the Marquis de Sade, Lunacy is an allegory for the crazy world we live in. Young Jean, plagued by maddening nightmares after his mother’s funeral, is invited by a Marquis to spend the night in his castle. MIFF

Jan Svankmajer’s LUNACY – trailer. Warning: it’s always safe to assume that anything to do with Svankmajer is not safe for work. Although, I always think this depends on where you work.

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“Animation is, so far, the only way of breathing life into inanimate things” – Jan Svankmajer

As Far as They Had Got – A “Follow-My-Leader” Story

I just read a very silly story by E. Phillips Oppenheim (1866-1946), William Pett Ridge (1859–1930), Arthur Morrison (1863-1945), Horace Annesley Vachell (1861–1955), Barry Pain (1864-1928), Charles Andrew Garvice (1850-1920) and Richard Marsh (1857-1915). It was originally published in The Strand magazine.

In our May number we published an article entitled “A ‘Follow-my Leader’ Picture,” and in the following pages the same method is applied to the writing of a story, with an extremely interesting result. The story was opened by Mr. E. Phillips Oppenheim, who alone of the contributors was not required to have a complete story outlined in his mind. This opening was then sent to Mr. Pett Ridge, who wrote the next chapter, and also sent a brief statement of the manner in which he thought the whole story might have been completed. These two chapters were then sent on to Mr. Arthur Morrison, who, in the same manner, added his instalment and his idea of the whole story: and so on, chapter by chapter, till the whole was completed. It should, of course, be remembered that each writer had before him merely the preceding chapters of the story, and knew nothing whatever of his predecessors’ proposed methods of ending it. These explanations are given as footnotes to each chapter, and will be found most interesting as throwing light upon the methods of work of the various eminent fiction-writers, and the way in which a story evolves itself in such widely divergent manners in different minds.

I’m not a writer by any means, but if anyone would like to try a project like this, by all means get in touch (jamiesnelling@gmail.com or comment below) and I’ll get it set up!

Fluxus Poetry Art

"Zalop Concerto in No Particular Key" by IUOMA members Cheryl Penn (South Africa) inspired by a performance score and Fluxus word by Ruud Janssen (Netherlands) and ZALOP video by Eduardo Cardoso (Portugal).

“Zalop Concerto in No Particular Key” by IUOMA members Cheryl Penn (South Africa) inspired by a performance score and Fluxus word by Ruud Janssen (Netherlands) and ZALOP video by Eduardo Cardoso (Portugal).

Cheryl Penn’s venture into musical composition is so noteworthy I had to blog it. Most of the IUOMA members are aware of Cheryl’s group for the study and advancement of Ruud Janssen’s Fluxus word “ZALOP,” given legs by the enthusiasm of visual poet Eduardo Cardoso of Portugal.International Union of Mail Artists

Well-known Fluxus artists include George Maciunas, Joseph Beuys, Emmett Williams, Yoko Ono and Nam June Paik. It was Maciunas who got the movement started. Many of these artists were creating Fluxus-style work before they got together and Maciunas created the movement.

When it comes to poetry, Fluxus concentrates on visual poetry; where the language is not necessarily representative and the visual appearance is more important, and concrete poetry; again, visuals are more important than content, but where visual poetry is often visually artistic/aesthetic, concrete poetry tends to focus more on shape, placement and typography.

Fluxus was inspired heavily by Marcel Duchamp and artist and composer John Cage, particularly drawing upon their chance methods and the intention to create something with no purpose or pre-determined idea.

In September 1962, that was Wiesbaden and that was the beginning of Fluxus as performance festival. It was simply performance… What distinguished me was that I belonged to the European faction, because my friends were Europeans, and soon after Dusseldorf, George Maciunas went back to the United States and started the Fluxus thing in the United States… I remained in Europe, and Fluxus became something very important in Europe, much more so than in America, thanks to Beuys, Vostell, Ren≠ Block and other people who believed in Fluxus in a much more serious way than in the United States. These were very accomplished artists, and they were involved in Fluxus and people took note. They explained what Fluxus was, different from what I thought or what Dick thought, and it remains a very very European phenomenon. George was Lithuanian-born himself and had spent the first part of his life in Europe, shaped by these things… He was the “immigrant boy”… No one called himself or herself a Fluxus artist in New York who could match a Vostell or a Beuys or a Kopke or others who remained in Europe and had an entirely different approach. People who made Fluxus created a glorious scene in Europe–Eric Anderson, Kopke, and we did not come out of nowhere, because we had been doing things… My Opera was first done in the 1950s, and so much of my work was done before Fluxus. I knew Vostell, Spoerri, Beuys, Filliou, Ben Patterson and Nam June before there was a Fluxus… I was very close to Spoerri and Filliou. The first performance of Opera in 1959 was with Spoerri and Klaus Bremen and myself in the Keller Club in the Castle in Darmstadt. Daniel was very active in theater at the time, he comes from ballet–the poetry that has come to be identified with me as Fluxus was all there before. It was my work that many people regard as Fluxus work that La Monte saw and that caused Maciunas to phone me and say that I’m coming over to talk about Fluxus. So many of the Americans allegedly came out of John Cage’s class. – Emmett Williams

I recently posted my own Fluxus poem on Examining the Odd. My method involves using chance methods to select words from an article and display them in a poetic form. The chance method is used to decide the article, each word, how many words and how they’re placed.

Decide how many words long you want your poem to be. Draw that number of words from the linen bag, making sure to arrange the words in the order that you drew them from the bag. You may alter your poem in three ways. You may remove up to three words from your poem. You may rearrange the order of two words. You may add any word of your choosing to your poem. Draw one more word from the bag to title your poem. Copy down the poem into this booklet, and add any extra art if you like. Please return the words to the bag. – An alternative method from Fluxuslab

Baffling Beetles

Titan Beetle – World’s Largest Beetle

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The titan beetle is the world’s largest species of beetle. It has been mistakenly classified as a giant cockroach by some people, but it is a pure beetle, with a genus of its own, Titanus. It is a member of the Cerambycidae family, or “longhorn beetles”. Adults grow as long as 16.7 cm (6.5 in) and their mandibles are strong enough to snap a pencil in half, or cause damage to a person’s flesh. Fact Zoo

I’ll admit, I’m scared of spiders and cockroaches, but I love beetles! Perhaps it’s because I live in the UK, so I don’t tend to run in to scary ones. But they’re better in photos anyway, so they can be seen in all their glorious detail.

This lovely North American beetle has the fantastic name: the Eyed Elater! It’s far too cute to be scary. I know the “eyes” aren’t eyes, but they do make it look as though it’s amazed by everything is sees.

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Chalcosoma caucasus Fabricius, 1801
(Scarabaeidae)
Indonesia, Sumatra I.

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Chalcotea neglecta Ritsema, 1882
(Scarabaeidae)
Malaysia, Perak, Cameron Highlands

Chalcotea_neglecta

Chrysina costata (Blanchard, 1850)
(Scarabaeidae)
Mexico, Xicotepec de J. Puebla, VII-VIII. 1998

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Coilodera diardi Gory & Percheron, 1833 (Scarabaeidae) Malaysia, Perak, Cameron Highlands

Coilodera diardi Gory & Percheron, 1833
(Scarabaeidae)
Malaysia, Perak, Cameron Highlands

Dicronocephalus wallichi Hope, 1831 (Scarabaeidae) Thailand

Dicronocephalus wallichi Hope, 1831
(Scarabaeidae)
Thailand

Enoplotrupes sharpi Jordan & Rothschild, 1893
(Scarabaeidae)
Thailand

Enoplotrupes_sharpi

Euchroea coelestis Burmeister, 1842 (Scarabaeidae) Madagascar, Beharasy, V.1998

Euchroea coelestis Burmeister, 1842
(Scarabaeidae)
Madagascar, Beharasy, V.1998

Eudicella gralli Buquet, 1836 (Scarabaeidae) Zair, Kivu Lake

Eudicella gralli Buquet, 1836
(Scarabaeidae)
Zair, Kivu Lake

Goliathus cacicus Olivier, 1789 (Scarabaeidae) Ivory Coast, Tsi forest, X.2001

Goliathus cacicus Olivier, 1789
(Scarabaeidae)
Ivory Coast, Tsi forest, X.2001

Golofa claviger Linnaeus, 1771 (Scarabaeidae) Peru

Golofa claviger Linnaeus, 1771
(Scarabaeidae)
Peru

Golofa pizarro Hope, 1837
(Scarabaeidae)
Mexico, Veracruz, San Pedro Soteapan, VII-VIII. 1996

Golofa_pizarro

The Mezzotint by M.R. James

The Mezzotint is a ghost story by M.R. James, another author whose work is in the Public Domain, so I read it for free on my Kindle. It’s part of a collection of short stories, so plenty more to read there too!

Or listen to it for free here with theme music by The Eldritch Light Orchestra or here.

The classic “Jamesian” ghost story includes the following elements:

  1. a characterful setting in an English village, seaside town or country estate; an ancient town in France, Denmark or Sweden; or a venerable abbey or university
  2. a nondescript and rather naive gentleman-scholar as protagonist (often of a reserved nature)
  3. the discovery of an old book or other antiquarian object that somehow unlocks, calls down the wrath, or at least attracts the unwelcome attention of a supernatural menace, usually from beyond the graveGhost

The Mezzotint offers a charming view of life at Uxbridge College in older times, as well as being a great, classic ghost story. I really enjoyed it and recommend giving it a read (or a listen).