The AutoReivs of Ergo Proxy

This was one hell of a day, mm? Many thanks to our guest posters for providing crunchy brain sustenance for all! And now, as you loosen your bootlaces in preparation for the evening, it’s time to take a moment and appreciate these elegant anime robots.

I’ve been hearing about Ergo Proxy for ages but didn’t start watching until last week. Just 4 episodes in so far, I’m admiring the perpetually dusky post-ecodisaster utopia and identifying with the heroine’s utilitarian fashion sense. Of special interest to me, however, are the Entourage AutoReivs – as their name implies they are robotic companions to each citizen and help with everything from shopping to driving to occasional protection.

More stylized in appearance than the humanoid Companion models also present in the world of Ergo Proxy, some autoreivs vaguely resemble bearded men, and others have the shape of a statuesque female, hair pulled back into a strict bun. Despite the appeal of an autoreiv’s services one should remember that they store all of their owners’ data and monitor their actions. Could Big Brother be near? And beware Cogito, the self-awareness virus – it seems to be spreading across Romdo Dome City and all autoreivs are subject to infection…

Ergo Proxy is available on Amazon.

Paravicini’s Accidental Virtuosity

Our third guest blogger is Jake Evans from the bluegrass/country swing band called The Stillhouse Orchestra. Many thanks, Jake! – Nadya

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Virtuosity is one of those terms so overused as to have lost much of its meaning. The word is all too often misapplied to mere technical prowess, impressive though that may be. Derek Paravicini is a pianist for whom the word could have been coined, playing with a firecracker passion that speaks to something primal in the human spirit, right in the heart of where music itself originates. When Paravicini plays, the listener gains a sense of a person driven by the core of his nature; born to it, as it were.

Paravicini was born on 26th July 1979, fifteen weeks premature and weighing less than half a kilo. His twin sister died at birth. As a result of the relative crudity of medical knowledge at the time, the oxygen levels in Derek’s incubator were too high, which left him blind and with severe autism. Derek Paravicini cannot tell left from right, yet he can play Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee note perfect from memory. In fact he remembers every one of the thousands of pieces he has heard in his lifetime, but struggles to count to ten.

Part 1 of the occasionally excellent Five TV Extraordinary People episode about Derek after the jump.

Praying for Rain: Protest Culture’s Gnarled Husk

The scene is Asheville, a small city in North Carolina with a much higher than average activist population, on a gusty day in late March. A line of about 60 people winds their way up through the center of downtown. In time to the pitter-patter of drumsticks on empty caulking buckets, they call and respond.

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“What do we want?”/ “Peace!”/ “When do we want it?” Pause. “Now!” Off-kilter choruses of “there ain’t no power like the power of the people cause the power of the people don’t stop!” break out as the march continues. A single police car ambles by.

It was, on that afternoon, five years since the beginning of the Iraq war –- and protest was the order of the day, coast to coast. A thousand mustered in Washington, D.C. Some attempted to rope off the IRS building with crime scene tape, others harangued contractors from corporations such as Halliburton and Lockheed Martin. Los Angeles had 10,000, San Francisco 7,500 (including bike brigades). There were, as in previous years, the predictable smattering of arrests.

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At night, on cue, there were vigils.

Clearer this year than ever is the fact that these protests are not a political movement. Instead the protesters have become another in a sea of alternative cultures. The signs, art and displays now less for the purpose of enacting actual change than engaging in an affirming ritual, hanging out with friends and self-expression. Despite the massive rise in the number of Americans against the war, protest attendance has actually declined.

Three days later, long after the protesters faded, American casualties in Iraq reached 4,000. The Iraqi dead are, literally, countless. As you read this, the blood continues to flow.

Coilhouse, is, of course, a love letter to alternative culture (says so right there in the mission statement). In many cases, all that’s expected from such a culture is affirming ritual, hanging out with friends and self-expression — serving to make the world more weird and wonderful than it was before. There can, of course, be political and social aims as well, but rarely are they the primary focus.

However, the devolution of the protest from political method to cultural theater is different. This is something intended for a particular purpose — to push society towards a goal — and touted as working towards that end by the organizers, groups and individuals who engage in it. In fact, the goals have been abandoned: these days, people go to protests like they do concerts.

Antiseptic’s Carapacial Corsetry

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Venus Wept: “Justice is blind and, apparently, naked.”

Antiseptic is relatively new, and over the past year I’ve watched their designs get more and more complex. Their riveted leather corsets look aggressive by themselves, but when coupled with Venus Wept Photography’s hyper lighting, the augmented sharp edges and textures show you something even more dangerous and pleasurably painful-to-wear. A stylistic joyride that weaves through 80s dystopia chic, medieval armor, medical fan lacing and many other real and imaginary places from different times, the designs owe a debt to alt-fashion predecessors AMF and Mother of London, with Antiseptic’s designers on a fast track to a voice that’s completely their own.

The San Francisco-based duo behind Antiseptic doesn’t seem to be interested in commercial manufacture, and focuses on showing off their designs on runways and in elaborate fashion shoots. Most recently, they staged a fashion show the San Francisco Fetish Ball that brought together some of my favorite models for the first time.

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Models, clockwise: Alex LaMarsh, Scar13, Eden and Kumi.

Electric Kissing Parties, Squiffy Ether Jag

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One technique from the book “The Art of Kissing,” published by Hugh Morris in 1936, lends itself well to some sort of steampunk re-imagining:

“Some few years ago, a very peculiar kissing custom arose which deserves mention here because, from it, we can learn how to adapt the method to our modern devices. At that time, when young people got together, they held, what was then known as, “electric kissing parties.” Young people are ever on the outlook for novel ways of entertaining themselves. In fact, when ether was first developed as an anesthetic, the young bloods of the town used to form “ether-sniffing” parties in which they got a perfectly squiffy ether “jag.” But to return to the “electric kisses.” An excerpt from a contemporary writer will, perhaps, give us some idea of what happened: ‘The ladies and gentlemen range themselves about the room. In leap year the ladies select a partner, and together they shuffle about on the carpet until they are charged with electricity , the lights in the room having been first turned low. Then they kiss in the dark; and make the sparks fly for the amusement of the onlookers.’ The same sort of experiment could be performed nowadays, on cold, dry nights when the air is overloaded with electricity.”

You can read the rest of the experiment here. It starts off gently, suggesting that you generate static electricity from the carpet in order to make a spark fly between yours and your lover’s lips. Then things take a more dramatic turn! “Once you have practiced this for some time, you will become so innured to the slight shock that you will seek more potent electric shocks. These can be obtained with the use of an electric vibrator or in fact, any device that is worked from a battery and a coil which steps up the weak 3 volts of the battery.” You can see where this is leading… read on.

The image above — this is what I imagine a successful electric-kissing experiment might look like — comes from a book of alchemical collages by artist Max Ernst called “A Week of Kindness”, which was published only two years before “The Art of Kissing,” in 1934. Coincidence? I also want to mention that I searched high and low for this particular image for maybe 10 minutes before finally finding it on Mer’s Flickr Page. Even while she’s off adventuring in the American Wild, Mer finds a way to contribute to the blog. Mysterious forces are at work.

Caged Janet on the Cover of BlackBook

As a brief follow up to this recent post regarding Miss Jackson’s freakatude, let us ruminate on the April cover of BackBook magazine. Here she’s caged and dressed in latex by Polymorphe, House of Harlot, and Syren. Inside she’s snarling from behind some Very Serious headgear.

The BlackBook article describes this Matthew Rolston shoot and tells of “codpieces, feather ticklers, steel pelvic thrusters relieved of their phallic attachments, barbed cowhide whips are fanned out alongside some kind of automaton skull with a full set of human teeth and gums” here. Oh Janet.

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Agnieszka Chylinska’s Toxic Voice

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Agnieszka Chyli?ska is a Polish hard rock/metal singer. As one of the only outspoken, strong and aggressive female performers to emerge from Poland during the 90s, Chyli?ska was frequently criticized by the public and by the media during different phases of her career. What makes her stand out to me isn’t so much her music – it’s her screeching, vigorous vocal style.

My favorite song by Chyli?ska remains the song through which I discovered her, Nienawidze (I Hate). She recorded this song with her old band, O.N.A. The particular remix that I like isn’t popular among many of her fans due to its electronic treatment by Coptic Rain, but I much prefer it to her rock and nu-metal stylings. The video is eerie and reminds me of the Brothers Quay-directed Can’t Go Wrong Without You masterpiece, created for His Name is Alive. It’s just little things that give me that association, such as that bouncing water-filled ballon egg-creature. Watch:

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Her voice just pulls everything together. Some more examples of Agnieszka’s unique singing style:

Most recently, Chyli?ska channeled Nina Hagen in her performance as The Evil Queen in a Polish film called 7 Dwarves. I have no idea what anyone is saying in this clip (other than the word “Pumpernickel”), but it is hilarious. I hope there’s a version with subtitles!

I See a Darkness: Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur

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Before Val Lewton died of a broken heart (a figurative and then literal one), he produced a string of nine films for RKO Pictures from 1942 to 1946. None of them cost more than $150,000 to make. None ran longer than 75 minutes. All of them were saddled with lurid, focus group-tested titles like Isle of the Dead, The Curse of the Cat People, and The Ghost Ship. “They may think I’m going to do the usual chiller stuff which’ll make a quick profit, be laughed at, and be forgotten,” he told writer DeWitt Bodeen, “but I’m going to fool them…I’m going to do the kind of suspense movie I like.”1

The kind that I like too. Atmospheric2, stylish, literate—I might squeeze two of his films onto an all-time Top Ten list of horror favorites. So the news that Twisted Pictures (the people responsible for the Saw franchise) is in the process of re-making four of Lewton’s RKO classics—including my favorite, I Walked with a Zombie—makes me nauseated. I’m finally old enough to appreciate why critics bemoaned the oversexed Cat People remake in 1982. That film, at least, had a twenty-year-old Nastassja Kinski going for it. All we have to look forward to now is snuff porn. So, rather than look ahead, I thought I might take a look back—at Lewton’s meteoric career, and at a few scenes from his movies that still haunt me. The past is no vaccine for the future, to be sure, but in the here and now it can act as a topical salve.

Faces Made Strange: Oleg Dou

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Placid nuns with milky alien-beauty faces, glowing children with otherworldly skin conditions, and the most ordinary faces made strange by details such as a chalk-white complexion, a subtle change in proportions, overly-glassy eyes. These are the images of Russian artist Oleg Dou, who combines conventional photography with graphic rendering techniques to produce matching portraits of unsettling consistency.

Like many other good things, Oleg Dou’s art was introduced to me by Elegy Magazine. Elegy just released Issue 52, which features Alexander Hacke, Thurston Moore, Tim Burton/Johnny Depp, Nick Cave and Lisa Gerrard.

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New! Coilhouse Poster

People of Coilhouse! I come to you this day with news of art. Yes, the very first Coilhouse poster is here.

Hand drawn by yours truly, it features an exotic beauty – corseted, headphoned, jetpacked and ready for adventure. Formatted to be printed at 11×17″ she is available for free download here.

Print one, print one hundred, shrink it, pass it out as fliers or stick it full-size to the side of a train – the more you do with it, the better. All we ask is when you do to take a photo and add it to the Coilhouse Flickr pool, even if it’s just hanging in your kitchen. I’ll be under the cover of night, hooded up and armed with a bucket of glue. Photo-documentation to come. Hope you dig it!

We are hoping to have fixed the spamming issue by installing WordPress 2.3.3 and apologize in advance if spam links do appear. Wily bastards, them.