Yet another Doomsday has mercifully passed us by. Meanwhile, the horrors taking place around the globe stay their course. Corruption, scandal, and greed continue to rocket to the front pages of our newspapers.
Has there ever been a more dire need for magic?
In the shimmering hills that surround Los Angeles, art, wonder and the hope that only a spectacle can birth are being celebrated. The hard-working ghost of Harry Houdini is traveling the country via Houdini: Art & Magic, a comprehensive retrospective chronicling the life of an immigrant Rabbi’s son turned bonafide American showman. On a recent drive back from Malibu, the first stop on my long-overdue west coast vacation, street markers with stiff black flags trumpeting the arrival of Art & Magic at the Skirball Cultural Center had me jumping out of my passenger’s seat.
I had first seen the exhibit at the Jewish Museum in March before it closed at the end of the month. That same week, Houdini’s last living assistant, Dorothy Young, died in a retirement community in New Jersey at the age of 103, three days before what would’ve marked Houdini’s 137th birthday. The stars were aligning rapidly before me, and I, a sucker for synchronicity, could not churn out the review I wanted in time for the exhibit to end. I sat among pages of obsessive notes describing what I had seen at the museum, from Houdini’s diaries, to photographs of him with his beloved mother, and his performance trunk curling with worn and cracked brown leather. I swooned over the thin, almost romantic curl to his handwriting, lamented his untimely death, and dug up details from the obituaries of Dorothy, a woman who, at the age of 17, had been selected by the magician from a crowd at Coney Island, and kept her stalwart promise never to reveal his secrets.
Singing, dancing, contortionist/acrobat sibling sensations of stage and screen, The Ross Sisters, Aggie and Maggie and Elmira Ross (real names: Veda, Betsy Ann and Dixie), have been internet legends for years, thanks to gunked up, third generation bootlegs of their astonishing act from the 1944 Technicolor musical, Broadway Rhythm, circulating on YouTube. But here, at last, is a crisp, clear, DVD quality upload of the girls in all of their wildly contorted, three-part-harmonized-and-grinning-all-the-while glory:
Via E. Stephen, who says, “Their facial expressions are priceless… even before they all exhibit unnervingly inhuman capabilities.”
This has already gone ultra viral, for obvious reasons, but it’s gotta be catalogued here, too.
The women and men behind the masks: Marion Motin (Quality Street and Swagger crews), Julie Moreau (Swagger crew), Nicolas Medea (R.A.F crew), Marvin Gofin (R.A.F crew).
You’re watching La Preuve Par 4′s performance at the 2010 Juste Debout, an international street dancing competition in France. La Preuve Par 4 is comprised of two members of R.A.F crew (winners of the 2009 World Hip Hop Championships) and two members of the Swaggers crew. The music was composed and remixed for them by soFly.
EDIT: Here’s another, high res video of the same performance, shot from higher angles. This footage was taken by YAK FILMS. You might recall Coilhouse expressing a lot of love for them a while ago. Nowadays, it looks like this youth-led alternative media team is venturing a long way from Oakland, proving themselves to be invaluable curators of street dancing on an international scale. Inspiring stuff.
Hot on the heels of Mer’s discovery of Jordan Catalan… Oh, the clip below features aerial performers Leo Hedman and Yam Doyev (performing as Leo and Yam) in a steamy duet inspired by 20′s/30s silent films. Hedman’s femme fatale and Doyev’s pinstriped gentleman take on the comic side of sexual traditions while putting on a fluid, athletic, physically rigorous performance. In their own words, the flirtatious exchange “takes a wry, satirical look at the ways we conform to the gender roles assigned to us… and what happens when the mask drops and we find that our identities are a little less straightforward than we imagined.” This November, lucky Coilhouse readers living in London can witness the premiere of Leo and Yam’s first full-length show, titled Panoramic. Check their site for details.
Hedman’s other solo performances – inspired by Nosferatu, Psycho and more – are not to be missed. More images and clips, after the cut.
So sayeth my old chum and fellow east bay resident, author Eli Brown, regarding this viral video of four phenomenally talented young guys TURF dancing in the rain at the corner of 90th Ave and MacArthur in East Oakland:
No Noize (red jacket), Man (black jacket), BJ (striped shirt), D Real (white shirt). Directed and edited by Yoram Savion.
TURF stands for “Taking Up Room on the Floor”. It’s a roughly decade-old form of street dancing that originated in Oaktown. This particular footage was shot a little under a year ago. Via the Bay Citizen:
In contrast to other street dances, TURF aims to tell a story. And so “Dancing in the Rain” is a memorial to dancer D Real’s (he’s in the white shirt) brother Rich, who was killed in a car accident on that corner.
The day after Rich died, D Real and a few dancers were gathered in YAK Films’ Yoram Savion’s office at Youth UpRising trying to think of a tribute that went beyond the standard R.I.P. T-shirt. Youth UpRising is a youth leadership center in Oakland with a professional dance studio.
Before his brother’s death, D Real had strayed from dancing and was beginning to dabble in music. In one of their last conversations, Rich told D Real to forget about music and focus on dancing, his real talent. So in memory of Rich, D Real and three friends who were willing to brave the pouring rain danced for this this video.
The aforementioned YAK Films production team has one seriously mind-blowing YouTube channel, and their mission statement brings joyful tears to my eyes:
Have you been following the story of Caster Semenya? The South African teenage runner, who won the gold in the women’s 800-meter competition at the World Championships in Berlin, was recently asked to take a gender examination by the event’s governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations. According to the IAAS, the concern is not that that Semenya lied or cheated, but that she may have some sort of undiagnosed chromosomal condition that may have endowed her with an unfair athletic advantage. Depending on the outcome of the test, Semenya could be stripped of her medal and her title.
Yesterday was a tipping point for the way that Semenya’s gender has been discussed in the media. Until this moment, both Semenya’s self-confidence and her country’s support for her just the way she is have been refreshingly unapologetic. When she arrived in Johannesburg after the gender allegations hit the press, she was greeted by cheering fans, with men shouting “marry me!” and “Caster is hot.” The Young Communist League of South Africa issued a statement condemning the IAAS for requesting a gender test based on notions that “[feed] into the commercial stereotypes of how a woman should look, their facial and physical appearance, as perpetuated by backward Eurocentric definition of beauty.” And the general sentiment issued by Semenya’s inner circle, defending her gender identity in the press, has been unanimously supportive of her unconventional choices. So what, ask her friends and family,if she doesn’t wear dresses or want to date boys?
Well, it was nice while it lasted. Today, Semenya fell victim to the same phenomenon as Susan Boyle some months before her: the softening magazine makeover. Anna North at Jezebel posted a sensitive, incisive analysis of Semenya’s girly magazine shoot for the cover of South Africa’s YOU under the title “How Not to Solve a Gender Dispute.” My favorite bit:
From Susan Boyle to Semenya, magazine “makeovers” send the message that there’s one way for women to look good, and the closer you get to it the happier you’ll be. I’d rather live in a world where Caster Semenya can wear pants if she feels like it, rather than one where she needs a team of stylists to be considered “feminine.”
Like North, I too hope that the day of dress-up and makeup was actually fun for the teenage track star, and can’t help but wonder uneasily to what extent Semenya is now being goaded by the adults who’ve suddenly swarmed around her to push their own agendas.
SAMPARKOUR, directed by Wiland Pinsdorf, featuring Zico Corrêa. (Via William Gibson, thanks.)
Commercial/music video director Wiland Pinsdorf’s SAMPARKOUR is “a short that reveals the city of São Paulo (Brazil) under the look of Parkour. Where people see obstacles, Zico Corrêa visualizes new possibilities.”
Shot in HD with a 35mm lens adapter, the short is simultaneously dizzying and becalming, presenting Corrêa’s death-defying feats in a breathtaking rush of carefully framed shots and well-paced edits. Today –perhaps more than most days– it is deeply satisfying to witness a collaboration (between filmmaker and athlete, city and gravity) so vital, immediate, and perfectly alive.
The centennial of Errol Leslie Thomson Flynn’s birth is upon us, dear readers. There will be those benighted types who are indifferent to the occasion. There will be others who feel, wrongly, that today is best commemorated by seeing The Adventures of Robin Hood. And still others, misguided, but with inner compasses not yet completely demagnetized, who will gather together to sip rosé and watch Captain Blood.
But not us. Unlike Nietzsche, we understand that aesthetic arguments ultimately collapse into ethical ones and not vice versa, at least where Errol Flynn is concerned. That there are right choices and wrong ones, and that it isn’t all just a matter of taste. There is no godless moral vacuum for us. For us, God still moves over the face of the waters, and Spanish galleons beware!
OK, I’ll admit it. Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood are pretty great, too. So is The Black Swan, starring Tyrone Powers. And so is Peter Weir’s Master and Commander, for that matter. But The Sea Hawk is unquestionably my favorite swashbuckler movie—which isn’t the same thing as saying it’s my favorite movie, but the distinction is so small it changes position whenever you try to observe it.
Because of their many similarities, as a child of the 1970’s and 80’s I am tempted to describe The Sea Hawk as the Star Wars of its era. But fuck that. Star Wars is The Sea Hawk of its era. Borges is right that an artist creates his own precursors, but just because George Lucas asked John Williams to model his music after Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s classic score doesn’t mean we should forget which is the cart and which the mule.
–My Dad (standard response whenever I expressed interest in skydiving, bungee-jumping, para-surfing, parkour, driving a motorcycle, skateboarding, driving without a seat belt, crossing the street against a red light, not washing my hands before dinner, forgetting to floss, etc) 1976 – ?
“Have you ever heard of proximity flying? Fascinating. I’m thinking of getting myself a wingsuit for my birthday. If you hear a loud, dull thud, you will know my jump from our roof was unsuccessful.”
–My Dad, 2009
My dad is getting quite XTREEM in his golden years, it would seem! He’s just about the last person I’d expect to get base-jumping links from. Nevertheless, pops just sent me this clip from the Matchstick-produced “action sports” documentary, Seven Sunny Days. It is, hands down, the most beautiful wingsuit footage I’ve ever seen. Instant adrenaline rush. Thank you, Doctor Yay!
Click below for more astounding “squirrel suit” clips from around the world.
This summer South African runner Oscar Pistorius, after much controversy, will have a shot at competing in the Olympics. Why the controversy? Pistorius, known as “blade runner” (a name he rejects as “boring stuff”) was born without fibula. He has not had flesh, blood and bone below his knees since he was 11 months old.
In January, the International Association of Athletic Federations ruled that his state of the art prosthetics were superior to human legs, and would thus give him an unfair advantage. Last month, that judgement was overturned. If he can cut his best times down by less than a second, Olympic competition will see its first cyborg. The future has arrived.