RIP, Ken Russell (1927 – 2011)


Photo via Cinebeats. (Source, anyone?)

“Reality is a dirty word for me, I know it isn’t for most people, but I am not interested. There’s too much of it about.” ~Ken Russell

Thanks for keepin’ it unreal, good sir. Thank you for everything.

The Friday Afternoon Movie: Vincent Price Double Feature: Theatre Of Blood and Witchfinder General

It’s the Friday before Halloween. Very exciting. In that spirit, the FAM has a Double Feature for your weekend. Today we present two films: one a horror movie and another a horror movie of a kind but both sort of forgotten classics that play to the man’s strengths as an actor.

First up is 1973’s Theatre of Blood directed by Douglas Hickox and starring Price and Diana Rigg. The rest of the cast is a host of distinguished British actors: Harry Andrews, Coral Browne, Robert Coote, Jack Hawkins, Michael Hordern, Arthur Lowe, Joan Hickson, Robert Morley, Milo O’Shea, Diana Dors and Dennis Price. Price plays Edward Kendall Sheridan Lionheart who, by his own account, was the greatest Shakespearean actor of his day. Others are not so sure, especially a group of critics who give an annual award for such achievements, specifically the “Critic’s Circle Award for Best Actor”. When they give the award to another, Lionheart attempts suicide. He survives, however, unbeknownst to his detracters, and is taken in by a group of homeless meths-drinkers. Ridiculed throughout his career by these people and denied their highest honor, Lionheart, with the help of his daughter Edwina, exacts his revenge, murdering each critic, one by one. Each murder is based on the deaths featured in the plays of Lionheart’s last season of Shakespeare before his alleged death, many of them chosen to exploit the weaknesses of their victims, and the critics can be seen to correspond with the Seven Deadly Sins.

Theatre of Blood was one of Price’s favorite movies, mostly because it allowed him to act in Shakespeare, something his long string of B-movie horror casting had kept him from doing. It did not seem to bother him, or many other people at the time, that it very much resembled The Abominable Dr. Phibes which had come out two years before, in which Price plays an organist who takes revenge on the doctors he blames for the death his wife, with the help of his assistant Vulnavia, using the Ten Plagues of Egypt as inspiration. Regardless of these similarities (each film is great in their own right) it is a pleasure to watch Price dig into his role as Lionheart, especially when he is acting out his scenes from Shakespeare before each gruesome murder. It also manages to be a fairly funny film, with each slaying taking on an air of absurdity. The sight of Price disguised as an effete, hipster hairdresser —complete with sunglasses and afro — being a particular highlight. In many ways this is the more traditional of the two performances featured here, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.

Our second film is more historical drama than horror movie, but it is, indeed, horrific. Released in 1968 and directed by Michael Reeves (who would die a year later, at the age of 25) Witchfinder General (renamed Conqueror Worm in the US to tie into Price’s run of Roger Corman directed Edgar Allan Poe adaptations) stars Price as Matthew Hopkins a real life witch-hunter who operated in the Eastern counties of England in the 17th century, during the English Civil War. With his sadistic assistant John Stearne (also a historical figure) played by Russel Roberts (whose voice was overdubbed by Reeves using actor Jack Lynn, as Reeves felt Roberts’s voice was too high-pitched) he travels through England extracting forced confessions from the accused in exchange for money and, it turns out, the sexual favors of the countryside’s young women. He makes a mistake, however, when he reaches Brandeston, Suffolk and executes the town priest, John Lowes, for conspiring with the Devil and takes advantage of his daughter, Sara (who Stearne later rapes), for Sara’s husband, Richard Marshall, a soldier in Cromwell’s army, is not the forgiving type.

Price is absolutely fantastic in this one. His depiction of Hopkins contains none of the hammy overacting found in many of his traditional horror roles and, as such, he comes off as truly evil. His performance was due, in some part, to his contentious relationship with the director. As originally written in the script, Hopkins was meant to be an ineffective leader, a buffoon of sorts. Reeves has Donald Pleasance in mind for such a role but was informed by American International Pictures that Price, their contract star, had to be placed in the role instead. Having rewritten the role for him, Reeves never got over it and made Price’s life as miserable as he could on set. The two clashed repeatedly throughout the filming and it was only after he had seen the finished film that Price realized what Reeves managed to get out of him, calling it “one of the best performances I’ve ever given.”

Despite the tension between the two men during the production, when Price saw the movie the following year, he admitted that he finally understood what Reeves had been after and wrote the young director a ten page letter praising the film. Reeves wrote Price back, “I knew you would think so.” Years after Reeves’s death, Price said, “… I realized what he wanted was a low-key, very laid-back, menacing performance. He did get it, but I was fighting him almost every step of the way. Had I known what he wanted, I would have cooperated.”

In the US, where it was released uncut with additional prologue and epilogue narration by price to establish the aforementioned Poe connection, (though without the added nudity meant for the German release), it made little impact, being shown mostly in drive-ins and grindhouses. In the UK, however, where 4 minutes were removed due to violence, it shocked critics, many of whom dismissed it as sadistic though, by modern standards, of course, it is fairly tame. It’s not particularly concerned with being entirely historically accurate, but it does manage to capture the paranoia that must have been present during that time and the hypocrisy that, no doubt, proliferated among those who rooted out so-called witches.

And here we are, dear readers, at the end of our Vincent Price-a-thon. A sad day. No doubt, there will be those who would have wished to have seen other films here, but there will always be another time for those; Vincent’s catalog is vast, after all. I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at his career. Until next time, then.

On the Occasion of Walter Benjamin’s 119th Birthday

The treasure-dispensing giant in the green forest or the fairy who grants one wish
– they appear to each of us at least once in a lifetime. But only
Sunday’s children remember the wish they made, and so it is
only a few who recognize its fulfillment in their lives. – Walter Benjamin


Benjamin Birthday Cake! Photoshop by Nadya.

There is a Yiddish expression offered on someone’s birthday which is affectionate and contains a subtle blessing: “Bis hundert und zwanzig.” In other words, people are wished a life that extends to their 120th year. So what should we do if someone dear (if not near) somehow turns 120? What are they wished then and each year thereafter? I offer these questions as a point of entry for considering Walter Benjamin, a writer whose life ended in suicide as he contemplated his chances of eluding the Nazi Gestapo some seventy-three years before this question may have become material for those around him.  Today marks the 119th anniversary of Benjamin’s birth – the last time someone could have addressed him with the wish of living to 120.

Walter Benjamin was a literary critic, philosopher, memoirist, and collector during Germany’s ill-fated Weimar Republic. Among his adventures were sojourns from Berlin to Moscow to witness the building of history and to Marseilles to smoke hashish and to Riga to have his love rejected. His last seven years were spent in exile while his works were banned and burned in his native land. Under other conditions, Benjamin’s Francophile desires would have found their easy appeasement in Paris, but the Third Reich cast an increasingly tall shadow and he became, tragically, a prisoner in the country of his dreams. In his forty-eight year life, Benjamin ran with Bertolt Brecht, Rainer Maria Rilke, Asja Lacis, Theodor and Gretel Adorno, Siegfried Kracauer, Ernst Bloch, Hannah Arendt, Georges Bataille, Leo Strauss, Max Brod and Gershom Scholem. And in many ways, Benjamin’s thought is a playful and poetic montage of the ideas of his associates – a “constellation” of Romanticism, Idealism, Marxism, Surrealism, and Jewish mysticism that is more than its unlikely parts: “Satan is a dialectician, and a kind of spurious success…betrays him, just as does the spirit of gravity.”


Einbahnstrasse by Sasha Stone (1928)

Benjamin brought to this heady mix his fascination, at once childish and insightful, for art and artifacts as relics containing clues to history. The scion of an antiquities dealer, Benjamin discerned an impending revolutionary–cum-spiritual cataclysm by contemplating and indexing paintings, books, and the most banal debris of economic life he could find, regarding them as might wily Detective Columbo if he was prodigiously stoned. As Bloch wrote of Benjamin’s book One Way Street, “when the current cabaret passes through a surrealist philosophy, what emerges into the light of day from the debris of meanings…is a kaleidoscope of a different sort.” The spooky thing is that Benjamin’s apocalyptic vision of lawmaking described in 1921 as “bloody power for its own sake” came to pass in many ways a little more than a decade later.

Walter Benjamin lived in a milieu of such vastly assimilated German-Jewish life that he had little formal understanding of Jewish culture, Yiddish, Hebrew, or even the Jewish religion.  He did, however, harbor an abiding interest in Jewish mysticism and mused furtively over those bits of religion and culture he encountered.  And he certainly seemed to have found spiritual sanction for his already-existing fetishization of objects in the Kabbalist’s meditations on words, names, and numbers.  According to this mystical orientation, influenced by neo-Platonism, reality has multiple dimensions – like a faceted diamond – only a few of which are directly accessible to us. We may approach them only indirectly, as they appear to us as abstract notions like numbers, letters, names, and sentiments. In such times as Benjamin playfully, and perhaps also earnestly, speculated on the mystical significance of language and numbers, he may have come to consider 119 alongside its constitutive outside, the number 120, the last year we can legitimately hope for someone else.  If so, it is entirely likely that Benjamin, a thinker who invited the mystical, would have been intrigued by the delimiting function of 120 and may have further speculated on 121 as a possible portal to other dimensions.  Operating, then, as a detective, Benjamin may have investigated the year 120 as a future crime scene – a time-place where this phrase will be eternally transcended. Looking outward, 119 years of life may have been considered the furthermost edge of his generation, a remote vantage from which to contemplate the eternity of space, like a balcony atop “Saturn’s ring.” Upon returning from such reveries, Benjamin would hopefully have finally mentioned that the actual root of this folk expression comes from the biblical datum that Moses lived to be 120. This, then, could have been followed by an analogy that is possibly both specious and interesting, like noting that Moses and Benjamin never completed their exodus from brutality.

The wish that one live beyond the culturally sanctioned, and quite generous, lifespan of 120 is redolent of the posthumous reception of Benjamin’s work throughout the humanities. The fervent interest in his work throughout the humanities since the 1980s is so unlikely as to seem almost a form of Messianic fulfillment on an individual scale. After all, his life was unfulfilled in most respects. He was a failed academic, a divorcee whose affair was an awkward mess, a minor radio personality whose voice was never recorded, and a writer whose masterworks were unfinished or forever lost in history. Years later, his work even achieved “fame” on its own terms when, in 1969, his most significant essay was mistranslated as “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” by Harry Zohn. For Benjamin, a work has achieved “fame” when it its translation transmits information not contained in the original. Two generations of scholars and art critics referenced his most significant essay through a misleading title, when now, as if language shifted its tectonic plates under our feet, the essay is emphatically translated as “Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility.”  In the digital age, articles like this one are re-posted with attention to errata, such as mistaking today for his 121st anniversary, whereas it is only his 119th.  If only Zohn had used WordPress his translation would have been unfinished and arguably better for it.  Perhaps as the author of that essay – however titled – Benjamin would have come to consider fame in the age of American Idol in terms of having a finger puppet refrigerator magnet in one’s visgage. “All that is holy is profaned,” sayeth Marx. What does familiarity breed? So much for the “aura” of the author, eh?

In his essay on “The Metaphysics of Youth” Benjamin contemplates one’s diary as a temporal domain, an inner life expressed in writing which begins in medias res, with life already in motion, and which can never be concluded by an author whose death occludes continued authorship. The project is never finished and the life, as written in the diary, exists in its own sort of time, like the life the mind, an eternal moment delimited by birth and death, and unable to experience either. Benjamin’s life is thus suspended within the pages of his books, essays, memoirs, and personal effects – as in his Paris address book shown below. Something of his life may sometimes seem to flash in our minds as we read him, just as Benjamin once suggested that art and artifacts can communicate something of their creation in flashes. In this sense, Benjamin’s work has escaped the bounds of the moment in which it was written, although it has yet to allow its readers to tear the fabric of time and usher in the Messianic moment of utter destructiveness in which history is fulfilled and completed.

Of course, I cannot literally wish Walter Benjamin 120 years of existence because I have no known way of communicating it to him. I can, however, wish it for him in spirit, and I do. Whether this wish, now communicated in language, effectively gives him happiness, is beyond the scope of this essay to determine, but my wish that it do so has some affinity with Benjamin’s own work. In his essay, “On Language as Such and on the Language of Man,” Benjamin posits language as constitutive of thought and life as we know it – not merely a conduit for them – as, in his example, a divine speech act once set the universe in motion with illumination: “Let there be light.” Likewise, Benjamin may have noted that the wish that someone live to 120 implies a blessing, as in the Yiddish expression: “From your mouth to God’s ear.” As this is the last time I may properly wish Walter a 120th year,  I am ever-more concerned that it take the form of a blessing where numbers and sentiments are tangible – on the other side of language.

This essay is dedicated to Lionel Ziprin, z”l.

Cargo Cult, Native Appropriations, and Voodoo Programming

The campaign slogan was “Traditional Goes Digital,” and it included three images: Squaw, Brave and Chief. These were created for Australian printing company ColorChiefs in 2006, and recently resurfaced on the How to Be a Retronaut blog, to such wry comments as “Native American steampunk use ALL the parts of the 8088.” The images have also garnered some critique, both for their cultural appropriation and sexism. As blogger Ikwe recently wrote on Tumblr, “it’s not very creative to sexualize a native woman in this way but it’s packaged with a new futuristic sexy theme so it’s sooooo groundbreaking and chic. Oh yes, the ad also reminds us that we are moving forward from our primitive and savage ways. Meh.” Paging Dr. Adrienne!

Looking at this somewhat clueless ad campaign did lead me through an interesting Wikipedia tunnel. Come with me on a magical journey:

Cargo Cult on Wikipedia:

With the end of the war, the military abandoned the airbases and stopped dropping cargo. In response, charismatic individuals developed cults among remote Melanesian populations that promised to bestow on their followers deliveries of food, arms, Jeeps, etc. The cult leaders explained that the cargo would be gifts from their own ancestors, or other sources, as had occurred with the outsider armies. In attempts to get cargo to fall by parachute or land in planes or ships again, islanders imitated the same practices they had seen the soldierssailors, and airmen use. Cult behaviors usually involved mimicking the day to day activities and dress styles of US soldiers, such as performing parade ground drills with wooden or salvaged rifles.[5] The islanders carved headphones from wood and wore them while sitting in fabricated control towers. They waved the landing signals while standing on the runways. They lit signal fires and torches to light up runways and lighthouses.[citation needed] In a form of sympathetic magic, many built life-size replicas of airplanes out of straw and cut new military-style landing strips out of the jungle, hoping to attract more airplanes. The cult members thought that the foreigners had some special connection to the deities and ancestors of the natives, who were the only beings powerful enough to produce such riches.

Which led to Cargo Cult Programming on Wikipedia:

A style of computer programming that is characterized by the ritual inclusion of code or program structures that serve no real purpose. Cargo cult programming is typically symptomatic of a programmer not understanding either a bug he or she was attempting to solve or the apparent solution (compare shotgun debuggingvoodoo programming).[1] The term cargo cult programmer may also apply when an unskilled or novice computer programmer (or one not experienced with the problem at hand) copies some program code from one place and pastes it into another place, with little or no understanding of how the code works, or if it is required in its new position.

Voodoo Programming on Wikipedia:

In computer programmingdeep magic refers to techniques that are not widely known, and may be deliberately kept secret. The number of such techniques has arguably decreased in recent years, especially in the field of cryptography, many aspects of which are now open to public scrutiny. The Jargon File makes a distinction between deep magic, which refers to (code based on) esoteric theoretical knowledge; black magic, which refers to (code based on) techniques that appear to work but which lack a theoretical explanation; and heavy wizardry, which refers to (code based on) obscure or undocumented intricacies of particular hardware or software. All three terms can appear in source code comments of the form:

Deep magic begins here…

In fiction, the term comes from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, an early book from C. S. Lewis‘s The Chronicles of Narnia, which describes ancient laws and codes as “deep magic from the dawn of time.”

[via m1k3y]

Alex Jones And The Clockwork Elves

Every once in a while I like to check in on Alex Jones, just to see how he’s doing. The man lives in a very dangerous world, you understand. Far more dangerous than the sphere that you and I inhabit. Crazy shit goes down on a daily basis in Jones’s ‘hood, so I just stop by every now and then to make sure that his head hasn’t exploded or, at the very least, to witness his head exploding.

There could not have been a better time. Truly, this is some of the man’s finest work. It’s got everything a conspiracy could ask for: government cover-ups, drug use, Philip K. Dick and elves. It’s awe-inspiring stuff. The gist is that powerful old men, who may or may not be ruling the world, are jacked up on the powerful hallucinogen dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Under the effects of the drug, they have come into contact with beings Jones’s claims they refer to as “clockwork elves” who instructed them to enslave humanity and build the Large Hadron Collider.

Now, Jones insists that he does not believe this (probably…maybe) and that this is “pretty David Icke”. He wants you to know that he doesn’t talk about this stuff because it would blow your mind. But he also knows that you need to know these things. You need to be aware because, as mentioned, Alex Jones lives in a pretty dangerous world and, with his help, you can too.

“How to Become a Sensuous Witch”

Sexy Witch writes:

“Two of New York’s most successful witches”, Abragail and Valaria, “reveal their occult (and culinary) secrets for a livelier love life!” in How to Become a Sensuous Witch: Spells, Rituals, and Recipes for a Livelier Love Life (New York: Paperback Library, [November] 1971). The shout on the rear cover continues:

Finding a new love, or getting rid of an old one, is simple when you use magic. Keeping the right man is easier too.

How to be a Sensuous Witch is a combination of time-tested rituals and up to the minute recipes guaranteed to satisfy you and your love.

There are spells to attract both men and money (poverty is counter-sensuous), to arouse passion, to assure fidelity, or (if you get bored) to separate your lover from you. The recipes range from elegant dinners to restorative breakfasts—and there is a whole chapter on festive Sabbats for your whole Coven!

More info at Sexy Witch. Via Catamara, thanks!

Norman’s Ghost Hole

Another mystifying, gorgeous, crumbling artifact found on Tumblr [via bloodmilk].

The source and context of the image sadly remain a mystery, but, as with Deirdre Aislinn MacCarthy and Athanasius Scrimshaw and his good lady, Jerboa, this photo invites the telling of tales.

What happens when this traveling show comes to town? What’s the relationship between the well-dressed lady standing on the stairs and the man beside her? Do those carved gargoyles and angels ever talk? Are people who see this show ever really the same after the see it?

Welcome the Coilhouse Issue 06 Advertisers!

Coilhouse Issue 06 is coming soon, but it’s not quite there yet. With more pages, more contributors, and more articles than any previous issue, it’s been quite a journey to put this one together. Thank you all – readers, friends, collaborators, and advertisers – for your patience. Because this issue is still deep in the production stage, we’d like to share our new Issue 06 advertisers here on the blog. Joining our existing family of small-business advertisers, these guys will appear on the pages of Issue 06. Check them out and support their wonderful creations. Here they are!

Medina Maitreya is a costume designer who crafts unique outfits and accessories by mixing new and vintage materials. Working a palette of vintage lace, beads, coins, feathers, silk, flowers and other “antique bling”,  Medina constructs bespoke items inspired by everything from belly dance to circus arts to Erté. You may have seen some of Medina’s extravagant costumes sported by the Lucent Dossier Vaudeville Cirque, March Fourth Marching Band, Kami Liddle of the Bellydance Superstars, and  Zoe Jakes of Beats Antique. You can see some of Medina’s creations on her blog, and many more on Facebook.

Casual Animation specializes in creating affordable custom animations based on your concepts. You supply the idea, pictures and audio: animator-for-hire Kenneth Sanders will create an original cartoon in your preferred file format (avi, mov, m3v, etc.) based on the assets that you provide. Collaborate on any concept your heart desires: experimental surreal shorts, character sketches, music videos. Plus, an optional DVD of your cartoon could be mailed to you. You also have the option of having your cartoon featured on the Casual Animation website.

Constance is a freelance artist, designer and photographer whose work and blog can be seen at i heart constance. Constance specializes in helping small business craft a unique identity. Recent clients include Blue Betta Media, Big Purple Tree, and Saucy Ladies. A full portfolio of Constance’s 2011 design work can be found here. Constance is available for any design task ranging from a complete brand/identity overhaul to custom type treatments, business cards, package development, logo design, information layout, posters, flyers and much more. She’s also available for photography assignments including commissions portraits, product shots (yum!), compositing and retouching. In her website manifesto, Constance writes, “I write to inspire you to push your creativity / I write to provoke your sense of adventure / I write to motivate you to dream big.”

Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School is a worldwide alternative drawing movement in which art, booze, and burlesque collide. Every month, over 3,500 artists gather in nearly a hundred cities to sketch glamorous alt-culture models and compete in drawing contests in an atmosphere of creative mayhem. Artist, model and oft-Coilhouse collaborator Molly Crabapple (who’s about to embark on a Week in Hell) kicked off the first Dr. Sketchy’s event at a dive bar in 2005 as an antidote to the stiff, sterile life drawing classes she had posed for in the past. Local Dr. Sketchy’s branches are known for outrageous themed nights. At a recent Dr. Sketchy’s event in New York, for example, an elaborately-costumed Stoya and Jiz Lee acted out the story of Jack the Ripper while raising funds for a local sex workers’ rights campaign.

Ember Nomad a clothing company created by fashion designer Danica, and specializes in flowy, fun clothing “for travellers, dancers, and anyone who wants to feel a little bit of magic in their life.” The image above is from Ember Nomad’s 2010 Aphrodisia fashion show; more images can be seen here. Check Ember Nomad’s Facebook Page and Etsy Store for new items. Stripey bloomers, ruffled boleros, leather harnesses, hooded tank tops, and more! The cleavage-enhancing circus vest is hot.

Previously featured on Coilhouse, the Gilding Primal Instinct jewelry line by artist Danielle Nicole Hills features large theatrical pieces intended to transform the wearer into characters inspired by archetypes of human behavior. The jewelry line is at once elegant, theatrical and violent. Dental cuffs, blood-filled medical sample necklaces (or gold-filled ones!), wearable metallic claw predator rings, a majestic antler headdresses, a tooth-adorned surgical mask, and other ferocious adornments can be found on the Gilding Primal Instinct site. The materials list for each item is fascinating: for example, the surgical apron is made out of “copper, bronze, latex resin, taxidermy chick fetuses, 22k gold leaf, and blood.”

The Pornographic Portrait Project is a series of paintings by artist Molly Peck depicting the intimate orgasmic experience in a lush large-scale format. The current series includes several vibrant portraits of people in the throes of passion, and Molly needs your help to grow the project. “Shortly after embracing the idea of this project,” writes Molly, “I realized that it would be difficult for me to capture source images/photo references myself, which is where the collaborative or subject-submission angle came from. I am asking you to send me an image of the moment you ‘let go’, from which I will create a painting (if it inspires one).” The initial concept for the series focused on people’s faces, but has expanded to include “a more broad representation of release, as the individual sees it or defines it (but sticking in the sexual/erotic arena).” Molly welcomes submissions: check the FAQ for more info!

Night Flight is an aerial performance and training company based out of Portland, Orgeon. Founded by performers Gemma Adams and Stephanie Lopes, Night Flight performances combine breathtaking aerial artistry and playful storytelling. The Night Flight Aerial Art Studio offers 8-week intensive series classes, drop-ins, and private lessons focusing for aerial arts silks (tissu), static trapeze, hoop (lyra), rope (corde lisse), sling and straps, as well as strength and flexibility training. The next batch of classes starts up in July; check the class schedule for details. Those of you who don’t live in Portland should still check out this breathtakingly sensuous performance by Night Flight on silks and duo hoop, as well as this gorgeous Flickr photo set featuring Night Flight performers shot by Christopher Perez.

Opir is a politically-charged industrial music project by New York-based artists Spencer Thomas and Vivienne Gucwa. Opir’s first album – America: 25 Years in Review (1983-2008) – is a thoughtful reflection on America’s politics from the rise of Reagan to present day. Opir’s polished, caustic soundscapes, rhythmic textures, distorted samples, and dark ambient industrial beats recall Frontline Assembly, Hocico, Mentallo & the Fixer, and Muslimgauze. Beneath the visceral, corrosive auditory assault and dancefloor appeal of each track lies a richly-contextualized political message. Opir’s website provides a breakdown of song lyrics for the first three tracks, referencing economic theorists, social policies, historical events and legislations to help break down each song’s meaning. You can hear three song samples on Soundcloud, and you can get the album on iTunes or on Amazon.

The Idirlion Project is a fusing of chaos magick / sigilization with old school shamanism, all filtered through a future tech approach to altering reality. Readers who enjoyed our Grant Morrison interview in Issue 04 (as well as our articles on Jodorowsky, Larkin Grimm, Kenneth Grant, and other mystics throughout time) will appreciate the services that the Idirlion Project has to offer. Drawing on both Irish and Peruvial traditions, Idirlion will aid the client in the creation, casting and charging of a sigil. “The catchy tagline that we use on the site is ‘Shamanic Sigilzation For A Better Tomorrow.’ Kind of adds a nice silver age, Bradbury-esque touch to what can often be serious work.” Last month, the founders of the Idirlion Project helped launch the Starseed Institute For Shamanic Studies, an intensive four-weekend training program that explores the four aspects of the shamanic medicine wheel.

Jewels by Mouse, created by Valerie Fordham (Mouse) and Jon Boisseau, offers unique handmade jewelry and jewelry boxes. Mouse describes her jewelry as “sparkly, tactile, beautiful, and peculiar.” Tentacles, mixed metal and rivets, unusually shaped stones, spiraling organic forms, iridescent glass beads, cast bones, and “textures that want to be touched.” Mouse only uses sterling or fine silver, never plate, and the copper and brass in her jewelry are backed by sterling. Check out the onyx spiral earrings, Midsummer Vines necklace, copper keyhole bracelet, and spiral dragonfly pin.

Retro-a-Go-Go sells accessories, jewelry and home décoror inspired by the 50s and beyond: hot rods, rockabilly, Irving Klaw, kustom kulture, psychobilly, robots, zombies, monsters, tattoos and pop art. Exclusive lines include Bettie PageBuck RodgersHot Rod DeluxeKen the Flattop, and Mitch O’Connell. There are flasks, bill boxes, parasols, cigarette cases, belt buckles, and lots of retro tees for guys and dolls featuring everything from pin-up starlets to pulp horror novels.

Previously featured on Coilhouse, Miyu Decay is the new jewelry venture by artist Stephanie Inagaki. Since we last covered Miyu Decay, the shop has grown significantly. Whereas previously, some of the jewelry was only available in sterling silver, there are now pewter versions for those of us on a budget. For example, this gorgeous bat skull necklace for $350 is now available in pewter for $50. Other new creations in the Miyu Decay shop include an asymmetrical feather and lace collar, the Scottish tribal queen headdress, and the black chain skull bracelet.

All these companies, along with many of the advertisers we’ve blogged about previously, will appear in our upcoming Issue 06. Stay tuned for more updates!

Farewell, SGM. (Free Nils Frykdahl/Coilhouse PDF!)


A glimpse of the Helpless Corpses Enactment film shoot. Photo by Meredith Yayanos and Gooby Herms.

Click here to download a free Coilhouse Magazine PDF: Lives Transformed Through the Power of Confusing Music: Nils Frykdahl on Art and Kinship.

With solemnity, gratitude and a touch of sorrow, Coilhouse must acknowledge that Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, the most gloriously unclassifiable American band currently in existence, is about to call it quits. After a dozen relentless years of composing, recording, touring and performing some truly jaw-dropping music, the Oakland-based vanguards will play four final shows later this week in California: one in San Diego on April 7th, one in Los Angeles on April 8th, and two in San Francisco, both on April 10th (the evening show sold out, so they added a matinee).

Throughout the late nineties and all of the aughts, the legendary DIY road warriors of SGM crisscrossed the continental United States two, sometimes three times a year (and later on, toured Europe). Arriving at venues like a cheerful doomsday circus in their beautifully renovated vintage Green Tortoise bus, the curators entertained audiences with everything from puppet shows to Butoh dance to passionate readings of Italian Futurist manifestos. Flustered reviewers and reluctant converts, determined to pigeonhole SGM, labeled the avant-garde act as everything from neo-RIO (Rock in Opposition) to avant-prog metal, to grindcore funk theater, to, in the words of one concertgoer, “Satanic Anarchic Viking Shit”. But none of these descriptors come anywhere near encapsulating the band’s eclectic sound, style, or ethos. Not even close.


SGM on tour, 2009. Photo by Olivia Oyama.

The quintet has penned lyrics inspired by the Unabomber, James Joyce, madness, stroke-stricken baby doctors, love, death, cockroaches, and the end of the world. They have employed strange, esoteric contraptions from various folk traditions as well as several homemade instruments, such as the Viking Row-Boat, the Wiggler, the Spring-Nail Guitar, and a brutal, seven feet long piano-stringed bass behemoth called The Log. They have developed stage shows with stark lighting and elaborate costumes, sporting tooth black and spiked leather gauntlets and bonnets and bihawks and military khaki and antique lace nighties. They have sung lilting post-modern folk melodies. They have delivered face-melting blasts of pure, untrammeled metal.

They have rocked harder, more intelligently, and with more unabashed strangeness than anyone else around.

They will go down in legend.

Take comfort in knowing that these final shows won’t be the very last we’ll hear/see of them–the band has a comprehensive live DVD compilation in the works, as well as short film called The Last Human Being, and a final album. (We’ll be sure to announce all of those here when they’re released.)


Photo of Nils Frykdahl by Mikel Pickett.

In honor of the band, and to give our readers another peek at the variety of stuff we cover in the print magazine, Coilhouse is offering this free PDF download of our interview with Nils Frykdahl of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum (as well as Idiot Flesh, Faun Fables, and several other acts) printed in Issue Three, summer of 2009.

Frykdahl is a fascinating artist with a lot of delight and wisdom to share. That goes for all of the curators of SGM, truly. (Nils, Dan, Carla, Matthias, Michael, Shinichi, Frank, Moe! et al: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Lots of love, and best of luck with all of your future endeavors.)

Click here to download a free Coilhouse Magazine PDF: Lives Transformed Through the Power of Confusing Music: Nils Frykdahl on Art and Kinship.

The Unyielding Mystery of Catalog No. 439

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yet another wonderful post from our longtime contributor, Jeffrey Wengrofsky! This past year, he’s been keeping busy with all manner of projects, and this Sunday, April 3, his Syndicate of Human Image Traffickers will be screening “The Gospel According to Reverend Billy” as part of the Prison is an Angry Father fundraiser at Goodbye Blue Monday (1087 Broadway, Bushwick, New York). It’s a benefit for a prisoner’s rights project created by the Sanctuary of Hope. The event will include live performances of an almost musical variety, as well as the screening of several more short films in addition the Syndicate’s. Doors open at 8pm. Showtime for “The Gospel According to Reverend Billy” is 10pm. This event is free of charge.

Last year I spent my summer vacation working on a feature film in Detroit.  While creeping around the city, I could not help but notice its mountainous Masonic Temple – the largest in the world – whose muscular shoulders rise above its environs as if Charlton Heston’s urban fortress in Omega Man were carved into Yosemite’s El Capitan.  I was even able to arrange a private tour of the windowless monolith by its hospitable and wily Grand Master, including many meeting rooms and a majestic 4,004 seat auditorium (numerologists take note), all of it a visual feast for anyone with a taste for dramatic architecture, grotesque beauty, or even cryptography for that matter.  While in the lobby, our guide offhandedly revealed three levels of meaning behind a seemingly random painting, and the stately oddities awaiting us in floors above and below nearly exploded with symbolic resonance.  Unfortunately, the photographer I brought with me was so spooked by the whole experience that he ran screaming into the long night, ever since unreachable by phone or email.

And who can blame him? The uninitiated public can never comfortably claim to understand the true raison d’etre and inner machinations of secret societies because any scholar or spokesperson or self-declared defector may actually be a shill for the organization, planting seeds of misinformation and spreading misleading rumors.  Even joining such a society does not entitle one to understanding the ways of its upper circles.  Circles within circles, dear reader.  Are you getting sleepy?  The cinematic accoutrements – vaulted iron doors, masks, handshakes and cloaks – provide the perfect canvas for our fears of the unknown and desires for hidden order beneath evident chaos, conjuring a veil behind which we may never knowingly trespass.   Consequently, it can never be definitely settled as to whether any or all such societies are actually: cults of mystical inquiry; wholesome gatherings of those serving laudable Enlightenment values of science and public service; the core of a dastardly “power elite”; congresses of people who enjoy rituals involving aprons (not that there’s anything wrong with that); or some combination thereof.

Last year, Fantagraphics reproduced Catalog No. 439 of the DeMoulin Brothers– the most extensive depiction of initiation contraptions and ritual outfits used by Freemasons and other fraternal orders, like the Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias, and E. Clampus Vitus. Bearing the title Burlesque Paraphernalia and Side Degree Specialties and Costumes, this wacky book may shed a shred of light into the outer sanctum of these associations – unless, of course, it is actually a hoax disseminated to lead us astray.  Bracketing but never disregarding this notion, the readership of Coilhouse may discover certain Truths regarding these quasi-mystical clubs from perusing its glossy pages.  Even if Enlightenment should, as always, prove ever elusive, the illustrated designs of Edmund DeMoulin and the handiwork of his brothers Ulysses and Erastus, as reproduced in Burlesque Paraphernalia, will still deliver amusing, if sadistic, anthropology.