BTC: Happy Quirkyalone Day!

Wiki defines “Quirkyalone” as “a neologism referring to someone who enjoys being single (but is not opposed to being in a relationship) and generally prefers to be alone rather than dating for the sake of being in a couple.”

How To Be Alone by filmmaker Andrea Dorfman, and poet/singer/songwriter, Tanya Davis.

The term was coined by girlzine badass-turned-magazine maven Sasha Cagen while she was standing with several other single, unsmooched friends on a Brooklyn subway platform on New Year’s Eve back in 1999. “She expanded the concept into an essay in the first issue of her magazine To-Do List. When the article was republished in the Utne Reader in 2000, Cagen was surprised by the fervor of responses from readers who felt their lives had been validated by her work. As a result of these responses, Cagen opted to expand her essay into a 2004 book, titled Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics.

The first International Quirkyalone Day was held on February 14 in 2003 as an alternative to Valentine’s Day, and a more genuine, generous “celebration of romance, freedom and individuality” Eight years on, Cagen has this to say:

The saccharine-sweet quality of Valentine’s Day, that fills us with expectation and often tends to make us feel disappointed whether we are single or in a relationship, struck me 8 years when I launched International Quirkyalone Day with parties in four cities. The flagship party was in San Francisco. In our second year, the party got so big the fire marshalls came, but then they wanted to party, too.

IQD is for everyone, because couples as well as singles needed a liberating alternative holiday to celebrate the joys of connection: to yourself, to your mate (if you have one), to friends, family, passions, and so on.

…I take this opportunity to wish all of you the most alive and fresh Quirkyalone Day ever! I invite you to do something new Quirkyalone Day, shake up your world a bit by visiting a new spot in or outside your town, take a class, take a chance and make a new friend (and I don’t mean on Facebook). Rearrange your furniture, try a new recipe, dance alone in your underwear for an hour. At the least, buy yourself some daisies. Chosen for their natural, sunny quality, they are the official flower of the quirkyalone movement.

And above all, love thyself.

Cheers to all you lovely Quirkyalone celebrants out there. Savor this day.

“Nicholas Was” By 39°N

Beijing animation studio 39°N presents a suitably creepy animated version of Neil Gaiman’s poem/short story Nicholas Was for their 2010 Christmas card. I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of the reading here but the look is fantastic.

Via Neil Gaiman

Tin Teardrops for Captain Beefheart

“If you want to be a different fish, you gotta jump out of the school.”
— Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart.

Born January 15, 1941. Died December 17, 2010.

Photo by Anton Corbijn, 1980.

He was one of the most singularly strange, goading, galvanizing musicians of the 20th century. We were very lucky to have him. From AllMusic:

…Captain Beefheart was one of modern music’s true innovators. The owner of a remarkable four-and-one-half octave vocal range, he employed idiosyncratic rhythms, absurdist lyrics and an unholy alliance of free jazz, Delta blues, latter-day classical music and rock & roll to create a singular body of work virtually unrivaled in its daring and fluid creativity. While he never came even remotely close to mainstream success, Beefheart’s impact was incalculable, and his fingerprints were all over punk, new wave and post-rock.

Rest in peace.

On the Bro’d

If you’re a highly sensitive purist, DON’T bother with On the Bro’d: Every Sentence of Kerouac Retold for Bros. It will only sully your palate and piss you off. If you’ve never actually read On the Road, well, you should experience that first, most definitely. Particularly if you are bright-eyed, collegiate (pre or post) and fulla beans. For while it may retain its verve when read at a later age, the classic Kerouac scroll is, first and foremost, a young adventurer’s screed.

via DJ Dead Billy, thanks.

But hey, all you crabby old culture vultures who eat sacred cow burgers with zeal and favor the thigh bones of vegan Sarah Lawrence humanities majors for your walking sticks, pull up to the groaning board and dig the fuck in. If, perhaps, you remain secretly convinced that young Jack and pals could have stood to be a bit less self-indulgent, paternalistic, or just plain fuckwitted, this satirical retelling may provide you with nourishing vindication.

On the Bro’d is exactly what the title describes. References to beer bongs, pimps, Axe Body Spray, Sparks, popped collars, bottle service and “Wonderwall” abound. From its official press release (yes, apparently it has an official press release, ugh): “On The Road is an American classic and the seminal work of the Beat generation, but much of it’s lost in translation when read by the generation that goes to the club and then beats.” The as-of-yet unnamed author insists that his reinterpretation is both appropriate and relevant, seeing as the original book was goaded by the “stirring unrest and genius of a generation of bros.” Nnnngh.

Profoundly cynical and relentlessly obnoxious, On the Bro’d will make you weep and laugh and barf for the future of American culture as only a seasoned NYC designer/writer/humor blogger can make you weep/laugh/barf. So enjoy. Or not. Either way, you have my love and empathy.

BTC: Beat Poetess Phillipa Fallon

Haven’t seen High School Confidential yet? It’s high time you did. (Double-decker pun intended, natch!) Directed by Jack Arnold, it’s a campy, unexpectedly sharp teensploitation romp that peaks with this adrenalizing scene:

The finger-snapping nihilist’s name was Phillipa Fallon, and that was her all-too-brief moment to shine.

Via the ever-entertaining CONELRAD webzine:

Approximately mid-way through the Albert Zugsmith exploitation film masterpiece High School Confidential (1958), an attractive, quasi-bohemian woman strides on stage at a coffee house and belts out a beat poem that provides a delightfully nihilistic snapshot of the Cold War—including references to the space race and atomic evacuation. The fact that she happens to be accompanied by Jackie Coogan (who plays a heroin kingpin in the film) on piano is, like, pure existential gravy. Predictably, the teens in the audience appear to be digging Coogan’s incongruous ragtime key work and disregarding the depressing content of the lyrics.

B-movie actor and writer Mel Welles (1924-2005) was the person most responsible for the hep jargon —including “High School Drag”— in Confidential. He was recruited by producer Zugsmith for help in this regard because, as Welles recalled for interviewer Tom Weaver in 1988, “I was an expert on grass in my day…”

Up until very recently, precious little was known about the sneering sex bomb “who so memorably portrays the hipsteress delivering Welles’ boptastic words.” But just last month, after years of sleuthing and compiling, CONELRAD began to parse out Fallon’s story on a separate site devoted to her life and times. Installments are still going up.

Respect and Love for Marlon Riggs

A wee bit o’ cheer, courtesy of Marlon Riggs and the Institute of Snap!thology…

… that’s spurring me to write up an overview of something far deeper and more complex. This “Snap Diva” sequence is one of the more lighthearted scenes from Tongues Untied, a powerful independent film by activist/educator/filmmaker/author Marlon Riggs. The clip was sent to me earlier today by an old friend as an offhandedly affectionate “haaaay”, but it ended up triggering intense memories of watching Riggs’ films on PBS over a decade ago. I was bowled over by them at the time; I’m overjoyed to be reminded of them again.

Riggs died of AIDS in 1994 while still struggling to complete his final film, Black Is…Black Ain’t. An intensely personal, well-researched examination of the diversity of African-American identities, Black Is…Black Ain’t was completed by Riggs’ colleagues after his death, and released posthumously in the mid 90s. “His camera traverses the country, bringing us face to face with Black folks young and old, rich and poor, rural and urban, gay and straight, grappling with the paradox of numerous, often contested definitions of Blackness.” [via]

Riggs was a giant of public television during the late 80s and early 90s, and a truly inspiring force for positive change. Via glbtq:

Riggs’ experience of racism began in his segregated childhood schools but continued even at Harvard, where he studied American history, graduating with honors in 1978. He then earned an M. A. in 1981 at the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he later taught documentary film courses.

Riggs first gained recognition for writing, producing, and directing the Emmy-winning, hour-long documentary Ethnic Notions (1987), which explored black stereotypes and stereotyping. The film helped establish Riggs’ career as a contemporary historical documentary producer.

But most of his later films and writings probe the dichotomy Riggs perceived between the strong, “Afrocentric” black man and the black “sissy” gay man. As a “sissy” himself, Riggs felt deeply his status as a pariah within the black community.

Tongues Untied (1989), Riggs’ most famous film, is an extensively reviewed and critically acclaimed documentary that met with controversy in conservative circles when it was aired on public television. Funded by a National Endowment for the Arts grant, it figured in the cultural wars over control of the NEA and the Public Broadcasting System.

The Laughing Heart

It’s true: the grizzled “laureate of American lowlife” Charles Bukowski often used his sharp tongue to viciously lambast those close to him. But damn if he didn’t also pen some of the most uplifting and hopeful poetry of the 20th century. Here’s “The Laughing Heart” as read by another (decidedly kinder, gentler) grizzled laureate of American lowlife, Mister Tom Waits.

(Via Viggie, with thanks.)

The Laughing Heart

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

–Charles Bukowski

Harry Crosby’s Black Sun

Harry Crosby and unidentified woman, Four Arts Ball, Paris

“Yet it was precisely in his character … to invest all his loyalty and energy in magic: at first the approved magic of established religion; later the witchwork of poetry and sun worship; finally the black mass of violence” -Geoffrey Wolf, Author of Black Sun: The Brief Transit and Violent Eclipse of Harry Crosby

Harry Crosby – self indulgent socialite, tortured poet, wealthy mystic …. a playboy who lived his life with reckless abandon – was a man both adored and reviled. He has been described by some as “a representative figure of the so-called Lost Generation”, the bohemian 1920s.

A godson of J.P. Morgan Jr., Harry was a Harvard graduate and a decorated war veteran, who had left school to become an ambulance driver in France with his upper-crust chums during World War I. He ended up with the Croix de Guerre for valor and, after a few frustrating years back in Boston, fled to Paris for the rest of his short life. Married in 1922 to Mary Phelps Jacob, known as “Caresse”, they lived the “ultimate Bohemian lives as poets, artists, and patrons in Paris in the 1920’s. To every adventure their answer was always ‘yes’.” Harry once sent a telegram from Paris to his father, the quintessential sober, patriarch, which read, “Please sell $10,000 worth in stock. We intend to live a mad and extravagant life.”

While living and writing in Paris Harry Crosby founded The Black Sun Press, one of the “finest small presses of the twentieth century”.   In 1924, the Crosbys went public with their first book. The following year, they each published their first collections of verse. Harry commissioned Alastair – a “spectacularly camp” German creator of beautifully decadent and Gothic fantasies – to illustrate his second collection, Red Skeletons.  Soon they were issuing works by other writers, including Poe, James, Wilde, Joyce and D. H. Lawrence.

Color plate from Red Skeletons, by artist Alastair

On December 10, 1929, Harry was found in bed with a .25 caliber bullet hole in his right temple next to his mistress, the newly married Josephine Bigelow who had a matching hole in her left temple, in an apparent suicide pact. Harry’s toenails were painted red and strange symbols were tattooed between his shoulder blades and on the soles of his feet. A lover of dark mysteries to the last, he left no suicide note. London’s Daily Mirror speculated on psychological motives, while New York’s Daily News blamed poetry and passion: “Death itself had been the motive, others speculated, just as aspiring poet Harry’s life had been his greatest artwork.”

Coilhouse recently caught up with Erik Rodgers, founder of String and a Can Productions, and director of The Black Sun: The Life and Death of Harry Crosby, who provides his own insight into Harry Crosby’s strange, short life and speaks to what makes the man such a fascinating study.

Coilhouse: How did you come to decide Harry Crosby might make good material for a play – what it was about him or his life that inspired you, or what aspect of him you were hoping to shed more light on? How did you come across him to begin with?

Erik Rodgers: I actually came upon Caresse first, while developing a project on Salvador Dalí.  [My business partner] was intrigued by the idea of such an accomplished and independent female from that era, and started researching her life.   Of course as soon as she began reading about Caresse, she discovered Harry as well.  Their story captured her imagination, and she began relating to me some of the details as she read them. We both felt there was something vital and overlooked in their story, something that had been obscured by all the scandal and negative criticism.

“Totally like whatever, you know?”

Video by Ronnie Bruce.

This typographical visualization of poet Taylor Mali‘s performance of “Totally like whatever, you know?” just knocked me on my ass. Literally. I am sitting on the floor, heart beating very fast, fist in the air, shouting “YES, YES, YES!” because Mali has called my demographic out on one of our most persistent and obnoxious habits: a general lack of self-respect when it comes to the way we talk.

Generally speaking (hurr), American twenty-to-thirtysomethings are a flakey, indolent lot in regards to oral communication. The aptly named Generation Why is suffering an epidemic of infantile intonation, “then he was all/she was all” shortcuts, verbal tics of the “like”, “and um” and “you know” variety, and shamefully poor diction on the whole. We’re all starting to sound like Janice from the Muppets, only less classy.

(Found this snapshot in a random search. Wanted to obscure this gal’s face ’cause it’s all about the shirt. Photoshop blur tool did something… arty. Hopefully she won’t mind.)

I’m certainly not immune! And the more time I spend with peers who replace commas and pauses in oral communication with “like”s and “you know”s, the more prone I am to the same witless fucking verbiage. It’s horribly contagious. In the past, I’ve taken to wearing rubber bands and snapping them against my wrists to break myself of bad speaking habits. After a night out with particularly self-indulgent friends, I find myself listening to the old guard on NPR and the BBC for hours, just to cleanse my own impaired palate.

Bravo, Taylor Mali, for eloquently lamenting, as Roger Ebert puts it, “the decline of talking like you’re intelligent and sincerely care.”

By the way, who else is following Ebert‘s vibrant Twitter stream? This gem is only one of literally hundreds of incredible links I’ve followed from there in recent months. I doubt he’ll ever see this post, but seriously, Mr. Ebert, if you happen to read this, thank you so much. These days, you’re not just a top film critic… you’re one of the most important cultural curators on the web. Bravo to you, too. (Fer sure.)

Les Fleurs du Mal As Illustrated By Carlo Farneti

The 1935 edition of Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil) by the Italian illustrator Carlo Farneti. There’s nothing that says crazed fever dream like a dejected figure facing a gauntlet of monstrous, crimson-eyed owls or a crowd, their faces twisted in fear, gathered around a towering casket.