A Walk Through The Suicide Forest

VICE Magazine’s short, riveting documentary on Japan’s Aokigahara forest (also known as The Sea of Trees), perhaps the country’s most popular location for those wishing to end their own lives (and reported to be the second most popular location in the world behind the Golden Gate Bridge. The forest’s popularity is often cited as being due to Seichō Matsumoto’s 1960 novel Kuroi Jukai, which features two lovers committing suicide there, but the forest has a history of being associated with suicide and death in general before its publication. In the 19th century families would practice ubasute (literally “abandoning an old woman”) a tradition in which an elderly or infirm family member was brought to a place and left to die, exposed to the elements. In recent years, the rate of suicides has been on the rise:

[…] people started taking their own lives there at a rate of 50 to 100 deaths a year. The site holds so many bodies that the Yakuza pays homeless people to sneak into the forest and rob the corpses. The authorities sweep for bodies only on an annual basis, as the forest sits at the base of Mt. Fuji and is too dense to patrol more frequently.

It’s a very well done piece. Azusa Hayano is, perhaps, the perfect tour guide. It would seem that a geologist would be completely out of his element combing the woods for corpses but he makes for a peaceful and truly compassionate Virgil; managing to keep the horror of the surroundings from being completely overwhelming. His ability to retain some hope amidst such profound sadness is, perhaps, the film’s greatest gift.

A Wistful Video-salute to the Dark Side

From 1995 to 1997, Sleep Chamber was my lullaby. Perhaps due to my taking the band’s name a little too literally, Sirkle Zero was on repeat every night. Soon after, Psychic TV entered orbit and the floodgates ov darkness were officially open.

Psychic TV testcard, used at beginnings of videos, performances, etc. Also my desktop. Also, I’m putting this on a T-shirt.

Yep, nostalgia abounds with the resurgence of darque music [and imagery, and the accompanying, deliberately lo-fi videos], that’s been steadily creeping forth over the past couple of years.

The video-playlist ahead began to take shape because all this new gloomstuff is blowin’ up and the pioneers of dark/experimental/noise/etc. deserve re-visiting and acknowledgment more than ever. And because the music below has managed to remain visceral and electrifying and relevant as ever. Also, having all these videos in one place? AWESOME. A shamefully incomplete tribute, the playlist features Sleep Chamber, Coil, Swans, Psychic TV, Nurse With Wound, and MOAR. Add your favorites in the comments section to flesh this baby out!

Her Highness Sheikha Mozah

I can’t stop looking at pictures of Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned. This should come as no surprise to long-time readers of the blog, given both my love of chic politician Yulia Tymoshenko (obsessively chronicled here and here) and interest in Islamic fashion blogging, its tensions between faith, religion, fashion, and personal style.

In the image above, Mozah (51, mother of seven, the second of the Emir’s three wives) looks like she just killed James Bond.  (And I say that with perfect love and awe. Because Bond is such a douche.) Mozah’s bio in the Forbes Top 100 Most Powerful Women list reads:

The wife of the Emir of Qatar has used her growing influence to promote education and development in the Arab world and in her country, home to gas-rich reserves and Al-Jazeera (owned by her husband). This past May, Sheikha Mozah toured the U.S. giving speeches on Western misconceptions of Muslim women and the need to combat violence by eradicating poverty and hopelessness. Sheikha Mozah recently announced the creation of the Arab Foundation for Democracy with a $10 million endowment from the emir. The foundation will encourage the development of a civil society and freedom of the press, among other things. Sheikha Mozah already promotes free speech through the Doha Debates, monthly forums of controversial topics featuring guest speakers like Israeli president Shimon Peres. One of her biggest achievements is Education City, a 2,500-acre campus outside of Doha that is home to branches of Georgetown, Carnegie Mellon and Virginia Commonwealth universities.

Blogs such as HuffPo and ONTD have already caught on to Mozah’s fierceness, and equally fascinating are her presence and drive. In the clip below, she discusses one of her biggest projects, Education City. (By the way! In keeping with her sharp personal style, Mozah’s Education City has some incredible, futuristic architectural designs, worthy of a blog post of their own). She’s the kind of person who inspires me to write characters, research cultures, make stories. What’s it like to be her? What would be like if you added a little fiction to it? Like… maybe some science fiction? More images of Mozah, after the jump. [Via Holly Jones].

Dirty Night Clowns

Warning to any coulrophobics or pupaphobics who may be a part of our readership: This video may not be for you; containing, as it does, both puppets and clowns and, in fact, a clown puppet. For the those of you without such qualms: Prepare yourselves for the bizarre traipse through a miniature forest that is the video for Chris Garneau’s Dirty Night Clowns, a delightfully dark composition with some decidedly insidious undertones. The video, directed by Ryan Gibeau, is unsettling but beautifully realized. Puppetry has the ability to both undercut and magnify disturbing themes in equal measure with its cartoonish, exaggerated qualities, and that is on full display here. They also have a great behind-the-scenes feature for those who are interested.

Via who killed bambi?

BTC: Wake and Bake Edition

Two Hipsters and a Bong:

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’s better than BIRDEMIC.

Numa Numa Dance en Pointe

Best school revue ballerina EVAR:

En pointe moonwalking’s simply not something you see every day.
What’s not to love? Girl’s got wicked mad chops,  and she doesn’t take herself too seriously.

Pozegnanie, Henryk Gorecki

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World-renowned Polish composer Henryk Gorecki, “whose early avant-garde style gave way to more approachable works rooted in his country’s folk songs and sacred music and whose Symphony No. 3 — an extended lamentation subtitled Symphony of Sorrowful Songs — sold more than a million copies on CD in the 1990s, died on Friday in Katowice, Poland. He was 76.”

The FAM: De Laurentiis Double Feature

Legendary film producer Agostino (Dino) De Laurentiis passed away this Wednesday at the ripe old age of 91. De Laurentiis’s credits include over 160 films, including Dune (1984), Army of Darkness, Blue Velvet, Manhunter, Serpico, Conan the Barbarian, Barbarella, King Kong (1976), and Orca just to name a few. Two of the films he produced were Oscar winners: La Strada (1954) and Nights of Cabiria (1957) — both by Italian master Federico Fellini. Today The FAM honors this movie titan with two of his schlockier offerings: 1987’s Evil Dead II, directed by Sam Raimi and starring Bruce Campbell and Bruce Campbell’s chin, and 1973’s Death Wish starring Charles Bronson , directed by Michael Winner.

First up is Evil Dead II, Sam Raimi’s remake/re-imagining/sequel/whatever to 1981’s The Evil Dead, featuring 100% less tree rape. De Laurentiis had approached Raimi about directing Thinner, part of a multi-movie deal with King which included Maximum Overdrive and Cat’s Eye but Raimi turned it down and instead directed Crimewave a crime/comedy he co-produced with the Coen Bros. It turned out to be a flop and Raimi subsequently had trouble attaining funding for Evil Dead II. King found out about this and personally appealed to De Laurentiis to fund the venture. A cult classic in the truest sense of the word, Evil Dead II is a love it or hate it sort of film. I personally love it and can’t help it if you don’t, Philistine.

Secondly is Death Wish, (based on Brian Garfield’s 1972 novel of the same name) Michael Winner’s brutal, exploitative revenge thriller about a pansy-ass liberal whose wife is murdered and daughter raped in their apartment, sending him off on a journey to gun down the punks who did it. This movie was originally set to be released by United Artist’s who had Sydney Lumet set to direct and Jack Lemon to star which would have been…interesting. Lumet had other obligations though and UA began to reconsider the nature of the story they had on their hands and eventually De Laurentiis and Paramount took over.

Critics and theatergoers alike were shocked by the violence in Death Wish which made it quite the box-office hit. In cities like New York, where crime had hit startling numbers in the 70s, it was especially popular. Critics, including Brian Garfield, were less impressed and reviews were mixed. Garfield disliked the film so much that it spurred him to write Death Sentence a sequel that focused on the increase and lunacy of vigilantism. Still, it’s considered by some to be a landmark film — the first to portray a citizen taking up arms against criminals in a modern setting. In addition to appearances by Olympia Dukakis, Christopher Guest, Saul Rubinek, and Hope Lange, Death Wish features the debut of Jeff Goldblum, as one of the hooligans who assault Paul’s wife and daughter (specifically forcing his daughter to perform fellatio on him, making for a performance creepier than his usual, creepy norm) and Denzel Washington as an uncredited punk-who-wants-to-rob-Charles-Bronson-but-gets-shot-instead (see Part 5 around 8:50 in the above play-list).

Perhaps there are better, more well-respected films that could represent Dino De Laurentiis’ career (see the aforementioned Fellini) but I’ll always remember him for having the willingness to get behind movies that others were too timid to touch even when the movies were complete bombs (see the aforementioned Dune). When no one else wanted to deal with the headaches of the image of a man cutting his own hand off with a chainsaw, amateur vigilantes, or Dennis Hopper, he was able to see the their value, in turn making the careers of people like Sam Raimi, David Lynch, Charles Bronson, and Dennis Hopper. He was one of the last of the old guard, financing films in less than upstanding ways and throwing money at directors purely on instinct. It may not have been the best way to go about business, but it certainly made of interesting results and for that, he will be missed.

The Definite Articles

Listen on Myspace or Facebook. Upcoming show Details here.

Coilhouse comrade Jon Sung describes his indie chamber rock band The Definite Articles as “the Arcade Fire with a string quartet where the guitars should be.” Listening to the lovely songs on their new record, King Merriweather, one can also hear a bit o’ scrumptious John Vanderslice influence in the production values (they recorded at his and Scott Solter’s studio, Tiny Telephone) and some Northwesternly, Death Cab-ish ghosts in bandleader’s Shawn Alpay’s wistful voice. And a wee bit o’ Pinback in there somewhere. But different, of course. ‘Cause it’s all epically orchestrated n’ shizzle. But seriously, King Merriweather sounds like it was an intensely ambitious undertaking. Took over two years to make, and its instrumentation ended up including 30 musicians (including woodwinds, horns, harp, choir, and a dozen strings).

The SF-based band is celebrating its release with two live presentations of the album in its entirety on 11/19 and 11/20 (the Fri/Sat before Thanksgiving) within the rafters and stained glass of a breathtaking church designed by Julia Morgan. The core band will be joined onstage by many of the aforementioned session players. “These players come from a range of backgrounds, anywhere from self-taught to conservatory-level, but each will contribute something different and lovely to the music.”

Mike Mareen STILL Wants to be Your Love Spy

But take a moment to ask yourself… is that really what you want?

via DJ Dead Billy… again.

Your needs are important, too. Don’t repress them. It’s entirely okay to say “no, actually, I don’t EVER want to open my refrigerator to find a leering, moustachoied Italo disco maniac turned leather couturier crouched inside with a bottle of prosecco.” No one’s going to judge you for that.