Renegade Biker-Druid King Arthur Says "Take No Shit."

Vice profiles Arthur Uther Pendragon, a UK biker-turned-druid who is best known for forcing the British Government to allow public access to the Stonehenge during the Solstice holidays. Arthur’s case was heard at the European Court of Human Rights, and it is thanks to him that over 20,000 people – “around one third tourists, one third pilled-up teenagers in sportswear, and one third neo-druids” – come to party in and around the ancient monument each summer.

According to Wikipedia, Arthur, née John Timothy Rothwell, used to belong to an outlaw biker gang called The Gravediggers. He became known as “King John” after throwing parties at a ruined castle in Odiham that was colloquially known as “John’s Castle,” but became known as “King Arthur” in 1986 after coming to believe that he was a reincarnation of the legendary monarch. In the Vice article, Arthur good-naturedly discusses his memories of 16th 6th century England, knighting Ken Kesey and Johnny Rotten, and how he came to be in the possession of the sword Excalibur.

His last quote in the piece is particularly epic: “Stand. Stand and be counted. If you believe it, go for it. No regrets. Fight for truth, for honor and for justice. Take no shit.”

[via Bryce Jamison]

Tarkovsky Masterpieces, Free to Watch Online

Still from Tarkovsky’s Stalker.

Oooo! Author Richard Kadrey just posted a heads up –via an old OpenCulture post— that there are a bunch of Andrei Tarkovsky films up in various places on the web to watch for free. Looks like most of the links are still good. And it’s the weekend. Time, perhaps, to get some epic post-War Soviet eeriness on?

June 16th is Bloomsday

Photo of James Joyce by Berenice Abbott

From Molly Bloom’s soliloquy, the final line of Ulysses by James Joyce:

“…I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes. “

Happy Bloomsday, everyone! Let us celebrate with a viewing of Pitch ‘n’ Putt with Joyce ‘n’ Beckett

via Colin Peters

OMG SHOES: "Self-Objectification Strategy" by Scott Hove

“Self-Objectification Strategy” is a new piece from Scott Hove. The back of the heel has a functional switchblade attachment. See more of his new sculptures here.

Adventures in Spreepark: Photos by Matthew Borgatti

“Soon…” Photo by Matthew Borgatti.

A frozen rainbow carousel, headless dinosaurs and lonely swan-shaped boats: this can only be Spreepark, an abandoned amusement park in Southeast Berlin. Conceived as a Socialist project to celebrate 20 years of GDR, Spreepark opened its doors in 1969, and shut down in 2001.  If you saw the film Hanna, images of a girl assassin running through this decaying fairyland park may spring to mind. Recently, Matthew Borgatti (previously on Coilhouse here and here) grabbed his camera and went exploring: he’s just published a beautiful set of photos showing both Spreepark’s ruins and signs of life, in tandem with a witty, comprehensive guide to urban spelunking. Spreepark’s story, writes Matthew, is one of “broken dreams, drug smuggling, and illegal things done with kiddie park rides in the dead of night.” You can’t tell the story of Spreepark without mentioning the story of Norbert Witte, as told by journalist Julia Jüttner.

An affluent funfair operator known as the “King of Carousels” to his friends, Witte walked into trouble when he decided to invest in Spreepark after the reunification of Germany. The son of a carnival performer and grandson of Otto Witte, an acrobat/swindler who once managed to be crowned as the King of Albania, Norbert Witte built his own carnival empire from humble beginnings. Together with his young bride Pia, the daughter of a bumper-car operator, he purchased one roller coaster (“The Catapult”) and began to tour with it, amassing eight rides over the course of two decades.

Photo by Matthew Borgatti.

At first, Spreepark seemed like a lucrative investment for Witte. But after the government eliminated 3,000 parking spaces near the park, people stopped coming and the park went out of business. Witte relocated his family to Lima, Peru, with the hope of bringing over Spreepark’s rides and establishing a new park called Lunapark. However, Peruvian customs officials refused to release all the parts of the rides, and the family quickly slid into poverty. Ultimately, Witte was caught smuggling 76 pounds of cocaine (worth $14 million) back to Germany in the mast of the “Flying Carpet” carousel. Norbert Witte received a lenient 6-year sentence in Germany, but his 21-year-old son, stuck back in Peru, received a jail term of 20 years. In a heartbreaking interview with Spiegel Online, Pia Witte elaborates further.

Unlike the story of Spreepark’s ruin, Matthew’s photos aren’t all that tragic. In fact, unlike most typical, ruin porn-tastic shots of abandoned theme parks around the world, his photos reveal the park’s vibrant, frenetic second life. Vinyl stickers depicting the step-by-step construction of an origami swan adorn a swan boat’s plastic neck. One of the dinosaurs still standing dons glam-rock makeup crafted from neon adhesive tape. A layer of graffiti art slowly encroaches upon the abandoned rides, often giving them a strangely modern look. Perhaps it’s because the German authorities seem pretty lenient, occasionally allowing fashion shoots, filming, and festivities such as “concerts, art installations, performances and a burning man” to take place in the park.

As hinted in Matthew’s photos, the future is bright for Spreepark: this summer, a new project called Kulturpark will set up a three-week artist residency camp producing public art inside Spreepark’s walls. Artworks will include “ecological grafitti, sustainable bicycles, a ping pong competition, learning events, radio station, [and] storytelling projects.” The public opening will be June 28 – July 1st.

Photo by Matthew Borgatti.

America's Dead Sea

Jim Lo Scalzo’s beautiful short documentary on the Salton Sea:

Deep in the desert of southern California sits one of the worst environmental sites in America—a former tourist destination that has turned into a toxic soup: the Salton Sea.

The sea was born by accident 100 years ago, when the Colorado River breached an irrigation canal; for the next two years the entire volume of the river flowed into the Salton Sink, one of the lowest places on Earth. The new lake became a major tourist attraction, with resort towns springing up along its shores. Yet with no outflow, and with agricultural runoff serving as its only inflow, the sea’s waters grew increasingly toxic. Farm chemicals and ever-increasing salinity caused massive fish and bird die-offs. Use of the sea for recreational activities plummeted, and by the 1980s its tourist towns were all but abandoned.

The skeletons of these structures are still there; ghost towns encrusted in salt. California officials acknowledge that if billions of dollars are not spent to save it, the sea could shrink another 60 percent in the next 20 years, exposing soil contaminated with arsenic and other cancerous chemicals to strong winds. Should that dust become airborne, it would blow across much of southern California, creating an environmental calamity.

Much of the footage is filmed in and around The Salton Riviera, a former resort built by entrepreneur M. Penn Phillips, old footage of which Scalzo expertly contrasts with images of the now dilapidated buildings and piles of dead fish. His eye for composition is the real star here, though, and he captures some stunningly haunting images of this increasingly barren wasteland.

Via The Fox Is Black

Obscure 1970s Electronic Music Spotted in The Hunger Games

Someone working on The Hunger Games really knew what they were doing! As Wired blogger Geeta Dayal points out, hidden in the middle of the film, there’s a rare, beautiful, raw experimental track titled “Sediment”.

The track was recorded by electronic music pioneer and computer scientist Laurie Spiegel in 1972. Appearing during the film’s cornucopia scene, “Sediment” is a 9-minute soundscape created using an ElectroComp 200 analog synthesizer, two tape decks, graphing paper and a ruler. It’s the perfect music for the tense, terrifying moment when the competition truly begins.

“The only way to mix was to play something live, where one deck was playing audio while the other deck was recording the other machine,” Spiegel told Wired in a phone interview. “You piled the tape hiss and noise for every generation you added.” Spiegel recorded the piece in a five-room apartment running on a 15-amp fuse, leading to technical difficulties when her appliances interfered with the recording. “When the refrigerator went on, half the oscillators dropped by a quarter tone…. I had to turn the refrigerator off, or it would ruin the take.”

Laurie Spiegel surrounded by her equipment in the 1970s. Photo by Stan Bratman

[more on Wired, via Geeta Dayal]

Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights": The 36-Minute Masterpiece


It’s Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” slowed down to a crawl by Looking at Blue from the Kate BushNews and Information forum.

This technique never fails! Whether it’s Justin Bieber’s “U Smile” or a dial-up modem, the result is transcendent.

If this isn’t quite your speed (hurr), try the metal version of Wuthering Heights, performed by Angra.

[via Geeta Dayal / Dangerous Minds]

An Experimental Film with Early Electronic Music Starring Anaïs Nin

Today, we celebrate what would have been Anaïs Nin’s 109th birthday by posting Bells of Atlantis, an experimental film from 1952.

The film stars Nin as the mythical queen of Atlantis and conveys, as Wonders in the Dark puts it, “the experience of trying to remember and re-experience a dream.” Over cascading experimental footage, Nin reads aloud from her novella House of Incest. We catch glimpses of her nude form swinging in a hammock, and we see her shadow undulating over sheer fabric blowing in the wind, but for the most part, the imagery, captured by Nin’s husband Ian Hugo, remains very abstract, creating a “sense of swimming through a hallucination, trying to get closer to a world clouded not only by its own hazy nature, but the veils of memory and reality cast over it – given form by the watery ambiance that washes over the images.”

Bebe Barron, an early pioneer of electronic music.

The soundscape was crafted by Louis and Bebe Barron, two pioneers of electronic music who are best known for composing the world’s first entirely electronic music score for The Forbidden Planet, which the Barrons filled with “bleeps, blurps, whirs, whines, throbs, hums, and screeches.” They built their own circuits, which they viewed as “cybernetic organisms,” and spliced together the sounds they made into collages. Louis did the work of creating the circuits, while Bebe did most of the composing. Their sound, wrote Nin, was akin to “a molecule that has stubbed its toes.” Bebe Barron was one of the first women in the field of electronic music, and in her last interview, she fondly recalls memories of her friend Anaïs.

[via wobbly]

Walter Schnackenberg’s Theater of the Strange

So, Will Schofield over at 50 Watts has a bit of a fetish for German poster illustrator Walter Schnackenberg (1880-1961) and I’m finding it pretty easy to see why. Schnackenberg’s work is almost like Salvador Dali and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (whose work Schnackenberg admired) had a child, swinging wildly between the more traditional theater illustration and extremely surreal dreamscapes and oftentimes these two worlds collide.

His figures are lithe and twisting, their faces many times animal-like — stretched and disfigured. The tone of many of these is hard to nail down, evolving as he grew older and introduced stranger elements into his work. His older work seems more playful, and certainly there is some of this in the later pieces, but one can definitely see a darker, more cynical streak enter his oeuvre as time went on. It all makes for a truly captivating body of work.