Hollywood's Dating Habits: A Quick Education On Geochronology

The brilliant and exuberantly tenacious Phil Broughton is a health physicist, radiation safety educator, and the proprietor/ranter-in-chief of Funranium Labs. It’s a joy to publish his edifying, hilarious essay concerning Hollywood expository narratives as they pertain to… TEH SCIENCE! Illustrated with LULZ from across the world wide interwubz, arbitrarily selected by yours truly. Haha! Sorry, Phil. (No I’m not.) But seriously, Phil is a tremendously gregarious and charming font of knowledge, so feel free to poke him about coffee, nuclear weapons, beer, history, urban exploring, science “or any of the myriad useless facts bubbling about” in his brainmeats at [email protected]. Yay, Phil! ~Mer

Hollywood, we need to talk about your dating habits. In particular, how important it is to have a reference to verify ages before you get in trouble. No, I’m not talking about the hypersexualization of 12 year old girls trying to pass for 18. Nor am I talking about the 60-somethings trying to pass for 18 as well. That is a totally separate headshaking situation.

I would like to blame the movie Prometheus for this rant, but it’s hardly the only guilty party, just the one that finally made me snap. Hollywood, you don’t understand how carbon dating works, that there are other dating methods that sometimes work better, and that the true (unattainable) goal is to find the perfect point of reference to scale them all against. But underlying all of that is a body of scientific work and assumptions that you’ve conveniently ignored in the interest of “character driven plot”. But I have news for you: your characters and your plot make less sense when you take these shortcuts. And when you do this, people become confused as to what science and state of the art technology actually are, to the point that we have to deprogram juries and judges of the CSI Effect in capital punishment trials because Reality. Doesn’t. Work. Like. That.

Dancing with O'death

It is All Soul’s Day, when the veil between the living and the dead is said to be at its most diaphanous. And so we present a feature on the eligaically named, NYC-based band O’death, written Katelan Foisy. A multimedia artist, writer, model, and tarologist, Katelan is known as “La Gitana” and the “Mistress of Magic”. She can be found on the internet almost everywhere. ~Mer

Portrait by Katelan Foisy.

O’death is one of those bands you remember falling in love with.  I first heard them back in 2007 in the former apartment of William S. Burroughs. I was making cowboy coffee and my boyfriend at the time was queuing up music for our Darwin’s Nightmare Party, a party to “celebrate” the naturalist’s birthday.  “You’ve got to listen to this band,” he said as I poured loose coffee grounds into boiling water. He hit play and I stopped, mid-pour, to turn around. “Who is this?” I demanded. He told me it was O’death, a Brooklyn-based band he had seen a few weeks back. I left the coffee as we danced on cigarette strewn, whiskey stained wooden floors. The song was “Down to Rest” and I was entranced. It had the feeling of a small town forgotten and decayed, remembered only by the myth passed down by word of mouth by elders at camp fires.

Spring, 2008.  I walked into a coffee shop to deliver a human skull to an artist when a poster caught my eye. It was for an O’death show. I remembered that night again like it was the first time. I immediately went home and tried to befriend the band. They were about to come out with a new album Broken Hymns Limbs and Skin and commissioned me to do a portrait as part of the press packet. I listened to the album.  It was more refined than the first but still pulled the listener into a world between waking and dreaming. I remember thinking there was something incredibly special about this band; it wasn’t just that they had taken parts of old time Appalachia and made it contemporary, it was that they could make you feel you were part of the story. This could be explained in the way they’ve recorded each album.  Head Home and  Broken Hymns, Limbs, and Skins were recorded live.  As you listen, you see them on stage. What you hear on the album is as passionate as a live performance.

Photo by Glukkake.

Outside, their most recent album, was recorded in fragments. David Rogers-Berry, the band’s drummer, had recently battled Osteosarcoma (a form of bone cancer), undergoing chemotherapy and a shoulder replacement. Where many would have given up, O’death embraced this as an opportunity to experiment with sound. The album’s lineup of Gabe Darling- banjo/ukulele, Jesse Newman- bass, Greg Jamie-singer/lyricist, and violinist Bob Pycior lead the music towards a slower, more melodic turn.

Each O’death album has a distinct feel while retaining the band’s singular magic. They transport listeners to new places. Hearing an O’death song is like falling into a small book of short stories told in a cave by a fire, on a ship during a storm, in a pub on the streets of England, or while hidden away in a swampland cabin. Their music transcends time. Upon first listen, a characteristic track might be mistaken for a classic folk song. However, their words are striking in the contemporary dialogue with time and humanity they invoke.

Despite an old time feel to their music, the only song actually based upon a historical event is “Fire on Peshtigo” from Broken Hymns, Limbs, and Skin.  It was inspired by the 1871 Peshtigo, Wisconsin firestorm that killed 1,500 and which occurred the same day as the Chicago, Holland and Manistee, Michigan fires.

Gail Potocki's Regal "Freaks" Portraits

In recent years, the most heart-achingly beautiful booth in all of San Diego Comic Con’s grand exhibition hall has consistently been that of our friends at Century Guild, a Chicago-based art gallery and publishing house.

Since 2007, they’ve been bringing the lion’s share of their astonishing collection of Art Nouveau, Symbolist, and Cabaret-related prints, lithographs, castings, and original artworks (Klimt! Mucha! Schiele! Szukalski!) to Con to be offered up for sale to discerning buyers… as well as to deliciously torment covetous, grubby urchins like myself. (Oh, but it hurts so good!) Century Guild also deals in a drool-inducing selection of contemporary artists –many of whom often make it out to SDCC for signings– Jeremy Bastian, Dave McKean, Michael Hussar, and Gail Potocki, to name a few.

Gail Potocki, specifically, is on my mind tonight, as I peruse my modest stockpile of last July’s SDCC bounty…

Portrait of Daisy & Violet Hilton by Gail Potocki

An emotive modern Symbolist painter, Potocki melds her mastery of classical 18th/19th Century technique with a profound and compassionate love for her unique array of portrait subjects. (A few years ago, Century Guild produced a lavish hardcover collection of her work called The Union of Hope and Sadness: The Art of Gail Potocki. Highly recommended. And you can read more about her impressive body of work here, here, and here.)

It was at the Century Guild booth that I discovered one of the most gorgeous and exquisitely produced print objects at all of SDCC 2012: a Century Guild-crafted series of  Victorian carte de visites-reminiscent trading cards featuring Potocki’s “Freaks” paintings. Lovers of Tod Browning‘s controversial-yet-inarguably humanizing 1932 film by the same name will be sure to appreciate the elegant, thoughtful historicity of Potocki’s renderings of these five well-known early 20th Century vaudeville/sideshow performers: Daisy & Violet Hilton, Pip, Flip, Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Boy, and Annie Jones the Bearded Woman. Fellow paper fetishists should be impressed as well, as each card is handmade and letterpressed– a sumptuous tactile experience! They’re affordable, too, in spite of being a super limited edition. (I snatched them up immediately.)

Having just checked the Century Guild website, I see that they’re still available for purchase here. Had to share. They are so lovely, and lovingly done.

The Incredibly True Adventures of Gerda Wegener and Lili Elbe

Gerda Wegener, Cuckoo, 1920. Note the fallen black mask on the floor: it repeats in many of Gerda’s erotic paintings.

This is the true story of turn-of-the-century lesbian romance, erotic Deco illustrations rife with harlequins and crinolines, the world’s first male-to-female sex reassignment surgery, and the 1950s pulp novel that brought it all to light.

The story begins one hundred years ago. In 1912, artist couple Gerda and Einar Wegener arrived in Paris, hoping for greater prosperity and freedom than their conservative hometown of Copengahen would allow. They checked into the Hôtel d’Alsace, where – they were shocked to learn – they had been placed into the very same room where Oscar Wilde had once died twelve years earlier. The couple spent the next few days reading Wilde’s works out loud to each other. The forbidden sexuality, transformation, beauty and tragedy in Wilde’s work was reflected in the couple’s following years together.

Gerda, left. Lili, right.

In Paris, Gerda quickly became well-known for her sensual, free-spirited illustrations. Her work often featured a mysterious beauty with a stylish short bob, full lips, and beguiling brown eyes. In 1913, the public was shocked to learn the identity of the mystery model: Gerda’s husband, Einar. Einar was transitioning to living life openly as woman named Lili Elbe.

Ben Frost's "By the Throat" and a Brief History of Noise

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re pleased to introduce Steen Comer, a writer, video artist, art coder, and all-purpose memetic engineer. He is currently in the Bay Area, geographically speaking, although he frequently makes trips to parallel universes for research purposes. Steen is easily found by looking just about anywhere for “mediapathic”.  

Depending on your personal experience, the idea of “noise music” could be considered a contradiction in terms. Within what we winkingly refer to as “The Western Musical Tradition”, “noise” is considered something to be avoided, something that detracts from the experience of the music as the artist intended. But readers of Coilhouse know that this is an idea as outdated as the notion that “the artist” is a monolithic Wagner working in a vacuum. We no longer listen to music in opera houses with perfectly tuned acoustics, we listen in crappy white earbuds that we have cranked up to try to cover the traffic noise.

And, in fact, we never did have the perfectly tuned theatre; that was always a Platonic ideal of acoustic experience; it never really existed. Artists like Cage and Stockhausen knew this, of course, and intentionally and explicitly dealt with it. Industrial music, of course, took this idea and ran with it, as a part of its program of total deconstruction of control systems. Many reading this will have at least attempted to listen to music by Einstürzende Neubauten, often considered the godfathers of industrial noise. If that song happened to be “Let’s do it a Dada” off of Alles Wieder Offen, you heard Blixa extend a friendly nod to “Signore Russolo”.

Luigi Russolo’s Intonarumori.

That would be Luigi Russolo, who wrote a Futurist manifesto that suggested using elements of the urban landscape in music, including “Screeching, Creaking, Rustling, Buzzing, Crackling, Scraping….” This was in 1913. The thread is long and tangled, and continues to this day.

Beyond the world of music, though, there’s a growing awareness of error as form. The Glitch Art movement is most obvious example of this, where artists are using procedural techniques to add intentional errors to images and video. Generally the results look kind of 8 bit and pixelated, because, well, most digital art is made of pixels…

Doc Watson: "Just One of the People."

Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson was born March 3, 1923 in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. At the age of one, he lost his eyesight after developing a severe ocular infection that was compounded by a pre-existing vascular disorder. Watson came from a musical family, so as soon as the boy’s hands were big enough, his father placed a harmonica in them. By age five, little Arthel Lane was picking a banjo and learning chords on a $12 Stella guitar.

Spontaneously nicknamed “Doc” in his late teens by an audience member, this child would one day come to be known as “the Godfather of all flatpickers” and “a powerful singer and a tremendously influential picker who virtually invented the art of playing mountain fiddle tunes on the flattop guitar” according to Folklore Productions.

From the early ’60s onward, Doc became better and better known for his rare and precious ability to re-contextualize the old (some might’ve said “musty”) southern Appalachian folk traditions of balladry and bluegrass as vibrantly contemporary forms. Decades later, all of his Grammy-winning records still sound fresh– full of life and oxygen and timeless pathos.

Watson, who experienced a hell of a lot of tragedy and hardship in his lifetime, remained a humble, self-sufficient and generous artist to the last, telling a close friend, David Holt, toward the end of his life that he hoped to be remembered as “just as a good ol’ down-to-earth boy that didn’t think he was perfect and that loved music […] I’d like to leave quite a few friends behind and I hope I will. Other than that, I don’t want nobody putting me on a pedestal when I leave here. I’m just one of the people … just me.” (via)

Last year, when a life-size bench statue of Watson was dedicated in Boone, N.C. (at the very spot where Watson had busked for pennies in the nineteen-forties and fifties to support his family), Doc requested that inscription read precisely that: simply “Just One of the People.” And so it was.

Rest in Peace, Doc Watson. (1923 – 2012)


Wrap Party / Sneak Peek of "The Narrative of Victor Karloch" (With Music by Mer!)

For the past two years, Kevin McTurk –a world-renowned cinematic effects artist– has been hard at work on a breathtaking personal project called The Narrative of Victor Karloch. McTurk describes it as a “Victorian ghost story puppet film”.

Featuring the voices of Christopher Lloyd, Elijah Wood, and Maurice LaMarche, Karloch combines bunraku style rod puppets, shadow puppetry, and an array of traditional in-camera effects to present a tale from from the journal pages of one Victor Karloch: weatherbeaten alchemist, scholar, and ghost hunter. This film, very much a labor of love for McTurk and his crew, was made possible by grants from Heather Henson’s Handmade Puppet Dreams Film Series and from The Jim Henson Foundation.

Photo provided by Kevin KcTurk.

As you can see from the above preview, it’s a stunning piece of workAnd did I mention that the film’s score was provided by Zoe Keating, Lustmord, and… our very own Meredith Yayanos? Yes!

This Thursday, April 19, at Meltdown Comics/NerdMelt Theater in Los Angeles, McTurk will be holding a sneak peek/wrap party reception. There will be a live marionette performance by Eli Presser (one of the film’s key puppeteers) and limited edition Narrative of Victor Karloch t-shirts (designed by comics legend Mike Mignola!) available for sale.

Congrats to all involved! Attendees of the wrap party are enthusiastically encouraged to report back in comments.

Karloch illustration and design by Mike Mignola.

True Adventures in Better Homes

This collage series by Nadine Boughton combines men’s adventure magazines from the 50s and early 60s with the pristine rooms of Better Homes and Gardens. Bedrooms, living rooms and bathrooms are attacked by squids and rabid baboons, overrun by bats,  submerged underwater, and besieged by helicopters.

“The collages are set against the backdrop of the McCarthy era, advertising, sexual repression, WWII and the Korean War. The cool, insular world of mid-century modern living glossed over all danger and darkness, which the heroic male fought off in every corner,” writes Boughton.

Previously on Coilhouse:

[via jwz]

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]

Astronaut Ghosts

“Space Suits”

The San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives Flickr Photostream has a lot of beautiful vintage photographs related to flight. You’ll fighter jets, airships, factories, control centers, aviation posters, lushly-illustrated training manuals, and lots of neat historical tidbits.

ST-124 Inertial Guidance Platform

Of particular interest is the set titled Space Related Images. After the jump, a selection of photos from this set. Space food, astronaut training and retro machinery galore.


[via Surrogate Self]