March 28, 2005

Sadistic Sigmund Freud

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It’s probably not far fetched to describe our popular consciousness as, at least in part, Freudian. The “Freudian slip” is vernacular. A cigar, we all agree, is not always a cigar. Sigmund Freud’s influence on our worldview is incredible. Little of what the father of psychoanalysis argued is, however, scientifically supportable. Instead, most of Freud’s arguments are actually intuitive. Even though his arguments are more colorful than substantive, we understand what he meant, what he was trying to get at. There is no proof of any primal scene, but such a concept helps us understand something about how the human mind deals with deep seeded trauma. Boys do not want to kill their dads so they can fuck their moms, but, again, an otherwise repressed tension is revealed. Like all pioneers, Freud was making much up as he was going. In many ways these ideas probably tell us more about Freud’s own mind than anything else. An updated character analysis of Freud is probably long past due. Embarking on such a venture, however, we quickly encounter some unexpected characteristics. Most of his big picture metaphors – the aforementioned primal scene, the death drive, etc. – betray a very dark view of humanity as repressing bloodthirsty violent urges. For Freud we are all desperately holding ourselves back from exploding with unfettered animal barbaric rage. It is vintage Freud to, for example, posit paranoia as a harbinger of repressed homosexual urges. Even though to say so can only promote paranioa in the patient. There are again and again such extreme and unmistakable cruel paradoxes and catch 22s in his assessment of his subjects. Freud is very much in the vein of the mad projector in which the sufferer is embroiled in an endless furious denial of their own “bad” aspects, imputing them – much exaggerated and distorted – onto his subjects. It is a very destructive personality type one is confronted with, and there is very little to stop such a psychology from physically acting out their vicious fantasies.

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March 23, 2005

Auschwitz Dwarfs

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In Our Hearts We Were Giants: The Remarkable Story of the Lilliput Troupe – A Dwarf Family's Survival of the Holocaust is one of the most heart wrenching stories of Holocaust survival and human triumph over pure evil. The seven Ovitz dwarfs were spared from the gas chamber only to become subjects of Dr. Josef Mengele’s scientific atrocities. Somehow they lived through the ordeal. They were the only family to do so. The story comes from first person eyewitness accounts. Authors Yehuda Koren and Eilat Negev were able to interview members of the family, especially Perla who only recently died. The Ovitzes were miraculously saved from the death factory at the last minute by Russian troops and after the war lived as performers in Israel. So why is a review posted on Heretical? At first glance, Heretical looks like an interesting website. A quick scan of contents reveals a mix of humorous material, including an excerpt fromThe Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and episode transcripts of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. On closer inspection, however, these are mixed in with stories about the history of the Swastika and profiles of prominent Nazis including Adolf Eichmann. What at first seems like innocent fun turns grim. One piece after another is an attempt to debunk the Holocaust as “a Jewish conspiracy to persecute Aryans.” On second glance, there is, at the bottom of the Ovitz story, supposedly reprinted from a story in the February 3, 2003, issue of London’s Daily Mail titled “DR DEATH AND THE SEVEN DWARFS; Only one family survived Auschwitz but they paid a horrific price at the hands of the barbaric Dr Mengele,” a disclaimer in smaller type which reads: “while the newspaper article is quoted verbatim, it is presented here ironically, to illustrate typically absurd claims of the hoax.” It comes as little surprise that Heretical butchered the story in an attempt to make it read badly. A quick look at the links page reveals a like-minded network of white supremacist and racist sites. The major standout was The Church of the SubGenius, the conceptual art religion inexplicably mixed in with the rest. What makes Heretical and other sites like it so hard to spot is the political underground’s obsession with crypto-fascism. For every Ed Sanders there are also the David Woodards, GG Allins, Kenneth Angers, etc. It is a unique feature of the political underground that it is entirely amoral. Confrontation at any cost has always been the motto. In “The Aesthetics of Terror,” Adam Parfrey actually proposes that more right wing politics becomes the more imperative it is for radical art to be confrontational. There is much to recommend such thinking. The only problem is it provides great cover for organizations like Heretical.

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March 19, 2005

Lost Hitler Art

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It is well known that Adolf Hitler didn’t get into art school in Vienna. In fact many believe WWII and the Holocaust might have been totally avoided if Hitler had been accepted into the academy. What is less known is that before his political career Hitler actually made a meager living selling his paintings and drawings in Vienna and later Munich. The sadistic tyrant might not have been very talented but he never stopped making art. It was a habit that would almost lead to a major scandal for Der Fuhrer in the 20s. According to Ernst Hanfstaengl and F. Schwartz, the Nazi party treasurer at the time, Hitler was blackmailed by a man who had somehow gotten possession of a number of pornographic sketches and watercolors the Fuhrer had made of his then mistress Geli Raubal who suicided shortly afterwards. Hanfstaengl claims the pictures showed Geli in pornographic positions “which any professional model would decline to assume.” It is known that Hitler paid off the blackmailer and did not have the art works destroyed. They were preserved in his private safe in the Brown House. After the war they disappeared. Until now there has been no way to know for sure what these pictures looked like. We can, of course, assume the drawings and watercolors were not simply of Geli in the buff. In the Germany of the 20s there would have been nothing so shocking about such pictures that would have forced Hitler to bend to blackmail. It has all along been assumed that these pictures reveal the tyrants abnormal and perverse sexual tastes. No evidence exists that these pictures were ever destroyed. For years now it has been assumed that they were still out there somewhere. So, when claims are made that these pictures have surfaced, experts cannot deny that it is impossible. Of course, pictures like these would require rigorous authentication before any definitive conclusions could be made.

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March 17, 2005

Nueva Germania

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Inspired by the composer Richard Wagner’s celebration of German culture, Elizabeth Nietzsche-Foerster, the thinker’s not so enlightened sister, along with other misguided patriots set out at the end of the 19th-century to found a utopian Aryan nation in Paraguay called Nueva Germania. The experiment was a total disaster. Remnants of the community did, however, survive. After World War II, for example, Josef Mengele, the butcher scientist whose horrifyingly brutal experiments on concentration camp victims are unparalleled in history, hid out there. David Woodard, a whore for media attention, first learned of Nueva Germania after reading Forgotten Fatherland: The Search for Elisabeth Nietzsche, a 1992 book by a London Times journalist, Ben MacIntyre. Although Woodard claims he is not a white supremacist, the composer’s politics are so far to the left they are far right. Woodard’s media stunts are infamous. In 2001, the composer played his 12-minute version of “Ave atque Vale”, which he dubbed “Onward, Valiant Soldier”, on the eve of Timothy McVeigh’s execution. Woodard’s commissions include the upcoming orchestration of a “pastoral” piece composed by the angel of death, Dr. Jack Kevorkian. The prospect of an Aryan homeland was apparently irresitible for Woodard. He has great plans for the revitalization of Nueva Germania. To employ Aryan youth, the crackpot underground composer who has been selling replicas of Brion Gysin’s psychedelic contraption called a Dreamachine, a motorized cylinder that spins and creates a strobe effect, wants to build a Dreamachine Factory in the Paraguay jungle. Supporters apparently include Kenneth Anger and Dick Cheney. For more on Nueva Germania go here.

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March 15, 2005

Hugh Hefner and Michael Jackson?

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No matter where he goes Hugh Hefner has for years had a couple of blonde bombshells on each arm. That is his signature, the male fantasy come true. With age Hefner began more and more to refine his taste in big-breasted women. His playboy bunnies began to look more and more alike. The older Hef got, the more artificial looking the girls became. At first there wasn’t a natural breast in the house. After boob jobs became the rule at the Playboy Mansion it all went haywire at headquarters. More and more prosthetic surgery was necessary to make the boss flash his famous golden shit-eating grin –– his sly way of boasting that he was the luckiest fucker in the world. After years of his own plastic surgery, however, it is no longer really clear what that painted grimace on his face and squint-eyed expression is supposed to mean. The models became so plastic looking they began to look mangled. It got so they were so filled with silicone and Botox they could hardly move a muscle without worrying about bursting a suture. Has the geriatric Hef lost it? Has he finally gone totally senile and blind? Or has the old fox just been honing his fantasy, coming closer and closer to the plastic wet dream he was always after but was too afraid to ask for? Recent sightings of a boyishly exuberant porn king doting over Michael Jackson would lead one to believe that Hef knew all along where his bliss was leading him.

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March 14, 2005

Mark Crispin Miller

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Our U.S. national sense of self is more often than not a crippled mess of puffed up symbols, loaded ideological rhetoric, mixed with the most awkward humility and earnestness. The lack of the critical tools necessary to examine larger cultural developments has limited popular debate to a hopelessly circular polarizing politics of Us versus Them. Sure, there have always been folks like Herbert Marcuse and Gore Vidal to provide invaluable historical and theoretical counterpoint to the irrationalism of our form of government and the lawlessness of the power elite, but few are capable of addressing those concerns better than Mark Crispin Miller does in Cruel and Unusual: Bush and Cheney’s New World Order. Crispin Miller first achieved a broader audience for his brand of cultural criticism in the 80s with Boxed In: The Culture of TV, a series of essays on popular culture that were astutely able to get at things no one had really been able to vocalize before. Contemporaries of Crispin Miller included Stuart Ewen, whose All Consuming Images was a similarly insightful examination of consumer culture. Other powerful contributions to what was tragically a short-lived debate, even within the art community, included Herbert Schiller’s Culture Inc.: The Corporate Takeover of Public Expression. Unlike the previous generation, 90s artists eschewed politics almost altogether in favor of their professional aspirations, barely giving it even ideologically proscribed lip service. Perturbed by the lack of popular response to what he sees as a very clear and present danger, Crispin Miller has, however, continued to examine the terms and conditions of our cultural illusionism. What distinguishes Crispin Miller from likeminded critics is his relative calmness and broadmindedness in the face of the shit storm. Take as example his historically minded comments in a recent interview: “We see the same sort of paranoid projection among many of the leading lights of our Cold War – the first U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal, who was in fact clinically insane; the CIA’s James Angleton; Richard Nixon; J. Edgar Hoover; Frank Wisner, who was in charge of the CIA’s propaganda operations worldwide. Forrestal and Wisner both committed suicide because they were convinced the Communists were after them. Now, there was a grain of truth to this since the Soviet Union did exist and it was a hostile power. But it wasn’t on the rise, and it wasn’t trying to take over the world, and it certainly wasn’t trying to destroy James Forrestal personally. We have to understand that there was just as much insanity in our own government as there was with the Nazis and the Bolsheviks.” (See the whole interview). Crispin Miller’s historical objectivity aside, it takes a particular kind of intellect to comment on the mindset of a Government that would hire Madison Avenue to run a pro-U.S. PR campaign in the Middle East. As commentators point out, it is one thing to run a PR campaign like that here at home where everyone wants to believe more than anything that the war in Iraq is more than justified, but doing so abroad one encounters an active alternative media. There is ultimately no amount of PR that can stymie world opinion, especially when that opinion starts to become expressed in popular culture. M.I.A.’s song “Galang” is amazing proof of the extent to which global culture is already responding to the crisis.

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March 12, 2005

Chimp Attack

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There is plenty of rampant speculation about the chimp attack at the Animal Haven Ranch in Havilah, CA, in which retired Nascar racedriver St. James Davis and his wife LaDonna were viscously mauled. LaDonna’s thumb was bitten clean off. St. James, however, whose injuries were life threatening, suffered the brunt of the violence. Even animal experts seemed hard pressed to explain away the incredible brutality of the attack in which two enraged male chimpanzees escaped from their cage and tore off St. James’ face and testicles before they were shot to death. The usual rational that chimps “have been known” to be violent, etc., just didn’t seem to explain away the severity and specificity of the attack. The two main possible motives offered by experts were “territoriality” and “jealousy” provoked by a shared sense of “fairness” among chimpanzees. Animal rights activists point out that chimpanzees are actually fairly docile and friendly creatures in the wild and that such viciousness is generally the result of captivity, and especially the poor conditions of such confinement. As dark as the story is, however, it is an odd comment on human psychology that, aside from the expected reaction of shock, there are always those who can find humor in such things, including a site that posted the above image, or the one that linked to Monkey Goods.

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March 07, 2005

RealDoll

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Matt McMullen has the dubious honor of taking the blow-up doll into the 21st-century. These luxury state-of-the-art dolls rival Duane Hanson’s sculpture for their uncanny hyperrealism. The silicon masturbatory aids that come in both sexes are life-sized and perfectly proportioned. RealDolls are made using techniques developed in the film special effects industry. For a hefty sum (close to seven thousand dollars a doll), one can order a particularly convoluted erotic fantasy. McMullen was surprised at how fast the RealDolls have caught on. Stories of men who have desired life like dolls are not uncommon, but they tend toward the bizarre. Among the more famous anecdotes is of the painter Oscar Kokoschka who could not bear the breakup with his lover Alma Mahler, and had a replica made of her. McMullen admits he has received special order requests for lost loved ones, specific people, etc. Anyone who has seen a Hanson sculpture knows how odd the RealDoll fetish is by comparison. To unexpectedly come upon a Hanson life-like sculpture is often actually frightening.

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March 04, 2005

Ray Harryhausen

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Special effects usually have a very short shelf life. No matter how virtually seamless and natural they look at the time, one of the few sure things is that those same effects will look comical and campy as soon as they are outdated. Very few movies and special effect artists have withstood the test of time. Ray Harryhausen, the undisputed master of stop-motion photography and arguably the premier special effects artist in Hollywood history, is one of the very few exceptions. It is not that the skeletons fighting in Jason and the Argonauts, or the giant crab on Mysterious Island still trick the eye and are capable of suspending our disbelief the way they once did. The figures are clearly toy like. The longevity of these visual illusions has more to do with the mad scientist pioneering quality of Harryhausen’s imagination for trickery despite the Sisyphus-like task he had set for himself. There is a seemingly inexhaustible wealth of inventiveness in all his projects that becomes clear in Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life. Not only does Harryhausen contribute writing to the book about his lifelong friendship with Ray Bradbury, the tutelage of Forrest J. Ackerman of Famous Monsters of Filmland, etc., but each project is discussed and illustrated in detail. Images from all phases of production and experimentation accompany the text. One of the unexpected surprises in the book are Harryhausen’s drawings. At the risk of heresy, in some cases these studies actually outshine the art decoration and effect sequences ultimately based on their design.

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