Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My other blog is ferrari... I hope.

Just a very quick blog post inform you all of my new and (hopefully) exciting blog in which I will explore Facebook groupland in all its wonderful weirdness. Feel free to visit here.

I will try to make it as exciting a ride as possible. Thank you all for reading and goodnight.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Nunc Dimittus...

Sometimes life offers you the opportunity to measure your present self against a younger version. It may be a person, a dream, an attitude, a friendship or a work of art - anything that you re-encounter after a long absence from your life. In my case, it is a short story.

'Nunc Dimittus' by Tanith Lee tells the tale of a vampire's aging servant who sets out in the mean city streets to recruit his own replacement. The title derives from a Biblical quote in Latin: Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine (Now dismiss Thy servant, O Lord), taken from Luke 2; 29. It was my introduction, not only to an author, whom I still admire, but served as a pre-cursor to my later enjoyment of the vampire stories of particularly Anne Rice and Poppy Z Brite, and the exotic experimentation with the concept of gender that characterized Storm Constantine's work.

Specifically, my fascination then and now, lay with the beautiful young predator Snake, who sees quick opportunities for his own insatiable appetites in the house of Princess Draculas, not quite seeing the tightening of a noose in every step he takes, regardless of direction. This character was, and remains typical of an archetype I am fond of including in my stories. In real life they might be termed 'dangerous to know, great fun to watch'.

In today's vampire fiction, of course, a character like Snake would have been the blood-drinker, but in this story, part of the twist is that he is the human.

If you are interested in tracking this story down, if only to measure it against today's flood of vampire literature, it appeared in an anthology entitled 'A gallery of Horror', edited by Charles L. Grant.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A master of visual horror

He was born a mere two years before Leonardo Da Vinci. Like the well-known Rennaissance artist, he painted. His works, however, could not be more unlike the gentle Mona Lisa. I am talking about Hieronymous Bosch, that master of visual horror, who was during his time, as firmly stuck within the realm of medieval superstition.

It is interesting to note how perspectives can change. When seen against the romanticism of the Renaissance, and the latter Pre-Raphaelites, the works of Hieronymous Bosch makes a poor fit. There is little beauty in the lowlands artists highly moralistic caricatures depicting mostly the wages of sin. He is accused by contemporaries of mostly indulging in the creation of grotesque monsters and chimeras.

Fast forward to the darkness that slipped in alongside the dawning of the age of reason. Consider Freud and Jung's charting of the dreams, nightmares and fears that survive deep within the psyche of mankind, no matter how advanced we believe we have gotten. Take a walk through the wild expressions that characterized the life of the Marquis du Sade. And study the high adaptibility of form and function that Salvador Dali called surrealism. All of these contain shades and reflections of the images that flowed freely from Hieronymous Bosch's paintbrush.

So, I ask you, was Hieronymous Bosch a primitive. Or just a little further ahead of his era than most?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

At the dark side of the song...

Who needs perfect rolemodels? Who needs plastic overachievers whose only saving grace is their ability to run like clockwork to the machines of commerce and industry? Who needs people who say the safe things and do the safe things and never let us see but a glimmer of the true and terrible light inside their souls?


Here's to you if you have ever thought you might be defeated by the pain of carrying heavenly fire in the poor and imperfect vessel of a human mind. Here's to you, if the burden of inspiration you carry feels improperly matched to the means at your disposal. Here's to you, if you've ever found yourself at the wrong end of bad decisions. If you have ever loved the wrong person, or loved the right person so wrongly that you ended up shattering yourself, just give yourself a break. Loving badly may be a shame and a sadness, but it's not a crime. Don't crucify yourself, just because you live in the messy debris of creative chaos or be ashamed because, God, you look like a bad dye job from six months ago and although your socks are at least the same color, they didn't really start out as a pair. And anyway, there's magic locked up inside your head that make socks and physical appearance pale by comparison and if you start paying attention to everyone else's opinions, you'll only drop the keys you still need to let it all out.

And listen to the music, it's for real people...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Since Geocities will be closing in the near future ...(freedom)

Since the Geocities service will be closing down soon (26 October 2009, to be exact), allow me to share something. This poem (by me) originally appeared on a friend's site that has since been discontinued. I wrote it one Freedom Day (for us in South Africa, 27 April), but maybe these thoughts are not quite what the politicians had in mind.

FREEDOM

Freedom is something that does not
exist for angels

Only joy
only pain,

Yet I remember
once
when we had wings
there were moments
between heaven and earth
when it felt
as if we were tied to nothing at all.

And freedom
was a point between destinations.

Every one of us
was fearless
unbonded by love
the day we fell.

And long ago
(or yesterday)
our shining siblings
wanted to know:
Is falling freedom?

Well...
this is what I learnt:

Travel far enough down the path of joy
and pain will meet you with a lover's kiss.

Choose wisely
when you discover your will.

Falling too
is only
a point between destinations.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Women who did time at Robben Island - the Dutch Years

While volumes had already been written on the subject of Robben Island's most famous prisoner, Nelson Mandela, not much is known about the women who hadspent time on the island, whether as inmates, as workers or for other reasons.

Incidentally, one early name of Robben Island was Isla de Cornelia, to honor the mother of a Dutch ship captain Joris van Spilbergen who stopped there during the early 1600s.

The first known group of Robben Islanders that might have included women, was that of Autshumato's people. Autshumato, better known to history books as Harry, was a Khoi man who had been taken by the British to England, where he learned their language. Upon his return, he began to act as an interpreter. During the 1630s, Autshumato's small group of followers lived from time to time on Robben Island, scavenging penguins for food.

From 1657, relatively soon after the 1652 founding of the Cape Colony, a Dutch postholder was stationed on the island, and several of the wives of such officials are known to have accompanied their husbands. Jan Wouterssin, the first postholder went in disgrace, disciplined for insulting behaviour and it was noted that his punishment was mitigated only in consideration of his (unnamed) slave wife, who was pregnant at the time.

Another woman sent to Robben Island was the slave Eva, who was to help with lime gathering operations. About her, Wouterssin had many complaints. Allegedly, she would not obey any directions and spent most of her time chasing sheep around. At the time, there was still relatively few slaves in the Cape and Eva came from Madagascar, which had been under French rule since 1642. What language barriers this poor woman had to overcome in a Dutch-speaking community, can only be imagined. Eva returned to the mainland around the same time Wouterssin did.

Jan Sacharias, fourth postholder on Robben Island, had married an ex-slave named Maria of Bengal who also lived there.

By far the most famous woman to live on Robben Island during this period, was Krotoa, also known as Eva, the young Khoi interpreter who could easily be described as the Pocahontas of the Cape. The niece of Autshumato, she had a gift for languages, being fluent in Dutch, English, French and Portuguese. Embracing colonial life, she married Danish explorer and doctor Pieter van Meerhoff and accompanied him to the Robben Island in 1665 when he became its administrator. When he was killed, she returned to Dutch society on the mainland in September
1668, but grief and alienation led to problems with alcoholism. When she became too much of a scandal for the colony, she was returned to the desolate island, in March 1669 this time as inmate. She died there on the 29th of July, 1674.

The majority of those imprisoned on Robben Island during Dutch Rule were male, but in 1677, a Dutch widow, Mayke van der Berg, is named as having spent a month there for theft, before being deported. According to some reports, no women stayed on the island after this time, but one story contradicts this. In 1728, one of the inhabitants of Robben Island, was a royal exile, the Prince of Ternaten in the Moluccas, whose gambling and womanizing with female slaves became so notorious, he was actually removed from the island. None of his female companions were named, though.

More about women who lived on Robben Island in my next blog entry.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The 'cold war' between Light and Dark

Imagine a Moscow in thrall to a very different type of Cold War. A world where 'good' and 'evil' jealously guard their respective spheres of influence. A world where two rival agencies constantly vie to extend their power. A world where the conditions of a delicate Treaty is all that stand between an outright battle between 'good' and 'evil'. Welcome to the wainscot vision of Sergei Lukyanenko.

The novel, Day Watch, comprises of three more or less self-contained but interrelated novellas. The first story centres on Alisa Donnikova, witch and Dark Other, who was once a favorite of Zabulon, the head of the Day Watch. By the way, do not let the terminologies confuse you. The Day Watch is an organization made up of Dark Others, who monitor and oppose the Light Others. The Night Watch is its inversion. Alisa, drained and incapacitated in a battle with Light others is sent to a youth camp to restore her inner reserves. Here she meets and falls in love with Igor Teplov. Unable to use her magical abilities, she does not discover, until it is too late, that he is in fact her sworn enemy, one of the battle mages who contributed to her injuries in the first place.

In the second story, an enigma Vitaly Ragoza, is drawn to the scene of several killings in Moscow. He also appears involved in the search for a missing artefact Fafnir's Claw, stolen by an obscure sect who call themselves the Regin Brothers.

The third story links to both the second and the first. The Inquisition, a watchdog organization, sits to determine whether the all-important Treaty between the Day Watch and Night Watch, had been violated by the fatal duel between Alisa Donnikova and Igor Teplov and also which measures should be taken against the Regin Brothers for their recent activities.

Day Watch the novel, should not be confused with the very popular Day Watch the movie, which was produced more as a sequel to the Night Watch movie, and bears little resemblance to the plots of the book. Two novels follow Day Watch - Twilight Watch and Final Watch.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dead Things That Have A Life of Their Own (perhaps not for sensitive readers)

In fairy tales, little girls bravely face hungry wolves, get picked on by vindictive old ladies who do magic or ogres with attitude problems and somehow still manage to live happily ever after - usually without needing so much as a plaster, never mind trauma counseling. In comic books, they are sometimes not quite so lucky. Especially not when ill-fated by a creator who takes his inspiration from Edgar Allen Poe. I'm talking about Lenore. You have to admit, she is cute, despite the skull shaped hair slides and her morbid little circle of accomplices such as Ragamuffin and Mr Gosh. Which just goes to show. In the world of graphic novels, being dead doesn't necessary stop you getting around and having fun.

Roman Dirge, Lenore's creator is, however, not the only one who draws inspiration from a slightly icky subject.

A certain British manufacturer specializes in a line of toys that might well belong within the pages of the latest issue of Lenore. They call their product Road Kill Toys. Although still fluffy and sort of huggable, road kill toys are designed to look, well, battered, with bloodshot eyes, and innards that can be zippered up or left hanging out.

If you want to get serious about the subject of earthly remains, you might want to explore a little book entitled 'Stiff' by Mary Roach. It explores what happens to dead bodies after the souls that drove them have departed. The book makes fascinating, if gloomy reading. You will learn, for instance, about the Egyptian pharaoh, who was himself an enthusiastic dissector of the bodies of executed criminals and the surgeon who dissected both his father and his sister in the name
of science. The author reports on her visits to an embalmer, a medical school and an educational facility that studies the process of decomposition. And then there is the anecdotal story of a well-known artist who alleges to have dined on human flesh with a group of fellow students. True or false? I'm not sure I particularly want to know...


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Rare and extremely collectible vinyl

Well, friends and friends-to-be, my blog is alive.

Those who know me well will be familiar with my ability to come up with something totally random and unrelated to whatever everyone else thought they were talking about. Which is roughly what you can expect from this space. Random things. A niche that is decidedly non-niche, so whether I get away with breaking that cardinal rule of blogging, remains to be seen.

To begin with, a tale of two highly collectible vinyl recordings. Music for Supermarkets by Jean-Michel Jarre, or to use its French title, Musique pour Supermarché, has intrigued me for years. Released as a single copy to be auctioned to the highest bidder, it was made to be a very deliberate statement.

Although all master tapes were destroyed, fragments of the album survived as bootleg recordings - it was played once in its thirty-four minute entirety on Radio
Luxembourg - and segments that resurfaced in later albums.

What the record is worth today, can only be estimated. There is however one recording that may rival or even eclipse Music for Supermarkets both in rarity and current value.

In 1957, a group of youngsters from Liverpool who called themselves The Quarrymen, made a cheap recording of Buddy Holly's 'That'll be the Day' and a second song “In Spite Of All The Danger”, which was written by two of the members themselves. Short of cash, the band opted to record straight onto vinyl and, as "In Spite Of All The Danger" was hastily decided on, some band members had to learn it on the spot.

Today, the single copy made of that session is considered one of the most collectible vinyl recordings. Why? Because three of the members, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison went on to form the Beatles.

An interesting coincidence links these two highly collectible vinyl recordings. 'Music forSupermarkets" was first auctioned off on 6 July 1983, twenty-six years to the day after Lennon met McCartney at Woolton Parish Church Garden Fete in Liverpool.