Wednesday, February 28, 2018

"Money Can't Buy It" by Annie Lennox

Ah, another Diva Wednesday!

"Money Can't Buy It" by Annie Lennox. She is so purely, intoxicatingly gorgeous.

Money can't buy it... baby
Sex can't buy it... baby
Drugs can't buy it... baby
You can't buy it... baby

I believe that love alone might do these things for you
I believe in love alone yeah yeah

Take the power to set you free
Kick down the door and throw away the key
Give up your needs...
Your poisoned seeds
Find yourself elected to a different kind of creed

I believe that love alone might do these things for you
I believe that love alone might do these things for you
I believe in the power of creation
I believe in the good vibration
I believe in love alone yeah yeah

Won't somebody tell me what we're coming to
It might take forever till we watch those dreams come true
All the money in the world won't buy you peace of minde
You can have it all but you still won't be satisfied

Money can't buy it... baby
Sex can't buy it... baby
Drugs can't buy it... baby
You can't buy it... baby

Hear this
Pay attention to me
'cause I'm a rich white girl and it's plain to see
I got every kind of thing that the money can buy
Let me tell you all about it
Let me amplify
You heard about those
I got so many that I can't close my safe at night in the dark
Lying awake in a sick dream

I believe that love alone might do these things for you
I believe that love alone might do these things for you
I believe in the power of creation
I believe in the good vibration
I believe in love alone yeah yeah

Didn't I say that money can't buy it

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Gucci's Cyborg Operating Room

Regular readers know that I always cover the men's fashion season every winter and summer, starting with London Fashion Week, going down to Italy, and then ending in Paris. But I just have to share the recent Gucci runway show at Milan Fashion Week for women (which showed looks for men as well, something more and more designers are doing...and I have mixed feelings about combining the men's and women's shows, but that is for another post). Designer Alessandro Michele has been at the creative helm of Gucci since 2015 and has taken the luxury brand in a totally different, eclectic, quite quirky direction. Collections look like gender-fluid teens raided the closets of grandparents and came out with a crazy patchwork mix of 70s and 80s fashion, with some global influences thrown in for good measure--a look that Michele calls "attic chic." "Gucci has revolutionised its identity," says Justin O’Shea (previously here), buying director for e-commerce fashion brand MyTheresa. "It sounds easy saying it, but to actually achieve this is one of the most remarkable fashion moments in history. And the best part about it is that it was done with beauty and innocent, unbridled conviction."

But for the most recent Gucci Fall-Winter 2018 show, Michele worked with the ideas of post-humanism, trans-humanism, fantasy, and hybridisation. The show was set in a sterile and well-lit operating theater, a metaphor for how people today construct their identities—a population undergoing self-regeneration through the powers of tech, Hollywood, Instagram, and Gucci. "We are the Dr. Frankenstein of our lives," said Michele. "There’s a clinical clarity about what I am doing. I was thinking of a space that represents the creative act. I wanted to represent the lab I have in my head. It’s physical work, like a surgeon’s."

For this collection titled "Cyborg" (Michele says the reference had been taken from his reading of the feminist philosopher Donna Haraway’s 1984 "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century"), models walked down the runway with exotic animals like snakes, and well as a mythical baby dragon. Other models carried frighteningly realistic replicas of their own heads and one had a literal third eye on her forehead. These special effects were made and implemented by Makinarium, a Rome-based visual effects factory that has created effects for the likes of film directors Ridley Scott and Danny Boyle.

Monday, February 26, 2018

"Protection" by Massive Attack and Tracey Thorn

After my recent post of Tracey Thorn's welcome new single "Queen" here, I took a peek back at some of her past performances and songs. While it is hard to narrow down an enormous catalog of gorgeous songs (whether with Everything But The Girl, solo, or in collaboration), this 1994 song she did with Massive Attack is pretty special. Tender, touching, lugubrious, somnolent, "Protection" is a dream-like affair about domestic violence, courage, safety, healing, and simply getting through life. The one-take video (directed by Michel Gondry who made "The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "The Science of Sleep") sums up the feeling quite well.

This girl I know needs some shelter
She don't believe anyone can help her
She's doing so much harm, doing so much damage
But you don't want to get involved
You tell her she can manage
And you can't change the way she feels
But you could put your arms around her

I know you want to live yourself
But could you forgive yourself
If you left her just the way
You found her

I'll stand in front of you
I'll take the force of the blow

You're a boy and I'm a girl
But you know you can lean on me
And I don't have no fear
I'll take on any man here
Who says that's not the way it should be

I'll stand in front of you
I'll take the force of the blow

She's a girl and you're a boy
Sometimes you look so small, you look so small
You've got a baby of your own
When your baby's gone, she'll be the one
To catch you when you fall

I'll stand in front of you
I'll take the force of the blow

You're a girl and I'm a boy

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Fantod Deck And Other Oracle And Divination Decks

Being a collector of Tarot cards and divination decks as well as a fan of the late illustrator and author Edward Gorey (previously here and here), I recently purchased a set of Gorey's oracle card deck, The Fantod Deck. And I'm absolutely delighted with it.

It is a deck of 20 cards featuring a cast of familiar characters from Gorey's black-and-white pen-and-ink world. Published by Pomegranate Communications, the description of the deck reads:
"Edward Gorey’s trademark sense of impending doom is nowhere more darkly humorous than in this, his version of a tarot card deck. Each of the 20 cards forecasts a list of outcomes for the user ranging from the merely unpleasant (loss of hair, breakage, thwarted ambitions) to the downright horrible (catarrh, spasms, shriveling). The 32-page booklet provides interpretation of the cards courtesy of one Madame Groeda Weyrd [an anagram of Edward Gorey], who Gorey tells us 'is of mixed Finnish and Egyptian extraction, has devoted her life to divination, and is the author of, among a shelf of other works, Floating Tambourines, a collection of esoteric verse, and The Future Speaks Through Entrails.' Who but Gorey to make mirth from a kaleidoscope of catastrophe?"

While it is available for purchase from Pomegranate Communications here, you can also purchase it here through the Edward Gorey Store which supports the Edward Gorey House, a museum of Gorey's actual home, and many of the animal welfare charities he championed.

I have a lot of other oracle or divination decks, but of course the original Rider-Waite Tarot deck is what most people are used to seeing. Published in 1910 by William Rider & Son of London, this deck based on the ancient Tarot was illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith from instructions of the academic and mystic A. E. Waite. Tarot cards can be traced back to Europe in the late 1400s, most likely arriving from the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt sometime in the 1200s or 1300s.

Although a Tarot deck has a Minor Arcana consisting of four suits (Batons or Polo sticks commonly known as Wands by those practicing occult or divinatory tarot, Coins commonly known as disks or pentacles in occult or divinatory tarot, Swords, and Cups which are equivalent to Clubs, Diamonds, Spades, and Hearts in a modern playing card deck) and a Major Arcana of trump cards without suits (22 cards depicting a scene, mostly featuring a person or several people, with many symbolic elements), the original usage was simply as a card game. It wasn't until the mid 1700s that the Tarot was used as a divination tool. Many different decks have been popular at different times and places, but the standard now is the Rider-Waite deck. The illustrations are clear, show a pleasingly restrained use of color, and are simple yet elegant at the same time.

Modern versions of Tarot decks abound with many different artists, cultures, and genres putting their own style on the deck without changing any of the original meaning. Since I have always been a fan of Lewis Carroll's ALICE IN WONDERLAND, I was naturally drawn to the Wonderland Tarot Deck. A Rider-Waite variant, the deck is based on the Sir John Tenniel illustrations for Carroll's original 1865 story. Charmingly and fittingly, the suits are morphed into elements and objects from the story: swords are flamingos, rods are peppermills, cups are hats, and pentacles are oysters. The Major Arcana is full of classic ALICE characters such as The Mad Hatter as the Fool, Alice as the High Priestess, the Queen of Hearts as Death, The Dormouse as The Hermit, and the White Rabbit as Judgement.

This next deck of mine is neither a traditional playing card deck nor a Tarot deck. The Alice In Wonderland Card Game is just that: a game using the Tenniel illustrations for a simple card-collecting game. But I thought I'd share it just the same...

Ordinary playing cards have also been used as divination tools or oracles. Gypsy Witch Fortune Telling Playing Cards were first introduced in 1903 and have been published continuously since. They are based on the divination system attributed to Mlle Lenormand, the celebrated 18th century French mystic and fortuneteller. They combine the traditional four-suit playing card deck with symbols and objects together on each card.

While we are still looking at playing cards, I also own a deck called Le Jeu du Destin Antique which is basically a Lenormand deck. Each card has a circled set-number (these run in straight descending order -- A, K, Q, J, T, 9, 8, 7 -- from the Ace of Hearts at number 1 through the 7 of Clubs at number 32), a small inset representing the respective playing card face, a larger scene in which human figures subtly act out the card's meaning, and, at top right, a mnemonic symbol from classical sacred imagery (the 12 court cards bear the signs of the Zodiac and the 20 pip cards display an array of Greco-Roman gods and goddeses). The central figures are variously mid-19th century and classical in costume, drawn in typical style for European steel engravings of the period. I can't find much information about the origins of this particular deck but it seems it is most likely a relatively modern deck made to look old.

And lastly, while I have sets of straight playing cards to use as divination tools, the most unusual playing card set I own is called, deceptively enough, The Deck Of Cards. Knowing of my love for playing cards and Tarot decks, my mom found this 1979 deck of cards for me in an antique shop and snapped it up (thanks, Mom!). Published by Andrew Jones Art and printed by Carta Mundi, The Deck Of Cards features original art work by 56 well-known British artists such as David Hockney, Prunella Clough, and Patrick Proctor (previously here). Every modern art style is represented, and the cards are accompanied by a folded paper insert that lists the artists and then lists the venues throughout the world where their work can be seen.

I am a mystic at heart and have enjoyed working with Tarot cards and playing cards and other divination and oracle systems over the years. I've even made my own divination system based on the African cowrie shells and bones system, which operates much like the I Ching. For mine, I used small pebbles painted with numbers (to incorporate numerology) and symbols. I keep them in a small leather pouch I stitched myself.

But I don't feel there is any kind of "power" in the cards themselves. All oracle and divination systems act as mirrors for our own "power": our own intuition which may be based on a subconscious understanding of events. The symbols used in most of these systems are very old; they are archetypes that run through all cultures and times. The power of the Tarot and indeed of oracles and divination systems as sets of psychological symbols were recognized by Carl Jung who said "we can predict the future, when we know how the present moment evolved from the past."

In a 1933 lecture, Jung said of the Tarot, "They are psychological images, symbols with which one plays, as the unconscious seems to play with its contents. They combine in certain ways, and the different combinations correspond to the playful development of events in the history of mankind. The original cards of the Tarot consist of the ordinary cards, the king, the queen, the knight, the ace, etc.,—only the figures are somewhat different—and besides, there are twenty-one cards upon which are symbols, or pictures of symbolical situations. For example, the symbol of the sun, or the symbol of the man hung up by the feet, or the tower struck by lightning, or the wheel of fortune, and so on. Those are sort of archetypal ideas, of a differentiated nature, which mingle with the ordinary constituents of the flow of the unconscious, and therefore it is applicable for an intuitive method that has the purpose of understanding the flow of life, possibly even predicting future events, at all events lending itself to the reading of the conditions of the present moment. It is in that way analogous to the I Ching, the Chinese divination method that allows at least a reading of the present condition. You see, man always felt the need of finding an access through the unconscious to the meaning of an actual condition, because there is a sort of correspondence or a likeness between the prevailing condition and the condition of the collective unconscious."

Marie-Louise von Franz, a psychologist and disciple of Jung who worked with him from 1934 to his death in 1961, went further to explain how Jung's "clouds of cognition" represent an awareness on the part of our conscious intelligence of a far vaster field of information, an "absolute knowledge," within the collective unconscious. She said, "Archetypal dream images and the images of the great myths and religions still have about them a little of the 'cloudy' nature of absolute knowledge in that they always seem to contain more than we can assimilate consciously, even by means of elaborate interpretations. They always retain an ineffable and mysterious quality that seems to reveal to us more than we can really know."

Thursday, February 22, 2018

"Whatever Trump Is Hiding Is Hurting All of Us Now" by Thomas L. Friedman

Whatever Trump Is Hiding Is Hurting All of Us Now
Thomas L. Friedman | FEB. 18, 2018

Our democracy is in serious danger.

President Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to defend America against a Russian campaign to divide and undermine our democracy.

That is, either Trump’s real estate empire has taken large amounts of money from shady oligarchs linked to the Kremlin — so much that they literally own him; or rumors are true that he engaged in sexual misbehavior while he was in Moscow running the Miss Universe contest, which Russian intelligence has on tape and he doesn’t want released; or Trump actually believes Russian President Vladimir Putin when he says he is innocent of intervening in our elections — over the explicit findings of Trump’s own C.I.A., N.S.A. and F.B.I. chiefs.

In sum, Trump is either hiding something so threatening to himself, or he’s criminally incompetent to be commander in chief. It is impossible yet to say which explanation for his behavior is true, but it seems highly likely that one of these scenarios explains Trump’s refusal to respond to Russia’s direct attack on our system — a quiescence that is simply unprecedented for any U.S. president in history. Russia is not our friend. It has acted in a hostile manner. And Trump keeps ignoring it all.

Up to now, Trump has been flouting the norms of the presidency. Now Trump’s behavior amounts to a refusal to carry out his oath of office — to protect and defend the Constitution. Here’s an imperfect but close analogy: It’s as if George W. Bush had said after 9/11: “No big deal. I am going golfing over the weekend in Florida and blogging about how it’s all the Democrats’ fault — no need to hold a National Security Council meeting.”

At a time when the special prosecutor Robert Mueller — leveraging several years of intelligence gathering by the F.B.I., C.I.A. and N.S.A. — has brought indictments against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian groups — all linked in some way to the Kremlin — for interfering with the 2016 U.S. elections, America needs a president who will lead our nation’s defense against this attack on the integrity of our electoral democracy.

What would that look like? He would educate the public on the scale of the problem; he would bring together all the stakeholders — state and local election authorities, the federal government, both parties and all the owners of social networks that the Russians used to carry out their interference — to mount an effective defense; and he would bring together our intelligence and military experts to mount an effective offense against Putin — the best defense of all.

What we have instead is a president vulgarly tweeting that the Russians are “laughing their asses off in Moscow” for how we’ve been investigating their interventions — and exploiting the terrible school shooting in Florida — and the failure of the F.B.I. to properly forward to its Miami field office a tip on the killer — to throw the entire F.B.I. under the bus and create a new excuse to shut down the Mueller investigation.

Think for a moment how demented was Trump’s Saturday night tweet: “Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign — there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!”

To the contrary. Our F.B.I., C.I.A. and N.S.A., working with the special counsel, have done us amazingly proud. They’ve uncovered a Russian program to divide Americans and tilt our last election toward Trump — i.e., to undermine the very core of our democracy — and Trump is telling them to get back to important things like tracking would-be school shooters. Yes, the F.B.I. made a mistake in Florida. But it acted heroically on Russia. What is more basic than protecting American democracy?

It is so obvious what Trump is up to: Again, he is either a total sucker for Putin or, more likely, he is hiding something that he knows the Russians have on him, and he knows that the longer Mueller’s investigation goes on, the more likely he will be to find and expose it.

Donald, if you are so innocent, why do you go to such extraordinary lengths to try to shut Mueller down? And if you are really the president — not still head of the Trump Organization, who moonlights as president, which is how you so often behave — why don’t you actually lead — lead not only a proper cyberdefense of our elections, but also an offense against Putin.

Putin used cyberwarfare to poison American politics, to spread fake news, to help elect a chaos candidate, all in order to weaken our democracy. We should be using our cyber-capabilities to spread the truth about Putin — just how much money he has stolen, just how many lies he has spread, just how many rivals he has jailed or made disappear — all to weaken his autocracy. That is what a real president would be doing right now.

My guess is what Trump is hiding has to do with money. It’s something about his financial ties to business elites tied to the Kremlin. They may own a big stake in him. Who can forget that quote from his son Donald Trump Jr. from back in 2008: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross section of a lot of our assets.” They may own our president.

But whatever it is, Trump is either trying so hard to hide it or is so naïve about Russia that he is ready to not only resist mounting a proper defense of our democracy, he’s actually ready to undermine some of our most important institutions, the F.B.I. and Justice Department, to keep his compromised status hidden.

That must not be tolerated. This is code red. The biggest threat to the integrity of our democracy today is in the Oval Office.

Link to the original piece in the New York Times:

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

"I've Seen That Face Before" by Grace Jones

It's Diva Wednesday--and if that isn't a thing, then it should be!

I've loved this Grace Jones song, "I've Seen That Face Before (Libertango)" (a reworking of "Libertango", a 1974 Argentine tango classic written by composer and bandoneonist Astor Piazzolla with an added New Wave-reggae arrangement by legendary music duo Sly and Robbie, and new lyrics penned by Jones with Barry Reynolds) since it was released on her iconic album "Nightclubbing" in 1981.

The video was conceived and directed by Jean-Paul Goude, a French artist-photographer-designer-director who helmed Jones' image during this period (they also have a son, Paulo, from their time together). They were both working with ideas of performance, fashion, art, and music and this video--the last video of her film "A One Man Show"--references the 1916 Dada nightclub Cabaret Voltaire and artist Hugo Ball's famous cardboard suit.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

BEAUTY: Installation--Miguel Rothschild

Argentinean artist Miguel Rothschild clearly has a fascination with the ocean and waves. He creates some stunning installations that recreate the movement of water and the play of light on the waves.

Currently on view until March 30, 2018 at the St. Matthäus Church in Berlin is his lovely piece De Profundis consisting of a print of ocean waves on fabric and fishing line. The filaments end up looking like rays of sun shining down...

In a similar vein, Rothschild's Elegy is a study of the ocean surface with a little surprise beneath the waves. Taken from Albrecht Dürer's 1514 engraving Melencolia I, an emaciated dog lays under the water. This could be an extension of the idea of Dürer's original, commenting on what melancholy feels like...

Rothschild's installation includes a nearby framed print of Melencolia I with a shattered glass frame.

His simple The Treasure of the Nibelung is a C-print of light reflecting off ripples of water but he highlights the glints with actual rhinestones on the print itself, lending a sudden, startling realism to the static image.

Waterfall is aptly titled, considering the filaments dripping from the image which is printed directly onto acrylic.

Monday, February 19, 2018

BEAUTY: Painting--Carlos Tárdez

I am feeling such tenderness for these baby chimps and their mothers and fathers in this touching series of paintings by Spanish painter Carlos Tárdez. They exude dignity, elegance,and innocence on simple color fields.

Top to bottom: Adan II; Adan; El Primo; Eva; La Herencia; La Hormiga; Madre; Miradas Cruzadas; Narciso; Primo

Sunday, February 18, 2018

"Blue Rose" by Amen Dunes

I am unexpectedly captured by this hypnotizing new song, "Blue Rose" from Amen Dunes (the nom de musique of musician Damon McMahon) from his forthcoming fifth album, "Freedom" released March 30.

McMahon says the song is a "teenage clarion call," about "growing up with an unpredictable father, fighting back with music, drugs and fantasy, and eventual escape from it all." I love how it does not have a traditional verse-chorus structure but seems more like a sung story, a tone poem.

His official website describes the album as a whole:
"On the surface, Freedom is a reflection on growing up, childhood friends who ended up in prison or worse, male identity, McMahon’s father, and his mother, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the beginning of recording.

The characters that populate the musical world of Freedom are a colourful mix of reality and fantasy: father and mother, Amen Dunes, teenage glue addicts and Parisian drug dealers, ghosts above the plains, fallen surf heroes, vampires, thugs from Naples and thugs from Houston, the emperor of Rome, Jews, Jesus, Tashtego, Perseus, even McMahon himself. Each character portrait is a representation of McMahon, of masculinity, and of his past.

Yet, if anything, these 11 songs are a relinquishing of all of them through exposition; a gradual reorientation of being away from the acquired definitions of self we all cling to and towards something closer to what's stated in the Agnes Martin quote that opens the record, “I don’t have any ideas myself; I have a vacant mind” and in the swirling, pitched down utterances of “That's all not me” that close it.

The music, as a response or even a solution to the album's darker themes, is tough and joyous, rhythmic and danceable; a true NYC street record."

I've got money because I work all day
Don't get down a mile away
When evening comes
I go call up the band

We play religious music
Don't think you'd understand, man
Well hear me call
I was ignorant

I'm the baddest, stoniest thing in town
Give me eighteen days
They speak another tongue
Well they left me there
But the dead man had no fun

Should stop my father
Yeah love came over me
If you love war
Then you've got war with me

They looked at me straight
And told me I'm in town
Now, now
Feel good son

Deep deep down
You'd stick around
For love
Son, I need you back now

Feel my god
I can hardly change
If you don't have that
You told me not to brag

But I said he gave me
He left me there
Fill me up when I'm down

Dear, he loved my father
Yeah love came over me
Dear, if you want war
Then you've got war in me

Well, I was brought up
And we were told things
Never to tell
Beat up, beaten down, stop
They don't know kid coming down
But I have no way out of heaven

Not now, not now

They said that I should move on from here
Combed out my hair and started out
And my dreams took half a drag
Yeah I can't catch a break

Said you weren't much a man to me
But you're the only one I've ever had

Saturday, February 17, 2018

BEAUTY: Installation and Sculpture--Jorge Méndez Blake

In his installation The Castle, Mexican conceptual artist Jorge Méndez Blake (who trained as an architect) shows how something like a massive brick wall (ahem) can be disrupted by something small like a book...or an idea. He used a copy of Franz Kafka's book THE CASTLE at the base of a mortar-free brick wall, which, like a grain of sand in an oyster, eventually proves to be a large, fatal flaw.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018


Lose yourself to all the love you have in you
No one knows exactly what you do
Lose yourself to all the love you have in you
And I will know exactly what to do

Monday, February 12, 2018

BEAUTY: Post-Photography--André Sanchez

I love this beautiful post-photographic (collage) series of the signs of the zodiac by Paris-based photographer and artist André Sanchez. Sometimes collage-based art can be a bit helter-skelter, but these hang together beautifully.