Cinemasters: Lars von Trier

Lars von Trier is one of my favorite directors working today. When I first started getting into film, a friend recommended Breaking the Waves (he also recommended Come and See, but that has its own backstory). I must have been a sophomore in high school and I distinctly remember renting the flick from my local library and watching it alone in the middle of a summer afternoon. What a jarring, devastating, and yet beautiful film. I sat, sobbing in my dark bedroom for a good twenty minutes. Then I immediately started the film over and watched it again.

I was hooked. Von Trier has a sensibility that’s at once repelling and captivating. I now make it a point to see all of his new releases in the theater. I actually took a guy on our first date to see Antichrist. How’s that for a good time? (In case you’re curious, we’re still friends and we joke about that experience to this day.)

I’m also a sucker for a good mash-up.… Read the rest

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Alice Goes Gonzo

alice

This year we celebrate the sesquicentennial of Alice in Wonderland — a landmark of kid lit and a cornerstone of psychedelic fiction. This probably won’t be my last post about Alice.

As a fantasy for the wee, Alice inspires illustrations, and it’s assumed that Walt Disney owns that territory. Little did I know that Ralph Steadman’s pen had penetrated Wonderland, bringing his pointed probings to the gonzo goings-on in this important tale about growing up and growing small…

Here, Steadman is cast as Alice’s godfather, the wizard with the wisdom to will the wild out of his charge, pointing her past the mundane to the mirthful, the macabre, the miraculous. See a collection of Steadman’s 1973 images at Brainpickings. Also be sure to check out this exhaustive Steadman documentary, For No Good Reason

Stay Awake!

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel where I archive all of the videos I curate at Insomnia.… Read the rest

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Koch Brothers Brave Spotlight to Try to Alter Their Image

What would Robert Greenwald say? The New York Times profiles the brothers Koch as they try to recolor themselves in a less devilish hue:

Once known for grim letters to fellow wealthy Americans warning of socialist apocalypse, Charles G. Koch now promotes research on the link between freedom and everyday happiness. Turn on “The Big Bang Theory” or “Morning Joe,” and you are likely to see soft-focus television spots introducing some of the many employees of Koch Industries.

Charles and David Koch - The Koch Brothers

Credit: DonkeyHotey (CC)

Instead of trading insults with Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate leader, Mr. Koch and his brother, David H. Koch, are trading compliments with President Obama, who this month praised the Kochs’ support for criminal justice reform at a meeting of the N.A.A.C.P.

After two elections in which Democrats and liberals sought to cast them as the secretive, benighted face of the Republican Party, the Kochs are seeking to remake public perceptions of their family, their business and their politics, unsettling a corporate culture deeply allergic to the spotlight.

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Michael Moore’s New Movie ‘Where to Invade Next’

Michael Moore has kept his new movie about America’s infinite war on the down low, but will debut “Where To Invade Next” in September at the Toronto International Film Festival. MarketWatch reports on Moore’s announcement:

Six years after “Capitalism: A Love Story,” Michael Moore is back with a new film called “Where to Invade Next” that examines the U.S. government’s appetite for war, a project Moore has been shooting and editing in secret, a major feat in the age of NSA surveillance and social-media leaks.

Michael Moore 2011 Shankbone 3

Photo: David Shankbone (CC)

The Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker and political commentator revealed in a Periscope broadcast this week that “Where to Invade Next” will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. He refers to the movie as “epic in nature” and says he and a small team filmed in stealth mode on three continents.

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Elongated Skull Found at Russian Stonehenge

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An elongated skull has been unearthed at Arkaim, otherwise known as “Russia’s Stonehenge,” and the alien theories have already started. Though, the most likely explanation is head binding.

Paul Seaburn writes at Mysterious Universe:

Researcher Maria Makurova announced the discovery to the Russian news agency TASS. She described it as “a well-preserved skeleton” of a female. The skeleton appears to be from the 2nd or 3rd century AD, most likely after the original settlement was abandoned by its first residents. Markurova speculates she was a member of the Sarmati tribe which lived at the time in what are now central Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

If she’s a Sarmati tribal woman, that might explain the elongated skull since they were known for head binding – the gruesome practice of deforming a child’s head by applying constant force over long periods.

That explanation will satisfy the skeptics but not those who believe that, like Stonehenge, Arkaim may have been visited and perhaps even populated at one time by grey aliens or another alien species with outsized skulls.

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Beam Me Up? Teleporting Is Real, Even If Trekkie Transport Isn’t

Geoff Brumfiel via NPR:

“I have a hard time saying this with a straight face, but I will: You can teleport a single atom from one place to another,” says Chris Monroe, a biophysicist at the University of Maryland.

His lab’s setup in a university basement looks nothing like the slick transporters that rearrange atoms and send them someplace else on Star Trek. Instead, a couple million dollars’ worth of lasers, mirrors and lenses lay sprawled across a 20-foot table.

“What they do in the TV show is, they send the atoms over a long distance,” says David Hucul, who recently got his Ph.D. with Monroe. “But, really — if you could build anything, you wouldn’t send the atoms.”

That’s because atoms are big and heavy, and you don’t really need them, he explains. The laws of physics say that any atom of carbon is identical to any other atom of carbon.

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Fear and Loathing in Thet Kal Pyin: Myanmar’s Healthcare Crisis

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Staffan Scherz (CC BY 2.0)

As Myanmar prepares for a historic election on 8 November 2015, its leadership is rolling out plans for dramatic health sector reforms. But there are enormous obstacles, including the legacy of war and a rising threat of drug-resistant infectious diseases in restive border areas. Mike Ives reports.

Two speakers send the Islamic call to prayer sailing across Thet Kal Pyin, a refugee camp less than 100 km from Myanmar’s border with Bangladesh. The call wafts over several neat rows of large, low-slung buildings with blue roofs. Several families live in each structure, and the camp is home to around 5,000 people. Most, if not all, belong to the Rohingya ethnic group, a persecuted Muslim minority.

In response to the prayer call, bearded men in sandals emerge into the gathering dusk. They file into a thatched pavilion that serves as their makeshift mosque. At its entrance, they wash their hands and remove their shoes.… Read the rest

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Charles Bukowski On Writing

Buk

I try to do all of my writing during the week. Songs I’ll write anytime. Poems anytime. But everything else gets pushed away at least once a week. It seems I’m always editing something or getting a blog post together by Sunday evening, but mostly, during the weekends, words are for reading.

Nowadays that means reading the articles I’ve streamlined into my Flipboard feed. I’ve got a pretty big ass phone at this point and it doubles as a very readable, little tablet.

This weekend I came across some news that a new Charles Bukowski book was going to be released. On Writing illuminates the author’s wordcraft with the help of a hitherto undiscovered cache of Buk’s letters.

“If a man truly desires to write, then he will. Rejection and ridicule will only strengthen him …There is no losing in writing, it will make your toes laugh as you sleep, it will make you stride like a tiger, it will fire the eye and put you face to face with death.

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Is There Really A Psychopath Gene?

A single gene has been linked with being a psychopath — and it’s very controversial – reports Tanya Lewis at Business Insider:

As of yet, no single factor can explain what causes people to behave in ways labeled psychopathic. But research suggests our genes may play a role.

Edward Hopper's The House by the Railroad, used as inspiration for the look of the Bates house in the movie "Psycho."

Edward Hopper’s The House by the Railroad, used as inspiration for the look of the Bates house in the movie “Psycho.”

 

One gene in particular is linked with an increased risk of violent or aggressive behavior, studies have found.

Known as MAOA (monoamine oxidase A), this “warrior gene” controls the production of a protein that breaks down brain-signaling chemicals like dopamine, noradrenalin, and serotonin, which all influence mood.

But the idea of a “psychopath” gene remains controversial.

A gene for psychopathy?

People with a variant of the gene, called MAOA-L, produce less of the protein that breaks down these signaling chemicals, which in turn causes them to build up.

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Horror Occult Geekery: The Psychedelic Secret of Dario Argento’s SUSPIRIA

This article contains spoilers for the 1977 film SUSPIRIA.

Watch it.

Preferably while comfortably dosed up on your favourite psychedelic substance.

suspiria-poster

I’ve been an ardent fan of the shadowy occult strangeness found in late 70s-early 80s Italian horror flicks for a good chunk of this incarnation, for reasons I used to find hard to fathom.

I’ve often felt too that there was some concrete textual core shared between a lot of these movies, specifically the films that came in the wake of the briefly popular “Giallo” subgenre. Giallo, a genre where POV killers adorned with black leather gloves go on fetishised killing sprees as clueless detectives scratch their heads in an artistically blood-spattered wake. In which the camera was the killer.

These post-Giallos, mainly of Argento’s own making, but also the more ethereal Zombie films of Lucio Fulci, i.e. Gates of Hell (aka City of The Living Dead) and The Beyond (aka Seven Doors of Death), seem to share some dark strand of DNA between them.… Read the rest

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