Author Archive | JoeNolan

William S. Burroughs: Paint it Blacker

As many readers of these here illuminated letters surely know, the great author/Beat ghost/junky/exterminator William S. Burroughs also added the title of “painter” to his resume before his death in 1997. He began painting in his later years while living in Lawrence Kansas, but his relationship with painting and painters began much earlier.

I like to trace Burroughs’ origins as a painter back to his 1959 meeting with Brion Gysin. Gysin was also a polymath and his written work is as underrated as his paintings were during his lifetime. Gysin died in 1986 and while his sometimes-stunning prose has yet to be reconsidered, the publication of a few great books and the organizing of gallery retrospectives have seen his visual art getting the respect it deserves all these years later. Of course, Burroughs was way ahead of the curve: “I don’t think I’d seen painting until I saw the painting of Brion Gysin,” he once snarled.… Read the rest

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Jammin’ Jodorowsky

Alejandro Jodorowsky is one of my favorite artists of all time. One reason why I love this guy’s work so much is that he does it all: writer, director, actor, mime, magician, comic book author, tarot card expert. He’s completely brilliant and hilarious, and both of those traits are present in his films – which I highly recommend despite the fact that Jodo certainly isn’t for everybody.

Readers of this blog are no doubt familiar with Jodorowsky’s Western cum vision quest El Topo, but, for me, the director reaches his cinematic summit – so far – at the top of The Holy Mountain. Without question one of the most bizarre and visually stunning films anyone will ever see, critics who dismiss the plot as a mish-mash of New Age flotsam can be forgiven for not recognizing the gold Jodorowsky hid in the excrement.

Check out one of The Holy Mountain’s most famous scenes (NSFW):

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River Phoenix Rises Again

Actor and musician River Phoenix died from drug-induced heart failure in 1993. Only 23 years old, Phoenix had delivered intense, emotional performances in movies like Stand By Me, Running on Empty, Dogfight and My Own Private Idaho, and he was working on a film called Dark Blood when he passed away. That film will finally make its U.S. premiere at the Miami Film Festival during the first ten days of March. I mentioned this on Coincidence Control Network months ago and wanted to keep everybody updated.

This BlackBook post fills in the details:

As heartbreaking as the all too short life is, his legacy will be revived this year at the Miami International Film Festival when director George Sluizer debuts Phoenix’s the final film. When Phoenix passed away in 1993, Sluizer’s Dark Blood was 80% completed, and the unfinished footage disappeared into a vault somewhere. But in 1999, when he learned that the remains would be burned “to make space,” Sluizer brought the film to the Netherlands.Read the rest

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Wallace Berman’s Kabbalah Cinema

Wallace Berman was born in Staten Island, New York in 1926. While he was still a child, he correctly predicted that he would die on his 50th birthday. He was hit by a car in 1976.

During those five decades, Berman became a pioneering assemblage artist as well as one of the cornerstones of the post WWII California art scene. Berman became associated with the Beats and his self-published magazine Semina combined his own collage imagery with writing by luminaries like Michael McClure, Philip Lamantia, David Meltzer, Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jean Cocteau. In addition to his groundbreaking, multimedia assemblages, Berman made the short film Aleph. The artist’s only experiment with moving pictures,Aleph reveals both Berman’s love of collage as well as his interest in the Kabbalah.

Here is what www.jewishmuseum.org has to say about the film:

Aleph is an artist’s meditation on life, death, mysticism, politics, and pop culture.Read the rest

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Hunter S. Thompson: A Day in the Life

I couldn’t find a date on this AP article (above) which chronicles a day in the life – and in the cups – with Hunter S. Thompson. His love of Chivas on full display, Thompson also stresses the importance of a big breakfast – what else would one expect from a proud son of the Bluegrass State?

I found this through Julia Segal’s Tumblr.

There is definitely a drinking game spin-off begging to stumble through this impossible-seeming itinerary.

While you’re at it, check out this cover letter a young Thompson wrote to the Vancouver Sun in 1958,

Stay Awake!

Joe… Read the rest

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Happy Halloween from William S. Burroughs (Remix Video)

William S. BurroughsOnce upon a time, there were witches … in this classic remix, the silent film Haxan is wed in an unholy matrimony to the laconic snarl of William S. Burroughs narrative aplomb.

For those of you with a big appetite, we’ve got a special sweet hidden away. Check out this great little recitation of Poe’s “The Red Death” — also read by William S. Burroughs — at Joe Nolan’s Insomnia.

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The Occult, Alchemy and Black Swan

black-swan-dvd-2I received a strange knock on my afternoon door earlier this week, followed by the sound of something hitting the wood floor in the hallway and hurried footsteps fading down the stairs. Opening the door, a large white envelope stared up at me, the unblinking red postmark stamp as omniscient as the eye of Solomon.

I grabbed the package, closed the door and locked it. The new Black Swan DVD had arrived.

Darren Aronofsky’s tale-within-a-tale, Black Swan was one of last year’s best films. Many are familiar with the Oscar-nominated flick’s re-telling of the Swan Lake ballet to create a psychological horror flick that explores the perils of artistic perfection.

The movie has rightly earned it’s place among genre classics like Rosemary’s Baby and Carrie and — like the former — Black Swan is rife with occult symbolism and references that add weight to the scary-movie-cliches, making this bloody ballet one of those unique films that define a genre at the same time that it transcends the limits of that genre’s conventions.… Read the rest

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Fresh Angles On John Dee’s Angels

EnochianThe good people at Destiny Books/Inner Traditions recently sent on a new volume that finds some of magic’s most mysterious writings collected in one book for the very first time. With Decoding the Enochian Secrets: God’s Most Holy Book to Mankind as Received by Dr. John Dee from Angelic Messengers, author John DeSalvo, Ph.D. offers up the complete writings and Tables of Enoch that Dee and Edward Kelley received from the angels.

If you’re already confused, this book isn’t for you. This is not a biography of John Dee or an in-depth examination of the events that found the 16th-century mathematician, scientist, occultist, and the astrologer of Queen Elizabeth I seemingly contacting angels and receiving what may be the most important divinely-channeled communication of all time.  If you are interested in finding out more about Enochian Magic, start with Benjamin Woolley’s excellent tome The Queen’s Conjurer: The Science and Magic of Dr.Read the rest

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Graham Hancock Sees The Future In The Past

Lost Knowledge of the AncientsThe good folks at Bear and Company recently mailed us a new release that’s been keeping us up nights.

Lost Knowledge of the Ancients: A Graham Hancock Reader is a collection of essays curated by Graham Hancock at his website. This volume gathers these contributions together in print for the first time and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

A book of essays by various authors certainly encourages grazing more than cover-to-cover reading, but no matter where one begins or ends this exploration of possible histories, one finds unexpected connections.

Lost includes essays by Robert Bauval, Mark Booth, Richard Hoagland, Robert Schoch, John Anthony West and Hancock himself. While the book is wide-ranging, covering topics from pole shifts to quantum philosophy to antediluvian history, its real strength lies in the themes that run throughout the book:

* The human race is much older than we think.… Read the rest

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