Category Archives: Obsessions

Gone With The Dust

I dream of Quixotic Cowboys around Campfires.
Extinct.Extinguished.Existential.Esoteric
WATCH THIS SPACE

“They did not look at each other. They did not say a word to each other… They knew that talk is meaningless when a common knowledge is already there. The silence bound them as no words ever could.”

Cowboy

 

Norma Tanega: Deadpan Folk

Norma Tanega
I love discovering forgotten gems from yesteryear, I suppose it harks back to the days when I used to go treasure hunting in the muddy creek below our house. I came across Norma Tanega, when her single ‘You’re Dead’ was used in the credits of Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Waititi’s (Boy, Eagle Vs Shark)  fangtastic mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows, about Vampire flatmates living in Wellington, NZ.

Norma Tanega was a camp singer in the Catskills, when she signed up to New Voice Records in 1966. She became a ‘one hit wonder’ when her strange, novelty single, ‘Walkin’ my Cat Named Dog‘ reached #22 on the US Billboard Charts.

The hit became popular in England and so Norma was asked to perform it on Top of the Pops, it was here in a rehearsal that she first saw Dusty Springfield. I’m standing there with my guitar, like a dork, while this woman, I had no idea who she was, stood on some scaffolding and went over and over this song until it was, of course, perfect.” The song was You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me, Dusty’s #1 hit at the time. The lights went up in the studio and Norma, confused, asked Dusty what was going on and so Dusty explained the English tradition of a union tea break for electricians and cameramen, this sparked up a conversation between the two. Norma was in a relationship with Dusty Springfield during the 60s and as a prolific storyteller, provided lyrics to her songs, ‘No Stranger Am I,’ Earthbound Gypsy, Midnight Sounds.’  Just goes to show that behind every great woman is another great woman.

I am just obsessing over the dusty wryness and husky sincerity of Norma Tanega’s voice. There is a very deadpan delivery to her macabre and hilariously uncanny songs, which flatters the kiwi in me. Here is her song ‘You’re Dead’

[JUNE] IN THE RAILROAD EARTH

Railroad Train by Edward Hopper

“The restlessness and the longing, like the longing that is in the whistle of a faraway train.
Except that the longing isn’t really in the whistle—it is in you.” 

                                      – Meindert Dejong, The Little Cow and the Turtle 

I have been thinking about Trains of late, I recently went to see a Miyazaki double feature, Spirited Away and The Wind Rises, where those beautiful iron beasts carry the wanderlust/lost on a spiritual trip to the afterlife or to an other life. I spent a good solid month in a small town in Wisconsin called Prairie Du Chein, and every night I was serenaded by the whistling soliloquy of the distant train and it was true, it was a displaced wail for a longing inside of me, a longing I knew couldn’t be fulfilled in a tiny town (no matter how much I romanticized it). The trains whistle still haunts me inside, I can feel it like a force of breath between my ribcage.The wailing between the rails guarding my unconscious. I long, so I play Vashti Bunyan’s Train Song.

I am on a bit of train binge at the moment, I am, as it were, loco over locomotives. It especially amuses me that trains petrified Freud, he suffered from Siderodromophobia (fear of train travel) through his childish eyes the steam jets from a train looked like souls burning in hell. In his self-analysis he said the rocking of the train reminded him of the loss of his mother, love thy mother.

The following is a list of my favorite train tracks, films, books, poetry ladeda.

LITERATURE

pawprints

Ghost Cat by Joy Cowley 

A couple years ago,
A deaf old cat named Mack
Went for an evening walk
Along the railway track.
He didn’t hear the whistle
Of the midnight train.
‘Dead!’ said the engine driver.
‘We won’t see him again.’
Me-ow!

The driver was mistaken
The ghost of Mack came back
To haunt the midnight train
On the section of the track.
The driver said he saw him suddenly appear.
His coat was grey like mist
His eyes were cold and clear.
Mee-ee-o-ow!

And sometimes lonely travellers
Bound for the distant places,
Woke up after midnight
With pawmarks on their faces.
They gave a cry of terror
As a pale grey shape slid by,
And through the darkened carriages
They heard the ghostly cry.
Mee-ee-ee-ee-o-o-o-ow!

This poem by children lit darling Joy Cowley was probably my first exposure to terror, the accompanying picture drawn by a child called Waaka Harris didn’t help to nullify the unease. Between the whistle of the train, the callous response of the engine driver, the iridescent haunting of a Cat, with such a congenial name like Mack, I was absolutely petrified but also disturbingly beguiled on my first train trip.

 

Railway Rhymes by CL GravesRailway Station

“When books are pow’rless to beguile
And papers only stir my bile,
For solace and relief I flee
To Bradshaw or the ABC
And find the best of recreations
In studying the names of stations.”

Ah to escape by train from life’s shit, now that would be a great adventure. There is something therapeutic about studying the names of streets and stations. The best part about studying train stations from a moving train is that it flashes by and it is gone, and it’s on to the next one. Ponder and release.

Strangers on a Train

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

Train lit. has been embroiled in the world of what I am going to call hard-boiler crime. The Train in Patricia Highsmiths psychological thriller opens a platform for a psychopathic playboy to prey of those in transit-physically and mentally. An A to B journey for Guy Haines is derailed by a strangers proposition-a moider swap, he will kill his unfaithful wife, if Guy kills his father.

 

 

Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

What appears to be a formulaic whodunnit on a train, opens up a space for derailing ideas of crime and punishment. It sparks on the terrors of train travel, being cooped up in space of compartmental collapse with strangers, who could perhaps kill you. Exotic landscapes are rendered  impressionistic by the trains speed, and whodunnit becomes a landscape to the shaky forefront of human ethics. 

 FILM

In 1986 the Lumiere brothers created the first unintentional horror film, when their train sent audiences (unfamiliar with how film worked) screaming from the auditorium, solidifying the symbolic power of the train on screen. The terrible, terrific imprinted forever on the collective unconscious.

Click on the pictures to watch a scene from these films.

North by Northwest

North by Northwest, Alfred Hitchcock, 1959

The reason why I attribute train travel to sexy espionage, slinky martinis and comfortable sleeping lounges, Amtrak quickly dissolved those romanticized views. The end of this film has the best sexual innuendo involving a train.

Once Upon a Ti

Once Upon a Time in the West, Sergio Leone, 1968 

Trains have and still are intrinsic to the myth building of the West in the American consciousness. Sergio Leone capitalizes on the ‘traveling’ nature of the Western to redress the mythological expansion of the iron horse across the west-frontier building on crack. Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack, accentuates the plodding, dying whistle of the demi-gods on horses, as the train makes tracks across the western narrative.

Spirited Away

Spirited Away, Hayao Miyazaki, 2001

There is something so peaceful about a train taking spirits home, train as travel to the afterlife. The train scene lulled into a slumber by the medicinal music of Joe Hisaishi is like a meditative pause. It opens a space for a long sigh after life is done.

La Bete Humaine

La Bete Humaine, Jean Renoir, 1938

Jean Renoir’s poetic realist masterpiece takes us into the coal clogged, hellish belly of the industrial monster. In this locomotive infested world, the plights of suffering male,sacrificial woman and popular front are fought in the slinky, oilskin shadows.

The Music Man

The Music Man, Morton DaCosta, 1962

The opening scene where a honky salesman rap coalesces with the rhythm and sounds of the train, as if the men are having synchronized sex with the train, not to mention each other is just brilliant. The fact they are salesman (prostitutes in suits) jostling in synchrony with the grind, steam and steady thrust of the locomotive will have you in hysterics.

The list could go on and on so here is a montage of train scene from the films I love.

TRAIN TRACKS


Click on the picture below to  listen to my  Spotify playlist, TRAIN TRACKS

Trains

DERAILED LOVE
5:15 The Angels Have Gone – David Bowie
All Aboard – Muddy Waters
Jumping someone else’s train/another journey by train – The Cure
Downtown Train – Tom Waits

LONGING WITH A LONESOME WHISTLE
500 miles – Peter, Paul and Mary
Train Song – Vashti Bunyan
Blues in the Night – Ella Fitzgerald
Homeward Bound – Simon & Garfunkel

THE GREAT ESCAPE
The Draize Train – The Smiths 
Gone Darker – Electrelane
Long Black Train – Lee Hazlewood
High Speed Train – R.E.M

REEL ROAD
The Sixth Station (Spirited Away) – Joe Hisaishi
Farewell to Cheyenne (Once Upon a Time in the West) – Ennio Morricone
Conversation Piece (North by Northwest) – Bernard Herrmann
Lara’s Theme (Dr Zhivago) –  Maurice Jarre

Train

“In this fast movin’ world that we live in nobody rides ’em much these days
Maybe I’m a little sentimental cause I know that things have to change
But I’d still like to go for a train ride cause I’ve got a thing about trains .”

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“Lord! there’s somebody walking over my Grave”

Criswell

I was reading The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham and I came across the line, ‘Someone is walking over my grave,’ a response by a character feeling a sudden shudder. I had used, what I presumed to be a common idiom often; but I had never actually thought about what it meant.  For some reason the saying irked me, scratched at my skull. This I declared called for an investigation.

Thanks to the wonders of the Interverse I discovered that the saying was first coined under Jonathan Swifts pseudonym Simon Wagstaff, in A Complete Collection of Ingenious Conversation, 1978,

“Miss [shuddering]. Lord! there’s somebody walking over my Grave.”

It also stems from a folk belief/wive’s tale, recorded in Basil Godfrey’s Caprice by Lee Holme, 1868,

“Joan shuddered – that irrepressible convulsive shudder which old wives say is caused by a footstep walking over the place of our grave that shall be.”
Link to full text here

The saying derives from a time when the distinction between life and death was ambiguously murky; also grave sites were for the most part pre-determined so the idea of someone walking across your future resting place made sense.

In American versions, the human footstep is substituted with a Goose, hence the term ‘goosebumps.’

I am often possessed by sudden shudders, I get them multiple times per day. Either someone is being a twit and walking over my grave multiple times to be an asshole, I think it could be the love of my life OR I have multiple grave sites because I am going to be chopped into tiny bits by New Zealand’s first serial killer and be spread across this antipodean land OR I am going to get my wish and be scattered to the wind and wind up flying back into my nearest and dearest’s mouths. Thats right, bite me future loved ones

and now to leave you with some grave words from Criswell…

 

 

 
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Kitchen Sink

I have been obsessing over Dada artist Hannah Hoch at the moment so I am experimenting with my own collage dadaism, looking at fatalistic females in kitchen sinks. Will see where this goes. Quite possibly this will be another, ‘I started something I couldn’t finish.
Ophelia Thinks Harder

 

OBSESSIONS: Michaël Borremans

I am obsessing over the these solemn studies of the phantasmic by Belgian painter Michaël Borremans.

Purge

I see

Masked

 

Kitchen SinkDo your ears hang low?

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THE BALLERINA EFFECT

“Yesterday I spent the whole day in the studio of a strange painter called Degas. After a great many essays and experiments and trial shots in all directions, he has fallen in love with modern life, and out of all the subjects in modern life he has chosen … ballet-dancers. When you come to think of it, it is not a bad choice.”

[Edmond de Goncourt, 13 February 1874]

Before The Performance

Group of Dancers

I too am obsessed with those heavenly creatures and am titillated when I gaze upon them, looks like I am not the only one …

Fleshy Statuesque

Im[prism]ed

Photo by Cameron Smith (well this is what Google images tells me)

 Some Ballerina/Ballet shit I adore … click on the picture to see a clip.

The Red Shoes [1948], Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Before Black Swan, this 1948 film explored the dark-side of ballet and obsession.

The Red Shoes

Ballerina-supplemental material for Inland Empire [2006], David Lynch
An eery creature of memories past, spins a 12 minute piece of unease. Unfortunately I cannot find any link.
Inland Empire

An American In Paris [1951], Vincente Minnelli
The prowess of Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron shine in this ballet fantasyscape.
An American In ParisI have been watching this on repeat
An ‘unheimlich’ seashore ballet promo for “Year of the Rabbit,” featuring Sufjan Stevens.

Year of the Rabbit

Above Your Bones

I went to Napier for the weekend. If I go somewhere, first on my ‘to see’ list is the local graveyard. To me graveyards are one of the most beautiful spots on earth. I love the idea I am wandering above people, past and place. When I wander about graveyards I usually have …

I. A Sigur Ros song that I hum, this time it was the exquisitely chilling Varúð, the latest single from their album Valtari.


II
. The poem Elegy by Carol Ann Duffy in my head.

Elegy – Carol Ann Duffy

Who’ll know then, when they walk by the grave
where your bones will be brittle things – this bone here
that swoops away from your throat, and this,
which perfectly fits the scoop of my palm, and these
which I count with my lips, and your skull,
which blooms on the pillow now, and your fingers,
beautiful in their little rings – that love, which wanders history,
singled you out in your time?

Love loved you best; lit you
with a flame, like talent, under your skin, let you
move through your days and nights, blessed in your flesh,
blood, hair, as though they were lovely garments
you wore to pleasure the air. Who’ll guess, if they read
your stone, or press their thumbs to the scars
of your dates, that were I alive, I would lie on the grass
above your bones till I mirrored your pose, your infinite grace?

and III, this scene from Alfred Hitchcocks Vertigo replaying in my head.

While, these lil’ rituals may remain, each wander through a graveyard is unique. Here are some photos I took at  the Napier Hill Cemetery.

The Caretakers

Sun spots look like spirits

I love Angels

When I first saw this photo, I mistook the sun spot for a spirit.

Yours Invisibly,
Anyones Ghost

WALT DISNEY AND THE SYMPHONIC MACABRE

Kids from the early 20th century were sure treated to the creepy winsome of early Disney.

Mickey Mouse Series 1929


Mickey Mouse – Haunted House (1929)

To escape the pelting rain and the fierce wind of a stormy night,
Mickey Mouse takes refuge in an abandoned house.
What will he encounter … dum dum da.

Watch here


Silly Symphonies (1929-1939)
Scores by Carl Stalling


The Skeleton Dance (1929)

They did the graveyard mash.
Watch here, if you dare.

 

 

El Terrible Toreador (1929)

Lets just say the bull comes out … not on top.
Watch here

 

 

 


Hell’s Bells (1929)

Featuring all the usual suspects from hell.
Watch here

 

 

 

Egyptian Melodies (1931)

A spider enters an Egyptian pyramid and meets its synchronized occupants.

Watch here

 

 

Yours Invisibly,
Anyones Ghost

10 REELS: Death as trauma, humor, mystery, therapy and after.

DEATH AS TRAUMA 

REEL I

The Tracey Fragments, 2007
Dir. Bruce McDonald
Writer: Maureen Medved
Starring: Ellen Page, Maxwell McCabe-Lokos, Ari Cohen and Erin McMurtry and Slim Twig.

Ellen Page is a girl running from and haunted by something. A something that lies buried between the fragments of her repressed memory. Without giving the plot away, the film is less about this ‘something’ and more about the trauma that exists between the fragments, the lump in the throat and the body that has shattered memory, image and representation. It is the guilt and burden of female sexuality. This film also has a very humorous Bob Dylan parody.Warning: The film is told through split screens, which may annoy some individuals. It will be a giant mind scramble, as your brain readjusts to the multiple image attacks.

Watch the trailer here


REEL II

The White Ribbon, 2009
Writer: Michael Haneke
Dir. Michael Haneke
Starring: Christian Friedel, Ernst Jacobi and Leonie Benesch

There is a trauma festering in a small village in Germany, left like Haneke’s infamous trope in the peripheries of the frame. This trauma erupts in strange events, rituals, violence and death. This trauma is unnamed but is ‘something’ bound to Germanys identity, a trauma that can never be erased nor cleansed through a national amnesia. This film is shot in black and white, however it is enraptured by grey areas.

Watch the Trailer


DEATH AS HUMOR

REEL III

Fargo, 1996
Directors: The Coen Brothers
Writers: The Coen Brothers
Starring: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand and Steve Buscemi

Steve Buscemi in a wood chipper. Enough said.

Ya Betcha. Watch the trailer here


REEL IV

Rope,1948
Dir. Alfred Hitchcock
Writer: Hume Cronyn
Starring: James Stewart, John Dall and Farley Hamilton.

A film based on the true case of Leopold and Loeb, the comrades who murdered a 14-year old is hardly what you call humorous content. Molded, however in the macabre hands of Alfred Hitchcock, this becomes a black humored tale of the murderous extremes of intellectualism. Moments of black humor involve a banquet for dinner guests (including the murdered’s family) laid out on top of the corpse, a swinging door and the various roles of the rope.

Watch the trailer here


DEATH AS MYSTERY

REEL V

Brick, 2005
Dir. Rian Johnson
Writer: Rian Johnson
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lukas Haas and Emilie de Ravin.


High school noir, hardboiled Joseph Gordon-Levitt, oral sex in the dressing room, drug ring, underworld aka parents basement, a brick, pin, tug … intrigued? Watch now.

Watch the trailer here



REEL VI

Mulholland Drive, 2001
Dir. David Lynch
Writer: David Lynch
Starring: Naomi Watts, Laura Harring and Justin Theroux

Ever experienced a Lynch fuck? If you haven’t then Mulholland Drive is good place to pop the Lynchian cherry. True to form, Lynch is the digger, digging away at buried American unease, this time in the founding soil of ‘American’ myths: LA/Hollywood or the City of Fatalism as I like to call it. This film is a bizarre montage of Hollywood musical dream sequences, ghostly archetypes from studios past, a noir fatalism, a decaying corpse called mythicism, female masturbation and a mysterious blue box. What’s reel?

Trailer here

DEATH AS THERAPY

 REEL VII

Movern Callar, 2002
Dir. Lynne Ramsey
Writers: Liana Dognini, Lynne Ramsey
Starring: Samantha Morton, Kathleen McDermott

There is nothing like sawing up ones boyfriend to the Velvet Underground to mourn his suicide and to ultimately write a space of ones own. This film also has a rad soundtrack.

P.S Samantha Morton is brilliant.

Watch a scene here


REEL VIII

Incendies, 2010
Dir. Denis Villeneuve
Writers: Denis Villeneuve, Wajdi Mouawad(play)
Starring: Lubna Azabal, Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin, Maxim Gaudette

Twins, Jeanne and Simon are each given an envelope after their mothers passing, with a quest to find their father and brother. This quest will walk them through the fire, inciting a return of the repressed  – woe, origins, family secrets, shame, war and taboos. This film is an operatic therapy, featuring one of the most chilling mirroring of music (Radiohead’s, You and Whose Army) to image.

Watch the Opening Scene


AFTER DEATH

 REEL IX

The Ghost and Mrs Muir, 1947
Dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Writer: Philip Dunne, R.A. Dick (Novel)
Starring: Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison, George Sanders and Natalie Wood

Doomed romance between a widower (Mrs Muir) and a ghost (Sea Captain Gregg) in a house that Keats built,
“Magic casements, opening on the foam, of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.”
It also has what modern films have forsaken: the romance of language.  Add some fine moments of witticisms and banter.
Lucy Muir:[referring to her romance with Miles Fairley] You, yourself, said I should mix with people, that I should see… men.
Captain Gregg: I said men, not perfumed parlor snakes!
Bernard Herrmans haunting score serenades this romantic tale. I Suggest watching this by yourself on a stormy night.

Watch a montage of images from the film here


REEL X

Let the Right One In, 2008
Dir. Tomas Alferdson
Writer: John Ajvide Lindqvist (screenplay and novel)
Starring: Kare Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson and Per Ragner.

An introverted, bullied, morbid and extremely blonde boy, befriends a girl(?) with a secret. She is extremely strong, cold, undead, drinks blood and no her skin does not sparkle (thank god). Don’t let the children fool you, this film deals with suburban anxiety, bullying and human morbidity. The child actors are amazing.

Watch the trailer here

Yours Invisibly,
Anyones Ghost