Saturday, 23 May 2020

i'll just set my bourbon and advocaat down right here

Premiering in theatres in the US on this day in 1980, the Stanley Kubrick adaptation of the Steven King novel of three years prior presents a certain corollary to and correspondence with the present Zeitgeist of wintering, hibernation and generally being not taxed mentally or physically with its foil of an aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic and domestic abuser hoping to take full advantage of this generous sabbatical for self-improvement but woefully unable to.
What do you think? That much of the milieu is quite resonant, even if the plot and search and insistence for meaning is receding—just like we are focusing on inconsistencies, ambiguities and attributed symbolism as curative guideposts to navigate ourselves through this time when for many of us, we just have one job to do. Isolation is not only prone to the compromised credibility of an unreliable narrator but also can cause us to doubt and question our credentials as dependable observers—and whether we’re haunted by real ghosts or the hypochondria cabin-fever.

Saturday, 9 May 2020


Celebrated discontinuously on today, the eleventh and the thirteenth, the Roman performed annual rites into order to exercise malevolent spirits of the dead that had taken up residence in their house during the previous year whom might be lured away with offerings of beans.
The Vestal priestesses whose chief patronage was for hearth and home, cultivating a sacred fire that symbolically burned for all and was never to be extinguished, baked all the mola salsa used throughout the year, salted flour cakes that were much like communion wafers and were burnt offerings themselves as well as given to sacrificial animals—for the whole city and for Lemuralia made a special batch made with the first ears of grain of the season to help appease the restive dead. According to contemporary scholarship by Ovid, the observance was derived from an older ritual called Remuria instituted by the founder of Rome himself to atone for the death of his brother, Remus.
Incantations included the head of the household (paterfamilias) rising at midnight and pattering around the chambers barefooted and tossing black beans over his or her shoulder, favomancy—see above, and repeating Haec ego mitto—his redimo meque meosque fabis (These I dispatch; with these beans I redeem me and mine) with the rest of the family and domestics banging pots and pans. Though All Saints and All Souls Day for Western Christianity has been advanced toward the end of October and beginning of November (Halloween right now? Yes please), for the Eastern Catholic and Oriental Orthodox church, they are celebrated on the Friday following Easter as perhaps a syncretism of this Roman custom. Because of the vacating of noxious ghosts, the month was considered an inauspicious time to wed, and hence the proverb: Mense Maio malae nubunt—Bad girls get married in May.

Saturday, 18 April 2020

le livre des esprits

With the 1857 publication on this day of Allan Kardec’s (nom de plume of Hippolyte Lรฉon Denizard Rivail, *1804 – †1869) seminal, gospel work The Spirits Book, the Spiritist movement (not to be confused with a parallel interest called spiritualism, which concerned itself with the ability and inclination of the dead to communicate to the living) is considered arrived and complete with this final codification that attempts to address the hard, existential questions.
The main tenants of the governing philosophy hold that all corporeal living beings are manifestations of essential and discrete immortal souls which need to become incarnate at increasingly higher states to attain intellectual and moral perfection. The major schism between the former and the later was Spiritism’s belief in the reincarnation, transmigration of the soul into other physical containers and dead relatives being unavailable for consultation through a medium and thus never took hold in the United States and United Kingdom (though those objections seemed to have lapsed in the meantime) as it did in other parts of Europe, South America and Asia. Another aspect that established religions took grave exception to was Spirtism’s theist nature—evolution-affirming in its acknowledgement that a supreme and ambivalent god set things in motion but then stepped away.  After Kardec’s death, his wife and co-founder Amรฉlie Boudet became the movement’s leading authority. There are upwards of twenty-million adherents world-wide, with the majority in Brazil and Vietnam.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

the ghost of pinterest future

Akin to sรฉance through automatic writing or speaking in tongues albeit much more refined and practised, we appreciated the primer in “mediumistic art” through one of the more prepossessing partakers, Maude Ethel (nรฉe Eades) Gill of East Ham, known as Madge to her friends (*1882 – †1961) whom after recovery from an illness in 1920 was suddenly taken with drawing—prolific and guided by a spirit she called “Myrninerest”—that is, my inner rest, having never demonstrated a talent beforehand.
Despite her claim of mediumship, later scholars of her body of work detect a biographical narrative across her portfolio and count Gill among the self-taught outsider artists (see previously here, here and here) regardless of what supernatural help she might have been the recipient of. Rarely exhibiting and never selling her work out of fear of angering Myrninerest, no one had any idea of the extent of her nearly four decades of sketching. Learn more about Art Brut and Madge Gill at Messy Nessy Chic at the link up top.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

the ghost of a flea

Sadly unrecognised during his lifetime, poet, painter and free love advocate, William Blake (*1757 - †1827, see also here and here) produced a large and diverse body of work under the ethos that to exercise the human imagination and push its limits was itself next to godliness. Misunderstood and dismissed as mad, Blake’s single showing while still on this plane was disastrous, one critic calling him an ‘unfortunate lunatic whose personal inoffensiveness secures him from confinement.’
The retrospective exhibition currently at London‘s Tate Gallery (see also from friend of the blog, Nag on the Lake) is certainly a belated vilification and underscores the resonance of his vision.  Perhaps most well known for his illustration of The Book of Job and Dante’s Divine Comedy, like the pictured vignette of Capaneus the Blasphemer, a besieger of Thebes whom Zeus struck down with a lightning bolt for his arrogance, and is confined to the Seventh Circle of Hell with the other souls whom have committed violence against God, though the form of his extinction make him impervious to the torture of the flames and as a pagan he addresses the deity as Jove and still curses him. The titular episode refers to a miniature panel inspired by a vision that came to his friend and collaborator John Varley during a sรฉance and evokes comparison to Henry Fuseli’s 1781 The Nightmare.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

perfect play or macky, micky, mucky, mocky

As an experiment to explore how norms and ethics might be introduced to artificial intelligence in a broad and general fashion, researchers, as Slashdot reports, have trained implicitly one such programme to play Pac-Man and win without gobbling up the ghosts.
The training was a balance between the programme’s drive for optimisation tempered with lessons from human players that avoided the ghosts, even at their most vulnerable, and eventually netted more ethically informed play. It’s not quite the level of trust that I would want in a moment of pursuit but I suppose it does illustrate the potential to build in moral false-safe measures.