The meaning and the origin of the term are obscure. It was found in the journals of T___ a Polish writer / artist who lived between World War I and World War II, that is, during the time of great instability and upheaval in Europe. The old aristocratic order vanished during WWI, and the new post WWII consensus had yet to come into being. On every front, economically, culturally, and psychically, the world underwent a spasmolytic existential event. The reverberations are still felt today. T___ was a friend of Bruno Schulz, a somber Polish/Jewish/Writer/Artist/Prophet. Schulz’s work has never been fully assessed in the west. His lyricism is justly renowned, but it is only the tip of a mystical iceberg that is his Work. His series of drawings and prints point to a new developments in his work that were never realized.

The exact nature of Schulz’s final art and writing are unknown, but we know some of their contours. The work was called THE MESSIAH. Most scholars think that it was a novel; his first full length work (all his other surviving writings are short stories). It was smuggled by one of Schulz’s friends out of Nazi occupied Poland (now Ukraina) into the Soviet occupied zone. There, the friend was stopped by Soviet troops, who confiscated the Schulz manuscript.

From that point on, the precise whereabouts of THE MESSIAH have been unknown. There were several instances over the last few decades where various individuals have claimed to possess the lost Work, however none of them have yet to produce the real thing. The last ‘sightings’ claim that the manuscript exists in the KGB Archives. However, it was archived under the name of the Soviet soldier, not according to who carried the manuscript, or who wrote it.

Schulz mentored T____, who was much younger. T____ contracted tuberculosis, and was sent to a sanatorium in Zakopane. There, cut off from the Polish literary society, he was creating a new Work using a new language/medium called komicxs. The exact contours of it are unknown. The work itself was destroyed when T____ died of complications. The standard operating procedure for dealing with personal items of tuberculosis patients was to burn them. This was a precautionary health measure, though entirely unnecessary.

The only artists of note to visit T____ in the sanatorium were Schulz and Witkacy (Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz). Witkacy at the time was experimenting with various drugs and hallucinogens, and may have introduced T___ into that world. T___ may also have posed for one of Witkacy’s famous Metaphysical portraits. None of the these items survive. Witkacy reported that an English patient of the sanatorium was fan of American comic strips. His discarded newspapers were devoured by young T___ who, despite being unable to read English, was mesmerized by the melding of words and images.

Under the influence of Witkacy’s drugs, and Schulz’s prose and art, and his deteriorating health T___ endeavored to create a new kind of revolutionary art using comics as a starting point. Only Witkacy and Schulz have seen all or part of this work. Both perished. Nazis invaded Poland Sept. 1, 1939. 17 days later Soviets invaded Poland from the East. Witkacy—realizing the prophesies of his last novel, Insatiability, came true—committed suicide. Schulz was shot by a Nazi officer in the streets of his home town a couple years later. The Nazi officer was taking revenge against his commanding officer who had previously shot his ‘favorite Jew.’

Most scholars agree that ‘komicxs’ is an amalgamation of English ‘comics’ and Polish ‘komiks’. The insertion of the ‘x’ into the composite word is a mystery. What was the ‘x’ factor? What made T___’s ‘komicxs’ different from ‘comics’? It is speculated in certain marginal and heretical corners of the Slavic Philological Society that Schulz (a Polonized Jew) in his final and lost work, THE MESSIAH, was attempting to continue the artistic discoveries he made with T___ and Witkacy. THE MESSIAH is ‘written’ in a new ‘language’; a hybrid of Polish/Yiddish/Hebrew spliced with narrative imagery. The titular ‘Messiah’ is the Work itself, a generative UR-text of a new way of writing and communicating… a prototype… the first komicxs… a path to a new world…

Popeye vs Paul The Octopus

Popeye insulk by E.C. Segar
drawn by E. C. Segar

Graham Harman is one of my favorite living philosophers. I read his blog daily. So, it is with a very heavy heart that I must denounce this recent post: one of the most ridiculous polls ever conducted. I agree that the question polled, “Should a permanent shrine be erected in memory of Paul the Octopus?”, is ridiculous. It’s the off handed remark that mr. Harman makes after bringing attention to the poll that really chafes:

Should a “permanent shrine” be erected in honor of Popeye?

Why bring Popeye into it? Or, why not be more precise? Surely he doesn’t mean Popeye, star of Elzie Crisler Segar’s Thimble Theater, one of the finest American newspaper adventure comic-strips? Is it Popeye, the protagonist of the Fleisher Studio’s animated cartoons? Or, does he mean Popeye the character played by Robin William’s in Robert Altman’s film Popeye? It Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits, the chain of fast food restaurants? Perhaps he means Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle the fictional detective from The French Connection?

Maybe he objects (no pun intended) to “permanent shrine” and not Popeye? Should it be a temporary shrine? Or maybe not a shrine at all but a monument? An obelisk? A pyramid? Which is it? I for one would endorse a “permanent shrine” to Popeye… especially if it were designed by Richard McGuire:

Popeye and Olive by Richard McGuire
'Popeye and Olive' by Richard McGuire

The Drowned World

the drowned world swimming pool

A new theme park is coming soon to Dubai. Named The Ultimate City, its theme will be the the world refracted through the many faceted crystal-like mind of writer J.G. Ballard. It will be distributed throughout the city to make it’s experience as much part of the urban fabric as possible. Some of the attractions will include:

The Drowned World water park where guests can experience the rising sea levels of global warming as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order.

• As oil rapidly becomes a scarce commodity, Crashland will become the only place to partake in the visceral and intoxicating power of the internal-combustion engine.

• Get closer to the nuclear power of the sun over the ozone free Terminal Beach, or descend into the cool shade of vintage Bikini Atoll concrete nuclear blast bunkers scattered among it’s sandy dunes.

• In a special arrangement with the Burj Dubai, a large section of the world’s tallest skyscraper has been reserved for High Rise: a paint-ball arena where guests struggle for advantage as they try to reach the top of the building.

• Other attractions will include: The Burning World, Concrete Island, and more.

the drowned world swimming pool

Well… not quite. This is a swimming pool designed by the Mumbai branch Ogilvy & Mather for HSBC Banking group. It is supposed to raise public awareness of the dangers of global warming, but instead they’ve succeeded in creating world’s first (?) Ballardian swimming pool. With all the apocalyptic talk on this blog lately, I couldn’t resist!

Via [Neatorama]

Mobile Photography Nostalgia

sony ericsson t610
My dead Sony Ericsson T-610s soul taken by the Nokia 6300.

I don’t take very many pictures with my cellphone. But, occasionally it is the only tool available to record a moment in time. Usually the picture is forgotten as soon as it is taken. When my trusty Sony Ericsson T-610 died a few weeks ago I was compelled to take a look at the pictures I’ve taken with it during the five (!) years it served as my phone. Its camera wasn’t great and the pictures were very low resolution… on top of that, I’m not a great photographer. But the grainy, low-quality images have already acquired that warm and familiar sheen of nostalgia… the same kind of sheen that we experience listening to vinyl records or cassette tapes or playing old arcade style video games (Galaga!). A long time ago I posted a small set of pictures from the old phone when it was still new to me. Now I’ve added a bunch more to that Flickr set. Take a look.

My new phone (Nokia 6300) looks a lot like the T-610. I admit that I bought it mainly on the strength of that resemblance… but… I find its new interface a little too slick, its memory bigger than necessary, its photos are bigger but not better, etc., etc… already I’m missing the relative clunkiness of the old phone knowing full well I’ll have the same nostalgic feelings for the new one in five years time.

Random Quotations

Transcription for clarity:

“Power operates most effectively not by persuading the conscious mind, but by delimiting in advance what is possible to experience.” – CCRU

“Kapital really is a planet-wide artificial intelligence, feeding matrix-style, on the energy of human slaves.” – K-Punk

“The opposite of real isn’t phony or illusional – it’s optional.” – Thomas DeZengotita, Mediated, p. ?

“We are lucky that the organic realm reached the foot of evolutionary ladder before the inorganic.” – J.G. Ballard, The Atrocity Exhibition, p. 22

“Why believe in work when it doesn’t believe in you?” – Pat Kane, The Play Ethic, p. 79

“What if the ‘idea’ of progress were not an idea at all but rather the symptom of something else?” – Frededric Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future, p.281

malthusian flotsam

Chinese WWII Comics

A friend of mine went to Shanghai a little while ago and brought me some cool Chinese comics. I got two Tintin reprints and something I haven’t seen before:

chinese comic cover

chinese comic back cover

All the books are 5 inches wide and 3.5 inches high. They are printed on very cheap newsprint. The color of the paper changes throught out and the ink gets pretty faint at times. The swastikas make it pretty clear that it’s about WWII. A friend of mine mentioned that it’s some sort of spy thriller. I’m not sure if the artist is Chinese or not. The art is very European looking, but then what do I know!
Here are a few sample pages. Click on the images to see them BIG.

chinese comic sample page 1

chinese comic sample page 2

chinese comic sample page 3