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“This is the silence of ruined churches, empty fields and playgrounds after dark. The sky is a typewritten scream, even the lightening is quiet, like chalk.” That was written in my first journal of traveling to Romania, a decade ago. It was a god-awful place at that time. The purple language owed to my hunger and exhaustion. Back then, the trains grew rustier and less reliable from Rome eastward. In Budapest, of course, mine looked about to collapse. And from there, onto another train—I had to try and steal my ride, no one would sell me a ticket. It was twilight. I would have to go through The Carpathians, which seemed no danger, initially. I just kept bribing the
er at daybreak--they live under there to escape the cold. Homeless people with ruined faces, including scarred and slightly feral children, dwelt in this building with me. Then, one glorious day, an official at the bank decided that perhaps Michael Merriam and Michael Woodbury Merriam were, after all, the same person, and I escaped. Looking back, I should have hitchhiked, but fear ruled me, that year, in Romania. Well, they’re in the EU now. The Peace Corps was there, perhaps irrelevantly, but there they were (and are.) To celebrate its induction, some peace corps volunteers, led by the charismatic, though slightly Asperger-touched, Jason Herschel. He mounted a very successful production--a screening with live
He looked at me for a moment, then pointed and said “Is that way.” I went where he’d pointed, and found the bus stop. I could not purchase a ticket on board. The driver ignored me. When control was about to board, a gracious young Romanian girl passed out several fake tickets to people, including me. “The people are worms, and should toil and die like worms,” said Elena Ceausescu, the witch-wife of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. It was she who criminalized abortion and commanded women to have at least five children, to supply Romania with fresh workers. Bucharest, Romania’s capital, was never really the “Paris of Eastern Europe”, it was called the “Mad
cartoonishly angry, and usually obese, officials onboard, and had run out of the small bills they cherished about an hour away from Romania’s capital. It was frightening to be cornered--naturally I had to zip about and hide and dodge. A Romanian policeman helped me evade justice, though I was eventually cornered in the bathroom. The banging got louder and louder. As a last ditch effort, I opened the door and pretended to be vomiting into my hand, which worked, oddly enough. When I lept off into the main train station, several signs informed me, in a couple languages at least, that men impersonating police officers would try to steal my passport by demanding to examine it. This did not occur. However, the airline refused to print my ticket after I purchased it, my credit card was stolen, and the Western Union office would not hand over the money wired to me because my passport included my middle name and the money was wired to someone with only my first and last names. I slept on the piss-smelling floor of a building which, if not condemned, should have been. I watched homeless children spill up from the sew-
pantomime--which was attended by young, old, male, female, even a senator. Then someone, he doesn’t know who, drugged him, attacked him, drove him 90 kilometers into a forest, and left him for dead. The Peace Corps did fire him, and it looked like their famous condescension had gone too far, and they had, for purposes of saving face, fired one of their own for being the victim of a hate crime: there was little outside of Herschel’s homosexuality that could have accounted for the attack, and rather that perform their own investigation (it seemed) the corps had decided simply to get rid of him. The charge was drunkenness. Naturally, this meant I had to go back and investigate. When I landed, the airport was as I remembered it. I asked a man directions to the bus stop. He laughed at me and said “No bus. I drive you for 20 Euro.” I calmly replied that there were many busses. “No. No busses, no metro.” And he laughed again. “Welcome to Romania.” “I know there is a bus. Are you going to tell me where it is?”
Forest” when it was hills, shadows, strongholds, passages built over mud, when it was labyrinthine and beautiful. Ceausescu razed it to the ground, paved everything over; increased exports, nearly halted imports, the people starved. Even the Communists didn’t get Ceausescu: “the sick man of communism”, they called him. In 2001, 80% of Romania’s population was under 30, and I found the people irresistible: often irreverent, always intelligent, the city was young, fierce, off the hook. Back then, I stayed with a group of German interns who worked on the Romania-EU accession committee. They told me the Union’s problem with Romania was the country’s over-eagerness: when anything was put forth, like the decriminalization of homosexuality, the Romanian way was immediately to comply without actually agreeing (these Germans alleged): Europe wanted it, so Romania did it. I asked a Romanian man what he thought of this. He paused. Nicolae Ceausescu wasn’t dead, he told me. The footage of his execution, shown on a loop at Christmas, was a lie. And did I really think the European Union would
do Romania any good? It was easier in Romania, then, to grasp Communism’s hatred of high culture: it was visible in the spastic choreography of the ubiquitous homeless, the keening opera of beggars’ caterwauls. In the abandoned building where I slept, they looked the ‘The Peasants’ from Corneliu Baba‘s painting, infected eyes, leathery faces, etc. One night, in my sleep, my body heaved forward and I caught the wrist of a small child who was stealing from the knapsack I used as a pillow. We compromised: he only got my camera and a tee shirt. The transaction completed, he sat back, relaxed, and offered me a drink, which I declined. This was near dawn, when
The other Peace Corps volunteers were in Bucharest for medical reasons, too: one boy had been seen drinking a gin and tonic at lunch. He was sent down on the nine-hour train, psychologically evaluated, found not to be alcoholic, and given train fare back to the North. Another boy had been bitten by a dog. Dog bites are no joke here, he said. There’s a huge dog infestation problem. And round-ups, too, where stray dogs are killed. Don’t use my name, he told me. The Peace Corps was his dream. After the attack, Jason woke up in a Bucharest hospital: “WHY IS EVERYBODY SPEAKING ROMANIAN?” he bellowed: Andy (not his real name) was there. “WHY IS THERE A TUBE IN MY PE-
as ignorance of the Russian language was a status symbol in Bucharest in 2001, and innocence of Securitate involvement must these days be bought for princely sums, amnesia, in Romania, is a commodity. It didn’t make sense for Jason to complain about it. It was just one more American luxury he had that they wanted. “Life… will not be easy. There will be no salary and allowances will be at a level sufficient only to maintain the health and meet basic needs.” Those are the words, not of a communist, but of JFK on the founding of his Peace Corps. I didn’t understand the central philosophy behind this apparatus of American PR, or what its mode of
child r e n spilled up from the city’s heated sewers: sunrise in Bucharest was spectacular. All traces of the old Bucharest were gone. They had an IKEA. There was a reconstructed “Old Town” in Bucharest, and a traditional Romanian restaurant. People walked the cobblestone looking u n convinced and wary. In the restaurant, “traditional music” played and a girl in a sort of peasant’s costume stared at us hatefully from around a corner. When I met Jason, the Rocky Horror event’s principal organizer, he was shaking and frightened. The whole event was called off, he said. He’d been attacked, drugged, he thought, but he couldn’t be sure. They found him soaking wet in a forest outside of Timisoara. He was sorry. The Peace Corps had fired him, they were sending him home.
NIS?” Andy, furry-faced and always wearing a brown hat and coat, was closer to the old-school Peace Corps volunteer. He can be seen in the Peace Corps film ‘Pigslaughter: Romania’ —a recent antiseptic article in The Economist cannot compare this film: Jason and Andy film every detail of the slaughter, and they do visit a vet in the film. The man of the house drives there, drunk, with one of the pig’s legs. They park the car near a horse that has strayed into the road. Adam looked through the vet’s microscope, and couldn’t see anything: blackness, nothing more. As Jason told me this story, and lamented that he’d been fired from the Corps, implicitly for alcoholism, I watched him drink his beer: over the course of an hour, he didn’t finish it. The glass was about a quarter full, and had gone flat while we talked. Not exactly alcoholic behavior, but I’m not a doctor. He speaks, also, with an innocence (not a naïveté, an innocence) which I find, in context, unnerving. I took the overnight train to Timisoara, where Jason was attacked. If you turn away from the beautiful Metropolitan Church you can see where Ceausescu stood when he was overthrown. We really don’t know much about Romania during his regime. It’s a blind spot. And furthermore that, just
attention was. Jason told me it was called “appreciative inquiry”. Peace Corps blogs must be approved through Washington, and are not complete reflections of what goes on there. But anthropologically, they give you an idea of what attitude the Peace Corps is supposed to have; American condescension can be staggering. It’s as if we’re saying, “You were suffering, and you hoped we’d come mustered in radiant battalions, but we knew a better way. We came quietly. Suddenly, there we were, next to you, in the field: our hands blistered as we worked with your scythes. We spoke your language and ate your food. We drank with you, but not like you. We promised you gifts, to send letters for you. We kept our small promises. We lifted you up, and no one was more disappointed than us when you did not become like us. We forgive you for not remembering what we did for you. You’ve seen hard times, and phenomena of evil we still don’t understand. We are a nation of children.” The hospital had not done a drug test. They said they’d not gotten his consent, yet he was awake and they could have asked him. When I went, with a translator, into the forest, though, it looked far less like a case of a drunk American Peace Corps cliché and more like the attack Jason said it was.
CONTINUED ON PAGE 28
The small room is a white box, the perimeters lined with metal eye-hooks drilled into the walls. The only stray color is a thin, red cord that hangs from the ceiling, off to the side, for no evident reason. He is upright, on his knees. His naked body arches in the spot light, a smooth back glistening with perspiration, resembling a caught fish, curving on a taut line. I’m holding a crafted piece of leather in my hands and I coo to him as I slip it over his head, “Close your eyes.” I inhale the brewing scents of live and dead skins and sigh. The leather smells dank and earthy. I smooth it over his face so that the tailored holes match over his eyes and mouth. “Let yourself dissolve into the leather. Let everything you are supposed to be, all that you know yourself to be, let it fall away to reveal the raw insides of you…” I tighten the laces that line the back of the scalp. His wellgroomed hair, his sculpted nose, his cleft chin are smoothed down into a black, leather being. His face fills the hood, identity expanding into enigma. Without the hood, his blonde hair and pale, ruddy skin are too bare, too vacant. I feel as though I haven’t any place to focus my gaze. The eyes that blink out of the hollows are a sheer blue. They remind me of the blue mirage that reflects in glass buildings, not eyes that I normally find desirable. Their translucent quality gives the impression that they are constantly shifting, that they could well shatter, but as they are framed in the mask, they remain safe, solid, held. The leather mask allows me to love the man. Masks are instruments of ritual and enchantment. Throughout antiquity to present, cultures worldwide have employed masks and hoods in ceremonies and theatre, religion and entertainment. The oldest mask relic found is carved from stone, from the pre-ceramic Neolithic period dates to 7000 BCE, (kept at the Musée de la bible et Terre Sainte). Its eyes are perfectly shaped circles in an egg-shaped face. A slim chiseled nose sits atop a vacant, friendly smile. It seems that early man knew as much about
psychology as we do, in our era of over-abundant psychotherapy and antidepressants: The first mask of man is that of happiness. When he did not have the hood on, the man with the sheer eyes, James, wore that happiness mask—a continuous smile that unnerved me. It bothered me not because of the seemingly optimistic joy that was being expressed, but because it relayed so much of its opposite message, that of deep, deep sadness. It was not a fake smile, not the kind that spreads on the lips of the hungry car salesman or the kind that stretches the mouths of Christian missionaries. It was not posturing; the smile was a sincere expression of a flipped emotion. A life of twisted circumstances had reprogrammed his mindto-gesture communications. So when I pulled the hood over his face, imposing darkness and an expression-less mouth, James’ fixed persona fell away, exposing something more honest. The face of open holes seemed sincere. I had met James in July, 2001, at a fetish club in New York City amidst a play land of leather and latex clad hipsters. By most standards, he was handsome-- a kind of well-groomed pretty man, but it was his wit that drew me in. He was funny and intelligent, a computer genius, a scrabble addict, and, most importantly to my sadistic needs, he was a proclaimed masochist. By the end of the night, having left the club to sober up on diner fries and 3am omlettes, I was charmed by our conversations, but hesitant in my kiss. When our lips touched, it was like kissing a child or a younger brother, and I pulled back. I almost turned to leave, but instead my hand trailed up his chest seeking a satisfaction that my lips had not found. My fingers found the protrusion of his nipple against his shirt and dug in, behind the berry, as if to pluck it off its vine. His eyes instantly filled with dense clouds and his mouth opened in a gasp. That was it. That was our first kiss. A relationship began, one of my most perplexing flames. James was a beautiful masochist. Every pore and orifice of his body opened to my wants. At the slightest pet, his flesh rippled and my nails would press the skin and rip in. I could 6
spend hours lying on top of him, his naked body bound in chains to the bed, arousing myself with a cluster of medical needles. I’d push them ever so slowly through his skin, groaning as though I were pushing myself through. Slivers of steel needles stitched along the insides of his arms, three adorning that tender inlet of the elbow, another three along the wrists. Pushing new openings into him, my cunt grew wet, my head dizzy with lust. I slid a needle into his nipple and he screamed to my moan. It was a sadist’s opera. But as I bent over him, my thighs straddling his waist, he would beg me to kiss him and I would bring my face close to his and want nothing of it. In our sadomasochistic euphoria, his features had seemed to open into one huge mouth, one black hole. If I pressed into it, even just to brush my lips, I felt I would lose my balance and tumble in. By our third encounter, I decided I needed to seal the portal shut. I pinched his lips together and sliding a quick needle through both bits, sealed them closed. In my darkest desire, I wanted to needle shut his glassy eyes as well, but I withheld. In this game, it is not the control of a sadist over the masochist that is the greatest stake; it is the sadist’s control over herself. Instead, I unclipped a silk stocking from its garter and slid it off my leg. I gently wrapped it like a bandage, moist and musty from my sweat, around his wet eyes. The black, gauze blindfold calmed us both, each on either side of it, and I continued making love. From then on I began wrapping James’ head in scarves, blindfolds, and leather hoods every time we played and fucked. It became the first part of our ritual, the binding and burying of his face. I found that once he was hooded, my desire to kiss his mouth would come. I would kiss and taste the leather and his lips combined and press my body against his. I would even display the gentle caresses of an adoring girlfriend, touching the leather cheek and forehead with care, fingering the outline of his muffled ears. But when James was not wearing the hood, I grew indifferent, not only in my physical desire, but in my heart. I enjoyed our companionship enough, but felt no compulsion to hold his 7
hand as we walked through the city. When we parted at the 42nd street subway station, he became just another body in the hive. I felt no ache of romantic attachment, no lover’s possession. It was akin to the kind of relationship that one labels “friends with benefits” except that our benefits required the lopping off of his head. In many cultures, masks are imbued with magical properties. They may connect the wearer to the spiritual world or create a shield of protection from evil spirits. In the ancient days of my Chinese ancestors, elaborately carved “Swallowing Animal” masks were used to protect the home, not by deflecting or warding off danger, but by absorbing the disaster. Perhaps I was using James as my swallowing animal, as that September brought the tragedy of towers crashing, thousands of lives wiped away. Tantrum bombs, set off by our country’s enormous temper, flared on our television screens. An absurd war began. In his small bedroom, I poured hot wax down James’ chest, letting it puddle in the navel, where the heat would burn like an incensed chakra at the supposed chakra point of power. I was careful to use candles with a low melting point so that the drizzle wouldn’t burn the skin permanently. I didn’t want to damage him. I knew that he wanted the pain. We were fully grown, if not mature, consenting adults. But I still felt guilty, not for inflicting physical pain—I had put the shame of being a sadist to rest years ago—but because of my insistence to keep our relationship inside the white boxed bedroom. I knew that James wanted more. After all, our play didn’t feel like just hot sex, it was no simple pleasure. One day, I entered his apartment and he laid a pair of slippers at my feet. He had bought me white slippers with silver stars sewn at the toes. I complained that they were difficult to walk in and tossed them to the back of his closet. I ignored the crumpled smile on his face. Masochists often speak of a wish be “broken,” to feel a cathartic release of emotions flood from the intensity of pain. The final emotion is usually gratitude. Sadists, too, can be broken. It’s a high that takes us
through lust, rage, mad joy and deep sadness. After breaking, I am always filled with a natal love, a desire to crawl into the wounds I’ve just inflicted, and to sleep there like a marsupial zygote. I’ve had partners whom I’ve loved, partners I’ve wanted to spend my life committed to, but they have never given me such utter exaltation as masochists do, as James did. What I didn’t realize at the time is that there are two sides to the mask: that of the wearer and that of the viewer. For both sides it is an experience of sensory deprivation. I refused to really see James and he couldn’t fully hear me. At the time, a close friend asked me if I loved James and I replied, “I love him when he is wearing my hood.” My friend blinked in shock and we sat there thinking of all the possible things I had meant by that. Soon after that conversation, I began to be bothered by the fact that I didn’t love James, that I loved the masochist and not the person. Finally, to try to justify the relationship, I sat with James over lunch and said clearly, “I want you to understand that I am using you.” He considered this and then replied, “Well, maybe I am using you, too,” and then he smiled. By the end of October, I ended the relationship. I was shocked by James’ dramatic reaction. It seemed that he mistook our affair to be more than I intended. He hadn’t listened to my warning, or perhaps, I had deprived him of really hearing it. I had been so careful in my sadism on his body, but I had failed to care for his heart. That Halloween, New York was wild with the need to howl. Revelers flooded the streets and parties pulsated in every corner of the city. Witches, clowns, ghosts, and political impostors danced, drank, got high, and shook with survival. I wrapped my body and head in white drapery as a voodoo priestess and walked downtown. Everywhere painted faces, sparkling disguises, and the many, many masks swarming around me revealed their open eyes and open mouths. It seemed that every one was hungry for some kind of pain. I searched the crowds for the next masochist to play with, the next body to feed on. In truth, I was also searching for love, for happiness, for the one face that would dissolve my leather hood.
There are no “nexts” in this universe. Carla Bruni is no more the next Jackie O than Margaret Thatcher was the next Elizabeth I, and the vacuum where a politically-important female style icon ought to be has yawned for decades. No longer. One has arrived. May she live to be 1,000 years old. She is Miyuki Hatoyama, wife of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. Here’s what we know, based on interviews she’s done in Japan and based on her autobiography, Very Strange Things I’ve Encountered. She knew Tom Cruise in a past life, when he was Japanese. She believes he will, on some level, remember that when they meet again. They will make a film together. She will receive an oscar. She “eats the sun” for breakfast. So does her husband. “It gives him strength,” she said. She has been to Venus, on a triangular spaceship. It
was “very green.” She wrote a cookbook, Spiritual Food containing Hawaiian macrobiotic recipes. The Japanese are no more put off by her than they are by any of their “tarento,” who are in a sense duty-bound to provide color and eccentricity. There is no western analogue to this social class. We do have people who are “famous for being famous,” but this is different. The “tarento” (a rendering of “talent”) appear in media with no agenda whatsoever. Appearances in nighttime dramas are common, but conspicuously meaningless. It’s almost as if the Japanese find
it reassuring that luminaries of this kind do not pretend to solve world hunger or cure diseases with their charities. Celebrity, in Japan, is a technology in and of itself. But what does it do? It is possible that celebrity is at its strongest when it expresses itself with a forceful emptiness of agenda. Figures may then strike the observer as a dream-symbol would, and achieve the (still unknown) purposes that dreams achieve. Western “celebrity enigma” func tions like the High Priest-
ess card of a tarot deck: It’s a veil to separate us from the brutal, tribal human realities behind high culture. Culture, oddly, sees itself as more aware than humanity would be in an animal state, but it is less so. The mysterious lady on the cover of Vogue is there to mediate for us, and to protect us from something. The celebrity of the Japanese “tarento,” by contrast, is a technology for assailing the frontier of the Possible. It is all about unexplored social potential, the destruction of limiting templates, and, above all, futurism. Case in point, Yukio Hatoyama told the Telegraph that his Shanghai-born wife would take an unusually prominent role for a first lady of Japan. Whatever her political activities, her function will be as Japan’s Rosetta Stone. She will, at last, make the culture-scape of the 8
Almost everyone has seen Lars von Trier naked. He swims nude in the outdoor pool at Filmbayn (“Film City,” the barracks-turned-film compound) just about every day, regardless of the weather. When I arrive by taxi, the first thing I see is Lars himself, standing outside in the October drizzle. He meets my gaze directly, but only for a moment, and seems every bit the greatest living star in a constellation we might call “The Melancholy Dane,” which consists also of Hamlet, Kierkegaard, Andersen, and a few others. As I’m looking at a wall of trophies in the common area, his assistant, Stine, comes out to greet me, and, smiling, points out the disembodied groin and vagina from Antichrist. “Is von Trier a misogynist?” I ask, and she shakes her head. “Quite the contrary,” she says, adding that he might be a bit afraid of women. On Fridays, everyone gathers here to sing religious songs, she says. I’m reminded of von Trier’s appearance after the first episode of his supernatural medical drama “The Kingdom,” when he reminded us that the greatest storyteller of all is God. I didn’t know then that the strange Christianity in his cosmology came from his mother’s admission that he was not of Jewish descent--the man he’d grown up with was not his father. His real father was a famous Danish composer, with whose genes she’d wanted to breed a genius of her own. She seduced him, created von Trier, and right after admitting it, died. The composer, for his part, seemed to want little to do with his brilliant son. Strange but true. Anyway, on Friday, everyone hears the news of the studio, and newcomers announce their names, where they are from (there are snickers and groans if they are from the wealthy, northern part of Copenhagen) and their sexual orientation “so people will know who to go for at the Christmas party.” There is a circle of discolored gnomes outside. People pee on them, for inspiration, and now they are labelled because Catherine DeNeuve bent down to kiss one once before anyone had a chance to tell her what they were for. Antichrist is largely misunderstood, which seems to be what its creator wants. It’s a film in the horror genre (“I’ll probably never hit any genre straight on,” he has said. “I think you should add something to them.”) During a black and white prologue, a penis slams into a vagina in slow motion while Handel plays in the background. Shortly thereafter, a toddler beholds his parents having sex. He turns to the camera and leers in slow motion, as if to say, “Oh dear, it’s the primal scene. You know what that means!” He then climbs a chair, pushes aside three paperweight statues engraved “Grief,” “Despair,” and “Pain,” walks out of an open window to his death.
The balefully anonymous parents (“He,” played by Willem Dafoe, and “She,” a superb Charlotte Gainsbourg) retreat to a cabin in a wood called Eden to cope with the loss of their child. He is a psychoanalyst, and has taken her off her meds. He torments her with analysis, and his brutal condescension culminates during one of her panic attacks, when he delivers the brilliant line, “I’m going to teach you how to breathe.” He suffers for this later, and the film is well-written enough that we do believe he deserves it, in a sense. Lars von Trier’s Antichrist feels feverish, oneiric, and inappropriately intimate, but it reads like a lesson in ironic distance. That said, the film shows signs of its status in von Trier’s oevre, for it is juvenalia. Von Trier felt paralyzed by depression, and so took up some older material and worked with it instead of creating an entirely new script. We are not looking at his Doll’s House --this is his Peer Gynt. In the original ending to this film, which was spoiled years ago, it was revealed that Satan, not God, created the world. This idea is not new and its derivative cosmologies are so popular among teenagers and video game enthusiasts (what other theology could have informed Grand Theft Auto?) that posterity will be grateful he gave it a miss. In this version, the central conceit is that She was a student of “gynocide” who discovered that the reason witches were tortured, often to death, was because women actually are inherently evil. He can’t believe what he’s hearing, and is as deaf to her reminder that all people are evil, not just women. He stands in for von Trier’s political critics. Still, the use of the sign for Venus as the “t” in the logo for Antichrist confirms, if nothing else did, that von Trier loves to be thought a misogynist, which he is not, and welcomes the arguments. The sins of his underread critical detractors are neither grievous nor particularly interesting, but we might as well lay them out here. It should be said though that this reviewers sin is envy, because neither I nor anyone I know will ever write as well as Lars von Trier. Roger Ebert commits gluttony with his review. His hunger for images and pure, undifferentiated emotionalism is more than usually grotesque in his critique of Antichrist. “I think the film has something to do with religious feeling” he says, in a moment of staggering insight. I can picture him sitting in the back row with his enormous cookie, like a gruesome parody of God, mumbling art critiques of human pain and effort. His review’s facepalm-worthy aphorisms such as “I don’t believe you can have a hole drilled clean through your leg, an iron bar pushed through it, and a grindstone bolted to it, and do much other than be in agony” fill the piece like mothballs in fine chocolate. He has one accurate passage, „At the end He stands atop a hill while a legion of unnatural humans ascends toward him, evoking ‘Night of the Living Dead.’ The suggestion is Biblical, but not from CONTINUED ON PAGE 23
DC’s Gail Simone talks Wonder Woman
Superhero attire is almost immune to the ebb of relevance. Almost. Superman’s blue leotard hasn’t been irrelevant one day since it debuted in 1937, but Batman’s taste-defying insignia has flickered in the face of reason since it went Fisher Price yellow in the 60s. This season, it did not escape our notice that Wonder Woman declined the aggressively period trends in American fall fashion, and did not go back to the impractical skirt she abandoned decades ago. Much has been made of Wonder Woman’s creator, William Moulton Marston, whose invention of systolic blood pressure measurement became the basis for the modern polygraph machine, and was also the real-world prototype for Wonder Woman’s golden lasso: Captives cannot lie if caught in its snare. Comics virtuosa Gail Simone is more spotlight-ready than Marston ever was, and her ingenious handling of the character has made Wonder Woman a nexus of discussion, controversy, and creativity. Marston’s idea that women are happiest when they submit to loving authority is as much in dispute as his claim that men will have to train themselves, through erotic stimulation, to enjoy submission to women, to reverse humanity’s destructive habits. Though his religiosity about such things is touchingly naive, the wisdom and dignity he brought to comics and to feminism is undeniable. Today, the character’s new head writer is bringing the girl power goddess into a new frontier of comics writing. We caught up with Gail Simone shortly after the Wonder Woman symposium at San Diego Comic-Con. What would you say to those who believe Wonder Woman promotes a female ideal which might damage the self-image of young girls? I’d say those people are nuts. There’s nothing about Wonder Woman that you’ve felt the need to take a step away from? I don’t really need to dispel this silly notion, as history has done it quite adroitly for me already. All one needs to do is look at the women of power who have already been influenced by Wonder Woman. Gloria Steinem was a fan, for example. The number of authors who were influenced by Wonder Woman is legion. Literally just five minutes before I sat down to this interview, I got a letter from a distraught father whose three year old daughter has contracted Swine Flu and is in the hospital. She’s a huge Wonder Woman fan and he’s using the character to help his daughter find strength. I get emails like this constantly. I’ve written Superman, the Justice League, and many other iconic characters, and I’ve never experienced anything like the response people have towards Princess Diana. I have to wonder what it is Wonder Woman is supposed to be saying that’s a bad message. She’s a powerful character who stands up for what she believes in, and what she believes in is a thousand times more important than stopping bank robberies or alien invasions. She believes in compassion and mercy and forgiveness. Threaten an innocent and she’ll kick your ass, but I find her vastly more relevant and interesting than someone like, say, Wolverine. Grant Morrison identified “an uneasy melange of girl power, bondage, and disturbed sexuality” in Wonder Woman.
I love Grant, he’s a certified genius and one of the best writers comics has ever had, but I think he’s just talking out his hat here. It’s not uncommon for people in comics to not “get” a character’s meaning to the audi-
ence. I don’t really “get” the Fantastic Four or any number of weird 1960’s era DC characters. But I like Diana at least partially because she’s a bit of a weirdo, a bit of an anomaly. Wonder Woman is unapologetically her own thing, and she’s a bit intimidating to writers for that reason. She’s got this huge, Lord Of The Rings origin and background, she’s incredibly powerful, and she’s female. That’s a lot for some writers to absorb. But is it any weirder than an Asgardian god or the convoluted history of the X-men, for example? The irony of Grant’s statements is that many of those same elements show up time and again in his own brilliant work. I resent the “disturbed” label to the sexuality in Wonder Woman. There are a lot more flavors than just vanilla... William Moulton Marston lived in a polyamorous relationship with his wife and another woman. But he absolutely was an early feminist, and the fact that he liked to tie up young women doesn’t change that at all. He wanted a character young girls could look up to. I like that she has a bit of a dark sparkle. Making a reader uncomfortable is one of the perks of writing anything worthwhile. Do you have a favorite villain to write? Wonder Woman actually has some great rogues, like Ares, and the Cheetah, and Circe. But my favorite is the twisted little womanhating mind-controller, Dr. Psycho. We’re trying to bring some new villains for her to face. She also has some weird holdover villains from less distinguished stories, like Mouse Man and the Angle Man. I really enjoy rehabilitating these goofier guys into something twistier for today’s audience. Because as dumb as “Mouse Man” sounds, if you put it in the context of today’s fetish-embracing culture, with a wider understanding of the concepts of power and powerlessness, suddenly you get something very interesting. What grown man would call himself “Mouse Man,” for god’s sake? Who would choose something so small and weak and timid as their personal avatar? Quite likely, a very disturbed man. So, bam, we’re in business. That’s great fun. Do you see her adventures heading deeper into the world of gods and mythology or the other direction, into urban superheroism? We’re moving her away from the gods in her story... Wonder Woman fighting a kraken, we’ve seen that lots of times. Wonder Woman fighting a crackhead, that’s a different matter. What’s in her iPod? Diana listens to a lot of Amazonian opera, which is a bit different than traditional European opera, in that the battles are real and the singers are often injured during the show, which livens things up considerably. 12
on Fashion’s Dar k Age LGM: Are we entering a my idea of what fashion golden age of fashion? should be. When I went to London, it was amazing, CR: I’m hoping we’re go- I hadn’t seen the clothing ing through a new golden before, and it was defiage. I hope it’s the mod- nitely overboard. And the els’ return. If you’re fash- shoes were balanced from ion savvy, you know who the front to the back so your top models are. I’m you thought you were gohoping there will be a time ing to fall over, but they when people know the top were perfectly made. And models whether they’re in half the girls you couldn’t fashion or they’re not. recognize, because of the hair, and the makeup, and LGM: A lot of people say the attitude. The people you are the return of the who watch a Gareth Pugh supermodel, but you’ve show really love a show, shied away from that label which is fun for us beever since Vogue pinned it cause we can really give on you. Do you still? it our attitude. CR: I see supermodels as the Linda Evangelistas, the Naomi Campbells. Those are the super-duper-models. But to be what those girls were seems almost impossible. To be one of the top girls is definitely an honor. We’re the ambassadors, I guess you could say, of fashion. I never thought I would accomplish that in life.
LGM: You were once told, “We don’t want you to be anorexic, but we want you to look anorexic.” When you spoke about the problem of “the anorexic look” in modeling at the CFDA conference, did you get the reaction you expected?
CR: I found the designers were really willing to talk to me, and were LGM: Of course you’ve congratulating me. Rag & been a great inspiration to Bone, they were all about, Gareth Pugh. “What should we serve, what should the menu CR: He definitely has be?” Although for me it
seemed like it changed a lot am I doing this?” here in New York, a lot of girls said things weren’t re- LGM: How have recent seaally that different. sons changed your vision of where the industry is, and LGM: Did anybody say “We where it’s headed? don’t know if you did the right thing”? CR: I think people realize that to make something CR: Yeah, well, some people better for the next season were worried about me even they have to get that idea doing it because it’s such a that’s almost over the top, sticky subject. I only spoke you know, “Would I really about my experiences and wear that?” You gotta find what I thought we could that idea. The Rodarte girls, change. they’re a really good thing for New York. New York is LGM: What advice can you a lot of street wear, which give our readers about keep- people can definitely wear ing a healthy body image? day to day, whereas the Ro-
CR: For me it’s always been about keeping fit. When I get home I do some activity, I go for runs, and when I’m around nature, I’m around nature: hiking, biking, anything that keeps me moving. I don’t smoke and I don’t drink because I’d rather eat my calories than drink my calories. I worked through my own issues where I had lost weight and then I got it back, and I thought, well, I’ll have to stop modeling. Sometimes you just need to leave the industry for a month or so, to go back home and remember where you came from. In modeling you definitely need that, or you’re going to be in this loop, “Where am I? Why
darte girls seem to be that new thing, where they push New York to be closer to the European market. As for designers, we still have our Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, we still have Marc Jacobs, but when all that is gone I’m hoping that our new designers will be as well known or even more known that the houses we have now, so hopefully that golden age is coming up. LGM: Was there a dark age? CR: If all that doesn’t happen soon enough, then this will be the dark age.
FA S H I O N T H E O RY:
Number (N)ine... Number (N)ine... Number (N)ine... Tabakiro Miyashita’s music-inspired dandyism returns this fall, with new looks for gaunt gentlemen. His thesis, that the color for men this season is “Dusty Mustard,” seems implausible, but there was the sense, at his show, that something utterly Now was going on. Of course, that was then... This collection may be nothing more than a typically passionate misreading of American culture, for which the Japanese are infamous. But its central question (how is tyranny made chic?) is answered by the baleful anonymity of his cowboys. We do sense that he has correctly apprehended what excess of space, excess of time, and excess of formula has done to the male identity in America.
More to the point, men’s fashion has trended, in recent years, toward an unwearable artyness formally available only in futurist womenswear. This is a little different. Miyashita has successfully made the familiar seem strange, which was part of the hidden function of the dandy in Kierkegaard’s Copenhagen and Oscar Wilde’s London. The opportunity for a social environment in which familiar people strike us, suddenly, as strangers, is the true Utopia of dandyism. This collection is like hearing Johnny Cash through the ears of brilliant aliens, who landed on our planet and saw our global culture, including drear America, for what it is: shimmering and infinite. 14
Who’s Sari Now?
Priya Tanna is the head of Indian Vogue, and from her 2007 rise to prominence in the subcontinent’s fashion universe, she’s been a figure of glamor and controversy. She was excoriated in the press last year for running a spread where homeless, toothless, skeletal Indians sported Hermes bags and Burberry umbrellas. “Lighten up,” she said. “Fashion is no longer a rich man’s privilege. Anyone can carry it off and make it look beautiful,” she told them. Despite this, she
has come to be respected as one of only a few fashion editors who shepherd Indian designers and models into a transcendence of both media culture and their own traditions. Fashion anthropologist Orla Thomas caught up with her after India Fashion Week...
Priya Tanna is the first to remind me that Indians don’t need anyone telling them how to dress. “With every passing day we are becoming bolder in our choices, we are embracing trends and Indianizing them,” says Priya. “Our culture is so strong - it’s wonderful to see how we interpret fashion, how we bring something of ourselves to it.” In a country where the gap between rich and poor still gapes wide, this individual-
ity is expressed in different ways. “Whether its women in my office, my family and friends, or Bollywood stars, I love to see how women let clothes empower them,” says Priya. “It could just be a worker on the street with a beautiful fresh gardenia in her hair; for me that’s fashion at a grassroots level.” Growing cultural confidence has produced a new wave of indigenous designers less inclined to imitate Western trends. “Go back five years and we had lots more Swarovski crystals, a lot more bling in our saris,” Priya says. “But thanks to younger designers like Gaurav Gupta and Sabyasachi Mukherjee - we’re also looking at where our Indian styles came from.” Both use exqui-
site antique embroidery in their designs, playing to their advantage in a clothing culture that has traditionally favored fabric over form. “Unlike in other countries where silhouettes play a very important role, the first fabric we played with we turned into a sari - six yards of unstitched fabric,” says Priya. This elegant but often impractical garment isn’t as ubiquitous as it once was. “In the interior of India, women are still wearing saris, but our lives here are much more stressed-out and action packed.” Even wealthy urbanites “turn to traditional Indian wear for almost every big occasion,” she says. Pitch up at an Indian wedding, or for Diwali (New Year’s) or Holi, the festival of colors, and the best-dressed will be wearing a sari, salwar, lehenga or tunic - albeit accessorized with a Chanel clutch, or a pair of Jimmy Choos.
Accessories have been Indian women’s entry point into the coveted Western brands. “South Indian gold jewelry has its own features which are very different from what you’d find up north, in Delhi, where more stones are used.” The predominance of accessories is due in part to self-consciousness over body shape. “We are slowly but surely coming out of our shell as far as our sizing is concerned,” says Priya. “On the one hand we are more accepting of our own curves, and on the other Indian women are getting fitter and more conscious of their size.” While they may have a thing or two to learn about tailoring, Indian women also have a lesson to give. “Our sari is not really a costume, like a kimono, and I don’t really see its silhouette becoming ubiquitous. But if we’ve taken beige and black from the West, we’ve certainly given them a lot of our pink and red,” says Priya. “We have taught the world how to dress with color.”
- Orla Thomas
THE OCTOBER ISSUE Vogue India debuted in October 2007
Interview by Orla Thomas She was India’s first famous model, but to some, Padma Lakshmi did not look Indian enough. Her showroom and test kitchen just opened in Manhattan, and her new jewelry line is accompanied by sumptuous Steven Miesel photography. Looking Glass talked with her about jewels, hunger, and anthropology. “Sometimes [people] would say things like ‘Well, you don’t look Indian.’” Her response was always the same: “Well, I am Indian, and I look this way – therefore Indians look this way.” Born in Kerala but raised in New York and LA, Padma mostly modelled in Europe, where, she says “definitions of beauty are much more intellectual, and much broader, than they are in America.” In the US she was an exotic presence on the pages of Vogue, Elle and In Style, a novelty among mostly white models. “It’s still rare to see a brown person on the cover of a magazine or an ‘A’ list Asian actress in Hollywood,” she points out, “although America has more than two million Indians in its population.” Padma, however, has made her presence felt, writing several cookbooks and presenting the TV cook-off Top Chef. Indian couture and cuisine share the same essential ingredients, she says. “It’s all very varied, colourful, and spicy.” 17 But Padma’s ‘Indianness’ is
complicated; informed by a lifetime living abroad. “India is where I come from so those influences stay with me wherever I go. But I think, having grown up in America, they are reinterpreted in a different way.” Clothes-wise, that means teaming Western tailoring with Indian accessories – jeans worn with Indian slippers, a dress and an embroidered shawl. “There’s nothing better than a Balanciaga or Lanvin dress paired with a stunning pair of antique earrings.” Jewelry is of “paramount importance” in Indian fashion, she says: a display of wealth in a country where prosperity has long been in short supply. But with the economy enjoying spectacular growth, an emerging elite can now afford the luxury brands. But when Padma visits India (she owns a house in the South,) she prefers to go “to the old part of Delhi, and to certain shops in Bombay that deal in antique jewelry and shawls. If I’m going to India, I’m going to buy something I can’t get here, like beautiful saris and jamovar shawls.” When it comes to new Indian designers, Padma says she is “still educating herself. They’re underrepresented, but I think that’s changing. There’s Naeem Khan, who makes beautiful dresses, and Hanut Singh – a brilliant jewellery designer who takes old pieces of local or Rajastani empirical jewellery and makes them new again.” Watching the runways at April’s India Fashion Week, Padma was struck by the Western influence, but insists the cultural exchange is very much a two-way street. “Whether it’s Madonna embracing yoga, or back in the 60s with the Beatles going to India and all that hippy fashion, it goes in cycles – India has always had its moments of ‘groovitude’.”
Africa Fashion Week showed looks from over 50 designers in this, its inaugural year. “This is Africa’s big moment. The election of U.S. President Barack Obama presents the continent and its fashion talent with a historic opportunity. First Lady Michelle Obama favors young, multicultural designers, making them overnight stars. Fashion houses in New York, London and Milan look to Africa for inspiration,” said Africa-based Arise magazine’s editor in chief, Nduka Obaigbena, Some of the exuberance of Africa Fashion Week can be harnessed when fighting the (according to Suze Menkes) “stubbornly grounded” looks that have governed the ready-to-wear collections on New York’s runways for the last few years, though it’s stylistically wrong to assume that “African-ish” offerings from European designers can achieve the same effect.
Casual wear from Mali’s Xuly Bet, one of the bright stars of this year’s Africa Fashion Week.
A recent Harper’s Bazaar essay in such “Africanism” decked Naomi Campbell in a Theirry Mugler zebra print, jumping rope with a pair of twin baboons. Though controversial, the effect of the shoot is stunningly post-race. Whoever your gods may be, the boldness of pure geometry found in African accessories gives weight and credibility to the otherwise cliched mantra “clean lines, clear sillouettes” used to justify the staleness of some brands. And can we use them as talismans to ward off the tweed craze sweeping London? Yes we can! Triangular beadwork sets off angular shoes and earrings and gives an edge to evening wear. Round beads, by contrast, accentuate the eyes, but we do not recommend combining them with the enigma of smoky eyeshadow, as African fashion connotes strength of character rather than meaningless enigma. For a more delicate look, the slender lines of Tanzanian chokerstyle necklaces are ideal, while Dogon-style spheres emphasize power and authority. 18
You just went through a breakup. Your friends tell you that this will all get better in time, but you cannot live without him / her. We think you can. Still, if you’re homesick for the Hell of unrequited love, here’s the top ten quickest ways to get back together: 10. FLAT PAYMENT - Offer your ex lover money to reconsider the breakup. Four months’ salary is considered appropriate, but six months’ is more alluring still! 9. FLOWERS - Exotic flowers, expertly chosen and arranged, can work wonders. Take a trip down to the Brazilian rain forests. Discover a new form of foliage and name it after Ex. If that doesn’t work, you may get lucky and contract a rare incurable disease which you can pass on to him or her. The medical journals will name the disease after you, and Ex’s obituary will note it as the cause of death.
tions? Try limiting the playing field. Kill every man in the whole world. Then (s) he’ll be yours-all-yours. 6. BECOME YOUR EX - Create a profile on your Ex’s favorite hookup / dating site. Use a photo of Ex as your own photo, and use the screen name: “MirrorEx.” Contact your ex using this profile, informing him or her that you are his/her conscience, and explain that the breakup was simply wrong. Imply that it is your Ex’s responsibility to stay with you until you get the mental help that you need.
change so you can afford to get your ass to the gym, get a makeover, get that goiter removed? They say money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy you some antiperspirant and MAO inhibitors. Clean yourself up there, Joe Merrick. You’re disgusting.
5. BECOME GODLIKE - Super powers are hot! Try getting some of those. That’ll 2. TIME TRAVEL - Here’s a good one: impress your old flame. But I wouldn’t Build a time machine, go back to where suggest just throwing yourself into ran- you messed it up with your ex and, you know, don’t. Problem solved? Nope. You’re still the same degenerate and you still don’t deserve him/her. But now you’ve got something else going for you. A TIME MACHINE! You’re the most INCREDIBLE BEING in the COSMOS! dom vats of acid or sticking your head in the microwave, hoping the radiation will 1. SEEK LIFE ELSEWHERE - The one make you all rad. That’s just stupid and on whom you doted was not “The One.” dangerous. Everybody knows that the Your ex was a fake. You never broke up only way to get superpowers is through with “The One” because you weren’t achard work, determination and a strict diet tually dating. Isn’t that wonderful news? of baby-marrow smoothies. So dust of that You must seek and find “The One.” There blender, Ex-Man! It’s time to hit the nurs- will come a time when you must chose eries! between the dark and mysterious lover with lots of problems and the funny, con4. WATERCOLORS - Paint watercolor siderate, plebian but somewhat attracscenes of your best memories with Ex. tive lover who gives your life stability. Leave them at Ex’s place of work, one ev- There is no right choice, but we can tell ery Friday, for a year. We assure you, this you this: “The One” will remind people works. of your mother. You won’t notice it right away, then as the years drag on, it will 3. BEGGING - Have you tried begging? Not become obvious that they’re basically the for forgiveness or a second shot. No, that’s same, and that your mother was the one pathetic. Have you tried begging for spare you were essentially trying to “get back”
‘Here’s a good one: Build a time machine’
8. REPLACE WITH FISH - It’s possible your ex is never coming back. Should this be the case, there are plenty of fish in the sea. We suggest you buy a pole, catch one of those fish and dress it up like your ex, with a wig stapled to its little fishy head. People may look at you funny when you’re caught making out with your exlover’s doppelganger in the back of a movie theater. “Icthyophile!” they’ll scream. If you do not stand up for your fish lover under this circumstance, then you are not worthy of it.
7. GENDEROCIDE - The proper strategy for getting your lover back depends on the circumstances under which s/he left you. If, for instance, s/he left you for another man, who’s to say that (s)he won’t do it again once you re-foster his/her affec-
The time is the far future... Cyberpumpkin is an RPG / fighting game designed to pit the wildest couture fashions against each other in a grisly battle to the death! The combatants scrap it out in a multi-chambered arena known as “The Ball,” and the winner achieves mastery of time and space. Ascend to prominence, if you can, in the Universe’s most sought after War Chariot: The Cyberpumpkin. OBJECT: To enter the Runway and defeat the other players in mortal combat, achieving control of the Cyberpumpkin, and mastery of time and space. EQUIPMENT: A board, a Cyberpumpkin (12-sided die), four jewell tokens, 22 cards, 16 treasure objects. Preparation: Place the game board on a flat table.
Each player then selects a jewell token and place it on the corresponding, color-coded start position. The cards should lie on a pile to the side of the board. THE PLAY: The order of play is as follows: Red, Green, Blue, and Topaz. Before getting to The Runway, each player is striving to win challenges and collect points of Relevance. For every two points of Relevance collected, the player takes one card from the pile. If a card is ever discarded, it is placed at the bottom of the pile. CHALLENGES AND TREASURES: Each player must collect the four treasures, one from each of the kingdoms: Psionic Eyeshadow from The Pastel Palace, the Knife from New Urbania, Eve’s Handbag from the Living Forest, and the Brass Wristwatch from the Desert of Menswear.
As you go about the board, you collect points of Relevance. When you land on a Challenge Space, you must complete the challenge printed on that space to collect the treasure. For every point of relevance you gain, you take one card. For every point you lose, you lose one card. The maximum amount of Relevance points you can have is 7. Combat: In combat, the number of cards you hold is your life. You and your opponent must Walk to the Death: as you would in a game of War, each player counts “1-2-3 Walk!” and sets down a card. Green cards are Trends, blue cards are Accessories, and vermillion cards are Garments. A Garment beats an Accessory, an Accessory beats a Trend, and a Trend beats a Garment. So, red beats blue, blue beats green, green beats red. The winner inherits one of the losers cards.
LARS VON TRIER
Continued from page 10
the Bible we know.” Ebert correctly identifies the looking glass world of the film, and I did not meet anyone in Europe who had misunderstood the setting as our own world. When I watched the film in Denmark, and asked audience members if they liked it, they lifted their eyebrows and said “of course.” This is a treasured Danish idea, the lookingglass Bible of Horror. The looking-glass Bible of Horror was invented by Kierkegaard in Fear and Trembling, and it was there that the reimagined Bible-as-horror took hold in the European psyche. This was the birth of depth psychology, a target of the film. The importance of bringing up Kierkegaard, or any of the other melancholy Danes, is that they privileged the intellect, though the passion of the mind is a painful one. Antichrist is about thoughts: their futility, their proper and improper use, their power as a weapon against deadly emotionalism. Thoughts, Mr. Ebert. They have those, in Denmark. Cosmo Landesman’s Times Online review is unforgivably slothful in its failure to guide the senses of the viewer to a deeper appreciation of the film, so that they can enjoy it or reject it for themselves. “Von Trier has taken the ‘horror porn’ style of mainstream films such as Saw and Hostel and rammed it into the faces of his arthouse followers. And that’s a shame, because one can see the traces of a great film buried beneath all this blood and gore. Antichrist deals with the ultimate horror story imaginable to any parent: the death of a child.” He is of course wrong, and not for the first time. If he imagines a “great film” about a married couple arguing in a kitchen is more entertaining than Antichrist, he’s either stupid or insane. The “ultimate horror” he highlights is so superficial and obvious, it could not result in a work of imagination. The horror is in Nature itself, which becomes visible to the characters once they no longer have the child to distract them from each other. Love is reimagined as a distraction from Truth. That’s the primordial terror buried within the film. Duh! The greediest of critics must be Peter Brunette: “...all the ideas of the film are so extravagantly and feverishly expressed that one fears that von Trier, always working on the edge, has finally become unhinged.” He wants more and more and more exposition. I empathize with his sin, but nature has not given us any exposition for the horrors He observes as von Trier’s Knight of Insight. 23
There is no satisfying moral or cinematic explanation for the stillborn dear hanging off the side of the living deer which bounds past us in gruesome slow motion. A scene in which a fox, disemboweling himself, mouths the words “chaos reigns” illicited laughter during the press screening at Cannes, but, even knowing the scene is coming, the moment is unnerving. It’s hard to imagine that this was somehow not a joke. One is reminded of the stage directions in Titus Andronicus in which Lavinia, whose hands have been cut off, enters with a knife between her teeth and a bowl between her stumps. There is something intentionally ironic and very funny about this bad-trip Scenes from a Marriage. Von Trier’s message may be that Hell, aside from being very real, cannot possibly be taken seriously. As von Trier himself said, “when the madness recedes, the quality of the work goes down, too.” The state of depression he has described is familiar to me--I have felt it and lived in it too, but only as a tourist. To willingly hold such a state in ones consciousness for the purpose of creating art is a huge and very noble act of sacrifice. There is no more we can ask of him. And of course, the jury is not really out on von Trier. People either love him or hate him, but there is no shortage of angry critics of his work. Lisa Schwarzbaum, of Entertainment Weekly, represents them for us. “The movie looks almost tauntingly great, of course, with von Trier’s longtime collaborator (and Slumdog Millionaire Oscar winner) Anthony Dod Mantle as cinematographer. So it’s one good-looking, publicity-grabbing provocation, with an overlay of pseudo-Christian allegory thrown in to deflect a reasonable person’s accusations of misogyny.” There’s little point to asking von Trier about misogyny. Nicole Kidman asked him to address the issue, and the answer he gave her did not satisfy her (we’re told they had screaming matches on the set of Dogville.) On to lust: “Offering the opposite of hope for anyone aspiring to recover from grief through therapy, analytical or experiential, and perhaps distantly inspired by the marital battles in Strindberg, Antichrist does not even raise the possibility of healing through religion, leaving the title to seem rather arbitrary and more than a little pretentious. Moreover, the blood-smeared sensationalism smothers what serious thoughts the script serves up in passing, just as the sexual interludes detract from the film by playing peek-a-boo and making you try to figure out what’s real and/or how it was faked.” That’s the good Mr. McCarthy, of Variety.
Mr. McCarthy’s position cannot be too well-taken as it’s unlikely a film critic qualifies as a psychotherapist. It does not seem to have occurred to him that perhaps people seeking to heal psychic trauma through religion would be better served by some other film. What heals in Antichrist isn’t religion, but horror. The film gives us an opportunity to study the beneficial effects of horror on the psyche. Again, Kierkagaard told us stories of Abraham and Isaac, set in a looking glass universe of unrelenting Despair, he correctly identified the experience of horror in a religious tale. A major component of that horror was the icky closeness of the participants, who were of course father and son. Von Trier’s own parents, committed nudists and, to all accounts, quite brilliant, provided him with a homelife less severe, but poetically related to the lives of He and She. Sexual transference is at the heart of psychoanalysis, as we have it from Freud. It is during transference that a major part of the anxiety is outside the patient and in the world. Much becomes clear, and when speaking in the throes of this condition, the patient has a clarity and a knowledge unavailable to her beforehand. The couple’s relationship is so claustrophobic, as was Abraham’s to Isaac, that transference, like love, is impossible. This is true of most of von Trier’s women. In the worlds of his films, where walls do not exist (Dogville takes place on a bare soundstage, as does its sequel, Manderlay) and boundaries are transparent, his heroines are uniquely without insight. Everyone else, though, has almost Satanic oracular power. Only when he works in the horror genre are women the knowers. The genre empowers them, as it did the hypochondriacal Drusa in The Kingdom, who can deal with the hauntings when no one else can. When I met von Trier, I did get a chance to ask him how exactly horror, in particular, helps a writer get over depression. Just as he told reporters that his experiment in curing depression hadn’t worked, he told me he didn’t think horror had any such power. “The work only, not the subject. There is nothing in the subject which can heal. But work can.” All critical defensiveness aside, Lars von Trier revels in his own sin, which is certainly pride. After I thanked him and shook his hand, he shook with shyness, but shyness is not humility. I tried to explain to his assistant that in America, we believe that he hates us. “He probably does,” she said. And regarding his quip about being the greatest film director in the world, I personally don’t believe he meant it, but I’m assured that he probably did.
LY N DA E D W A R D S
To homeless children sleeping on the street, neon is as comforting as a night-light. Angels love colored light too. After nightfall in downtown Miami, they nibble on the NationsBank building -- always drenched in a green, pink, or golden glow. “They eat light so they can fly,” eightyear-old Andre tells the children sitting on the patio of the Salvation Army’s emergency shelter on NW 38th Street. Andre explains that the angels hide in the building while they study battle maps. “There’s a lot of killing going on in Miami,” he says. “You want to fight, want to learn how to live, you got to learn the secret stories.” The small group listens intently to these tales told by homeless children in shelters. On Christmas night a year ago, God fled Heaven to escape an audacious demon attack -- a celestial Tet Offensive. The demons smashed to dust his palace of beautiful blue-moon marble. TV news kept it secret, but homeless children in shelters across the country report being awakened from troubled sleep and alerted by dead relatives. No one knows why God has never reappeared, leaving his stunned angels to defend his earthly estate against assaults from Hell. “Demons found doors to our world,” adds eight-yearold Miguel, who sits before Andre with the other children at the Salvation Army shelter. The demons’ gateways from Hell include abandoned refrigerators, mirrors, Ghost Town (the nickname shelter children have for a cemetery somewhere in Dade County), and Jeep Cherokees with “black windows.” The demons are nourished by dark human emotions: jealousy, hate, fear. One demon is feared even by Satan. In Miami shelters, children know her by two names: Bloody Mary and La Llorona (the Crying Woman). She weeps blood or black tears from ghoulish empty sockets and feeds on children’s terror. When a child is killed accidentally in gang crossfire or is murdered, she croons with joy. “If you wake at night and see her,” a ten-year-old says softly, “her clothes be blowing back, even in a room where there is no wind. And you know she’s marked you for killing.” The homeless children’s chief ally is a beautiful angel they have nicknamed the Blue Lady. She has pale blue skin and lives in the ocean, but she is hobbled by a spell. “The demons made it so she only has power if you know her secret name,” says Andre, whose mother has been through three rehabilitation programs for crack addiction. “If you and your friends on a corner on a street when a car comes shooting bullets and only one child yells out her true name, all will be safe. Even if bullets tearing your skin, the
Blue Lady makes them fall on the ground. She can talk to us, even without her name. She says: ‘Hold on.’” A blond six-year-old with a bruise above his eye, swollen huge as a ruby egg and laced with black stitches, nods his head in affirmation. “I’ve seen her,” he murmurs. A rustle of whispered Me toos ripples through the small circle of initiates. According to the Dade Homeless Trust, approximately 1800 homeless children currently find themselves bounced between the county’s various shelters and the streets. For these children, lasting bonds of friendship are impossible; nothing is permanent. A common rule among homeless parents is that everything a child owns must fit into a small plastic bag for fast packing. But during their brief stays in the shelters, children can meet and tell each other stories that get them through the harshest nights. Folktales are usually an inheritance from family or homeland. But what if you are a child enduring a continual, grueling, dangerous journey? No adult can steel such a child against the outcast’s fate: the endless slurs and snubs, the threats, the fear. What these determined children do is snatch dark and bright fragments of Halloween fables, TV news, and candy-colored Bible-story leaflets from street-corner preachers, and like birds building a nest from scraps, weave their own myths. The “secret stories” are carefully guarded knowledge, never shared with older siblings or parents for fear of being ridiculed -- or spanked for blasphemy. But their accounts of an exiled God who cannot or will not respond to human pleas as his angels wage war with Hell is, to shelter children, a plausible explanation for having no safe home, and one that engages them in an epic clash. An astute folklorist can see traces of old legends in all new inventions. For example, Yemana, a Santeria ocean goddess, resembles the Blue Lady; she is compassionate and robed in blue, though she is portrayed with white or tan skin in her worshippers’ shrines. And in the Eighties, folklorists noted references to an evil Bloody Mary -- or La Llorona, as children of Mexican migrant workers first named her -- among children of all races and economic classes. Celtic tales of revenants, visitors from the land of the dead sent to console or warn, arrived in America centuries ago. While those myths may have had some influence on shelter folklore, the tales homeless children create among themselves are novel and elaborately detailed. And they are a striking example of “polygenesis,” the folklorist’s term for the simultaneous appearance of vivid, similar tales in far-flung locales. The same overarching themes link the myths of 30 homeless children in three Dade County facilities operated by the Salvation Army -- as well as those of 44 other children
in Salvation Army emergency shelters in New Orleans, Chicago, and Oakland, California. These children, who ranged in age from six to twelve, were asked what stories, if any, they believed about Heaven and God -- but not what they learned in church. (They drew pictures for their stories with crayons and markers.) Even the parlance in Miami and elsewhere is the same. Children use the biblical term “spirit” for revenants, never “ghost” (says one local nine-year-old scornfully: “That baby word is for Casper in the cartoons, not a real thing like spirits!”). In their lexicon, they always use “demon” to denote wicked spirits. Their folklore casts them as comrades-in-arms, regardless of ethnicity (the secret stories are told and cherished by white, black, and Latin children), for the homeless youngsters see themselves as allies of the outgunned yet valiant angels in their battle against shared spiritual adversaries. For them the secret stories do more than explain the mystifying universe of the homeless; they impose meaning upon it. Virginia Hamilton, winner of a National Book Award and three Newberys (the Pulitzer Prize of children’s literature), is the only children’s author to win a MacArthur Foundation genius grant. Her best-selling books, The People Could Fly and Herstories, trace African-American folklore through the diaspora of slavery. “Folktales are the only work of beauty a displaced people can keep,” she explains. “And their power can transcend class and race lines because they address visceral questions: Why side with good when evil is clearly winning? If I am killed, how can I make my life resonate beyond the grave?” That sense of mission, writes Harvard psychologist Robert Coles in The Spiritual Life of Children, may explain why some children in crisis -- and perhaps the adults they become -- are brave, decent, and imaginative, while others more privileged can be “callous, mean-spirited, and mediocre.” The homeless child in Miami and elsewhere lives in a world where violence and death are commonplace, where it’s highly advantageous to grovel before the powerful and shun the weak, and where adult rescuers are nowhere to be found. Yet what Coles calls the “ability to grasp onto ideals larger than oneself and exert influence for good” -- a sense of mission -- is nurtured in eerie, beautiful, shelter folktales. In any group that generates its
own lege n d s -- whether in a corporate office or a remote Amazonian village -the most articulate member becomes the semiofficial teller of the tales. The same thing happens in homeless shelters, even though the population is so transient. The most verbally skilled children -- such as Andre -- impart the secret stories to new arrivals. Ensuring that their truths survive regardless of their own fate is a duty felt deeply by these children, including one ten-year-old Miami girl who, after confiding and illustrating secret stories, created a self-portrait for a visitor. She chose a gray crayon to draw a gravestone carefully inscribed with her own name and the year 1998. Here is what the secret stories say about the rules of spirit behavior: Spirits appear just as they looked when alive, even wearing favorite clothes, but they are surrounded by faint, colored light. When newly dead, the spirits’ lips move but no sound is heard. They must learn to speak across the chasm between the living and the dead. For shelter children, spirits have a unique function: providing war dispatches from the fighting angels. And like demons, once spirits have seen your face, they can always find you. Nine-year-old Phatt is living for a month in a Salvation Army shelter in northwest Dade. He and his mother became homeless after his father was arrested for drug-dealing and his mother couldn’t pay the rent with her custodial job at a fast-food restaurant. (Phatt is his nickname. The first names of all other children in this article have been used with the consent of their par-
ents o r guardi a n s . ) “There’s a river that runs through Miami. One side, called Bad Streets, the demons took over,” Phatt recounts as he sits with four homeless friends in the shelter’s playroom, which is decorated with pictures the children have drawn of homes, kittens, and hearts. “The other side the demons call Good Streets. Rich people live by a beach there. They wear diamonds and gold chains when they swim.” He explains that Satan harbors a special hatred of Miami owing to a humiliation he suffered while on an Ocean Drive reconnaissance mission. He was hunting for gateways for his demons and was scouting for nasty emotions to feed them. Satan’s trip began with an exhilarating start; he moved undetected among high-rolling South Beach clubhoppers despite the fact that his skin was, as Phatt’s friend Victoria explains, covered with scales like a “gold and silver snake.” Why didn’t the rich people notice? Eight-year-old Victoria scrunches up her face, pondering. “Well, I think maybe sometimes they’re real stupid so they get tricked,” she replies. Plus, she adds, the Devil was “wearing all that Tommy Hilfiger and smoking Newports and drinking wine that cost maybe three dollars for a big glass.” He found a large Hell door under the Colony Hotel, and just as he was offering the owner ten Mercedes-Benzes for use of the portal, he was captured by angels. “The rich people said: ‘Why are you taking our friend who buys us drinks?’” Phatt continues. “The angels tied him under the river and said: ‘See what happens when the water touch him. Just see!’” Phatt insists that his beloved cousin
(and only father figure) Ronnie, who joined the U.S. Army to escape Liberty City and was killed last year in another city, warned him about what happened next at the river. (Ronnie was gunned down on Valentine’s Day while bringing cupcakes to a party at the school where his girlfriend taught. He appeared to Phatt after that -- to congratulate him on winning a shelter spelling bee, and to show him a shortcut to his elementary school devoid of sidewalk drunks.) One night this year Phatt and his mother made a bed out of plastic grocery bags in a Miami park where junkies congregate. It was his turn to stand guard against what he calls “screamers,” packs of roaming addicts, while his mother slept. Suddenly Ronnie stood before him, dressed in his army uniform. “The Devil got loose from under the river!” Ronnie said. “The rich people didn’t stop him! The angels need soldiers.” Phatt says his dead cousin told him that as soon as water touched the Devil’s skin, it turned deep burgundy and horns grew from his head. The river itself turned to blood; ghostly screams and bones of children he had murdered floated from its depths. Just when the angels thought they had convinced Good Streets’ denizens that they were in as much danger as those in Bad Streets, Satan vanished through a secret gateway beneath the river. “Now he’s coming your way,” Ronnie warned. “You’ll need to learn how to fight.” Ronnie nodded toward the dog-eared math and spelling workbooks Phatt carries even when he can’t attend school. “Study hard,” he implored. “Stay strong and smart so’s you count on yourself, no one else. Never stop watching. Bloody Mary is coming with Satan. And she’s seen your face.” Given what the secret stories of shelter children say about the afterlife, it isn’t surprising that Ronnie appeared in his military uniform. There is no Heaven in the stories, though the children believe that dead loved ones might make it to an angels’ encampment hidden in a beautiful jungle somewhere beyond Miami. To ensure that they find it, a fresh green palm leaf (to be used as an entrance ticket) must be dropped on the beloved’s grave. This bit of folklore became an obsession for eight-year-old Miguel. His father, a Nicaraguan immigrant, worked the overnight shift at a Miami gas station. Miguel always walked down the street by himself to bring his dad a soda right before the child’s bedtime, and they’d chat. Then one night his father was murdered while on the job. Recalls Miguel: “The
police say the robbers put lit matches all over him before they killed him.” Miguel’s mother speaks no English and is illiterate. She was often paid less than two dollars per hour for the temporary jobs she could find in Little Havana (mopping shop floors, washing dishes in restaurants). After her husband’s death, she lost her apartment. No matter where Miguel’s family of three subsequently slept (a church pew, a shelter bed, a sidewalk), his father’s spirit appeared, bloodied and burning all over with tiny flames. Miguel’s teachers would catch him running out of his school in central Miami, his small fists filled with green palm leaves, determined to find his father’s grave. A social worker finally took him to the cemetery, though Miguel refused to offer her any explanation. “I need my daddy to find the fighter angels,” Miguel says from a Salvation Army facility located near Liberty City. “I’ll go there when I’m killed.” The secret stories say the angel army hides in a child’s version of an ethereal Everglades: A clear river of cold, drinkable water winds among emerald palms and grass as soft as a bed. Gigantic alligators guard the compound, promptly eating the uninvited. Says Phatt: “But they take care of a dead child’s spirit while he learns to fight. I never seen it, but yes! I know it’s out there” -- he sweeps his hand past the collapsing row of seedy motels lining the street on which the shelter is located -- “and when I do good, it makes their fighting easier. I know it! I know!” All the Miami shelter children who participated in this story were passionate in defending this myth. It is the most necessary fiction of the hopelessly abandoned -- that somewhere a distant, honorable troop is risking everything to come to the rescue, and that somehow your bravery counts. By the time homeless children reach the age of twelve, more or less, they realize that the secret stories are losing some of their power to inspire. They sadly admit there is less and less in which to believe. Twelve-year-old Leon, who often visits a Hialeah day-care center serving the homeless, has bruised-looking bags under his eyes seen normally on middleaged faces. He has been homeless for six years. Even the shelters are not safe for him because his mother, who is mentally unstable, often insists on returning to the streets on a whim, her child in tow. “I don’t think any more that things happen for some great, good God plan, or for any reason,” he says. “And I don’t know if any angels are still fighting for us.” He pauses and looks dreamily at the twilight sky above the day-care center. “I do think a person can dream the mo-
ment of his death. Sometimes I dream that when I die soon, I’ll be in some high, great place where people have time to conversate. And even if there’s no God or Heaven, it won’t be too bad for me to be there.” Research by Harvard’s Robert Coles indicates that children in crisis -- with a deathly ill parent or living in poverty -- often view God as a kind, empyrean doctor too swamped with emergencies to help. But homeless children are in straits so dire they see God as having simply disappeared. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam embrace the premise that good will triumph over evil in the end; in that respect, shelter tales are more bleakly sophisticated. “One thing I don’t believe,” says a seven-year-old who attends shelter chapels regularly, “is Judgment Day.” Not one child could imagine a God with the strength to force evildoers to face some final reckoning. Yet even though they feel that wickedness may prevail, they want to be on the side of the angels. When seven-year-old Maria is asked about the Blue Lady, she pauses. “When grownups talk about her, I think she get all upset,” Maria slowly replies. She considers a gamble, then takes a chance and leans forward, beaming: “She’s a magic lady, nice and pretty and smart! She live in the ocean and comes just to kids.” She first appeared to Maria at the deserted Freedom Tower in downtown Miami, which Maria calls “the pink haunted house.” A fierce storm was pounding Miami that night. Other homeless people who had broken in milled about the building’s interior, illuminated only by lightning. Her father was drunk. Her mother tried to stop him from eating the family’s last food: a box of saltines. “He kept hitting her and the crazy people started laughing. When I try to help her, he hit me here” -- Maria points to her forehead. “I tried to sleep so my head and stomach would stop hurting, but they kept hurting.” A blast of wind and rain shattered a window. “I was so scared. I pray out loud: Please, God, don’t punish me no more!” An older boy curled up nearby on a scrap of towel tried to soothe her. “Hurricanes ain’t God,” he said gently. “It’s Blue Lady bringing rain for the flowers.” When Maria awoke late in the night, she saw the angel with pale blue skin, blue eyes, and dark hair standing by the broken window. Her arms dripped with pink, gold, and white flowers. “She smiled,” Maria says, her dark eyes wide with amazement. “My head was hurting, but she touched it and her hand was cool like ice. She say she’s my friend always. That’s why she learned me the hard song.” The song is complex and strange for such a young child; its theme is the mystery of destiny and will. When Maria heard a church choir sing it, she loved it, but the words were too complicated. “Then the Blue Lady sang it to me,” she recalls. “She said it’ll help me grow up good, not like daddy.” 27
Maria’s voice begins shakily, then becomes more assured: “If you believe within your heart you’ll know/that no one can change the path that you must go./ Believe what you feel and you’ll know you’re right because/when love finally comes around, you can say it’s yours./ Believe you can change what you see!/ Believe you can act, not just feel!/You have a brain!/You have a heart!/You have the courage to last your life!/Please believe in yourself as I believe in you!” As she soars to a finish, Maria suddenly realizes how much that she’s revealed to a stranger: “I told the secret story and the Blue Lady isn’t mad!” She’s awash with relief. “Even if my mom say we sleep in the bus station when we leave the shelter, Blue Lady will find us. She’s seen my face.” Sheltzr children often depict the Blue Lady in their drawings as blasting demons and gangbangers with a pistol. But the secret stories say that she cannot take action unless her real name -- which no one knows -- is called out. The children accept that. What they count on her for is love, though they fear that abstract love won’t be enough to withstand an evil they believe is relentless and real. The evil is like a dark ocean waiting to engulf them, as illustrated by a secret story related by three different girls in separate Miami homeless facilities. It is a story told only by and to homeless girls, and it explains how the dreaded Bloody Mary can invade souls. Ten-year-old Otius, dressed in a pink flowered dress, leads a visitor by the hand away from four small boys who are sitting in a shelter dining room snacking on pizza and fruit juice. “Every girl in the shelters knows if you tell this story to a boy, your best friend will die!” she says with a shiver. When the boys try to sneak up behind her, she refuses to speak until they return to their places. She begins: “Some girls with no home feel claws scratching under the skin on their arms. Their hand looks like red fire. It’s Bloody Mary dragging them in for slaves -- to be in gangs, be crackheads. But every 1000 girls with no home, is a Special One. When Bloody Mary comes, the girl is so smart and brave, a strange thing happens.” Bloody Mary disappears, she says, then a pretty, luminous face glows for a moment in the dark. The girl has glimpsed what Bloody Mary looked like before she became wicked. “The Special One,” Otius continues, “is somebody Bloody Mary is scared of because she be so good, people watch her for what to do. And if she dies, she will die good. “Boys always brag what they can do, but this is the job of girls and -- I wish maybe I were a Special One,” Otius says wistfully. “Maybe one of my friends from the shelters are now. I’ll never see them again -- so’s I guess I never know.” Her name was first spoken in hushed tones among children all over America
nearly twenty years ago. Even in Sweden folklorists reported Bloody Mary’s fame. Children of all races and classes told of the hideous demon conjured by chanting her name before a mirror in a pitch-dark room. (In Miami shelters, the mirror must be coated with ocean water, a theft from the Blue Lady’s domain.) And when she crashes through the glass, she mutilates children before killing them. Bloody Mary is depicted in Miami kids’ drawings with a red rosary that, the secret stories say, she uses as a weapon, striking children across the face. Folklorists were so mystified by the Bloody Mary polygenesis, and the common element of using a mirror to conjure her, that they consulted medical literature for clues. Bill Ellis, a folklorist and professor of American studies at Penn State University, puzzled over a 1968 Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease article describing an experiment testing the theory that schizophrenics are prone to see hallucinations in reflected surfaces. The research showed that the control group of nonpsychotic people reported seeing vague, horrible faces in a mirror after staring at it for twenty minutes in a dim room. But that optical trick the brain plays was merely a partial explanation for the children’s legend. “Whenever you ask children where they first heard one of their myths, you get answers that are impossible clues: ‘A friend’s friend read it in a paper; a third cousin told me,’” says Ellis, an authority on children’s folklore, particularly that concerning the supernatural. As president of the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research, he’s become an expert on polygenesis. “When a child says he got the story from the spirit world, as homeless children do, you’ve hit the ultimate non sequitur.” Folklorists have not discovered a detailed explanation for Bloody Mary’s ravenous hatred of children, or her true identity. Today, however, shelter children say they’ve discovered her secret mission, as well as her true name. All of the secret stories about her enclose hints. In Chicago shelters, children tell of her role in the death of eleven-year-old Robert Sandifer, who shot an innocent fourteen-year-old schoolgirl he mistook for an enemy. Cops combed the streets, shaking down gangbangers. In desperation Sandifer’s gang turned to the one who could save them from justice. They sat in a dark room before a mirror and chanted, “Bloody Mary.” The wall glowed like flames. A female demon weeping black tears appeared. Without speaking, she communicated a strategy. That night, realizing his gang was going to kill him, Sandifer ran through his neighborhood, knocking on doors. “Like
baby Jesus in Bethlehem -- except he was bad,” explained an eleven-year-old at a Chicago homeless shelter. The next morning police found Sandifer’s body, shot through the head, in a tunnel. According to the eleven-year-old, the boy was “lying on a bed of broken glass.” Bloody Mary commands legions. She can insinuate herself into the heart of whomever children trust most: a parent or a best friend. Miami shelter children say they learned about that from television. Salvation Army shelters offer parlors with couches, magazines, and a television. While their mothers play cards and do each other’s hair, the children carefully study the TV news. They know how four-year-old Kendia Lockhart died in North Dade, allegedly beaten to death and burned by her father. Bloody Mary was hunting Kendia, shelter children agree. “Gangsters say that God stories are like Chinese fairy tales,” observes twelve-year-old Deion at a downtown Miami Salvation Army shelter. “But even gangs think Bloody Mary is real.” This is the secret story shelter children will tell only in hushed voices, for it reveals Bloody Mary’s mystery: God’s final days before his disappearance were a waking dream. There were so many crises on Earth that he never slept. Angels reported rumors of Bloody Mary’s pact with Satan: She had killed her own child and had made a secret vow to kill all
human children. All night God listened as frantic prayers bombarded him. Images of earthly lives flowed across his palace wall like shadows while he heard gunfire, music, laughing, crying from all over Earth. And then one night Bloody Mary roared over the walls of Heaven with an army from Hell. God didn’t just flee from the demons, he went crazy with grief over who led them. Bloody Mary, some homeless children say the spirits have told them, was Jesus Christ’s mother. “No one believe us! But it’s true! It’s true!” cries Andre at the Salvation Army shelter on NW 38th Street. “It mean there’s no one left in the sky watching us but demons.” His friends sitting on the shelter patio chime in with Bloody Mary sightings: She flew shrieking over Charles Drew Elementary School. She stalks through Little Haiti, invisible to police cars. “I know a boy who learned to sleep with his eyes open, but she burned through a shelter wall to get him!” a sevenyear-old boy says. “When the people found him, he was all red with blood. Don’t matter if you’re good, don’t matter if you’re smart. You got to be careful! If she see you, she can hunt you forever. She’s in Miami! And she knows our face.
DEAD, IN TRANSYLVANIA Continued from page 4
Dumbrava forest is deep, and the town whose name matched the police report, very small (a police force of two). We find a ditch, which one could also call a stream. And a spot on the ground, where it appeared a body had been dragged. Me, my guide, and a hitchhiker we picked up talk amongs ourselves and ask what could have happened. What if Jason were gay? I ask. Ahhhh, now it all makes sense. That explains everything, they assure me. No need to take his wallet. Just dump him. After we drop the hitchhiker off, I am unable to persuade my guide to let me download the photos directly. For 20 Euros, he will email them to me. I give him 20 Euros and my email address, expecting never to see the photos, and I never do. Jason’s friends and supporters wrote letters to Ken Goodson, the country director of Peace Corps Romania and the youngest person in that office working in the Corps. The letters expressed long experience with Jason’s competence and sympathy with his ordeal, but Goodson did not reply to Jason via email. He called him and, according to Jason, said “If I’d known you were going to use your time in Sibiu to fight this decision, I would have asked you to come to Bucharest sooner.” He either didn’t believe Jason’s story, or simply couldn’t allow any of his volunteers to be the victim of a hate crime. Or both. The general word was, he just had a lot to prove. Jason had been warned: “He’ll act like he’s your best friend,” said a co-worker of Goodson’s from his days as the PC country director for Mongolia. Bradley (not his real name) is a teacher in Sibiu. He is the only Peace Corps representative remaining there. It used to be just him and Jason. I ask Bradley if the Corps was finished in Transylvania. He shrugged, said this year, or maybe next year, they’ll be phased out. I asked him why Halloween night was so dead here? The Corps has banned Halloween parties. Something about a disaster at Bran castle. Somebody smoked so much pot he raped a girl. Or something. Bradley wouldn’t really comment on weather he believed that story or not. To prepare for the influx of tourists wanting to see what the Transylvanian Capital of the New Europe was like, Sibiu erected, in its town square, cheap-looking plywood “sculptures” that represented the five senses. Television screens, attached, broadcast (remotely) pertinent images and verbal snippets. There was a statue, also, a jellyfish-like creature. Colored lights shaped letters on its form: “I can talk!” they said. We tried to talk to it, but it wouldn’t talk back. The lights on its head told us to come back at nighttime. But it was nighttime. We left. Bradley teaches English. He’d just taught his students about similes. He’d asked them to start a sentence with “Romania is like…” and all the responses were negative: “Romania is like hell.” He balked at first, but the trend was so interesting, he stopped asking his students to keep it on the sunny side. Nobody liked their country. “Romania is like a shit car with four flat tires.”; “Romania is like a black hole.” And: “Romania is like the food left on the plate that nobody will throw away.” He walked me to my train. The investigation was over. The American dream is easy to understand, but the European dream is not. The festival in Transylvania, which could not brook the anarchic Herschel and his cast, is a metaphor for Europe in general, simply assimilating troubled countries rather than pretending to sympathize with their problems. Europe seems to eradicate dark mysteries with glitter. This is more effective than the pseudo-anthropological “appreciative inquiry” by which America has always disguised its silly nosiness. Many of the EU’s Rococo absurdities (the jellyfish, et al) are willful distractions from their enlargement process. And why would anyone want to keep European enlargement in check? Is there something we should know? What are we trying to remember? I am in Brasov on All Soul’s Night; I am a stone’s throw from the Black Church. Jason is talking with me, online. He’s thanking me for finding the stream, if I really did find it. But, he says, it doesn’t help him much. I’m actually not paying attention to him. I’m reading. “Our Peace Corps is not designed as an instrument of diplomacy or propaganda. . . It is designed to permit our people to exercise more fully their responsibilities in the great common cause of world development,” he said. The President’s words are so simple, they seem noble. Kennedy’s America was less than a dream, but more than a lie. It was the whim of a brilliant child.
Nigeria’s film industry is the world’s third largest
, and its famous horror movies are typically made for between $9,000 and $15,000. Since the 1992 VHS release of the Nollywood classic, Living in Bondage, which was distributed in response to Nigerian movie theaters closing early due to rampant street crime, Nollywood’s plots have varied little. The occult intrudes on the already dark world of AIDS, corrupt police officers, and unworkable love affairs, and dreadful things happen to everybody.
Photographer Pieter Hugo, whose new book has just been released, originally found Nollywood films annoyingly ubiquitous when he was working in Nigeria: every bar played them at full volume. But of course, once he caught on to their unique and important aesthetic, he decided to photgraph the culture of Nollywood. Initially, it wasnâ€™t working. Then, he stopped trying to photograph them as one would photograph a documentary, and photographed the characters instead of the actors and crew, and the archetypes popped into colorful focus.
“I can certainly throw out some observation about the process of creating which may be of use. Firstly, it’s the best and the worst of worlds, because the only fuel you have to make the fire blaze on the page / screen is the stuff of your own being. An artist consumes his or herself in the act of making art. I can feel that consumption even now, sitting here at my desk at the end of a working day. In order to generate the ideas that I have set on the page for the last 10 or 11 hours I have burned the fuel of my own history. This is, obviously a double-edged sword. In order to give, the artist must take from himself. That’s the deal. And it’s very important to me that the work I do is the best I can make it, because I know what is being burned up to create. As the villain of Sacrament says: ‘living and dying, we feed the fire.’”
“I never, ever got up in the morning and thought, ‘Boy, I want to be Stephen King.’ I never got up in the morning and thought, ‘Boy, I want to be Edgar Allan Poe,’ all I wanted to do was be sane.”
“Poe is an artist who paints with a very limited and very dark palette, whereas I don’t. I’m much closer in my aesthetic affections to Hieronymous Bosch, in that there’s a lot of life and color in my work. Even in the Books of Blood I was trying to do the reverse of what Poe did and open things up aesthetically.” “I think that anime, certainly as far as the West is concerned, anime has not been even remotely used, exploited as a genuine source of horror filmmaking. Obviously in Japan it has been, though the tongue has often been close to the cheek in Japanese anime. I think there’s a real case for making really, really dark, spectacular horror movies in anime form because many of the stories - In The Hills, The Cities would certainly be an example - but there’s a story called The Skins Of The Fathers, for example, which is a sort of Lovecraftian story from The Books of Blood which again requires huge monsters; sort of Cthulhu-sized monsters, which is inconceiveable as a live-action movie but would be wonderful as an anime.” “There are amazing talents out there who are still doing, I think, ground breaking work. Guillermo’s work is challenging intellectually and emotionally. Pan’s Labyrinth contains some of the most viscerally distressing material - the wound in the face thing. One of the things del Toro has brilliantly been able to do is synthesise the fantastic with something about the history of his country and his own autobiography. I don’t think there’s so much of that in American filmmaking, or indeed I have to say English filmmaking, and I wish there was more of it...” “It actually is Moby Dick that I constantly go back to when I’m looking for inspiration, when I’m looking for inspiration, when I’m looking for that little push of a voice of true genius speaking in layers saying, ‘Barker, you’re not a genius but you’re good enough to have a try.’ It’s Melville I always go to, it’s Moby Dick, in his own words, his ‘homemade quilt of a book.’” -www.clivebarker.info
Clive Barker’s most underrated work remains his play, Colossus, about the painter Francisco Goya. In it, we see Barker’s muse (primordial chaos) not in his love of the grotesque, but in his reinvention of the biographical drama: the play is structured around images, and the birth of images, rather than (as he pointed out) the entrances and exits of myriad historical figures. Though the novella The Hellbound Heart and the sprawling masterpiece Weaveworld both exemplify his devotion to the horror genre, the latter, more than the former, is the real Barker. His mode is visionary. If the canon of quotations above does not give you an idea of the real Clive, it is because he is beyond even his own understanding. Our traditions choose us, we do not choose them, and Barker is a mystic, more than a novelist. His work is the redefinition of Hell as a part of Heaven, and as a part of our human inheritance to treasure rather than shun. That said, his Abarat series has begun to make demands on his psyche that even he may not be equipped to handle: grimoires within tomes within chapters, and whole epics of poetry woven into the ostensibly “young adult” narrative make the series more occult library than trilogy. It will be some time before we can understand just what it is he has given us. He may be dead by then. The intense synesthesia of Barker’s work can be better appreciated by a trip to the Bert Green gallery in Los Angeles this month or next, to see his photography show “Imagining Man,” through December 19th.
Goth is coming back, and this time it’s real. Looking Glass invites you to consult our three witches, whose musical sorceries range from bloodthirsty warcries to dryadic nocturnes. These are the women who belong on your mixtape. No one else. Just these three...
LG AUSTRIA: Aja Plaschg Moment of Greatness: Spiracle At a Cathedral in Linz, the talented and severe Aja Plaschg performed with her usual, terrifying mercilessness. Our eye-and-ear witness to this sorcery preferred to remain nameless, but here’s what he told us (and he’s not happy we’re quoting him): “She’s very young, and she’s very small, but she knows exactly what she’s doing. I don’t think it’s an act. I think she’s actually damaged. “When she first appeared and began to play she seemed unbelievably tiny, and so timid. Photography was technically only allowed for the first three songs, and during that time she was swarmed. It was troubling to see. Grotesque. She seemed like she was trying to ignore it, but then everything changed. Within a few short moments it became very, very clear that she was in absolute control. The entire cathedral went silent. I can’t ever recall having seen something like that happen during a performance before. She was actually frightening. At first, it was because she seemed so prepared to use her vulnerability as a weapon, but then it became something else. At the start of “Brother of Sleep” she abruptly stood up and wandered off into the audience. Only the choir of the cathedral was lit, so one couldn’t see where she’d gone. She reappeared, half chanting, half mumbling in the midst of the crowd before returning to the stage and just pounding away on the piano in this brilliant red light. It sounds horrifically cliched, but it was difficult to breathe while watching her. “She’s presenting herself for maximum effect, but it’s more channelling than invention or contrivance. I think that she hates her audience. She did an encore, and made us work harder for it than any other act I can recall. She pulled a young woman out of the audience without a word and did a cover of “Afraid.” The real finale was that we clamored in the dark for what seemed like ages for a second encore before the lights finally came up and we just had to get the hell out. CANADA: Katie Stelmanis Moment of Greatness: Believe Me (watch the mindblowing video on YouTube) LGM: Your voice is getting more famous every week--do you consider it the most powerful weapon in your arsenal? KS: I think my voice is my most
powerful weapon. That is the one thing I am completely confident with. I am constantly working to make it better and everything else comes second. Especially lyrics. If I had it my way, I would never have to write them, but unfortunately it’s all part of the package. LGM: So all that ambiguity isn’t intentional? KS: I really like the ambiguity. I usually don’t write words with hidden meanings in mind, they usually come about after. For me, its generally about the way words sound or can be sung in a way that compliments the melody. It’s a difficult chore. If it wasn’t for a recording, I would probably change the words every time I sang a song. LGM: Your music isn’t easy to classify at all. Have you gone to any great pains to make it so difficult to categorize? KS: I have never intentionally made music that does not fit into a genre. In fact, I often try to make it fit more into one specific genre so that it might be easier for people to understand, but my efforts are not always successful. I have my influences and they make sense to me. LGM: And who are they? KS: My parents, big time, for introducing me to lots of good music at a young age: KD Lang, Kate Bush, Frank Zappa, etc.. My greatest inspirations among my friends are the people. I am constantly inspired by my friends and my peers… bands like Diamond Rings, Ohbijou, Emma McKenna and even Final Fantasy and Fucked Up. So much greatness in Toronto! LGM: “Believe Me” is so intense. Is the hero of that story saying, “Believe me, there are witches in the world,” or is she saying, “Believe me, I’m not a witch”? KS: “Believe me, there are witches.” This idea wasn’t the initial intention of the song, but my video artist, Jesi the Elder, interpreted it this way and her work has made the song even better I think. My gothic influence has decreased a lot over the years, but I guess it’s pretty apparent in my music video. LGM: But goth is coming back. Are you the one bringing it back? KS: I like that, I’m totally into bringing it back. I was pretty goth when I first started. It wasn’t really coming back then, but I’ve always been into it. LGM: That comes across, a bit, in the way your style is reminiscent of opera.
KS: When I started making music, opera was my foremost influence. I love the construction of an aria and, the idea of telling a story through music. Pop songs today really are just arias, so using that as a template for writing music wasn’t hard to do. I am also supremely influenced by the opera singers themselves, I love the theatrics involved in the productions and the emphasis on the voice. Because of my strong singing background I find I am very critical of most pop singers, or people in bands. It’s generally a deal breaker for me. LGM: But you did have a significant amount of classical training? KS: I was supposed to go to McGill, but I changed my mind at the last minute to U of T. I left the U of T music program after a week. It’s not something I am particularly proud of, I just didn’t see how it would be possible for me to work, pay rent, go to school and write music so I removed the one I deemed as the least important from my life. LGM: What’s it like touring with CocoRosie? KS: Touring with CocoRosie has been a great great pleasure. My band and I love them more every day, and we are all totally inspired by their performances. I like that the live show is very different from the record, and I see a lot of operatic influence in their work as well. LGM: How are they influencing you? KS: They love costumes, projections, and creating a whole world on stage that people want to be a part of. This is my goal as well eventually once we have more freedom with our performances. LGM: Where can we find some of your older industrial stuff? KS: Nowhere, I guess. SWEDEN: Karin Dreijer Andersson (Fever Ray) Moment of Greatness: Keep the Streets Empty for Me The Knife frontwoman’s solo act can be bettered only by her opera, the ingenious Tomorrow, in a Year, based on Darwin’s Origin of Species, which she composed with her brother.
has been made of the undead this Fall, so much that we might forget a danger greater than the wispy blood-drinking esthetes who haunt cheesy nightclubs and forgettable suburbs. Werewolves are about. And in the Dominican Republic, they have terrorized the countryside for centuries. In recent years, though, they may have met their match in fierce huntress and anthropologist Robin Derby. “I was really intrigued by this particular place because I’d done this earlier project in which I located a healer--they killed him. They thought he was a bocor, a sorcerer. Shapeshifters, they believe, are created by a bocor.” Though she has not said so herself, her methods of finding bacas and bocors are arguably more sophisticated than that of many locals. “Anybody who makes more money than anyone else in the family must have had a baca,” she explained. She has been gathering folklore in this region and aims
to create a more comprehensive and complete analysis of the true nature and meaning of the phenomenon of shapeshifters. In the late 80s, Ken De Pree’s flippant but colorfully researched Beware the Baca was the only tome a lay person could depend upon if he wanted to undertake the dangerous sport of werewolf hunting on his next trip to the DR. But after Derby’s work is complete, we’re likely to have more, not less, to fear. Though a committed social scientist and a woman of great intelligence and reason, Derby has found the country more haunted than even she could have expected. She told us about bulls with golden teeth, the garden variety werewolf, a dominatrix who turns her victims into beef (although that tale is Haitian) and she even told us about... were-trees? “[They’re] the culture of wood sprites and elves in the forests, those baca. Now what happens to all these wood sprites and elves when the forest disappears?” They get pissed off and start terrorizing people, that’s what. “In one story a healer was riding his motorcycle back from San Juan and there was this enormous piece of wood on the ground blocking his way. Where did this piece of wood come from? The DR is really deforested, so he saw this piece of wood as something demonic. So he thought maybe the piece of wood itself is a baca .” These fascinating digressions aside, the major kind of
shapeshifter in the Dominican Republic remains the wereboar. “This feral economy of farmers who basically were wild meat collectors, and they gathered different crops and the most beloved creole staples, all these different crops which were collected and werent planted --this was the economy of a people who were constantly on the move, like runaway slaves in our history.” There is evidence of cryptomnesia in many baca stories, simply because the retelling illustrates the fading memories of a lost species. One of Derby’s subjects described a feature of the boars’ whiskers that was only present on the species of boar eradicated by the US Government in 1979. “There was a different species of boar that was slaughtered in 1979 when our government forced them to slaughter all their pigs due to a flu epidemic. These are memories in a way, of a lost ecology. I’m very intrigued by the connection between the were-creatures and lost memory.” Derby is still hesitant to draw conclusions, as her work is ongoing. “I still have some work to do in determining how to think about this form of memorialization.” We recommend this sport, and upcoming months are perfect for a trip to the DR, with plane fare priced around 350 from most locations in the US. Send Alice your stories (alice@lookingglassmagazine. com) and we’ll all put our heads together and get to the bottom of the werewolf situation.
he West Side home of Dr. Stanley Burns houses his ophthalmology practice, and the legendary Burns Archive of medical and crime scene photography. In the house, cheerful yellow walls are hung with framed, moribund images. Here and there the work of Alice Dana, the dark archivist’s significant other, tries to brighten the disquieting collection and infiniteseeming gallery. Alice shoots flowers, insects, and colorful living things, but the collection of over 700,000 vintage photographs depicts mostly death, disease, and violence. “The greatest advances of the 20th century came out of medicine. The greatest detriments came out of law, and a concern for human rights that far overwhelms community rights and common sense,” he says. But his collection of 19th century medical photography offers more than than a reminder of how far we’ve come. When medicine was younger and diseases bloomed more terribly, he explained, we could recognize them at once for what they were. Today, they are more difficult to identify, as medicine is stronger, and the ailments are more completely blocked out.
What is the most frightening picture in your collection? This is a mother who killed her children because her husband was really a son of a bitch. She tried to kill him. He lived, everyone else died. They tried to suppress these photographs. And they wouldn’t show these photos today, because they might emotionalize the jury. Right, but they should. The problem is, no one actually sees what a crime scene looks like. There are lawyers who want to prevent a jury from seeing a crime scene. If you could perpetrate such an event, then there’s really something wrong with you. I went to school at Syracuse where we had Thomas Zaas who wrote
The Myth of Mental Illness. It shouldn’t be an excuse because “normal” people don’t do this. If you do this act, temporarily insane or not, you’re guilty. Most people are born bad, and they have to be socialized. All you have to do is look at two year olds, look at bullies... you have to be socialized. You never hear a mother yelling at a two year old in the park to stop sharing his toys. Do these images disturb you today, or are you a little numb to them? When it comes to the mothers and babies, and some of the deformed children, as a doctor it’s hard to see this kind of existence. We’ve come so far. Many people believe in aborting these kinds of fetuses, and many people don’t. I stay out of it, I try to represent an even-handed view. Germans to this day purposely scar their face, as members of an elite class. These are physicians. Would you mind if I just... sliced your face up with a razor blade? Imagine a culture where the final act of your acceptance into the upper classes is to have your face cut up. This guy has his face held together with hemostats. I just had a German official here. I shouldn’t say who. I was talking to this distinguished
German person, in the government, and he said “I hate to say this but in my town, once a year, we have these duels so that a person can get scarred.” If you didn’t see it in photography, you’d never read about it. You’d never know. These are the kinds of books I do. These are the hidden histories, you can only see it through photography. Look how happy everyone is in this picture. See, they have surgeons there with their bowls after every duel. They don’t stitch it back. They let it stay and scar. He’s got to have a lot of pain, these other people are pointing. I can see joy there. 36
I don’t see joy, I see resoultion: “I’ve done it, I’ve succeeded.” I’ve looked at 100 pictures like this, in some of them everyone’s happy, everyone’s smiling, even with blood coming down their faces. This is German culture. If I could do that to my face, what could I do to yours?
Do you ever get an email from a person and you just can’t respond, the motivation is all wrong? I don’t get those e m a i l s , I g e t appreciative emails. Here’s one he received on June 19th, 2009... ...I bought your book shortly after my mother passed away. I lost my unborn child three years after mom’s death and found the postmortem photographs very helpful and comforting during my grief period. It was so helpful to see the faces of others who knew exactly how I felt and knew what I was going through; especially since most people feel uncomfortable and do not know what to say concerning the subject of death. I’m very grateful that the book was released, because it made me feel less alone. What is your favorite method of population control? Vasectomy
those with too many children. There’s gotta be a number, like five. Five’s a lot. If I had five children, I couldn’t buy photographs. Ethical people live within their means. Unethical people don’t. When you hear a story about the photography from Abu Ghraib and pictures that are withheld, what’s your reaction to it? Should pictures like that be made public, or is it too soon?
In exposing the full picture, usually someone has an agenda. The problem is that most people don’t look for all the evidence. They have an attention span of ten
seconds, if that. It usually takes about 100 years for the truth to be known. Now that Lindbergh is gone, and Anne Morrow is gone, we know that he had three other 37
wives and thirteen children in Germany. We found out about Roosevelt 60 years later, 60 years is usually the turning point. You’d be getting propaganda from the person who’s issuing the photograph, the person who’s writing about it. Eddie Adams took that picture of the Saigon Lieutenant colnol shooting a sniper in the head. Well, that sniper had just killed an entire family, and Eddie spent his life trying to rectify what the photograph was used for. It was sold in America and became an anti-war photograph, but what would you do with a sniper who’d just walked into a house and killed the entire family? What is the place of the image, and of photography, in 21st century war? World
journalists and photographers were not allowed to record the war, so when you see any books or any photographs of World War I, you won’t see any real photojournalism. During World War II, President Roosevelt allowed the showing of a picture of three Americans who were dead on the beach, and he did that because he felt the country was becoming too complacent in its concept of victory-there’s nothing that angers the public more than showing dead fellow citizens. I don’t know how much of that is going on now. In Vietnam of course, everyone was everywhere. Today, everything is very legal. It’s becoming as dictated as police procedure. You have no leeway, it’s up to the nation’s consciousness. There’s less reality. All that started with guided missile warfare. Has that made the world better or worse?
It’s going to make the world better. There’s only one problem in the world today.
What’s that? Too many people.
Hi, my name is Roy, and I’m a Workaholic. It started with only 45 hours a week. As you all know 45 becomes 50; 50 leads to an unwanted promotion, and it’s a terminal cascade to 60. I recently went, against my will, to a “Results Production” workshop, one of those “Who Moved the Cheese” corporate training sessions that are supposed to “inspire success” and “encourage team building.” Intuition was the presenter’s buzzword of the day. Everything was related back to “trusting your gut.” We were subjected to asinine games and exercises intended to “free out minds” of preconceived notions and toward the end of the workshop, the presenter hung up a timeline that was intended to represent the historical evolution of our species’ approach to problem solving. Instinct was at the contemporary end of her linear spectrum, Divination on the other. She bulletted Stones, Bones, and Entrails. As an off-and-on student of mysticism, I was disappointed to see sortilege grouped with augury. They are very different sciences. Sortilege (stones) uses a closed system to investigate the world like an ophthalmologist’s photopter gauges depth perception, while augury (birds) and extispicy (entrails) explore the nature of an open system by examining its variations in relation to the other parts of the system. She remarked them both as “archaically flawed approaches to critical thought.” When she mentioned the reading of entrails her face contorted; she explained extisipicy as “a barbarous action perpetuated by the ruling casts as a method for evoking favor from their bloodthirsty gods.” These words made me burn. I will say now what I should have said then. In the interest of “keeping our minds open,” I would like to give voice to an alternative perspective. When we first developed language, our most revered tales were those of conflict between predator and prey. When we lived closer to the land we had to work hard to take care of our needs, we had to take extreme risks in order to ensure our continued survival. When our early ancestors would fell a beast, they would sing its praises. Now I don’t know how many of you have ever hunted your own food, but after you put that much work into something, you’re going to use as much of it as you can. I propose that it was the art of butchery that gave way to the primitive roots of scientific autopsy. You ever seen a TV cop drama? If you have, you know how much forensics can tell us by examining a cadaver. Our ancestors could tell the intensity of the
coming winter by the thickness of fur and fat. They could see blight and pestilence in the liver and stomach and I bet you that if you knew that black splotches on the intestinal wall meant the animal was diseased you wouldn’t feed it to your kids… In our modern consumer driven world, we no longer inspect the health of our animals as thoroughly, in fact we make them cannibals and poison ourselves with prions. We feed then high fat corn and other modified foods to inflate our yield. We are so focused on our quarterly earnings in the business of agriculture that we sacrifice sustainable growth. There is no denying the clear correlation between this attitude in farm owners and the sub prime mortgage crisis. There is no denying that the entrails of our badly fed livestock would have indicated, and correctly, the future of our economy. I wouldn’t object to a haruspex observing my meats preparation. I would trust that gut. I propose that it was because “primitives” used intuition to observe the patterns in the natural world that we discovered one the first medical sciences: Pathology. The “hobby” of the butcher became the system of animal anatomy itself, and ceased to be the supernatural “meaning” of the anomolies in the entrails. This is where we look at both the micro and macro layers of a whole living system and seek the patterns that emerge--but though it marks the beginning of pathology it marks also the death of intuition. The pathological model is less accurate in its representation of the human mind. Our ancestors perceived time as a cyclical form not a linear one. The cyclical model accommodates for the function sequence to be iterated. A primitive man might have said: “Me move forward by repeating cycle: And as Ben Bernanke said, it is the credit crunch that made the Great Depression so much worse than it should have been, a neurosis that is being repeated today, again, because of a mistrust of the intuitive sense that would recognize a cycle and work through it. What is this neurosis but a failure to recognize the cycle of boom and recession for what it is, to read the coming winter in our very bodies? Haruspecies knew something we don’t. I do mergers. I do buyouts. I do aquisitions. When corporate beasts duel to the death the victor devours the defeated. I am the
beast’s butcher. Well and bitterly I know the prophesies within its guts. It astonishes me that we don’t think to teach chaos theory to finance students along with their statistics curriculum. Nor is it any coincidence that health care, the maintenance of guts, will come and make our guts more healthy. If that happens, the economy will improve. How could it be otherwise? And a reading of our guts would prove it!” We had the tools to see this disaster coming. We clung to impractical conventions and continued to teach the value of the model over the significance world that it quantifies. We were pathologists, not oracles, and we were wrong. Maybe that’s only because our knowledge of finance, whose laws, as Neal Stpehenson said, are “darker than alchemy” is in the same stage chemistry was when it was called alchemy. There is a terrible arrogance to wearing a suit and pontificating about what is monetarily safe and what is not, as if money came first and the world second. The world is not the product of money. Money is the product of the world.