japonisme: 11/27/11 - 12/4/11

03 December 2011

he read a book!


(click Jimmy's photo to hear him sing this song!) ...... Jimmy Durante

When I look back through life I find,
Lots of memories remain,
Certain days stay in my mind
And keep running through my brain,
I remember the day that Ederle swam the channel, what a splash.
I remember the Wall St. Crash
Or when Winchell first shouted, “Flash!”
But there’s one day that I recall though it was years ago.
All my life I will remember it, I know.

I'll never forget the day I read a book.
It was contagious, seventy pages.
There were pictures here and there,
So it wasn't hard to bear,
The day I read a book.
It's a shame I don't recall the name of the book.
It wasn't a history, I know, because it had no plot.
It wasn't a mystery, because nobody there got shot.
The day I read a book. I can't remember when,
But one o' these days, I'm gonna do it again.

Ah, lit'rature!
There's nothin' like sittin' home next to the fireplace, with a pipe, a dog, and a good book at your feet.
But if you walk into my house, you’ll see loads of books.
And believe they are not there just for appearance.
I press an awful lot of butterflies.
My literary appetite is “stupendious.”
They don’t write them quick enough for me.
The book of the month didn’t come out fast enough,

So I read the book of the week!
The book of the week didn’t come out fast enough,
So I read the book of the day!
The book of the hour!
The book of the minute!
But that wasn’t even fast enough.
So far this week I’ve read six books that haven’t been written yet!
But I’m not confined to home reading.
I once spent two weeks in library.
I would have been outta there sooner,
But I had buried my nose in a book and forgot which book I buried it in!
A “dilemmia.”

Why on the first page of this book they printed the author’s name,
And right underneath it was a private phone number.
But I’m gonna send it back.
I’ve been dialing that number for four months
and nobody has answered.
Nevertheless, while perusing through the library,
I found the tract that I was looking for.
It wasn’t the Encyclopedia “Britannia”!
It wasn’t Ferverum Briago.
It was a book that was 3,857 pages thick.
And I’m glad I took it!
It fit perfectly under the short leg of my pool table!

It was not a history, I know because it had no plot.
It wasn't a mystery, because nobody there got shot.
The day I read a book.
I can't remember when,
But one o' these days,

I'm gonna do it again.
Yes, and one of these days,
I’m gonna do it again!

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01 December 2011

desire, the body, and the gaze

"In the years immediately after World War I, several impulses within the German modern dance movement attempted to present the nude body
as a sign of a modern, liberated identity “in the age of mechanical reproduction." Congruent with the appearance of the Nackttanz, or nude dancing, was the discovery, one might say, of modern relations between desire, the body, and the gaze."

Some felt "that to overcome a pervasive fear of the female body one had to gaze at it with the same seriousness that one applied to the contemplation of artworks. [Paul Leppin] argued that eroticism manifests itself most powerfully in conjunction with the expression of intense religious feelings, for ecstasy is always a response to an immanence of the divine. Dance offered the strongest potential for signifying and experiencing ecstasy, but Judeo-Christian dogma had smothered dance in its determination to separate eroticism from great religious feeling. As a result, European dance culture could present nothing more than the feeble, "sweet and decayed" eroticism of the waltz."

Individuality means losing oneself in the formless and the immense without even remembering one's limits.... The time must come which shakes us, which revi- talizes the dormant evil and splendor within us, tremendous powers, doubts, which rumble in our hearts like the thunderstorms of romanticism, oaths, hate, anticipations." [He] implied that serious erotic dance entailed both nudity and rhythmic motions simulating orgasm and sexual intercourse. It was these movements more than any other... that undermined the mechanization of identity imposed on the body by Judeo-Christian dogma and its ambassador, the French-Italian ballet tradition."

Gertrud Leistikow (1885–1948) [was considered] the most tragic and "Dionysian" of all German modern dancers, the figure closest to the primeval concept of dance as an expression of an ecstatic body. [Her] nudity served to expose movements concealed by costume and mask; more important, it revealed the "thousand-fold play of muscles" in the body. Unlike the many prewar female dancers who linked the performance of graceful movements to the signification of an elevating spirituality, Leistikow favored a hard, convulsive, ecstatic, even violent type of movement. The "thousand-fold play of muscles" disclosed by her nudity made her body a radical sign of power and freedom, contradicting traditional inclinations to inscribe female bodily strength in theosophic, exotic, and spiritual terms. Moreover, Leistikow was in her mid-thirties when she had artists document her nudity; it seems quite possible that, because she did not depend on photography to transmit her image, she succeeded in making nudity a sign of modernity without imprisoning that sign within the image of virginal youthfulness pervading female nude dancing in the 1920s."

Gertrud Leistikow had a slender, supple body, but her face lacked charm, elegance, or mystery. She therefore constantly sought to hide her face, partly through suave manipulation of shawls, veils, or masks but also through movements that called attention to the beauty of her body. Her earlier dances tended to project a tragic, melancholy aura, but after she moved to Amsterdam her distinction seemed to lie in her peculiar cultivation of the grotesque. What made Leistikow's dances grotesque was her determination to invest the simplest movements with startling dramatic power, an unsuspected intensity of conflict.

Leistikow's concept of the grotesque was cosmopolitan, so perhaps her grotesque dances constituted a curious evolution of a controlling tragic aesthetic rather than a break with it. Junk suggested that the grotesque dance displayed "more strength than grace" or, "more recently," substi- tuted "the bizarre for the graceful," as manifested through "unusual positions, deformed body structures, and adventurous leaps and gestures" (98). In other words, grotesque dancing did not necessarily imply a comic mood but perhaps made a calculated challenge to aesthetic conventions of "gracefulness" and bodily composure. Brandenburg thought such a challenge led Leistikow into the realms of the demonic and heroic rather than toward any spirit of parody, frivolity, or malicious travesty.

This determination was perhaps most mysteriously evident in Gnossienne (1924), which used as accompaniment Erik Satie's equally simple and haunting piano melody "Gnossienne No. 1" (1889). Here Leistikow stood in a tight-fitting, shimmering gown and faced the audience in a veiled light. She concentrated the dance almost entirely in the hands and arms, which undulated slowly, like waves, horizontally, then vertically, while her face constantly stared straight ahead with Sphinxlike inscrutability (one had to see the dance more than once to make this observation, so strongly did the arms and hands attract focus). After performing a pattern of arm undulations, the dancer took a step forward and turned into profile to repeat the pattern but raised her right leg slightly and held it suspended for the duration of the repetition. Then she turned and faced the audience again and repeated the pattern. The dancer repeated the initial pattern five times, thrice forward and twice in profile. With each repetition, the dancer merely moved forward a step or, while in profile, suggested a step in another direction without actually taking it. The dance conveyed a sense of a body very slowly and hesitantly moving closer to the audience without, in its trancelike state, even seeming aware of the spectators."

[For example, in one dance] A violet spotlight becomes coldly reflected in the pearl ornamentation of the hair. It makes the head of the dancer, with Medusa-like, wide open eyes, perch over the purple shawl which entwines and strangles her throat. The crass red cloth separates head from body, so that the head seems to float in the air, but through constant transformation the little cloth serves the movement of the dance: now it dips and flows like blood, then it throbs and flutters like lightning flashes, then it spreads like an imperial mantel around the shoulders, then it tightened again like a noose around the neck. And the language of the body discloses just as much fear of death as desire for death."

all excerpts from the online book, Empire of Ecstasy, by Karl Toepfer
drawings from here

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28 November 2011

it's all cinderella

imagine, if you will, what these blended titles may be.
pick one from each list....


• a stressed-out lawyer

• a busy fashion executive

• a determined bride-to-be

• a workaholic hollywood publicist

• a driven marketing executive

• a successful but overworked business woman


• warily welcomes a stranger into her home

• ends up hitchhiking to her wedding

• meets a life coach and is granted 12 wishes

• is knocked unconscious in a car accident

• is visited by the ghost of her former client

• wishes to see what her life would be like if....


notice i didn't say 'happy endings.' they all, of course, end the same way. a good man will always be more satisfying than a life lived in the business world. nowadays, some women do hold on to their careers, but only once they have reinstated the man where he was meant to be.

her work will then be denigrated, the guy rescues her from some dastardly foe, she thanks (her lucky star, elf, santa, whatever), and they ride off into the future, with bells ringing.

these are all, as you've probably guessed, taken from plots of christmas movies (frequently on lifetime or the hallmark channel). but i ask you: how often must women be sacrificed upon the logs of christmas?

and so as to not come across as an miscreant fool, i will admit that sometimes the protagonist is a man (like nicholas cage or ebeneezer scrooge -- except for that time susan lucci played scrooge). but, i believe, my point is still well-taken. the warmth of christmas mainly serves to remind us that jesus has preferred roles for all of us, and if you choose to rebel against these values, they just may come and make a movie about you.

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