Category Archives: love

Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

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Rossetti: Proserpine

 The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was a group of painters, poets, and critics formed in 1848. They wished to restore art and literature to a more spiritual form of expression, instead of the rather formal constraints of academic art. Certain simple conventions prevailed in art beginning with Raphael. There was a tendency to avoid ostentation or excessive realism in any form. The Pre-Raphaelite wanted to return to a style that sought to depict nature as accurately as possible with extreme detail, realism, and spectacular color. All of this was in the service of a more spiritual result. They were in the vanguard of the Romantic movement in the arts. The Brotherhood didn’t last that long, by the end of the 1860’s they had more or less gone their separate ways, but their work inspired the later Symbolists and eventually the Decadence movement. The primary artists within the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood were William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Daniel Gabriel Rossetti. What I really like about these artists are how they depict the female form. They conveyed the magical quality of a woman’s face. There is a rich sensuality to their works due to the hyperrealism (my term. they were HD before the term existed). and vivid use of beautiful sexy colors. Beauty and sex are so closely related it is hard to separate the two. Sex is the desire to become one with the beautiful beloved, to merge together forming a new, uniquely beautiful and sexy being, and on it goes. From my perspective, art can serve a magical purpose, allowing the viewer to access parts of his or her self in ways not possible in any other way. Besides, it is awkward and rude to stare at a beautiful woman, however a painting of a beautiful woman can be stared at with delight, with no ill consequences. Alas, in some respects, all realistic art is pornographic. This is why realistic art was banned in the middle ages. I used to think they just didn’t have the skills, but no, the simple unrealistic forms are deliberate. Notice Rossetti’s use of the pomegranite (at least, I think that is what she’s holding). An unconscious association is made with the vagina. In the world of the pre-Raphaelite and even more so, the Symbolists and Decadents, objects and settings are symbols of other things or ideas. The paintings are a way of pointing to experiences that cannot be shown or heard, the spiritual realm if you will. It appeals to both my spiritual and perverse imaginations. There are many artists which have been considered Pre-Raphaelite who actually painted much later, such as John William Waterhouse, Gustave Moreau, These painters often used ancient myths and medieval tales as source material. Carl Jung would have said they were giving form to the universal archetypes of the collective unconscious. Freud would have said these paintings were a way of giving expression to their overflowing libido. They could both be right. All I know is that I can stare at these paintings for hours, lost in a reverie. For me, the experience is akin to the transformation of the senses which takes place when you fall in love. Everything becomes transformed, there is a special quality to the light, and the colors are magnificent when you are in love. I think that experience lies at the heart of pre-Raphaelite paintings. Then add a little Lord Byron, Shelley, or Yeats, and it is a veritable orgy of Romanticism. Perfect for young lovers!

Millais “Autumn Leaves” 1856

 Check out Proserpine by Rossetti above, do you see the hair? Rossetti could depict such rich, lush, hair better than anyone! You feel as though you could reach out and stroke her thick lovely hair. And the look within those dark eyes cannot be fully expressed. It depicts someone in deep thought, tinged with melancholy, and yet it is relatively subtle compared to the melodramatic style of the Symbolists. That is a useful distinction between the pre-Raphaelite and Symbolist. The Symbolist creates pure icons, divorced from that super realistic style of the pre-Raphaelite. The pre-Raphaelite uses nature itself to create that spiritual tipping point into blissful or perhaps mournful reverie. We have all had those pre-Raphaelite moments if you will, within our daily lives. Moments which are indelibly pressed into our consciousness. John Everett Millais, on the left, depicts what is for me an incredibly poignant scene, but not maudlin such as you might find in a Norman Rockwell print of the same kind of scene. Once again the effect is subtle but powerful. The light in this painting evokes autumn perfectly, and the expressions on the girl’s faces evoke a slight melancholy, but also pleasure. There is a hint of sadness even in the landscape. This is how autumn feels. Millais is a bit more conventional, not resorting to the hyper realism of Rossetti. You might say Millais preferred using more of a soft focus in his work. But I still can’t get over the exquisite use of color! One good thing about the internet age is the fact that you have entire art galleries at your fingertips. Of course it isn’t the same as having the paintings right in front of you, but at least you can access vast archives of paintings. I would encourage you to google these artists and see what you can find. Your computer monitor can serve as an imaginary light table bringing those paintings to life!

William Holman Hunt: Isabella and the pot of basil 1868

 Finally, for this post, I include one of the many wonderful paintings by William Holman Hunt. Look at the richness of detail and the sensual colors. It convinces me that ancient light was filled with delight. The face is a real face. This could easily be a HD digital photograph, the attention to strict realism is that good. Hunt’s women are voluptuous and invite lust as well as intellectual appreciation, Pre-Raphaelites delighted in the senses. They wanted us to see what they saw, touch what they touched, and feel what they felt. You feel as though you could reach out and hold that tablecloth in your hands! The pre-Raphaelites were not appreciated in their own time. They became very popular in the nineteen sixties drug culture because this kind of vivid realism and rich sensuality matches well the kind of languid eroticism produced by the ingestion of the best cannabis. I think the hippie subculture could also relate to the spirituality of these paintings. Spiritual eroticism! I suppose that could describe many of the pre-Raphaelite paintings. I will try to post more about the later Symbolist and Decadent schools of painting that owe a substantial debt to the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

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Enid

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Enid my Eternal Muse

This post is in praise of Enid, a character from Daniel Clowes’ graphic novel Ghost World, which was made into a great cult film starring Thora Birch and Scarlett Johannson. Thora is brilliant in this film. I fell in love with her portrayal of Enid. Enid is me. I am Enid, She is my inner female, without a doubt. If I were a woman, I would be Enid. She is witty, sexy, and kind of otherworldly. You can’t hope to really get to know her, you can only marvel at her existence. Daniel Clowes’ version is a bit darker than the film version. Thora brings a sweetness to the character, hidden beneath her constant stream of sarcasm. This is the Enid I prefer. She wants everyone to think she doesn’t give a damn, but secretly she cares. A lot! Just like me.

Hey! Look! I'm Batgirl!

Enid spots this fetish item in a porn shop and cannot resist putting it on. She sees humor in the sordid, as do I. Hey, look I’m Batgirl! She doesn’t say that in the film, but she should have! Daniel Clowes created an enigma with the Enid character. You want to get inside her head and examine her brain. She is drawn to the rejected, the lonely, the crazy lost souls of Ghost World. Ghost World is clearly her world. She is vibrantly alive, surrounded by ghosts.

I was struck by the scene shown below, in which Enid and her friend talk to the crazy old guy that always sits at an abandoned bustop. They try to explain that the bus doesn’t stop there anymore, but he insists it does. At the end of the film, a bus does arrive at this bustop and Enid boards it. This bus is from ‘another place’, as David Lynch would put it, and now Enid is where she belongs, far far away from the dismal Ghost World the rest of us have to endure. She is dressed in red, which is rich in symbolic meaning which I won’t go into here.

I feel as though I know Enid, as though she is a real person. I can feel her presence, commenting acidly on our current cultural stupidity. She pretends to be shocked, but she never is. Nothing gets past Enid.

Bustop in Limbo

The movie doesn’t give us the pleasure of seeing Enid as a little girl, although Clowes’ did a few Ghost World comics with little Enid. I bought a great Little Enid action figure which I have to share with you, because it is unbearably cute.

Isn't she cute?

It was unfortunate that the film did not include the reason for the film’s name. The name Ghost World came from graffiti the girls saw scrawled on a garage door. I love that image. It could have been at the end of the opening credits or something. If only they could have had me there to advise them!

Finally, I will leave you with a great shot from the film. The genius of this film was in capturing how kids fresh out of high school really look and act. Enid is the essence of cool, but also a confused young woman too wise for her years.

Supergirl foils me again

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She has super intuition? Who knew?

Someday Supergirl will be mine!! I was going to post this great story about how Stock Photo Woman (see earlier posts), is actually Supergirl’s alter ego for the twenty-first century. I had caught her peeling off the fake black eye and..my God! Is that an S on her chest? Now that the real Supergirl is on to the hoax, I’ll have to say that the S stands for Stock. Oh, well…it was such a clever hoax. But it never pays to mess with Supergirl!! I didn’t count on her super intuition. She has super intuition? Who knew? Curses! Foiled again!

I have had a crush on Supergirl since I was a boy. It was that sexy little miniskirt she wore. Be honest, fellow baby boomers, didn’t it drive you nuts, too? I was just talking to Superman the other day (sure we know each other, why wouldn’t we?), and he told me that when he was Superboy, he’d fly behind her and try to catch a glimpse of her…” “Why didn’t you just use your x-ray vision?” I asked. “Oh I tried all that, but she wears lead-lined underpants!” “Smart girl!” I said, smirking. “You know, Russell, I could just give you a slight smack and your head would sail off and be in orbit in a fraction of a second!” “Yeah, but you won’t do that!” I said unconcerned. Superman is always making those idle threats. He should just grow up! Ok, I admit it. I made all that up.

But seriously, I have always been obsessed with the idea of a strong powerful woman. Without going into all the gruesome psychological underpinnings of this obsession, let’s just say I had a dominant, outgoing powerful mother. My Dad? He was shy, like me. I’m sure my mother was his Supergirl. But I loved it when women would kick butt. Wonder Woman was awesome too, but you had to be extra careful around her. You couldn’t be having all those horny thoughts about her nearly naked body because she might whip out her magic lasso and force you to tell the truth. Oops! How embarrassing! Catwoman was nice too, what a fox!, I mean cat, oh whatever. She was especially sexy with that whip. Who knew comics could be so kinky! But I really loved Batgirl, something about a girl in a cowl…it’s totally hot! Girls intrigued me from a very young age, I always wanted to know what they were thinking. They lived in a strange enchanted world, off limits to grubby little boys. Guys? They’re just guys, what can I say? I don’t know what women see in them really. I mean I like guys, I am one myself, but there is nothing mysterious or erotic, for me anyway, about guys. Women? Quite a different matter. They fascinate me! That is what lies at the heart of my when-is-this-going-to-end? Stock Photo Girl/Woman series. I just love thinking about beautiful women. You notice I never show my own picture? Why ruin a great romance with my ugly mug?

But I got off track, as usual. Supergirl knew this would happen. I would just end up humiliating myself yet again. Super intuition. Damn! How can I get around this problem? Wrap my head in aluminum foil? Nope. Tried that. I guess I will just have to get used to Supergirl knowing my every move. Oh, Supergirl! I just want one little ride on your back! Is that too much to ask? I know she heard me, she has super intuition!

Tough break Brainiac 5! I know how it feels.

All comics are the property and copyright of DC Comics.

Return of Lolita

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Recently, I have been writing an ongoing series called Stock Photo Girl Fantasy and today, I considered whether or not to include the fact that I am 58 years old and Stock Photo Girl looks to be in her mid to late twenties. It would give the story a strange twist, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go there. It definitely reminded me of one of my favorite movies of all time, Lolita. Not the recent one, but the original Kubrick film. I even considered having her co-workers tease her and call her Little Lolita. In the Stock Photo Girl saga, I am definitely Humbert Humbert.

I agree with David Lynch that Kubrick’s Lolita is a perfect film. Everybody in it does a superb job! James Mason conveys perfectly just how hopelessly in love he is. It is a love that Lolita cannot understand, but she is nevertheless touched by it. But, of course, getting seriously involved with a man old enough to be her father is out of the question. It is natural and understandable that she would settle down with a man close to her age. Peter Sellers is also brilliant, and I can’t help thinking that he deserved his fate. But my heart goes out to poor Humbert Humbert.

Why are older men so attracted to young women? Well because, first of all, they don’t feel old inside. Their bodies played a dirty trick on them, growing old like that, and it is a difficult thing to accept sometimes. I can recall vividly my younger years and the experiences I had with younger women when I was young as well. It was this that I put to use in my Stock Photo Girl series. In my fantasies, I am young again! Also, when I gazed at the photos of Stock Photo Girl I felt young again. It was like a tonic. Older men lust after younger women because they lust after their own lost youth. It was a time when they felt vibrantly alive and didn’t worry about the future as much. A younger woman can bring back some of that. But it only lasts for a while, as was the case in Lolita. The younger woman gets bored with all of the obsessive attention, and after all, an older man may be intriguing, but they aren’t sexy. However, I wasn’t clear about the age of Russell in my Fantasy, and of course you never see a photo of him, so he could be older. It might be interesting to explore how a relationship between two people of such different ages would play out, after all it’s a fantasy. It would make the whole thing much more poignant, as it is in the film Lolita. The temptation to give my fantasy a happy ending is pretty strong, but I keep finding as I write that Stock Photo Girl keeps forcing me to keep it real. She may not allow me to be older, or if she does, I will have to pay the price, just as Humbert Humbert did. I will say this however, no one will die in my Fantasy, that is much too dramatic for a tongue-in-cheek series. Ah! Lolita, if only she understood how I felt! Life is so cruel!!

Lulu

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I sing the praises of Louise Brooks. She portrayed Lulu in Pandora’s Box and was Lulu in life. I am under her spell, ever since I saw her face on a button, and wondered who she was. Many years later I got the chance to watch Pandora’s Box and Diary of a Lost Girl and was captivated by her compelling yet mysterious presence. She has influenced sexy, independent women from Shirley MacLaine to Margaret Cho. Louise Brooks defied the conventions of her time, going to Germany for meaningful roles. She had become disgusted with the entertainment industry in America, with it’s shallow roles for women. The author of Pandora’s Box, upon meeting Louise, was struck by her resemblance to the character, Lulu, and had to cast her. Louise Brooks didn’t give a damn. She could have been a major star in her time. But she didn’t want to play the Hollywood game, and faded into obscurity. She led a life of her choosing, with exciting, artistic, sexy friends and lovers, on the fringes far from the public eye. She became a feisty, colorful old lady with many stories to tell, provided she were so inclined. Some people claim Louise Brooks had worked as a call girl in New York for many years, but this is unsubstantiated. It sounds like the sort of work Lulu would have pursued, and Louise had many similarities to her character.

But all of that is secondary to her face. It speaks volumes, over the decades to our computer, with an intimacy unmatched since. She gazes upon the sexual sadism surrounding her with scorn, but also with understanding. Her light is unbearably bright within the sordid darkness of pre-Nazi Germany. Even though she has many lovers, she remains pure and seemingly innocent. The viewer longs to know her, to hear her voice, and to soothe her pain with a close embrace, running our fingers through her dark helmet of hair. But we also sense that we can never really know this woman. She is forever elusive, mutely beckoning to us from the screen.

Louise Brooks was perfect for the silent age. Whatever voice she possessed could not possibly match what we could imagine. She appeared in a few very obscure talkies in the early thirties, but I would discourage anyone from watching them. This is not the Louise Brooks you should remember, giving an adequate, but uninspired performance in an adequate, but uninspired film. It was just work, nothing more. Her magic is in the work of the twenties, especially the German films. I am sitting here trying to capture what it was about Louise Brooks. What have I left unsaid? She was real, heartbreakingly so. You felt you could have her as a friend. She was just herself onscreen as Louise has said, by way of explaining why she seemed so natural. She also feels absolutely modern, her acting is decades ahead of her time. This naturalness, and accessibility is shared by both Shirley MacLaine and Margaret Cho. I realize I wrote above that she was an enigma, and the viewer feels they could never really know her. That is the essence of Louise Brooks, both are true, she is a walking contradiction, a paradox, who beguiles us still.

Valentine’s Pop

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

If you are in love, you love this day. If you are in a relationship that seems to be working, you like this day. If you are not in a relationship of any kind, Valentine’s Day sucks. This post is for those of you that are in love. Whatever else that may be going on, you are on top of the world. You spend your days enchanted, and your world has been transformed into little candy hearts with cute messages. Lucky lucky you!!! But you need a soundtrack. I have selected ten songs that are perfect for Valentine’s Day. I’m sure you can track them down and play them for your sweetheart. You probably have an app for that.

1. My Funny Valentine – there are a million versions of this one out there. It is the ultimate Valentine. I prefer Chet Baker’s version, but Miles Davis and Frank Sinatra have killer versions, and more recently, Elvis Costello and Diana Krall have nice versions.

2. And I Love Her – Pure Paul. One of his best. Although this is a Beatles tune, it is actually just Paul McCartney. It has such an elegance about it, like something from an earlier age. This particular love song isn’t so silly.

 

3. Can’t Help Falling In Love – Pure Elvis. One of his best. Equally elegant, and be sure to find the original version. His live versions from the seventies lack the charm. The original recording captures the King at his most restrained. The voice is delicate.

4. Every Day I Write the Book – Pure Elvis. Costello that is. One of his best. This is a perfect pop song, in every respect. You are going to feel good after hearing this song. It lifts you up. This is the kind of book we all want to write, when love is fresh and beautiful.

 

5. Cherish – You need to be in love for this one. When I was in love this song was the perfect soundtrack. I prefer the original Association version, it has that magical quality that so many songs from the mid-sixties have. It describes a lovely sort of Strawberry Fields Forever kind of world.

6. Love Can Make You Happy – You really need to be in love for this one, it is unbearable otherwise. I recall hearing it on a sunny morning as I ate breakfast before going to school in 1969. I had a crush on a girl at school. It is by Mercy, a bit obscure, but keep searching! I love the harmony of the voices, capturing the optimism of 1969.

7. Close To You – Although this one has been played at way too many weddings, it still has it’s charms. Karen Carpenter’s voice comes through like the finest crystal, capturing that pure untarnished quality of love as it first blossoms.

8. Love – For those of you that prefer to avoid all the lace and candy hearts, this song’s simplicity and directness does the job. It is one of John Lennon’s most moving songs, You can sing it to your Yoko.

9. Here Comes My Girl – Tom Petty is bursting out of his jeans with joy as he sings about his new girlfriend. This one captures the thrill of new love when you are young and everything is before you.

10. Walking on Sunshine – This much disparaged hit from the eighties by Katrina and the Waves, isn’t so bad really. It has a lot of bright, happy energy which characterizes how young love feels. When you feel good this song gets you going. Otherwise you are going to think it sucks, like John Cusack does in High Fidelity.