The Voice Thief, A Surreal Short Film By Adan Jodorowsky

Merry Tuesday my little apple carts! I’ve got a lot of editing to do so I shall leave you with this wonderfully bizarre short film The Voice Thief by the criminally gorgeous Adan Jodorowsky, son of Alejandro, and featuring Asia Argento (also gorgeous), daughter of Dario. Toodle pip!

Can A Youtuber Be A Cult Leader?

I’ve been researching YouTube communities for a few weeks now for an upcoming book and found myself pondering a surprising question. Before we dive in I’d like to remind everyone that I don’t have the answers, just an overwhelming curiosity. Also some of the videos contain naughty language, so be aware.

Communities exist because, as we know, YouTube is a vast website where thousands of videos are uploaded every second and, without individuals of common interest pulling together and promoting each other, they’d all be lost in a vacuum. The thing is, people are people and, no matter how much we’d love to, we don’t really get along – at least certain people can’t with each other. I’ve noticed each community (Booktube, Storytime, Ranters, Vegans… oh God, the Vegans… we’ll come to that) will have its antagonists or people who just don’t agree with the way others are doing things, the others often take sides, and sometimes it leads to the disintegration of the group and sometimes not. It’s the same with any large mass of people, online or otherwise, it’s just a new platform for all this to happen.

There’s another element to online disagreements though, one which is both fascinating and disturbing: can a YouTuber become a cult leader? It sounds completely daft but more and more I’ve wondered at the possibility. There is a general fear that impressionable people can be lured into cults via the internet, though whether there is any basis in fact is another matter.

One YouTuber years ago jokingly (?) attempted to start his own cult and, interestingly, he’s a person many have since had genuine concerns about. They worry that his young fan base is easily taken in by what he tells them and so on. But does that make it possible for him to be a real cult leader? In order to decide that I suppose we ought to define what a cult leader is.

The following video demonstrates the common ways a rational person is manipulated and transformed into a follower:

It seems pretty crazy and far-fetched to think someone could manage all this by uploading videos onto a website, right? But some are convinced it’s possible. I suppose we can look at it two ways. When we don’t like someone, we tend to view everything they say and do through the worst possible lens. For example, the lady in the video below felt a YouTuber was disrespecting disabled people and, once she approached him via social media, he didn’t respond well and neither did his followers.

It’s never nice to be spoken to in an unpleasant manner, in real life or online, and it can be mentally upsetting particularly for the very young or those with chronic illness. The seeping in of negativity from online to everyday life once seemed ridiculous to people, but the potential real world damage is becoming clearer.

The lady below points out several entirely plausible things that qualify him as a potential cult leader, and she’s not the only one, but is it also possible she’s seeing them because…well…she doesn’t like him? Or is she right?

And yet… a YouTuber forming a cult doesn’t seem completely impossible. Back to the vegans.

About a year ago troubling aspects of a group known as Raw Till 4 became evident. Led by a very angry pair known as Durian Rider and his girlfriend Freelee (or Diddly Rider and Free Pee as one dissenter refers to them), the Raw Till 4 diet promotes eating large quantities of raw carbohydrates until 4 when you can… eat cooked carbohydrates? I’m not sure. They set up a vegan festival in Thailand where anyone could go and discuss all things vegetably and raw, before in-fighting and accusations of sexual predation (apparently projection on Durian Rider’s part) caused the entry rules to become stricter and stricter, and those on the fringe were denounced as ‘fake vegans,’ until only a hardcore few meeting all the requirements were allowed to attend. Some began noticing the health advice, among other things, was perhaps not up to par:

However the thing that most worried people was the video of a young girl, 16 at the time, defending the pair. She has a history of eating disorders and apparently blindly followed the pair’s teachings. Notice in the video below the moment she brings up concerns from her doctor and Durian Rider tells her to “ignore your doctor, just listen to the king and queen.”

So yes, I don’t think it’s beyond the scope of possibility. I think we ought to be aware, though, of hysteria and making things fit to our way of thinking. Adam Curtis says, after all, that the internet is “an echo chamber, reflecting our beliefs back at us.” But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen…

Belle Epoque To Belle De Jour – Biographies Of Sex Workers

Good morning my little mobile phones that won’t charge properly until a new battery is fitted, how is everyone?

As you may know, recently I read My Blue Notebook by the Belle Epoque courtesan Liane De Pougy (and Mineko Iwasaki’s book, though she insists Geisha did not do that) and it led me on a trail of other fascinating women of the demi-monde, as they were known.

One thing I have learnt from reading these and other books is that, from the very beginning, there have been two distinct approaches to sex work. In Roman times slaves were captured and kept in ramshackle huts to be worked to death, while women choosing to enter sex work filled in the appropriate form, got a licence and became her own mistress, sometimes living in luxury. The first kind, which still happens today in various forms, is a terrible thing and we must do what we can to help, but the second does not affect the first.

Choosing sex work doesn’t somehow insult the lives of those who didn’t. Belle De Jour received criticism during her book tour by those claiming “she shouldn’t have entered sex work because she didn’t have to,” but who are we to judge? She did it, sometimes she enjoyed it, sometimes she didn’t, just like any other job. We are all different with different experiences; just because something terrible happened to one doesn’t make it impossible or wrong for another to have good experiences. Life is a mysterious pathway with many twists and turns and, if someone isn’t hurting another, let’s just keep our eyes on our own feet.

OK, with that out the way, let’s hop in!

City of Sin: London And It’s Vices by Catherine Arnold

The author has written for fascinating website Whores of Yore (it’s creator Kate Lister explains it’s use of the term whore here).

 Beginning with the aforementioned Roman slaves and brothel workers, we move through history discovering which parts of London attracted which type of strumpet (Gropecunt Lane was as downmarket as it sounds) and who the infamous of the day were. As well as this we glimpse the sexual morays of the era, such as this great Tudor example of how things never change: “Another visitor, the Swiss physician Thomas Platter, was impressed with the joie de vivre of English women and their habit of frequenting London’s many taverns in an Elizabethan equivalent of a girl’s night out: ‘they count it a great honour to be taken there and given wine with sugar to drink; and if one woman is invited, then she will bring three or four other women along, And they gaily toast each other.'”
Rival to Belle Epoque courtesan Liane de Pougy, Carolina Otero was a Spanish dancer noticed by men from a young age (12, euw) after running away from a boarding school which essentially treated her like Cinderella. From there she became a sensation, performing on the stage in New York, Russia, Germany and the famous Folies Bèrgere in Paris.
Her life reads like fiction: she broke up a gambling cheating ring (and had a terrible habit herself), was patronised by kings, always picked the wrong man and had no qualms about slapping anyone who bad mouthed her, in front of a full restaurant or not. In short, she was fabulously entertaining.
Dancing at the Folies Bèrgere 1898:

No, it’s nothing like the TV series. The ‘real’ Belle de Jour (so to speak) reads books in the original French, named herself after surrealist Luis Bunuel’s film and mixes high culture with low filth. For example: “At one point, discussing the paintings of the Italian renaissance and the Low Countries, the conversation segued elegantly to the revelation that there is an exhibition at the Royal Academy of pictures of women with come on them. If true, I am so there.”

She’s a noir heroine, a modern woman of the demi-monde, the educated courtesan, a continuation of a tradition as old as humankind. Her exploits are addictive enough to pull us into her life, including her heartache over a man who went on to sue her after she was ‘outed,’ and to leave us curious for more.
Brooke Magnanti giving a talk at Oxford Union Debate Society
 So there we are. Let me know of any you’ve enjoyed that haven’t been mentioned here!

7 Creepy Or Weird True Story, Factual Podcasts

Hello my little bar stools!

Afraid I can’t write too much because I am suffering some serious lady time issues. I’ve shared fiction podcasts and writing advice podcasts, now allow me to share some true story, factual and informative podcasts that stray on the creepy, weird and dark side.

  1. Historical Blindness: The Odd Past Podcast

Here is the latest episode of the podcast that focuses on weird episodes of history, The Dancing Plague. Mass Hysteria is a particular fascination of mine, and podcast creator Nathaniel Lloyd seeks to question “Can we trust history as we have received it?”

2. Criminal

This is a fantastic and informative true crime podcast, focusing on different and often unusual stories each episode. In Eight Years we discover being a Harry Potter fan isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

3. Monster Talk

Presented by Skeptic Magazine, this podcast presents the cultural and scientific story of cryptozoology.

Direct Audio Link

4. Sawbones

Hilarious husband and wife team (she’s a doctor) take a humorous look at medical mishaps and odd cures of the past. In this episode they explore the man who couldn’t stop eating, including a cat, a puppy, a snake, an eel, offal and poultices:

Direct Audio Link

5. Thinking Sideways

Three friends discuss crime and mystery theories, often with a focus on the weird. Being a writery type I chose the temporary disappearance of Agatha Christie, but there’s a lot to choose from:

Direct Audio Link

6. Faculty of Horror

Genuinely informative and in-depth horror podcast for film buffs and nerds, this goes beyond the usual horror fan chit chat and discusses film making and horror as an art. This episode is about beautiful black and white flicks Night of the Hunter and The Innocents:

Direct Audio Link

7. The Odditorium

Hosted by writer/performer/general weirdos Dr Bramwell and David Mounfield, each episode features different speakers offering “a portal into the fringes of culture; its mavericks and pranksters, adventurers and occultists, artists, comics, eroticists and even the odd chef,” all before a live studio audience. Of course I picked the Sherlock Holmes episode.

Geishas, Courtesans, Artists And Muses: Biographies of Fascinating Women

Good day my little ships that no-one remembers putting in a bottle, you were just there one day, watching from the mantelpiece. I’ve been reading about fascinating women and long to share them with you. I don’t know why I’ve focused so much on women, it was purely accidental.

Wishing on the Moon: The Life And Times of Billie Holiday by Donald Clarke

Billie is one of those people that so many stories have been told about, nobody really knows what’s true. The fact that she enjoyed a good yarn didn’t help matters, much of her autobiography is fiction. How she must have chuckled. Anyway, this intensive biography is filled with first hand interviews and great research, and delves right into the Billie in the soft squishy centre. True, terrible things happened to her and she lived in a time even more racist than now, but she was a tough lady and certainly not a victim.

Billie Holiday singing Strange Fruit, a disturbing nightmare of a song about lynching:

My Blue Notebooks by Liane de Pougy

Belle Epoque courtesan Liane de Pougy kept a diary from 1919 to 1941. It’s an enjoyable insight into one woman’s thoughts, but unfortunately it’s no unexpurgated Anais Nin. She began writing after she was already married to a Romanian Prince and her naughtiness was mostly behind her, but stick with it as she often drifts into reminiscence.

Not that her life is completely uninteresting at the time of writing. She was good friends with poet Max Jacobs, artist and filmmaker Jean Cocteau and writer Marcel Proust among others, and had unfinished business with more than one woman. But, if it’s juicy stuff you’re after, I recommend Anais Nin.

Postcard print, 1900s
Postcard print, 1900s

Zelda by Nancy Milford

Look at this communication from mamma, all on account of a wine stained dress. Sometimes I get so bored and sick for you…it helps then…and afterwards I’m just more bored and sicker for you – and ashamed.

This biography tries to capture Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of F Scott, in all her volatile, complicated glory. She at once wanted independence and to be looked after, to make art but was afraid to try for real, to live wildly and to have Scott to herself. She was a fascinating, complicated woman and one many confused but passionate people can relate to now. She encapsulated something about the twenties, the new speed with which the young travelled, but also the lows that followed when some deeper need inside yourself is left unfulfilled.

Film and Photos of the Fitzgeralds:

The Geisha of Gion by Mineko Iwasaki

After the disappointment of Memoirs of a Geisha I wanted to read a true account of one of Japan’s living art dolls. until recently it was a world shrouded in secrecy, ramping up the curiosity of outsiders and leading to gossip. I’m sure sex work was a part of life for some Geisha, but I don’t think it was the rule. Perhaps it depended on the individual and circumstance.

I loved this book, it felt as though she’d popped round for tea and a chat. The characters are vivid as are descriptions of Japan undergoing a dramatic change from the old feudal system to the modern country it is now, and the details of gruelling practice and homesickness capture what a crazily disciplined life this was.

Mineko pops up in an interview during this TV spot:

Lizzie Siddal: The Tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel by Lucinda Hawksley

I turned the pages like a mad woman during this book. Perhaps it was my former career as an artist’s model, or maybe her vulnerability that made me want to protect her, but the model who posed as Ophelia among others seemed very real and somehow modern.

Trapped by her love of artist Rossetti despite his commitment to free love, addicted to morphine and possibly anorexic, she was as much a doomed tragic heroine as Ophelia. Lucinda’s writing is objective and looks at scenarios from all points of view. She doesn’t make excuses for Lizzie’s sometimes unreasonable behaviour but doesn’t condemn her either, thus we can appreciate her as a well-rounded, exasperating but lovely human being.

lizzie-siddal

Edie: American Girl by Jean Stein

Despite radiating the sixties from her very pores, there was also something fabulously twenties about Edie Sedgwick. The way she held her cigarette, her Holly Golightly mannerisms, her ability to dive into the dark side with an innocent mischief.

This is probably the perfect book about Edie because it’s filled with people who were actually there. Everyone has their own perspective and, rather than chop and change to fit an easy narrative, it’s all there. This brings us Edie the person, not the angel other books project. Yes, she was magnetic, but she also stole from friends and had a wildly selfish side. Far from putting us off, it allows us to enjoy and learn about her as a whole instead of a flickering, unobtainable image on a screen.

A collage of pictures and footage over tapes she made in the psychiatric unit for her last film Ciao Manhattan:

4 Short Weird And Experimental Short Films To Make You Go All Disturbed

Merry Wednesday my little stuffed toys in a jar disguised to look like pickled conjoined goat twins. I’ve some news: my surreal, bizarro, weird fiction (and whatever else) comedy novella 4 Rooms In A Semi Detached House has been accepted by StrangeHouse Books (thanks, StrangeHouse Books!) and to celebrate here are 4 short experimental and possibly disturbing films.

The Cat With Hands was made by Robert Morgan, whose short animation Deloused featured in The ABCs of Death 2 (which I much preferred to the toilet fixated original). He makes cool and grotesque things, you should have a look. The Cat With Hands is his most famous work.

As well as being an amazing music man with his own record label, Flying Lotus has now set up Brainfeeder Films. With his own feature length production making people sick and a short by David Firth (of Salad Fingers) on the way, I’m looking forward to what else will be released.

The charmingly titled FuckkkYouuu is by Eddie Alcazar, with soundtrack by Flying Lotus.

I’m sure you all remember Alan Tutorials, the youtube channel featuring daft tutorials such as how to pick up a chair, which slowly grew more and more disturbing (but always funny). The mind behind it was Alan Resnick, digital and visual artist and filmmaker. He’s done several things for Adult Swim, including the absurdist This House Has People In It.

Written and directed by Peter Capaldi (aka Malcolm Tucker, aka Dr Who), Franz Kafka’s It’s A Wonderful Life was written in 1993 for BBC Scotland and won a Bafta and Academy Award. Starring Richard E Grant (Withnail, of course, like you didn’t know), it tells the humorous story of Franz Kafka’s attempt to write The Metamorphosis despite numerous interruptions.

Enjoy!

Zelda Fitzgerald And Other Fabulous Flappers (Documentaries)

Good day my little vegetarian popsicles! I watched and enjoyed the first series of Z: The Beginning Of Everything. It’s no Mad Men or The Wire but it’s entertaining and I’m fascinated by the era (as you may have noticed) and the Fitzgeralds.

zelda1
Zelda just hanging out

Zelda had only one novel published, Save Me The Last Waltz, and you can read a short story of hers here from before she met Scott. I’d also recommend her sort of biography. However I was unable to find any documentaries on Zelda herself, though that might change since she’s had something of a media renaissance lately. With that in mind here are some other fabulous 1920s ladies.

Josephine Baker was THE iconic lady of 1920s Paris. Dancer, singer, artist’s muse and activist, she paved the way for other black superstars and never gave up, despite some terrible treatment in her native America.

Clara Bow was all but forgotten until recent times, but in her day she was as popular as Marilyn Monroe. The refreshingly honest and brash New Yorker was never accepted into the Hollywood elite and sought solace in her fans, turning her back on the town once and for all after a series of scandals. For another documentary about her click here.

Louise Brooks was one of the most chic women to grace the silent pictures. She, too, suffered a fall once sound hit due to studio bosses using it as a threat: “stop embarrassing us by going out with lots of men or we’ll tell everyone your voice was horrible,” but she turned out to be a fantastic writer.

Intense and brooding onscreen, Anna May Wong would be forever cast as the exotic ‘other,’ imitated by white women at Hollywood parties she was unable to attend herself. Anna didn’t let that stop her though, and wasn’t afraid to try new mediums like ‘television.’

Though I don’t have a documentary about Dorothy Parker I couldn’t let her go unmentioned. As you might be able to tell from my live video of her story But The One On The Right and my post of various others reading her work, I’m a big fan.

However you can’t have Dorothy without mentioning The Algonquin Round Table and I did find a documentary on that. The mention of her is fairly brief but you get the spirit of her life in New York as a wit and poet along with equally vibrant characters. If you’re interested there’s a biopic called Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle. It’s flawed but still quite interesting.

Ta dah! So put on your party frock and mix some gin (or lemonade, up to you) and enjoy!