The Chelsea Sessions 1967 – The Incredible String Band

The Chelsea Sessions 1967 is a compilation album by the Scottish psychedelic folk group the Incredible String Band, which compiles their demo recordings prior to their second studio album, The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion. Other tracks were also produced during the Wee Tam and the Big Huge sessions in 1968. The sessions were first uncovered by Island Records in 1985. The early productions were one of the first known recordings with Mike Heron and Robin Williamson as a duo. Recording began in October 1966 at Sound Techniques Studios as works in progress for the band’s second album. Williamson had returned from his travels in Morocco to reform the band with Heron under their producer, Joe Boyd. Of the 13 demos, six were included on the album. The compositions, in general, were similar to what the band released on their first two albums. The arrangements, in their beginning stages, are simpler instrumentally compared to the band’s complex, final product. The lyrics and rhythm also differ, most obviously on ‘The Mad Hatter’s Song’ and ‘Blues for the Muse’. The demos were mainly solo efforts by Heron and Williamson as their contributions were relative to whoever composed the track. Of the seven tracks that do not appear on the second album, ‘Iron Stone’ is the only one to appear on any studio album by the band. The demo of ‘Iron Stone’ is the first take and lacks the last instrumental section, but includes lyrics not on the album version. Two tracks, ‘God Dog’ and ‘Lover Man’, were not released by the band, but were later covered by other artists. ‘God Dog’, which features Dolly Collins on flute organ, was left out of 5000 Layers as it did not fit the album’s style, and was later covered by Shirley Collins and Dolly Collins on their album, Anthems in Eden. ‘Lover Man’ was considered too similar to ‘Painting Box’, but was covered on Al Stewart‘s album, Bedsitter Images. The remaining four tracks were previously unreleased material not completed for any studio album. …”
amazon, iTunes
YouTube: The Chelsea Sessions 1967 5 videos

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Everything Is Connected: Art and Conspiracy

“For the last fifty years, artists have explored the hidden operations of power and the symbiotic suspicion between the government and its citizens that haunts Western democracies. Everything Is Connected: Art and Conspiracy is the first major exhibition to tackle this perennially provocative topic. It traces the simultaneous development of two kinds of art about conspiracy. The first half of the exhibition comprises works by artists who hew strictly to the public record, uncovering hidden webs of deceit—from the shell corporations used by New York’s largest private landlord, interconnected networks encompassing politicians, businessmen, and arms dealers. In the second part, other artists dive headlong into the fever dreams of the disaffected, creating fantastical works that nevertheless uncover uncomfortable truths in an age of information overload and weakened trust in institutions. Featuring seventy works by thirty artists in media ranging from painting and sculpture to photography, video, and installation art, from 1969 to 2016, Everything Is Connected: Art and Conspiracy presents an alternate history of postwar and contemporary art that is also an archaeology of our troubled times.  …”
Metropolitan Museum of Art (Video)
Guardian – Everything is connected: new exhibition on art and conspiracy
From assassinations to CIA mind control: new show investigates how artists tackle conspiracy theories
Connecting the Dots in the Met Breuer’s Show About Conspiracy Theories
W – Deaths and disappearances
YouTube: Everything is Connected: Art and Conspiracy

Emory Douglas – The Black Panther Illustration. Photograph: Emory Douglas
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The Alexandria Quartet – Lawrence Durrell (1957-1960)

The Alexandria Quartet, Lawrence Durrell‘s celebrated tetralogy from the 1950s, was defined by its author as ‘an investigation of modern love’, but has often been regarded by its readers more as an evocation of a city – the Greco-Arab, multi-ethnic Alexandria of its title. Almost infinite variations of love are certainly explored in its 1,000-odd pages, and the presence of Alexandria certainly permeates the work, but I think the legendary fascination of the quartet is essentially existential. The work itself is greater than its themes, and casts a spell that is neither precisely emotional nor specifically topographic. It is actually neither specific nor precise about anything. It was an experimental novel of its day, perhaps related to the work of Durrell’s friend Henry Miller, perhaps to Ulysses. It was based on the premise that people and events seem different when considered from different angles and periods, and that they can best be recorded, as Durrell himself put it, stereoscopically. The four volumes concern the same characters, but each of the several narrators tell the novels’ complex tales from their own viewpoint, and they write at different times. It is a device, Durrell claimed, amounting to a new concept of reality, reflecting the ideas of Freud and Einstein and a convergence of western and eastern metaphysics.  … The several narrators of the Quartet are certainly enslaved by Alexandria’s genii loci, and readers are likely to be entrapped too, because the work, so opaque is other contexts, is clear enough when it deals with the city. We soon learn the geography of the place, from the handsome Rue Fuad to the meshed Arab backstreets, from the elegance of L’Etoile or the Cecil Hotel to the hashish cafés of the slums or the sandy approaches to the Western Desert. We see inside the mansions of rich cosmopolitans and diplomats, we visit stifling attic bedrooms, brothels and pleasure pavilions by the sea. … The four books of the tetralogy originally appeared separately – Justine in 1957, Balthazar and Mountolive in 1958, Clea in 1960. They were immediately recognised as remarkable works of art, but the verdict on the whole work, while always respectful, was mixed. French critics adored it. Americans lapped it up. English reviewers were not so sure. …”
Guardian – Rereading: The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell
W – The Alexandria Quartet, W – Justine, W – Balthazar, W – Mountolive, W – Clea
Pseudo-Intellectual Reviews – Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, Clea
Revisiting Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet — Paul M. Curtis
Guardian: Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria – in pictures
NY Times: It Happened in Alexandria,
Intrigue Is the Way of Life, Alexandria Revisited , Books of The Times
amazon: The Alexandria Quartet

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Down These Mean Streets: Community and Place in Urban Photography

Winston Vargas, Barbershop, Washington Heights, New York, 1961
“America’s urban streets have long inspired documentary photographers. After World War II, populations shifted from the city to the suburbs and newly built highways cut through thriving neighborhoods, leaving isolated pockets within major urban centers. As neighborhoods started to decline in the 1950s, the photographers in this exhibition found ways to call attention to changing cities and their residents. Down These Mean Streets: Community and Place in Urban Photography explores the work of ten photographers—Manuel Acevedo, Oscar Castillo, Frank Espada, Anthony Hernandez, Perla de Leon, Hiram Maristany, Ruben Ochoa, John Valadez, Winston Vargas, and Camilo José Vergara—who were driven to document and reflect on the state of American cities during these transformative years. Rather than approach the neighborhoods as detached observers, these artists deeply identified with their subject. Activist and documentary photographer Frank Espada captured humanizing portraits of urban residents in their decaying surroundings. Hiram Maristany and Winston Vargas lovingly captured street life in historic Latino neighborhoods in New York City, offering rare glimpses of bustling community life that unfolded alongside urban neglect and community activism. Working in Los Angeles, Oscar Castillo captured both the detritus of urban renewal projects and the cultural efforts of residents to shape their own neighborhoods. Perla de Leon’s poignant photographs of the South Bronx in New York—one of the most iconic blighted neighborhoods in American history—place into sharp relief the physical devastation of the neighborhood and the lives of the people who called it home. John Valadez’s vivid portraits of stylish young people in East Los Angeles counter the idea of inner cities as places of crime. Camilo José Vergara and Anthony Hernandez adopt a cooler, conceptual approach. …”
SAAM (Video)
NY Times: Piri Thomas, Spanish Harlem Author, Dies at 83
[PDF] Down These Mean Streets
YouTube: Down These Mean Streets: Community and Place in Urban Photography

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Spy vs. Spy

Spy vs. Spy is a wordless comic strip published in Mad magazine. It features two agents involved in stereotypical and comical espionage activities. One is dressed in white, and the other in black, but they are otherwise identical, and are particularly known for their long, beaklike heads and their white pupils and black sclera. The pair are always at war with each other, using a variety of booby-traps to inflict harm on the other. The spies usually alternate between victory and defeat with each new strip. A parody of the political ideologies of the Cold War, the strip was created by Cuban expatriate cartoonist Antonio Prohías, and debuted in Mad #60, dated January 1961. Spy vs. Spy is currently written and drawn by Peter Kuper. … Prohías was a prolific cartoonist in Cuba known for political satire. He fled to the United States on May 1, 1960, three days before Fidel Castro‘s government nationalized the last of the Cuban free press. Prohías sought work in his profession and travelled to the offices of Mad magazine in New York City on July 12, 1960. After a successful showing of his work and a prototype cartoon for Spy vs. Spy, Prohías was hired. Prohías cryptically signed each strip on its first panel with a sequence of Morse code characters that spell ‘BY PROHIAS’. In a 1983 interview with the Miami Herald, Prohías reflected on the success of Spy vs. Spy, stating, ‘The sweetest revenge has been to turn Fidel’s accusation of me as a spy into a moneymaking venture.’ Prohías, however, was censored by Mad magazine publisher William Gaines on at least one occasion: the strip that eventually appeared in Mad magazine #84 (Jan. 1964) was altered to remove scenes where the spies drink and smoke (Gaines had a strong anti-smoking stance). Prohías completed a total of 241 Spy vs. Spy strips for Mad magazine, the last one appearing in #269 (March 1987). After that he drew gag strips for the titles (such as one involving radioactive waste in #287) and wrote several stories for Clarke or Manak to draw, with his last such contribution in #337 (July 1995). … Black Spy and White Spy (or ‘Man in Black’ and ‘Man in White’) — Wearing wide-brimmed hats and dressed in overcoats, both Spies have long pointed faces. They are identical except for one being entirely in white and one entirely in black. …”
Comic Strip / Spy vs. Spy

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Ingmar Bergman

Jörgen Lindström and Liv Ullmann – “Persona”

Ernst Ingmar Bergman (14 July 1918 – 30 July 2007) was a Swedish director, writer, and producer who worked in film, television, theatre and radio. Considered to be among the most accomplished and influential filmmakers of all time, Bergman’s renowned works include Smiles of a Summer Night (1955), The Seventh Seal (1957), Wild Strawberries (1957), The Silence (1963), Persona (1966), Cries and Whispers (1972), Scenes from a Marriage (1973), and Fanny and Alexander (1982). Bergman directed over sixty films and documentaries for cinematic release and for television, most of which he also wrote. He also directed over 170 plays. From 1953, he forged a powerful creative partnership with his full-time cinematographer Sven Nykvist. Among his company of actors were Harriet and Bibi Andersson, Liv Ullmann, Gunnar Björnstrand, Erland Josephson, Ingrid Thulin and Max von Sydow. Most of his films were set in Sweden, and numerous films from Through a Glass Darkly (1961) onward were filmed on the island of Fårö. His work often deals with death, illness, faith, betrayal, bleakness and insanity. Philip French referred to Bergman as ‘one of the greatest artists of the 20th century […] he found in literature and the performing arts a way of both recreating and questioning the human condition.’ Mick LaSalle argued, ‘Like Virginia Woolf and James Joyce in literature, Ingmar Bergman strove to capture and illuminate the mystery, ecstasy and fullness of life, by concentrating on individual consciousness and essential moments.’  … In the early 1960s he directed three films that explored the theme of faith and doubt in God, Through a Glass Darkly (1961), Winter Light, (1962), and The Silence (1963). Critics created the notion that the common themes in these three films made them a trilogy or cinematic triptych. Bergman initially responded that he did not plan these three films as a trilogy and that he could not see any common motifs in them, but he later seemed to adopt the notion, with some equivocation. He made a parody of Fellini in 1964, All These Women. In 1966, he directed Persona, a film that he himself considered one of his most important works. While the highly experimental film won few awards, many consider it his masterpiece. Other notable films of the period include The Virgin Spring (1960), Hour of the Wolf (1968), Shame (1968) and The Passion of Anna (1969). …”
W – Ingmar Bergman filmography
New Yorker: The Immortal World of Ingmar Bergman
senses of cinema
Janus Films – Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema: A Centennial Retrospective
Criterion: Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema
NY Times: Ingmar Bergman, Master Filmmaker, Dies at 89

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Song to a Seagull – Joni Mitchell (1968)

“When she released her first album in March of 1968, Joni Mitchell would have been justified in conforming to expectations. Though not known for her own recordings, she was well-known as a songwriter thanks to Judy Collins’ hit with ‘Both Sides Now,’ and several other versions of Mitchell songs – like ‘The Circle Game’ and ‘Chelsea Morning’ – by Collins and other members of Mitchell’s her growing coterie of folk-rock admirers. But Mitchell refused to include any of those songs on her debut, opting instead to present unfamiliar selections that better reflected her vision for the album and her entry into the world of recording.  As David Yaffe explores in his great recent Mitchell biography, the unknown songs better fit the ‘overriding narrative’ around which Mitchell constructed the album – a two-part journey of the artist as a young woman, with side one (‘I Came To The City’) featuring songs that emerged from her early years in Toronto and side two (‘Out of the City and Down to the Seaside’) reflecting her journey to California. Beyond this specific formal requirement, Yaffe notes that ‘Joni also wanted the album to sound fresh, not like cover versions of her own songs.’ So the familiar material was set aside. This gutsy choice signaled the daring artistry that marked Mitchell’s career as she became one of the great artists of the album era. Song to a Seagull (alternatively known simply as Joni Mitchell) sounds like a prelude to her run of masterpieces – which, by my estimation, runs from Ladies of the Canyon to Hejira – more than one itself. But it is a work of depth and precision that contains some fantastic songs and performances, as well as introducing many of the key creative dynamics that structured Mitchell’s astonishing career. Produced by David Crosby, who wisely stays out of Mitchell’s way, Song to a Seagull envelops the listener in warm arrangements that center on her voice, guitar and piano. Despite this austere approach, the tracks sound less like an unadorned document than a carefully-crafted demonstration of a virtuoso at work. …”
The ’68 Comeback Special
W – Song to a Seagull
YouTube: Song to a Seagull – full album 38:07

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