Category Archives: Reviews

The Berlin Stories, by Christopher Isherwood

berlin_storiesWritten in the early 1930s while Isherwood was living in Berlin as an English teacher, he witnesses the simmering political situation as the Nazi party rises to power and prominence. As a former resident of Berlin in the later half of the first decade of the new century, I was able to follow Isherwood down the streets and through the routes he travels, into the hinterhofs and up the dark altbau stairwells. He describes in vivid detail the characters he meets, the crooks, the dandies, the whores, the pimps and crooks. The stories would later be woven together in a pastiche of scenes, characters and impressions for Broadway in 1966, then as the 1972 film “Cabaret” with Liza Minnelli and a very well cast Michael York.
The grim political tone aside, reading these stories transported me back into Berlin instantly. Nearly all the characters he encounters had their counterparts to my own experience. It’s an intimate look into this very special and unique time period from a very personal and sincere perspective – it’s no wonder this collection is so highly regarded in literary circles.
The introductory character, Mr. Norris, is a man of little scruples, a failed dilettante and businessman of no certain legitimacy. He swindles, schemes and manipulates his way through life, all the while remaining very charming in a certain way. He reminds me of the storyline set forth in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s “Satansbraten”. He seems to also be alluded to in “Cabaret” as the writer who Brian is paid to translates the smut book for. Sally Bowles is of course the focal point as the cabaret girl, who is in the book actually British, not American, as portrayed in the film adaptation.

California Deathrock – The Photo Book

 Mark Splatter circa 2003 at a Release the Bats photo session with Amelia G and Forrest Black 
2000-2005 was a particularly relevant time in deathrock culture. I had just moved to California from New Jersey, as the proprietor of Deathrock.com, a webzine that served as a sort of beacon for the dark-minded music aficionado. Part reference guide, part webzine, it was a place where bands like UK Decay, TSOL, and The Mob first got more than just a mention in a collectors’ trade list. I was a young zine publisher who’d taken up web design in its infancy and was eager to share my love for anything remotely Misfits-esque, or even darker, more somber sounds like Southern Death Cult and Kommumity FK.

The New York presence of adherents for such sounds was lacking, apart from a small corps of gloom rockers like Charlie the Slut and Paul Morden, who took me under their wing as an aspiring DJ, and our close friends. When I visited California to meet some of the Los Angeles correspondents I was blown away by the packed floor of a club dedicated to just such sounds at Release The Bats. NYC always stood apart as too homogenous and sophisticated in its tastes to cater to such a niche and outmoded (although beloved) style. It was a no-brainer that the West Coast was where I wanted to be, where deathrock, as many argue, was born. 

Six months later I packed my bags and arrived, a 21-year-old devil lock-wearing deathpunk, and a postage stamp-sized record distributer with a case of music and a pair of DJ headphones. There it was not that it was still going strong, as it was ground zero for a full-on rebirth. New bands were evolving and converging, local bands coming into their own distinct style, Cinema Strange and The Deep Eynde pumped all sorts of energy and fishnet into our veins, and local legends were showing their faces again. Kommumity FK, Dinah Cancer and Gitane Demone resumed their positions as luminaries. Release the Bats was our Mecca, facing west. Bands from all over the globe were sending their energy into it too. Crews from further north and south were getting in touch. First the San Francisco synth-damaged Phantom Limbs with The Vanishing one on top of the other. Frank The Baptist and Diana Death from San Diego.

In that motley crew of deathrockers, gothpunks, dark new wavers, postpunks and horrorpunks were Amelia and Forrest, of Blueblood fameā€”one of the only established alt-porn names of the day. With their camera savvy and eye for the exotic black-clad, they managed to capture in brilliant gloss the blackest the Sunshine State had to offer, from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Now their work has been collected in this deluxe photo book, California Deathrock.

It reads without words like a yearbook of the era. Looking through the photos brings “ooohs” and “aaahhs” of recognition; the friends, acquaintances, strangers, lovers, and adversaries (if only for their makeup flair or record collections!). Fishing names and memories out of a golden era is just one of the perks of this book. The first of all being the gamut of styles, the theatrics, the glamour, the variety and poetry of appearance that this book represents, a jewel in the collection of anyone who finds beauty in the creativity and expression of the gothic style.
http://californiadeathrock.com for more info:

  
and

http://ameliag.com/cadramzn.php to order!

  

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Triste with Alcestis, Medea, Andromache

This afternoon I hit the streets, in order to take in some light of a clear autumn day. I had barely a few dollars left but it’s always worthwhile to head down to Flatiron where the best thrift shops in manhattan are all in a row. I ran into Pasolini along the way and he showed me a copy of Euripides ten plays.
Three of which bore certain significance. Alcestis reminded me of a former lover I still never got over losing. Medea, again of another brief affair who burned me hard and left me stranded on the streets. Andromache, not associated with a personal story, but her likeness in the painting by Rochegeross was the basis of one of my most recent jewelry designs.
Before that I was reading Das Nibelungenlied, which I also had fun relating too, and found more entertaining than anything that might be on television lately. I don’t even own or watch tv.
I’ve been reading a lot lately. Keeping the company of some fairly volatile and dour characters as in the novels and histories I’ve been spending most if my time with has cast my mood into a pretty sharp and cynical point.
I find these significances and associations in everything, and they, more than anything are the signals I look out for. The advice I take when I’m at a loss for direction. My shoulders to cry on, hands to hold, and drinking buddies. I think some people must have family and friends who give them the social and moral guidelines to follow, for better, or worse. Having spent the last few years primarily alone as a wanderer, art has been my only reliable companion.
Having returned from abroad and being in contact with my family again, I’ve observed the strain and pressure that can unnecessarily be doled out by peers and family who don’t comprehend your values or intentions. I don’t repel the idea of establishing relationships again, but as time goes by you get set in the company you keep, and taking on new members of the group becomes more difficult, as we protect ourselves from harm and loss, as well as resisting change to our familiar surroundings and learning new things. Once recognized, this behavior should be challenged! Embrace change, move ever forward. Nothing is permanent especially life or the paths we follow, so don’t be afraid to open new doors, or close old ones.