Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Kay Nielsen: East of the Sun and West of the Moon (1914)

"East of the Sun and West of the Moon" (Østenfor sol og vestenfor måne) is a Norwegian fairy tale, famously illustrated by Kay Nielsen in 1914.

"East of the Sun and West of the Moon" was collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe. It is Aarne–Thompson type 425A, the search for the lost husband; other tales of this type include "Black Bull of Norroway", "The King of Love", "The Brown Bear of Norway", "The Daughter of the Skies", "The Enchanted Pig", "The Tale of the Hoodie", "Master Semolina", "The Sprig of Rosemary", "The Enchanted Snake", and "White-Bear-King-Valemon". The Swedish version is called "Prince Hat under the Ground". It is related to both the tale of "Cupid and Psyche" in The Golden Ass and to "Beauty and the Beast". It was included by Andrew Lang in The Blue Fairy Book.

Spiders on LSD

In 1948 H.M. Peters, zoologist from the University of Tubingen, began filming the web-building techniques of the orb spider as part of a research project into web building methods. As orb spiders build their webs between 2am- 5am, Peters soon got bored and encouraged his colleague and pharmacologist (according to Rainer Foelix, in his book Biology of Spiders) Peter Witt to alter the diurnal habit of the spiders so he could film during the day. Witt recommended amphetamine, which had some starling effects. The spiders still made webs in the early hours, but to a different design, which prompted experiments with several other drugs. The results of these experiments are legendary. Probably the most interesting result is caffeine given its universality as a drug. I remember reading the NASA Tech Brief on this subject with some fascination as a student teacher. If more students were aware that science progresses through the laziness of zoologists, and curiosity of drug- crazed pharmacologists, there would be more interest in the subject.

Caravan: Winter Wine (1971)

Caravan are an English band from the Canterbury area, founded by former Wilde Flowers members David Sinclair, Richard Sinclair, Pye Hastings and Richard Coughlan in 1968. The band have not achieved much commercial success, but are considered a key part of the Canterbury scene, blending psychedelic rock, jazz and classical influences to create a distinctive progressive rock sound. The band reformed several times in the following decades, and Caravan still remain active as a live band in the 21st century, despite Coughlan's death in December 2013. Caravan are responsible for the definitive Canterbury Sound English prog- rock genre.

In the Land of Grey and Pink is Caravan's third album, released in April 1971 on Deram Records. Instrumentally, the music is dominated by David Sinclair's keyboard solos, and side two is taken up by a 22-minute suite of songs, "Nine Feet Underground". The cover features a Tolkien-influenced painting. The album was critically well received but was not a chart success, which led to frustration within the band and David Sinclair's departure. Nevertheless, it has remained in print and sold steadily, and been recommended by critics as a good introduction to the Canterbury Scene.

Caravan circa 1971: In The Land of Grey and Pink

Onibaba: Demon Hag (1964)

Onibaba (鬼婆, literally Demon Hag) is a 1964 Japanese historical drama horror film. It was written and directed by Kaneto Shindo. The film is set during a civil war in the fourteenth century. Nobuko Otowa and Jitsuko Yoshimura play two women who kill soldiers to steal their possessions.

A kijo (鬼女 lit. demon woman) is an oni woman from Japanese legends. They are normally considered to be women who have turned into oni as a result of karma and resentment, with the younger ones being called "kijo" while the ones that look like old ladies are called onibaba (鬼婆, "demon hag"). They often appear in Japanese legends, folktales, fairy tales, and performing arts, and famous among them are Momiji Densetsu (The Legend of Momiji) from Togakushi, Shinano Province (now the town of Kinasa, Nagano, Nagano Prefecture) and Suzuka Gozen from the Suzuka Mountains.

Shura: Demons, aka Pandemonium (1971)

Demons, aka Pandemonium (修羅 Shura) is a 1971 Japanese samurai jidaigeki / horror film directed by Toshio Matsumoto. Referring to asuras, the movie is based on Tsuruya Nanboku and Shuji Ishizawa's play Kamikakete Sango Taisetsu, and reflects the director's experimental filming background and theatrical influence. It was released on 13 February 1971 in Japan by the Art Theatre Guild and Matsumoto Productions Company, almost two years after the director's first feature-length attempt, Funeral Parade of Roses.
The film is a portrait of feudal Japan's society and culture. Related to older samurai genre films and the classic tale of the forty-seven ronin*, it begins with a colorful setting sun, but the rest of the film is shot in black and white.

* The revenge of the forty-seven rōnin (四十七士 Yon-jū-shichi-shi, forty-seven samurai), also known as the Akō incident (赤穂事件 Akō jiken) or Akō vendetta, is an 18th-century historical event in Japan in which a band of rōnin (leaderless samurai) avenged the death of their master. The incident has since become legendary.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Takato Yamamoto

Throne of Blood (1957)

Throne of Blood (Spider Web Castle) is a 1957 Japanese film co-written and directed by Akira Kurosawa. The film transposes the plot of Shakespeare's play Macbeth from Medieval Scotland to feudal Japan, with stylistic elements drawn from Noh drama, a classical form of music drama dating back to the fourteenth century.

According to Kurosawa:

"It was a very hard film to make. We decided that the main castle set had to be built on the slope of Mount Fuji, not because I wanted to show this mountain but because it has precisely the stunted landscape that I wanted. And it is usually foggy. I had decided that I wanted lots of fog for this film... Making the set was very difficult because we didn't have enough people and the location was so far from Tokyo. Fortunately, there was a U.S. Marine Corps base nearby and they helped a great deal; also a whole MP battalion helped us out. We all worked very hard indeed, clearing the ground, building the set. Our labor on this steep fog-bound slope, I remember, absolutely exhausted us; we almost got sick."

The film has received praise from literary critics, despite the many liberties it takes with the original play. In 1961, the Time review praised Kurosawa and the film as "a visual descent into the hell of greed and superstition." The American literary critic Harold Bloom judged it "the most successful film version of Macbeth." In his 2015 Movie Guide, Leonard Maltin gave the film four stars, calling it a "Graphic, powerful adaptation."

Callanais Stones Photography

Gerald Ponting's book Callanish & Other Megalithic Sites of the Outer Hebrides is a short & pleasant easy read. The illustrations are delicious and on high quality paper. The book focusses on  theories of the stone's origins, their excavation history and the stone circle of Callanish itself, which should actually be known as Callanais. The photography is mostly from the Facebook group Callanish Digital Designs, which is an endless font of creative photography of the Hebrides. 

Suck: Season of the Witch (1970)

Suck were a rock band who were part of South Africa's first wave of hard rock titled, the "Big Heavies". The group lasted eight months between 1970 and 1971, during which they recorded their lone LP, Time to Suck. It was later released in America in 2009. Time to Suck is the first and only album by the South African hard rock band Suck. Released in 1970, it was recorded at the EMI Studios in Johannesburg in six hours. The album was initially only released in South Africa and France. The French edition's cover had the colours inverted. The first official CD release came in 2001 on Fresh Music with the bonus track "War Pigs". In 2002, a label called Progressive Line purportedly operating out of Australia released its own CD version of Time to Suck. German label Shadoks reissued it in 2009 on CD and vinyl, the first vinyl issue of the album since 1970.

500th Birthday

Welcome to the Bohemian Budgie's 500th Blog!

I started writing this blog as a counterbalance to being stuck in an artless soul destroying job. Whilst that putrid existence was collapsing all around me, and with all the chaos and instability that engendered, the Bohemian Budgie became a unifying oasis, a monthly reminder of my Inner Temple. It seems my creative outlet turned out to be quite therapeutic in the end because I am now trundling along in a much more appropriate and liberating career in which I am my own master. I am free!

So you would think that the Bohemian Budgie has served its purpose and would naturally wither on the vine. In truth, there has been a bit of that dynamic at play, but I also feel a monthly reminder of my Inner Temple is an essential feature of the new me. So I will continue on a blogging for now and hope to celebrate the 1000th BB Blog looking off from from who knows which attractive vista.