Based on his pioneering work in the recent book High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience in the Seventies, author and podcaster Erik Davis will explore the phenomenon of occult revivals, comparing and contrasting some of the factors that made the early 1970s and the late 2010s hotbeds of occultism, witchcraft, and visionary experience. Featuring films by visual artists Dustin Wong and Amanda Siegel.
For Litquake 2019, Erik Davis spoke with RU Sirius about the politics of high weirdness, then and now.
High Weirdness By Mail by Ivan Stang
This hysterical hobbyist’s guide belongs in every hip library. Coot cat Reverend Ivan Stang, high holy of the Church of the SubGenius, has compiled a bestiary of American creeps and crazies so that you can write to them and receive mail that is weird, horrible, wonderfully absurd, or a combination of all three.
.. it’s POETIC UNDERSTANDING AND JUSTIFIABLE HATE. It’s July 4 on the top of the Empire State Building after reading an ART SIN BOY mimeograph at Club 57 watching fireworks and thinking about the smile exchanged on the street and nothing but a second glance and lots of dreaming. … It’s letting records skip for ten minutes and thinking it’s beautiful. … IT’S LISTENING TO OTHER POETS AT CLUB 57, TALKING TO POETS, BEING A POET AT CLUB 57. It’s painting on ST MARK’S outside of STROMBOLI PIZZA.
… IT’S DREAMS OF FALLING INTO WARM WATER HOLE WITH EXOTIC FISH CREATURE AND ENOUGH LIGHT TO SEE EVERYTHING.
it’s painting on walls in the suburbs.. IT’S FINDING OUT THE SPACE AGE BEGAN IN 1958. … it’s pornographic pictures and blue feathers.
“Sooner or later
the exact measurement of our time
and we’ll be on the ship that’s bound
for the bitterest shore. (II, 9)
Time is a mystery that does not cease to puzzle us. Philosophers, artists and poets have long explored its meaning while scientists have found that its structure is different from the simple intuition we have of it. From Boltzmann to quantum theory, from Einstein to loop quantum gravity, our understanding of time has been undergoing radical transformations. Time flows at a different speed in different places, the past and the future differ far less than we might think, and the very notion of the present evaporates in the vast universe.
Carlo Rovelli on The Order of Time (youtube)
“For centuries, as long as travel was on horseback, on foot, or in carriages, there was no reason to synchronize clocks between one place and another. There was good reason for not doing so. Midday is, by definition, when the sun is at its highest. Every city and village had a sundial that registered the moment the sun was at its midpoint, allowing the clock on the bell tower to be regulated with it, for all to see.
But the sun does not reach midday at the same moment in Lecce as it does in Venice, or in Florence, or in Turin, because the sun moves from east to west. and for centuries the clocks in Venice were a good half hour ahead of those in Turin. Every small village had its own peculiar “hour.” A train station in Paris kept its own hour, a little behind the rest of the city, as a kind of courtesy toward travelers running late.
Southland Tales is a 2006 science fiction comedy-drama thriller film and the second film written and directed by Richard Kelly. The title refers to the Southland, a name used by locals to refer to Southern California and Greater Los Angeles. Set in the then-near future of 2008, as part of an alternate history, the film is a portrait of Los Angeles, and a satiric commentary on the military–industrial complex and the infotainment industry. The film features an ensemble cast including Dwayne Johnson, Seann William Scott, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mandy Moore, and Justin Timberlake. Original music was provided by Moby. The film is an international co-production of the United States, Germany and France.
timespace coordinates: On July 4th, 2005, in a fictionalized United States alternate history reality, two towns in Texas (El Paso and Abilene) were destroyed by twin nuclear attacks, killing thousands and triggering a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions, sending America into a state of anarchy and hysteria, as well as a Third World War (a fictionalized version of what the nation may have become under the War on Terror), with the US government re-introducing the draft. The PATRIOT Act has extended authority to a new agency known as US-IDent, which keeps constant surveillance on citizens—even to the extent of censoring the Internet and requiring fingerprints to access computers and bank accounts. In response to the recent fuel shortage in the wake of global warfare, the German company Treer designs a generator of inexhaustible energy, which is propelled by the perpetual motion of ocean currents, called “Fluid Karma”. However, its inventor Baron von Westphalen and his associates are hiding the fact that the generators alter the ocean’s currents and cause the Earth to slow its rotation, and that the transmission of Fluid Karma to portable receivers (via quantum entanglement) is ripping holes in the fabric of space and time.
In near-future 2008, Los Angeles (referred to as “The Southland” by locals) is a city on the brink of chaos overshadowed by the growth of an underground neo-Marxist organization. The film follows the criss-crossed destinies of Boxer Santaros, an action film actor stricken with amnesia; Krysta Now, a psychic ex-porn star in the midst of creating a reality TV show; and twin brothers Roland and Ronald Taverner, whose destinies become intertwined with that of all mankind.
Southland Tales was initially planned to be a nine-part “interactive experience”, with the first six parts published in six 100-page graphic novels that would be released in a six-month period up to the film’s release. The feature film comprises the final three parts of the experience. A website was also developed to intertwine with the graphic novels and the film itself. The idea of six graphic novels was later narrowed down to three. The novels were written by Kelly and illustrated by Brett Weldele. Kelly wrote them while making the film and found it very difficult as it pushed him “to the edge of my own sanity”, as he remarked in an interview.
- Part One: Two Roads Diverge (May 25, 2006)
- Part Two: Fingerprints (September 15, 2006)
- Part Three: The Mechanicals (January 31, 2007)
They have been collected together into one single volume:
- Southland Tales: The Prequel Saga (360 pages)
The titles of the parts in the film are:
- Part Four: Temptation Waits
- Part Five: Memory Gospel
- Part Six: Wave of Mutilation
The film remains enigmatic to many viewers and even some of its makers. In a 2011 interview, Justin Timberlake himself said, “To me, Southland Tales is performance art. I still don’t know what that movie is about [laughs].”
In a 2013 interview, Kelly said he considered this work as “the thing that I’m most proud of, and I feel like it’s sort of the misunderstood child or the banished child.” (wiki)
The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden is a 2013 feature-length documentary directed by Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine. It is about a series of unsolved disappearances on the Galapagos island of Floreana in the 1930s among the largely European expatriate residents at the time. The voice cast includes Cate Blanchett, Sebastian Koch, Thomas Kretschmann, Diane Kruger, Connie Nielsen, Josh Radnor and Gustaf Skarsgård.