The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov

The Rolling Stones ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ is based on this book.  That is why I read it. Rock’n’roll.  Basically, the Devil appears and f*cks people in the head.  And it’s very clever, caniving, devious and funny.

all along his difficult journey, he was inexpressibly tormented for some reason by the ubiquitous orchestra accompanying a heavy basso who sang of his love for Tatyana.

In chapter 4, as Ivan is ‘going crazy’, he hears this music everywhere and is taunted by it.

A brilliant detailed summary of the book can be found here if like me you suffer from a faulty memory and/or a ‘life'(/an existance) with little free time.  Also some interesting analysis’.  I’m not going to summarise it myself because I see it as one of those books that the pleasure comes from reading it, not the afterthoughts when you’re done, like those where you think ‘my brain has been upgraded now I have read that book! I see life differently and I can now make more productive decisions and informed choices! ah-ha!’ you know, one of those books… or is that just me that gets that… anyway…

These, are my favourite quotes I picked out from the book that made me laugh/ponder the most (in order of their appearance in the book):

I came in two weeks and was recieved by some girl whose eyes were crossed towards her nose from constant lying

Who the devil does he think he is?

I’m telling you he’s capricious as devil knows what!

I’ve been forcibly detailed here, they poke lamps into my eyes, question me for some reason

That quote seems to sum up some jobs quite comically 😉

Just like a murderer jumps out of nowhere in an alley, love jumped out infront of us and struck us both at once

Love is mental suicide.

(she)began kissing me and saying that it would be easier to die than to leave me alone in such a state, but that she was expected, that she must bow to necessity, that she would come the next day

Some inventive, inspiring descriptions:

The sun had melted the crowd away

The sun had vanished before it reached the sea in which it drowned every evening. The storm cloud that had swallowed it rose steadily and menacingly from the west.

A sickly fig tree tried desperately to live, clutching at the heaven-cursed waterless earth.

The line behaved with much agitation.

The above quote is referring to a queue of people, as if it was a whole, living thing – where imagination has helped pick out a few words for something so simple to transform into something creative.

‘Nothing, nothing, nothing, my dears!’ she shouted, addressing no one knew whom.  ‘The jacket and trousers are there, but inside the jacket there’s nothing!’

This quote I enjoy having taken it completely out of context.  To me, it coincidentally happens to perfectly explain how appearances can be decieving, someone could look the part but have absolutly no substance to them, and they fool people, but not everyone, and the few who can see through the facade want to tell everyone else and hopefully find a kindred spirit who sees what they see.

Words from the Devil himself:

‘Altogether bad’ ‘there’s something not nice hidden in men who avoid wine, games, the society of charming women, table talk.  Such people are either gravely ill or secretly hate everybody around them.  True, there maybe be exceptions.  Amoung persons sitting down with me at the banqueting table, there have been on occasion some extraordinary scoundrels!… And so, let me hear your business’

‘What’s the sense of dying in a ward to the groans and wheezes of the hopelessly ill?  Isn’t it better to give a banquet on the twenty-seven thousand, then take poison and move on to the other world to the sound of strings, surrounded by drunken beauties and dashing friends?’

Taking a closer look at him, the professor became convinced at once that this was no ordinary sparrow.  The obnoxious little sparrow dipped on its left leg, obviously clowning, dragging it, working it in syncopation – in short, it was dancing the foxtrot to the sounds of the gramaphone, like a drunkard in a bar, saucy as could be, casting impudent glances at the professor.

Also, I don’t know what kind of sick twisted seedy version I have, but I have noticed my chapter 14 is titled ‘Glory to the Cock!’ not ‘Hail to the Rooster!’ like it appears to be everywhere else… and in other versions it appears the aforementioned quote ends ‘staring at the professor as impudently and provokingly as it could.’  I understand Bulgakov died before completing this book, so someone else has either been meddeling with some of the words or it has been translated by multiple people?… ponder ponder…

BOOK TWO

Who told you that there is no true, faithful, eternal love in this world! May the liar’s vile tongue be cut out!

But as soon as the dirty snow disappeared from the sidewalk and streets, as soon as the slightly rotten, disquieting spring breeze wafted through the window, Margarita Nikolaevna began to grieve more than in winter.  She often wept in secret, a long and bitter weeping.  She did not know who it was she loved: a living man or a dead one?  And the longer the desperate days went on, the more often, especially at twilight, did the thought come to her that she was bound to a dead man.
She had either to forget him or to die herself.  It was impossible to drag on with such a life.  Impossible!  Forget him, whatever the cost – but he would not be forgotten, that was the trouble.
‘Yes, yes, yes, the very same mistake!’ Margarita said, sitting by the stove and gazing into the fire lit in the memory of the fire that had burned while he was writing Pontius Pilate.  ‘Why did I leave him that night? Why? It was madness! I came back the next day, honestly, as I’d promised, but it was too late.’
‘Ridiculous!…’ we might exclaim, but we shall not do so before a woman driven to despair.

‘go from my memory, then I’ll be free…’

Ah, truly, I’d pawn my soul to the devil just to find out whether he’s alive or not…

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Life In Russia by Aleksey Petrosian

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River by Frank O’Hara

This poem seems to provide a nice metaphore for a working life (of an unenjoyable job eating up your time when you are burning up with creativity inside, and you do not have the time and have lost the energy to get it out and it ends up destroying you, instead of making you happy)  ‘bowing to necessity’ with a broken spirit and warped mind, brainwashed into thinking you should be greatful you even have this job, and you must submit to this life, and your dreams are ridiculous and unattainable your cannot sustain your existence.  Ahh but I am getting carried away! and maybe I have got the concept completely wrong…

Whole days would go by, and later their years,
while I thought of nothing but its darkness
drifting like a bridge against the sky.
Day after day I dreamily sought its melancholy,
its searchings, its soft banks enfolded me,
and upon my lengthening neck its kiss
was murmuring like a wound. My very life
became the inhalation of its weedy ponderings
and sometimes in the sunlight my eyes,
walled in water, would glimpse the pathway
to the green sea. For it was there I was being borne.
Then for a moment my strengthening arms
would cry out upon the leafy crest of air
like whitecaps, and lightning, swift as pain,
would go through me on its way to the forest,
and I’d sink back upon the brutal tenderness
that bore me on, that held me like a slave
in its liquid distances of eyes, and one day,
though weeping for my caresses, would abandon me,
moment of infinitely salty air! Sun fluttering
like a signal! Upon the open flesh of the world.

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Claire Martin – Downtown East Side

Claire Martin is from Australia and was a social worker before becoming a photographer.  She documents marginialised communities living in desperate conditions in otherwise prosperous countries.  These photos were took in the Downtown East Side in Vancouver of people who have made the area, which is riddeled with, crime, drug addiction, prostitution and where 30% of the population have AIDS, their home.  Mental illness, addiction and poor coping strategies are the common factors that brought these people to their respective communities.

‘I was drawn to document these communities because the same issues have played a role in my own life. I grew up enjoying christmas lunches with relatives who were “let out” for the day from their various institutions, shuffling around in pyjamas, dull and subdued by their anti-psychotic medications or, in the case of those who were only partially mad, talking to imaginary parrots on their shoulders. One grandmother could not be contacted on Christmas because she lived out of her car with her cats, roaming remote Australia, never staying in one place long enough for anyone to get too close. I never felt that these problems were relevant to me as a child, as my immediate family was sane and happy, that is, until my father died of cancer and my mother fell into depression and alcoholism. Fortunately for me my formative years were a little eccentric but mostly stable and happy, but it begs the question, what if these family breakdowns had happened earlier in my life? Who would I be now? Would I have developed effective coping strategies or would I have learnt by example, turned to drugs and spiralled into psychosis?’ – Claire Martin

The following photos are a selection from her set ‘Downtown East Side’, which I think is some of the best social documentary photography ever.


Aparantly there is a trend going round the area of carrying around Chinese paper parasols and shooting up under them.  Also, you can buy crack pipes in local shops, and they get away with it by selling them as a novelty romantic trinket:

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Sally Mann – Immediate Family

Sally Mann is a photographer from rural southwestern Virginia, the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.   She took a series of photos documenting her children, Emmet, Jessie and Virginia’s childhood from 1984 to 1991.  She used damaged lenses and an 8 by 10 camera that required her using her hand as a shutter.

‘All my life many things have been the same.  When we stop by to see Virginia Carter, for whom our youngest daughter is named, we rock on her cool blue porch.  The man who walk by tip their hats, the women flap their hands languidly in our direction.  Or at the cabin: the rain comes to break the heat, fog obscuring the arborvitae on the cliffs across the river.  Some time ago I found a glass-plate negeative picturing the cliffs in the 1800s.  I printed it and held it up against the present reality, and the trees and caves and stains on the rock are identicle.  Even the deadwood, held in place by tenacious vines, has not slipped down.

There are some controversial shots, which Mann comments:

‘These are pictures of my children… Many of these pictures are intimate, some are fictions and some are fantastic, but most are of ordinary things every mother has seen.  I take pictures when they are bloodied or sick or naked or angry.  They dress up, they pout and posture, they paint their bodies, they dive like otters in the dark river.’

Personally I can see where both crtics and Mann are coming from.  I adore how photography can help capture a memory with a vivid visual aid.  I don’t think there is any particular time that taking a photograph in would be vulgar, they’re not just to record happy occassions or to prove you’ve been to certain landmarks.  But perhaps some of these photos should have been kept private, they’re her children, not the World’s.  A few of these photos are very maternal but the innocence is no doubt interpretated differently by some other adults.  Such as this disturbing interpretaion/review:

‘The sensuality in Mann’s work is unavoidable. She sees the innate sexuality of her children where others would shy away from it. She glorifies it. In the image entitled “Popsicle Drips”, we see a young, male torso, stained with liquid dripping down his lower abdomen to his thighs. His hips are sensually thrown to the side, and his arms are fully out of view. Upon first glance, it is an incredibly disturbing image, for two reasons. One, without the title, this liquid substance could be anything. My first impression of it was blood, and the second was feces. When reading the title, it makes a bit more sense, but one has to wonder, how did the popsicle drips get down there?

It opens up an entire line of questioning on how staged this image really was. Secondly, this image is the only one in the entire body of work that details male full-frontal nudity. This comes as a shock to those who were not expecting it, and it causes more of a discomfort than that of the full-frontal nude female. This image is highly provocative in its subject’s pose, and the added popsicle drips adds an element of touch and tangibility for the viewer. Gender is an issue that many people bring up when dealing with Mann’s work.’

I don’t want to focus on this aspect but I feel I should mention it, if I’m going to be writing a post about ‘Immediate Family’ instead of just leaving those pictures out and just glossing over all the controversy.  I’m not outraged, but I’ve not felt the need to really think about it or have to form an opinion.  But I do think you should not publish naked photographs of your children.  If it’s yourself as a child, fair enough, but even though it’s your child I don’t think you have any right to be doing it, it’s their choice.  Just put some clothes on them!  They’re not going to be young and innocent forever, they’re going to want modesty one day, or at least their own control over it.  Also there is a photo of one of her children sleeping naked and she’s wet the bed – that’s just too, too far.  Anyway, none of the following photos I am going to share are of that controversial kind.

Mann clearly does not care about what other people think or interpret her as.  Her father, she says was ‘quiet and unassuming in his persona and extravagant in his vision, his mannared and courtley behaviour improbably paired with unapologetic self-indulgence.’  He was an atheist and her and her brothers were the only children in the school required to sit in the hallway during Bible study.  Her family, she says were ‘simply, different.’ ‘Finally, we all came to believe what Rhett Butler told Scarlett: that reputation is something people with character can do without.’

Here is a small excerpt from her book:

Rank.  But you can see how her views have formed.  He had thirty acres of land with giant oaks, ponds and orchards.  She describes herself as ‘a feral child running around naked with the pack of boxers.’   Does she mean underwear from M&S someone gave her? Here put these on you poor child.

Mann:

‘Memory is the primary instrument, the inexhaustible nutrient source; these photographs open doors into the past but they also allow a look into the future.’

‘There’s the paradox: we see the beauty’ and we see the dark side of things.’ ‘The Japanese have a word for this dual perception: mono no aware.  It means something like ‘beauty tinged with sadness’.  How is it that we must hold what we love tight to us, against our very bones, knowing we must  also, when the time comes, let it go?’

I like them because they are haunting.

‘Candy Cigarette’

‘The New Mothers’

‘Squirrel Season’

‘Damaged Child’

‘Eyeless in Col Alto’

‘Drying Morels’

‘Jessie And The Deer’

‘Playing In The Pines’

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Wild Boys – William S. Burroughs

Now I don’t really have any idea what exactly the storyling was in Wild Boys, but I viewed it as a collection of some nice prose.   Which is perfect for me at the moment because recently, instead of searching for peoples philosphies on life in books, I find myself in search of inspiration to write myself.

Tio Mate Smiles, the first chapter gave me the urge to write summaries of people I know’s personalities using imaginative metaphores and give them all Mexican pseudonyms so I don’t accidentally directly insult (or dangerously over-flatter) anyone.

One paragraph beginning ‘his magic consists in’ inspired this small interpretation of part of a companions personality

His magic exists from a hypnotic, inadvertant demand of attention as he interrupts the Parade of Death and takes the stage, to unashamedly seize the higher pleasures they fear to reach.
Dead and unborn onlookers wallow in their weakness, as the shame they emit fails to penetrate him and rebounds with force as he shoves it down their throats and they choke, vomiting up a jealous mess of many made up morals purely to justify their cowardliness and they sink back down to worthlessness.
Rats of sumbission gnaw on his ankles but they fail to make him buckle and bow to necessity.

Another chapter in the book offers what I apreciate as a good summary of how devoting your life to a job you don’t enjoy will kill you (or rather your soul, which is as good as being dead).  You will only eat and shit for necessity, and the latter is due to inevitable loneliness.

‘In the fields workers are planting maize seeds under the direction of an overseer with staff and headdress.  Close-up of a worker’s face.  Whatever it is that makes a man a man, all feeling and all soul has gone out in that face.  Nothing is left but body needs and body pleasures.  I have seen faces like that in the back wards of state hospitals for the insane.  Faces that live to eat, shit and masturbate.’

Another chapter, Le Gran Luxe describes some kind of haven where everything is available to satisfy all your consumable needs, be it food, paragliding, educational interests (the latter from which the following quote is taken) and strangely a discription of computers that have all the information for any question on any subhect you could possible be curious about… like the internet, the strange bit is that it was written in 1969.

‘an educational short showing how le gran luxe can be achieved on a modest income.’ : ‘you see it’s all so simple home is where your ass is and if you want to move you move your ass the first step is learning to change homes with someone else and have someone else’s ass.’

Le Gran Luxe has instilled a streak of inspiration inside me to want to either set up my own ‘Butlins’ (never been, only guessing) style camp but with a suitable economy where living there is a lifestyle, not just a holiday, or to stop reading and get outside and make the most of the available physical indulgences this world already has to offer me!

This next quote I found comical and comforting for us slow learners out there:

‘Before my father started using morphine again he sent me to a Japanese person to learn something called Karate.  I learn these things fast because I am blank inside, and I have no special way of moving or doing things so one way is the same to me as another. ‘

And this next one is just funny:

‘I felt a shiver in the back of my neck as if a small animal with a cold nose has just nuzzled me there.’

This one is funny when taken out of context (I wonder whether that was intentional…):

‘It reeked of treachery but we were blinded by the terrible Bor Bor they were putting in our food and drink.  Bor Bor is the drug of female illusion and it is said that he who takes Bor Bor cannot see a wild boy until it is too late.’

Well it turns out ‘The Wild Boys is a futuristic tale of global warfare in which a guerrila gang of boys dedicated to freedom battles the organized armies of repressive police states’.  This following quote I think sums that up, with an extreme, disturbing (and perhaps fascinating?) example, showing just what doing whatever the Hell you want for your own personal pleasure and/or experience with reckless regard and no consideration for others could lead to.

‘I saw the Colonel empty his revolver and go down under ten wild boys.  A moment later they tossed his bleeding head into the air and started a ball game.  Just at dusk the wild boys got up and padded away.  They left the bodies stripped to the skin many with genitals cut off.  The wild boys make little testicles in which they carry their hasish and khat.’

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Lewis W. Hine

I feel shamed to admit it, but this photograph has been forever etched into my mind, years ago, as possibly the best photo I have ever seen, of portraying ‘looking cool’.

Slight shame about acknowledging this effortlessly ‘cool’ look stems from learning this photograph is part of a social documentary set by Lewis W. Hine focusing on child labour.  Ahh, child labour, not so cool now.  This particular set is called ‘Newsies’.  I don’t know why but even the slang name for their line of work oozes coolness.  It was taken at 11am in St. Louis, Missouri between 1908-1912.

Too many details were recorded about this following lad leading this image to be disturbing.

This chap is reported as being called Richard Pierce.  At age 14 he’s been at his job for nine months so far, works from 7am to 6pm, smokes and… visits houses of prostitution.

These ‘Newsies’ sold Newspapers (believe it or not) and could get physically punished by their families for not selling enough so they would often work late into the night.

Another memorable photo from the ‘Newsies’ set is this following one, quite sweet this one, of a little group of chaps ‘playing craps in the jail alley at 10pm’, taking the opportunity for a bit of light relief.  This one particularly looks like it is from the set of a film, but it is real.

This next photo has also been forever etched into my mind as the most haunting photograph I have ever seen.  It is from the set documenting child miners.

This young lad was a mine driver in West Virginia and has been working there a year doing 7am to 5:30pm shifts every day.

Hine also photographed child factory workers, guess what they produced in this Florida factory?…

and aparantly they all smoked.  (Still managed to wear cool hats tipped at a stylish angle though… not to distract from the sad tone of the photograph with shallowness… just sayin’…)

The rest of the 5000+ photos Hine took of child labour can be viewed here http://www.lewishinephotographs.com/thumbnails

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