Miserable, Monochrome

“(Mark E.) Smith’s vocal sounds so appalling,  so in-your-face, spittle-soaked disgusting, it feels like the equivalent of rescuing some old foaming at the mouth psycho from the gutter only to have him assault you for your trouble….the atmosphere is underwrought, miserable, monochrome.”

From David Keenan’s review of the The Fall’s Sub-Lingual Tablet (Wire magazine, June 2015)

Drawing by James Rowley, 2008

The Grid

“The prevailing wisdom among today’s planners is that it is important to honor the land’s contours, which only goes to show how visionary the city fathers were: they created a New York as eccentrically “intentional” as St. Petersburg, a madly rational scheme imposed on nature. Nor did they have any use for the circles, ovals, and other geometric interventions so loved by Europeans. The commissioners loved the ninety-degree angle, the forthright, egalitarian plod of rectangle after rectangle, extended indefinitely: they would have gridded the sea and stars if given the chance.

One reason the city fathers liked the grid was that it facilitated the orderly sale and development of property. While one hears the Manhattan grid disparaged today as merely a capitalist device for real-estate speculation, to me it is a mighty form, existential metaphor, generator of modernity, Procrustean bed, call it what you will, a thing impossible to overpraise. The architect Rem Koolhaas called it “the most courageous act of prediction in Western Civilization.” It inspired Mondrian, Sol Lewitt, Agnes Martin, and that’s good enough for me.”

Phillip Lopate in  Waterfront: A Journey Around Manhattan (2004)

approaching orange

approaching orange (through time). A collaborative work by Aschwin de Wolf and Avantika Bawa.

This series of multiples is an exploration of the possibilities of orange paint on canvas. By retaining a fixed scale, surface, and color, the work explores the visual and tactile qualities of different artist materials. These materials were carefully chosen to reveal the history of artist pigments and mediums.

Orange

Top to bottom: Blood, fat, and turmeric; watercolor; tempera (pigment and yolk), oil paint; encaustic (pigment and bees wax); acrylic paint, and spray paint

De Slachter van New York

In Belgium, Lucio Fulci’s New York Ripper was released as “De Doder van New York” as evidenced by the cover of the VHS tape below (a promotional poster also exists). Multiple sources state that the movie was released in the Netherlands as “De Slachter van New York” but so far I have not seen any evidence of this online; no videocassette covers, no poster or other promotional materials, and a web search produces only a handful of items that do not reveal any more information.

De Doder van New York
This short review (or more aptly, a description) of the New York Ripper in the Dutch newspaper Leidsch Dagblad of December 16, 1983 does use the name “De Slachter van New York” but whether the author refers to the title of the Dutch release is ambiguous.

De Slachter van New York Leidsch Dagblad Dec16 1983

Further complicating matters is this rare, poorly designed, bilingual, poster from Belgium that features “De Ripper of New York” as the title.

new-york-ripper-belgie

Herbert Lieberman and the New York Ripper

The atmospheric opening scene in Lucio Fulci’s nihilistic giallo masterpiece “The New York Ripper” (1982) starts with pan shots of the Manhattan skyline, the East river, and riverside Brooklyn with the urban sounds of traffic and police sirens setting the scene.  An old man is walking his dog along the East River near Manhattan Bridge and starts playing fetch.

new-york-ripper-bridge
A second throw lands the stick into the bushes but the dog returns  with a decomposed hand instead, at which point the frame freezes and the music and opening titles begin.

In 1976 Herbert Lieberman wrote a gritty forensic detective novel named “City of the Dead,” which is set in the same era’s seedy New York City. It is possible that the opening scene in the New York Ripper was inspired by this book. In chapter 10 of “City of the Dead”, Herbert Lieberman writes:

“The guy’s out walkin’ his dog, see? Right along the river. ‘Bout six A.M. The dog’s runnin’ around off the leash, see? And the guy’s just suckin’ up the breeze. Enjoyin’ the sunrise-”
“Skip the poetry, will you, Flynn? Just get on with the details.”
Flynn seems momentarily injured by the Chief’s impatience, but he continues. “Anyway, the guy whistles for Rover. The dog starts runnin’ toward him, see? Tail waggin’. All full of piss and vinegar. Only he’s got a goddamn hand in his mouth.”
“A hand?”
“Yeah – a human hand.”

nyripperbr-01

The cover design, ghoulish female face, and font type of the 1977 paperback edition of “City of the Dead” anticipate another horror movie; George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978). But unlike George Romero’s zombie movie, Lieberman’s book deals with a grotesque murder and the psychological disintegration of New York’s Chief Medical Examiner of New York. This paperback copy was tracked down in Kuala Lumpur’s “Junk Bookstore” in July, 2015.

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