Category Archives: Photo Essay

A Terror of Cherubs

The only collective noun possible. I hate cherubs, hate their fat little bodies that no wings could possibly get off the ground, hate the mawkish sentimentality that they represent in a period where poverty was so high and infant mortality even higher. So I did not take pictures of the ubiquitous things until I could no longer help myself due to their ridiculousness. It could well be the result of the concupiscence of adult statues that fills Prague
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These are quite hilarious, and in spite of myself possibly endearing, in their silly state on either side of a grandiose balcony:IMG_8640

IMG_8641Some more
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And even more
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An explosion of them in seemingly unconnected pieces from what seems like the very mouth of hell on the side of a church:
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The worst is that our excursion into the Savarin Palace to visit the Museum of Communism revealed there are as many inside these Baroque monstrosities as there are outside:
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And they didn’t stop with the Baroque, disturbingly enough:
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This is only a slight taste of the cherub flesh surrounding you at all times, but I’ll leave you with a couple of more tasteful pictures that give a glimpse of the city, as I haven’t yet done that!
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Prague’s Erogenous Zones

The exuberance of rococo nudity in Prague is stunning, in every sense of the term. Large well-endowed women stare down at you from facade after facade with only their stoney flesh to keep them warm:

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Not my favourite style, but it is carried out with such panache I could not help but be impressed, if only with its absurdity:

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I have never seen suggestively positioned, naked and possibly pregnant women used as supports for heavy masonry. The symbolism (or lack of it) fairly boggles the mind unlike the use of Atlas-type figures. They are wearing fish on their heads, however, so I suppose some symbolism is involved, as must also be the case for this guy with a chicken on his head (apologies he too is not nude, we’ll get to the men soon):

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Birds are almost as common as naked human beings, and sometimes they came together

IMG_8669With the rococo I simply shrug, though the scale and imagination was most impressive. Unsurprisingly you can only see so many naked women without ceasing to be aware of them or continue taking pictures. What was striking, however, was that this nudity continues on through the ages. There are some beautiful and extremely saucy art nouveau facades, different from anything I have seen before:

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And statues as well
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But the social realists have also gotten into the act — though a little more chastely:

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Modern sculpture is of course also represented:

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We also found a splendid sign, unique in everything but the nudity, which could equally well predate or postdate everything else pictured here:

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But it is not just the woman’s body that is celebrated, though the ladies far outnumber everyone else. This particular celebration has been painted so that it is camouflaged as much as possible, which is exactly what called my attention to it after such a surfeit of flaunting breasts over residential edifices:

IMG_9649I also loved this nonchalant (although well covered) pose on Prague’s famous Municipal House off of Namesti Republiky:

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Perhaps some of the most hilarious images are of men and their favourite bits — everyone’s favourite bits apparently:

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While at Ještěd Tower in Liberec there was a similar phenomenon, alien but very very male:

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More penii and grinning laughing tourists were to be found in front of the Kafka Museum:

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It was funny to later that same day run into this suspect statue up at the castle:

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Altogether there is one almighty celebration of the human body happening all over Prague. Next — the unfortunate result.

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Prague Entries (or, of knobs and knockers)

I’m often caught by small details, little things that I like to think almost no one else sees. Beautiful things, strange things, unlikely things. Those of us who see them are thus joined in this appreciation of the not-quite-hidden, the unique everyday, the unspectacular. Our lives contain more joy, or so I like to think. Maybe more of us than I think walk through the city awake and aware and reveling in these details. I myself do it surreptitiously when on the street alone, never able to rid myself of the ingrained dislike of making myself a target. Streets can be dangerous places.

Prague is the most dangerous of all, a city of details.

It is, of course, superficially and ridiculously gorgeous. But what I loved most about it is that this beauty goes all the way down to the minute; incredible craftsmanship abounds everywhere. Some of it was clearly put in service of evil — the ubiquitous cherub for example, to be explored in the next post — but damn. So much of it is of the beautiful and good. So this is a photo-essay of the beautiful doors of Prague. Because this is what they look like, even when we got onto the off-the-tourist-track streets walking down away past Florenc station. They’ve seen better days, but from the carved wood to the iron and grill work to the inlays and fixtures, they are so beautiful:

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They’ve made me think about doors. What they stand for as a statement about a building, about the people who made the building and live in the building. What it means to pass through them. I am used to beautiful doors on cathedrals, on monumental buildings, occasionally on government buildings. Doors you pass through only now and again. Or perhaps you never have enough status, or share the required beliefs, to pass through them. These are places where an entryway is meant to have greater meaning, a non every-day meaning. You walk through them and enter somewhere power sits, or God dwells. They separate outside from inside like any door, but this separation carries more weight than our front door, which most of us blast through without a thought, hurrying out into the world or back home. Of palaces and churches, differentiated spaces, Prague has a number. Their doors are finer than anything I’ve seen I think:

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IMG_9461Still, this rampant use of beauty on apartments? How lovely. Even our wealthy neighbourhoods are in no way comparable on the subject of doors, and my initial feeling is that this beauty stretches some class boundaries, if only due to decline.  Of course I confess, we did not stray all that far from the city center, and perhaps this gorgeous craftsmanship is not found quite everywhere, but in visiting Liberec and some of the small villages surrounding it was much the same — though like cherubs, I’ll have more to say on them later. Here, however, are some plainer doors.

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But after a while even I had almost a surfeit of doors, too many, too grand, too beautiful. Camera fatigue set in. I made an exception for the doors belonging to the house of the Capek brothers, where the amazing word ‘robot’ was coined in the writing of R.U.R.

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Heavy, wooden, carved. Beautiful. But with this surfeit of doors I started focusing on other things, like the grilles:

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The faces:

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The details of the decoration:

IMG_9651 IMG_9571 IMG_9351I had read that some fine examples of Art Nouveau was to be found here as well, but I was in no way prepared for the splendour of it:

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IMG_9377This, which I’m not sure which style it fits into, but is understated yet stunning:

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I wasn’t prepared for any of it. I love the brightly painted red and green and blue doors of Dublin, and sometimes here in London or Bristol. But these doors of Prague are a different level. My favourite details? The handles. There is a joy in seeing such beautiful, functional things — more beautiful up the castle way, but uniformly gorgeous:

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And for last? This sculpture door that we found opposite the cubist House of the Black Madonna, with no explanation but I rather liked it just like that:

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A little more from Prague…

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Ještěd Tower, Liberec

I love it. I love it, and yet there is so little about it. We saw it shining on the mountain while looking out over the city, and of course, we had to go.

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It’s so brilliantly SF, half spaceship half future cityscape. You take a tram from the city up to the mountain, a funicular up to the base. Look at this amazing television tower/restaurant/hotel up close:

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There is a long blurb on the architect from penccil – a rather fascinating site of modern art and design and fashion (it allows you to create your own page on the site to show your own portfolio, you could get drawn in there for a while…)

The unique Jested tower, designed by architect Karel Hubacek, is a modernist architectural landmark of the Czech Republic. Combining television transmission tower and mountain hotel, it is a 94 meters tall rotational hyperboloid built on top ofJested mountain near Liberec in the Czech Republic, built between 1966 and 1973. Liberec (then called Reichenberg) was until the end of WW1 in 1918 part of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, and a traditional Austrian mountain hotel was perched on top of Jested (then called Jeschken) mountain. Karel Hubacek (23 February 1924 – 25 November 2011) graduated in 1943 and was then sent to forced labor in Nazi Germany, where he worked for the Askania Werke precision instrument factory in Berlin, which after allied bombings moved underground into salt mines south of Helmstedt, Germany. Askania produced the flight control systems for the V1 and V2 rockets and movie cameras which had been used in shooting the famous movie “Der Blaue Engel” with Marlene Dietrich. In 1945, he returned to Prague. In 1951, he got a job at the (then communist) regional institute for city planning in Liberec, where he worked until 1968, when he became a co-founding member of SIAL (Association of Engineers and Architects in Liberec). From 1994-1997 he was head of the Department of Architecture at the Faculty of Arts and Architecture at the Technical University in Liberec.

There are some wonderful photos — far better than what I managed as it was heaving with people on a sunny November holiday, though bitterly windy and cold. Still, I got a few:

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There is a martian as well! A particularly well-endowed one

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And the sun started setting and the world was just beautiful, you can see the shadow of our space building fall across Liberec:

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The hotel website (I do wish we had stayed there, the furniture, the fittings, everything looks amazing, but we didn’t) talks about this as a symbol of Liberec, and how wonderful? How wonderful to create this amazing building so playful with our dreams of the future, that could have been a simple ubiquitous television tower but instead becomes this amazing place. This is in some ways what the dream of socialism should have been, brilliant design, care, and attention to innovative detail to make something so functional also serve city residents as an escape from the city, a place to step out of the ordinary, to look out over the city and the countryside and think about the world’s form and your place in it. A place for everyone, though I don’t know if that’s how it worked when it was first built. But it felt like that while we there, full of both Czechs and tourist families, couples, young folks. It was lovely, but god, it was cold.

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Museum of Communism (I’m in the Czech Republic!)

Prague’s Museum of Communism was a lesson in how ideology works, but ironically not the ideology of communism. In fact it was a lesson in irony and ideology all mixed up together. On our first attempt to find it I only knew the corner it was on, and thought that would be enough. But it’s obscure not just in its absence from most must-see lists, and we missed it, only seeing amazing posters for it later near the Charles Bridge that convinced us to try again.

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Above the McDonalds, they said, beside the Casino. You turn into what is almost an alley almost an entrance, turn right again into big double doors and walk along red carpet into an extraordinarily ornate Baroque entrance hall. As you walk up the stairs you are offered an existential choice, museum or casino?

IMG_8956Though the casino is at every turn. The inside is quite extraordinary, because it turns out this is after all, the Savarin Palace. For one of the few places with any interesting things to say about what the Palace is or once was, I found only the new developers:

Savarin occupies a remarkable site in Prague’s Old Town, bounded on one side by the historic Wenceslas Square and incorporating a collection of small streets and ‘passages’ (pedestrian precincts) giving access to many offices, shops and amenities. … now restored to life by Ballymore as Prague’s ne plus ultra.

Savarin was the site of an aristocratic palace complete with riding-stables…

A warren of small streets it is, it is such a strange thing to me to see a castle as a warren of small streets, but much more on castles (and The Castle) later.

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At least one tourist gambled on the museum by mistake. In this space it is hard to conceive of life under communism, you can be forgiven for believing the irony intentional. The museum shop is brilliant, full of what seems to be an intellectual and aware humour that can appeal to Marxists and free-marketers alike. Postcards of Marx and Lenin with clever captions, a museum postcard that makes fun of the museum’s own location;

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the T-shirts and posters with the brilliant artwork as below (and yes I happily bought one of those)

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You can find collections of reprints of original Soviet posters, notepads, pencils and various other fairly awesome consumer goods. Irony. The map of the museum shows the sections: the origins, the dream, the reality, the nightmare. That too seems smart, thoughtful enough, interesting. You walk in and see statues of Marx and Lenin, this wonderful picture.

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The practice of revolutionary terror and dictatorship of the proletariat was justified by the communists by an alleged irrefutability of the ‘scientific’ theories of Karel Marx, the bohemian and intellectual adventurer. who started his life career as a romantic poet with an inclination towards apocalyptic titanism….The attempts at the implementation of Marxist theories demanded, according to contemporary and lower estimates, around 100 million human victims.

This is the even-handed treatment of the dream of Marxists? I laughed out loud as did Mark, and continued laughing through the exhibit I’m afraid. While also enjoying the collection of real communist artifacts, propaganda, and shit from the 50s.

IMG_8980Radio Tesla is just cool, and I love her shoes.

IMG_8981I don’t have too much confidence in their ‘recreation’ of a factory, it’s really just a great collection of old machinery, which I loved of course. Again I laughed at this:

Using the obsolete economic theories of Karel Marx, Stalin created an ideological doctrine according to which the life of the whole society should revolve around industrial production. The hero of the time became the laborer, who, in the name of occasional slogans and to honor the communists feasts and anniversaries, worked more than his supervisors told him to…The pressure on increased employment for women and their introduction into traditional men’s professions was justified by the party through an ideal of ‘woman’s emancipation’.

There’s the bust/statue collection:

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While walking through there was a strange cold war feel, so the pro-U.S. stuff was as crazy as the anti-communist. There was this:

The blackest pictures of capitalism drawn by the communist press depicted America whose democratic regime was already admired by the Czechs in the period of Hapsburg emperors. American played a decisve role in the defeat of Hitler…America was also attractive, thanks to the romantic ‘Country and Western’ music and style, as introduced in Bohemia before World War I. County and Western style was cultivated by tramps in the many recreation settlements usually named after American localities…

There was another blurb mentioning the anti-American propaganda spread by the communists like their referrals to the mass lynching of Blacks. It certainly read as though the communists had made this up when of course they didn’t.

So really, this is like walking through a cold war propaganda effort from the US side, brilliantly illustrated by the cool old things from the Czech Republic under Stalinism. The why of this is made clear from the brochure and its reproduction of an International Newsweek article discussing the museum’s origins:

Spicker, 36, spent several months and $28,000 scouring markets and junk shops for close to 1,000 items of memorabilia, including Russian textbooks, anti-American posters, chemical-warfare protection suits and statues of Lenin and Marx. A former student of politics, Spicker was passing through central Europe in the late 1980s when the Velvet Revolution toppled Czechoslovakia’s communist regime. He decided to stay on and capitalize on all the new business opportunities, opening up a jazz club and a string of bars and restaurants in Prague. Then he hit on the idea for the museum. “As a student I found communism fascinating because of the influence it had on all aspects of people’s lives,” he says. “But now its fascination for me is just how outdated it is.”

I’m glad he collected the memorabilia, but damn. Capitlising on the business opportunities offered by presenting the least balanced review of a historical time period I have ever read…

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Southwark Cathedral Contradictions

I can’t quite grasp the relationship between the glorious monsters on the outside and the glorious light and space and soaring of the inside

And I still cannot quite comprehend how stone can take this character of massive weightlessness, how anything so heavy and solid can delicately soar and continually unfold into mystery

This narrow Norman arch has stood here here supporting the roof for 800 years. Of course, it was once a wood roof, probably very similar to that of Westminster Hall  with its capitals of strange creatures and frightening angels…perhaps resolving some of the contradictions, but raising others. I want to know their stories, but fear them to be long gone. And while I love stumbling across the green man, I do not buy much of the crap written about him. So it is all wonder and mystery, this combination of such immense human skill, love, and imagination

Southwark Cathedral stands at the lowest point of the Thames, the old ford and today’s Tower Bridge, for long the only entrance to the City of London. You can see the remains of the Roman road alongside the cathedral, along with a statue of an ancient hunter god. There has been a church here since at least 606 AD…

[And the priests and staff inside are incredibly friendly and informative without being overwhelmingly so. And the incredible Burough Market is immediately next door.]

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Living Architecture: The Bonaventure Hotel

If you sit very still and stare at downtown L.A. from the window of the Bonaventure Hotel’s cocktail lounge, this is what you will see:

The slowly revolving floor shifts the gorgeous view before your eyes. But apart from saving up for the drinks, how do you get here?

It’s public of course, but that does not make it easy to find. There are three entrances to the Bonventure, but none of them are your traditional grand salon entrance. And two of them are from those secret sky bridges of LA, the one we took joins the hotel to Hope Street past the YMCA. You enter what feels like a back door onto the fifth floor of a dark and massive tower with spiraling stairs and pillars, and street signs to direct you to where you want to go:

Not all elevators go to the top you see, neither do the escalators. In fact, I don’t think there were any escalators on this floor. You have to find the red elevator, the red one! (The vertiginous ride in the glass elevator up the outside of the building for 35 floors and all of Central LA laid out beneath you? Highly recommended.) Any other colour and you will be lost in this vast echoing space.

It has its own stores, its own running water far far down below, it even has its own track and exercise machines where you can sweat in full view.

Built by John Portman and opened in 1976, it is an iconic building. And wandering through it, I couldn’t help but think of Frederic Jameson’s comments in an essay called Postmodernism and Consumer Society. He writes that the Bonventure has no main entry because it does not wish to be part of the city, it wishes to replace it. That it puts you into such a vast space so full of stuff you can no longer get a measure of just how big it is, you lose just how much emptiness is enclosed by these enormous walls of glass. The building toys with your perspective.

He writes that this is a space that takes vengeance on those walking through it, one that forces you to lose your bearings. It transcends us as human beings, and makes it impossible for us to find ourselves within such a context.

Me? I thought it an incredible building, but it did make me feel very small, very lost, very much in desire of a nice drink. So I set off in search of the red elevator, and thought about architecture and its impacts on how we live and see ourselves in the world. And this one almost cathedral-like in how it humbles you, God replaced by wealth, retail, and facilities for showing off while working out…

[also posted at www.drpop.com]

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Odilon Redon, Honore Daumier and assorted monsters

Odilon Redon…I saw him for the first time (that I remember) today at the Chicago Institute of Art, and found him extraordinary. Born in France in 1840, he created these beautiful works in black and white, charcoal and lithograph, strange combinations of human and plant, animal, and insect. This is the one I found

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This was called Chimera…and more, but I didn’t write it down and the light was terrible, the images blurry. Redon kept to himself, remaining almost unrecognized until the end of his life although he heavily influenced surrealism. He only became generally known after being mentioned in a cult novel by Joris-Karl Huysmans, Against Nature. Which sounded intriguing, but I believe I have read enough novels of decadence for the moment, it might have inspired Oscar Wilde but was influenced by Schopenhauer and he certainly isn’t one of my favourite philosophers.  So. Another image from google because I love these…

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Tree man. Additional information is slim, he’s one of those artists to learn more of…as is Honore Daumier. There are a couple of brilliant little satirical sketches and this truly amazing collection of  miniature sculptures

They capture the spirit of the individual with a delightful intensity and quickness, it must have been even more impressive in his own day knowing the politicians and public figures so captured. My favourite:

As far as big names go, there are plenty of my favourites here, and a whole room of Toulouse-Lautrec! But today I most enjoyed the hidden, the weird, and the wonderful…no flash allowed so my apologies for quality

Who knew Delacroix had ever drawn anything like this? It’s called Marguerite’s Ghost

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They had one print by Durer, who fills religious paintings with the most fantastic creatures

And this sculpture by Jean-Joseph Carrie

Frog Man. I have never seen anything like it. And this shield from an assorted saint facing the devil

And time with my family, a great day.

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Masked luchadores can fly

Revenge was the goal, and the good guys had won, the bad guys had lost…we thought it was all over. When suddenly, for the second time of the night, a masked wrestler was thrown at us and another swan dived into us off the ropes. But that’s almost the end of the story.

It started at ten to nine this hazy Sunday morning, when Jose woke me up with a phone call, told me to get my chanclas on because we were going to the farmer’s market. I was still asleep (having had a heavy night of cider, Oscar Wilde and Jane Austen the night before), so I did.

The Hollywood farmer’s market is one of my favourite places, but today it passed in a kind of blur. I got some coffee from Angel, that helped, but I still apparently walked right past Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers. Not that I’m exactly sure what he looks like, apart from being the one without the long hair. You know, that one. So we walked around, Bev and Jose bought vegetables while I smelled them and feasted on samples, and then we came home, and I went back to bed.

I got up again, did some work, played around for a bit, and then headed to the Cuban Music Festival in Echo Park…I love the Cuban Music Festival.

The music is superb of course, just what I love on a Sunday, as is the dancing. I also love the mix of people, and Cuban words rolling vowel-less and without their final syllables all around me. The old guys in their guayaberas and white linen pants, their straw hats, their clack of dominos. The sound of congas. Everyone smiling. The smell of platanos fritos and black beans and garlic chicken. Jose and I bought puros; we added to the fragrant smoke of cigars rising in benediction to the sky.

And then Ryan called, said there was lucha on in South East L.A., now. So we headed back to Jose’s to pick up Bev and the car and headed out. The ring is in a converted warehouse, with folding chairs set up around it three rows deep. There are industrial lights hanging above the ring, and chandeliers around the outside, the paint is peeling and there are mirrors along two walls. Tecate and nachos and tortas are all $2, the place is full of families, generations mixed up and getting rowdy. Here is one of the first luchadores, Pinky, howling a war cry amidst the crowd. And yes, his shirt does say that tough guys wear pink.

So lucha libre…it is pure show. Every match is between los tecnicos (good guys) and los rudos (bad guys), one against one, two against two…and tonight? We even had three against three. Not everyone wears a mask, but IF you wear a mask, it is the greatest humiliation possible to have it taken off, and you must try to preserve your anonymity. That happened twice tonight. The other great humiliation is to have your hair cut off, saw that happen in TJ. There is sometimes one ref, sometimes two. The ref is sometimes neutral, sometimes corrupt. And almost everyone in the audience is for the good guys, though of course, they don’t always win. Here’s one of the signs made by the kids in front of me on the back of the program

1,000,000 % TECHNICOS!!! 0% rudos. Yeah!!!! 00000% rudos, really!

You can’t get better than that sign. And you can see the devastation under the chairs from the first time we had to clear out when the wrestlers came flying over the ropes.

Tonight there were no midgets, but there was the out and out gay wrestler who kissed his opponents and bewildered them with his charisma. Sadly, said charisma in the form of grinding, kissing and playful spanks was carried out at speed and therefore impossible to capture in the terrible lighting, but I did try…

The costumes were phenomenal…

This one was Cali something (I actually and irresponsibly didn’t grab a program…I grabbed tecate instead, which would explain it), pure shiny vinyl, and the state of California in gold with a pair of sunglasses. Behind him is Mecanico, he came out in the full mechanic’s jumpsuit which you can see there hanging, and an improbably large wrench, which did come into play during the match.

And a more traditional costume, but snakeskin is always a hit with me (the pose is almost always the same…)

But the winner for the evening, both in costume and loony toons inspired theme song:

White Pork. I couldn’t make this up, reality often shames the power of my imagination. And of course, apart from the wrestling and show and political and social statements of it all, it’s kids like White Pork’s number one fan that make the evening so amazing, which is why I enjoyed this evening far more than I did Lucha Va Voom at the Mayan.

And then the revenge match was on, three on three. The audience was outraged by los rudos and there was a lot of back and forth. This is a very participatory sport and I have a lot more to say about that but it’s getting late, but it’s always nice to be able to shake your fists and scream anything you like at the bad guys without any consequences.

And the match was crazy and the ref was corrupt and it all looked grim, and then there was a bit of a fight off to our right and then there was an EARTHQUAKE! For a split second I thought the really tremendously fat luchador had done something crazy behind our backs, but I quickly realized (my splendid intellect hard at work) that no one could make a concrete floor jolt like that. Everyone around confirmed that of course, but the fight continued…

And finally against all odds the good guys had won, the bad guys had lost…we thought it was all over. When suddenly, for the second time of the night, a masked wrestler was thrown at us and another swan dived into us off the ropes.

You can see Jose scrambling to get out of the way. Those chairs were recently occupied by Ryan, Erica, Bev, and myself. All very exciting. And the good guys won the match, and the post match as well, but there was a lot of shit talking at the end…the rudos told everyone in the audience that they were too poor to come back next Sunday, everyone insulted everyone else’s family but specifically one guy’s recently deceased father…well. It was a cliff hanger.

So we left, and nachos not having been quite enough for dinner, we stopped at the taco truck…

And now I’m home writing this blog, it’s hitting 1 am and next door they have been drinking since I got home, aye-ayeing and listening to ranchera, and now they are very likely about to fight. Some beer bottles just went flying. We’ll see, hopefully they’ll all just go sleep it off. Which is what I am going to do.

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Neverland in Beverly Hills

Michael Jackson’s home has been transplanted into the old Robinsons-May building in Beverly Hills, they’ve even brought the gates. The garden furniture and planters. His awards, his socks, his personal drawings. It’s one of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever seen, and one of the creepiest. And here is the splendour and the sadness.

The public information on the whole deal is pretty sketchy. Jackson was acquitted of the criminal pedophile charges of course, but owes a ton of money, I imagine for civil cases? So it seems that essentially all of his most personal things sitting in this vast space are the result of the repo man visiting his estate. Rather then just humiliating him in front of his neighbors, they have humiliated him in front of the world, stripped everything they thought they could possibly sell, and brought it on down to L.A. to sell to the highest bidder. The auction is now off, the money was raised and the stuff is going back to Michael, though it might remain in the public domain. You can read more on that here.

But essentially, you are looking at things most people were never meant to see. It is there by force. And it just adds an edge to the voyeuristic element, a frisson of violence and transgression. It only adds to the immense creepiness and unsettling nature of the things.

The creepiest thing by far, these figures that were so lifelike and who were everywhere. They were all white.

Neverland Mannequins

The woman in the background with the curlers is holding a copy of Women are From Venus, Men are From Mars. Butlers were everywhere, there were more than 5 of them, I didn’t think to count but now I am really curious. They were ubiquitous the way a good butler should be. Below you can get a sense of the scale of the exhibit, and the personal taste of the man himself.

Neverland Mannequin

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There are also four or five life size wax figures of Michael Jackson himself. But somehow, that to me is a sign simply of colossal ego which I can understand, the rest of them I just cannot. An attempt to never be alone? Imagine sharing a huge mansion with them, it gives me chills. So to move smoothly from the mannequins to the paintings…

Neverland Mannequin

Creepy woman who looks like one of my older family members, with a Michael Jackson Triptych in the background. Michael Jackson’s poems are everywhere…written on the paintings that were commissioned, on Neverland’s kids menus, on slabs of marble out in front, on story book sculptures. This one reads:

I am the thinker, the thinking,
the thought.
I am the seeker, the seeking,
the sought.
I am the dewdrop, the sunshine,
the storm.
I am the phenomenon, the field,
the form.
I am the descent, the ocean,
the sky.
I am the Primeval Self
In you and I.
I am Michael Jackson

There are paintings of him everywhere as royalty, with crown and scepter. He has the crowns and sceptres as well, the ermined cloaks. And there are the paintings of him leading long lines of little children to the promised land and happiness

Neverland

There are paintings of him surrounded by cartoon characters, the Marx Brothers, Peter Pan. And this, which essentially leaves me pretty speechless.

Neverland

So there’s too much really, to convey. The kids. The kids are everywhere and are frankly terrifying. Dolls and furniture for children that…well, it’s hard to tell where the creepiness comes from, it doesn’t even lie in the pedophile charges though I’m sure that adds a dimension. It’s like Louise Bourgeois’ red rooms.

Neverland - Kid's bedroom?

And the statues

Neverland

There’s original art on the wall by Michael Jackson and Macaulay Culkin. There are drawings of children. An incredibly terrifying clown. Bikes and trikes and little cars. Collectible stautuettes in china and pewter and whatever else. And then the playroom stuff, filled with video games, pinball machines, his disney collection.

Neverland Monroe

And some really cool stuff. The prop of Hans Solo after he’s been cryogenically frozen, an R2D2 and C3po, a lego Darth Vader and lots of Star Wars stuff. Arcade games you’ve been dying to play again like Super Mario and Digg Dugg and Pole Position. Edward Scissorhands’ actual hands.

Neverland - Edward Scissorhands' hands

He has a painting of Marlene Dietrich that she has signed and dedicated to him. His books are all there, almost all Hollywood with a smattering of Children’s classics and Black History. He has a letter from Ronald Reagen:

“I was pleased to learn that you were not seriously hurt in your recent accident…

All over America, millions of people look up to you as an example. Your deep faith in God and adherence to traditional values are an inspiration to all of us, especially young people searching for something real to believe in. I know from experience that these things can happen on the set…

You’ve gained quite a number of fans along the road since “I Want You Back,” and Nancy and I are among them.”

He has another Inter-Office memo to Tom Jones from Walt Disney…don’t ask me how. But it is HILARIOUS.

“Dear Tom –

This is just to let you know how much I appreciate your efforts in trying to keep all the English people happy … I know many of their requests were unreasonable, but your stepping in and handling these things were a help to me and the others concerned with the making of the picture.”

So perhaps in some kind of context this wouldn’t be so funny, but possibly even then. I have no idea what the context is, but the idea of Tom Jones trying to keep “all the English people” happy is pretty amusing, I wonder what film that was? It’s from 1963.

At any rate, there are also a huge number of awards, plaques, pictures, and his clothes, gloriously reflective and shiny clothes. Thriller was the first album I ever bought, my brothers and I pooled our Christmas money to get it. And I love Michael Jackson, as Celine said while we were watching youtube videos, he has the moves that Justin Timberlake and all the rest of today’s performers only dream of. And he invented them. And the clothes look a bit ridiculous on display now, but he carried them off, he was that good. So that part of the thing I could enjoy without remorse or nausea. Though the body suits were a little disturbing.

Neverland - Pure Fashion

Neverland music awards

I don’t even know how to wrap up what going was like. It made me incredibly sad mostly, thinking of the little boy singing ABC with the Jackson Five, and wondering how he has grown into … what? There are no words for Michael Jackson really. Or a million of them. A lost childhood, the ability to buy himself anything, indulge himself anything. The desire to create … what? I don’t know what. You could possibly boil it all down to sex but I hate boiling everything down to that, refuse to really, life is complex. But there is a wrongness to it all that lingers in your mind. And, well, sadness.

A few more images:

Pure Class

Michael Jackson Mannequin

Michael Jackson Mannequin

Michael Jackson's Throne

Original Art by Macaulay Culkin and Michael Jackson

Batman Mannequin

Tapestry

Mannequins & me

Statue Garden from Neverland

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