DC's

The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Page 3 of 209

Dead museums

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The Museum of Funeral Customs (Springfield, IL)
‘The museum was near Oak Ridge Cemetery, the site of Abraham Lincoln’s tomb. Collections at the museum included a re-created 1920s embalming room, coffins and funeral paraphernalia from various cultures and times, examples of post-mortem photography, and a scale model of Lincoln’s funeral train. A gift shop provided books and funeral-related gifts, including coffin-shaped keychains and chocolates. The museum was closed in March 2009 due to poor attendance.’

 

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Farm Implement Museum (Bloomfield, CT)
‘When former migrant worker Wentworth T. Phillips opened his museum, he received an $80,000 loan from the Small Business Administration to develop the museum’s six acres of land and to cover initial operating costs. He also received two grants, for $10,000 and $25,000, from the State Department of Economic Development. Otherwise he has run the museum single-handedly, taking in less than $2,000 a year. Since 1980, he said, he has made only one loan repayment. In 1987, the Small Business Administration began foreclosure proceedings on his house, which he had used as collateral, said Hunter Lohman, deputy district director for the administration’s office in Hartford. Mr. Phillips has been allowed to remain in his house, where he operates an antique and clock repair business. However, Mr. Lohman said if Mr. Phillips did not repay the loan shortly his house and museum collection would be auctioned.’

 

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America’s Black Holocaust Museum (Milwaukee)
‘America’s Black Holocaust Museum (ABHM) was a memorial dedicated to the victims of the Black Holocaust. It was founded in 1988 by James Cameron, the United States’ only known survivor of a lynching. Cameron died in 2006; in 2008, the museum’s board of directors announced that the museum close because of financial problems.’

 

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The Kerosene Lamp Museum (Winchester Center, CT)
This is the Kerosene Lamp museum. It is no longer open; the proprietor died a few years back.

 

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The Liberace Museum (Paradise, NV)
‘The Liberace Museum housed many stage costumes, cars, jewelry, lavishly decorated pianos and numerous citations for philanthropic acts that belonged to the American entertainer and pianist Wladziu Valentino Liberace, better known as Liberace. The non-profit museum funded the Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts. The museum closed to the public on October 17, 2010, due to a drop in admissions. In January 2013, the Liberace Foundation announced plans to relocate the museum to Downtown Las Vegas, with a targeted opening date of January 2014. Those plans never materialized.’

 

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The Umbrella Cover Museum (Peaks Island, OR)
Nancy Hoffman’s museum (1994 – 2013) began when she realized that so many umbrella covers get tossed aside, but kept for no real reason. Until its closure due to lack of attendance one could visit the museum by taking the ferry from Portland to Peaks Island.

 

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Hua Huan Museum (Kyoto, Japan)

 

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Eight Track Museum (Dallas, TX)
‘Established 2010. Preservation and presentation of all audio recording formats from the 1800’s to present day, while focusing on the 8 track tape.Visitors may photograph, video, and linger. Fantastic t shirts and yes, 8 track tapes, for sale in the gift shop. Visits are available by appointment. Closed 2016.’

 

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Charles Ives Birthplace Museum (Danbury, CT)
‘I am a little hesitant to pronounce this place dead just yet, so let’s call this venerable museum more of a zombie than a corpse. The house is a mess; with a caved in ceiling and no wiring and who knows what else. It is estimated that it would take a million bucks to restore it to be an awesome museum, drawing international visitors interested in Ives’s early life. I wish them all the luck in the world, as Ives is easily one of the most important American composers in history.’

 

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The Warren Occult Museum (Monroe, CT)
‘Ed and Lorraine Warren are some of the most well-known names in paranormal research in America. Ed spent his childhood in a haunted house, and not long after they were married, they found themselves drawn to some of the most haunted locations across America. They’re perhaps most noted for winning a court case for a woman and child who claimed their house was haunted and uninhabitable – something that hadn’t been disclosed at the time they signed the lease. The Warrens found proof for her that held up in court, and their recently closed museum held almost countless other examples of their work. Many of the artifacts that made their way into their possession were on display in the museum, and this was one place that you definitely, absolutely, 100 per cent for sure didn’t want to touch anything… because you might have been taking home more than you came with. You could see Satanic idols, conjuring mirrors, real shrunken heads, masks, instruments that are said to play themselves, and not a few possessed items.’

 

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The Burnt Food Museum (Arlington, MA)
Containing “some of the best carbonized culinary artwork in the world,” the Burnt Food Museum was started when founder and curator Deborah Henson-Conant put some apple cider on the stove to heat up, got distracted by a long phone call, and came back to find the cider burnt down to a black crust. Until her death in 2015, submissions poured in from all over, like “Kruncheroni ‘N Cheese,” from a couple whose son messed up microwaving mac and cheese and hid the burnt remains under his bed in shame, and “Honey, I Found It!,” a pan of cooking utensils accidentally melted to a baking sheet left in the oven for storage.

 

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The Al Capone Story (Chicago)
‘Opened in 1995, It featured animatronic figures.This show explained the 1920’s and the Capone story from beginning to end. The museum was closed for many reasons. 1) It didn’t make the owners the money projected. 2) The owners were offered more than what they had paid for the property. 3) The protesting by the Italian community of Chicago, who was upset at the glorification of a criminal. They had opposed the project from it’s inception and during it’s short existance. The city and Mayor Daley was quite happy to see it go.’

 

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The John Lennon Museum (Saitama, Japan)
‘To those of you who’ve loved the John Lennon Museum: John Lennon’s destiny spanned the whole world. His spirit came alive through movement, and without movement, it dies. If the Museum which houses his spirit never moved, it would be a grave, not a Museum. John does not have a grave. When he passed on, I publicly announced that I would not be holding a funeral for him. I did so because I knew his spirit would live forever. After ten years here, John’s spirit is now moving on—looking onward to the next journey. Thanks to your love for the Museum, what we’d thought would be five years became ten. 

I’m so grateful to those of you who’ve loved the John Lennon Museum. John’s spirit lives on in each one of you, and I know your spirits will be the power of love that brings peace to the world. Thank you, everyone!’ — Yoko Ono

 

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UCM Museum (Abita Springs, LA)
‘A labor of love for artist John Preble, the UCM Museum (pronounced “you-see-’em museum) opened in 2000 and featured everything from the “House of Shards,” bejeweled with chunks of shattered pottery, to “Aliens Trashed Our Airstream Trailer,” a mobil home impaled by a flying saucer. Elsewhere, the museum housed Buford the Bassigator, a collection of pocket combs and paint-by-number masterworks, a shrine to Elvis, and a miniature river town.’

 

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Mickey’s Museum (Coffs Harbour, Wales)

 

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The Tooth Fairy Museum (Deerfield, IL)
‘The Tooth Fairy Museum was located in the split-level ranch home on 1129 Cherry Street in suburban Deerfield, Illinois. Created in 1993, the non-profit Tooth Fairy Museum was operated by Dr. Rosemary S. Wells, a former professor at the Northwestern University Dental School. She was considered be the world’s tooth fairy expert. The museum portion of her home contained more than 100 tooth fairy dolls, about 700 drawings by kids, books, pillows, paintings, sculptures and boxes designed to hold baby teeth. Upon her death on May 18, 2000 at the age of 69 at the Whitehall North Nursing Home, her husband sold all of her memorabilia which represented tooth fairies from many different ethnic groups and cultures.’

 

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Glore Psychiatric Museum (St, Joseph, Missouri)
‘Located in Saint Joseph, Missouri, the museum chronicled the life of not only the St. Joseph State Hospital, but the mental health division that was once called State Lunatic Asylum No. 2. Developed by former employee George Glore (Glore passed away in 2010), the museum showcased nothing short of torture devices once used in the treatment of the mentally ill not only at the asylum, but throughout history. Some of the older pieces included the Lunatic Box, which was exactly that – a large box where people would be forced to stand, for hours in darkness and isolation, until they were deemed calm enough to be released back into the general population. Just as nightmarish was the Tranquilizer Chair, where patients were strapped in order to allow the doctors to perform their treatments with relative ease. There was the Bath of Surprise, which dumped a patient into ice water, there were bleeding knives that were once used to drain blood from patients to cure a variety of illnesses, and there was even a giant treadmill, which was little more than a hamster wheel for patients who needed a little more exercise than normal to release their pent-up energy. Artwork done by patients over the years gave visitors a look into the more intimate thoughts of the people who were being held at the hospital, and another creepy piece of artwork was made up of nearly 1,500 items extracted from the stomach of a patient – including nails, spoons and the tops of salt and pepper shakers.’

 

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Salisbury Cannon Museum (Salisbury, CT)

 

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Morbid Anatomy Museum
‘The Museum was conceived, organized and planned by Joanna Ebenstein, Tracy Hurley Martin, Colin Dickey, and Aaron Beebe and located at 424a Third Avenue in Brooklyn, a former nightclub building the interior of which was re-modeled by architects Robert Kirkbride and Tony Cohn in 2014. In Ebenstein’s words, the new space was designed to give a home for a “regular lecture series and DIY intellectual salon that brings together artists, writers, curators and passionate amateurs dedicated to what [Joanna Ebenstein] sums up as ‘the things that fall through the cracks'”. The space focused on forgotten or neglected histories through exhibitions, education and public programming.[7] Themes included nature, death and society, anatomy, medicine, arcane media, and curiosity and curiosities broadly considered. The artifacts featured in its rotating exhibitions were drawn from private collections and museums’ storage spaces.’

 

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The Bagpipe Museum (Ellicott City, MD)
‘The museum displayed a collection of over a hundred bagpipes from throughout Europe, and maintained a large collection of bagpipe recordings and publications, as well as reproducing rare sheet music for the pipes.’

 

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The Women’s Museum: An Institute for the Future (Dallas, TX)

 

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Submarine Museum (Middletown, CT)
‘Ben Bastura and his brother started this outstanding museum in 1954 and added to it ever since. It was the largest privately owned Submarine Museum in the United States. It was a totally private endeavor that had been Ben’s avocation over the years. He had 18 full file cabinets that contain a wealth of pictures and information on every boat from the USS HOLLAND to the newest Trident boats. Ben lived in an old fashioned duplex which was approximately 70 years old. Bernard occupied 3 rooms as living quarters, the other 9 rooms, upstairs and downstairs were used for the museum.’

 

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Hollywood Erotic Museum (Hollywood, CA)
‘The Hollywood Erotic Museum was an adults-only museum located on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California specializing in sexual history in Hollywood. It closed down in mid-2006 due to lack of business. The museum featured many different items, including original etchings by Pablo Picasso as well as a legendary stag film dating back to 1948 that is allegedly of Marilyn Monroe having sex with an unnamed man. The video owned by the museum is the only known copy in existence.’

 

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The International Banana Club Museum (Apple Valley, CA)
Ken “T.B.” (for “Top Banana”) Bannister dubbed himself leader of the International Banana Club in 1972 as a way to get his name out there during a convention, and soon started receiving gifts of bananas and banana paraphernalia from around the world. He created the museum (a room in his home) in 1976 to house all that banana action, and adopted the persona of “The Banana Man,” appearing on countless TV shows, and accepted applications to join the club (where you could earn a doctorate, or “PhB,” in Bananistry).

 

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Fresno Metropolitan Museum (Fresno, CA)
‘The son of famed photographer Ansel Adams is suing California’s Fresno Metropolitan Museum to keep the bankrupt museum from selling six works by his father. He says the sale would violate a donation agreement. Museum officials have been talking to various auction houses about selling the works, including “Moon and Half Dome,” in order to pay off creditors.’

 

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Graceland Too (Holly Springs, MS)
‘Graceland Too was Paul MacLeod’s two-story home and shrine to Elvis Presley in Holly Springs, Mississippi. It was open to the public twenty-four hours a day, every day, all year. The house was crammed with Elvis paraphernalia to the point of being a fire hazard. MacLeod was renowned for his eccentricity, based upon his reverence for Elvis, and his claim to drink at least two dozen cans of soda per day. The town’s assistant director of tourism, Suzann William, claims MacLeod is Holly Springs’ number one tourism attraction. The house was originally painted pink, then white, and in 2012 it became a vivid, Mediterranean blue with American Flags and painted navy blue pine trees. On July 15, 2014, a man named Dwight David Taylor Jr. was shot by MacLeod just inside of the front door of the house. According to police, Taylor banged on the door of the house around 11 p.m. asking for money. He tried to force his way into the home and broke the glass on the front door. After Taylor refused to leave, MacLeod shot him. Taylor died from a gunshot wound to the chest. MacLeod cooperated with police and was released. No charges were filed. On July 17, 2014, MacLeod was found dead on the porch by someone driving by the house around 7 a.m. MacLeod’s attorney, Phillip K. Knecht, said in a statement that MacLeod had been “battling ill health for some time”. He added, “We can’t be sure of anything right now, but nothing points to suicide or foul play. We await an official autopsy, but his ill health, combined with the stress from Monday’s tragedy, leads me to believe it was a very unfortunate natural occurrence”. The contents of Graceland Too went up for auction on January 31, 2015. Well over 100 people showed up for the auction on the Graceland Too site, many having travelled hundreds of miles in the hope of buying an Elvis treasure or a memory of Graceland Too. Many in the crowd were disappointed and dispirited when the entire lot of items was sold for a reported $54,500 to an anonymous buyer from Georgia.’

 

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Numismatic Museum of Aruba (Oranjestad, Aruba)

 

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Museum of Witchcraft and Magic (Gatlinburg, TN)
‘The World of the Unexplained was opened in 1972 by Ripley’s Believe It or Not! in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, originally called “Museum of Witchcraft and Magic”. In 1975, due to pressure from the local churches and religious groups in the area, Ripley’s changed their names to “World of the Unexplained” and re-outfitted them with new attractions. With the popularity of the television show “In Search Of”, Ripley’s hired the show’s narrator, Leonard Nimoy, to film a short introduction to visitors at the entrance to the museums. The museums displayed not only witchcraft attractions but new ones that featured Bigfoot, flying saucers, the Bermuda Triangle, werewolves, and a fortune teller with a talking crystal ball. In 1985 the museums closed down for good, due to poor ticket sales.’

 

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The Frank Chiarenza Museum of Glass (Meridien, CT)

 

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Shania Twain Centre (Timmins, Canada)
‘A Shania Twain museum in Timmins is being turned into an open-pit mine after tourists stayed away in droves. It just didn’t impress them much. According to the Canadian Press, construction of the museum and related attractions gobbled up $10 million in public funding. By 2010 attendance was so low and operating losses so severe that welcoming each museum-goer cost taxpayers $33.72. That’s a staggering burden. Theoretically, it would have made more financial sense to hand a $20 bill to prospective visitors arriving at the door and telling them to shove off.’

 

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Audrey Hepburn Museum (Tolochenaz, Switzerland)

 

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Presidents Park (Williamsburg, VA)
‘”Move over Mt. Rushmore! You’ve got company!” So proclaims the brochure for Presidents Park — a wooded retreat in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where citizens can stroll peacefully among the giant heads of the nation’s Chief Executives. Presidents Park is open year round; the asphalt in the parking lot was one month old when we stopped by in 2003. That year, David Adickes, the sculptor who rendered the gargantuan Sam Houston and Houston airport’s George HW Bush statue (“Winds of Change”), opened Presidents Park (and a duplicate near Williamsburg, Virginia in 2004). The 43 heads are arranged chronologically along a path winding up into a rocky knoll of tall pines. George Washington, generally accepted in history as the first President of the USA, looks over the snack bar. The busts are 16-20 feet tall, with the seven greatest Presidents’ heads rendered at about 12 times life-size. Each head is accompanied by an informational display. The climb up the head path is gradual, but a little strenuous for seniors. Knowing their likely audience, the park provides motorized golf carts, and warming enclosures and rest areas along the way.’

 

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R.M.C.M. Ramones Museum (Berlin)
‘If you suffered from horror vacui this was the best place 2 b. Combining the basic punk aesthetic with a wunder kammer, u got 2 travel back to those years when Punk meant something more.’

 

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Carbo’s Police Museum (Pigeon Forge, TN)
‘Carbo’s Police Museum was another long time attraction that existed in Pigeon Forge. Its biggest selling point was that it had a nice collection of artifacts related to legendary hardass Southern Sheriff Buford Pusser. Buford was well known do to the fact that they turned his life story into the movie “Walking Tall”, which was later rebooted to feature The Rock. Buford was notorious for carrying around a board with him to show that he literally carried “a big stick”. During his time as Sheriff, Pusser would be stabbed 7 times and shot eight. He also slapped around a young Jimmy Buffett. Buford would battle local moonshine and prostitution rings, which led to the murder of his wife. Buford himself would die in a mysterious car crash that is often thought to be sabotaged (although some claim he was simply driving drunk). The Drive By Truckers have asong about the Sheriff called The Buford Stick. The museum had Buford’s stick on display as well as the wreckage of the car he died in. The Museum went out of business a few years back and is now a t-shirt shop.’

 

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The Rosa Ponselle Museum (Meridien, CT)
‘With an upcoming concert tribute to Rosa Ponselle, money from a fund in her name will be depleted. Coupled with the closure of the Rosa Ponselle museum, it appears the last of the famed opera diva’s bequest to Meriden will soon be gone. In a concert billed as “The Final Tribute to Rosa Ponselle,” the Greater Hartford Opera Ensemble will perform arias sung by the Meriden-born star, and various operatic selections, including music from “Tosca,” “La Traviata” and “The Merry Widow.” The performance begins at 4 p.m. June 14 at the Augusta Curtis Cultural Center, on East Main Street. “We know this is going to be the last of the money from the foundation, but Rosa Ponselle’s is a voice that will live on in history for years,” said Nancy V. Stewart, artistic director of the opera ensemble. “That is never going away. She was a great, great star, a diva.”‘

 

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National Shaving and Barbershop Museum (Meridien, CT)
‘A casual offer from his mother of his “grandpa’s old shaving mug and straight razor” set Lester Dequaine on a quest that has grown to such an impressive size that his vast collection of barber paraphernalia could have filled a museum. Then it did. The National Shaving and Barbershop Museum opened in 1999 in Meriden, Connecticut in a 1920s building bought and lavishly restored by Dequaine, a retired businessman. Then, in 2005, it closed.’

 

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The Dog Mushing Museum (Fairbanks, AK)
‘Bouchard’s International Dog Mushing and Sled Museum closed its doors for good Aug. 26. Museum owner Kyia Bouchard confirmed the closure in a phone interview Thursday. “I went broke. There was no support from the town or the people,” Bouchard said. “So I’m selling it. There’s a couple dog mushers that are interested in opening a museum.” Bouchard is disappointed with the community’s lack of support. Despite racking up 190 Trip Advisor reviews in 11 months, many of them five-star reviews, she said people weren’t drawn into the museum.’

 

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World’s Smallest Museum (near Phoenix, AZ)
‘The World’s Smallest Museum was only 134 square feet, so it didn’t take long to see everything.’

 

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National Pinball Museum (Washington, DC)
‘Ah, pinball. I love pinball. I’m not sure where this love came from. I have an early memory of playing pinball in a hotel arcade on family trip to New Jersey. I grew up with friends that had pinball machines in there homes. Yup more than one friend actually pinball machine there house. Must be a North Beverly thing. Personally I find the history pinball pretty cool. Although I had actually read an article somewhere on the history of pinball so I didn’t feel the need to spend tons of time looking through that part of the museum. Pinball is definitely a large piece of Americana. I found the pinball machine area a bit small but lots of cool and interesting games. Was extremely impressed by the big sister’s pinball skills. had no idea she could play like that, but I digress. We got lucky and the pinball museum was running a special that admission for two was $21 and we got 8 free games, but we didn’t know this and would have been willing to pay the normal $13.50 each plus gaming costs. Was also disappointed in the giftshop selections. Not much there was hoping for some postcards to send to other pinball loving friends but no such luck. Got a magnet for the bf.’

 

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The Bead Museum (Glendale, AZ)
‘The Bead Museum was founded to establish a haven for a permanent collection of beads and adornments of all cultures, past and present, which would provide an enduring opportunity for the study and enjoyment of these magnificent examples of art and ingenuity. The Bead Museum served the public through exhibitions and programs designed to heighten awareness of peoples’ ideas about themselves and their world through the study of beads.’

 

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Sparta Teapot Museum (Sparta, NC)
‘The museum drew mainly from the teapot collection of Gloria and Sonny Kamm. The Kamm Collection, comprising more than 6,000 teapots, is the largest teapot collection in the USA and arguably the world. The Sparta Teapot Museum received its official 501(c)(3) status from the Internal Revenue Service in November 2005. This designation made the Museum a charity organization. In 2006, Congress controversially appropriated nearly $500,000 in federal funding for construction of a new building for the Teapot Museum, but the project was canceled before any of the money left federal hands.’

 

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The Conspiracy Museum (Dallas, TX)
‘The Conspiracy Museum was a private exhibition of conspiracy theories in the West End Historic District of downtown Dallas, Texas (USA). R.B. Cutler, self-described as an “assassinologist”, opened the museum in 1995. The Conspiracy Museum was located across the street from the Kennedy Memorial in Dallas, Texas in the Katy Building. The museum was not limited in scope to the conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy, but it also covered Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, and Ted Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick incident. Cutler’s argument was that all these conspiracies can be tied together. The museum was often overlooked by visitors heading to the more well-known Sixth Floor Museum. The museum closed on December 30, 2006, having lost its lease. The building’s owners announced that a Quiznos sandwich shop would take its place.’

 

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Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows (Chicago)
‘The museum was located along a strip of shops, theatres, and restaurants, and admission was free. Most of the windows in the museum were illuminated with artificial light to highlight the colors and intricate details. Since each piece was protected by a layer of bulletproof glass, patrons were encouraged to come close to the works and even bring food into the galleries.’

 

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Madison Museum of Bathroom Tissue (Madison, WI)
‘The Madison Museum of Bathroom Tissue was established in 1992, and closed in 2000. The museum was co-founded by Carol Kolb and was located at 305 N. Hamilton in Madison, Wisconsin, United States, in a second-floor apartment three blocks from the state capitol. At its peak, the MMBT’s permanent collection contained approximately 3,000 rolls of toilet paper. The toilet paper’s origins ranged from the bathrooms of other museums, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim, to American tourist destinations like Wall Drug and Graceland. The museum also had European, African, Australian, Canadian, and Mexican toilet paper as well as a collection of toilet paper from bars and restaurants located in Madison. The Manufacturers Wing contained a collection of retail samples donated by toilet paper manufacturers.’

 

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Concrete Heritage Museum (Concrete, WA)
‘The museum was founded in early 1980s by a retired Concrete judge, Herb Larsen. The museum incorporated historical collections related to the national cement industry. Just before closing in September 2009, the museum opened an exhibit displaying the contents of the time capsule that was interred on August 11, 1932 by the now defunct Superior Portland Cement Company.’

 

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Dinosaur Walk Museum (Pigeon Forge, TN)
‘Dinosaur Walk Museum featured life-size sculptures of dinosaurs. All of the exhibits, which represented 47 species, were recreated life-size and were based upon actual fossil records. Some of the exhibits included: Tyrannosaurus rex, Platecarpus, Parasaurolophus, Daspletosaurus, Deinonychus, Coelophysis, Velociraptor, Troodon, Plesiosaurs, Oviraptor, large and small flying reptiles and the skulls, bones, and skeletons of prehistoric mammals, fossils and other items of interest. Hand painted murals surrounded the 17,000-square-foot (1,600 m2), two-level museum. The museum also featured two high-definition movie theaters with continuous educational dinosaur movies, hands-on activities for children, and a gift shop.’

 

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Kissimmee Horror Memorabilia Museum (Kissimmee, FL)
‘The museum’s moldering remains at 4710 East Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway are now used as a training area for the Fire Department.’

 

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Ancient America (Boca Raton, FL)
‘E. G. Barnhill was fascinated by American Indian culture, which he studied and collected in his spare time. In 1953 he opened a museum, Ancient America, on twenty-five acres on US 1 in the area that is now the upscale Sanctuary community of Boca Raton. The grounds included an ancient Calusa Indian mound and burial ground which he excavated, with the help of archaeologists, and prepared for display to the public by tunneling into the mound and installing glass walls so that the contents could be seen. Ancient America only lasted a few years. When visitors didn’t show much interest in his museum Barnhill sold the land and packed up his artifacts, grousing that “all these tourists are interested in are dog tracks and nightclubs.”‘

 

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Tom Gaskins’ Cypress Knee Museum (Palmdale, FL)
‘Come see Tom’s knees said the crudely made signs, fashioned from twisted cypress tree parts with big black letters. Lady if he won’t stop, hit him on head with shoe. You might still be miles from Palmdale on US 27, and Palmdale was miles from much of anything, but you knew that Tom Gaskins’ Cypress Knee Museum awaited ahead. In the 1930’s Tom became fascinated with cypress knees, those knobby protuberances that cypress trees grow from their roots up above the surface of the swamp water that often surrounds them. He collected them, especially those that looked like something else to him, be it a person or even a “Lady Hippo Wearing A Carmen Miranda Hat.” And he performed experiments on them, making them grow around objects like coke bottles or a telephone receiver, and he tried to control their shapes with wire and weights. Tom wanted to share his cypress knee fever with everyone so he opened a roadside museum, gift shop, and cypress knee factory where he peeled and polished cypress for sale to the tourists. Tom Gaskins died in 1998. Tom’s son, Tom Jr., tried to keep the museum open, but was hampered by an edict by the Lykes company, which owns much of the land in that area, to remove the famous signs from their property. Then thieves broke into the museum one night in 2000 and carted off many of the best pieces, delivering the final blow, and museum shut its doors.’

 

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The Tragedy In US History Museum (Saint Augustine, FL)
‘Sometimes, all it takes is a man with vision — and a complete lack of taste. The Tragedy In The US Museum sign L.H. “Buddy” Hough was such a man. When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Buddy was suddenly inspired. Why not create a museum dedicated to all the bad things that have happened in United States history? He quickly secured Lee Harvey Oswald’s bedroom furniture and anything else he could get connected to the Kennedy assassination, including a car that Kennedy had once ridden in previous to the shooting, and a wax figure of Oswald himself. Other morbid memorabilia secured by Buddy included a train whistle from “the wreck of the old 97,” a mummy, and what were supposedly the death cars of Jayne Mansfield and Bonnie & Clyde (although, actually, the Mansfield car was the wrong make and the other car was apparently a prop from the Bonnie and Clyde movie).’

 

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National Museum of Patriotism (Atlanta, GA)

 

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Foamhenge (Natural Bridge, VA)
‘As its name suggests, Foamhenge was a one-to-one scale replica of Stonehenge, made of foam. It was identical to the original, save the flecked gray paint, the accompanying statue of a deadhead-ish Merlin, and the fact that it was erected several millennia later. For twelve years, the henge garnered a steady stream of visitors and enough press to be mentioned in the same breath as the area’s actual ancient rocks. Its creator, an artist named Mark Cline, called it his “foam-nomenon”: the unlikely culmination of his career as a sculptor of roadside attractions. But Foamhenge closed for good in August 2016 when the property was repurposed as a state park.’

 

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Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum (Gibsland, LA)
‘After the multiple robberies, kidnappings and murders (at least 13) across the States, Bonnie and Clyde’s story came to an abrupt and bloody end when they were ambushed by police and gunned down on a lonely strip of road in the northern Louisiana woods in 1934. The officers responsible for bringing to the end one of the most spectacular manhunts of the 1930s were Frank Hamer, B.M. “Manny” Gault, Bob Alcorn, Ted Hinton, Henderson Jordan and Prentiss Morel Oakley. After his death, Ted Hinton’s son, L.J. “Boots” Hinton, opened the Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum filled with the story of notorious pair. In the museum, which was situated until its demise just 8 miles from the ambush site, you could view genuine artefacts from the era such as one of Clyde’s Remington shotguns from the car which they were in when they were shot, glass from the bullet-shattered windscreen of the car, Bonnie’s red tam (hat) and replicas of the tombstones of Bonnie and Clyde.’

 

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Museum of Holography (Chicago)
‘Went here when the posted hours said they’d be open, but they weren’t open. No note, and no response to the buzzer. I asked the cat who appeared to be trapped between the glass door and the inside security gate, but she was more concerned with sunbathing.’

 

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Hedrick Tractor and Truck Museum (Woodland, CA)
‘I was super impressed with this museum. There were so many different models of tractors in here. You could spend hours making your way along this collection. The building itself must’ve been 50,000 sq feet at least. I was really impressed with the level of detail on each placard and the collection as a whole. Totally kid friendly but the collection was interesting enough that adults totally enjoyed it. Price was totally reasonable and the gift shop had a nice selection. Also plenty of good parking.’

 

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Canadian Potato Museum (O’Leary, Canada)
‘Oh, the fates were cruel to me this day. I happened to pass through a town that shared my last name, and in that town I stumbled upon a giant fiberglass potato. In front of a potato museum. Which had gone out of business a week before. Now, really. That’s just not fair.’

 

 

*

p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. I hope so anyway. My fave Altmans are ‘McCabe & Mrs. Miller’ and ‘Three Women’. He must’ve been quite a guy. ** Steve Erickson, Yeah, agreed, about Altman’s 70s work. ‘Images’ is such a strange and aesthetically ambitious film. I need to rewatch that. Psychedelic mushrooms have definitely done no harm to human evolution. Only saw ‘Secret Honor’ once. Didn’t think much of it at the time (which was upon its original release). I’ll retry that too. ‘Three Women’ is just amazing. I sometimes think Shelley Duvall’s performance in it might be my all-time favorite example of acting. Okay, now I have to read that three-word review. Christigau used to do phrase and sentence-long reviews. I still remember his clueless and embarrassing ‘clever’ review of ‘Here Come the Warm Jets’ upon its release, which was, in its entirety, ‘When is Patty Duke putting out a new album?’ ** Jeff J, Hey, J. Thanks, bud. Yes, indeed, his 70s run is easily as great to fascinating as any same period run by, well, any other American director, I would say. Oh, okay dig, gotcha re: your question. Okay, I’ll go find those posts and maybe run them all in one big shebang. I’ll probably feel compelled to update them a bit. Thanks for wanting to see them. Cool, I’ll head over to that essay. Everyone, Here’s Jeff Jackson: ‘There’s a very cool essay about photography in novels that includes a detailed dive into Mira Corpora and how Michael Salerno’s opening and ending images work in the context of the novel. It also examines work by Nicholas Rombes, Konrad Bayer, Wright Morris, and Dubravka Ugrešiƈ. The PDF is viewable here.’ ** Jamie, Jay-muah! My question mark was answered, let’s see … by waiting for a Fed Ex package to arrive and signing for it. By going to visit with my friends and blog vets Michael and Bene and their non-blog vet child Milo. By going with them to the great DVD store Potemkine and browsing. By returning home by a combination of walking and metro. By finishing my edit of an interview I gave to a French magazine. By trying to put my mind unsuccessfully so far to coming up with a title for a big upcoming project. By following the horrible Barcelona thing via TV. By eating and emailing and eventually realizing I was sleepy and sleeping. Assuming your day today is a question mark, and it is, how was yours answered? Cake! A huge slice! In the bath! Why is that combination so incredibly enviable? Jonathan sounds like a guy whose mind works faster than his thoughts? Oh, gosh, those aren’t primo Altman films. Must sees, in my opinion: ‘McCabe’, yes, and ‘Three Women’. I hope your work went so well that it felt like you were still eating cake in a bathtub. Defiantly walking under a ladder love, Dennis. ** Nick Toti, Hi, Nick! Cool, don’t hesitate! Have a fine Friday! ** _Black_Acrylic, Hey, Ben. Do catch ‘Three Women’ if you get the chance. Have a swell day! ** Right. So I decided to make a stack of defunct museums showing only their exteriors and see what happened. What happened? See you tomorrow.

Robert Altman Day *

* (restored/expanded)

 

‘One of the most salient characteristics in Altman films is the narrative with a large cast of characters. From MASH to Gosford Park his films repeatedly set numerous stories in motion – with so many actors that it’s hard to count them: 40 in Nashville, 48 in A Wedding, another 40 in Short Cuts, over 60 in both Prêt-à-Porter and The Player, with many “playing themselves”. In these films he paints large canvases with motion that results more from the edited interconnections among scenes in different stories than from the logic of any overall story development. Altman has consistently expressed his hostility to narrative causality and closure, and his films dramatically display an antipathy to straightforward, clearly delineated, and causally logical narratives. An analysis, for instance, of the scenes cut from Gosford Park reveals that shots and scenes potentially explaining character behaviour and motive were systematically removed from the final cut of the film. Throughout his career Altman has relegated motivation to the “subliminal reality” of conflicting, indeterminate, vague, inexpressible characterological desire. We look for explanation of human action, he says, “But there doesn’t have to be one”. These films ultimately asked to be read not as realistic fictions but as expressive portraits and murals of modern life.

‘On one hand, these multiply plotted films become more like reality, where lives intersect in random, chance and discontinuous ways without apparent reasons. Narrative coherence gives way to fragmentary puzzles. On the other hand, Altman has also regularly stated his craft to be that of a painter or a musician. Individual characters, then, bits and pieces of action, interact within the spaces and across the times of his films like tonal signatures or pigments of paint. Character motive, personal relationships, causal behaviour become ambiguous, diffuse, implicit.

‘A central characteristic of the art cinema is its liberation of the visual and spatial systems of film from the logical system of narrative. Altman’s large casts and diffuse stories actively assist in this process where he says that story itself asks to be read in 3 Women (1977) like a dream, in Kansas City like jazz, in The Company like a pas de deux, in Gosford Park like a tapestry. The editing rhythm of McCabe & Mrs. Miller follows from the musical rhythm of the Leonard Cohen’s music subsequently used on the sound track. Vincent and Theo seems to be motivated by a desire to follow the trail of these two bothers in order that the director can paint with his camera the same people and places of Van Gogh’s paintings. Consequently, part of the difficulty in following the complex play of stories in Altman’s films is their modernist presumption that meaning emerges from the simultaneous perception of connections among images and phrases in space that have no consecutive relationship to each other in time. Each of the 24 roles in Nashville is a colour whose meaning resides in its proximity to adjacent colours and its various intensities within the figure the film makes. Similarly the multiple fragments in Short Cuts coalesce ultimately not just as the threads of disrupted stories but as the musical accompaniment to the classical, new age, and jazz compositions that shape the whole film.

‘Altman’s films strikingly illustrate that the art cinema is a poetic as well as a narrative art. The sombre palette of gold and green in Images (1972); the restless, sensuous and ambiguous zoom and pan shots in Nashville and 3 Women; the pointillistic final sequence in the blizzard in McCabe and Mrs. Miller; the exhilarating colour and music of fashion in Prêt-à-Porter, the compulsive repetition of red and black throughout The Gingerbread Man), the stunning contrast of primary colours during the ballet performances with the honey-brown spaces of rehearsal and life in The Company – these qualities reflect the eye of a painter. Altman has consistently asserted that the goal of his films is an emotional rather than an intellectual effect: “I look at film as closer to a painting or a piece of music; it’s an impression… an impression of character and total atmosphere… The attempt is to enlist an audience emotionally, not intellectually.”

‘Narrative hardly disappears in Altman’s film, despite his self-description as a painter. In another aspect of the art cinema, Altman’s film aggressively interrogate popular narrative genres, almost as though he has been involved in a research and development project systematically to revise Hollywood’s major product lines. Images is a psychological thriller. MASH is a combat film. The Long Goodbye is a hard-boiled detective film. Nashville is a musical. McCabe & Mrs. Miller and Buffalo Bill are westerns. Quintet is science fiction. A Perfect Couple and Popeye are musical comedy romances. The Gingerbread Man is film noir. These well-known narrative forms provide the director platforms from which to display other concerns about the nature of human behaviour and its cinematic observation. Their stories seldom provide the context for significant, heroic action; rather they reveal spaces that enclose and forces that act upon a multiplicity of selves. Graphic and rhythmic dimensions of editing and cinematography frequently come unstuck from generic logic. Story moves psychologically from apparent external to obscure internal motivation. Plot becomes a project open-ended, ironic and ambiguous. Unfamiliar and unusual actors play against the star system, and stars play against their box-office personas. The innovative expressivity of the auteur director produces a metaphoric, often moody and contradictory, generally oblique discourse rather than the effaced zero-degree of style in the classical narrative cinema.’ — Senses of Cinema

 

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Stills
























































































 

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Further

Robert Altman @ IMDb
Robert Altman @ The Criterion Collection
Books on Robert Altman
Robert Altman interviewed @ BOMB Magazine
Podcast: Robert Altman’s son Michael talks about him
’10 Robert Altman Films You May Not Know’
‘Home Movies: Robert Altman, Hollywood Renegade’
‘6 Filmmaking Tips From Robert Altman’
‘How Robert Altman turned Popeye into an Altman movie’
Fuck Yeah Robert Altman
‘Revisiting the Strange and Wonderful Soundtrack to Robert Altman’s Nashville’
Martin Scorcese on Robert Altman
‘Robert Altman: The Hollywood Interview’
‘What I’ve Learned: Robert Altman’
‘Ronee Blakley Looks Back at Robert Altman’s Masterpiece, “Nashville”‘
‘The Robert Altman film Altman never wanted you to see’
‘”We don’t like the twins” – On Robert Altman’s 3 Women’

 

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Extras


Robert Altman talks about movie stuff


Independent Focus with Robert Altman


Robert Altman on RASHOMON by Kurosawa


Cinefile : Robert Altman Parts 1 – 3 (1996)

 

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Interview

 

You had to hustle particularly hard during the ’80s…

Robert Altman: It appears that way to you and to most people, but that was a very creative time for me. I did three or four theatre pieces with no screenplays. Making stage adaptations like Streamers and Come Back To The Five & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean was experimental. It was fun. For me, it was a time of success.

Yet people dismiss that period, overlooking the fact that your filmed plays are very cinematic.

RA: Right. I made them like movies, but they took place in one space. I don’t understand why people say you have to open a stage play up.

Is it a common misperception that you turned to these small-scale theatre pieces because the critical failure of Popeye burned you?

RA: I make no apologies for Popeye. Behind M*A*S*H, it’s my biggest hit. It got maligned by the critics because it wasn’t Superman. It wasn’t about special effects and it wasn’t made for 14-year-old boys. The majority of films are made for 14-year-old boys; I don’t know where they get the eight bucks to get in. It’s hush money from the parents.

You’d never worked with a major star until McCabe & Mrs Miller. So how did you handle Warren Beatty?

RA: Well, he was difficult. Warren was a control freak who was used to being in charge. I woke up one morning and it was snowing, much like today, so I said, “Hey, let’s do so-and-so.” Warren refused to come out of his dressing room. He said, “Well, by the time we get the shots, this is all going to be gone and we’ll have to redo it.” I said, “We’ve nothing else to do. Let’s just try it.” It snowed for 11 straight days and we got our whole final scene.

Beatty’s always been renowned for demanding multiple takes. You shoot on the hoof. Did that cause any problems?

RA: You bet. Take the scene where McCabe is drunk and talking to himself. We did about seven takes and I said, “Okay, that’s great.” He said, “I want to do another one.” So we did 12 or 13 takes. He said, “I want to do some more.” I said, “Well, I’m going to bed because I’ve got an early call tomorrow.” I left him with Tommy Thompson, my second-unit director. They shot 10 more [laughs].

You’ve always tried to flip Hollywood convention. Is that why you cut away from the love scene between Beatty and Julie Christie? After all, every studio exec wants “a little sex”…

RA: It wasn’t something I was interested in showing. Sex is very private. You don’t call up the neighbours and say, “Hey, Sally and I are gonna be at it tonight. Bring a chair over and sit and watch us!”

McCabe deconstructed the Western. The Long Goodbye did much the same for the detective story. Discuss…

RA: Everybody’s seen all those films. I like them to see my film and go, “Oh, we’re going to see another one of those…” Then I say, “No, you’re not.”

Naturally, you pissed off the Raymond Chandler purists. Did you expect the backlash?

RA: The purists said I didn’t do what Chandler did. I never intended to. What’s the point of a rehash? And when people say that Elliott Gould is not a good Philip Marlowe, they’re not talking about Philip Marlowe. They’re talking about Humphrey Bogart.

Your movies are renowned for their use of overlapping dialogue…

RA: I started that with M*A*S*H and continued it with McCabe & Mrs Miller. Eventually, on California Split, we made the first eight-track, so I had stuff going down on different tracks. Everybody was miked. On Gosford Park, I had 64 tracks!

How do you feel about the adjective ‘Altmanesque’? It’s now applied to any multi-layered movie with an ensemble cast…

RA: I don’t know what “Altmanesque” means, though I suppose I’m flattered by it. I mean, Paul Thomas Anderson openly said to me, “All I’m doing is ripping you off.” But that kid Anderson is really, really talented. He’s a real artist, our best hope.

Filmmaking’s changed so much since your arrival in the late ’60s. Any other new voices you admire?

RA: I don’t know how Fernando Meirelles made City Of God. It’s so courageous, so truthful. I think it’s the best picture I’ve ever seen – all I could think of was Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle Of Algiers. I also liked Sofia Coppola’s film, Lost In Translation. It’s all about nothing but it’s beautifully done. I’d rather watch a movie like that than Cold Mountain. For Christ’s sake, I’ve seen that picture about 50 times before. There’s nothing there that interests me.

You were 43 when you made Countdown. You’d served on bombers during World War Two. Does that life experience help the work?

RA: It all goes in.

So how do you feel about the new wave of MTV directors? Do you agree with Fred Ward’s character in The Player: their movies are just “Cut, cut, cut”?

RA: They serve their art as they see fit.

Do you think that the ’70s could have been cinema’s last Golden Age?

RA: These things are on a cycle, but it’ll probably be the last Golden Age in my lifetime. Back then, the decisions had gone from studio executives to the artists. I remember doing Brewster McCloud for some guy, I forget his name, who had just taken over MGM. It was an outrageous film about a boy who wanted to fly. This guy didn’t know what the fuck I was talking about, but he went ahead and let me make it anyway.

Why have so many of your peers burned out?

RA: Well, I don’t think they’ve dried up, but it’s easy to get into a groove or a rut. I mean, I was offered millions – millions – of dollars to do a M*A*S*H sequel… But why would I do that? It was the same with Short Cuts and Nashville. I won’t be restricted. Just look what happens every time some Mexican guy goes out and makes a great film for $65,000. They bring him in, give him $65 million and Ben Affleck. He falls on his face.

Do you think your reputation as a maverick could be partly responsible for the Oscar missing from your trophy cabinet?

RA: They’ll never give me an Oscar. And I sincerely, honestly don’t care. I always turn up when I’m nominated and it would be nice to get one, but to win one would be bad luck. It comes with too much expectation. It would be the end.

 

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19 of Robert Altman’s 41 films

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That Cold Day in the Park (1969)
‘By 1969, Robert Altman was a prolific director of episodic television, craving a transition to feature filmmaking, but facing a steep climb toward his goal. His first few feature outings (the 1957 independent feature The Delinquents, a documentary about James Dean from the same year, and the 1968 space thriller Countdown), had not sufficiently captured the imaginations of audiences or the film industry to sustain a feature career. That Cold Day in the Park represented a daring gambit in this context: quiet and cryptic, it displayed Altman’s iconoclastic fascinations: a sensitivity to schisms within normalcy, a fascination with female subjectivity, and the construction of atmospheres as expressive of psychological states. Par for the course, the film was received with ambivalence and disdain by many critics, and did not meet with commercial success; hardly the calling card that Altman needed.’ — UCLA Film Archive


Trailer


Behind the scenes

 

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Brewster McCloud (1970)
Brewster McCloud is more complex and more difficult than MASH. For one thing, we don’t have the initial orientation we had in MASH, where we knew we were in the Army and we knew what the uniforms stood for and what was going on in the operating room. Those hooks helped us unsort the narrative. Brewster may not even have a narrative. If you want me to explain what Brewster is about. I’m not sure it’s about anything. I imagine you could extract a subject from it, and I’ll try that the next time I see it. But I wonder if the movie isn’t primarily style; if Altman doesn’t have a personal sense of humor and wants his directing style to reflect it. One could, of course, get into a deep thing about birds and wings and freedom, but why?’ — Roger Ebert


Trailer


Excerpt

 

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McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
‘Ostensibly an anti-Western that eschewed the romanticism of John Ford, Altman’s film remained indebted to Howard Hawks for its subdued, atmospheric interior lighting (photographed by Vilmos Zsigmond, who went on to shoot Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter and Heaven’s Gate and Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind and is still working as he approaches 84), reminiscent of the kerosene-lit sets of Hawks’s El Dorado. (Altman also owes something to Hawks for his experimental use of multilayered soundtracks, but also to Ford for his use of songs, in this case those of Leonard Cohen.) This contrasts markedly with the long climax, shot in snowy streets in broad daylight. As I wrote in my 1976 book on Westerns, McCabe is photographed “as though it were underwater…. Its consistent use of subdued colors is ultimately rather lovely in its ugliness. Altman insists on the smells, dirt, and grossness of the frontier….” I went on to say that the death of Beatty’s “seedy entrepreneur…argues persuasively that not only is there no room left for a Western hero, but there isn’t even room for an anti-hero.” In a sense, Beatty’s McCabe is the perfect surrogate for Altman, possessed (sometimes blindly) by indefatigable ambition.’ — MoMA


Trailer


Excerpt


Finale

 

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Images (1972)
‘Sandwiched between two of his most celebrated artistic triumphs (McCabe and Mrs. Miller on one side, The Long Goodbye on the other), Images is something of a doodle – an intense, psychosexual thriller in the vein of Repulsion or Don’t Look Now (released the following year) – but a wildly entertaining, impressively acted doodle nonetheless. The movie centers around (and is narrated by, in some of Altman’s very best writing) Cathryn (Susannah York), a wealthy children’s book author. One night at their home (which looks like a quasi-futuristic hobbit hole, in the way only ’70s architecture and design can), Cathryn receives a series of disturbing phone calls indicating that her husband (Rene Auberjonois) is having an affair. When he returns home she confronts him, and he seemingly changes into another man altogether. (In one dizzyingly impressive shot the camera starts on York talking to the other man, played by Marcel Bozzuffi, who suddenly transforms into Auberjonois. The choreography boggles the mind.) Her husband suggests that they retreat to a cabin in the countryside, which is never a great idea, and the madness and intensity only escalates, with Cathryn tempted by adultery and plagued with visions of the mystery man and her own devilish doppelganger. Images is embroidered with pervasive weirdness – everything from the driving gloves Auberjonois is always wearing to sequences later in the movie when a rotting corpse lies on the kitchen floor, more a nuisance than anything else. In many ways a kind of companion piece to the similarly dreamlike 3 Women, Images is anchored by an utterly fearless, compulsively watchable performance by York (she bares body and soul) and Altman’s razor-sharp screenplay.’ — Indiewire


Excerpt

 

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The Long Goodbye (1973)
‘There’s an unmistakable sense of nostalgia that permeates Robert Altman’s seldom-seen 1973 neo-noir The Long Goodbye, an air of reminiscence highlighted by the film’s title track, a nifty, pliable, lovelorn little number composed by John Williams and Johnny Mercer that gets incorporated endlessly throughout the movie, evoking sporadic familiarity, even though we rarely hear the same version twice. It transforms itself, from scene-to-scene, into a flimsy piece of supermarket Muzak, an ivory-tickled barroom ditty, even a castanet-laden flamenco. It’s a caressing torch ballad one moment and a marching band’s funeral hymn the next. The song, in all its reimagined incarnations, continually threatens to embed itself into the viewer’s mind, but just as quickly eludes any tighter hold. It’s as though the film, in its own increasingly weary, tumbledown sort of way, is nostalgic for the tune, longing for something that comes back but is never the same.’ — The Film Experience


Trailer


Excerpt

 

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Thieves Like Us (1974)
‘Keith Carradine is good looking and young and Shelley Duvall is appealingly strange and wan. During a scene where she emerges naked from the bath and climbs into bed with him, it’s sensual and odd, because it doesn’t play out with the predictable rhythm of a love scene. Altman understands that what makes Duvall attractive is her otherworldliness, and her dialogue rolls along like she’s visiting from another planet, only vaguely curious of the details in our world because she has other things to do. In McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Altman found an earthiness in Warren Beatty and Julie Christie, two stars transformed into character types. Thieves Like Us is all character. Altman shows sensitivity to these outsiders, without false sentiment or even commentary. He watches from the sidelines, with a taste for irony—if you linger on an Altman wide shot long enough, without punctuation marks for action, it all becomes a little funny. These bank robber movies all end the same way: badly for our heroes. And we know this going in, so spending two hours in the company of these delightfully strange birds is, in a word, affecting. The world of Thieves Like Us is beautiful and strange, in all its stunning everydayness.’ — Slant Magazine


Excerpt

 

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California Split (1974)
‘Robert Altman’s most overlooked gem, California Split charts the friendship of two inveterate gamblers, Elliott Gould’s devil-may-care rabble-rouser and George Segal’s writer, as they wend their way through a series of casino misadventures. Theirs is a bond first forged over a game of poker in which Segal covers for Gould’s con and—after they properly meet-cute at a bar, drunkenly failing to name all seven of Snow White’s dwarfs—suffer a parking lot beat down for their earlier swindle. It’s a bromance predicated on a shared addiction to the thrill of the high-stakes win, and Altman dramatizes their union with his usual overlapping-dialogue acuteness. Conversations flow so naturally and messily that the film exudes a ragamuffin charm, bolstered by the director’s canny use of quick cutaways and evocative framing.’ — The AV Club


Excerpt

 

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Nashville (1975)
‘What more is there to say about Robert Altman’s 1975 magnum opus Nashville? I mean really, it’s been held as a benchmark of not only 1970s cinema but American cinema as a whole since its release, and before the movie even came out it had critical luminaries like the one-and-only Pauline Kael throwing platitudes left and right at it from her review’s first paragraph with whoppers like “I’ve never before seen a movie I loved in quite this way: I sat there smiling at the screen, in complete happiness. It’s a pure emotional high, and you don’t come down when the picture is over; you take it with you.” As hyperbolic as that seems it’s an appropriately excessive statement for a fittingly excessive movie—that has twenty-four main characters and a nebulous-at-best plot, mind you—and one that I happen to pretty much agree with. Nashville is the type of movie that covers you like some sort of a cinematic blanket, never smothering you or your emotions but swaddling them enough in its grasp until it pulls itself knowingly away from you in its jarring grand finale. It is a singular film from a singular director.’ — Criterion Cast


Trailer


Excerpt


Final scene

 

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Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson (1976)
‘Robert Altman was often ahead of his time–once at the cost of being behind himself. Buffalo Bill and the Indians, a snorting exposé of the U.S. predilection for buying into heroic myths, opened on July 4, 1976. Clearly the film was positioned as the ultimate bicentennial event, Altman-style. But Altman had already delivered that a year earlier: the splendiferous, deeply disenchanted yet exhilarating Nashville. Both Nashville and Buffalo Bill are films about America-as-show business, hucksterism, and the rare miracle of performance. But everything Altman got so thrillingly right in Nashville, which teems with life and mystery and widescreen dynamism, came out flatfooted and obvious in Buffalo Bill, a cramped, smirky inside joke that ends up being on the joker. The setting is the base camp for Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show, where the blustering Indian fighter of legend is gearing up for his latest national tour. Apart from sharpshooter Annie Oakley (Geraldine Chaplin) and her great friend, the Sioux chieftain Sitting Bull (Frank Kaquitts), the show is populated by phonies and opportunists. Biggest phony of all is Cody (Paul Newman), whose fame has been based more on the penny-dreadful scribblings of Ned Buntline (Burt Lancaster) than on any real accomplishments; even his long blond tresses are fake. Altman and cowriter Alan Rudolph (working from a play by Arthur Kopit) thump their insights about the Establishment’s feet of clay as if they were breaking-news bulletins instead of countercultural clichés. Only the occasional ineffably mysterious Altman zoom shot offers relief.’ — Richard T. Jameson


Trailer

 

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3 Women (1977)
‘When asked whether he considers himself an “auteur” director, Altman has said he is to some degree a primary creator, in the sense implied by that term, and to some degree a “filter,” considering ideas offered by others as filmmaking proceeds. For a deeply personal project like 3 Women, his own instincts clearly take first place. Yet his dream would not have been effectively realized if he hadn’t been able to tune many collaborators in to his own intuitive wavelengths. This in itself makes 3 Women a quintessential specimen of Altman cinema, propelled by evanescent reveries of his own and inventive contributions from cast and crew. In the end, 3 Women emerged as such a seamless weave of image, sound, story, and character that no plot summary can do it justice. Ideally, it should be watched and pondered more than once, since many moviegoers find the film so utterly outside the cinematic frameworks they’re familiar with that they wonder if its tenuous narrative (especially the deliberately indefinite ending) has passed them by, or isn’t really there in the first place.’ — David Sterritt


Trailer 1


Trailer 2

 

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A Wedding (1978)
‘When it was first released A Wedding received a cooler reception than director Robert Altman was used to with previous films Nashville and 3 Women. It is frenetic and confusing with Altman himself confessing, “It probably had too many characters and it gets a little unwieldy.” With no fewer than 48 significant speaking parts, that was something of an understatement. However, even with its flaws, this is one of Altman’s funniest and most ebullient films. Ostensibly Robert Altman’s aim in this 1978 comic free-for-all was to top his own Nashville by doubling his cast of leading players from 24 to 48. The film concentrates on the aftermath of an upscale Chicagoland wedding, and it certainly has its moments. But the facileness of this “exposé” of the upper middle class adds up to a lot of cheap shots–watchable enough, but considerably less than the sum of its parts. Among the 48: Carol Burnett, Desi Arnaz Jr., Amy Stryker, Vittorio Gassman, Geraldine Chaplin, Mia Farrow, Paul Dooley, Lillian Gish, Lauren Hutton, John Cromwell, Pat McCormick, Howard Duff, Dina Merrill, Nina Van Pallandt, John Considine, and Viveca Lindfors.’ — Jonathan Rosenbaum


Trailer

 

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Quintet (1979)
‘In the year 1979, director Robert Altman teamed with star Paul Newman to present one of the bleakest post-apocalyptic and dystopian cinematic visions ever forged, the wintry Quintet. Set well into a fictional future ice age of devastating “global cooling,” Quintet was not received warmly by either film critics or audiences at the time of the film’s theatrical release, and that perception has remained largely unchanged today. Indeed, Quintet is not an easy or particularly fun film to experience. The narrative moves at an almost glacial pace and the action features long periods of bracing, uncomfortable silence. In addition to these qualities, Altman’s feature boasts a kind of overt “icy” visual palette, with out-of-focus “cold” atmosphere encroaching visibly on the four corners of the frame. This unique, misty canvas is actually an ideal reflection of the film’s existential crisis: that mankind is being suffocated spiritually and physically by the re-glaciation of all corners of the planet. For some viewers, this misty, frost-bitten visual presentation will add immeasurably to the creeping sense of bleakness and claustrophobia Altman toils so assiduously to generate. For others, the effect may only serve to annoy or even distance one from the action on-screen.’ — John Kenneth Muir


Trailer


Excerpt

 

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Popeye (1980)
‘I first watched Altman’s comic-strip musical in a Milwaukee cinema within a few weeks of my sixth birthday, in December 1980. Baffled and bored by it at the time, I have more distinct memories of the pizza dinner my family shared afterward. But viewed again after Altman’s death, Popeye stands as a worthy entry in the director’s filmography for its charm, its gently countercultural spirit, and its performance by Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl, the role—as so many critics noted—she was born to play. Remarkably faithful to the look, rhythm, and spirit of E. C. Segar’s Thimble Theater comic strips, in which the character originally appeared, Popeye, like its antecedents Dick Tracy and Sin City, stands as a testament to the challenges—and rewards—of translating a comic kit and caboodle to film.’ — The Believer


Trailer


Excerpt


Excerpt

 

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Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982)
‘The first of Robert Altman’s adaptations of stage plays introduced his admirably rigorous, enormously fertile approach to the question of turning theatre into something properly cinematic. Ed Graczyk’s play depicts the 1975 reunion, two decades after James Dean’s death in the Texan desert nearby, of a group of women who used to be members of his fan club; as they reminisce about the past and reflect on the present, various truths emerge to sometimes comic, sometimes painful effect. Crucially, Altman never ‘opens out’ the action but uses the many sightlines provided both by his characteristically prowling camera and by a mirror on the wall of his single dime-store set to reveal and illuminate the cracks in the masks of his garrulous characters. And the performances of his almost entirely female cast are uniformly superb – Cher’s, especially, being a revelation.’ — Bfi


Trailer


Excerpt

 

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Streamers (1983)
‘The film’s flaws are more than a little obvious—and likely derived in large part from the play. For all the director’s zooming in and shooting through windows and into mirrors, the production feels hopelessly stagy, but given the one-room setting and its magnifying of the screenplay’s inherent claustrophobia, this staginess actually works in the film’s favor. Rather, especially in the retrospect of 27 (film) or 35 (play) years, Streamers’s discussions of race and sexuality don’t hold up particularly well, their effect dissipated by a certain quaintness in the play’s understanding of homosexuality, by Rabe’s desire to pack as much socially relevant material into his work as it’ll take, and by Altman’s penchant for tinting his minority characters (Richie, Carlyle) with ugly stereotyped traits. But what elevates the film above a dated topical discussion is Altman’s imagining of the army barracks as a hothouse environment where tensions and fears play out in oddly manic outbursts—and his direction of his actors accordingly. The filmmaker, following Rabe, conceives of the army base as a testing ground for the American experiment, where a diverse group of people is forced to come together in a spirit of mutual beneficence. In the wake of Vietnam (or Reagan), however, such an experiment must result in failure, so that, while Altman allows for moments of kindness between the characters, the final result can only be a meltdown as potentially apocalyptic as it is inevitable.’ — Slant Magazine


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Fool For Love (1985)
Fool For Love is not one of Robert Altman’s most popular films, nor is it among his most successful films (box office wise), nor is it considered to be among his greatest films period. It was submitted into the Cannes Film Festival, not because it was a great film, but because it had big names attached. I’ll come right out and say that the general consensus of Fool For Love is that it’s bad. Not terrible, just bad. One might speculate that something was lost in the transfer of actors and director. The original director was Sam Shepard, himself. The stars of the play were Ed Harris and Kathy Baker. Perhaps people couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role? Well, changing directors and actors never harmed Elia Kazan’s A Streetcar Named Desire! I can’t say too much about Fool For Love, because it’s not a very popular film. Where does it stand today? Well, it still manages to hold a 75% on Rotten Tomatoes, however, most of the critics who liked it did not love it, they just found mild appeal. Fool For Love also holds a contradictory 5.7 on IMDb at the moment. Fool For Love is not a classic, it is simply an Altman film.’ — Every Robert Altman Film


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Vincent & Theo (1990)
‘The trailer to Vincent and Theo (1990) proclaims that this film is “a portrait by Robert Altman”. Indeed, this biopic of artist Vincent Van Gogh (Tim Roth) and his younger brother Theo (Paul Rhys) is a beautifully filmed illustration of the men behind the now-famous paintings. In one scene, the camera caresses golden sunflowers swaying in a field. Close-ups of the flowers fill the frame and create the illusion of a sunny painting, not so different from Van Gogh’s many still-lifes of a vase of sunflowers. The camera next tracks the artist, literally out standing in his field, as he attempts to portray the flowers’ glory. Moments like this make Vincent and Theo a cinematographically mesmerizing film.’ — Pop Matters


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Robert Altman and the making of VINCENT & THEO

 

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The Player (1992)
‘With irony and enthusiasm, Altman goes Hollywood, then plays Hollywood against itself, piling up and then undermining movie conventions, as if The Player, in addition to dramatizing the fight between a writer and an executive, is itself, in its choices, the mongrel product of that fight. And in fact, it is: the film begins with a slate dropped before the camera (“Action!”) and ends as Griffin, pulling up to that cozy cottage, buys a writer’s pitch called The Player. But is it a sellout? Whose film is it? The studio’s or the artist’s? The Player asked that question in 1992, on the crest of a great resurgence of independent film in America and, within Hollywood, a healthy influx of independent-minded filmmaking—a mini renaissance that lasted almost two decades before the market collapsed in 2008 and fearful franchise thinking erased from the theatrical market the sorts of small- and mid-budget movies that turn on the strengths of their screenwriters and directors. Today, when it’s the IP (intellectual property) and not the script, or the director, or even the actor, that gets the movie made, when films are green-lit before they are written, and studios, I keep hearing, hire weaker directors because they’re easier to control, I think of that meeting, midway into The Player, the morning after Griffin Mill has killed a writer, when he muses aloud to a roomful of colleagues, “I was just thinking what an interesting concept it is to eliminate the writer from the artistic process. If we can just get rid of these actors and directors, maybe we’ve got something here.”’ — Sam Wasson


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The Player One on one with Robert Altman

 

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Ready to Wear (1994)
‘Altman seems to have missed the point: that fashion itself is surreal without all that cinematic effort. People slipping in dog’s mess? Not half as devastating as someone dropping a felt pen on your new Prada shoes. Why mock up a fashion show in a Métro (been there, done that years ago) but fail to film the moment at Jean-Paul Gaultier’s show when the audience started choking on fumes from the fake snow? ‘I don’t know what to say – it’s a comedy, very droll. It’s not a critique of fashion, it is a total fiction,’ said Gaultier, who made his entrance in a tiger-print jacket with Lauren Bacall. ‘I was cut!’ claimed Bacall. ‘A lot of the scenes that made my character add up to more were gone.’ She plays a fashion editor deposed for a younger model (while Sally Kellerman and Tracey Ullman are competing for the favours of the photographer). For fashion folks, the film just didn’t come off – either as an extended skit, or as a bitchy or brutal dissection of the industry. Although Altman started the evening by telling the audience to ‘giggle and give in and enjoy it’, the laughter came in trickles rather than torrents. Ironically, the most riveting bits were the polished excerpts from the real fashion shows.’ — The Guardian


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Gosford Park (2001)
‘No director has ever been better than Altman at providing the audience with bearings to find its way through a large cast. The sense of place is also palpable in this film; the downstairs and attic floors were entirely constructed on sound stages by production designer Steven Altman, Altman’s son, who also supervised the real country house used for the main floors. Andrew Dunn’s photography is sumptuous upstairs, while making the downstairs look creamy and institutional. The editor, Tim Squyres, must have been crucial in keeping the characters in play. “Gosford Park” is the kind of generous, sardonic, deeply layered movie that Altman has made his own. As a director he has never been willing to settle for plot; he is much more interested in character and situation, and likes to assemble unusual people in peculiar situations and stir the pot. Here he is, like Prospero, serenely the master of his art.’ — Roger Ebert


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p.s. Hey. ** H, Thank you. I hope ‘Jubliee’ lived up! ** Kyler, Hi, K. Thanks, man, and immortality would be awfully nice under certain circumstances such as not spending all of eternity lying in bed hooked up to tubes, etc. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. I personally don’t believe for one second that Trump makes anything impossible. ** Chris Cochrane, Chris! Buddy boy! Thanks a bunch. Very cool about your collaboration with Yvonne. I don’t think you told me about that upcoming and amazing trip. That’s quite a whoa there. Great, Chris! We finish the film work in late September. Don’t know about a NYC visit at the moment. Something will come up, I guess. Oh, so, not having heard a word, I’m beginning to guess that ‘Them’ at MoMA is a dead duck? Take care. Love, me. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Understood. Really you should talk about you want here, and I’ll do the same, and it’ll all be fine. Yes, I don’t know where whoever wrote that article got the idea that Camus is a philosopher. Knowing him just a teeny bit due to our sharing the same French publisher, I’m sure he was happy to play along. Great about the Eliza Hittman interview. I’m curious to see her film and read your conversation. I would agree that if you actually want to write, ambient music is usually a better or at least more supportive friend. ** Bernard, Hi, Bernard! Awfully glad to hear that you’re in a solid, ongoing work mode. You don’t want to turn away from the Trump stuff even for a moment? Yikes. Right, the eclipse. I don’t think it’s playing over here. Oh, well, the title of the GIF work/post was the warning? ** Tosh Berman, Hi. Yeah, I get the great difficulty of tuning all of that out. Being somewhat removed over here, it’s possible to see that rightly or wrongly also as at least partly an addiction and question whether, if that’s true, an addiction can be a place from which to be a productive adversary. But that’s just wondering on my part. I like to wonder. Thank you about the GIF work. Much appreciated. ** _Black_Acrylic, Thanks, Ben. Yeah, I was thinking about how combining a haunted house effect and a rave effect might be exciting. Your print is beautiful! Excellent work, maestro! It’s really lovely! ** Nick Toti, Thank you, Nick. Yeah, I feel really super lucky to have stumbled into a longterm collaboration with Gisele for sure. We’ve been working together long enough that the way we work has evolved a lot, and we’ve managed to create works that are significantly different from one another, which is quite exciting. Like our last piece ‘The Ventriloquist Convention’ is extremely text-heavy and conversational, and for our new piece, which is all dance and no language, I’m creating a hidden, unspoken narrative with characters and events and things, so it’s about the language construction part being as functional and invisible as possible. Very challenging work for a writer, for which I feel very, very grateful. Well, if you do get to the point where you want to collaborate with a choreographer, let me know because Gisele could be a great help in suggesting people or making the introductions and so on. It won’t surprise you that unwatchable is a magic word for me, so that sounds amazing. Cool, thanks for naming the Kobek book. I’ll find it somehow. Writing in that way, journalistically or whatever, for your column, … I can imagine. Nonfiction is the hardest kind of writing for me by a million miles. I’ve basically given it up because I find it so taxing. Great to talk with you! ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! Thanks, Dóra! I wonder if it’s even possible to wrap one’s mind around something like that. I think for me it’s more that I think about it until I can’t get my thoughts to be any more understanding, and then I just let it become something that becomes a feeling that comes and goes forever. It’s very strange. Well, on the post about SCAB, we could do it in a number of ways, I guess. I guess the very best would be a post you made about it, but I understand that that’s complicated. You could write a kind of intro, and then send me the project, and I can lift examples to use in the post. Really, whatever is the most interesting and least difficult option for you would be fine. And great! My day ended up being quiet because I wasn’t needed at the dance rehearsals. So I just caught up on stuff. Nothing exciting, but it was okay. Today … we’ll see. And your today? ** Tender prey, Hi, Marc! Oh, thank you so so much about the GIF work. Yeah, I experimented and made it in a very different way than I usually make those works, almost in a backwards way or something. It was very interesting to find a new possible entrance into that work. Anyway, I so appreciate your words. And, yes, it was so fantastic to get to see you guys and hang out as much we got to over here! I’m glad you’re back safely in London and that it’s treating you respectfully. Love, me. ** Jamie, Hey! Thank you so much! Really! Yes, I think I’ve reached a point in the GIF work where I feel somewhat quite comfortable with the medium and fairly knowledgeable about how the GIF effect works and can’t and how they can be organized to have the effects I want to achieve, and that’s allowing me to play and push the limits in a way I couldn’t until recently. Its very interesting, and thank you very much! I’m good. No, Gisele didn’t need me at the rehearsals yesterday. Maybe today, though, I’m waiting for her commanding text. Ultimately I think chops are really just dedication. I mean, I really have no visual sense much at all and no chops there, but, for instance, I dedicated myself to making the GIF works, and I think my concentration and desire to make that work is the entire reason they work as much as they do. Well, Danielewski continues to publish books, and they’re ever more formally daring, which is impressive, but, for me, they pretty much remain conceptual works and the texts are just like the graph of the idea, which is okay but they don’t have the absorbing and involving quality that I think he’s going for. I don’t know. Have you found a doable animator yet? My day is a question mark at the moment. It might be another slow-y. Can’t tell. And yours? Mud-encrusted, shower-needing love, Dennis. ** Chris dankland, Thank you, man! What you got and liked is what I wanted and hoped. Cool! And I love and am grateful for you seeing that great Blakeian idea in my stuff. Yeah, in my dreams, at least. Thanks, Chris, that’s really wonderful to hear. And thank you ever so much as for sending me a guest-post! Wow! I’ll go find it and put it together and write to you. Fantastic, thank you so kindly, my friend! Hugs right back. ** Misanthrope, Hi. Well, as the title hopefully indicated, it was indeed a ride or ‘ride’. Just meet SolidGold for a coffee and a blab-fest, and then you’ll know. And I guess pay for his coffee. Interesting bugaboo. But then you seemingly like or don’t have a problem with the commodification of sex involved in how pop stardom is aware of and manipulative of the audience’s libido. So you like the ad but not the product? Random question. ** Jeff J, Hey, Jeff. Thanks really a lot. Yeah, as I was explaining above, I conceptualized and constructed that one in a way I hadn’t come at the GIF work before, and I do feel like it opened some new area or areas or something. Really, thanks so much. That means a lot to me coming from you. What do you mean by ‘re-creating some of your favorite poems, novels, and short stories posts from the old blog — maybe expanded even’? I’m not sure what you mean entirely? Which posts are you talking about? Yes the Cortazar images arrived, and I’ve restored your old post, and it will be up here next week. Thanks so much for that! ** Okay. For reasons I don’t remember I decided to restore and slightly expand the until-now dead Robert Altman Day. I hope it was a good idea. See you tomorrow.

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