NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL GOOD WRITING!!

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“Maybe you’ve seen her: a girl-child in a heavily soiled nightdress, creepy-crawling on her belly through a garden of toadstools in the yard beside an old dark house. She is ‘The Sixties’–in all its promise and eventual deformity–coming into being, coming up from underneath.”

  — the opening paragraph of “A Child’s Garden of Flies: Jill Banner’s Deadly Spider Baby”, an essay by CHUCK STEPHENS about B-movie actress Jill Banner, best known for Jack Hill’s 1964 creep-fest “Spider Baby”  (written for the magazine “Film Comment” [Jan/Feb 1915, Volume 51, Number 1])

Writer and essayist Chuck Stephens is a Contributing Editor to Film Comment magazine, former West Coast Editor of Filmmaker, and has written for the Village Voice, Cinema Scope, San Francisco Bay Guardian, Interview, and numerous publications around the world. He is also a longtime contributor to Criterion.com projects, and has authored numerous essays for laser discs and DVDs in The Criterion Collection.
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REAL CUT-UPS

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Although the infamous CUT-UP TECHNIQUE (a process in which a page of text gets manipulated by either being folded onto itself or by actually cutting out individual words with either an x-acto blade or scissors so that new words and/or sentences can be formed) is primarily known as the brain-child of writer / painter BRION GYSIN. In actuality this innovative process was first utilized in public during a 1920’s Dadaist rally. A French avant-garde poet named Tristan Tzara offered to compose a poem on the spot by pulling words at random from a hat.

Since that time this technique has been used by practically everyone, from writers T.S. Eliot, John Dos Passos, Julio Cortázar & Kathy Acker, to musicians such as David Bowie, Kurt Cobain, and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke.

The Cut-Up Technique gained the attention of the world art scene in the 1950’s, when Brion Gysin experimented with the procedure. He had placed layers of newspapers as a mat to protect a tabletop from being scratched, then cut into the papers with a razor blade. Gysin noticed that the sliced layers offered interesting juxtapositions of text and image. He began deliberately cutting newspaper articles into sections, which he randomly rearranged. He also applied this technique to audio recordings and printed media. Gysin’s friend, writer William S. Burroughs, found the method so compelling that he started using it with his own work. The two friends even collaborated on a publication, ¨The Third Mind¨,  a collection of cut-up writings and essays on the form.

Recently, I happened upon a book that looked somewhat like a journal in my shelves. Intrigued, I took it down and opened it up. To my amazement, I realized that it was a book that a good friend of mine–an extremely gifted musician who also dabbled in graphic arts on the side (creating works that are so unique and well-crafted I am positive he would cause quite a stir in the art world)–had presented to me some time back. It was a collection of his own cut-outs.

While I gleefully read through the pages I was fascinated all over again by his dedication to the technique [he simply cut out words and phrases from The New York Times, then meticulously picked out various selections and glued them back together]: the results were a cluster of intelligence, irony, with a touch of the unconscious at work, and often the end results were not only clever but frequently very funny.

The following are just some of the cut-outs he created:

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VARIOUS PHRASES HE CUT OUT and then JOINED TOGETHER: 

  • Details of a reported three-day sex romp at a luxury hotel. It’s more about nostalgia than politics.
  • HELP SAVE A BABY. Let’s eat out!
  • SAVE THESE INSTRUCTIONS. Says WHO?
  • The articulation of space. There’s nothing for me here!
  • NEW TEETH. ¨Take a good look.¨
  • ¨Even models in bathing suits¨ carried HANDBAGS

VARIOUS WORDS THAT WERE CUT OUT and then JOINED TOGETHER:

  • Shadow THE POODLE
  • Swim AT Home
  • ¨I cant DISSECT MYself
  • ¨Fake I.D.’s ARE crucial
  • pictures of fragments
  • the DEAD BOX NOW ON SALE!
  • Jesus kissing Mary… BLOOD is NOT cheap

THESE ARE JUST A FEW OF THE MANY PAGES OF WONDERFUL CUT-UPS… I will add to these lists as I become better acquainted with this wonderful homemade book.

THE MEANING BEHIND THE BLOG’S TITLE

ErikTheGreat

“Cryptomnesia” is a psychological term which describes a forgotten memory that returns without it being recognized as such. Usually based in the worlds of the creative and philosophical arts, the creator formulating a new work believes with all their heart that their creation is something wholly unique, when in fact the origin of their concept stems from something they’ve heard or read a long time ago.

Far from being a form of plagiarism, according to psychiatrist Theodore Flournoy “Cryptomnesia” forms out of “latent memories that come out, sometimes greatly disfigured by a subliminal work of imagination or reasoning, as so often happens in our ordinary dreams.”

Noted Psychiatrist Carl Jung became fascinated by this unconscious oddity. In his thesis “On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena (1902)”, as well as his 1905 article, “Cryptomnesia“, Jung gave several examples of the phenomenon. In Friedrich Nietzsche’s seminal work “Thus Spoke Zarathustra“, for instance, Jung pointed out that the same principles were mentioned by Géza Dukes, Sándor Ferenczi and Wilhelm Stekel, as well as by Sigmund Freud in speaking of the originality of his inventions. Jung went on to state that “An author may be writing steadily to a preconceived plan, working out an argument or developing the line of a story, when he suddenly runs off at a tangent. If you ask him what prompted the digression, he will not be able to tell you. Nonetheless, he is excited by this new material; he genuinely feels that it is entirely fresh and apparently unknown to him before. Yet it can sometimes be proved convincingly that what he has written bears a striking similarity to the work of another author.”

Other examples stem from works by Robert Lewis Stevenson (“Treasure Island”); Lord Byron (in which his work “Manfred” bears a close resemblance to Goethe’s masterwork “Faust”); Helen Keller (“The Frost King”); even musician George Harrison, whose song “My Sweet Lord” is, in fact, the same melody of The Chiffon’s “He’s So Fine” (though he denied even in court that he never intentionally meant to “steal” the chords).

Jung, in his book “Man and His Symbols”, stated the following about Cryptomnesia: “The ability to reach a rich vein of such material [of the unconscious] and to translate it effectively into philosophy, literature, music or scientific discovery is one of the hallmarks of what is commonly called genius.”

So, for this particular blog–a collection of quotes, recollections, poems, photos… Mostly the works of others–this particular psychic anomaly has, for me, a special resonance to warrant the title.