The Martyrdom of St. Ursula at the Banca Commerciale Italiana

CaravaggioUrsula.jpgStory told by a Welsh man who lived in Italy in the 1990s: “I wanted to see Caravaggio’s The Martyrdom of St. Ursula, but it was in the Banca Commerciale Italiana in Naples. So I went in and I asked the bank tellers, and they couldn’t help me. I asked the security guard and he said no.

So I sat in the foyer. I basically said: ‘I want to see it, I’m not leaving. I’ve come all the way from England and I want to see it.’

At the time I though it was completely within my rights, that it was on public display. But it turns out it was hanging in a boardroom.

Eventually the security guard got sick of me. He said, ‘All right then,’ and he took me upstairs and showed it me. He gave me some ridiculous time parameter, he turned on the lights for a very brief time, and shuffled me out of there.

I think they’ve moved it, in recent years. Yeah, I don’t think it’s there anymore.”

The Mattyrdom of St. Ursula (1610) is believed to be Caravaggio’s last painting. It now hangs in the Gallery of Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano in Naples. 

The Lost Gloves & Shoes of Tom Hanks’ Instagram

The actor Tom Hanks has a charming Instagram presence. Of his 184 posts, over sixty are pictures of lost or discarded objects; a lone white glove on a rocky patch of land resembling the surface of the moon, a dirty jelly shoe held up against the backdrop of turquoise sky. “Found. At bottom of the sea.” he wrote, “1 girls (?) shoe. To claim call 1-NEptune.” He occasionally appears as a shadow in these shots, which he signs “Hanx.” They indicate a man who is present and alert in the spaces he catalogs for the digital world. It’s easy to imagine his glee when he spots a new object. Each photo poses endless questions, and every object is imbued with meaning beyond its original purpose. Who did this shoe belong to? How far has it been carried by the currents of the oceans? What the hell have we done to this planet? “Are all of these your gloves ? Or someone else’s?” asked Kaleb Rich Harris. “Is this just one huge ploy concerning how this whole life experience might be interactions with just other versions of ourselves or with completely different versions [of] everyone else and not at all ourselves?” 

It’s a nice account. He promotes his wife’s music and supports veterans and Aston Villa Football Club–there are no pictures of an infinity pool or the bow of a yacht shot between his feet. But a subset of Instagram users see only the Devil. They believe Tom Hanks is taunting the world with pictures of trophies from the victims of the Illuminati’s blood-drenched sacrifices. “Pedofilo de mierda!” Jacquelin Sanchez Photographer exclaimed under a a bubble gum pink running shoe. “Is that what’s left of your illuminati parties?” wondered Sir Trashman. Many women express dismay that the Hanks they believed him to be (a mixture of Alan Bauer in Splash, Jim Lowell in Apollo 13, and Forrest Gump) was a cover. “Such a phony, you play this sweet and innocent giving and caring actor, meanwhile you’re hiding skeletons and gloves in your closet,” Ollie Mommy 87 posted under a picture of a discarded couch. They tell Hanks that he is a sick man and that everyone is on to him. That his time will soon be up and that hell awaits him. In their pathology they resemble the people who think they’re the victims of gang-stalking. Every time Tom Hanks comes across a discarded glove, he re-confirms their delusion. It’s like a mutant cyberspace strain of De Clérambault’s Syndrome. “I know the elite sacrifice for wealth and position and it’s not a fake it’s real people,” said Linda 14346 Northern Ireland. “We all know HANX,” wrote JuliAnn ScMurphy. “Also noticed you’ve been deleting comments with credible info, yet keep the ones that make us sound like we’re lunatics. TICK TOC.” 

“I think all of the great stories in literature deal with loneliness,” Hanks told the writer Danny Leigh. “Sometimes it’s by way of heartbreak, sometimes it’s by way of injustice, sometimes it’s by way of fate. There’s an infinite number of ways to examine it. If there’s a reason it always seems to be there with me, it’s because it’s so palpable to all of us. You can turn everything into an aspect of that battle against quiet despair, because we all fight it at some point in order to feel we’re part of humanity.”

Hanks talked about loneliness when he was promoting Cast Away in 2001, three years before Facebook was founded. His quote encapsulates both the loneliness of the Hanx images and the paranoid hallucinations people who post under them. Truncated and superimposed over a mountainscape, it has become popular on Instagram.

The Original Ending of Chinatown

Spoiler alert, circa 1974: “[Robert] Towne is legendary and I think that both Shampoo and Chinatown were brilliantly written. Towne tells me his ending to Chinatown, which would have made it a much bigger movie… Instead of  Faye Dunaway buying it at the end they get away–via a stretch of Mulholland that affords the Valley view, filled with orange groves. Their car passes out of frame and the camera freezes over the background. Towne tells me that he has collected seventeen stills, all approximately from the same POV, which cover the intervening years from then to the present. They show the death of the orange groves and the birth of the San Fernando Valley with all the overdeveloped living spaces for humans, trapped in the basin of the mountains. The last couple of stills, he says, were the most damning, because you couldn’t even see the ugliness of the development, because the smog obliterated everything. I tell him I love his ending. ‘Yeah, well, Roman had some things to work out,’ re replies in a long-suffering tone. He has told this story a lot of times, but I don’t blame him– it is so much better an ending.”

You’ll Never Eat Lunch in this Town Again, Julia Phillips, Random House, 1991.

Jean-Michel Basquiat on Renoir

Image result for une odalisque renoir

Jennifer Clement interviewed her friend Suzanne Mallouk about her relationship with the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Mallouk’s recollections were the basis of Clement’s book Widow Basquiat.

“I remember he had a book on Renoir that he loved. Once I asked him why and he said, ‘Because they are so violent.’ I argued with him and said that he was wrong, that the paintings showed placid French country life. He said I was stupid. He opened the book and showed me the painting of Mademoiselle Romaine Lacaux.

‘Those red flowers,’ he said, ‘are blood in her hands.’ Then he showed me The Sisleys and said, ‘You can just tell he hates her.’ Finally he opened a page at Une Odalisque— the one of the harem women– and Jean said, ‘Look, she is about to fart.’ ”

Widow Basquiat, Jennifer Clement, Canongate Books, 2000.

Odalisque, Pierre Auguste Renoir

The Permanent Stains 30th Anniversary Tour

The Permanent Stains were formed thirty years ago in Ottawa. At various times the members have consisted of Adam Clarke (“Ferdinand Fleming”), brothers Nick (“Bruford T. Justice”) and Malcolm Fraser (“Malstain”), Mark Haney (“The Mighty Moose of Ages”), Adam Traynor (“Rolled Oats”), Brian Leonard, Erik “the Savior” Otto, Peaches, Fraser Robinson (“Tex Styles”), and a mascot known as Yogurt Boy, who danced with salad tongs wearing an insectoid crash helmet and a bathrobe. I spoke to four members of the Stains, Malcolm Fraser, Mark Haney, Fraser Robinson, and Adam Traynor ahead of their 30th anniversary tour.

What’s your most memorable gig?
MH: For me it’s the baby pool show at Glebe High School. I had a baby pool full of soapy water to frolic in, got a blender full of fish and lime juice dumped on me, Mal demonstrated the “Yo Joe!” sodomy position on me in the pool and (most importantly) we crossed over from being theoretically dangerous to literally so.

MF: There are lots but one of my favourites is when we had a Montreal gig cancelled. We decided then and there that we would play a show that night no matter what. We went around to a couple of bars and in the second one, Nick knew a member of the band so we hustled our way onto the bill. We passed the hat and made $28, which I was pretty impressed with until I found out that our friend had put in $20. Nonetheless, I’m glad we had the moxie to make that happen.

FR: I still have the fondest memories for a show we played in this garage across from a strip club in Sherbrooke, Quebec in 2000. Full of drunk, underage francophone kids who got really into the set, we played with a primal energy that I haven’t quite channeled since. Bruford won a bunch of money on the fruit machine at the strip club beforehand and later the cops broke up the gig. Couldn’t ask for a better night.

AT: At a Gong Show-themed event in Toronto, I got in to a shoving match with a burly meathead who was heckling our opener, Mike Foxxx. Having antagonised the audience, the vibe was already charged when we took the stage, and became literally so while we played: some grounding problem with (or sabotage of!?) the electrical current caused my fingers to conduct electricity via my guitar stings, and I received a jarring shock of electrocution with every note I played.

Tell me about some venues you have played at?
MF: Skinhead basement party, karaoke boozecan in a church basement, teenage drinking party in a strip club basement… hmm, I sense a theme here…

FR: One of my favourites was this Karaoke Bar that wasn’t even a Karaoke Bar. Ottawa’s best Karaoke host, Carmen (RIP), relocated at one point to a boozecan that some old Chinese guys set up in a community centre gym. We managed to sort out a gig there opening for him and it was amazing, we opened for Karaoke – and brought a decent crowd too. The regulars didn’t really know what to make of the whole thing.

AT: Carman’s karaoke speakeasy in the back room of Christ The Saviour Orthodox Church in Ottawa’s Chinatown. An all-ages punk basement speakeasy in Sherbrooke (while the cops circled outside). Club Zone, a cheesy bar next to Concordia University in Montreal where we successfully crashed the bill on the day our scheduled gig fell through. Planet Kensington in Toronto (several times). Saw Gallery, Café Alternatif and Porter Hall in Ottawa throughout the 90s, Tex Mex’s parents’ basement in Ottawa, and Dave Dawson’s parents’ basement in Ottawa.

Please list some of your favourite stage costumes.
My first Stains costume will forever be my favourite. Fuzzy white fur hat, coconut bra, hollowed out cucumber. Everything since then has been a disappointment.

MF: Nick covering his face in Band-Aids, Mark wearing a hollowed-out cucumber taped to his penis, Yogurt Boy’s iconic helmet… there was also a time when Nick and I dressed as riot grrls – we had torn shirts, miniskirts and the words “SLUT” and “WHORE” written on our midriffs in black marker. Somehow I don’t feel like that would go over well today, but I guess you had to be there…

FR: My Spiderman with moustache and mohawk remains my best look. Not just on stage, but in life.

AT: Australian flag diaper. Artificial flesh mask made of Band-Aids. Superman doll codpiece. Hollow cucumber codpiece with edible tip. Singing telegram tux & tails. Royal Canadian Airborne t-shirt with hazing slogans scrawled in faeces

Did you ever have any groupies?
You mean other than Fraser?

FR: Not sure about groupies but I think Bruford started a relationship with a long term girlfriend right after he and The Mighty Moose of Ages made out in the peanut butter and chocolate sauce filled kiddie-pool at the ’93 Glebe Fringe Festival show in Ottawa. That kind of thing really says “good boyfriend material.”  

AT: 97.

What’s on your rider?
In a perfect world, a large deli spread with a selection of alcohol; this may sound stupidly modest but since the reality is going to be “you can change in the washroom” it seems like a dream.

AT: White sports socks (x6 pair). Locally-sourced artisanal maraschinos. Goofballs.

In the Another Video video, what were you pouring on each other and rolling in?
Part of that is the soapy water, fish and lime described above. There is a also a snippet of Nick and I wrestling and covering each other in peanut butter and chocolate sauce.

MF: I can’t remember all the ingredients, but it definitely contained frozen fish sticks.

AT: I believe that’s Captain Highliner frozen breaded fish sticks, puréed.

What is your personal favourite song? Lyric?
MH: Super Christ Brothers, “You can all fucking suck me” from the same.

MF: I really like a lyric that Nick sang on the recorded version of “Super Christ Brothers.” He was just ranting incoherently for the most part, but the only decipherable lyrics are “That’s all right, do what you want. Why is that what you want?” I’m quite sure it was just off the top of his head, but I still think it’s pretty deep.

FR:  Song: “Why.” Lyric: Why

AT: Song: “Cold Frankfurter.” Lyric: “That’s alright/do what you want/why is that what you want?” (from “Super Christ Brothers”).

Will there be nudity at any of your upcoming shows?
MH: Not sure. Gratuitous nudity was always my department, and while I’m not planning anything at this time I’m certainly not opposed to it. At all.

FR: We’re not quite the lithe young studs we once were but it shouldn’t be ruled out.

AT: Only the truth will be naked.

Most memorable Permanent Stains concert attendees or events at concerts (ie. bar brawls).
MH: I think Mal losing his shit and beating on Nick and I in Ottawa during our 14th Anniversary Tour is my most memorable. Nick was getting it for trying to shave Mal’s head, I was getting it because Mal just assumed I was involved.

FR: On the bar brawl front: Malstain and Bruford once got into a full-on tussle on-stage after Bruford tried to shave Malstain’s head as a surprise during a song. The razor gouged into Mal’s head and cut him open, he responded with a wild haymaker in Bruford’s direction and a donnybrook ensued. Fortunately Yogurt Boy (actually a stand-in for an AWOL Yogurt in the form of Christian Moreton, our tour manager) jumped into the fray and diffused it with a sort of blanket hug that cleared the red mist.

AT: Members of Mighty Moose’s church group, in attendance at the Liam’s basement show in Ottawa, where they witnessed Mal biting the tip off Mighty Moose’s hollow cucumber codpiece.

Are you familiar with the Real Housewives franchise on Bravo? Who do the Stains most resemble? 

FR: I am familiar with this franchise. We’re the musical equivalent of Lisa Rinna’s lips.

So there you have it. Fulsome, mesmerizing, notorious, and cherished by Harry Hamlin, The Permanent Stains’ 30th anniversary tour will visit:

Wednesday August 9 – OttawaPressed 8pm 
Thursday August 10 – MontrealLa Vitrola  9pm
Friday August 11 – North BayWhite Water Gallery 8:30 pm
Saturday August 12 – TorontoBurdock 8:30 pm
Sunday August 13 – PeterboroughThe Spill 

The Stains’ 2004 autobiography:
“Super Christ Bros”: