i live inside an antiquated, obsolete machine

It’s a little freaky that those Julian Cope mp3s from Friday are now the most downloaded mp3s i’ve ever posted. It’s probably just as much because of dearth of posts the past three days, meaning these have stuck towards the top longer than many. If any of you ever feel lost on my desire for anything other than mp3s, just link or bookmark to the mp3 category. That way one doesn’t have to wade through all of the other bullshit.

Anyway, go check out Head Heritage. The new album Citizen Cain’d is on sale now. The reviews keep comparing it to Jehovahkill, so it’s likely to be monster. Julian Cope needs more love. It’s hard for me to accept that there is not a default critical acknowledgement of his long shadow over so much contemporary music informed by garage-psych, Krautrock, and oddball outsider eccentrics. He’s been a discarded prophet by so many eager to claim those he has championed in darker times as their own influences. I’m eager to see a revival, and even though i’ve not been into all of that roaring pagan rock that he has been collaborating with, it’s rewarding to see what path it has taken him back to.

Julian Cope “Adam & Eve Hit the Road” After three concepts albums back to back, Cope seemingly accidentally put together a fourth concept album. It’s called 20 Mothers, but it feels more about family, rather than just motherhood, with as many songs about being a brother, a son, and a father as about mothers. Why this song? Well… because it has fucking cool squiggly space noises! It has a loping rhythmic groove! Its lyrics are obtuse and impenetrable as hell!

Julian Cope “Cheap New-Age Fix”
Interpreter is a bit weird for me. With a few years hindsight, it seems to be a throwback to Saint Julian. After at least five official Cope albums of nearly lo-fi style, occult weirdness, it felt overproduced and slick. I was wrong. It still grates on my nerves on that Pitchfork has not purged that old review that gave the album a 2.2. Weren’t they wanking over Radiohead every chance they got back then? Did they change their mind when Yorke proudly announced that he read The Modern Antiquarian, and walked the paths to various megaliths. This was released within a year of the time of OK Computer, right? I guess that it wasn’t dour and paranoid enough. Don’t laugh. Music is very serious business. Fuckers…

modular canons

I quite like this Pitchfork article, Be Your Own Harry Smith. I used the Boom Selection collection and the I Love Music CDR700Go! collections to figure out what the hell i’m missing out on, but now i have the bug to reassemble what they originally compiled.

Stanislav has been working on his version of the ’80s Nuggets for months now, and i notice that when i’m online, i get more downloads of that folder than most others. I think that there are at least four volumes now, most ripped from his own vinyl collection. I’m also curious as to where the Mystical Beast is going to go with this week’s feature on the ’80s tape culture underground, whether this could turn into another of those collections by a spontaneously anointed curator.

Taking a break from Bound to Please

I broke through the Victorian/ Edwardian barrier in Bound to Please, but i’m finding that Dirda’s words on more contemporary authors, ones i’ve read in the past several months, gets on my nerves. His essay on Borges had me rolling my eyes in frustration, as i realized just how much Dirda was regurgitating plotlines in certain pieces. This is great for books that i’ve never read and probably won’t get to in years, but I felt a little cheated that Dirda gave me no new insight to something that I feel has affected me so profoundly so recently.

This probably only got on my nerves after i slogged my way through the essays on the biographies and letters of a host of authors who sat around in drawing rooms sipping tea in smoking jackets, saying things like “How droll.” Now that Dirda is up to the pulp writers, my interest is piqued again, but too late…

I’m on a Philip K. Dick binge. When in Husser, i picked up my copy of The Divine Invasion. I barely remembered anything from it, as i read it during my fogged-out years. It may as well be the first time reading it. It’s far from perfect, but I think that i’ve been namechecking Dick as a favorite by rote rather than my actual memory of his work. It’s rewarding to find just how much certain concepts, right or wrong, burrowed into my brain, at a point that it was difficult even to remember my name.

another pebble added to the mountain of evidence of my jackassery

Apparently i’ve been going about this blog thing all wrong. When i switched from Fighting Against Making the Pie Higher to Orbis Quintus, i had this ornery notion that i wanted hypertext hard to see. Of course i could discern links from regular text, but it amused me to believe that only the people who really wanted to see the links would click them. Both Stanislav and Bill (who was banned in a fit of rage by me over a comment about the Iraq election, but now he’s absent only because of a self-imposed exile) warned me that it was stupid, but i’ve left the format alone for months.

Last night, I left the default format turned on, because i couldn’t be bothered to “fix” the template back to my insane notion of what is right. The number of actual visits is not much different, but the bandwidth use this morning is much, much higher. I still need to do a lot of tweaking, but I never realized that my fucked-up color choice for hypertext links was such a barrier.

Color is a good thing.

the site looks different?

Don’t get used to it. I just did the upgrade to WordPress 1.5. I miss my swirly thingamajigs and my sidebar is all wrong.

The Friar and the Cipher

There’s a new book on the Voynich Manuscript called The Friar and the Cipher. Here’s a piece hyping it from the Miami Herald:

If you think Paris Hilton is a hot topic on the Internet, just check out the Voynich Manuscript — 8,000 hits on a Google search. One Edith Sherwood, Ph.D., thinks it was written by Leonardo da Vinci. Hooey, assert the followers of Dan Gibson: It’s obviously written in Nabataean, an ancient Middle Eastern language. But ”Big Jim” favors an extraterrestrial connection.

You can’t beat a good mystery, and the Voynich Manuscript is nothing if not that. It’s (probably) a medieval illuminated manuscript that’s one of the most famous cryptographic puzzles in the world. Going on 100 years after book dealer Wilfred Voynich found it at a Jesuit school in Italy, no one has been able to crack the cipher it was written in, despite the efforts of the best codebreakers and computer programs.

The 200-page cipher book, illustrated with drawings of improbable plants, astrological symbols and naked women, now resides at Yale University’s Beinecke Library. It provides an ideal topic for bibliophile co-authors Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone. The husband-and-wife team started out writing about book-collecting, but expanded in their last book, Out of the Flames, into a clever combination of book lore and intellectual history. They carry on that entertaining formula in The Friar and the Cipher.

UFOs aside, there are any number of respectable theories about the origins of the Voynich. The Goldstones conscientiously go through the more rational, but their hearts belong to one of the earliest: That it was written by 13th century English scholar Roger Bacon, the ”friar” of the title.

According to the Goldstones, Bacon’s historical reputation has been at a low ebb in recent years, because his scientific achievements were modest. They argue he deserves rehabilitation as an intellectual hero not because of his results, but because he championed the empirical scientific method at a time when the Roman Catholic Church establishment repressed any serious attempt to expand knowledge.

Just as the Goldstones pit freethinking Michael Servetus against theologian John Calvin in Out of the Flames, they use St. Thomas Aquinas as Bacon’s foil in The Friar and the Cipher. Aquinas was a more attractive character than Calvin, but his writings did help stifle scientific advance for several hundred years.

Much of the book is devoted to Bacon, but the story moves more quickly when a manuscript that sounds like the Voynich first surfaces in the early 17th century, the property of the colorful Elizabethan astrologer John Dee. From there, we race to the Hapsburg court in Prague, the Jesuits in Italy, the book dealers and cryptographers of the 20th century and the current Internet debate.

The Goldstones pack considerable information into 300 pages, and perhaps inevitably commit a boner or two. For example, they describe King Henry VII of England as King Henry VIII’s ”brother” — the most casual student of English history knows that he was his father. (They confuse him with Prince Arthur.) On the same page, they make reference to Mary, Queen of Scots, being ”born” a Frenchwoman. Again, wrong. She was raised in France but born in Scotland. What else might be inaccurate?

Did Roger Bacon write the Voynich cipher? The Goldstones don’t make an airtight argument that he did. But it’s an amusing dispute. And you’ll be checking into the chat rooms to see what the latest brainstorm might be.

Funny that it seems that they choose not to address Gordon Rugg and the Cardan Grill, and his work with the Voynich Manuscript. Oh, and the June 21, 2004 Scientific American article.

There doesn’t even seem to be a reference to Edward Kelley.


I have posts that i intend to write, but we’re going with my parents to New Orleans to get drunk and make $1 bet on horses instead.

with longing in his longitude and with attitude in his latitude

Julian Cope “Fear Loves This Place” I’d been listening to Cope since ’89, after a friend turned me onto Fried, and I bought Peggy Suicide on the strength of that. However, it absolutely floored me when i heard an unfamiliar single from on the radio. It was the kind of song that made the sky of my little world go dark as i was bathed in the starry vision of this song. Even at noon, the song could make me feel that it was midnight. I might have my time all messed up, but a couple of years before, i’d been affected by the second big story arc of the comic Hellblazer, when Constantine began hanging out with the travellers and mucking about with ley lines and megaliths. It’s amusing me to read now that Cope says that Jehovahkill is his only occult album.

Julian Cope “Don’t Call Me Mark Chapman” I’d been waiting years for the followup to Jehovahkill. When i finally got my hands on it, racing home to play the disc, the album sounded unfinished, unfocused. Railing about the dangers of cars seemed too petty after the cosmic revelation of the previous album. I’d ignored the album for weeks, perhaps months, until a roadtrip when my friend and cousin Zane insisted we play on the ride back from New Orleans, even though i was embarrassed of the album. “Yeah, it’s pretty shit, isn’t it?” Ever since then, i’ve been more defensive of the album, as no one can talk shit about Cope to my face, even if Zane had actually been a Cope fan longer than i had been. I think that i get it now. There’s a Dadaist quality to it, an immediacy to his rage and humor. I now know that I don’t need another Jehovahkill, but i enjoy hanging out with absurdist wordplay and goofy underproduction (for example, literally going wah wah wah instead of using a guitar with a wah pedal.) There’s an unmissable undertone of real rage here though. Instead of picking something more accessable or profound lately, i’ve taken to playing this particularly song to those who have never heard Cope before, just to see a possible reflection of myself in ’94, wondering what i would have thought if this would be my first exposure.

single-origin versus multiregional

Carl Zimmer of the Loom breaks the story of the return of the Homo floresiensis bones. He explains this lines up along a purely idealogical argument, single-origin (aka Out of Africa) versus multiregional, with Jacob having little regard for scientific methodology. The original team screwed up too, with not be vigilant against contamination of possible DNA samples, but more out of genuine sloppiness than the seeming disingenuousness of Jacob’s allies.