Saturday, 8 March 2014

Underground, Overground

This modest book seems like an apt object with which to bid a personal farewell to the Mounds & Circles project, in that a suitably tatty old paperback captures the central theme we have examined during the life of this blog: sex, or rather smut. I found it in a second-hand bookshop in Lyme Regis last summer, a last lingering residue of 20th century British seaside vulgarity.

This book, dragged up to look like some pseudo-psycho-sociological study (look, it's introduced by a real doctor!) was originally published in hardback but propbably didn't sell well so good old Panther picked up the rights and re-issued it in paperback (easy to slip into one's dirty mac) with a suitably salacious cover, (only) partly revealing a dominatrix and slave.

The book looks at various aspects of pornography from respectable jazz mags such as Penthouse and King, through pulp and underground magazines for more 'minority' interest groups, before finishing in a slightly bizarre twist with an examination of the sexual psychology of comic books. It's all entertainingly superficial with plenty of 'spreads' to enlighten readers with limited literacy.

British culture has a long and complicated relationship with matters sexual. Rarely approached openly, we prefer to so sidle up coyly or snigger from a distance. We can't take it seriously, or when we do and judges, politicians and the church get involved, disapproval and censorship are usually the result.

Hard pornography (filth) remains socially unacceptable (quite apart from arguments of moral and economic exploitation) and yet the need for titilation and amusement, coupled with the prurient attitude of the media, forced the British sexual desire to take on a not so subtle guise: smut.

What's the difference between filth and smut? One definition might be filth leaves nothing the imagination; all is laid bare in livid gynacological detail. Smut is more evasive, suggestive rather than graphic; soft porn, saucy postcards, Page 3, Carry On innuendo, tits and arse but no flaps or stiffies.

Filth stays behind the twitching curtain, under the counter, deep in the hard drive. Smut filters into the culture, enriching and undermining society for better or worse. M&C doesn't take a view on these things but we don't want it brushed under the carpet either. The mores of smut interest and entertain us and we hope you've enjoyed it too.

I hope this post sort of sums up Mounds and Circles, some of the things we like, and the cultural marginalia where the dank undergrowth festers in the shadow of the mainstream. Grotty old paperbacks, Penthouse Pets, pseudoscience, Tom of Finland, cross-dressing, the permissive society, BDSM, lesbian perversions, 1960s, The Avengers, guns, rubber, The Bash Street Kids, Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk. Something for everyone.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Friday Night Film: La Donna Scimmia

‘The Ape Woman’ is the poignant story of Maria, a woman born with an excess of body hair who ends up working in a convent, far away from the stares and jibes of the general population. A travelling salesman spies her and realises that there is money to be made in exploiting her unique characteristics and, after marrying her (at the nuns insistence) sets her up in a jungle themed side show where she makes out that she is a primitive monkey woman from darkest Africa.

Ferreri usually cameos in his own films. He's the one with the chin strap beard.



The happiest day of her life...

In fact, she is a sensitive, kind woman who is capable of enormous love and tenderness and, hairy or not, she’s very sexy. Her husband Antonio, however, is only interested in her commercial prospects and treats her appallingly, at one point trying to sell her virginity to a rich man with an interest in bestiality. When the increasingly disgruntled Maria goes on strike, Antonio is forced to be kinder to her and, at her insistence, they start a relationship that goes beyond a business partnership and marriage of convenience. Unfortunately, against Doctor’s orders, Maria becomes pregnant and she and her baby die in childbirth. Antonio is heartbroken and, when he finds out that her mummified remains are on display in a museum, he fights to get her body back – so he can exhibit it himself in a travelling sideshow.

Based on a real life story from the 19th century, ‘The Ape Woman’ is both funny and terribly sad, and the relationship between Maria and Antonio (Ugo Tognazzi) is beautifully and realistically drawn. Although there is no doubt that, eventually, Antonio comes to love Maria (and who can blame him, she’s gorgeous) he never diverts from his primary instinct – to make money out of her unique appearance – and, because Maria loves him more than she loves herself, she is prepared to do more or less anything to make him happy, including stripping and making chimp noises while dressed as a lady Tarzan.

Subtly directed, wonderfully acted, gorgeously black and white, ‘The Ape Woman’ is an unusual film with an unusual subject – perfect Friday night viewing

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Twisting With Old Ned

You know how it is. Mounds & Circles would like to think that our theme music would be some cool, modal jazz - something hip and slightly impenetrable. The reality, of course, is something quite different: it would have to be 'Steptoe & Son' played as a twist number...

Spence of Humour

Culture Centre for Bahrain, 1976

Barbapapa's House, 1974
Design for City of Gold and Lead, 1947

Hutchesontown, Glasgow

Sea & Ships Pavilion, Festival of Britain, 1951
Basil's Space Age Bachelor Pad, Beaulieu
Crown of Thorns sculpture, Coventry Cathedral, 1961

Possible source of Basil's inspiration?


Barbara Windsor never had particularly large knockers but, because she did have some and because, every now and again, she was prepared to nearly show them to you she became one of the most famous breast owners in Britain. That's 'Mounds & Circles' in a c-cup, really. Smut and suggestion, all done with a giggle. 

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Sweet Dreams

Mrs Cathy Gale enjoys a sherbet fountain.

Stupid Future

Imagine if you will the 1960s.

A revolution in the arts. The future looked bright.

We as a nation could do anything. Anything we wanted. Hippies would rule the world. We’d have sweets for breakfast and sweet for tea. It would be bonkers conkers. We’d fly around on jetpacks and everyone would dress like Peter Gabriel when he was in Genesis.

Dogs and cats would be able to talk.

There would be one tongue. We would all speak the language of love. The sky would always have rainbows. Everyone would be an artist. There would be music in the air. Your nan would look like Barbarella (but sexier). 

Yes, we had all those things to look forward too. 

So with all this in mind, Peter Cook (no, not that one), Ron Herron, Dennis Crompton, Michael Webb and David Green created Archigram.

Archigram! Yes! It’s a good name isn’t it? Archigram! 

Avant-garde architects! Pop buildings! Groovy futurist boxes!

If someone walked up to you right now and said ‘I’ve got a great idea! Let’s build a whole city that walks around on legs!’. You’d laugh wouldn’t you? ‘HAHAHAHHAHAHA!’ That’s what you’d do. You might even say ‘Don’t be a daft twat, that’s a right stupid idea that. Get away from me. Don’t look at me, you looney’.

Cities could walk according to Ron Herron. Yes, they could! On massive retractable legs with balls on the end! It would look like a fat beetle and plug itself in wherever it wandered and suck up electricity though a massive straw. There would be pods that we would live in, which could be taken out and exchanged for pods from another walking city. If there was a nuclear war. Pah! We’d just move out of the way on our stumpy little legs, flicking Vs at the mushroom cloud.

How about if you lived in an area that was a bit boring - like say, Doncaster or Abingdon? Pretty dull right? Yeah. Well, fear not! Because Archigram could save you from your humdrum lives! It would bring an instant city right to you! No shit! I’m not making this up. They would fly the brand new super city  (including instant performance spaces for your local rock and roll pop group to put on a gig) right over your grey crap one on balloons (I know, I know - the idea is so mindbogglingly stupid that it goes way beyond mad into: Hummmmm, that might. Just. Work.). On balloons! 

Sadly Archigram’s plans never got past the planning stage and remained largely hypothetical. But just for a moment, a brief moment, lets imagine that they didn’t. That we are, in fact living in their strange idea of the future. That would be fun, wouldn’t it?

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Don't tell Miss Cathcart!

Just payed £75 for this 8mm "home movie". It was made by actress Sue Pollard in the summer of 1981, shortly after the first season of 'Hi-Di Hi' had aired. At the time Sue had no idea how successful the series was to become, and decided to move into the film business to keep her hand in.

Mounds & Circles may be neutralized before I get time to transfer this onto a digital medium, but rest assured, I'll be paying regular worship to this erotic treasure for many years to come.

Mounds and Heroes

A Mounds and Circles Hero: Doc Morrissey (John Horsley), from The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin. Still going age 93 despite looking a mental and physical wreck since 1976!

The Cabinets of Roland Penrose

Glass cabinet at Farley Farm

Glass cabinet at Hornton Street, London
I just have a load of shit in my cupboards. Not literally, that would be disgusting.

Monday, 3 March 2014

American Beuys


In May, 1974, German artist and habitual huckster Joseph Beuys flew to New York and was met at the airport by an ambulance. Beuys was put into the ambulance on a gurney, his person completely swathed in a blanket of thick grey felt. The ambulance took him immediately to a room in the René Block Gallery at 409 West Broadway.

He remained in the felt blanket until the door of the performance room was shut. The artist shared the room with a wild coyote, spending eight hours a day with it over the course of three days. Sometimes Beuys wrapped himself in the thick, grey blanket of felt and stood leaning on a large shepherd's staff. Sometimes Beuys lay on the straw provided - sometimes the coyote did. Sometimes he stood still as the wary coyote circled around him. Sometimes the coyote shredded the thick grey felt blanket. Often Beuys and the coyote just sat and looked at each other.

Occasionally, Beuys would strike a large triangle or toss his leather gloves to the animal as "the performance continuously shifted between elements that were required by the realities of the situation, and elements that had purely symbolic character". At the end of the three days, Beuys hugged the now quite tolerant coyote, swathed himself in the thick grey felt blanket and was taken directly to the airport. Again he rode in a veiled ambulance, leaving America without having set foot on its ground. As Beuys later explained: ‘I wanted to isolate myself, insulate myself, see nothing of America other than the coyote.’

This performance piece was entitled 'I Like America, and America likes Me'

Dear God

I've got several shelves of this sort of crap; esoteric folklore, neolithic nonsense, Arthurian bollocks, mythical creatures, magick (yeah, with a kin' K), ancient religions, human sacrifice, the supernatural, naked druids, UFOs, ghosts and the paranormal, Arthur C. Clarke's crystal flippin' skull. In Search of Lost Gods is only one example but you get the gist. If you're reading this blog I suspect you probably have a similar stash yourself, lurking in an attic or spare bedroom, an embarrassing horde you can't quite bear to part with, an eternal flame of adolescent desire for hidden knowledge.

I still can't pass a charity shop or second hand bookstore without nipping in for a quick browse, and I invariably come out with some dogeared rubbish like this. I don't even hope for revelation of forgotten wisdom any more. It's simply become habit.

Yes, I do occasionally consider getting rid of them. But every so often I pass the shelves and run my finger along the dusty spines until something catches my eye, pull a book out and I'm sucked in again, just like the first time.

Mounds & Circles has been like a two year therapy session, a 12-step programme for esoteric smutty librophiliacs. Not rehab, not the cure. It's an addiction that I have to manage. My blogging buddies have helped me come to terms with it and now I'm on my own. Wish me luck.

Bradford. Home of the Angry Birds pigs.

Real newspapermen.

The art of stipple illustration, a folklore standard.