Visual White Noise Theater: Welcome to “The Beast Pageant” 2010

Watching ” The Beast Pageant” I was confused, not because of the crazy imagery or semi non-linear story line, I was confused because this is that type of “tightrope walk” movie, on one side of the thin rope is pretentious, up its ass horse shit and on the other side is spell binding brilliance, this movie didn’t fall onto either side and made it across alright. “The Beast Pageant” was directed by Albert Birney and John Moses and its a fucking trip to be sure.

There is two parts to this film, and I know what “The Beast Pageant” is going for in the first part, Abraham, played by co director/writer John Moses, lives in a German Expressionist style apartment with various machines hooked throughout his apartment, one calls him and sings to him when he picks up the phone and one is a TV apparatus that has a bearded man in it that shows Abraham weird commercials and asks him to talk through the speaker horn if he wants the item advertised in the commercial, Abraham goes to a dead end job in a factory where he pushes slots that spit out synthetic fish. The whole first part smacks heavily of “Eraserhead”, the whole movie is filmed in black and white and has a dream like logic to it. The visuals in this movie are stunning, weird and unusual. The whole “Eraserhead” thing also comes from the dirty, industrial background. Abraham starts to grow a tentacle out of his rib and goes to a doctor to have it removed, the removal isn’t successful. The first part of the film is so blatant in its message, normally when somebody tries to hit me directly on the head with something it pisses me off and turns me off but the hammering is done in an intelligent way, the first part seems to be lampooning consumerism and a 9 to 5 existence. Not to mention how machines will try to give comfort and love but its artificial and plastic.

The second half, Abraham tears out of his house into the countryside, a stark contrast, the tentacle becomes a miniature singing cowboy copy of him complete with acoustic guitar. Among the things he encounters are a small house with a nude couple in it, bush people, water people, dirt people, animal people, a motel in the middle of the forest with a couple that needs a baby sitter and the list goes on and on. The second half seems to say that nature is better than an urban setting and the second half has musical numbers of the indie folk pop type. More weird stuff happens and again I don’t want to spoil too much you’ll have to go watch it yourself.

The movie got its money in part from a Kickstarter campaign and took three years to make. Sure some of this movie made me roll my eyes, some of it is art house pretentious but overall I liked its crazy energy and wasn’t bored. So I say join the “The Beast Pageant”. Albert Birney’s new movie, “Strawberry Mansion”, screened at Fantasia Film Festival, its about a “dream auditor” who gets caught in an old lady’s dream world, hope its as interesting as “The Beast Pageant”.

Become a “Beast” here:


White Noise on Paper: “Norman Pettingill: Backwoods Humorist” because I got nothing…

They don’t make men like Norman Pettingill anymore, hell, you could argue they don’t make men today, period. Pettingill seems like he chews bark like gum and could stomp your modern, smart phone scrolling, skinny, whiny ass into the ground with his hiking boots. They also don’t make humor like this anymore.

I discovered Norman Pettingill from reading Robert Crumb’s “Weirdo” magazine (see my review of “Weirdo” magazine here: Robert Crumb republished some of Pettingill’s art work in his 1980’s underground comix/cartoon magazine, his art jumped out at me, it was ribald, crazy, chaotic, free spirited and had to see more. So I went to go find out if there was a book and sure enough the fine folks at Fantagraphics put one out, “Norman Pettingill: Backwoods Humorist” in 2010 and this being Fantagraphics who won’t do another fucking print run of anything, the book is out of print which is a damn shame because this artist needs more exposure in my opinion.

This a document of a bygone era, when rural America really had its own culture, food and humor, since the urbanization of most of the country and homogenization of culture country wide a lot of this stuff has just disappeared. In “Norman Pettingill: Backwoods Humorist” you’ll see some of that past preserved. Most of Pettingill’s work was collected and preserved by the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, located in the Wisconsin area, keeping alive the independent, DYI folk art that would otherwise be lost. The Arts center helped with this book.

Norman’s grandfather, John A. Pettingill, a farmer and cattle dealer bought the land and started the town Norman was born in on 1896, Iron River, Wisconsin. Norman says he’d been drawing since he was six years old and dropped out of high school in his third year because he wanted to be outside fishing and hunting. John was drafted during World War One and only served in Mississippi for a short period and was discharged when the war ended. Norman lived off the land, his drawing and calligraphy skills. He did calling cards, signs and other jobs until 1946 when he started drawing postcards, printing and selling them from door to door, he’d make a living at it for pretty much the rest of his life. That pretty much sums up this book, you get most of his postcard work as well as his nature paintings. John claims he pretty much didn’t get lessons from anybody and was self taught, even when he wrote letters to people he would illustrate them. His bar, hospital, public beach etc. paintings are something else, a cross between Will Elder and Hieronymus Bosch, silly, stupid, profane, carnival like, ribald etc. When looking at a Norman Pettingill postcard you will always find something new or something you missed. That being said if you can find a copy of “Norman Pettingill: Backwoods Humorist” snap it up, there is copies available on ebay and amazon, it might give your wallet and/or paypal account a diet. Robert Crumb does the introduction, Leslie Umberger, the Senior Curator of Exhibitions and Collections at Kohler Arts Cent does the foreword and Gary Groth does the biography. The front cover and back cover are literally made of wood and the book horizontally is oversized to fully show the art. Highly recommended.

Start your diet here, it is 20 bucks digitally if you want to go that way:

And here: