Posts Tagged France
In the early hours of the morning on Saturday, black metal legend and media icon Varg Vikernes was arrested by French police on suspicion of being the mastermind of a devious plot to cause mayhem in France. Vikernes, who was staying at L’Hotel Aisselle in Paris, purchased a bag of oranges and flushed one down the hotel’s toilet “in the name of Odin”. The event, which led to Vikernes’ arrest and incarceration, caused him to be immediately suspended as host of the top rated Norwegian children’s television show “This Little Quisling”.
By flushing the oranges, Varg hoped to destroy the hotel’s plumbing causing untold confusion and panic in the city, eventually leading to the collapse of the French government. In the ensuing chaos, the government would be replaced by a proto-fascist black metal dictatorship. After the first orange was flushed, Vikernes was captured by an alert member of the hotel’s maintenance staff and detained until French police arrived. During a 47-hour interrogation, Vikernes revealed he was planning an orange flushing spree throughout the city of Paris that would “rival the German invasion of France in the 1950’s”.
Vikernes is no stranger to controversy. Back in 1992, he was arrested in Trondheim for feeding seagulls Alka-Seltzer in an attempt to cause them to explode. During a 1993 sleepover, Varg was accused of putting warm water in Mayhem vocalist Attila Csihar’s hand in an attempt to cause him to wet his bed. Charges in both cases were dropped for lack of evidence, but in 1994, Varg was given six months in prison for putting a whoopee cushion on the chair of Trondheim mayor Marvin Wiseth’s chair during a press conference moments before he sat down.
While in prison, Vikernes dreamed up the musical project he’d be best known for, Burzum. Using a diabolical mixture of raw black metal and elevator music, Vikernes’ has inspired a generation of talented, potentially employable young people to pursue careers in creating poorly produced, inaudible music for almost no one. His music, which is both deeply personal and horribly unlistenable (much like the poetry of an alienated, disaffected 6th grader), pays homage to Varg’s two greatest influences, Adolf Hitler and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
The threat of oranges being flushed down the toilet is not only considered a major concern in France. In an effort to protect Americans from dangerous orange flushing related activities, the US government today banned all oranges from domestic and international flights, wiretapped the phones of twelve Carmelite nuns in Arizona suspected of “orange-growing activities” and used drones to attack a village in Pakistan.
Anne Echols is an amazingly talented writer from Atlanta who has just released her third book, A Tale of Two Maidens. She is a brilliant teacher and a wonderful human being. I was honored to get a chance to talk to her last week about her new book, Joan of Arc and, of course, Iron Maiden.
For those folks out there who haven’t read it, tell us a bit about what A Tale 0f Two Maidens is about…
The book is about a fifteen-year-old Felise who is an apprentice scribe in medieval France. She dreams of escaping her cruel guardian, who plots an arranged marriage for her. She dreams of being a writer and a book shop owner. The Hundred Years War rages all around her, even spilling into her town. This takes place at the time that Joan of Arc blazes onto the scene as a teenage girl who claims God-given powers to change the fate of France. Joan inspires Felise to run away and embark on a daring adventure of her own.
Every day draws her further into the underbelly of a life she has never known — a world of lepers and vagabonds, brawling men and loose women. Burning villages and terrified peasants are left behind in the path of war as Joan tries to free France from the English. When a young suitor from home pursues her, Felise finds herself drawn to him despite her quest for freedom and her distrust of men.
Following after the army, Felise meets Joan face to face and soon finds herself torn between Joan’s single-minded sense of purpose and her own desire for love and personal fulfillment.
Lepers and vagabonds! Sounds like she went to a Poison concert. What was the inspiration for writing A Tale of Two Maidens?
I wrote two other books (both non-fiction) about women in the Middle Ages. Joan of Arc has always fascinated me since I read saint’s tales about her and I wanted to understand the truth about her. I researched her life and found out that there were Joan imitators both before and after her death — false Joans who went around pretending to be her. That gave an idea for my book — to see how she influenced ordinary women of her time.
Joan of Arc figures prominently in your book. What do you think she was like in real life?
Blunt; down to earth; practical; bad-tempered; pious and celibate; fiercely loyal to the Dauphin (deposed prince); illiterate. Didn’t like dressing as a guy at first but I think she kind of got into it after a while. She would hear the sound of church bells and lapse into a vision of her saints but then snap out of it and go off and lead her men into battle. I don’t think she liked the adulation of the crowds and certainly didn’t believe that she could perform miracles. I think she truly cared about her soldiers — almost like a big sister.
If Joan of Arc were alive today, what do you think she’d be up to?
She’d be attached to a ruler who had been has been unjustly deposed (or unjustly lost an election) and exiled and she’d be the star military genius helping him or her get back in power. Maybe Radonski in Venezuela. She’d be an indigenous peasant from a small village in Venezuela with undiagnosed schizophrenia and hear voices to help him contest the election or stage a coup. I picture her in a Rambo style bandana driving around Venezuela in a tank — with a tatoo of her beloved saints and lots of groupies. They would use her name to market clothing products, t shirts, berets, and of course Joan of Arc goat cheese (I really saw this product at my local grocery store!)
Earlier I could have seen her as a female Che Guevarra.
Many of the readers are metalheads, so I want to make it clear, A Tale of Two Maidens is not a comparison between Iron Maiden with Bruce Dickinson and Paul Di’anno. But, in your opinion, who is the better frontman for the band?
Both are great singers, but I’d pick Di’anno for being raw and real — I believed that he was actually feeling the emotions as he sang. Dickinson was more theatrical and was having more fun performing but I didn’t believe him as much as I believed Di’anno. I think Joan would have liked the first singer better too.
Who was “more metal” Shakespeare or Chaucer?
This is a tough question…Chaucer came to mind first because I could really see someone doing a metal style Pardoner’s Tale in Middle English. Also I think the earthy, bawdy exterior of the tales (but often with a melancholy but truthful interior) lend themselves well to the metal blend (at least in my mind) of raucous exterior but often emotionally charged, compelling interior. And the ‘on the road’ setting definitely applies to both.
Shakespeare’s play have already been done in so many styles from the Luhrmann Romeo and Juliet, to a stage interpretation of Julius Caesar done in Star Trek style sci fi, so why not metal?
The following is an account of what took place on the evening of Sunday March 14th, 1996 in New Paltz, New York. It was the most frightening night of my life…
I looked at the alarm clock. 3:14 AM. What on earth was that horrible noise?
BANG!!!!! BANG!!!!! BANG!!!!
Loud thumping from the front door. What on earth?!?!?
“AAAAARRRGHRGRHHRRAAAA!!!!! HELP ME!!!! AAAAAAAAARGHTHHTERGG!!”
BANG! BANG! BANG!
What could it be? I stared at cracked wood paneled ceiling above me. Eyes pinned open. Was someone banging on my door? Why would someone be banging on the door at 3:14 in the morning?
BANG!!! BANG!!! BANG!!!!!!
The bleariness of sleep quickly disappeared from my mind. Cobwebs melted away and were quickly replaced with horror. What on earth? ‘I should go downstairs’, I mumbled to myself.
BANG!!!! BANG!!!!! BANG!!!!!!! BANG!!!!!!!!!
I shot out of bed and grabbed the 36-ounce aluminum Easton bat from my closet. I threw a shirt on, took a deep breath and started to walk to the hallway that connected our living room to the front door. I lived in an apartment with two other people who were both out of town. It was just me. The hallway led to a creaky wooden door that probably couldn’t handle much more of the pounding that whatever was on the other side was inflicting on it.
It didn’t even sound human, whatever it was. Some filthy, snarling beast on my front porch. Why? Maybe it would go away if I…..
BANG! BANG!!!! BANG!!!!!!!
Pounding with two fists! Screeching! What was on the other side of the door?
Only feet away from the door handle. Now, the door handle in my hand. NOW!
I flung the door open and I’ll never forget what I saw.
No shirt, covered in some red substance that was either blood or strawberry syrup, dark bruises on his body, a deranged, confused expression on his face. Only feet away from me. I knew him right away from the moment my eyes met his. It was Bill Clinton.
He began looking at the sky and howling a sick, miserable shriek.
“Mr. President, are you alright?” I asked filled with astonishment and terror.
“I know…..I know……I know……I know…….FEAR!!!!!”
“Are you hurt?”
He stared blankly into my face. His body was no longer filled with electric, crazed energy. An empty vessel. Eyes filled with nothing as if he was listening to a song that only he could hear. He was covered in blood and chicken feathers.
“I know pain,” he whispered to me in a voice that projected complete sadness and desolation.
“I KNOW PAIN!!!! ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRAGHRGRHRGRGGG!!!!!!!!!” he screamed.
The next thing I knew he began running away…..howling. The way his body moved was not even human. Like some combination of an eel, a toad and a man. He disappeared into the woods on the side of the house. What had just happened? The howling faded into the distance and I was left alone in the oppressive darkness.
I tried to call the police. They told me I was crazy. I told my friends. They didn’t believe me. I tried to find news reports about the whereabouts of the President on that evening. The newspapers claimed he was in France on an official visit. I knew better.
I never have figured out what happened that night. I will probably never know. For a few moments, Clinton became a vulgar, demented beast. Maybe it was who he was all along or maybe he strayed from the light for just one evening. That night he was a monstrosity.
It’s not the screaming or the banging or the look in his eyes that I remember most. I remember his howl he let out as he disappeared as if I heard it yesterday. It was the noise an animal made when it sensed its own demise. It was the repugnant terror of existential emptiness and complete alienation all pressed together in one terrible, resonant sound. In that moment, he spoke from a horrific place that I hope I do not ever see. I never looked at him the same way again.