Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Quest for the "real" Nights - part 1001

This quote from Muhsin Mahdi really encapsulates much of what I've been collecting and alluding to here, the insistence that somewhere out there must be a 1001 Nights, the real version.

"There is widespread resistance to raising and attempting to answer questions such as the following: What is the Nights? How and in what form have the stories survived? In what sense do they form a book? It is human to search for the completion and the end of every affair and to think that one can know the end from knowing the beginning. It is also human to fail to recognize that some things have no known beginning and may not have a knowable end. The desire to know the beginning is thus satisfied by inventing it, and the desire to know the end is satisfied by fabricating it. Such, in any case, have been the human failings from which the Nights has suffered most."

from The Thousand and One Nights (Alf Layla wa-Layla): From the Earliest Known Sources: Part 3 Introduction and Indexes. Leiden, EJ Brill, 1994.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

1001 Nachts the ride, and Amy Wolfe the bride

The "1001 Nachts" is a common "county-fair" type of ride, which, according to its wikipedia site (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ali_Baba_%28ride%29) is also called "Ali Baba," "1001 Nights," "Rainbow," and "Alladin."

Someone is actually married to the ride. Amy Wolfe, a church organist from Pennsylvania, garnered International attention for her obsession with the ride, going so far as to marry it and change her last name to Weber (after the ride's manufacturer). Her condition (that she has been diagnosed with as a medical condition), called objectum sexual (OS), is somehow also linked to her Asperger's Syndrome.

Though it's a serious illness that impairs "normal" functioning it's also a bit revealing about what makes people "normal" in the first place as well. As far as I can tell most all relationships, human/human and human/inanimate are imbued with several levels of fantasy and imagination on many different levels, many to a "religious" or even "obsessional" level.

Her blog post(includes lots of great pictures):


Article from the Telegraph UK:


Article from Starcasm: http://starcasm.net/archives/10223

and a video of her talking about the song for the ride:

and a mini-documentary about her (a section from the film Strange Love: Married To The Eiffel Tower):

here is a video of the ride in action at night:

and during the day (you can see more of the background in this video):

another decent night video:

from cummons scale amusement comes their HO scale version:


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

RSC - Arabian Nights

The Royal Shakespeare Company of Stratford-upon-Avon is performing their version of the Nights this winter until Jan 30. As I noted in an earlier post Ayesha Dharker plays the lead role, you may recall the English actress from films like The Terrorist, Star Wars Episode II, The Mistress of Spices and the made for TV 2000 version of the Nights.

Their interactive website has some cool features and graphics: http://www.rscarabiannights.com/

Here is their trailer:

And a mini-review from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2009/dec/20/aladdin-secret-garden-christmas-shows

"Arabian Nights
Courtyard theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, until 30 Jan

Dominic Cooke's urgent production (a revisiting of his 1998 show at the Young Vic) is an act of faith. This is low-tech, purist theatre. Its only special effect is its acting. It relies on hand and eye, voice and movement – and draws from a supply of stories to last a thousand nights. Black-eyed Shahrazad (Ayesha Dharker) holds the centre beautifully to save her life and reform her murderous husband (Silas Carson). Georgia McGuinness's set is a simple, pale disc, with a sheet of burnished steel at the back of the stage. There is one wonderful puppet – a gold pilgrim (in the story of Es-Sindibad) traversing a human landscape and many DIY disguises (men turn into black stones with the help of bin-liners). It will please anyone in retreat from Christmas bling or in search of homespun virtuosity. But the RSC are billing this as an "enchanting family show" and although it has its share of enchantments, Arabian Nights is cruel too: in one scene, a dismembered corpse is hurled about (a little girl in the front of the stalls was taken out in terrified tears). My sons (a safe 13 and 10) loved every minute of it – although the youngest, watching the butchery, uneasily inquired: "Is it real?" KK"

Saturday, December 19, 2009

sherazade the musical

Shiraz passes on information on a French language musical running in Quebec, Canada at the moment based on the Nights called "Sherazade."

Here is the website: http://www.sherazade1001nuits.com/home.htm

And a review/interview, also in French: http://lejournaldequebec.canoe.ca/journaldequebec/artsetspectacles/musique/archives/2009/12/20091217-215126.html

Friday, December 18, 2009

miro miroe - nights of arabia

Here's a thoroughly 80s song called "Nights of Arabia" by early electro group "Miro Miroe" (mostly Ian Ritchie: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Ritchie)...

Lyrics include "One thousand and one nights of Arabia (nights of Arabia), One thousand and one flights of fantasy" (!!!)


disconet edit:

1982 klepperderep edit:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

gangs of new york (2002)

dead rabbits

Picture from wikipedia (1857) is called "view from the "Dead Rabbit" barricade in Bayard Street, taken at the height of the battle by our own artist, who, as spectator, was present at the fight."

I watched Martin Scorsese's film Gangs of New York last night (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gangs_of_new_york) as a break from my work and of course there were several Nights-related things in the film!

1 - The Forty Thieves Gang - there are several mentions of a gang called "The Forty Thieves" which deserves further research because it is either a real gang (some websites claim it as the "first" known gang in NYC) and/or the nickname of the New York Council who operated out of the Tammany Hall building of both the film and history.

2 - A mention of Scheherazade and the Nights during the scene which opens the night of the celebration of Priest Vallon's death. There is a shot of the Chinese hall and several prostitutes are carousing with the suits and someone shouts something like: "Gentlemen, you are most welcome to this palace of enchantment with visions to rival Sheherazade and the tales of the thousand nights of Arabia!" Though the exact quote may be a bit different. Someone online has a screenplay they cobbled together from watching the movie but I don't think it's an exact quote (and is different from mine, they write "Gentlemen, you are most welcome to this palace of enchantment......with visions to rival the tales of Sheherazade and the Arabian Nights!" - http://www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/g/gangs-of-new-york-script-transcript.html).

3 - the focus on the word "ghoul" - which may not be directly Nights-specific but I think it conjures something about the Nights and it's originally an Arabic word. The scene comes after Amsterdam sells a recently killed body to a morgue and the paper writes about a new "ghoul gang."

from the website above:

"What's that word?

It means bodysnatchers.

I didn't ask the meaning. I asked the word.



That's a good word. "

- That's about it for Gangs. I'm interested if anyone finds out anything or knows about the real life gang or political nickname "The Forty Thieves" that is more than what's online (don't trust anything on the Internet!) let me know, I'd be interested to hear about it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

douglas fairbanks - thief of bagdad (1924)

Thanks to Irfan for passing on the link to the full version of the 1924 silent film Thief of Bagdad. Despite the datedness of some of the special effects this film is actually quite good and an important addition to the Nights film corpus. Its scenery and sets are still at times unmatched in their opulence and detail and at times I feel like this film really kind of captures the "true" rogue nature of the "thief" much more than the remake and the Disney version which both insist on a sort of 'heart of gold' undertone with endings that suggest a reinstatement of political norms (Disney and the other Thief remake both end with the "thief" becoming the new political ruler).

Fairbanks' version never gives up the rogue element of the main character and has him and his "love" not becoming the new rulers of the kingdom but rather escaping on their carpet to who knows where.

Enjoy! It's only like three hours long!

And sorry, for some reason archive.org embedded videos overstretch my menu. This one has Spanish subtitles though.

You can download the whole thing (for a long plane ride?) and other goodies at: http://www.archive.org/details.php?identifier=ThiefOfBagdad1924

Sunday, December 13, 2009

nights conference at nyuad

The Abu Dhabi campus of New York University is currently hosting a conference on the 1001 Nights with several well known Middle Eastern writers and a number of scholars and papers on the topic.

I pasted an article excerpt below from The National, an Abu Dhabi based newspaper - to view the entirety click link - http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091214/ART/712139988/1007.

And here is the conference brochure:

Arabian Nights conference nyuad

Nights to remember

Ed Lake

* Last Updated: December 13. 2009 8:13PM UAE / December 13. 2009 4:13PM GMT

“I feel, personally,” says the scholar and novelist Marina Warner carefully, “that it’s in some sense sort of prophetic. Prophetic beyond just the reach of fiction. It really did envisage some aspects of the modern world.”

The “it” in question is The Thousand and One Nights, the ancient and anonymous story-cycle also known as the Arabian Nights, which introduced the world to Aladdin and Ali Baba (not that either of them were originally part of the sequence – but that’s another story).

Warner, the nearest thing Britain has to a celebrity mythographer, a reputation established over dozens of books and cemented last year with a CBE, is in Abu Dhabi this week for a conference to discuss how these medieval Persian and Arabic fables have shaped the modern world.

And, true to the impish spirit of the tales themselves, she has some provocative ideas.

“I think the present financial crisis is rather interestingly depicted in an enchanted form,” she says dryly, “with money coming out of nowhere and also vanishing into nowhere... The virtuality of contemporary systems certainly seems to me to have found a way of being told in the Arabian Nights.”

That kind of satirical swipe would fit neatly in a world where the tyrannical King Shahryar condemns all women for faithlessness and the story-teller Scheherazade must buy back her life at the cost of one fanciful cliff-hanger a night.

“That’s a kind of allegory of general abuses of power,” says Warner, “so there’s an exemplary side to the book. It is sort of philosophical in that sense.” And as far as that fairy gold goes, perhaps cautionary for us as well. Warner chuckles. “Unconsciously – it doesn’t have to be conscious.”

The strange thing about Nights’ impact, at least as Warner tells it, is just how unconscious we now seem to be of it. “How many European fairy tales have people flying in them?” Warner asks. “They’re all post-Nights... It’s not very common to fly around before that. Cinderella doesn’t fly, she gets into a magic coach.”

Now, of course, characters take to the air throughout western fantasy entertainment. As Warner says: “The cinema just took to that, because you can do it ... It’s an absolute commonplace of films that are targeted for the family entertainment audience.” And the silver screen isn’t the only place the Nights cast their shadow.

The three-day public conference at NYU Abu Dhabi’s new Downtown Campus this week will include papers on the Arabian Nights on stage, in film and in music.

It traces their influence on Voltaire, Samuel Johnson, Laurence Sterne and Walt Disney. Writers including Elias Khoury, Gamal el-Ghitani and Githa Hariharan, the filmmaker Nacer Khemir and the theatre director Tim Supple will be on hand to talk about how the stories are reflected in their work.

The Nights are everywhere, and all the harder to detect because of their ubiquity. “It becomes so natural and so accepted that it’s really almost become invisible,” Warner says.

It is not only in the West that the books have managed to inveigle themselves, either. In the late 19th-century there was an Arabian Nights craze in Japan. “They did a marvelous knight’s move,” says Warner. “They went through Middle Eastern orientalism to create their own Japanese orientalism. Just an anecdote, but apparently every wedding in Japan has to have a picture of a camel in the background, even though the camel is unknown in Japan.”

Goodness, I reply, I’d never heard that before. Warner seems doubtful for a moment. “I don’t know if everybody does,” she says. “It might be beyond the reach of some purses.”

Warner’s own area of expertise is magical tales, and it’s as a repository of magical tropes and atmospheres that she seems to find the book most interesting. What, I ask her, do the Nights give us that can’t be found in European traditions – the legends of King Arthur, say?

“People keep asking me what the differences are,” she says with a sigh. “One of the biggest differences is that the Arthurian romance takes place sort of in the countryside. Forests, lakes – rather obviously that geography doesn’t materialise in the Arabian Nights very much.”

Instead the Arabian Nights, for all its enchanted oases and fables about animals, is fundamentally about the city. “It’s not pastoral at all,” Warner says. “The real flavour of the Nights is an urban one.

“And it’s more modern ... It’s about consumerism, markets, trading, objects, manufactures, souks, vessels. It’s not about swords and knights. It’s sort of bourgeois and mercantile. And that’s a different character.” She laughs. “When an enchanted palace appears in an Arabian Night, it’s sort of full of goods. It’s like an emporium!”

Emporium or not, the book itself is certainly a treasure trove, though what it actually contains is harder to determine than you might think.

The earliest fragment of manuscript was found in Syria and dates from around 800 AD. The largest, and the one which ultimately made its way to Europe, was made 500 years later and contained around 300 stories. That’s the one the French Arabist Antoine Galland found in the early 18th century; he put out his own translation in French, and anonymous Grub Street hacks followed it in 1706 with a much-abridged first English translation. It was an instant hit.

“It had an absolutely amazing effect on writing,” Warner says. “Once you start looking at it, you can’t believe it. So many people suddenly realise there’s a way of writing things they wanted to write ... There was a huge a number of forms and devices found in the Arabian Nights that freed the tongues of people.”

Further important translations followed – a prudish one from Edward Lane that left out all the naughty bits, and a lubricious one from Sir Richard Burton that multiplied them. That kind of editorial meddling seems to have typified the way the Nights were treated, even before they made their way into English.

“The general view I think now is, let’s treat this as a collective work,” says Warner. “It in a sense is a woven tapestry of different voices, different hands, over time.

“[Jorge Luis] Borges wrote a marvelous essay called The Translators of the Nights in which he makes this point, that this is a book that grows, this is like a garden. You don’t want to take the garden back to the day it was planted; it would look like very little then.”

For one thing, it wouldn’t include Aladdin: though apparently of Middle Eastern origin, the tale of his magic lamp, not to mention that of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves and the seven voyages of Sinbad the Sailor, were all European interpolations, included to bump up the numbers.

Such is the variety of the tales that do belong to the Nights, however, that odd men out like these would be difficult to spot.

Scheherezade’s stories include prototypes of the murder mystery and the sci-fi adventure. There are interplanetary voyages, under-sea worlds and a surprising number of robots. Coincidence reigns and the laws of time and space are put aside.

Indeed it was just this sort of anarchic fancifulness that made the Arabian Nights so appealing to the great 18th-century European satirists. As Warner explains, the likes of Voltaire and Jonathan Swift realised “if they made them fantastic, if they made them preposterous, if they put in this kind of humour, this wit and lightness and romance, and mixed it all together with terror and magic, it freed people to write. And of course it also eluded the censors ...” Well, for a while.

Nevertheless, the likes of Gulliver’s Travels and Candide, were funhouse mirrors held up to European society, their bulges and hollows modelled on the Middle Eastern tales.

“There’s a paradox,” says Warner, “because in a sense there’s a mockery of the forms of the Nights. There’s a mockery in Voltaire of the preposterousness and the coincidences, and the wife who dies several times and keeps recovering and being rediscovered, all these sorts of devices and untoward events. But at the same time they needed it.” The more outrageous Voltaire made his tales, the better he could hide his serious purpose.

And do we need the Arabian Nights today? Its influence rises and falls with the generations. As Warner says: “It’s a pulse, the use of the Nights. At the moment it isn’t a particular influence. But it has been in the past.”

She recalls the most recent peak. “The Sixties and Seventies, my youth, when I of course wore kaftans and so did my boyfriend. But that isn’t so salient now.”

Still, if the Arabian Nights teach anything, it’s that there is always another lease of life to be found in its stories.

The Arabian Nights conference runs at NYU Abu Dhabi’s Downtown Campus from tomorrow until Thursday. RSVP nyuad@nyu.edu.

The Dancing Gauchos - 1987

Irfan passes on another video he discovered. This is a 1987 performance by the then threesome "Dancing Gauchos" (http://www.circopedia.org/index.php/The_Dancing_Gauchos) performing at the Big Apple Circus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Apple_Circus) in a performance called (according to this recording) "1007 Arabian Nights."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tales of the Arabian Nights - 1984 C64 video game

This is a complete run through of the game "Tales of the Arabian Nights" by Interceptor Software circa 1984 and made only for the iconic Commodore 64 computer. Details of the game and links follow the embedded video. Thanks to Irfan for finding and passing this on.

You can download this and other screenshots of this game at the Internet Archive here: http://www.archive.org/details/C64Gamevideoarchive97-TalesOfTheArabianNights

Game details:

Interceptor Software 1984
Creator: Ian Gray
Producer: Richard Paul Jones
Musician: Chris Cox
Genre: Arcade, Miscellaneous
Players: 1 Only

More game info: http://www.lemon64.com/games/details.php?ID=2596

pamela anderson in aladdin

The Pantomime, a musical comedy theater usually running around Christmas time in the UK, has been a long running theater form in the UK since at least the 19th century and both the Aladdin story and the Ali Baba story (and sometimes a combination of the two) from the Nights have long been a pantomime staple, if not one of the more popular pantomimes performed each year.

This year mega-star and model Pamela Anderson will be joining the stage for two weeks starting December 13 at the New Wimbledon Theatre in London playing the genie.

From the article linked below:

"If you have been living on Mars for the last two months or somehow managed to avoid the posters plastered on the side of London busses or all over the underground, then you'll have missed the pretty impressive line up accumulated for this year's production.

In a rare move the theatre decided to have guest stars playing the role of the genie while panto veteran Brian Blessed will be a constant throughout as the evil Abanaza as will Ashley Day, who played Troy Bolton in the UK tour of High School Musical, as Aladdin."

article link: http://www.yourlocalguardian.co.uk/leisure/4776458.Star_studded_panto_finally_gets_underway_in_Wimbledon/

Saturday, December 5, 2009

tin tan - las mil y una noches (1958)

Here's a pdf of a poster for the film Las Mil y Una Noches starring Mexican actor/comedian Tin Tan (wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tin_tan).

1001 Nights Spanish Poster

You can actually also find the entire film in pieces on youtube. Here is part one:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

journal of the nights on ucsd library website

I'm honored to be a part of the UCSD Library's "SAGE" project, an online collection of trusted web sources both for UCSD students and affiliates as well as the general online public in many cases where no affiliation is necessary to view the website.

These types of research websites are vital to anyone looking for honest information as they are a compendium of reviewed sites by real researchers rather than just Google search results or random money-making websites.

I'm happy to have this blog as a part of this resource, you can view it under the "blogs" category at the following pages:

Comparative Literature:


Middle Eastern Studies:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fernandel - Alibaba et les 40 voleurs

Fernandel, the French comedian, actor and singer, sings his Ali Baba song in the French film Alibaba et les 40 voleurs(1954):