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Alfred Hitchcock: On nightmares, suspense and how to scare people
10.24.2014
10:43 am

Topics:
Books
Movies

Tags:
Alfred Hitchcock

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Every second Friday was mobile library day. At ten to four, I would run down the street to the local co-op store where the giant black library truck always parked, next to a small power generator with its electric hum, rushing to be first in line, waiting for the librarian to lower the steps and squeeze open the vehicle’s accordion door. Inside were tightly crammed wooden shelves of dreams and adventures and endless pleasures. I always made straight for the horror and ghost stories, the monsters and creatures from some dark beyond lurking inside their covers. I liked Poe, I liked Blackwood, I liked James, I liked Bradbury, I liked Bloch, I liked Hitchcock. The librarian always scanned the covers with her cool blue eyes, fin-tailed spectacles tied to a chain around her neck. “Isn’t this book a little old for you?” she would ask tapping a finger on the cover of the latest Alfred Hitchcock compendium of tales. I didn’t think so, and protested, saying I’d read all the others she had, so what could possibly be wrong with this one? “But he’s so macabre,” the librarian replied, taking out the stamp, dampening it on the ink pad and punching out a return date. “I hope you don’t get nightmares, now,” the librarian said as I ran down the stairs and back home through swirling autumn leaves.

Of course I wanted nightmares, that was the whole point—why else would I read Alfred Hitchcock’s “tales to make my skin crawl” or “tales to make my heart stop”? That was the whole idea. I knew Hitchcock didn’t write the stories, but knew he had chosen each story because they were supposedly so terrifying, so gob-smackingly horrific, and I always hope that they were. In my innocence, I believed that in facing up to the worst terrors an imagination could conjure up would only make me stronger.

The covers may be different from the books I borrowed from the mobile library, but the titles and the tales were the same. The trick of thrilling suspense, as Hitchcock once said in an interview in 1966, was to make the reader or viewer identify with a central character and bring in the unexpected—like a man who sees a road accident, sees the dead body and moves on, only on a second look does he suddenly recognise the dead man. And then we’re hooked, like I was once hooked on these Alfred Hitchcock books.
 
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More classic Hitchcock covers, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Martha Stewart’s idea of a ‘punk rock party’ is the least punk rock thing that ever happened


 
So look: I’m a slacker to the bone, purest Generation X, product release 1970. When I was paying the most attention to pop culture—the early 1990s—Richard Linklater and Douglas Coupland were new figures to the cultural discourse, OK Soda was available in stores, Ethan Hawke was starring in Reality Bites, and Steve Albini was writing about fucked-up record deals in an issue of the Baffler with the words “Alternative to What?” on the cover. The point in me telling you all this is that (a) I’m comfortable with the term “sellout,” and (b) I’ll never not worry, at least a little, about something crossing over too much.

With these thoughts in mind, we turn to Alexandra Churchill’s recent article on Martha Stewart Living about “throwing a punk rock-inspired party,” which, I swear to god, I think may represent a new signpost in the debate about corporate cooptation of rock music, just like, say, Bob Dylan’s Victoria Secret ad. It may be the least punk thing has ever happened, right alongside the 2013 Costume Institute Gala at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which took punk as its theme to honor the Institute’s exhibit “Punk: From Chaos to Couture” (if you haven’t seen the pictures in that link, you really need to click on it).
 

 
The pictures in the Martha Stewart Living article are utterly astonishing in their entitled, privileged cluelessness. Since punks are doomy and scary, they recommend serving “Spinach Ricotta Skulls” on a coffin-shaped platter, which obviously seems a lot more “goth” than “punk.” Their vision of “punk-inspired garlands” involve the use of safety pins—yes, MSL, you got that one right—and “plaid fabric,” which ends up evoking a Burberry’s catalog a lot more than it does the Bromley Contingent.
 

 
To be fair—which I’m doing despite myself—the text isn’t quite as bad as the imagery. Churchill at least has the wit to name-check “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” and “London Calling.” Honestly, if the phrase “ransom note” had even been mentioned as a possible design motif, I’d've let them off the hook completely. Apparently that did not occur to anyone. Instead they went with coffins and fondant with sheet music on it (?).
 

 
Even the one picture on the page that is within shouting distance of punk rock—the cover of the Police’s second album, Reggatta de Blanc—has this as its photo credit: “PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF WALMART.” Fuck the man!
 

 
I draw two lessons from all of this. The first is that the appeal of punk rock may be far stronger than anyone imagined. Punk rock—even the words “punk rock”—might be a toothless gesture in the direction of something angry and oppositional, but the root idea of it still has impressive staying power, to the point that someone at Martha Stewart Living wants to take some of it over and make it theirs, make it represent them. The second lesson is that there is still something profoundly scary about the anger and nihilism inherent in punk, to the point that Martha Stewart Living has to repress all traces of it and pretend that it’s a neutral style choice like the Pre-Raphaelites or Art Deco. Of course, it isn’t, and that very un-neutrality may mean that we’re heading for another 1977 moment in our culture sometime soon.

Here, MSL’s Erin Furey—almost an apt name, there—teaches you how to make Punk-Rock Inspired Pumpkins, or, er, “Studly Punk-ins,” at the end of which she hilariously throws down a “sign of the horns” hand gesture because it’s so punk rock!
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
JJ Burnel: Stranglers bassist, karate master
10.24.2014
07:41 am

Topics:
Music
Punk
Sports

Tags:
The Stranglers
karate


If you find yourself in this situation, RUN.

Add this to the list of reasons to be very, very nice to Stranglers bassist and singer Jean-Jacques “JJ” Burnel, if you should ever meet him: he can kill you with his bare hands.

Burnel has, let’s say, a heavy reputation. According to the Guardian, the Stranglers’ authorized biography devotes no fewer than 20 pages to the subject “Burnel, violence.” The Stranglers’ former singer and guitarist, Hugh Cornwell, writes that he and Burnel fell out when the bassist attacked him backstage after a show in Italy, and that the incident was a factor in Cornwell’s decision to quit the band in 1990. Burnel had famously beaten up punk journalist Jon Savage in 1977 for giving No More Heroes a bad review in Sounds, and decades later, in an interview with Strangled, he was unrepentant about that encounter:

“I tracked him down one night to the Red Cow,” JJ explained. “And I punched his lights out right there in front of Jake Riviera, Andrew Lauder – our A&R guy, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe – all these people saw what I did. So yeah, we made a lot of enemies, bless ‘em, and these people got in a lot of influential positions within the music industry and literature… Tony Parsons, Julie Burchill… But we weren’t gonna suck up to these c*nts.”

 

Has anyone heard from the magazine editor who misspelled JJ’s last name recently?
 
Burnel, now 62, started training in martial arts at the age of 19. Since 1991, he has been the branch chief and chief instructor of the Shidokan GB organization. He is a sixth dan black belt, and as a teacher he has attained the formal title of Renshi. (I am just a flabby nerd from the suburbs and I do not pretend to know what these ranks and titles mean, but they scare the shit out of me.) According to the Shidokan GB website, London residents can train with Burnel at Slim Jims in Broadgate on Tuesday evenings. There are a few clips of Burnel in competition at the 1:40 mark in the segment below, from the ITV series After They Were Famous.

When most musicians say they have “chops”... oh, never mind.
 

 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Never look bored—or unconscious—even if you are: Tips for the single woman, 1938
10.24.2014
07:16 am

Topics:
Amusing
Feminism
History

Tags:
dating tips


 
And… THIS is how you land a man 1938-style. Now put a ring on it, dammit!

It was 1938 and times were oh-so-much different then. I always find these vintage “dating tips” for single women hilarious. I mean, “Don’t drink too much, as a man expects you to keep your dignity all evening. Drinking may make some girls seem clever, but most get silly” and “Careless women never appeal to gentlemen, Don’t talk while dancing, for when a man dances he wants to dance.” 

The last image in this series is the true winner though…
 

 

 

 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘Ernest & Bertram’: Banned short on the Sesame Street love that dare not speak its name
10.23.2014
03:18 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Queer

Tags:
Sesame Street


 
Look, we’ve all had our suspicions about Bert and Ernie. It’s hardly nosey to question the nature of their relationship—right? They live together, take baths together and they bicker like an old married couple. We’re all adults here!

The 2002 short, Ernest and Bertram does a little bit of speculative fiction on their very special relationship—lifting dialogue from Lillian Hellman’s 1934 play The Children’s Hour, in which two two boarding school headmistresses are accused of having a lesbian affair. Bert has been outed by the tabloids—who are guessing, but it’s enough to put him in a terror, and motivate his girlfriend (Miss Piggy), to pack her bags. What follows is a confrontation and confession by Ernie, who questions the truth in the rumors—it ends in a (strangely moving) tragedy!

Sadly, the (surprisingly litigious) folks at Sesame Street served filmmaker Peter Spears with a cease and desist order for copyright violation. It’s a real bummer, because the film is funny (the Spartacus poster in Bert’s home is a nice touch), and Sesame Street is such a gay-friendly institution at this point it’s silly not to acknowledge this parody as a valid cultural contribution—the film was a hit at Sundance! You can compare it with the scene from The Children’s Hour here.

Don’t worry, this homoerotic Muppet contraband is all psychological and safe for work—we’re not that sick!
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
The amazing old Paramount Records ads that inspired R. Crumb


 
The story of Paramount Records is a fascinating one—the beginning is set about 100 years ago, in a Wisconsin furniture company that began pressing records in hopes that’d help them sell record players, which in their early years were indeed whoppin’ big ol’ pieces of furniture. The middle sees that furniture company curating and releasing a jaw-dropping and still legendary catalogue of classic early jazz and Delta blues 78s by the likes of Charley Patton, Ma Rainey, and Blind Lemon Jefferson. The end of the story sees the closing of the company and disgruntled employees flinging those now priceless shellac records into the Milwaukee River and melting down the metal masters for scrap. The whole story can be found in greater detail online, or in the books Paramount’s Rise and Fall and Do Not Sell At Any Price.

What concerns us here are the label’s print ads, which ran in The Chicago Defender. I’ve tried mightily to find the names of the artists who drew these. People in a better position to know than I assure me their identities are lost to the years, though they may have been staff illustrators at a Madison ad agency. The loss of that knowledge is a damned shame, because without knowing it, those artists altered the history of underground comix, by serving as an acknowledged influence on that form’s grand pooh-bah, Robert Crumb. Even a superficial glance at some of these ads reveals a precursor to Crumb’s famous signature style (it’s strikingly evident in the slouching posture of some of these characters), and Crumb paid direct homage to these artists in a series of trading card sets that have been compiled into the book R. Crumb’s Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country—the comix artist’s abiding passion for the music of the early recording era has never been a secret.

Here are a few of those ads. Where the ad copy is adequately readable, I encourage you to give it a look, because some of this stuff is priceless—I’m wondering how many old blues songs weren’t about wangs and adultery. Bear in mind, please, that the ads I chose to post here weren’t necessarily selected for resemblance to Crumb’s work. Some I simply felt like sharing because they were just too much!
 

 

 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Horrifying masks give you EXTREME plastic surgery look
10.23.2014
11:06 am

Topics:
Art
Pop Culture

Tags:
plastic surgery


 
From a wild art installation titled “Too Good to be True” by German artist Meike Harde. Meike designed these masks in order to raise questions about contemporary beauty standards. The work asks: How much is too much plastic surgery?

The installation Too Beautiful To Be True was developed on the occasion of the exhibition Fine Arts in Saarbrücken, Germany. Masks which picture the eye and mouth area correspond to the current ideal of beauty. When put on, however, they cause a contortion of the face. This is meant to show that artificially produced beauty is not always beautiful; instead it can evoke the very opposite. The pictures with the masks should be allegorical for effect of artificially produced beauty.

I noticed there were no plastic surgery-style masks for men. Apparently, Meike has never seen Bruce Jenner’s or Kenny Roger’s mugs. Men can take it too far too, ya know!
 

 

 

 

Below, the video for “Madame Hollywood” by Miss Kittin and Felix Da Housecat.

 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Ridonkulous ‘Beat Club’ showcase featuring Captain Beefheart, MC5, Alice Cooper, NY Dolls and more!


 
Beat Club was the German TV show dedicated to rock performance that later became Musikladen (Music Store), a show we’ve featured here at DM many times. I don’t know exactly what kind of acid they put into the performers’ (or the producers’) drinks, but this compilation, known as “The Crazy World” (and originally released on a Laserdisc) is totally out-o-sight and generally kicks ass. Enhancing all the rockin’ are a lot of groove-tastic green screen effects. The visuals on this show were almost as mind-bending as the audio.
 

The Three Faces of Vliet
 
The music is tuneful and heavy, all around. I’d scarcely heard any Flo & Eddie, but they hang right in there with the rest of them. I was prepared not to dig the Slade number much, but it rocked. Everything on this compilation rocks, even the otherwise sprightly number by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.

They really don’t show music like this on TV anymore, like ever. I’m not sure people can even make music like this any more, maybe the iPhones are slowly sucking it out of us. Hmmm. I’m open to hypotheses.
 

Track listing:
Alice Cooper: “I’m Eighteen”
Alice Cooper: “Public Animal #9”
Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band: “I’m Gonna Booglarize You Baby”
Phlorescent Leech and Eddie: “Feel Older Now”
MC5: “Kick Out The Jams”
The Crazy World of Arthur Brown: “Fire”
Slade: “Goz I Luv You”
New York Dolls: “Lookin’ For A Kiss”
Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band: “I’m The Urban Spaceman”

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
John Butler: Changing the world one animation at a time
10.23.2014
10:37 am

Topics:
Animation
Politics

Tags:
Marxism
John Butler

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Award-winning speculative fiction animator John Butler, one half of the Butler Brothers, will be making a rare appearance at the Exchange Rates Expo in Brooklyn, New York from October 23rd to 26th. John will be exhibiting alongside artist and filmmaker Patrick Jameson and artist Ellis Luxemburg, as part of the Glasgow’s Queen’s Park Railway Club at the Fuchs Projects, 56 Bogart Street.

Exchange Rates is an international expo of art and art galleries in around the Bushwick area of Brooklyn presenting work by exchange artists from around the world:

Conceived and produced by arts organizations helmed by artists and curators in Bushwick, Brooklyn and London, England, Exchange Rates—known also in this inaugural iteration as The Bushwick Expo—is an international exposition of artworks and curatorial programs in which host spaces in one art community open their doors and share their walls with kindred spaces on visit from elsewhere.

Some exhibits will be integrated, some collaborative yet autonomous, some even spontaneous or virtual.

The rates of exchange, as such, will fluctuate, while the currencies of exchange—ideas and culture—remain fixed.

 
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As regular readers to Dangerous MInds know, I am a big fan of John Butler’s work and have been banging the drum for his speculative animations for some considerable time. For those who don’t know his work, Butler, to give a snapshot, is a hybrid of J. G. Ballard, John Carpenter via Stanley Kubrick—an imaginative and intelligent dystopian, who has an exacting and precise style to his animated films.

Today, Butler will be premiering his recently completed speculative science fiction animation, the so-called Amazon cycle of four films (a reference to working practices of the company rather than the South American river) contained in Descention along with The Terminal Node. Butler’s recent work examines the processes by which capitalism uses technology to dehumanize a workforce.
 
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As Butler explained via email:

Descention draws a straight line from military robotics to retail cybernetics, from DARPA to Amazon.

Refusnik, G.O.L.E.M., M.O.N.A.D. and Mutator are all episodes in an adaptive odyssey that evaluates human utility in the age of artificial indifference.

Through a series of mutations, the human candidate is gradually purged of all non-essential attributes in an attempt to meet the imperatives of growth.

This process of adaptive degradation eventually leads to the distillation of human demand into an intelligent algorithm, fully able to realise it’s own destiny.

It is similar to The Incredible Shrinking Man except that his mutation is driven by the market rather than radiation.

 
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Below the Butler Brothers Descention which will be screened at Exchange Rates. More information here.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Like Punk Never Happened’: Remembering Smash Hits, the ‘totally 80s’ pop magazine

Culture Club cover of Smash Hits July 19, 1984
Culture Club on the cover of Smash Hits, July 19, 1984
 
Music magazine Smash Hits started out in 1978 and was a mecca for pop fans. It had a strong rotation of writers back in its heyday such as Dave Rimmer (author of the 1985 book, Like Punk Never Happened), Mark Ellen (MOJO), Steve Beebee (Kerrang!) and Neil Tennant of The Pet Shop Boys. Regular content included interviews and pictorials but Smash Hits also published some fun features like “Bitz” (a smattering of industry information like fan club addresses and such), and was filled with pages of lyrics to the current top 20 songs (you know, so you didn’t have to keep trying to write them down on your own). There was always a centerfold spread, and in addition to the magazines eye-catching covers they also ran a special “back cover” with glossy photos of hot at-the-time artists like Limahl the spiky-haired vocalist for Kajagoogoo or the Thompson Twins.
 
Limahl of Kajagoogoo Smash Hits May 24th, 1984
Limahl of Kajagoogoo, May 24th, 1984

In 2009, Smash Hits superfan Brian McCloskey, an 80’s kid who had hung on to his copies of Smash Hits since youth, decided to rescue his collection from his parents’ attic at his childhood home in Derry, Ireland. McCloskey had the magazines shipped all the way to his home in California, tracked down copies he was missing in his collection from the magazines inception, then took on the painstaking process of scanning and uploading every page of every issue he had to his blog, Like Punk Never Happened. McCloskey’s collection of Smash Hits represents every issue of the magazine from 1979 to 1985.
 
Big Country Smash Hits April 14th, 1983
Big Country, April 14th, 1983

As I can’t help but admire his dedication to this pop-culture gem, I contacted McCloskey to learn more about his recollections from the early days of Smash Hits.

Smash Hits took music very seriously, but they didn’t take musicians seriously. A very sensible distinction. I think that people have either forgotten or didn’t realize to begin with that Smash Hits was quite a serious magazine. During their peak years they would receive thousands of letters - handwritten letters! You could read great interviews with real artist like Paul Weller or Ian Dury. After the magazine’s redesign at the end of 1981, the snark really took over. I’m glad that the my archive has reminded, or opened people’s minds to the early days of Smash Hits.

Gary Numan Smash Hits September 1983
Gary Numan, September 1983

Smash Hits continued to publish issues well after its official decline in the early 90’s, then ceased its print run in February of 2006. McCloskey updates his site with new vintage issues every two week and hopes to continue posting issues beyond 1985 with the help of fellow fans. I highly recommend you get comfortable, set your Pandora station to “80’s Pop,” then head over to McCloskey’s blog and lose yourself for a few hours. A number of images published during the years 1982-1984 from Smash Hits follow.
 
The Belle Stars Smash Hits February 3, 1983
The Belle Stars, February 3, 1983

Cyndi Lauper and Thomas Dolby lyric sheets from Smash Hits March 29th, 1984
Cyndi Lauper and Thomas Dolby lyric sheet, March 29th, 1984

Scritti Politti Smash Hits June 7th, 1983
Scritti Politti lyric sheet, June 7th, 1984

Thompson Twins Smash Hits November 24th, 1983
Thompson Twins, November 24th, 1983

Billy Idol Smash Hits July 19, 1984
Billy Idol, July 19, 1984

Adam Ant Smash Hits December/January 1982
Adam Ant lyric sheet, December/January 1982

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
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