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Watch Josephine Baker do the original Charleston, 1927
11:30 am


Josephine Baker

We have a tendency to perceive long-since-passed pop culture crazes as “tame,” especially in our current, Miley Cyrus-infected times. The Charleston definitely falls victim to that misconception. Beyond the knee-cross, hand-switch move that has become short-hand for old fogies, most people don’t even know what the dance actually looks like. So I insist you watch this Josephine Baker number from the 1927 silent film, La Sirène des Tropiques, which features the dance in an amazing, grandiose routine. It may be her first film appearance (release dates for others are debated), but it is her first acting role.

Though Baker’s talent was never as celebrated in her home country as it was in France, she was beloved for far more than dancing topless in a banana tutu. The consummate entertainer, she could go from glamour-puss to comedienne, from a sweet smile to a smoldering gaze. Her acting was captivating, her singing voice sweet, and she remains, to this day, one of the most bombastic, athletic, and creative dancers ever to grace the stage.

Baker’s title card comes in at 1:50, but it’s worth watching the chorus line number that proceeds her, which provides a dramatic contrast to Baker’s fresh, new moves and unorthodox grace. Don’t get me wrong—I love a chorus line, but the great Josephine Baker blows them right out of the water.

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Atari ‘holy grail’: Moses ‘Crossing The Red Sea’ Bible story video game, 1983
10:14 am



Ah the 1980s. Things were simpler then—especially video games!

Take for instance this goofy—and impossibly rare—Atari 2600 curiosity, “Red Sea Crossing.” The primitive “run and jump” game—watch out for those snapping clams and snakes—was created by an independent designer named Steve Stack in 1983. Obviously, the Old Testament story of Moses parting the Red Sea served as the basis of the game, which was advertised in religious magazines. It came packaged with an audio tape narrated by—who else—Dale Evans Rogers and a coloring book. (WHO was the target market for this item?)

The game was never sold in stores and was was only available for $34.95 from the manufacturer. As a result, it’s one of the rarest Atari 2600 games, what’s been describe with tongue only partially in cheek as a “holy grail” for collectors. The game wasn’t even known to exist by the collectors market until one cartridge was found at a garage sale in 2007. That cartridge was auctioned off for over $10,000 in 2012.

Below, a look at the gameplay of “Crossing the Read Sea”

Thank you kindly ifthenwhy!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The Prodigy’s ‘Firestarter’ video without the music is comedy gold!
09:39 am



I never really cared much for The Prodigy or their song “Firestarter,” but this tinkered with, musicless video by YouTuber Mario Wienerroither had me in stitches. Totally ridiculous and yet… hypnotic.

I also included another one done by Wienerroither: Queen’s “I Want To Break Free.”


Via Boing Boing

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Heroic bro strategically saves skunk with a cup on its head
08:24 am



Two guys discover a skunk spinning around in circles in the middle of a street of with a styrofoam cup on its head. They decide they’re going to help this poor feller out, but since it’s a skunk, a plan of action is required!

Via reddit

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
When Rod Stewart rocked: The Faces’ final concert
07:12 am


Ron Wood
Rod Stewart
The Faces

Given how he spent the ’80s cashing checks as a bland MOR hit machine, and how he rebranded himself again as a 21st Century autotuned interpreter of pop standards, it’s difficult to think of Rod Stewart as someone who once actually made exciting music—he’s in the shameful company of Eric Clapton, Lionel Richie, and Sting in that regard. I’ll bet that with the tepid, money-grubbing work of his middle age as one’s only context for Stewart’s career, it would be awfully hard to believe that in 1969, when the amazing, expressive, smoke-throated singer Steve Marriott left Small Faces to play with Peter Frampton in Humble Pie, it actually occurred to someone to say “Well, we’ve lost our gifted and distinctive front man—thank God that Rod Stewart is available.” But it happened. Guitarist Ron Wood and singer Stewart were poached from the Jeff Beck Group to replace Marriott in Small Faces, then redubbed The Faces, who had a six-year run of four pretty unfuckwithable albums, a run that ended only when Wood joined the Rolling Stones.

This short TV documentary looks at The Faces in 1970, when they were barely just a year old, and still conjuring up some nice, filthy blues-rock. About five/six minutes in you can start to see how Stewart was fit to replace Marriott—he was doing some fine singing back then.

The Faces’ final concert was filmed in 1974, and it’s a great look at the band near the end of its evolution. Keith Richards guests on guitar, and you can see Stewart in the full embrace of the glam-dandy persona that he’d ride into the disco era. Sad to watch this set with the knowledge that Stewart was just a few years off from coked-up crap like “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy,” but really, given hindsight, you can kinda see it heading that way. Drummer Kenney Jones stated in this recent interview that the Faces would perform with Stewart again in 2014. (They’ve done some shows lately with Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall singing, and the Sex Pistols’ Glen Matlock playing bass in place of the late Ronnie Lane.) I can imagine no rational response to that news but deep, deep skepticism that it could possibly be any good, but who knows? Old farts are still capable of surprises, after all.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
The amazing ‘inflatable’ ceramics of Brett Kern
06:51 am


Brett Kern

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I found these charming things on the arts site Bored Panda - ceramic sculptor Brett Kern makes dinosaurs and other objects that look for all the world like actual inflatable toys. The only giveaway on first glance that they’re not the real thing is that the valve stems are gilded. His artist’s statement illuminates the obsession and the process:

“Something has survived,” reads the tagline for the 1997 movie, Jurassic Park: The Lost World. Undeniably, something has survived: the infatuation I have with the pop culture of my formative years, during the late eighties and the nineties. It is through these “cultural glasses” that I continue to view and interpret the world, which influences the subject matter and purpose of my work. My predilection for producing collectible objects comes from my training as a potter and my persistent preoccupation with collecting toys, pop memorabilia, and nostalgic items from my youth.

Clay and glaze are essential materials for representing my often disposable and transient subject matter as what it has, to me, truly been: enduring and precious. The mold-making process allows me to cast, out of clay, authentic replicas of meaningful objects. Subsequently, I decide whether these new ceramic objects should be left as is, or manipulated to fit in with casts from appropriated commercial molds in order to subvert the object’s original intent. Glaze helps to emphasize the magnificence of the material as it flows in and out of lines and wrinkles, filling the object’s surface with a wealth of depth and variation within a simplified color scheme. Gold Luster is employed sparingly to highlight specific areas of intimate interactions we have with the objects.

I find that the mold-making process imitates, in a certain way, the fossilization process. Objects are covered in a material that captures their shape and texture and this, in turn, preserves the object as a rock-like representation. Movies, television, toys and games dominated the cultural landscape of my youth. I am a product of this specific time period, and I like to think of my artwork as the fossils that will help preserve it.

Is it disingenuous of him not to have named Jeff Koons in there anywhere? Like even in passing? I mean, he HAS to know, right? But I guess that doesn’t matter nearly as much as the fact that when you scroll down and see his astronaut, you’re totally going to want one.
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SEE? What’d I tell you?
brett kern 7

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Otis Redding gives a blistering set on ‘Ready, Steady, Go!’ 1966

On that long list of those sadly departed musicians, singers, pop stars and what-you-will, who I wish I had seen in concert, Mister Otis Redding is up near the very top. It’s not just because I like Redding, and think he had immense talent, or that his band played like “some well-oiled machine,” or that together they lit up the stage when they played, but because Otis always looked like he truly enjoyed what he was doing, and wanted the audience to enjoy it just as much as he did.

Take a watch at his appearance on Ready, Steady, Go! from 1966 and you will see what I mean. Otis gives a powerhouse performance and his guests, Eric Burdon and Chris Farlowe, both look awe-struck.

Otis begins with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” then goes into “My Girl” and “Respect,” before Eric Burdon sings “Hold On, I’m Comin’” and Chris Farlowe tries on “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” for size. Then it’s back to the main event, with Mr. Redding joined by Messrs. Burdon and Farlowe, finishing up with “Pain in My Heart,” “I Can’t Turn You Loose,” and “Shake,” which understandably gets the audience up and dancing.


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
New African psych-blues from Tinariwen
05:32 am



A new video from Tinariwen, a long-running bluesy psych-rock band hailing from the Sahara Desert region of Mali, appeared on yesterday. They’ve been around since the early ‘80s and achieved recognition in Europe in the late ‘90s. They began enlarging their impression among American world-music fans with a string of three albums spanning from 2007’s Aman Iman to 2011’s wonderful Tassili, an album actually recorded outdoors in the desert, in a nod to the the band members’ lineage—they’re all Tuareg, a nomadic people whose nation transcends Northern Africa’s borders. Due to recurrent political strife, the band itself has experienced nomadic periods that directly mirror the history of their people - indeed, their story is among the most amazing and compelling in rock history.

Tinariwen’s own story burgeons with myth and mythos in their home country and beyond. Their tale is the stuff of legends. Founding member Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, grew up in desolation in Mali, where he witnessed his own father’s death at the age of four. Later, after seeing a western film, he built his first guitar from a bicycle wire, a stick and a tin can. the band was founded in the 1980’s in Tuareg camps in Lybia, where the nomadic peoples had relocated to find work and a new life away from their homeland of the Sahara. Disillusioned by the promises of Quaddafi at the time, the Tuareg became restless again and longed for home. But the interaction with city life yielded unexpected consequences, they became exposed to Western music—most notably the guitar-driven anthems of Jimi Hendrix and the American Blues—which they mixed with their own soulful dirges which they’d perform in the camps by the fire with battery-operated amps. When revolution broke out back in Mali, they left Lybia behind, hung up their guitars and picked up guns to fight for the Tuareg independence. When the dischord died down, the band returned to music, delivering songs imbued with aching beauty and lonesome poetry. Their music was bootlegged and traded around the region, earning them a devout following. Then in the late 1990s, they were discovered by Western musicians and for the first time, their songs left the Sahara and were introduced to the world. For the next ten years, the nomads now traveled the world, performing at nearly every notable festivals and venues around the globe, providing the world with a taste of the aching beauty and lonesome pleasures of Saharan assouf.

This video is a document of the Tassili recording sessions, and imparts a fine feeling for the sound of the album.

Their new album, due in a month and titled Emmaar, was recorded similarly, but in Joshua Tree National Park in California, due to conflagrations in Mali. A video was released in December for the song “Toumast TIncha,” and seems to have been shot entirely from a moving car—which you’d think would come off as a cop-out, but no, the effect, when paired with their music, is fittingly hypnotic.

The new video is for the song “Imidiwan Ahi Sigdim,” and is also a car-cam video, but it’s much more thought out and trippy—most of the action is in a screen-within-a-screen effect, taking place in the rear-view mirror. Trance out.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Evangelicals and the atom bomb: Are you ready for the great atomic power?

atomic pamphlet
My only actively religious family (my paternal grandparents and their copious siblings) are staunch, old-time religion Evangelicals. And though their church is marked by a fear of women, queer folks, Catholics, and virtually anyone outside of their own insular community, there are some unexpected strengths in Evangelical culture. For example, we have a very, very literal belief in the apocalypse, which we embrace with utter joy. While perhaps not an overly healthy perspective on life, our belief in the imminent end of the world tends to give us a devil-may-care, come-what-may kind of insanity that is not without its charm. It’s an oversimplification, but the old joke, “What’s a redneck’s final words?” (“Hey! Watch this!”), has some grounding in our cultural reality. We’re just not that worried—the Lord will protect us until He’s ready to take us home.

I cannot tell you how how many family meals have been graced with the blithest of reminders, “Jesus is comin’ back, you know. Any day now. You want some more potatoes?” It’s why we’re obsessed with Israel—gotta’ get them Jews back to the homeland so the world can end! It’s why we panic over major changes and/or progress—it’s obviously a sign, and we have to warn those strayed from the flock! It’s why we tend toward disaster-based scenarios, often leaning libertarian and perusing bomb shelter catalogs while cleaning our guns. The world is going to end, and we want to be ready. (Before our souls ascend, of course.)

So I wasn’t at all surprised when (during one of my regular investigative searches on atomic culture), I found these old religious pamphlets using nuclear warfare as Biblical fodder. Nowadays, we’re less concerned with the bomb itself, but fears of warfare (nuclear, chemical, or otherwise) have always been a popular theory for Evangelical catastrophists. Moreover, I’m very familiar with what may be the most resilient artifact of Evangelical nuclear scare—The Louvin Brothers’ 1952 gospel classic, “Great Atomic Power.” In addition to being a truly killer song, it’s got the “all doom, no gloom” sentiment down pat. I advise you to have a listen to the track at the end—your very soul may depend on it.
atomic pamphlet
atomic pamphlet
atomic pamphlet

Via Ptak Science Books

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Emerson Lake & Palmer: Do they suck?

Over the weekend and for half the day yesterday, I tried—TRIED—to figure out if there was anything worthwhile in the Emerson Lake & Palmer catalog.

The answer is yes, but not that much! For the most part, they’re bloody horrible, exhibiting the very worst muso excesses of any of the progrock bands. Musical hubris on a very grand scale, pop pomposity writ large. Genesis seem humble compared to these guys. Even Yes never got even close to the edge of what ELP were all about. One album after another struck me as tedious, boring and just “virtuoso” shite, but there was occasionally a number—or a snatch of something, a moment in one of their longer pieces—that was not just good, but excellent. Those highlights were, quite honestly, to my ears, few and far between.

At their best, ELP could be sublime. No really. Carl Palmer is a truly great drummer. Keith Emerson is a keyboard god. Greg Lake, that man could sing! At their worst, they sound like three goofballs whose best idea was to rip off B. Bumble & The Stinger’s “Nut Rocker”, play it on the Moog and add an orchestra!

My wife politely inquired at one point “What the fuck is this shit?” When I told her, she rolled her eyes, shook her head and walked away from me, disappointed.

This isn’t the first time I’ve tried to figure out if there is anything decent in ELP’s recorded output. A double A-side of “Lucky Man” and the even better “From the Beginning” was one of the very first 45s I ever bought and I had most of their albums, purchased at a garage sale for 25 cents each. For a nine-year-old kid, the die-cut, fold-out H.R. Giger cover of Brain Salad Surgery seemed extra mysterious and cool, but the music left me totally cold. It’s not like I didn’t try to listen to it. A) I only had so many records at that age and B) because they were such a monster group, I wondered if maybe it was something that I wasn’t getting. (I listened to Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music around that same time, over and over again on headphones, because it irked me that I didn’t quite understand it.)

By the time Never Mind the Bollocks was in my hot little hands, I never gave Emerson Lake and Palmer another thought. Probably like the vast majority of you reading this, I would imagine.

Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to name a band so more or less forgotten, but who were once so MASSIVELY POPULAR. During their heyday, ELP sold over 25 million albums. There were basically tied with Led Zeppelin for the top-grossing touring act of 1974 and they co-headlined (with Deep Purple) the massive “California Jam” concert that year, a gig that drew over 250,000 people.

Awards? We got ‘em!

The next time I was reminded of them, they were hawking their box set on Live with Regis and Kathy Lee in the early 90s looking rather well-fed.

This is not a troll post, I promise. Maybe I’m the one still missing something… I’m happy to listen to anything by ELP that anyone cares to post in the comments. Here’s the best of what I found, my (admittedly short) list of Emerson, Lake and Palmer favorites.

“From the Beginning”—this song, a typical acoustic “Greg Lake number”—is killer. I’d rate this song a perfect 10/10. It’s awesome. Check out that fantastic Moog work from Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer’s delicate percussion. Why couldn’t they always be this restrained?

“Lucky Man”—another “Greg Lake number” (and written when he was just twelve years old!). This one’s a stone classic, nothing controversial in that statement, right? A great pop song. One for the ages.

Here you can see Emerson Lake & Palmer play Mussorgsky’s 1874 piece, “Pictures at an Exhibition” at London’s Lyceum Theater in 1970. Because this composition is often used to demonstrate “prowess” by concert pianists, I’m including this out of respect for Keith Emerson’s prodigious talents, but… yeah. This is all kinds of Spinal Tap…
More ELP after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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