A page from illustrator Toby Leigh’s upcoming book ‘ABC For Adults.’
The work of oddball London-based illustrator Toby Leigh was in part inspired by his discovery of the deviant stylings of comic book hero Robert Crumb whom Leigh became aware of at a very young age. I’ve always been a huge supporter of starting kids young when it comes to the good stuff in life like hipping them to the finer things—and the art of Mr. Crumb should always be considered “good stuff.” For instance, my Dad turned me on to Ralph Steadman when I was a kid and whenever I get to write about Steadman or his larger-than-life muse Hunter S. Thompson, I thank my Dad. For the soon-to-be-published book, ABC For Adults Leigh revisited his own childhood after finding an ABC book that he once owned as a kid in an antique shop in Wiltshire.
Leigh’s illustrations and use of soft, appealing color schemes borrow from the vintage pages of Little Golden Books. In a rather brilliant and nefarious move, instead of substituting blatant adult-oriented words (you know like “F is for fuck” or “V is for Vagina”), Leigh used mostly toddler-level words in the book accompanied by corresponding illustrations. Like an image of a balding, white-haired man clutching his chest for the letter “H” and it’s alphabet word “heart.” According to Leigh, when he presented his finished work to potential publishers, two of them requested that he tone down a few of his illustrations. Leigh heroically refused and is currently using the crowdfunded publishing tool Unbound to raise the funds to put the book out, which should be seeing the light of day sometime in July in the UK and shortly thereafter in the U.S. For a pledge of $20 bucks (plus shipping) you can get your very own hardbound copy, with your name on the back cover which seems like the makings of a very cool family heirloom to me. I’ve posted some images of Leigh’s hardcore ABC’s below, a few of which are slightly NSFW.
One of the illustrations from Leigh’s book that potential publishers urged him to tone down.
Insanely talented ceramic artist Mitchell Grafton has been working in his field since he was nineteen when he was hired by Odell Pottery in Panama City, Florida to help make their ceramic goods. Odell Pottery was run by three-time U.S. Pottery Olympics Champion Bruce Odell and Grafton spent seven years working under Odell making lamp bases while completing his degree in Architecture at a Louisiana technical college. Later in 1991, Grafton would enter the same competition as his mentor, which he not only won on his first time out, but three more times. None of Grafton’s early success seems surprising once you have seen his whimsical designs, often featuring animals—such as an octopus that has joined forces with a tank complete with a soldier in a gas mask riding on top of its head.
On Grafton’s blog, it’s noted that he does take commissions and he has posted many examples of his custom orders there, as well as on Grafton Pottery’s official Facebook page. As you would hope, the imaginations of Grafton’s fans often rival the artist’s own, for example, the freakishly eccentric designs Grafton created at the behest of a Canadian ceramics enthusiast who could no longer live without a mug with removable antlers and the face of a man smoking a stogie. Because life it too short to not own weird things made by weird people. This is the golden age of that, so savor it. I’ve posted a ton of images of Grafton’s wild ceramic creations below for you to check out below. Some are kinda/sorta NSFW.
A ceramic vivisected frog clinging to a mug. One of the many wonderfully weird ceramics created by Mitchell Grafton.
PornHub recently revealed that in a May data sampling, during just a ten day stretch in that month, there were 2.5 million “fidget spinner” searches on their popular porn site, making it the top trending term and 5th most popular search for that month (ON A FUCKING PORN SITE!).
Clearly, these things have taken a place on the cultural zeitgeist mantle.
That brings us to this stupid thing which presented itself in my feed today: a Crass logo fidget spinner.
I’m going to go out on a limb and assume this isn’t “licensed” merchandise, but nonetheless, you can buy it for $6.89 on Amazon. If that’s not anarchy, then WHAT IS?
Crass’ 1978 declaration that “Punk Is Dead,” may or may not have been a true fact, but here we have a prime indicator—something Crass themselves would have called “another cheap product for the consumer’s head.”
The Crass logo fidget spinner was not the only punk rock spinner I found in a casual search, but it’s certainly the most ridiculous. Of course, you may wanna pick one up to give to the next spanging Oogle you see. It’ll give them something to keep them occupied back at the squat. I’ve paired purchase links with a fitting song by the artist, starting with the aforementioned “Punk is Dead” by Crass:
Peter Nidzgorski is the artist provocateur behind the site This isn’t Happiness™. Under the name Peteski, he blogs about art, photographs, design, and disappointment. All of which has made This isn’t Happiness™ “One of the ‘Top 100 Overall’ Ranked Blogs on the Internet” according to Technorati.
One of the big attractions of Nidzgorski’s site is his clever manipulation of images like these altered panels from classic love story comic books. Nidzgorski asks his followers to suggest sentences or quotes which he then adds to a specific panel. His theme is modern love. Or rather a satirical take on the shallow, fickle, empty sex, selfie-obsessed and self-destructive nature of modern love, which is probably something most people can relate to.
In the disorienting immediate aftermath of the 2016 US presidential election, a notion I saw expressed so often that it almost felt virally memetic was the idea that “At least with Trump as president, there’ll be great political punk rock again.”
I found this puzzling.
Of course it’s absolutely true that the Reagan era was a musical goldmine for politically-engaged punks, but the arguably worse George W Bush era was notably fallow in that regard—if American Idiot counts as “greatness,” then I guess I don’t need any greatness in my life—and with the debatable exception of the 2004 Punk Voter Rock Against Bush tour, a wishfully grandiose attempt by the pop-punks at Fat Wreck Chords to create a latter-day Rock Against Reagan type of event, no other punk-influenced protest music made all that much of an impression. Going back a minute or two further, not even the stunning and inspiring social movement that emerged from seemingly out of the blue in defiance of the World Trade Organization around the turn of the century seemed to inspire any rebel rock worth discussing—Punk Planet even did a contemporary feature on that notable lack, pity there’s no online archive of that publication.
But though I still expect that the hoped-for renaissance of Reagan-era style protest punk is unlikely to happen, one actual radical band from the Reagan era has reactivated in response to the Trump threat. And it’s one of the MOST radical—Situationist-inspired provocateur Frank Discussion has resurrected his notorious band The Feederz. An unabashed outrage artist, Discussion made his band infamous with confrontational live performances in which he far surpassed even Frank Tovey’s ability to turn himself into an attention-commanding art object, and with stunts like making a sandpaper record cover for their debut album Ever Feel Like Killing Your Boss? to ruin other records on one’s shelves, and emblazoning a record called Teachers in Space with a photo of the Challenger disaster.
But after more than 35 years, The Feederz remain best known for the scandalous song with which their existence was announced to the world. “Jesus,” sometimes known as “Jesus Entering from the Rear,” got a widespread hearing when it was featured on the epochally crucial hardcore compilation Let Them Eat Jellybeans. That song sought to tweak right wing Evangelical Christians with lyrics describing The Savior™—or his corpse—engaged in rough gay sex, going way over the top by calling him “Another stupid martyr with another rectal rash” and “Just another faggot in just another mask.” Though it’s indisputably a classic, due to major values dissonance the song hasn’t aged so gracefully, and there is zero doubt that if it were written today it would be excoriated for implicit homophobia, though that was the opposite of its intent—even for the sake of outrage, Discussion isn’t one to punch down.
After a long absence from punk rock, the Trump disaster prodded Discussion to begin writing new songs again, and he assembled a band to record two of them in January, with Meat Puppets bassist Cris Kirkwood producing. The Feederz as currently constituted are a trio of Discussion, founding member Clear Bob, and drummer D.H. Peligro, a onetime Feederz member who’s much better known for his tenure in Dead Kennedys. That single was released on April 15 by the Phoenix, AZ label Slope Records (though The Feederz made their mark as a San Francisco band, Discussion is a native of Phoenix and was a presence in the infancy of its punk scene). The single, WWHD: What Would Hitler Do?, sports an unsurprisingly unsubtle cover illustration of Donald Trump affecting a Hitlerian pose and wearing a swastika armband, and it’s fucking good—it’s the most hi-fidelity recording to which the band has ever been treated, and the songs, while they’re thematically of a piece with Discussion’s Reagan-era work, sound like the work of a contemporary band. The A side, “Stealing,” bears an ominous riff and lyrics that champion looting and assaulting police. The flip, “Sabotage,” opens with a chant of “TIME TO PUT THIS COUNTRY OUT OF OUR MISERY,” and includes call-to-arms written in Spanish. Here’s the translation:
What you see with your eyes, destroy with your hands
To be as combustible as a cop car
We don’t need leaders
I love you! Say it with a brick!
After the jump, the always outspoken Mr. Discussion treated Dangerous Minds to an audacious and lively interview…
Like Harry Smith, Conner was employed by a bohemian greeting card company called Inkweed Studios (later The Haunted Inkbottle) during the ‘50s. Lionel and Joanne Ziprin—he a poet and Kabbalist, she a dancer, illustrator, and model—were its founders. The notes from Glenn Horowitz Bookseller’s 2011 exhibition of material from the Inkweed archives are full of fascinating details about the Ziprins, the artists they worked with, and the businesses they ran. While they do not seem to have made much of a dent in Hallmark’s monopoly, they gave Bruce Conner and other artists the greatest gift of all: cash.
Inkweed offered itself as a launching pad for a handful of equally ambitious and talented artists, several of whom found their first paying commercial jobs with the company. These include polymath artists Harry Smith and Jordan Belson, painter and filmmaker Bruce Conner, and illustrators Barbara Remington and William Mohr. Smith’s instantly recognizable geometric designs were used for a series of hand screened Christmas cards, which echoed the artist’s famed series of drawings and collotypes inspired by Kabbalistic themes. Their most prodigious collaborator, however, was Conner, who met the Ziprins on a visit to New York in 1951. While studying art at Wichita University and the University of Nebraska, Conner regularly sent The Ziprins card concepts, alongside completed linoleum cuts and meticulous printing instructions. Conner’s work for the Ziprins—inspired by the two-dimensional, alien forms of painter Paul Klee and the absurdum ad infinitum ethos of Dada and Beat—infused Inkweed with a heavy dose of subversive wit and black humor. Conner’s vision inspired the Ziprins to take greater risk in their own designs, expanding the parameters of what the company could and would soon become.
On July 28th, Rhino Records will be putting out expanded editions of the Cars’ second and third albums for the very first time. That’s right, neither Candy-O (1979) nor Panorama (1980) have ever been reissued with additional tracks.
In the event you’re a Cars newbie: Candy-O is essentially a continuation of the type of new wave pop/rock they perfected on their 1978 debut; for Panorama, they colored outside of the lines, resulting in what would prove to be their most experimental work. The Candy-O reissue includes five alternate mixes, a B-side, as well as a previously unreleased track, while the updated Panorama contains another B-side, plus three tracks from the vaults. The albums have been remastered by Cars front-man, Ric Ocasek, and the newly expanded editions will be offered on CD, 2LP, and digital formats, plus they will be accessible via streaming platforms. The double vinyl looks like the way to go, as both sets will be housed in gatefold sleeves, with tunes on the first three sides and an etching on the fourth.
John Cage performs with a feather while George Plimpton narrativizes (inset)
George Orwell’s sinister novel Nineteen Eighty-Four made it inevitable that the arrival of his eponymous year would be a media event. Decades after his death, Orwell made it onto the cover of Time magazine in late 1983, but on the big day itself—January 1, 1984—TV visionary Nam June Paik ushered in the year with an ambitious international video program called Good Morning, Mr. Orwell that was broadcast live simultaneously from New York (WNET public television), Paris, and San Francisco, with broadcasters in Germany and South Korea also carrying the transmissions if not contributing content.
According to Plimpton, Paik aptly referred to the project as a “global disco.” As the title suggested, Paik’s take on 1984 was considerably rosier than that of Orwell. In the spirit of Fluxus and/or technological optimism, as you please, Paik gathered a roster of artists with less inclination to lean on bleak themes such as Peter Gabriel, Laurie Anderson, John Cage, Allen Ginsberg, Merce Cunningham, Salvador Dalí, Oingo Boingo and many others for a stimulating showcase of art, music, theater, and video manipulation. One might imagine a band like DEVO being invited but it’s difficult to imagine Mark Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale mustering up any enthusiasm for a project in which it was unironically asserted that technology is a boon to mankind.
The show was hosted by George Plimpton—the John Hodgman of his day, kind of—with assistance from the Centre Pompidou in Paris. In a move you can’t imagine happening today, Plimpton enthusiastically names the satellite—Bright Star—assisting with the remote sync-up. We would consider that akin to singling out the dedicated server permitting YouTube to bring you a video.
Among the performances: Gabriel and Anderson combine on a duet called “Excellent Birds”; a fitfully amusing comedy sketch called “Cavalcade of Intellectuals” in which a transatlantic discussion devolves into an interpersonal spat (a gag that worked better in Airplane! using airport PA announcers); a sprightly song by Yves Montand; John Cage plays “amplified cacti and plant materials” with a feather (so great); Oingo Boingo perform a song called “Wake Up (It’s 1984)”; Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky sing a little ditty about meditation to the cello stylings of Arthur Russell; and much more.
It took a little digging around to figure out who made these “real life” versions of SpongeBob SquarePants and Patrick Star. They’re scary has hell to look at. To feel the full-effect, click on the images to enlarge ‘em to see what I’m talking about.
The artist who made these 3D characters is named Miguel Vasquez and you can visit his site here to see more. If you dare… , that is.
The first thing you see when you watch W.T. Morgan’s 1986 documentary The Unheard Music about the difficult-to-Google Los Angeles punk band X is a caption reading “PLAY THIS MUSIC LOUD.” Always good advice, of course. Morgan worked on the documentary for five solid years while the band was at its peak, and The Unheard Music emerges as a darn good document.
X was one of those bands, like the Who, where all four members contributed something essential to the music as well as the band’s persona. Exene, Doe, Zoom, and Bonebrake had distinct, interesting personalities that turned out to exhibit the quintessence of chemistry. The band was so much more than the sum of its parts. Exene’s striking vocals and John Doe’s Americana tendencies meant that X’s identity would transcend the confines of the punk movement. As you watch, there are plenty of killer live performances, so you can conduct the debate in your own mind if they were truly merely a punk band.
Because the movie was shot over such a long time, we get to see the band at different stages. Morgan’s editing strategy is a very 1980s one, which is to say there’s a fair amount of TV collage, and he doesn’t take things too seriously, which is always a help. Morgan clearly had a lot of footage to choose from, which means that there are a lot of fun bits. Doe amusingly tells of scavenging a sizable letter X from the Ex-Lax Building in Brooklyn, funny to me because I’m good friends with a family who currently lives there. Bonebrake displays his polyrhythmic skills on the vibraphone while Exene and Doe fool around with some Hank Williams ditties in a scuzzy apartment.
There’s a terrific bit in which two interviews are intercut, from Bob Biggs of Slash Records and some stooge from MCA Records named Al Bergamo, in which the unimpeachable values and good taste of the former are contrasted with the horseshit coming out of the pie hole of the latter. Bergamo claims to find the potential for “limited sales” in X while unconvincingly feigning excitement about some forgettable band MCA had on their roster called Point Blank. Ugh.
Among other things, the movie is an interesting document of the scruffy Los Angeles of the early 1980s.