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Inexplicably weird products sold in China
02.15.2013
04:03 pm

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Amusing

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Oh, the glorious Taobao website, where featured products consist solely of whatchamacallits and thingamajigs sold in China.

Here are a few choice selections from Taoboa‘s catalog of I-have-no-idea-what-these-things-are:
 
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More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Los Punkers: Hilariously bad Spanish Sex Pistols cover versions, 1978
02.15.2013
03:57 pm

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Amusing
Music
Punk

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Rather than actually pay Virgin a licensing fee, el cheapo Spanish record label, Dial Discos hired “Los Punk Rockers” (rumored to be Spanish prog-rock band Asfalto) to cover the entirety of Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. The point was to basically confuse music fans in post-Franco Spain into thinking that this was the real thing.

The Shit-Fi blog nominated Los Exitos de Sex Pistols for “the most shit-fi album of all time,” adding that it “simply does not get any stupider, stranger, more poorly played, funnier, or nigh-psychotic (and possibly psychedelic) than this record”

Los Exitos de Sex Pistols was obviously recorded in a flash, before the next trend could take hold. The musicians more-or-less learned the songs from Never Mind the Bollocks, but the singer must not have spoken much English, because his approximations of Johnny Rotten are complete nonsense. (Here are “Holidays in the Sun” and “Pretty Vacant”) Even when singing the song title, as in the chorus of “Seventeen,” he seems to be making words up: “I’m a lazy seven.”

He does have the snottiness down pat, though. The vocals are clearly the best part of the record, simply because they’re so hilariously terrible. The guitar sound is thin and fuzzy, quite unlike the multi-tracked wall of guitars on NMTB—actually, it’s a lot closer to what one associates today with DIY punk of the late 70s than the Pistols’ sound. Few punk sleeves are as iconic as that of NMTB, but this album’s sleeve does fit the music well. It’s dumb. The woman on the sleeve appears to be some random person a photographer pulled off the street and dressed in moderately “punk” duds.

Enjoy!
 

 
Via Vampire Blues and h/t WFMU

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Before there was KISS, there was ‘mime rock’: Say hello to The Hello People
02.15.2013
02:21 pm

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Music
One-hit wonders

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In a genre unto themselves, one we can all be thankful never took off, the concept of “mime rock” and The Hello People sprang from the mind of longtime manager and record producer Lew Futterman. Futterman, who at one point managed Ted Nugent and produced many of his albums including Cat Scratch Fever, was also managing a group of musicians who had been taught painting by the father of French mime, Étienne Decroux. Decroux was impressed with how quickly these musicians learned to paint and reasoned they could do the same with mime and apply it to music to create an entirely new art form.

Inspired by this notion, Futterman formed The Hello People, who would go on to appear on The Tonight Show and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, eventually touring with Todd Rundgren during the ‘70s, as well as opening for comedians Richard Pryor and George Carlin. The Hello People released four albums during the ‘60s and ‘70s for Philips and ABC-Dunhill, but their second album, the cult classic Fusion from 1968 is probably their best known, mostly notable for the anti-Vietnam War song “Anthem” which was banned by several radio stations. You can see a clip of the band performing the song, introduced by the Smothers Brothers below, as well as their mime act in full effect during a 1978 appearance with Todd Rundgren performing “Bread” on The Midnight Special.

It’s like the perfect shit storm… bad folk, lead flute(!)... mime!
 
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The Hello People, Todd and pals sharing a post-show smoke sometime in the 70s.

Real Gone Music are making The Hello People’s cult classic Fusion available for the first time ever on CD. After all “Mime is money, money is mime.” Or something like that.
 

 

Posted by Moulty | Leave a comment
Blink & you’ll miss him: David Bowie’s 2 second cameo in ‘The Virgin Soldiers,’ 1969
02.15.2013
01:26 pm

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Movies

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At some point in 1984, when I was 18, I was approached by a woman who identified herself as a casting agent, near the American Embassy on London’s Grosvenor Square.

Would you be interested in doing a screen test for the new Stanley Kubrick project?

Why, yes, of course, I would most certainly be interested in that!

Would you be willing to get all of your hair chopped off? Like in an military buzz-cut?

That I was considerably less enthusiastic about. I had long hair then and I was… rather attached to it.

Obviously, in retrospect, she was casting for long-haired young guys willing to have their heads shorn for Full Metal Jacket. I took her card but never went for the screen test.

I’ll bet David Bowie wishes he’d had made a similar decision before losing his locks for a blink and you’ll miss ‘im cameo in 1969’s The Virgin Soldiers. Aside from a two-second cameo as a falling down drunk soldier in the background of a bar scene, the rest of Bowie’s performance ended up on the cutting room floor.
 

 
Thank you Nigel Best!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Amazing photo: Don King consoles Mike Tyson, in red leather overalls, sitting on a bale of hay
02.15.2013
12:43 pm

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Amusing

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What do any of you make of this???

Via The World’s Best Ever

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Hitler Valentines (or no one does stupid like an Arizona Republican)

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Never underestimate the stupidity of… stupid people.

Take anti-union activist and Tea party tool, “interim” AZ FreedomWorks coordinator Stephen Viramontes, for instance. Yesterday on Twitter, Viramontes bragged about how he planned to give out Valentines to AZ ‘s Republican lawmakers with drawings of Hitler, Fidel Castro, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong as well as Karl Marx and Leon Trotsky. Apparently, for it’s unclear, his bright idea was to somehow associate these figures with union-busting legislation SB1182—strongly favored by Viramontes’ fellow dimwits in the Tea party movement—and “humorously” put some pressure on several GOP lawmakers believed to be wavering in their support of the draconian anti-union bill.

Presumably someone close to him convinced Stevie Blunder that this was a total clownjob move that would just make him look like a dickhead and cause him professional embarrassment, as Viramontes deleted his lamebrained boasting.
 
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Maybe it was all in fun, but since The Arizona Capitol Times got a nice screenshot before he deleted his tweet, the joke’s on Stephen Viramontes.

Proving yourself too stupid for a career in AZ Tea party politics is a real accomplishment:

Viramontes’ planned use of cards featuring Hitler, Stalin and other leaders who are estimated to have been responsible for the deaths of more than 65 million people comes on the same day that nonprofit liberal news magazine Mother Jones posted a story on its website about an internal investigation that was sparked after FreedomWorks’ executives made a video of a woman wearing a Hillary Clinton mask having sex with a woman in a panda suit.

The video was intended to be shown at FreePac, a July 2012 conference in Dallas, but was scrapped after FreedomWorks employees complained.

Although he sent out a series of tweets about the cards, some of which showed pictures of them, Viramontes said after an initial version of this story was published that he never planned to give the cards to lawmakers and said he doesn’t support the actions or beliefs of any of the dictators on the cards.

“It was never something I was really, seriously going to do,” he said. “It was probably bad judgment on my part to even joke about it.

“Those that know me get the humor.”

Like this guy?
 
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The Valentine cards are actually the work of artist Ben Kling, who has created other, similar cards with philosophers, authors, celebrities and historical figures. Kling had nothing to do with Viramontes’ feeble attempt at a “joke” and no association with FreedomWorks. He told TPM that he thought the media flap caused by Viramontes’ lame attempt at some Hitler humor was hilarious.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
DM talks ‘Godless Mysticism’ with John Gray, the world’s Greatest Living Philosopher
02.15.2013
08:29 am

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Literature

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A review of John Gray’s new book, The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Myths (interview below)

I remember reading John Gray’s epochal Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals sometime in 2004, and occasionally laughing out loud at the sheer misery and horror presented therein. Indubitably the book—one of those you’re likely to read not only without putting it down but without blinking—made an exceptional case for the human animal being frail, amoral, savage, irrational and (last but not least) collectively and individually doomed, but as such reading it felt vaguely masochistic, and reading its brilliant successors—from the happy-go-lucky Black Mass to the laugh-a-minute Al Qaeda and What it Means to Be Modern—frankly perverse (like philosophical self-flagellation). One persisted because Gray was so obviously among the finest writers alive—the nearest thing we have to a Nietzsche by a country mile.

Well as it happens, Gray’s new book, The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths is not merely an exercise in iconoclasm, and finds the author in an altogether different mood, exploring what might be advisable to the human animal whose precarious existence is compounded by an indifferent universe.

An important thing to note here is that Gray’s books were never meant to revel in pessimism, but to warn us away from reckless delusion. Were fatuous optimism harmless, then maybe we would all do well strolling about looking forward to an eternity in heaven, or, alternatively, anticipating the imminent defeat of death, as did some Bolsheviks (which Gray investigated in his last book, The Immortalization Commission). Such giddy dreams, however, tend to come at quite a frightening price, and the Inquisition or Stalin’s terror represent the respective and bloody tips of those particular icebergs.

Furthermore, although he must have savaged a few thousand modern myths in his time, Gray’s objection is not with myth per se. How else, after all, could he or we hope to grasp his work’s guiding equation—in which to attempt to impose or even seriously imagine an existence without suffering and death exponentially multiplies their influence? The myths of Prometheus or the myth Genesis, Gray suggests in The Silence of Animals, are the very medicines needed to treat those modern myths fathered by Socrates and Christ, two martyrs who chucked caution to the wind… and inspired the rest of the species to follow suit.

Now, if we subsequently see Prometheus or Genesis as being “true”—what do we mean by this? Not that they actually occurred, that’s for sure (Gray has pointed out before that it was only recently that Christians started to consider Genesis as being a literal account of human origins). But this eschewal of literalism is not necessarily an eschewal of mysticism. When we use myth as we have done here, we are trying to access something beyond language and even science—story and symbol are all we have.

For the so-called “New Atheists,” on the other hands, nothing exists you can’t just slap a word on, so their “disbelief” is a matter of having the word “God,” but not having an entity to affix it to (they’ve looked everywhere). Gray suggests an altogether more elevated position:

“Atheism does not mean rejecting ‘belief in God.’ It means giving up belief in language as anything other than a practical convenience. The world is not a creation of language, but something that – like the God of the negative theologians – escapes language. Atheism is only a stage on the way to a more far-reaching scepticism.”

The Silence of Animals is a profound exploration of this “far-reaching scepticism”—or “Godless mysticism.” It is also one of Gray’s best books. No mean feat.
 
An interview with John Gray

Thomas McGrath: John, how did you conceive of The Silence of Animals? Penguin are calling it “the successor to Straw Dogs”—was this your own conception of the book?

John Gray: I do think of The Silence of Animals as a successor to Straw Dogs, though that only became clear to me as I wrote the book. I began it as an exploration of secular myth, especially the variety in which meaning is embodied in cumulative advance in time, but it soon became an attempt to dig deeper into the themes of the earlier book—in particular the idea of contemplation. The chief difference between the two books, from my point of view, is that by presenting contemplation as correlative to a life of action. The Silence of Animals is more positive in tone.

TM: Your The Immortalization Commission is pervaded by the fascinating spectre of the subliminal self - to what extend do you feel something like this guides your own work?

JG: I wrote The Immortalization Commission for three reasons. First, to show how bizarre the history of ideas actually is—and how different from the cleaned-up version that is commonly accepted. Second, to show how the most far-fetched ideas can become an integral part of life as it’s actually lived. How many people know that Arthur Balfour entered into an imagined posthumous correspondence with someone he may have loved? How many that the embalming of Lenin was part of a larger attempt to conquer death? For the people whose stories are told in the book, overcoming death through science wasn’t just an abstract notion. Thirdly, I wanted to tell a story—two stories in fact, though they overlap and interlink—rather than just set out another argument.

Again, these reasons only became clear while writing the book, so I suppose it is true that my writing is in some degree guided by a subliminal thought-process. Maybe this is true of all writers, whether or not they recognize the fact.

TM: The Silence of Animals seems to me your least iconoclastic work. For the first time, you seem to be exploring how the individual might approach the world as it’s presented in your other books. Is this an accurate interpretation?

JG: The Silence of Animals does flow from my earlier work, and you’re right to say that it tries to show how someone who accepted the view of things presented in my other books might approach the world. I’m not sure it will be seen as less iconoclastic—those who hated my earlier work will also hate this, I’m sure, because it too refuses to take seriously the faith in action and progress that they think they live by.

TM: From The Silence of Animals: “By creating the expectation of a radical alteration in human affairs, Christianity—the religion that St Paul invented from Jesus’ life and sayings—founded the modern world.” Given that this “expectation” is the very thing you diagnose as lying behind all the Utopian mythologies you attack, to what extent do you view Christianity as a pivotal and essentially detrimental emergence in the history of humankind?

JG: I think of Christianity as being like many world-transforming movements—at once extremely harmful and highly beneficial. Either way it marks what you call a pivotal point in history. Christian myth seems to me deep and interesting, at times also beautiful, whereas the myths of its secular successors strike me as shallow, banal and ugly.

TM: This critique of Christianity’s influence on humanity resembles Nietzsche’s—especially since you see its influence as allied with Socrates’. I’m interested in your relationship to Nietzsche. It’s obvious how you differ, but was he quite formative to your worldview?

JG: Nietzsche was a gifted moral psychologist from whose writings I’ve learnt a great deal. As you can see from my response above, I don’t share his outright condemnation of Christianity. He was in fact much more confined by a Christian world-view than Schopenhauer, an early and powerful influence on him. The later Nietzsche—who became a sort of hyper-humanist—I find absurd, though still more interesting than the dull, respectable, neo-Christian humanists of today.

TM: One way you distinctly differ from Nietzsche is on the matter of morality. Indeed, in The Silence of Animals you describe slavery and torture as “universal evils.” As a reader, however, I feel I know very little about your views on ethics and morality, or the philosophical foundation for such a statement.  How would you define your moral philosophy? Do you, perhaps, have this in mind for a future work?

JG: You are right that I differ from Nietzsche in thinking there are universal evils such as slavery and torture. You’re also right that I intend to focus on ethics in future work—more specifically, I’m thinking of writing a post-Nietzschean genealogy of morals.

TM: You like telling stories about intellectuals. What events in your own life were pivotal to your worldview?

JG: I don’t think any single event has shaped my thinking. I was influenced by the collapse of communism—a development viewed by mainstream opinion as beyond the realm of reasonable probability, but which I thought quite likely from the early eighties onwards. The financial crisis of the past few years has also been formative, in that it has reinforced my view that the near future is often far more discontinuous with the present than is commonly imagined.

Posted by Thomas McGrath | Leave a comment
Nearly 1000 Injured in Meteor Explosion over Russia
02.15.2013
06:43 am

Topics:
Current Events
Environment
Science/Tech

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Fragments from a meteor explosion over the Chelyabinsk region of Russia, approximately 920 miles to the east of Moscow, injured up to 500 1000 people, as windows were shattered, tiles fell, and the roof of factory collapsed.

The meteor has been estimated to have weighed around 10 tons and its explosion lit-up the sky with a massive flash of light, leaving an enormous plume of smoke.

According to the first news reports, Vadim Kolesnikov, a spokesperson for the Russian Interior Ministry, said 102 people had called emergency services for medical assistance following the incident—mostly for multiple injuries caused by broken glass and falling objects. This figure has now risen to over 520 1000, and includes dozens of children, and 2 that are currently in intensive care.

Footage of the explosion has been variously captured by cell phones, CCTV and on-board car cameras.

View a selection of photographs at the Guardian.
 

 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
What comes into YOUR mind when you hear the word ‘Republican’?

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There is a long (10 pages) story that The New York Times Magazine published on its website today (Can the Republicans Be Saved From Obsolescence? by Robert Draper) that performs a highly informative—and often highly amusing—autopsy on just how badly the GOP fucked up the 2012 election.

There are LOL gems throughout the piece, but there’s one section that stood out for me when the author attends some focus groups in Columbus, Ohio with media-saavy G.O.P. pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson:

About an hour into the session, Anderson walked up to a whiteboard and took out a magic marker. “I’m going to write down a word, and you guys free-associate with whatever comes to mind,” she said. The first word she wrote was “Democrat.”

“Young people,” one woman called out.

“Liberal,” another said. Followed by: “Diverse.” “Bill Clinton.”“Change.”“Open-minded.”“Spending.”“Handouts.”“Green.”“More science-based.”

When Anderson then wrote “Republican,” the outburst was immediate and vehement: “Corporate greed.”“Old.”“Middle-aged white men.” “Rich.” “Religious.” “Conservative.” “Hypocritical.” “Military retirees.” “Narrow-minded.” “Rigid.” “Not progressive.” “Polarizing.” “Stuck in their ways.” “Farmers.”

That was what an all-female focus group told her. The young males in Anderson’s focus groups used terms of endearment like “racist,” “out of touch” and “hateful” to describe the Grand Old (and getting older by the day) Party.

Later that evening at a hotel bar, Anderson pored over her notes. She seemed morbidly entranced, like a homicide detective gazing into a pool of freshly spilled blood. In the previous few days, the pollster interviewed Latino voters in San Diego and young entrepreneurs in Orlando. The findings were virtually unanimous. No one could understand the G.O.P.’s hot-blooded opposition to gay marriage or its perceived affinity for invading foreign countries. Every group believed that the first place to cut spending was the defense budget. During the whiteboard drill, every focus group described Democrats as “open-minded” and Republicans as “rigid.

“There is a brand,” the 28-year-old pollster concluded of her party with clinical finality. “And it’s that we’re not in the 21st century.”

 
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Now contrast Kristen Soltis Anderson’s angle on the GOP’s problems with that of conservative Republican chucklehead House Judiciary Chairman, Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas. Smith is the guy who was pushing the “Keep Our Communities Safe Act” in 2011, something that if signed into law would have authorized the government to lock up certain illegal aliens indefinitely.

Now Smith, a longtime DREAM act opponent who is about as dumb as a bag of wet hair, is warning Republicans that “immigration is exactly the wrong subject to use to attract Hispanic support” in an editorial he penned for Politico yesterday (”5 reasons GOP should avoid immigration trap”) urging the GOP to oppose immigration reform because it would give Democrats “millions of votes”:

Does anyone really think Republicans are going to outbid Democrats on giving benefits to illegal immigrants?

And fifth, you have to be a little suspicious when liberal Democrats tell Republicans they have to support amnesty to win elections. Do Republicans really think they have the best interests of the GOP at heart?

Immigration is the field Democrats want to lure Republicans to play on. Why? Because Democrats know they’ll win.

Democrats have done the math and realize that legalization inevitably would give them millions of votes, meaning more victories in congressional and presidential elections.

No shit, dumbass. Why didn’t the GOP figure this out a long time ago? Were the results of the US census too “liberal” for their liking?

The Stupid Party strikes again. But immigration isn’t the only pile of, uh, “trap” that the Republicans have stepped in: I can’t wait to see the Republicans tie themselves tightly up in knots trying to defeat a measly increase in the minimum wage! (That was one of the sneakiest things Obama pulled on the GOP during the State of the Union address—there were several—and they fell for it hook, line and sinker).
 
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Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Dog Food: Little-known live Iggy Pop footage from 1979
02.14.2013
03:30 pm

Topics:
Music
Punk

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Iggy Pop performing “Dog Food,” “Real Cool Time” and “Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell” at The Longhorn Saloon in Minneapolis, Minnesota on November 20, 1979. From a program called Wild Tyme (where that vintage tattoo convention clip I posted earlier today also came from).

Some great interview footage with Iggy explaining why he HATES rock music (he’d rather buy drugs than records) and the self-financed New Values tour he was engaged in at the time. There’s also a record signing for fans.

This is primo Iggy. Only 68 views on YouTube? What’s that about?

Below, the actual handbill from the gig, a part of the Minnesota Historical Society’s collection:
 
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Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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