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A Menorah bong because why not?
12.22.2014
09:29 am

Topics:
Amusing
Dance

Tags:
bong menorah


 
Austin-based Grav Labs—known for the design and manufacture of high quality “scientific” glassware—created this intricate bong Menorah to make your Hanukkah experience a little, er… more festive this year? It’s a thing of beauty, no?

I noticed that no one did a weed advent calendar this year. You know, a different bud for each day counting down to Christmas. Perhaps next year, amirite?

 
Via Das Kraftfuttermischwerk

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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‘Ideal’ creator Graham Duff’s epic best albums of 2014 megapost
12.22.2014
08:42 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Graham Duff
Best of 2014


‘Graham Duff With Night Demons’ (2014).  Acrylic on canvas by Val Denham.

He’s back! Once again, we’re thrilled to present a year-end musical round-up from Graham Duff. Graham is the creator of Ideal, the cult hit dark comedy that ran for seven series on BBC Three (before some fucking idiot cancelled it). He is a well-known music fanatic and personally selected Ideal‘s eclectic soundtrack. Seen in a small role in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as a “Death Eater,” he is currently working on an Ideal feature film.


30. The Vacant Lots - Departure

The reference points are obvious; the pared back organ driven throb of Suicide and the mesmeric cyclical guitar riffs of Spacemen 3 or Loop. With their minimal lyrics and off the peg titles like “Never Satisfied” and “Do Not Leave Me Now,” it would be easy to dismiss The Vacant Lots as merely men mining an overfamiliar seam. However, at its best, their’s is a debut which burns with an iridescent light. This is a direct and uncluttered music that plugs right into the primal heart of rock and roll.
 

29. Esperik Glare, Tactile - Abyssophonics

A subtle and sympathetic collaboration between Charlie Martineau’s Esperik Glare and the multi-talented and now sadly departed John Everall AKA Tactile. The album comprises four lengthy minimal and uneasy instrumentals. “The Dweller” fizzes with elemental energy. On “The Thing In The Pit,” a nervously fluttering electronic pulse is pierced by high pitched darts of sound. Best of all is the slowly shifting “The Psychophage.” A beautifully sustained sequence of grainy washes of noise underscored by a bass tone which flickers like helicopter blades in a heat haze.
 

28. Snowbird - Moon

Former Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde teams up with Wisconsin vocalist and pianist Stephanie Dosen to fashion an album of delicate mystery.  There are numerous moments—on the spacious beauty of “All Wishes Are Ghosts,” or the bucolic “Where Foxes Hide”—which could almost be the Cocteau Twins circa Four Calendar Café. However, rather than aping Elizabeth Fraser’s gravity defying voice, Dosen’s serene tone recalls the stylings of 70s psych/folk artist Linda Perhacs and Raymonde’s luminous arrangements are more sparse and sleek than those of his previous group.  The accompanying remix album by RxGibbs opens the material out into even more intriguing vistas of sound
 

27. Cyclobe - Sulphur-Tarot-Garden

Conceived as soundtracks for three short films by Derek Jarman, this is Cyclobe’s Ossian Brown and Stephen Thrower at their most Kraut-rock inflected. Both “Sulphur” and “Garden of Luxor” bring to mind the lush textures of early Cluster, whereas the slow, opiated spiral of “Tarot” shimmers into view like a 21st century Tangerine Dream. However, Cyclobe bring so much more to their rich sonic mix. Finally seeing a general release after 2012’s strictly limited run, this is a deeply psychedelic LP. 
 

26. Then Thickens - Death Cap at Anglezarke

The oddly named Then Thickens have hit the ground running. This is an unusual debut which seems to stand apart from any genre. Songs like “Tiny Legs” and “Death Cap” meld a strong pop sensibility to an unforced strangeness. With their muscular band dynamic and lyrics which seem to be simultaneously confessional and oblique, the group they most closely resemble is the long lost Scottish band Dawn of the Replicants. It would be a shame if Then Thickens were to suffer the same lack of attention which befell that ensemble, because this is a vibrant and at times thrilling set.
 

25. People Like US - Don’t Think Right, It’s All Twice

PLU (aka Vicki Bennett) is a transformative artist. Shunning copyright laws, she deliberately samples the most familiar, over worked and banal of source material, then refashions it into something unique and uncategorizable. There’s a large dose of humour in PLU’s work—which at times approaches a kind of audio slapstick. But don’t let the comedy blind you to her razor sharp intelligence. A track like “Panic As Usual And Avoid Shopping” will make you smile even as it gives you goose bumps.
 

24. Robin Saville - Public Flowers

As one half of electronic duo Isan, Robin Saville has a sizeable catalogue of excellent albums and EPs behind him.  Here, on his first solo outing, he creates a collection of gentle electronic watercolours, where simple synth patterns blend with subtly mixed rural field recordings. “Hilary And Dave’s Piano #2” is an exquisite minimal piano piece, with sparse notes falling like jewels from a cloud of warm synth tone. Saville’s best track is probably the closing “All Fail Girl”—an optimistic spray of colour and light, where a stripped down clockwork rhythm provides the base for a blooming moss garden of melodic curlicues.
 

23. The Iceypoles - My World Was Made for You

A collection of songs which at a cursory listen could easily be dismissed as twee and cloying. But repeated exposure reveals a genuine emotional depth. This Melbourne four piece’s debut is a flawless piece of intimate, stripped down girl group indie. Songs are built from the sparest of ingredients; skeletal guitar and bass figures, snare and occasional organ.  Where the band really shine is with their warm vocal harmonies.  And yet it’s not all sweetness and light. On “Happy Birthday” there’s a breathy sensuality which takes the album in a different direction. And their version of the Twin Peaks soundtrack song “Just You” is the icing on the cake.
 

22. Scott Walker Scott Walker + Sunn O))) - Soused

As we have come to expect from both late period Walker and all period Sun O))), this is a pitch black and monolithically slow moving suite of songs. And whilst it would be great to think Walker would occasionally experiment with some brighter emotions, nobody does dread and unease quite like him. Similarly Sun O)))’s mastery of the drone and the power chord is unparalleled. “Brando” is probably the high point, with Walker’s distinctive brooding baritone weaving its own path over rich, tense slabs of noise which grind against each other creating dark sparks.
 

21. Githead - Waiting for a Sign

A polished and considered third album from Githead shows the band refining their sound. The low-slung menace of fuzz drenched opener “Not Coming Down” immediately hooks you in with its combination of art-pop and shoegaze. Yet Malka Spigel’s vocals refuse the easy blissed out vagaries of the average shoegazer for something far more pointed and personal.  The mood slides from optimistic to introspective and, as always with Githead, there are surprises to be had. “For The Place We’re In” actually has a folk-psych tinge with echoes of Family or Camel.
 

20. Morgan Delt - Morgan Delt

A lo-fi collection of pop-psych songs which boast the assured dynamics of Tame Impala and the smeary fuzzed out harmonies of early Ariel Pink. Many of Delt’s songs have an endearing Byrds-like jangle, but the Eastern phrasing of “Barbarian Kings” and the frenetic wig out of “Backwards Bird Inc.” prove there are numerous influences at play here. This is harmonious and pure hearted pop pitched into an opiated fog of effects peddles and stoned bedroom studio techniques. To his credit, Delt makes it all sound very natural and effortless and it’s easy to see how he could blossom into a major talent.
 
Read more after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Naughty but nice: Suck on these Kama Sutra-inspired lollipops (NSFW-ish)
12.22.2014
08:26 am

Topics:
Amusing
Food

Tags:
Massimo Gammacurta
Kamasugar

04kamasugar.jpg
 
If you have a taste for rude food or randy candy then you may enjoy getting your tongue around these “Kamasugar” lollipops by Italian artist and photographer Massimo Gammacurta. The lollies are inspired by erotic positions from the Kama Sutra and creator Gammacurta describes his tempting confections as “Sweet love-making,” giving each a sense of passionate frenzy by the use of color, drips and splashes.
 
03kamasugar.jpg
 
01kamasugar.jpg
 
More sweet treats, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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‘The Prisoner’ meets ‘Brazil’ in Jim Henson’s surreal Kafkaesque nightmare ‘The Cube’
12.22.2014
08:22 am

Topics:
Movies

Tags:
Jim Henson
The Cube


 
Before breaking into the big time with Sesame Street, Jim Henson was an aspiring art house weirdo who counted among his early work, Time Piece, a brilliant surrealist, Oscar-nominated short and Youth 68 a probing documentary on 60’s youth culture featuring such high profile names as The Mamas and the Papas and Jefferson Airplane. Perhaps most unexpectedly, Henson also took a crack at experimental theater (as director, co-writer and producer) with the psychologically intense teleplay The Cube, in 1969. The hour-long performance was featured on NBC Experiment in Television, and ran only a few months before Sesame Street took over his career.

The Cube centers on an unnamed man who is inexplicably trapped in a white room with a grid overlay, from which there is no obvious escape. Despite this, a nonsensical assortment of characters keep making entrances and exits, providing little to no information or sympathy for the man’s predicament, (perhaps most cynically, a holy man who bestows upon him a useless religious relic). After being subjected to a parade of increasingly surreal characters (at some point gorilla suits make an appearance—a trope also explored in Time Piece), our protagonist becomes desperate and attempts suicide.

Suddenly he is escorted from his maddening prison and in a heart-breaking attempt at solipsistic reasoning, he believes that even in this nightmare world, he knows he exists. An accidental cut with a knife however, produces only strawberry jam for blood (jam is a theme throughout the play), and the man is suddenly back in his psychological prison. Disheartened, he sits back down, apparently defeated by the Cube.

The Cube stars veteran character actor Dick Schaal, a face seen frequently on 70s television, especially shows produced by Mary Tyler Moore’s MTM production company (he was married to Rhoda‘s Valerie Harper for many years). Schaal played “Chuckles the Clown” in one of the most famous episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show—the one where she starts laughing at his funeral—and was a Second City alum. He died last month at the age of 86.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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MAD Magazine gives America the finger (40¢, Cheap), 1974
12.22.2014
06:23 am

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Media

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MAD magazine
William Gaines


 
As a lowbrow, take-on-all-comers venue for satire, MAD Magazine has trafficked in shock on a regular basis. Only on one occasion did MAD cross the line to the point that the publisher himself, the great William Gaines, decided to issue an apology to the magazine’s subscribers. The April 1974 issue dispensed with the usual iconic face of Alfred E. Neuman (who wasn’t on every cover in any case) in favor of a realistic painting of the unmistakable hand gesture denoting, in aviary fashion, “Wyncha go fuck yourself?” The headline read, “The Number One Ecch Magazine.” (“Disgusting” in MAD parlance, see also “blecch” and “yecch”.)

In any case, confronted with the option of placing an upraised middle finger on their shelves, many newsstands refused. Gaines decided that the newsstands and the many, many offended readers had a point and sent out “hundreds and hundreds” of apology letters. (Does anyone out there reading this have one of those letters?) For some readers it was a watershed moment, and they would never return to reading the magazine. MAD obviously survived, but it was a tough moment for the magazine.
 

MAD publisher William Gaines
 
Maybe they were looking to offend some people—just three issues earlier, in MAD 163, the cover declared, graffiti-style, “MAD Is a Four-Letter Word!” Gaines would later imply that the “usual gang of idiots” had come up with the idea of the cover and that he wasn’t that into it, but it seems like a quintessentially Gainesian move from the man who successfully defended First Amendment issues when he withstood the withering scrutiny of the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency in 1954 and insisted that the definition of “bad taste” for a horror comic might be a cover in which “a man with a bloody axe holding a woman’s head up” was holding the head “a little higher so that the neck could be seen dripping blood from it, and moving the body over a little further so that the neck of the body could be seen to be bloody.” (See here for more of his testimony, including the images he discusses in detail.)

According to TV.com, “The magazine itself was pulled and returned/destroyed from many newsstands and is now a hard-to-find collector’s item.” (True enough, it’s available for $50 on Amazon as I write this, although on eBay you can pay for less for one, it looks like. Awesomely, an uncut cover sheet for that issue sold for $40 just a couple of weeks ago.) As a user on the Collectors Society forum put it, “Many parents were P.O.‘ed and either complained or just canceled their subscriptions. William Gaines ended up sending out a letter to all subscribers in which he apologized for the breach of good taste—probably the first time Gaines has ever done such a thing.”

In an interview in the May 1983 edition of The Comics Journal, Gaines discussed the incident:
 

Dwight Decker: Do you feel you might have been isolated in New York, putting out the comic books [meaning the “Vault of Horror”-style comics in the 1950s], that you couldn’t really judge the reactions of the people in Oshkosh?
William Gaines: Definitely. And this is still true with MAD. We put out an issue, oh, maybe 89 years ago now, which is what we called “the finger issue,” which was, “MAD is number one,” [giving the finger] and holy Moses! The guys called me into a cover conference to look at the thing, and I said, “That’s okay. It’s not too funny, but it’s all right.” And we put it out and the roof fell in. And I was sitting here sending out apology letters by the hundreds and hundreds to people all over the country—from Oshkosh. ...
Decker: A friend of mine just told me the other day—he lives in Connecticut—he hasn’t read an issue of MAD since that issue.
Gaines: That issue so offended him?
Decker: Yes.
Gaines: Incredible. To me it’s incredible but there’s no question that a lot of people felt that way.

 
Here’s Gaines on Canadian TV in 1977 discussing another occasion when MAD got some flak from a very different corner of the world:
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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At long last, Paul Stanley’s ridiculous Folgers coffee commercial surfaces
12.21.2014
12:39 pm

Topics:
Advertising
Drugs
Food
Music

Tags:
KISS
Paul Stanley
coffee


 
In 2000 Paul Stanley taped a commercial for Folgers coffee that never made it to air—it’s been hotly sought after for video scavengers ever since. Audio of the commercial has been on YouTube since 2008, but not the video. Yesterday, a YouTube user named John DiMaggio uploaded it for all to see. It’s a bizarre commercial set in a big top circus tent that doesn’t play to Stanley’s delirious, voluble strengths—in other words, why is Paul Stanley in this commercial and not Paul Williams? No reason that I can see.

The same year that he shot the commercial, Stanley discussed the commercial in an interview: “Life is strange. I got a call asking if I was interested in singing a Folgers commercial. And, like many other things, I thought, ‘Why not?’ I wasn’t at all concerned with who thinks it is okay or not okay, cool, not cool, rock ‘n’ roll or not. I had a blast doing it, and, like I said, isn’t that what this is all about?”

The word (as related by John DiMaggio) is that “focus groups asked ‘who is the old, creepy guy?’ and the agency pulled it.” Seems plausible enough. The soft-focus business with the trapeze artists reminds me of nothing so much as a Cialis commercial.
 

 
via Ultimate Classic Rock/Thank you Annie Zaleski!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Goofy young Trent Reznor plays a Billy Idol song in his early 80s ‘New Wave’ cover band
12.20.2014
10:34 am

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Music

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Trent Reznor


 
Who’s this fresh-faced New Waver with the asymmetric poodle hairdo? (Hint: It’s not one of the Thompson Twins).

Nope, it’s future Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor back in the early 1980s playing and singing a cover of Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face” with his Cleveland, OH bandmates in “The Urge.”

Both astonishing and completely ridiculous.
 

 
And there is more where that came from…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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YES. There’s a mashup of the Notorious B.I.G. and the ‘Serial’ theme song
12.19.2014
11:17 am

Topics:
Crime
Hip-hop
Media
Music

Tags:
Notorious B.I.G.
Serial


 
The success of the This American Life spinoff podcast Serial, which in Season 1 has been looking at the facts surrounding the incarceration of Adnan Masud Syed for the murder of a former girlfriend named Hae-Min Lee, has been a major story in the world of podcasting. It’s been a #1 in the iTunes store for weeks, and if you’re a loyal This American Life listener, you’ve probably been gushing about the case with your friends since the podcast’s inception. As viewers of HBO and AMC have learned of late, the pleasures of the serial form of story-telling can be profound, something the consumers of The Perils of Pauline, Fantômas, and the death of Little Nell decades or centuries ago didn’t need to be told.

To honor a show obsessed with murder, New York-based producer Fafu decided that the thing to do was to mash up the tinkly Serial theme song (composed by Nicholas Thorburn, available here) with something a bit heavier—the Notorious B.I.G. track “Somebody Gotta Die.”

Face it—listening to a murder case week after week has made you feel like a gangsta—now you have a soundtrack to match.
 

 
via Huh.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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The Dangerous Minds last-minute shopping guide for rock snobs, audiophiles & culture vultures
12.19.2014
10:03 am

Topics:
Pop Culture

Tags:
Christmas


 
Every year I try to compile a list of the stuff that I’d be happy to get if I didn’t already have it. I’m a difficult person to buy for—I edit a popular blog, so people send me free stuff every single day. Truly I want for nothing when it comes to pop culture products, so I think this list might actually be useful if you’ve got someone infuriatingly difficult to buy for on your Christmas list…

Books

My Lunches with Orson: Conversations between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles (edited by Peter Biskind) One of the best books I’ve read all year, one of the best books I’ve read period, My Lunches with Orson is a delight from cover to cover. Bitchy, gossipy, profound, funny, wise, egotistical, self-doubting—this book—culled from transcripts of dozens of hours of tapes—probably represents the final great trove of undiscovered Wellesiana. I pray for a sequel and an audiobook version!

The Graphic Art of the Underground: A Countercultural History (Bloomsbury) Ian Lowey and Suzy Prince’s book takes an ambitious survey through the decades of the underground press, psychedelic poster art, punk graphics, album covers, “lowbrow” pop surrealism, the work of Jamie Reid, R. Crumb, Linder Sterling, Winston Smith, Gee Vaucher and more, legitimizing rebel visions and putting them in their proper historical context.
 
 

Conspiracy theories 101: Two great books from Feral House that I could not put down this year were The Essential Mae Brussell: Investigations of Fascism in America, a reader of the written work of the mother of all conspiracy theorists, Mae Brussell (she was normally a radio broadcaster in the 70s and 80s, do a search for her on YouTube and it’ll send you down a rabbit hole from which you will take months to return from) and Caught in the Crossfire: Kerry Thornley, Oswald and the Garrison Investigation by Adam Gorightly about the man who was Lee Harvey Oswald’s one time army buddy as well as being the co-founder of the joke religion of Discordianism popularized by Robert Anton Wilson. I was already a huge fan of Gorightly’s earlier Thornley bio, The Prankster and the Conspiracy and this expanded book really sucked me in with its twisted plot. Wait, plot? This is a biography!

Original Art

Cal Schenkel’s amazingly cheap art sale: Long associated with Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, American artist Cal Schenkel has created some of the most striking, freaky and enduringly classic images ever seen on album covers. I’m a big admirer of his work and I was floored to find out how inexpensive his prints—and even his paintings—are going for on his site. Any Zappa or Beefheart nuts in your life? They will love you long time for a piece of art from the great Cal Schenkel!

Music

Speaking of Beefheart, there’s also Sun, Zoom, Spark: 1970 to 1972—this excellent new box set collects the Magic Band’s classic early 70s albums Lick My Decals Off, Baby, The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot along with a fourth CD of primo, never before heard out-takes. The sound quality of this is exquisite and at long last there’s a version of Clear Spot on CD that doesn’t cut off the last part of the “long lunar note” at the end of “Big Eyed Beans from Venus.” Sacrilege!

If you haven’t noticed—and it would be easy not to, because the format isn’t showing up in many retail outlets yet, mostly just Amazon—over the course of the past two years UMe, the catalog division of Universal Music Group that puts out all of those “super deluxe” sets of classic albums, has started releasing high definition Blu-ray “Pure Audio” discs. These BD discs should be considered as close to the master tape, as heard in the recording studio, as is possible to recreate and experience in your own home. In terms of their HD-DTS Master Audio or Dolby TrueHD tracks, it’s probably not possible to give any more definition to a digital audio signal and expect the human ear to be able to detect it.

So far UMe’s roster of “High Fidelity Blu-ray Pure Audio” discs includes stalwart titles like Nirvana’s Nevermind and In Utero, Supertramp’s Breakfast in America, Miles Davis’ soundtrack album for Louis Malle’s L’Ascenseur Pour L’Echafaud, White Light/White Heat and The Velvet Underground & Nico, Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key of Life, Derek & The Dominos’ Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, the fifty song Rolling Stones GRRR! comp, Let It Bleed, and Exile On Main St., Ella & Louis, I Put A Spell On You by Nina Simone, Selling England By The Pound by Genesis, John Lennon’s Imagine, Queen’s A Night At The Opera, Grace Jones’ Nightclubbing, Serge Gainsbourg’s Histoire De Melody Nelson and a handful of jazz and classical offerings, about fifty in all. 5.1 surround mixes of The Who’s Quadrophenia and an expanded version of the Legend collection of Bob Marley’s greatest hits came out this summer via UMe and the label also released a three BD set of three complete 1970 Allman Brothers concerts at the Fillmore East.

The UMe BD releases, especially the ones with 5.1 surround mixes (which sadly ain’t all of ‘em) are nothing short of stunning. The two best that I’ve heard, in terms of their audiophile ability to knock your socks off are Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (you can actually hear the sound of his foot on the pedal of his grand piano) and Beck’s Sea Change (I normally don’t care about Beck, but this album is the first thing I grab to demonstrate the possibilities of high resolution surround sound.)

Another audiophile Blu-ray release of 2014 that was in the “speed rack” next to the stereo for most of the year is Rhino’s CSNY 1974 box set of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s mid-70s stadium tour. Graham Nash personally supervised the mix and it sounds phenomenal. The performances are great, too. It’s so good that the first time I put it on, I listened to the entire thing in one sitting (it’s three hours long) and then when it was done, started it over again and played it all the way through a second time.

It’s a late entry, but the third installment of UME’s stellar Velvet Underground sets The Velvet Underground - 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition is another winner, in fact, as great as the first two have been, I rate this one the highest due to the inclusion of the sparkling live material from the Matrix (which was even recorded in multitrack making it arguably the very best sounding live VU set we have.) The 64-track, six-CD package is housed in a hardback book and features several 1969 recordings that were supposed to be for the band’s fourth album, but that ended up rerecorded on Loaded and Lou Reed’s first two solo albums. Those same numbers came out in the 1980s on VU and Another View, but they sounded weak and this release greatly improves upon them.

William S. Burroughs-related

This year, the centennial of his birth, saw continuing fascination with the life and work of William S. Burroughs. I recently finished reading Barry Miles’ exhaustive Call Me Burroughs: A Life, which is, and is likely to remain, the single best WSB biography. It’s 635 pages with extensive endnotes. Another Burroughs biography of a decidedly more narrow scope than Miles’ 635 page book that I also enjoyed reading in 2014 is Scientologist!: William S. Burroughs and the ‘Weird Cult’ by David S. Willis. This book covers—in scholarly detail—Burroughs fascination with Scientology. Although it is widely known that the author was at one time Scientology’s #1 enemy, writing scathing criticisms in the underground press and men’s magazines, what is less known and understood is how deeply into the ideas of L. Ron Hubbard he really was. And for quite a while, too. Sets the record straight. Burroughs was a “Clear”!

Additionally, one of the most exciting developments in Burroughs scholarship in recent years is represented by the two books by Malcolm McNeil, his close collaborator on Ah Pook is Here, an ambitious graphic novel project from the early 70s that would never see the light of day. McNeil’s Observed While Falling: Bill Burroughs, Ah Pook, and Me is the memoir part of what amounts to a two volume set, while The Lost Art of Ah Pook Is Here is a large, glossy coffee table book collecting the gorgeous finished art and sketches of the project. No fan of WSB, unusual art or a compelling narrative (McNeil is a very good writer) will be unhappy with getting these books from you, but you should gift them both as they really go together.

Give the gift of binge watching: “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman!”


Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman: The Complete Series (Shout Factory) I received this last year and I am now about 2/3 of the way through it. If I only got the MH, MH box set (38 DVDs, 325 episodes, plus ten episodes of Fernwood 2Night with Martin Mull and Fred Willard) in 2013, it would still would have been my best Christmas ever. It is astonishing how well this show has aged, and just how far ahead of its time the humor was, too. In a longer post about Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, I said that this long lost, fondly-recalled series was arriving just in time for the binge watching generation and I am still enjoying it immensely over a year later. In a category of its own.

$$$$ (These next items are “big gifts” and would only be appropriate for someone who you really, really like)

The Complete Zap Comix box set. There is no way, none, that this hefty (23 lbs!) box set of the classic underground comic would fail to impress your loved one. Showcased in five sturdy volumes housed in an oversized box, the classic work of Robert Crumb, S. Clay Wilson, Robert Williams, “Spain” Rodriguez, Gilbert Shelton, Victor Moscoso, Rick Griffin and Paul Mavrides has never looked better and has been cleaned up nicely for this high quality publication. It even comes with beautiful lithographs of every Zap cover in a special portfolio. I’ve reviewed this beauty at length here, so I will send you there for more information. My favorite thing of the year, hands down.
 



 
This one is pricey, but it’s worth it: the OPPO BDP-105D Universal Audiophile 3D Blu-ray Player Darbee Edition, the Swiss army knife of fine sound and vision. Forget about how amazing it sounds (and looks—it does 4k upscaling on the video) and the quality of the build—like an Apple product—I find this player especially useful for music on USB drives. If you’ve got a lot of high quality digital music, this player will change your life. It’s got all sorts of bells and whistles that make getting something like this on Christmas day comparable to getting an entirely new record collection, because every single thing you own is going to sound better played on it. Even some vinyl die-hards are coming around to digital when it sounds as good as it does coming out of the OPPO BDP-105D Universal Audiophile 3D Blu-ray Player Darbee Edition. (Read the top reviewer, you’ll be salivating over this thing. It’s what convinced me to pull the trigger.)
 

 
Pioneer put out a line of low cost speakers designed by their chief speaker engineer Andrew Jones, a man known for making speakers that sell for $70k and now audiophile who can afford speakers that expensive find themselves preferring these popular boxes. Jones set himself the challenge to make the best possible speaker for the lowest possible price utilizing Pioneer’s vast resources, bulk purchasing power and production chain. The result is that the various models in the line of Andrew Jones Designed speakers have absolutely mind-blowing sound for a fraction of what it normally costs to buy sound gear this crazy good. A pair of Jones’ bookshelf speakers—perhaps the best smaller speakers I have ever heard—cost just $125. Two of the towers will set you back $260, but the sound is pretty priceless if you ask me.

And finally, another item from last year that’s returning to this year’s: Dangerous Minds pal Alexander Rosson is the CEO and chief scientist/inventor behind the high end Audeze headphone line. The brand has been given every audiophile award under the sun in 2014. I describe them as being a bit like having tiny Magneplanars strapped to your head.. While Audeze headphones are certainly not cheap, it could be argued that for someone who aspires to own a $20,000 dollar stereo, but will never be able to afford it, these puppies are actually quite a bargain and built for a lifetime of use. The Audeze cans are featherlight and covered in supersoft leather. If Audeze are the Bentley of headphones, then Beats would be like… the Pinto.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Punk rock is coming for your children! Arrogant talk show host blows an easy one


 
The alarmist punk-rock-is-coming-for-your-children episode of everywhere’s local talk show was practically a genre unto itself around 1980. They typically followed a template: a safe, comfortable, grinning suburbanite moderator projects his or her values onto a movement s/he doesn’t understand at all, and expects a handful of alienated, hobo-looking kids that the producer dug up somewhere to represent punk as a whole, as though a couple of random petulant runaways should shoulder the responsibility of justifying the existence of a broad international musical and cultural movement. On better shows, they found bright kids, and the hosts at least made an effort at understanding the new weirdness, instead of just hectoring their guests about their negativity, as though all art was invalid unless it existed solely to entertain them personally.

This is not one of the better shows.
 

 
Stanley Siegel was an interviewer of some repute, who fancied himself audacious and uncompromising, but was often really just kind of a showboating dick. In one infamous episode, Siegel physically restrained Timothy Leary before sandbagging him with a surprise phone call from Art Linkletter, who blamed LSD, and by extension, Leary, for his daughter’s suicide. So yeah, THAT kind of showboating dick. On his obligatory punk rock scold show (IS IT A DEATH TRIP OR A RITE OF PASSAGE?), he managed to book credible guests and proceeded to treat them with amazing condescension. In addition to the usual few aimless kids, Siegel landed Penelope Spheeris, director of the canonical L.A. punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, and artist Gary Panter, whose logo for the band Screamers is such an elemental piece of punk art that it’s probably much better-remembered than the band itself. He’d become even better known as a cartoonist for RAW and as the set designer for Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.

Spheeris, right out of the gate, is just not having any of Siegel. At first it seems like she’s trying a little too hard to affect disaffection, but soon enough, what looked at first like brazen posturing (“I’d like to be a hooker?” Really?) becomes more than justified by Siegel’s smug, curt patronization. Real quote: “This woman actually produced and directed a film!” Spheeris would go on to make the cult classic Suburbia and the mainstream classic Wayne’s World, and is still directing. Not sure Siegel’s career was quite so storied, but whatever. It’s all pretty eminently watchable.
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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