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Germaine Greer vs. Diane Arbus: ‘If she had been a man, I’d have kicked her in the balls’

Though Diane Arbus was famed for her photographs of “deviant and marginal” people “whose normality seems ugly or surreal,” she did not want to be thought solely as a photographer of freaks. This in part may explain why Arbus accepted a commission to take a portrait photograph of Germaine Greer for the publication New Woman. Unless, of course, the magazine’s editors thought there was something freakish about the Antipodean academic, journalist and feminist?

On a hot summer’s day in 1971, Arbus arrived to photograph Greer at the Chelsea Hotel. Greer was on tour with her book The Female Eunuch and had most recently taken part in an infamous head-to-head with Norman Mailer at New York City’s Town Hall. Seeing the diminutive photographer was overly laden with equipment, Greer helped Arbus up to her hotel suite.

Greer may have been showing consideration to the photographer, but the session soon turned into a battle of wills as Arbus ordered the Greer around the room, telling her to lie on the bed, and then straddling her as she snapped away. Greer later related meeting with Arbus to the photographer’s biographer Patricia Bosworth:

It developed into a sort of duel between us, because I resisted being photographed like that—close up with all my pores and lines showing!! She kept asking me all sorts of personal questions, and I became aware that she would only shoot when my face was showing tension or concern or boredom or annoyance (and there was plenty of that, let me tell you), but because she was a woman I didn’t tell her to fuck off. If she had been a man, I’d have kicked her in the balls.

Unable to deliver a telling kick, Greer opted not to co-operate.

‘I decided “Damn it, you’re not going to do this to me, lady. I’m not going to be photographed like one of your grotesque freaks!”  So I stiffened my face like a mask.

Greer would later claim the duel with Arbus as a draw, but as Howard Sounes noted in his superlative cultural biography of the Seventies:

The editors at New Woman evidently thought Greer vs. Arbus had resulted in defeat for the photographer, for her pictures were never used in the magazine. In a letter to [her husband] Allan, Diane discussed her attitude to the shoot, perhaps revealing her approach to her subjects generally. She wrote that she had liked Germaine Greer personally, considering her to be ‘fun and terrific looking…’ Nevertheless she went out of her way to depict her in an unflattering light. As she said, ‘I managed to managed to make otherwise.’

The picture from the session, printed posthumously as ‘Feminist in her hotel room, NYC, 1971’, is in fact fascinating, not least because in close-up, Greer’s neatly plucked and re-applied eyebrows more than a passing resemblance to the transvestite in curlers Arbus photographed back in 1966.

Arbus was not best suited to working as a freelance photographer—the hours spent pitching ideas that often came to nothing, or struggling to earn agreed fees from indifferent publishing houses to maintain her independence, caused her deep depression. Taking fashionable portraits of celebrity figures was hardly the work for an artist photographer who believed:

A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Soviet posters warn soldiers and civilians not to leak state secrets
01:06 pm


Soviet propaganda

“In a letter home, look, you do not accidentally become loose military secrets.” (1954) Because in Soviet Russia, a gossip-goblin lay in wait at ever window, hoping to disseminate classified information from soldier’s correspondence.
Calls for civic discretion during wartime have always been a rich source of propaganda. “Loose lips sink ships” is the classic American slogan, and the British “Keep mum,” feels appropriately prissy for our allies across the pond. I recently learned that the Swedes promoted the punny “en svensk tiger” during World War 2 (“tiger” meaning both “tiger” and “silent”), but no one quite does discipline like the Germans, who went with, “Schäm Dich, Schwätzer!” meaning “Shame on you, blabbermouth!”

My theory is that these axioms are intended more to foster xenophobia and suspicion than the protect actual state secrets. Most rank-and-file military don’t even have access to sensitive information. Even in the field, their communications are heavily monitored and most soldiers are kept on a need-to-know basis, so the likelihood of soldiers leaking even so much as a location is very low. As for civilians, well, I’ve never had access to anything “sensitive”—but perhaps my garrulous reputation precedes me? 

“Do not talk! Strictly keep the military and state secrets” (1958)

“Be watchful and vigilant!” (1951)
More Soviet posters after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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‘The Kate Bush Story: Running Up That Hill’: Watch the new BBC documentary
12:10 pm


Kate Bush

Although it’s front page news everywhere in the United Kingdom today, there wasn’t much mention here of Kate Bush’s return to the concert stage last night in London after a 35 year absence. I suppose that makes sense, as she is one of England’s greatest living musicians, but I still thought it would get a little bit more play here in the States. I think we’ve got our own fair share of Kate Bush fanatics.

What’s worth remarking about, I thought, was how The Telegraph’s reviewer decided to allude, not subtlly at all, to the 56-year-old’s weight in the subtitle of their review (”Singer defies weight of expectation on her comeback live performance to thrill audience with her theatrical imagination and undiminished voice”) and then DO IT AGAIN in the opening sentence (”The weight of anticipation bearing down on Kate Bush’s 5ft 2inch frame ahead of her opening night must have been near unbearable.”) Coincidence?

What’s unbearable is this… shitty prose.

Who does the Telegraph’s Bernadette McNulty think she is to write about the great Kate Bush in this manner? Even if her review is, overall, a positive-ish one, I will admit to a sleepy, pissed off, lemon-faced reaction when I read that this morning. What sort of fucking idiot writes such a thing about a major artist, revered the world over, returning to the concert stage after decades and thinks that they’re being clever? And coming from a female journalist, yet? LAME. Whether Bush is dressed in a leotard or a kaftan, McNulty isn’t of sufficient stature to kiss the hem of either…

Thankfully, The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis was there and offered up something more intelligent than McNulty could muster:

Over the course of nearly three hours, Kate Bush’s first gig for 35 years variously features dancers in lifejackets attacking the stage with axes and chainsaws; a giant machine that hovers above the auditorium, belching out dry ice and shining spotlights on the audience; giant paper aeroplanes; a surprisingly lengthy rumination on sausages, vast billowing sheets manipulated to represent waves, Bush’s 16-year-old son Bertie - clad as a 19th-century artist – telling a wooden mannequin to “piss off” and the singer herself being borne through the audience by dancers clad in costumes based on fish skeletons.

The concert-goer who desires a stripped down rock and roll experience, devoid of theatrical folderol, is thus advised that Before the Dawn is probably not the show for them, but it is perhaps worth noting that even before Bush takes the stage with her dancers and props, a curious sense of unreality hangs over the crowd. It’s an atmosphere noticeably different than at any other concert, but then again, this is a gig unlike any other, and not merely because the very idea of Bush returning to live performance was pretty unimaginable 12 months ago.

He goes on to say that the likes of Bush’s “Before the Dawn” theatrical spectacle hasn’t been seen since Pink Floyd toured The Wall. The concert includes helicopters, skits and a video of Bush seen floating in a sensory deprivation tank.

In anticipation of Bush’s shows at the Hammersmith Apollo, the BBC recently aired The Kate Bush Story: Running Up That Hill, a portrait of the enigmatic artist with comments from St. Vincent, Big Boi, John Lydon, Elton John, Peter Gabriel, David Gilmour, Tricky, Neil Gaiman, Stephen Fry, Viv Albertine and others. Of particular interest is Elton John’s anecdote about how when Kate Bush came to his civil partnership ceremony with David Furnish, even in a room full up with hundreds of famous people, they all wanted to meet her.

Don’t expect to see much footage of the 22 London shows surfacing on YouTube. Bush is asking all concert attendees to turn their phones off.

“I have a request for all of you who are coming to the shows,” she wrote on her site last week:

“We have purposefully chosen an intimate theatre setting rather than a large venue or stadium. It would mean a great deal to me if you would please refrain from taking photos or filming during the shows. I very much want to have contact with you as an audience, not with iphones, ipads or cameras. I know it’s a lot to ask but it would allow us to all share in the experience together.”

Anyone dumb enough to pull out their iPhone is likely to be kicked to death by rabid Kate Bush fans. [Nope, I stand corrected, someone did and lived to tell, or at least sell it to Gawker.]

Thank you to DM’s editor-at-large Marc Campbell for sending me this one!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Tape Decks: VHS-themed skate decks
11:34 am


VHS tape
skate decks

I’m digging on these skate decks paying homage to 80s and 90s VHS cassette packaging. NYC-based skate­board com­pany 5BORO is selling these puppies and you check out the whole collection here. They’re reasonably priced at $49.99.

via Nerdcore

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Behind-the-scenes of the ‘Star Wars’ Cantina bar set
10:25 am


Star Wars

Raiders of the Lost Tumblr has turned up a trove of behind-the-scenes shots of sets, models, sketches and costumes from Star Wars’ ultra seedy and memorable Mos Eisley Cantina scene. If you’re one of the very, very few living hominids who hasn’t seen the film, that scene was notable for showcasing an abundance of admirably insane character design, which served to underscore the impending over-the-rainbow life change awaiting the film’s naive farmboy hero.

The diversity of species on display even inspired a literary anthology of short stories starring characters from the scene, some of whom appear onscreen for all of two seconds. Sci-fi geeks, I doff my cap to you; you are a breed apart. The scene also boasted some darkly lunatic but indelibly catchy jazz, and served as the setting for the world’s introduction to Han Solo. No insipid “who shot first” debates here, please. It was Han. STFU, George, we have proof below.








It’s a worthwhile trivia tangent to note that a hell of a lot of these characters were designed by Ron Cobb (seriously cool design and illustration gallery at that link, I urge you not to skip it). Though he’s probably best known as an editorial cartoonist—in fact, I credit him with the creation of one of the single most powerful and durable images in the long history of that form, the man searching for a place to plug in his broken TV set in a post apocalyptic landscape, reproduced below—Cobb played a large role in the design of the films Dark Star and Alien. He’s also the creator of that wonderfully shambolic psychedelic aircraft on the cover of The Jefferson Airplane’s After Bathing at Baxter’s.






While you’re here, check out this early rough cut of the Cantina scene. This was once findable on the now long out-of-print Star Wars: Behind the Magic, a 1998 CD-ROM. Yes, CD-ROM.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
C-3PO rapping, but don’t worry, your childhood was already dead
12-hour ambient music pieces from ‘Blade Runner,’ ‘Alien,’ ‘Doctor Who,’ and ‘Star Wars’
Alec Guinness, a.k.a. Obi Wan Kenobi, kind of hated ‘Star Wars’
Behind-the-scenes photos of prototype Boba Fett costume, 1978

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Is this old Betty Crocker commercial the reason everyone hates the word ‘moist’?
09:51 am



Apparently “moist” is the most hated word in the English language. Period.

University of Pennsylvania linguistics professor Mark Liberman explained to Good why we hate “moist” and that:

“[W]ord aversion is different from word rage, which is “where people get angry at jargon or slang associated with a despised group, or upset because a word or phrase is felt to be incorrectly used, or annoyed at language that they perceive as redundant, or overly complicated, or pretentious, or a cliché, or trendy, or politically incorrect.” That kind of dislike is more common. Grudges against irregardless, synergy, like, don’t go there, or retard fit comfortably in the word rage department.

The word itself has an association making it unpleasant or even disgusting for some people. People don’t like hearing “moist.” They also don’t like the way their own mouth feels when they say it. It seems like a mysterious psychological process at play here, but is it really?

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and point my finger directly at Betty Crocker (I’m looking at YOU, Betty!) and its “Moist Cake Mix Commercial” for officially ruining the word “moist.” You want a smoking gun? Here it is!

See how long you can sit through this commercial without wanting to punch a hole in the wall!

h/t Todd Phillips!

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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The Suicide Commandos make a music video in front of their own burning house, 1977
08:58 am


Suicide Commandos

DEVO fans take note: Chuck Statler, the director of the spuds’ “The Truth about De-Evolution,” “Come Back Jonee” and “Satisfaction” videos, also made this 1977 video for the Suicide Commandos’ “Burn It Down.” It’s a simple song with a memorable message, namely that you should set fire to anything you don’t like.

The video, Statler’s second, captured the band playing “Burn It Down” on the street as the condemned house where they lived and practiced burned to the ground behind them. (Statler hired drunks from a Twin Cities unemployment line to bowl in DEVO’s “Come Back Jonee” video, and he seems to have used a similar casting technique for the beginning and end of this one, in which local folks wearing fire helmets take turns slurring the band’s name.)

The Suicide Commandos “Burn It Down”
Now legendary, the Suicide Commandos were a Minneapolis power trio comprising singer and guitarist Chris Osgood (also Bob Mould’s guitar teacher), bassist Steve Almaas and drummer Dave Ahl. Their debut album, The Suicide Commandos Make a Record, was the second and final release on Mercury Records’ Midwestern punk imprint, Blank Records, which perished because its roster was too good for this wicked world. Pere Ubu’s The Modern Dance had been the first Blank release, and the Bizarros’ debut LP was to have been the third.

“Chuck Statler made the video of our house which got condemned because it had no heat or running water,” Osgood told Minnesota Public Radio in 2012. Band members would walk down the street from “Utopia House” to a tennis club to shower. “It was October of ‘77 when Utopia House got burned down, and we knew that it was going to be demolished, or going to be burned [and used as] fire department practice. So I wrote ‘Burn It Down’ so that that could happen, and we had the idea of playing in front of our house as it burned down, ‘cause Chuck Statler had made a little musical movie with a band called DEVO from Akron, and there you go.”

The Suicide Commandos Commit Suicide Dance Concert, the Suicide Commandos’ equivalent of The Last Waltz, was the first LP released by Minneapolis’s Twin/Tone label. Improbably, their music was actually used for a Target commercial in 2004.

Hüsker Dü fans take note: here’s one of the Commandos’ best songs, “Complicated Fun,” from the Twin/Tone compilation Big Hits of Mid-America Volume III. Hear anything familiar?

The Suicide Commandos “Complicated Fun”

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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‘Tase me, bro!’: Portraits of people getting tased—but by a loved one
08:10 am


Patrick Hall

Patrick Hall, Charleston-based photographer and founder of fstoppers, recently posted the fruits of a strange and delightful photo shoot in which “each person was tazed by their friend or significant other.” As Hall writes in his project description, “The emotions on both sides of the taser were extremely entertaining to watch. The person getting tazed was almost always nervous and jittery with either a sense of fear or anxiety. The participants doing the tazing had a different demeanor altogether. Most of them were excited to cause pain to their friend and only showed remorse immediately after executing the shock.” 

The video at bottom, which shows some of the tasing in slow motion, is wildly entertaining. There’s a surprising amount of mirth in the video, which is surely part of Hall’s point, about the deflecting need to veer into humor when something unpleasant is going on.









via designboom

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘Breaking Bad,’ the Opera
07:56 am


Breaking Bad

Just a couple nights ago, Breaking Bad beat out True Detective, Mad Men, and Game of Thrones to win the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series for the second year in a row. Breaking Bad had a great night, picking up three acting awards and a writing award as well. The glorious and gut-wrenching fifth and final season, which came to an end last September 29, was an authentic cultural phenomenon, which the pile of Emmys merely confirmed.

One relatively unexpected product of Season 5 is an actual operatic adaptation of Breaking Bad. The composer, Sung Jin Hong, also the artistic director of One World Symphony, was so inspired by the series that he wrote the entirety of “Breaking Bad—Ozymandias” in the four or so months between the end of the series and its premiere in New York on January 26, 2014. “Ozymandias” is the title of the 14th episode of Season 5, and is a reference to Percy Bysshe Shelley’s 1818 sonnet of the same name, which touches on the fleeting nature of empire.

Sung Jin Hong was urged by his sister to watch “the best show ever” (she’s certainly not alone in this judgment), and before he knew it, the show had become “an addiction.” As Sung Jin Hong says, “The eureka moment probably occurred after I explored and exhausted many possibilities. I had been sketching for almost a month and had not committed to a motif or rhythm. After a long morning run in early November in Prospect Park, I felt as if I could hear my heart beating. I immediately committed to elaborating on what has become the Heisenberg chord and his rhythmic heartbeat in my composition.”

As with the series itself, one of the more attention-getting aspects of the opera has been the character Jesse Pinkman’s propensity for using the word bitch in conversation. “Breaking Bad—Ozymandias” features a “Bitch Aria” that requires significant audience participation (see video below). The opera was performed twice on January 26 & 27, 2014, at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Chelsea in Manhattan. The two performances required the use of folding chairs to accommodate demand, and the reviews appear to have been very positive.

On this page are two snippets of songs from the opera in a format that we unfortunately cannot embed here. The first song is called “The Moment,” and was inspired by “Fly,” episode 10 of Season 3. Here are a few lines from it:

That was the moment
that night
I should have never left home
Maybe things would have…
I was at home watching tv
Skyler and Holly were in another room
She was singing a lullaby
If I had just lived right up to that moment and not one second more
That would have been perfect

Soprano Dorothy Smith Jacobs, who played the part of Jane, Jesse’s drug-addicted friend from Season 2, said, “I think there is a need for operas to be 2014 scandalous, not 18th-century scandalous, while never ever sacrificing musical integrity.”

Perhaps emboldened by the success of “Breaking Bad—Ozymandias,” Sung Jin Hong has chosen as the inspiration for his next work another televised embodiment of pure evil: Hannibal Lecter.

“Bitch Aria”

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Anarchy in Paris: Métal Urbain, classic French punk rock group
09:39 pm


Métal Urbain

Métal Urbain were Francophone contemporaries of the Sex Pistols and The Clash. Formed in 1976 by Clode Panik, Hermann Schwartz, Pat Luger and Eric Debris, the French punk rock group’s harsh and noisy sound replaced the rhythm section with a synthesizer and drum machine. Sonically, they came across as aggressive—if not more so—as their English or American counterparts with the exception of maybe Suicide or The Screamers. Lead singer Clode Panik sounds a bit like a French version of The Fall’s Mark E. Smith.

The group’s second single, “Paris Maquis” was Rough Trade’s very first record release and John Peel showed his support on his BBC 1 Radio show, going so far as to record a “Peel Session” with them. Sadly they never really made it and broke up in 1979 as there was no appreciable French punk scene to begin with and the media in their home country just couldn’t be bothered with them. Métal Urbain’s distinctively raw guitar sound is said to have had an influence on Big Black’s Steve Albini and The Jesus and Mary Chain.

Métal Urbain reformed in 2003 and toured the US. The New York-based Acute label compiled Anarchy in Paris! that year gathering up their complete output during the life of the band with a few outtakes and alternate versions. In 2006, Jello Biafra produced their album, J’irai chier dans ton vomi, in San Francisco. An EP followed in 2008.

Below, Métal Urbain lip-synching “Paris Maquis” on French TV in 1978:

More Métal Urbain after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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