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1936 Italian horror short turns Edgar Allan Poe story into one of the earliest gore films
06.01.2015
05:24 am

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No one does horror like the Italians, and it’s a tradition that goes back a long while. Check out this 1936 masterpiece of gore, Il caso Valdemar—it’s just riveting. Surprisingly, the two directors (Gianni Hoepli and Ubaldo Magnaghi) have virtually no additional credits at IMDB, leaving one to assume they were amateurs? The acting is superb and the cinematography is incredibly stylized and sophisticated, with tight, disorienting shots at odd angles, reminiscent of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. The main attraction though, is the disgusting final scene, an incredible early special effect.

Il caso Valdemar is actually an adaptation of “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” an 1845 short story by Edgar Allan Poe. In an incredibly devious move, Poe presented the story as true, and let people believe it actually happened for a while before finally admitting his hoax. In the story, Ernest Valdemar is dying of tuberculosis. He requests that his friend (the narrator, a mesmerist), mesmerize him on his deathbed. Valdemar is put into a trance by the narrator and announces his own death. For seven months, Valdemar lie dead, but preserved. The narrator eventually wakes his tormented subject, and Valdemar decomposes at a rapid rate.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Rock and roll’s turd in the punchbowl: An interview with John Lydon
05.18.2015
04:26 pm

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Punk

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John Lydon’s new memoir Anger is an Energy: My Life Uncensored is his second go round at chronicling his thoroughly fascinating life. His first Rotten: ‘No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs was published over 20 years ago so there was much new life to be written about and additonal elaboration and re-evaluation of his early years from the vantage point of now. He’s mellowed and aged quite nicely. Lydon has gone from rotten to nicely fermented. From snarly whine to barley wine.

In this interview conducted at my favorite bookstore in the world, The Strand, Buzzfeed Books editor Isaac Fitzgerald and Lydon have a grand old time shooting the shit as Johnny occasionally takes a chug from a bottle of cognac.

Anger is an energy. It really bloody is. It’s possibly the most powerful one-liner I’ve ever come up with. When I was writing the Public Image Ltd song ‘Rise’, I didn’t quite realize the emotional impact that it would have on me, or anyone who’s ever heard it since. I wrote it in an almost throwaway fashion, off the top of my head, pretty much when I was about to sing the whole song for the first time, at my then new home in Los Angeles. It’s a tough, spontaneous idea. ‘Rise’ was looking at the context of South Africa under apartheid. I’d be watching these horrendous news reports on CNN, and so lines like ‘They put a hotwire to my head, because of the things I did and said’, are a reference to the torture techniques that the apartheid government was using out there. Insufferable. You’d see these reports on TV and in the papers, and feel that this was a reality that simply couldn’t be changed. So, in the context of ‘Rise’, ‘Anger is an energy’ was an open statement, saying, ‘Don’t view anger negatively, don’t deny it – use it to be creative.

A couple of observations: the fellow in the background, to Johnny’s right, looks a wee bit like a Madame Tussaud waxworks version of Mark E. Smith. And why is Lydon dressed like a sous chef?
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Thom Yorke is on the cover of an Iranian sex manual and no one knows why
05.13.2015
07:07 am

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Here’s just something you’re going to have to accept without explanation because apparently there is none: Thom Yorke is on the cover of an Iranian sex manual called Marital and Sexual Problems in Men. The book was spotted in an Iranian bookstore three years by journalist Sobhan Hassanvand. Hassanvand tweeted the image a few days ago.

And not only is there an inexplicable image of Thom Yorke, but writer John Updike is also on the cover. The third man has yet to be identified.

I know when I ponder marital and sexual problems, my mind immediately goes to Thom Yorke and John Updike. It just does.

Now here’s where it gets funny. Not only is Thom Yorke pimping out sexual advice in Iran, but his mug has been spotted in a Russian advert where the Radiohead frontman “will help you to forget about insomnia, fatigue, skin problems, cold, attention deficit disorder, and headaches.”

Cool.


Russian advert
 
via Nerdcore and CoS

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Merrill Markoe: Unsung heroine of ‘Late Night with David Letterman’
05.12.2015
10:35 am

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With the imminent retirement of the great David Letterman nigh upon us Dangerous Minds pal Mike Sacks, author of And Here’s the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers and Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers, the two best books ever published on the creative process of writing comedy, has generously allowed us to publish his extended interview with Late Night‘s original head writer, Merrill Markoe.

It was the Emmy award-winning Markoe, arguably as much as Letterman himself, who set the silly, ironic, smart and absurd tone of the show. This in-depth exploration of what made Late Night such amazing and precedent-shattering television during her tenure is an absolute pleasure to read.

Born in New York and raised in New Jersey, Miami, and the San Francisco Bay area, Merrill Markoe spent her youth reading Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker, as well as watching W.C. Fields for his “bizarre word choices.” She attended Berkeley and, after receiving a Master’s in Arts in 1973, she tried teaching art at the University of Southern California for a year but found herself restless. Instead, she audited a few scriptwriting and filmmaking classes and, in 1977, landed a writing job for The New Laugh-In, sans Rowan and Martin. The show, to the surprise of nobody, was a disaster, even with (or because of) cast members such as Robin Williams and former child evangelist Marjoe Gortner. (Not familiar with him? Rent the 1972 documentary Marjoe—please.)

When TV proved frustrating, Markoe tried her luck on the stand-up circuit in Los Angeles, mostly at The Comedy Store and the Improv, where she became friends with such promising (if still unknown) comics as Andy Kaufman and David Letterman. After a few wildly successful appearances on The Tonight Show, Letterman was given his own daytime talk show on NBC in 1980, and he brought in Markoe (whom he’d been dating since 1978) as his head writer. The show didn’t last long, partly because Letterman and Markoe’s humor didn’t translate to an early-morning crowd, and partly because they nearly burned the studio down (more on that later). Within four months, the show was canceled.

But, in 1982, NBC gave Letterman another chance, and, more important, a better time slot. Late Night with David Letterman—which came on just after The Tonight Show, hosted by Letterman’s idol, Johnny Carson—was a perfect fit, and, thanks largely to Markoe’s indispensable collaboration, it became a unique and inimitable comic creation.

Six years later, in 1988, Markoe abruptly left the show. As she’s written on her website, she’d “plumbed the depths of [her] ability to invent off-beat, comedic ideas for acerbic witty white male hosts in suits.”

Markoe moved back west, to Los Angeles, where she had little problem finding work. She wrote for TV shows as diverse as Newhart (1988), Moonlighting (1989) and Sex and the City (1999), and appeared as a writer/reporter on HBO’s Not Necessarily the News (1990) and Michael Moore’s political-satire TV Nation (1994). She also discovered a writing life outside of TV, contributing comedic essays and columns for Esquire, Glamour, People, Rolling Stone, Time, U.S. News & World Report, as well as The New York Times and the Huffington Post. She probably made the biggest impact, however, with her humor books, which have included such critical and fan favorites as What the Dogs Have Taught Me (1992), How to Be Hap-Hap-Happy Like Me! (1994), Merrill Markoe’s Guide to Love (1997), It’s My F—-ing Birthday (2002), The Psycho Ex Game (2004), Walking in Circles Before Lying Down (2006), Nose Down, Eyes Up (2008), Cool, Calm & Contentious: Essays (2011).


Mike Sacks: You once described yourself as “one of those 1960s art-student types.” Were you in any way a radical?

Merrill Markoe: I was certainly against the war in Vietnam. And I attended a Black Panther rally once—by myself, I might add. I was one of the few white people there. What I was doing there I cannot exactly explain, except that I attended almost every event that was within walking distance at the time. But, me being me, I always left early. I left every important cultural event of the sixties and seventies early. Name any one. Altamont? I left before the killing. I felt compelled to attend these events, but I never really liked big, angry crowds, or drugs, or the smell of patchouli. By the way, everything smelled like patchouli back then! Even sweaty, knife-wielding bikers who drank Ripple.

One of the few events I did not attend was Woodstock. I wouldn’t have enjoyed being a part of that big, happy, muddy, mellow community. I probably would have been standing off on the sidelines somewhere, in my beloved paint-splattered clothes, complaining about the weather and the sound system, and making snide remarks about all the embarrassing free-form naked dancing. Talk about a place that probably reeked of patchouli. No question I would have definitely left early.
 

 
So it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that you felt like an outsider in the sixties?

I’m very consistent; I’ve felt like an outsider every single decade. Some of it is because I struggle to control my tendency toward contrarianism. If I know there is something I am supposed to be doing or saying or wearing, I feel compelled to resist—particularly with creative endeavors, like writing. If I see an obvious punch line or plotline driving toward me, I can’t help but make a sharp left turn into the unexpected. I don’t like to replicate what I’ve seen done before—I don’t like to give people what they expect. I think it’s my job to come up with a surprising angle or to add some personal twist.

You first met David Letterman when you were doing stand-up in Los Angeles in the late seventies. Would you say that one of his strengths as a stand-up, even at the beginning of his career, was the degree to which the audience felt a strong rapport with him—that they always felt they were in on the joke?

Yes, correct. He was always a crowd pleaser. Plus, he always had Johnny Carson in mind as his model. Dave always knew how to connect with an audience, even from the very beginning.

Both you and Letterman started in the trenches of showbiz. Can you tell me about the first TV show you worked on together?

Dave and I worked on a 1978 CBS variety show called Mary, starring Mary Tyler Moore and featuring Michael Keaton. I don’t know if it qualifies as the “trenches” of show business, but I do know it was canceled after three or four episodes, even though 60 Minutes was the lead-in and Mary Tyler Moore was America’s sweetheart. The show was an uncomfortable combination of old showbiz style variety, mixed with a miscalculated attempt to include some of that wacky, absurdist comic sensibility that the kids liked so much from that new program Saturday Night Live.

For example, the Mary show did a parody of the Village People song “Macho Man” that had Dave and Michael Keaton dressed in L.L.Bean catalog outfits, in a setting that was made to look like a scene from Deliverance. I forget where the comedy was supposed to be in all this. I do know the powers-that-be didn’t realize that “Macho Man” was a gay anthem. I also remember vividly that Dave was in real agony about this bit of levity.

What was the second TV show you both worked on?

Leave It to Dave. It was a 1978 pilot for Dave’s own talk show, which never actually made it to air.

From what I’ve read, this is a notorious show. The set resembled a pyramid, and Letterman sat on a throne.

Because this was at the very beginning of Dave’s talk show career, he was sort of afraid to assert his point of view. There were people he hired and put in charge who supposedly knew all about the right way to execute a talk show. Unfortunately, one of their goofy ideas was to have a pyramid-shape on the set that contained built-in benches covered with shag carpeting for Dave and his guests to sit on. No boring old-school desk and chairs for us! Better to look like the interviews were taking places at a “carpeteria” trade show at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas.

The set was not even the worst idea that came down that particular pike. I remember that one of Dave’s managers wanted the guests to make their entrances by sliding down a chute and then landing on a sea of throw pillows. But even more vivid, is the memory of how little blood there was in Dave’s face when he was presenting the news to me. Somehow we succeeded in getting that idea shit-canned.

How did your next project, The David Letterman Show, come about? This morning show, a precursor to Late Night, was on NBC for only a short period in the summer and fall of 1980, but it became very influential with comedians and humor writers.

Around this time, Dave began appearing on The Tonight Show, and I was helping him come up with comedy material for those appearances.

Do you remember any of the jokes you wrote for him?

Here’s one: “The commercial for Alpo dog food boasts that Alpo is superior because it contains ‘All beef and not a speck of cereal.’ My dog spends his days going through the garbage and drinking out of the toilet. Something tells me he might not mind a speck of cereal.”

So Dave was getting a very good response from his Tonight Show appearances, and it didn’t take long for NBC to offer him his own morning talk show. Ninety minutes a day. Live. At 10:00 A.M. This prospect seemed less appealing to me than it did to Dave, but by now I was in over my head with regard to both of Freud’s two big areas: work and love. So, I just kept playing along.
 

 

Steve O’Donnell—a longtime writer for Letterman—once described the show’s staff as those who really liked television but also kind of hated television. Was this true for you?

Yes, absolutely. I was particularly sick of seeing everyone on television doing that bigger-than-life, fraudulent, full of shit television persona—which was mainly how the shows all worked then. I welcomed the idea of a host being caught having real reactions to odd situations.

A lot of the segments on the morning show later showed up on Late Night. Can you tell me how “Stupid Pet Tricks” began? Was it meant to be a one-time deal only?

One immediate task—when we were determining how to construct a daily format—was to create segments that could be repeated. Since there was a horizon of future shows spreading out in front of us that seemed to stretch into infinity, it seemed to call for free-form thinking. Dave and I had two dogs and we wanted to do something with animals besides just having the guy from the zoo bring on the pygmy marmosets. I remembered how in college my friends and I would be hanging around in the evenings, talking and drinking. One form of constant entertainment was to put socks on this one dog. Everyone I knew did some version of a silly thing like that with their pets, so we ran an ad to see if we could pull a segment together like that.

When it succeeded, we mutated that idea into “Stupid Human Tricks.” We also considered “Stupid Baby Tricks,” but pulled the plug because—based on what we were seeing in the other two categories—we were afraid it would encourage child endangerment.

Were you responsible for “Viewer Mail”?

More or less. When we started “Viewer Mail” on the morning show, originally the idea was meant as a kind of parody of something 60 Minutes was doing, where they’d show a mailbox and a magnified fragment of a letter. Their letters always commented on something of importance: “Regarding your piece on nuclear disarmament, I just wanted to say …”

I thought it would be funny to show the mail we were receiving, which was mostly pages full of scrawled non sequiturs from deranged people. By the time the show re-appeared at night, this had evolved into little sketches that played off the content.

Do any other particular moments stand out from the morning show?

It was pretty much nonstop bizarre particular moments. One highlight was when we decided to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of a couple from Long Island named Sam and Betty Kotinoff. We selected them from a group of people who wrote in and volunteered. Our plan was to show snippets of this big party throughout the regular broadcast, and we would check in with them to see how everything was going.

For music, we hired the Harve Mann Trio, a wedding band dressed in tuxes. We also hired a very flamboyant decorator and party planner to do the catering. He not only brought in ice sculptures, but he also staged a lovely finale, where synthetic rose petals would float down from the ceiling while all the revelers held sparklers and swayed in contented delight. So it came to pass that as Dave signed off, the rose petals floated down and met the sparklers and created a number of small fires. As the credits rolled, the show ended with the Kotinoff family stomping out flames, as stage hands rushed in with fire extinguishers. Wafting from behind the clouds of smoke was Harve Mann still singing his closing song, “Can’t Smile Without You.”

Dave and I were really mortified until we saw the tapes. Then we couldn’t stop laughing.

What did you hope to achieve with this morning show? Did you feel that it was time for a talk show that reflected your own sensibility?

Yeah, both Dave and I felt that way. But Dave had more respect and passion for the history of TV talk shows than I did. Besides his love for The Tonight Show, Dave’s favorite role model was always the old Steve Allen Westinghouse Show [1962-1964], which had elements of stunts, character pieces, and audience interaction. I liked some of Steve Allen’s work as well, such as when he would jump into a vat of Jell-O, or had himself covered with tea bags so he could be dunked up and down inside a giant aquarium by a crane to make an enormous container of tea.

But to be honest, I never much liked The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Dave used to say that Johnny Carson seemed like the hip uncle whom he wanted to please. But to me, that show was a place where they never booked any smart women. I couldn’t help but view it through the prism of my U.C. Berkeley Art School experiences, which boiled down to a simple “fuck that plastic showbiz shit.”

What smart women in particular were missing from The Tonight Show?

Any smart women, of any stripe. Writers, reporters, producers, filmmakers, artists, scientists, eccentrics. No comediennes ever appeared on that show besides Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller. Certainly none of the comediennes my own age appeared on the show.

On The Tonight Show, women were either amazingly glamorous actresses or they were booked to create cleavage-related humor and flirt with Johnny. I guess there must have been exceptions I am not remembering—the opera singer Beverly Sills, for example, or Carol Burnett.

But, as a whole, there never seemed to be any cerebrally oriented female content. I thought of it as one more example of the old showbiz sensibility that I was so sick of. Johnny reminded me of Hef in Playboy After Dark. Dave could look at Johnny and see a guy with whom he could joke and communicate. I would only see the kind of guy who would want no part of me and my kind.

More Merrill Markoe after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Lights, camera, SLEAZE: Marc Almond, this is your life
05.11.2015
01:01 pm

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Books
Music
Queer

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First Third Books, the London and Paris-based publisher of deluxe coffee table books devoted to counterculture (like Sheila Rock’s Punk +) and extremely in-depth celebrations of particular groups and performers (Felt, Saint Etienne, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge) are coming out with another of their beautiful monographs in June—this volume concentrating on the life and career of the great Marc Almond.

Marc Almond will be limited to 1300 copies worldwide, hand numbered and bound in purple fabric. There will be 300 copies of the standard edition priced at £40 and 1000 copies of a limited special edition for £60 that includes unreleased songs on a 7” single. The first 500 copies sold of the limited edition will also be signed by Marc.

Back in March, when the book was first announced, Almond remarked:

“Putting a book like this together is very difficult because it brings up all kind of emotions. But it’s important to me to paint an honest picture, which means that as well as the many wonderful memories, working on the book has also forced me to resurrect certain things I’d rather hoped had been consigned to history. But that’s great. It would be too easy to fall into the comfort zone of nostalgia. The book goes much further than that. The whole process has been bittersweet and yet cathartic. I’ve really enjoyed working on it and it looks fantastic.”

It does. It’s the ultimate Marc Almond coffee table book and the perfect companion to his hilariously bitchy autobiography, Tainted Life (Ever the diva, Almond settles a score in every chapter! Highly recommended if you like pop star tell-alls.)

As longtime readers of this blog know, I am a massive Marc Almond fan—I have been since I saw my father fuming mad after Soft Cell ruined his Saturday night by performing “Tainted Love” on the Solid Gold TV show—so I’m thrilled to be able to offer a selection of photos from this amazing book, along with Marc’s own captions, and some related videos.
 

Youth: In 1964, I was seven. The world was still in black-and-white, still very much post-war, still austere, with poor street lighting and simple foods. But much of my world revolved around television pop shows like Ready, Steady, Go!, Thank Your Lucky Stars and Juke Box Jury. One of my first pop memories was seeing Sandie Shaw barefoot on RSG! singing ‘(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me’. I was always singing that song. I loved pop from a very early age.

 

Photo: Peter Ashworth

Non-Stop Subversion: This was our preferred cover for Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret but the record company thought it too menacing and subversive. Dave looks quite convincing in the role of switchblade-carrying psychotic!

“Martin” live on ‘The Tube’ in 1983

 
Much more Marc, after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Meet Iggy Pop’s childhood friend, the ‘imaginary Mexican’
04.30.2015
06:09 am

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Today’s happening young person has every reason to invest in a copy of Iggy Pop’s memoir, I Need More. One compelling reason is right there in the title: Iggy needs more, and it is your duty to give it to him.

But dude, I hear today’s happening young person whine, the book is like out of print and Iggy will collect like no royalties from my purchase on the secondhand market. Pull your pants up, junior, because this lame attempt to shirk your duty only brings us to an even more compelling reason: on Amazon, a used copy of the original 1982 edition is now cheaper than the reprint published by Henry Rollins’ 2.13.61 (pictured above). That’s two compelling reasons right there, without even mentioning the content of the book.

Among the treasures that await you inside this handsome volume is a high quality, suitable-for-framing reproduction of Iggy’s closest childhood friend, the “imaginary Mexican.” (Sorry, that’s a lie—the portrait, reproduced in the margins of the book, is actually the size of a large postage stamp.) During his asthma-haunted childhood in the Osterberg family trailer, stoned on Quadrinol, Iggy fantasized about a life of high adventure on the Brazos or somewhere with this bandoliered character:
 

 

As a kid I had a character in my brain. I drew him over and over and over. He was my imaginary Mexican; well, you look at him and figure it out for yourself.

 
You’ll notice that the rude health of the imaginary Mexican’s right side (from his point of view) compensates for his withered left side, and that he has one great birdlike talon exploding through the toe of each shoe. Does the body’s muscular right side indicate a left-brain predominance? I’m no doctor, but I’m pretty sure the boy was destined for greatness if this righteous dude was his ideal playmate.

Watch Iggy dance with a refrigerator in the little-known music video for “Dog Food” after the jump..:

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
John Lennon becomes the first Beatle to admit to taking drugs, in 1965: A DM exclusive
04.24.2015
07:20 am

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Drugs
Heroes

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It was fifty years ago today…well, almost…

While it has been long believed that Paul McCartney was the first Beatle to ever admit taking drugs during an interview with Independent Television News (ITN) in June 1967, it can now be revealed that John Lennon was in fact the first Beatle who owned up to the band being “stoned” two years before this in an interview with an American journalist.

Writer Simon Wells discovered Lennon’s comment in a rarely heard interview while researching his book Eight Arms To Hold You—a definitive history on the making of The Beatles’ second movie Help!. Wells is the best-selling author of Coming Down Fast (a biography of Charles Manson), Butterfly on a Wheel: The Rolling Stones Great Drugs Bust, Quadrophenia: A Way of Life and the drugs, sex and paganism novel The Tripping Horse.
 
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February 1965, The Beatles had just arrived on location at New Providence Island in the Bahamas to film Help!.  On being asked what The Beatles had been up to on their flight over, Lennon replied “We got stoned.” There is a stunned silence before the interviewer says: “Alright. I know you’re only kidding.”

Of course, Lennon wasn’t kidding, as The Beatles had been popping pills since at least 1960 and smoking weed since being “turned-on” by Bob Dylan in 1964. Simon Wells exclusively explains for Dangerous Minds:

The Beatles took a chartered jet to the Bahamas for the start of filming of Help! on Monday 22nd February 1965. Perversely as it may seem, the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein had become intoxicated with the idea of tax shelters and havens—and after his dismal performance of selling off the Beatles rights to A Hard Day’s Night for little more than the average house price in Britain, he sensed an idea to set up an offshore interest in the Bahamas, hoping that the money from the film would escape the extortionate financial red tape and punitive taxes that would attract to the film’s future successes.

To defer suspicions, Epstein cooked up the idea of filming part of Help! in the Bahamas and so eager was he to establish a presence there, filming for what would be the finale of the movie was shot first. Temperatures at a constant high for the area, the group would have to shield themselves from the likelihood of considerable tanning – an issue that would have colored (excuse pun) the earlier shots in the film, all set in London. Nonetheless, The Beatles knew little about this, and happily trundled onto the caravan of filming—the shores of Nassau were far more attractive than a gloomy British February. Equally, it meant a break from the rigours of touring, something they had grown to hate.

The group’s plane continued the majority of the film’s attendant circus, plus a few liggers and reporters to help things along. The nine-hour flight requiring more than just alcoholic sustenance, the band happily tugged on a succession of marijuana joints to elevate the time between touching down in the Bahamas. Since August the previous year when Bob Dylan famously turned the band onto the magical herb, the group had indulged heavily in the newly found pursuit. The effects were immediate on their dress and music, heavy shades and dissonant chords were now pitting their senses; introspection tossing “boy meets girl” out of the window.

While the media were well aware that The Beatles (and most of the other groups of the period) took drugs, there was no need for them to spill the beans and spoil the party. By 1965 standards, The Beatles were still good cheeky copy—guaranteed to bring a smile to the nation’s breakfast tables, and still with the consent of Britain’s parents, the girls and boys could shower them with unbridled adoration. Behind closed doors in Buckingham Palace and at (the Prime Minister’s home) Number 10 Downing Street, plans were already afoot to adorn the band with the M.B.E. If an admission of naughty chemical use had surfaced prior to the award announcement, it would have clearly stymied the whole pantomime. The press knew this too—so all was on course to preserve the Fab’s innocence—for the time being.

For those who chart such things, this is the first admission from a Beatle that drugs were now a part of their lives. The evident shock from the reporter is testament to the disbelief that these sweet boys could ever do such a thing. Predictably, the comment was not used in print, and it remained buried on the reporter’s tape – until now!

Simon Wells new book on The Beatles Eight Arms To Hold You is available from Pledge Music, details here.
 
After the jump, hear the recording…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘The Twilight Zone’ meets M.C. Escher meets Dali in the philosophical comic strip ‘the bus’
04.23.2015
02:08 pm

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Art
Books

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A few weeks ago I highlighted “Dope Rider,” the trippy Wild West cartoon that appeared in High Times over a number of years in the 1970s and 1980s. The talented artist of those comic strips was Paul Kirchner, whose masterwork may well be a thoughtful and surreal strip about a municipal bus that appeared regularly in Heavy Metal over the same period, from 1979 to roughly 1985. That strip, “the bus” (always scrupulously set in lower-case), provided an ideal starting point for Kirchner’s fertile imagination, as the strip explored many variations of futility and disaster, fueled as much by The Twilight Zone and Godzilla as the paintings of Salvador Dali and M.C. Escher. As Kirchner himself writes in the afterword to a dandy collection of “the bus” published in 2012 by a French company called Éditions Tanibis,
 

The humor was inspired by the crazy logic of Warner Brothers cartoons; the paranoia of the Twilight Zone television program; and the surrealistic artwork of Bosch, Magritte, Dali, and Escher.

 
Escher, for sure—although the comic strips remind me of nothing so much as the playful, deadpan philosophy presented in the works of Jorge Luis Borges.

The book collects 73 of the strips (if my counting is accurate), which would represent almost precisely six years’ worth of output, as reflected in Kirchner’s account. According to Kirchner, he had wanted to present the strip in a horizontal format in the hopes of selling it to the Village Voice, but an editor at Heavy Metal had the shrewd idea of reducing the size:
 

Shortly after getting my foot in the door, I approached editor Julie Simmons [at Heavy Metal] with a comic strip called “the bus” (always written in lower case). I had drawn the first ten episodes in a horizontal format because I had intended to sell it to a weekly newspaper, the Village Voice. However, the Village Voice turned it down, though the art director was gracious enough to tell me it was the best thing he had ever rejected. Julie liked it and decided to run it as a half-page feature, as Heavy Metal often sold half-page ads and had to fill the remaining space.

 
Many, though not all, instances of “the bus” have precisely six panels, and most of my favorites are wordless. Tanibis to be saluted for rescuing these great strips from obscurity—even Kirchner himself admits that he never had much idea if anyone really liked the strip:
 

In those days before the internet, I rarely got feedback from readers about my work. It was published and I was paid, but what did people think of it? I didn’t know.

 
According to Tanibis, Kirchner has recently started doing “the bus” cartoons again, and Tanibis intends to publish an updated collection before the year is out. Very good news for all of Kirchner’s fans.

(For all the comics embedded in this post, clicking on the image will spawn a larger version.)
 

 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Elvis Costello and Terry Gilliam shill for Philip K. Dick
04.20.2015
08:48 am

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Books
Science/Tech
Television

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In the days just before the dawn of the World Wide Web, those wanting to prove the relevance of Philip K. Dick’s visionary books were likely to point to the prevalence of advertising everywhere and CNN’s coverage of the first Gulf War. More than twenty years later, in a world in which drones annihilate enemies of the American state, smartphones can decode spoken instructions, Netflix can accurately predict the next movie you want to watch, and so on, it would be folly to argue that Dick’s prescience has been any less than astounding.

In A Day in the Afterlife, a 1994 hour-long documentary made for the BBC series Arena on that great fucked-up writer, director Nicola Roberts employed a clever metaphor of a fictional product called “PKD,” complete with lightning-bolt corporate logo, to help illustrate the strongly artificial, alienating, and commercialized landscape of Dick’s works. The logo pops up at unpredictable intervals throughout the movie, and there are also cheeky “commercials” featuring Elvis Costello and Terry Gilliam as well as British novelist Fay Weldon.
 

Elvis Costello: “Featuring such classics as ‘Lies, Inc.,’ ‘The Man in the High Castle,’ ‘Ubik’.....”
 
I couldn’t find much evidence that Costello is a Dick-head (aside from his appearance in this very movie), but Gilliam’s enthusiasm for Dick’s books is well documented. (Unlike Costello, Gilliam consented to contribute a few more typical talking-heads bits.) In this 2008 interview with HitFix, Gilliam discussed his high regard for Dick’s work and his plans, never realized, to adapt Dick’s little-known 1956 novel The World Jones Made (Gilliam has the title slightly wrong):
 

Terry Gilliam: I mean, like, “Brazil”... I was even more determined it had to end that way because of “Blade Runner” having betrayed me at the ending.  I felt betrayed because I loved that until the end of the film.  Now all of a sudden, the android’s going to live forever?  What the fuck are you talking about, man?  You create a world that’s very solid, and then you… that’s why Philip K. Dick is always been one of my favorite writers.  He doesn’t go where that road takes you.

HitFix: I am convinced that someone will eventually make “The Man in the High Castle.”  There is such…

Gilliam: I’m actually meeting his daughter tomorrow.

HitFix: Are you?  Are you?  That is just a phenomenal book and so ripe in terms of the way it talks about how we process reality and the way we tell ourselves stories about history.  I think now is a great time to remind people of some of the things Phillip had to say.

Gilliam: One of the things that is… there’s another one that people don’t know called “The World According to Jones.” Do you know that one?

HitFix: Mm-hmm.

Gilliam: That really fascinates me… where we’re in a world where basically everything is relative.  It can’t be black and white because there’s a more religious fundamentalism that we’re talking about.  So now everything is relative.  And then the idea that a guy comes along that can see the future, and it is not relative… that intrigues me, and I don’t know exactly how to do it.  His other books… Ubik is always fun.  But again, so much of his stuff has been stolen already and used…

 
Obviously, the HitFix interviewer, one “Drew McWeeny,” was entirely correct that The Man in the High Castle would be adapted into a movie—earlier this year Amazon Prime dropped the pilot for a forthcoming miniseries based on the book. (As an aside, it’s wonderful that Dick’s greatness has been embraced by the Library of America, which in 2009 added Dick to its slate of great American authors like Whitman, Hawthorne, and Melville.)

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The infamous Hashish Fudge recipe of Alice B. Toklas
04.08.2015
11:19 am

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Amusing
Books
Drugs

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Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein were supporting characters in the story of art, literature and culture during the early to mid-twentieth century. Stein was a writer, poet and playwright, who collected and promoted the artists Cezanne, Picasso, Matisse and Picabia; and the writers Hemingway, Ezra Pound and Scott Fitzgerald. Toklas was Stein’s lover, muse, editor, and confidante. The couple were inseparable during their 39-year relationship, which was celebrated through Stein’s book The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas in 1933. This book told the story of their relationship through Toklas’s biography.
 
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Stein (pooch)Toklas.
 
While Stein ruled the salon, Toklas was mistress of the kitchen. Almost a decade after Stein’s death in 1946, Toklas published what could be described as another Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas—a cookbook that mixed her favorite recipes with concisely written memoirs of her life. Her childhood she recalled through her mother’s fritters and ice cream; her aunt and a favorite car (a Model-T Ford) recalled through a recipe for hot chocolate; while many of the artists, writers and actors she met through her relationship with Stein were evoked by recipes, such as “Custard Josephine Baker” or through tales of serving food—cooking Picasso fish, for example.

One recipe for “Hashish Fudge” was supplied by friend and artist Brion Gysin. This sweet delicacy gave The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book considerable notoriety, and forced the publishers to enquire over the legality of publishing such a recipe.

HASHISH FUDGE
(which anyone could whip up on a rainy day)

This is the food of paradise — of Baudelaire’s Artificial Paradises: it might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies’ Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the DAR. In Morocco it is thought to be good for warding off the common cold in damp winter weather and is, indeed, more effective if taken with large quantities of hot mint tea. Euphoria and brilliant storms of laughter; ecstatic reveries and extensions of one’s personality on several simultaneous planes are to be complacently expected. Almost anything Saint Theresa did, you can do better if you can bear to be ravished by ‘un évanouissement reveillé‘.

Take 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, 1 whole nutmeg, 4 average sticks of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon coriander.

These should all be pulverised in a mortar. About a handful each of stoned dates, dried figs, shelled almonds and peanuts: chop these and mix them together.

A bunch of Cannabis sativa can be pulverised. This along with the spices should be dusted over the mixed fruit and nuts, kneaded together. About a cup of sugar dissolved in a big pat of butter. Rolled into a cake and cut into pieces or made into balls about the size of a walnut, it should be eaten with care. Two pieces are quite sufficient.

Obtaining the Cannabis may present certain difficulties, but the variety known as Cannabis sativa grows as a common weed, often unrecognised, everywhere in Europe, Asia and parts of Africa; besides being cultivated as a crop for the manufacture of rope. In the Americas, while often discouraged, its cousin, called Cannabis indica, has been observed even in city window boxes. It should be picked and dried as soon as it has gone to seed and while the plant is still green.

As “experienced” gourmands know, the recipe bears more of a resemblance to what’s referred to in Morocco as “majoun.” The 1960s comedy I Love You Alice B. Toklas, starring Peter Sellers name checks Alice due to his uptight character eating a bunch of hash brownies. An audio recording of Alice reading the “Hashish Fudge” recipe can be heard here.
 
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H/T The Smithsonian and Open Culture.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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