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Champion of subversive cinema: Amos Vogel R.I.P.
04.28.2012
10:08 pm

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John Lennon and Amos Vogel.
 
Amos Vogel, one of cinema’s greatest friends and supporters, has died at the age of 91. Founder of Cinema 16 and director of the first New York Film Festival, Vogel championed and helped introduce the works of film makers like Roman Polanski, John Cassavetes, Luis Buñuel, Robert Bresson, Richard Lester, Yoko Ono, Maya Deren and Stan Brakhage to American audiences and the world at large. Vogel authored Film As Subversive Art (1974), a hugely influential book in which Vogel celebrates the…

[...] accelerating worldwide trend toward a more liberated cinema, in which subjects and forms hitherto considered unthinkable or forbidden are boldly explored.”

Vogel deeply felt that cinema could and was changing consciousness by altering our perception and challenging our values.

The most interesting films are precisely those that show things that have never been seen before or show things in a completely new way. This is something that upsets many people or prevents them from appreciating what is being shown to them. I, on the other hand, prefer to be upset, and one of my main criteria, in fact, in looking at films and in writing about them is the unpredictability of what I am seeing.”

Martin Scorsese on Vogel:

If you’re looking for the origins of film culture in America, look no further than Amos Vogel. Amos opened the doors to every possibility in film viewing, film exhibition, film curating and film appreciation. He was also unfailingly generous, encouraging and supportive of so many young filmmakers, including me when I was just starting to make my first pictures. No doubt about it — the man was a giant.”

Paul Cronin’s 2004 documentary Film as a Subversive Art: Amos Vogel and Cinema 16 is a wonderful introduction to a celluloid hero.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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David Bowie’s Minimoog, a gift from Brian Eno
04.27.2012
11:54 am

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Brian Eno


 
Bowie Myths has posted what appears to be legit (yet illicitly obtained) excerpts from the upcoming coffee table book, BOWIE: OBJECT, wherein the Thin White Duke rhapsodizes on a few dozen of his favorite thangs.

Exhibit #22, a Minimoog:

Eno gifted this keyboard to me at the end of our sessions for the album that would become Low at the Chateau d’Herouville in the fall of 1976.

The tilting control panel is truly iconic, the wood finish superb, the feel of the dials top-notch, and the 44-key (F to C) keyboard is a delight — it certainly beats any vintage Model D I’ve played for both speed and responsiveness. Though it weighs in at a hefty 18kg, its ergonomics are quite superlative. At its inception, the Minimoog was surprisingly close to being the perfect solo synthesizer; indeed there’s arguably no serious rival for the role even today. Yet soloists demand to express themselves and there the Mini had obvious shortcomings: its keyboard lacks velocity and aftertouch, while the pitch-bender and modulation wheels never felt like the final word in performance control. Nevertheless, without becoming lost in the enigma that is the Minimoog, let’s agree that it must have possessed special qualities to set it apart from the crowd for so long — even from others in the Moog stable.

Moog had constructed his own theremin as early as 1948. Later he illustrated the mechanics of a theremin in the hobbyist magazine ‘Electronics World’ and offered the parts in kit form by mail order which became very successful, albeit of limited value to even the most esoteric composers. The Moog synthesizer, on the other hand, was one of the very first electronic musical instruments to be widely used across many popular genres. I only met Bob Moog on one occasion and we bonded not over music, but over the common mispronunciation of our respective surnames. Bob always pronounced his surname – and that of his eponymous electronic progeny – to rhyme with ‘vogue’.

The motifs for all of the instrumental sequences on Low were mapped out on this Minimoog. My fading memories of those sessions are dominated by images of Eno hunched over the keyboard turning dials by imperceptible fractions, as amazed and delighted by the sonic textures he was producing as were Tony V and myself:

“Do you know it has a logarithmic one volt-per-octave pitch control and a separate pulse-triggering signal?” said Eno, breathlessly.

I said, “Brian, if you hum it, I’ll sing it…”

More at Bowie Myths

Below, David Bowie performs Low’s “Warszawa” on December 12, 1978 in Tokyo, the concert’s opening number:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘Outerspace Sex Orgy: The First Sex Science Fiction’
04.26.2012
12:12 pm

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Outerspace Sex Orgy


 
According to the description on Biblio, “illustrated with colour photos throughout, lots of nakedness including some hilarious photos of nude-niks painted alien colours.”

Well I’m sold! The paperback—published in 1970—is selling for around $75.00 on Biblio and other places on the Internet.
 
Via Nistagmus

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Ardour in the court: Screw with Leonard Cohen and he’ll smother you in prose
04.20.2012
11:48 am

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Kelley Lynch


 
Leonard Cohen’s former manager and lover Kelley Lynch was sentenced on April 17 to 18 months in prison for breaching restraining orders by sending scores of nasty e-mails and making harassing phone calls to Cohen. Lynch had a history of predatory behavior in her dealings with Cohen. In 2005 she was found guilty of stealing millions of dollars from Cohen and was ordered by a judge to pay the singer $9.5 million.

At the sentencing, Cohen read a statement that only confirms his standing as a world-class poet, Buddhist and a man with an incredible sense of style:

It gives me no pleasure to see my onetime friend shackled to a chair in a court of law, her considerable gifts bent to the service of darkness, deceit and revenge, [But] I want to thank the defendant Ms. Kelley Lynch for insisting on a jury trial, thus exposing to the light of day her massive depletion of my retirement savings and yearly earnings, and allowing the court to observe her profoundly unwholesome, obscene and relentless strategies to escape the consequences of her wrongdoing… It is my prayer that Ms Lynch will take refuge in the wisdom of her religion. That a spirit of understanding will convert her heart from hatred to remorse, from anger to kindness, from the deadly intoxication of revenge to the lowly practices of self-reform.”

Yes, Cohen briefly turned a courtroom into a Tower Of Song.

So you can stick your little pins in that voodoo doll
I’m very sorry, baby, doesn’t look like me at all
I’m standing by the window where the light is strong
Ah they don’t let a woman kill you not in the tower of song

 
This seems like a good time to enjoy this concert footage from Leonard’s 2008/09 world tour.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Nothing matches Blade Runner: Philip K. Dick gets excited about Ridley Scott’s film

ridley_scott_philip_k_dick
 
Philip K. Dick wrote an excited letter to Jeff Walker, at the Ladd Company, after watching a television preview of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, the film version of his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

October 11, 1981

Mr. Jeff Walker,
The Ladd Company,
4000 Warner Boulevard,
Burbank,
Calif. 91522.

Dear Jeff,

I happened to see the Channel 7 TV program “Hooray For Hollywood” tonight with the segment on BLADE RUNNER. (Well, to be honest, I didn’t happen to see it; someone tipped me off that BLADE RUNNER was going to be a part of the show, and to be sure to watch.) Jeff, after looking—and especially after listening to Harrison Ford discuss the film—I came to the conclusion that this indeed is not science fiction; it is not fantasy; it is exactly what Harrison said: futurism. The impact of BLADE RUNNER is simply going to be overwhelming, both on the public and on creative people—and, I believe, on science fiction as a field. Since I have been writing and selling science fiction works for thirty years, this is a matter of some importance to me. In all candor I must say that our field has gradually and steadily been deteriorating for the last few years. Nothing that we have done, individually or collectively, matches BLADE RUNNER. This is not escapism; it is super realism, so gritty and detailed and authentic and goddam convincing that, well, after the segment I found my normal present-day “reality” pallid by comparison. What I am saying is that all of you collectively may have created a unique new form of graphic, artistic expression, never before seen. And, I think, BLADE RUNNER is going to revolutionize our conceptions of what science fiction is and, more, can be.

Let me sum it up this way. Science fiction has slowly and ineluctably settled into a monotonous death: it has become inbred, derivative, stale. Suddenly you people have come in, some of the greatest talents currently in existence, and now we have a new life, a new start. As for my own role in the BLADE RUNNER project, I can only say that I did not know that a work of mine or a set of ideas of mine could be escalated into such stunning dimensions. My life and creative work are justified and completed by BLADE RUNNER. Thank you..and it is going to be one hell of a commercial success. It will prove invincible.

Cordially,

Philip K. Dick

The tragedy is PKD never saw the finished version of the classic science fiction film, as he died 5 months later, on March 2, 1982, just months before Blade Runner was given its cinematic release.
 
pkd_blade_runner_letter_1981
 
With thanks to Jai Bia
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Anne Billson: A Few Words with the New Queen of Horror

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It was at a funfair, early one summer evening, amongst the lights and music, the calls to “Try your strength and win a prize”, the coconut shies, and bird-like squeals of laughter and fear, that my love for horror began.

The sign read: “Do You Dare To Enter The Corridor of Fear?!?!” I was 6 and perhaps too young to have blagged my way into this gruesome diversion. Taller than my years, I knew confidence paid out more than acquiescence. I also had an older brother as surety. We bought our tickets and made our way to the short flight of stairs up to a drab, curtained door, beyond which was an unimaginable world of terror. Or, so I hoped.

Inside was a long a darkened, corridor, its metal walls glistening with luminous paintings of vampires, werewolves, unholy creatures, and living dead. Hidden in the walls were a series of sliding panels from whence malevolent-masked carnies pounced, to grab and grope, prod and tickle, the unsuspecting marks.

At the top of the stairs, two teenagers who laughed nervously and shoved each other, too scared to enter inside. I pushed forward and saw the cause of their concern- a panel slid open and a skull-headed figure reached out. I held back, and once the panel closed, the youths ran into the darkness. My brother and I followed. Adjusting to the dark, I saw limned ahead the youths being goosed by a green glowing monster. There was a feeling of dread, of terror, and now anger as hard fists hit flesh. The mood had changed from panic to anger. I turned, there was no curtained exit, instead a wall had opened and partitioned us in. From inside this wall, a leering skull, its boney hands reached out towards me. I ducked the embrace, and crawled on hands and knees through the legs in front. Above, the struggle seemed no longer a game – harsh, menacing voices, breathless pleas. My brother followed and we escaped into daylight - heart racing, weak-limbed, face drained of color, I’d never felt more alive.

My love of horror started then, and still continues today, looking for that great sense of exhilaration and fun.

One writer who certainly knows how to mix the best of horror with a deliciously wicked sense of fun is Anne Billson, who has 3 superb novels, The Ex, Stiff Lips, and Suckers, just released as e-books.

Billson knows her genre better than most, and is a highly respected film critic, writing for the Guardian and Sunday Telegraph, who has specialized in writing definitive critiques on Let the Right One In, John Carpenter’s The Thing, as well as Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

In her fictions, Billson confounds all expectations by re-inventing the accepted traditions of the Horror genre, creating her own distinct and authorative voice.

When her first novel Suckers was originally published in1993, it was hailed as a startling and original debut, which contained “one of the most chilling moments in all Vampire Literature.” It was also highly praised by Salman Rushdie, who described the novel as a witty assault on 1980’s Thatcherite greed. The books success led to Billson being named as one of Granta’s prestigious “Best Young British Novelists”.

In 1997, Anne wrote the chilling and darkly comic ghost story Stiff Lips, which led to even better reviews and greater praise. Both of these novels are being re-released along with Anne’s latest horror, a ghost story The Ex, which is set to build upon the success of the first two.

I contacted Anne at her home in Brussels, to ask what attracted her to Horror fiction?

“I don’t think I’ve ever grown out of fairytales; the best fairytales are already quite dark, and horror just takes it further. I like stories where anything can happen, and which appeal to the subconscious as much as to the intellect.”

Do you think that where once it was Science-Fiction, it is now Horror that offers the best way to comment on the contemporary world?

“I think so. Horror provides us with a way of reflecting on subjects which in their unadulterated form would probably be too vast, distressing or embarrassing to contemplate - and which could be boring or pretentious in a more realist or self-consciously literary genre. But horror increasingly overlaps with SF, as well as with crime and other genres - particularly in this era of mash-ups. It’s getting harder to slot things easily into distinct categories.”

How do you define yourself as a novelist?

“I write a kind of horror comedy, though I’m reluctant to use the word comedy because I certainly don’t set out to be funny, which would be the kiss of death. Maybe it’s my worldview, which is a little odd, I don’t know.

“Publishers in the past have tried to pigeonhole what I write as satire or chick-lit - and I don’t think it’s either of those. Maybe a new term is needed.

“I feel very in tune with that streak of British comedy which is often more scary or surreal than funny - The League of Gentlemen, Shaun of the Dead, Spaced, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace and so on. It might be presumptuous on my part, but I think we have something in common.”

What are your influences?

“How much time have you got? The usual suspects - MR James, Robert Aickman, The Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories (of which Aickman used to be an editor), Fritz Leiber, Philip K Dick, Nigel Kneale. And films, of course - Night of the Demon, The Innocents, The Haunting, Cronenberg, Romero… as well as Vincent Price films like Theatre of Blood and The Abominable Dr Phibes, and Amicus portmanteau horror films like The Vault of Horror and Asylum. Plus I’ve stolen ideas from Conrad and Balzac. Astute readers can probably spot the more blatant borrowings.”

Where some writers fight shy of their association with the Horror genre, Anne has no such qualms:

“If I had to choose between being categorized as a Horror writer or a Literary author, I would opt for Horror writer every time.

“Horror writers seem to be nicer, more generous and more convivial than Literary authors. Perhaps it’s because they direct all their fears and insecurities into their work, which makes them better company.”

The Ex, Stiff Lips, and Suckers are available here.

Anne is on twitter and her blog site Multiglom is always worth reading as are her Guardian columns.

Spoliers a collection of Anne Billson’s film writing is also available.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Shadowing The Third Man: Must-See Documentary on the Making of the Classic Film

orson_welles_the_third_man
 
It was the French thriller Pépé le Moko, with its infamous gangster hiding out in the casbah of Algiers, that inspired Graham Greene towards writing his classic treatment for The Third Man. When he reviewed the Jean Gabin film in 1937, Greene wrote that it:

“...raised the thriller to the level of poetry…

It would take his collaboration with Carol Reed, firstly on an adaption of his story “The Basement Room”, filmed as The Fallen Idol in 1948, with Ralph Richardson and Michèle Morgan, and then on The Third Man for Greene to equal and better his original influence.

In Frederick Baker’s masterful documentary Shadowing The Third Man from 2004, we learn this and a host of other facts, as Baker delves into the making of one of cinema’s greatest films. I’m a great fan of Greene and adore The Third Man and can assure you there is much to treasure in this near perfect documentary.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Attack of the sex-happy hippies
04.09.2012
01:25 pm

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Hippie-exploitation paperbacks bring a smile to my face for a number of reasons:

1. Rarely do the hippies on the book covers look under 30. They look like illustrations from stagmags of swingin’ suburbanites.
2. Hippies are doped up and super-horny 24/7. Watch out!
3. Hippies buy their fashions from the “youth in revolt” section of the Sears catalog.
4. When they’re not covering their bodies in goofy slogans and day-glow butterflies, hippies are busy raping and pillaging and at least one in every rampaging gang looks like Frank Zappa.
 

 
More sex-happy hippies after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Snoop Dogg’s new smokable book ‘Rolling Words’


 
A truly fantastic idea by San Francisco agency Pereira & O’Dell to promote Snoop Dogg’s Kingsize Slim Rolling Papers: Rolling Words. Rolling Words is a book made entirely out of hemp where each page is a rolling paper with Snoop Dogg’s lyrics and witticisms written on them (in non-toxic ink of course). Also, the spine of the book has a match striking surface so you can smoke up on the run.

Folks attending Coachella this year will get to sample Snoop’s creation.

Via The Dieline and Nerdcore

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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A wonderful Henry Miller documentary for your viewing pleasure


 
Robert Snyder’s excellent 1969 documentary The Henry Miller Odyssey takes a joyful look at the Buddha of Brooklyn and his fascinating world.

The colossus of Big Sur at work, living in, and revising old haunts in Brooklyn and Paris. Miller generously reveals how he saw his era, his peers and himself. He recalls his painful youth and his struggle to survive as a writer; talks about art, dreams, and the allure of Paris; reads passages from his works and enjoys himself with friends, including Lawrence Durrell, Anais Nin, Alfred Perles, Brassai, and Jakov Gimpel. What emerges in this insightful documentary is Miller’s charm, his gentleness and his lust for life.

Mostly narrated by Miller, this warm-hearted and playful film captures the essence of a man who did indeed have a lust for life.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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