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Casa Susanna: Charming casual pix of a cross-dressers’ haven in the 1950s and 1960s
02:47 pm



“Casa Susanna” was the name of a house in Hunter, New York, a town that is a good hour-plus north of Poughkeepsie, which is itself a couple hour’s drive from NYC. The given name of “Susanna” was Tito Valenti, and he created a safe haven for heterosexual males who liked to dress as women, a setting where they could indulge something approximating their true selves, an act that would be scorned in the regular society in which the Don Drapers of the world operated.

Michel Hurst and Robert Swope discovered a trove of photographs from Casa Susanna at a flea market, an event that prompted them to do some research into these mysterious, charming pictures. It turned out that Susanna was a professional female impersonator—at least that was what the business card affixed to one of the photo albums suggested. A substantial group of cross-dressers enjoyed visiting on the weekends to play-act as housewives, tending to the tacky trappings and maybe playing some Scrabble.

I think these pictures are just great. You can see in the directness of the gaze a complete lack of self-consciousness that, maybe, can come only from the indulgence of a hard-won security. Everywhere in life these men had to put on masks and play roles they didn’t want to play—but not at Casa Susanna.

All of these pictures are © Michel Hurst and Robert Swope. You can purchase their picture book documenting the house from powerHouse Books—it’s called, appropriately enough, Casa Susanna, and it was first published in 2005 (the second edition came out earlier this month).





More pictures after the jump…..

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Listen to ‘Montage of Heck,’ Kurt Cobain’s mind-blowing music montage—made years before his fame
11:04 am


Kurt Cobain

Nobody better represented the young, angry, art school punk better than Kurt Cobain—a glance at his Journals is enough to convince that his desire to fuck shit up was bone-deep. Fortunately, his tastes for fuckuppery in music were broad and wide—as he put it after Nirvana broke big in 1991/1992,  “All in all, we sound like the Knack and the Bay City Rollers being molested by Black Flag and Black Sabbath.” The key there is that Kurt liked all four of the acts he mentioned, on some level—his fondness for ABBA, for instance, is well documented.

It comes as no surprise, then, that Kurt was enamored of putting together diverse mix tapes but, more to the point, unbelievably wacked-out sound collages that went way beyond anything as mundane as a mix tape. If mix tapes get off on juxtaposition, then sound collages are mix tapes on mescaline, with the juxtapositions colliding with each other every which way.

Kurt assembled “Montage of Heck” around 1988 using a 4-track cassette recorder. It features sounds from Kurt’s wide-ranging collection of LPs, manipulated recordings of the radio, elements of Nirvana demos, and sounds created or recorded by Cobain. The list of artists that Kurt appropriated for “Montage of Heck,” reproduced at the end of this post, is fairly mind-blowing for a 21-year-old punker with (remember) no access to Napster, Spotify, Discogs, or In short, Kurt was the real deal—as if we didn’t already know.

Kurt actually made two versions of “Montage of Heck,” which are quite different, even though they share some audio material. There’s the short mono version, which clocks in at 8 minutes, and the long stereo version, which eats up about 36 minutes. For more technical information on the tracks, definitely check out this informative post over at United Mutilations.

True to Kurt’s insatiable appetite for music, “Montage of Heck” includes snippets (and more) from Frank Zappa, Shocking Blue, Queensrÿche, the Barbarians, William Shatner, and Daniel Johnston, alongside more tried and true classic rock acts like Simon & Garfunkel, the Beatles, the Velvet Underground, Led Zeppelin, Iron Butterfly, and Van Halen. But even there, while they’re popular acts, most punks weren’t talking about Cher, Sammy Davis Jr., or the Monkees in 1988.

Just click “play” and let the weirdness take you over......

After the jump, a fascinating list of the source material Kurt used in making “Montage of Heck”.....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Beck, Thurston Moore, and Mike D’s ridiculous jam on MTV, 1994

Mass culture machines love the status quo—a salesman, after all, is fattest and happiest when he knows what’ll sell and how to sell it. So when a sudden zeitgeist shift catches them with their pants down, it can be illuminating to watch them try to pull them back up. When the reset button got pushed in the early ‘90s and cult figures whose worldviews revolved around aggressive abnormality suddenly became the new rock royalty, things could get pretty damn funny.

One noteworthy moment was when Sonic Youth‘s Thurston Moore guest hosted MTV’s late night alternaghetto 120 Minutes. In the 1980s, that show featured some legitimately outré artists, but by 1994 watching that show was no longer significantly different from listening to commercial radio. Because of Moore’s untouchable underground bona fides, featuring him injected a fresh dose of off-the-path credibility into that show, and his interview with the then newly-rising Beck was pretty hilarious. Watch it here, it’s worth a few minutes of your life.

But weirder still is this bit of insanity from the same broadcast—Moore, Beck, and the Beastie Boys’ Mike D collaborating on a noise jam. This is what happens when you let the freakshow into the big tent—Dada in mass media. Rigoddamndiculous.

Hat-tip to Mr. Rob Galo for this find.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Camper Van Beethoven covers Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Tusk’ in its entirety, 1987 (well, actually 2001)
08:58 am


Fleetwood Mac
Camper Van Beethoven

Few bands could generate a good mood as deftly as Camper Van Beethoven did—I keep wanting to call their low-key gems a “hoot.” An likeable band with a shambolic take on melody and a sense of humor—the gods don’t bring such treasures so often. They were like that guy you hung with after you graduated high school who was always stoned and could always make you laugh. In their original run they churned out five minor classics, of which my fave was Telephone Free Landslide Victory, with their wistful, Led Zeppelin-influenced self-titled album a close second.

Anyway, they broke up and then David Lowery went off to form Cracker, while the rest of the band (more or less) became Monks of Doom. Camper Van Beethoven wouldn’t be a thing again until roughly 1999, when David Lowery, Victor Krummenacher, and Jonathan Segel convened to create Camper Van Beethoven Is Dead: Long Live Camper Van Beethoven, which was a fake rarities compilation—that is, none of the material was actually old.

Two years later, with the same straight face, Camper Van Beethoven claimed to have discovered the 4-track tapes they’d recorded in 1987 of a song-for-song cover of Tusk, Fleetwood Mac’s 1979 follow-up to their massive success Rumours, a famous flop that is actually a pretty damn good album.

Yesterday, Marc Maron released his interview with David Lowery on his podcast WTF, in which his guest explained what actually happened with their album Tusk, released in 2001. Maron’s prompt (around minute 80) is “Why’d you guys record Tusk, the Fleetwood Mac record?” Here’s Lowery’s answer:

Okay so, Camper Van Beethoven really got back together in say 2001? But we didn’t really play any shows, but we decided we’d record together again, but we decided that, what we would do is, there’s an album called Camper Van Beethoven Is Dead … Long Live Camper Van Beethoven. And it’s a fake oddities record. We actually just kind of recorded it and pretended like it was an oddities album. and dropped it out there. It was very Kaufman. ... I think we were probably influenced by Andy Kaufman, right? You know, it’s like, “Let’s put out a fake oddities record as our new record!” We just put it out there, it’s like, okay. “Oh hey, we just discovered that we recorded Tusk in 1987 on our 4-track, we finally found the tapes for that.” That wasn’t true, we recorded that, the whole album then put it out as if like something we had done in 1987 and just put out there. Nobody noticed.

Here’s an interview item from New York Press in 2002 in which Lowery is selling the fake origin story and the NY Press is buying it hook, line, and sinker. (Why wouldn’t they?) Ahem: “About to record their third album in 1986, Camper Van Beethoven retired to a cabin in Mammoth, CA, to write songs, and ended up recording a song-for-song tribute to Tusk.” Then, quoting Lowery: “Well, 1986 was only a few years after the release of Tusk. Fleetwood Mac was completely unhip in the indie rock circles at that time - that was part of the reason we recorded it—but we also had this major Fleetwood Mac obsession, particularly Lindsey Buckingham songs….” Etc.

You know, if you pull a prank on someone and you’re super deadpan about it, you can’t be surprised that nobody figures out that a prank was played. still thinks this album was recorded in 1987—again, why wouldn’t they? It’s a curious kind of prank, to say the least.

The point of the Tusk sessions was that they were a kind of throat-clearing, a test process to see if the band members could work together productively again. It’s a pretty savvy move if you look at it that way. There’s no way the album can hold a candle to the original, of course, but that was hardly the point. I’ve created a Spotify playlist in which every Fleetwood Mac song is followed up by its Camper Van Beethoven counterpart, alternating its way to the end, and I think listening to that is quite enjoyable. Not all the tracks really work—Camper’s version of “Storms” works very well, I think.

You wouldn’t expect that there would be any video material on YouTube from Camper Van Beethoven on such a tossed-off project, and there isn’t any. From Fleetwood Mac, of course, there’ll always be the very memorable “Tusk” video shot in an empty Dodger Stadium and featuring the USC Trojan Marching Band:


Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘Frontiers of Progressive Rock’: Five incredible jams with ELP, King Crimson, Yes, and others

Lordy lord, do I love footage from the old Beat Club program from Germany in the early 1970s. (The show later turned into Musikladen). Last week we brought you some smokin’ hard rock jams including MC5, Alice Cooper, and the New York Dolls that originally appeared on Beat Club. This week we move onto prog—and the results are nearly as sublime.

This compilation is known as Frontiers of Progressive Rock (and was originally released on a Laserdisc), features five excellent prog bands in their prime, just fucking shit up. Yes, Soft Machine, the Nice, King Crimson, and the biggest seller of them all, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer are each represented with an early gem, and all of them just go to town. My favorite moment comes when Keith Emerson, dressed in glittery blue and green, hurls himself over his second organ and then rocks it back and forth from behind before playing a few notes from the “wrong” side.

I also really love how much of a premium Beat Club placed on ridiculous video effects. The ELP number has oscilloscope readings projected onto the back wall, whereas the entire Soft Machine number is enring’d in an orange halo on the screen. Meanwhile, during the Yes song a kaleidoscope effect is used wherein the center of the image is “reflected” around itself—you have to see it to get it. For some reason the Yes track incorporates a large revolving head suspended over an old-fashioned chair of some sort…. anyway, I love the intensity with which the bands play their songs, I love the varied instrumentation (violin, saxophone, etc.), and I love the acid-freakout visuals. If you’ve got nothing else going on, I recommend turning this on and finding a pharmaceutical or two to help you enjoy the day.


Track listing:
Emerson, Lake & Palmer: “Knife Edge”
King Crimson: “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic”
The Nice: “Hang On To a Dream”
Soft Machine: “Composition Based On 3 Tunes” (Medley of “Out-Bloody-Rageous,” “Eamonn Andrews,” and “All White”)
Yes: “Yours Is No Disgrace”


Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Paintings of Divine, Apu, Amy Winehouse, Princess Leia and more, using old coins as a canvas

Divine, over an image of Generalissimo Francisco Franco
Andre Levy must be quite the draftsman, to paint such compelling and amusing images on the unforgiving terrain (copper, nickel) of a coin measuring no more than an inch square. But that’s what the artist, who was born in Sao Paulo but is currently based out of Frankfurt, has done. A cheeky sense of humor (he clearly loves the Simpsons) and a sharp eye have surely aided him in his quest to take over the Internet (which he seems to have done).

Benjamin Sutton of Hyperallergic got in touch with Levy per email: “I’m a graphic designer and split my time between an advertising job and my personal projects, which include street art and illustration. The most notorious of those projects, so far, is Tales You Lose, which became popular on Instagram and Tumblr,” Levy told Hyperallergic. “I never collected coins. What initially made me accumulate a few was the fact that I keep forgetting them in my pockets. I learned, though, that outside its territory of origin the coin leaves behind its illusional value as currency to carry a value defined by its carrier. I saw those coins as massively reproduced sculptures, and felt they could be turned into templates for something richer. Painting the coins was a way to give those metal pieces some room for interpretation. The pop characters were a way to bring in narratives as strong as the original ones and enable the new stories when people relate both characters.”

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Leonardo, over Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man

The Flash, on a Greek Olympic coin

Princess Leia, over an image of British Queen Elizabeth II

René Magritte’s “The Son of Man,” on a Chinese coin

YouTube error icon, over Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Amy Winehouse, on a French coin

Apu from The Simpsons, on a Thai coin

Asterix and Obelix, on a French coin

Swiftwind, on an Irish coin

Simpsons doughnut
via Hyperallergic

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Ghost Rider: The perfect motorcycle for All Hallows’ Eve
07:09 am


John Holt
skeleton bike

Now this is the kind of motorcycle you want to be seen riding when you turn up late to that Halloween party. This customized skeleton bike is a definite head turner—the bike Ghost Rider really should have had.

Take a look at the craftsmanship going on here: a hammer forged bike frame made from a skeleton rib cage and spine, with arm bones as front forks, bony hands as wheel hubs, and a skull with 32 teeth and a headlight in each eye socket. This beauty was almost entirely handmade by self-taught metal worker John Holt in his basement workshop in Boone County, Illinois, in 2004 and 2005. The bike has a 2.3-liter Ford engine with a variable flow hydraulic drive. The bike weighs 850 pounds; if made to stand up straight, the skeleton would be over nine feet tall.

This was the first bike Holt ever built—though he previously made a suit of armor in 1995—and he “fashioned the design” from a plastic model of a skeleton. Holt calls his bike “Iron Death.” Yep, that sounds right.
Thanks to Duke Sandefur, via Vince Lewis

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Dollhouses of doom: Lori Nix’s post-apocalyptic dioramas
06:58 am



Library, 2007
The morbid fascination with “ruin porn”—the decrepit or devastated remains of human existence—is hardly a niche interest at this point. People are drawn to the aftermath of destruction or the ravages of time because catastrophe and/or decay is mesmerizing, but many argue that ruin porn is voyeuristic and ghoulish. Well, that’s why we have art, folks—so we can gawk without guilt!

For her series, “The City,” photographer Lori Nix hand-builds tiny, exquisitely detailed diorama models of human spaces in a post-apocalyptic world. Nix grew up in disaster-prone Kansas, and a childhood of flooding, tornadoes, and blizzards shaped her catastrophic visions as much as sensationalist cinema. From her site:

I am fascinated, maybe even a little obsessed, with the idea of the apocalypse. In addition to my childhood experiences with natural disasters, I also grew up watching 1970s films known as “disaster flicks.” I remember watching Towering Inferno, Earthquake, Planet of the Apes and sitting in awe in the dark. Here was the same type of dangers I had experienced day to day being magnified and played out on the big screen in a typical Hollywood way.

The mysterious disaster that’s left Nix’s civilization to fallow is never explained, and no human survivors are ever present. The viewer is simply given permission to stare at what’s left.

Casino, 2013

Chinese Take-Out, 2013

Subway, 2012

Beauty Shop, 2010

Mall, 2010
More of Lori Nix’s dollhouses of doom after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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DEVO ‘busking’ on French TV, 1980
06:43 am


Stéphane Collaro

I’ll bet a lot of bands at the turn of the ‘80s must have envied the media penetration DEVO were enjoying around then. Even before the creation and widespread adoption of MTV, that band’s knowingly goofy presentation made them just so much fun to look at that they were able to storm not just the late night shows where adventurous music was fairly commonplace, but also blandly housewifey daytime chat shows like Merv Griffin‘s.

Here’s a rarely-seen overseas example—this comes from a June, 1980 broadcast of Collaroshow, a French comedy/variety program. DEVO mimed “Girl U Want,” the leadoff song and first single from their then brand new LP Freedom of Choice, as sidewalk buskers. It’s all done in a single camera shot (a tribute to Rope, or just cheapness?) that circles the band with vocalist Mark Motherbaugh. It’s guitarist Bob Mothersbaugh, though, who wins the day here, his energy dome roguishly cocked at an angle as he flips the bird at the camera to punctuate the song’s solo. The ice cream “microphone,” in a perfectly DEVO-ish yellow and red, is an amusing touch, too.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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‘Tribulation 99’: The ultimate conspiracy theory!
06:28 am


Craig Baldwin
Tribulation 99

Tribulation 99 is the work of underground filmmaker Craig Baldwin, a former student of Bruce Conner’s whose specialty is collage. Artfully stitched together from bits of stock footage, B-movies, the news, educational films, commercials, and other archival material, the 1991 movie purports to explain most of the events of recent history as the surface phenomena of an ancient conspiracy to enslave humanity. In its sprint toward Doomsday, it covers 99 tribulations in 48 minutes, so you’re unlikely to be bored, and the ending is worth sticking around for. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry…

The ingenious plot, narrated in sepulchral tones by Sean Kilkoyne, weaves in just about every strand of 20th century conspiracy lore: ancient aliens, the hollow Earth, mind control, Aztec myth, cattle mutilation, UFOs, the CIA’s adventures in Latin America, the Kennedy assassination, Watergate, Iran-Contra, the Bermuda Triangle, freemasonry, Satanism, and, of course, the Book of Revelation. Summarizing the plot is a fool’s errand, and, were it possible, would ruin the effect of the movie. But you will soon notice that its survey of the postwar period is at pains to justify the most atrocious aspects of U.S. foreign policy at every turn—no mean feat!

I first became aware of Baldwin’s work through Sonic Outlaws, his valuable 1995 documentary about Negativland, John Oswald (Plunderphonics), the Barbie Liberation Organization, and other proponents of “culture jamming.” Freshman year, I sought out a VHS of Tribulation 99 in my college library, which meant watching it with headphones, on a tiny screen, sitting in a dismal room that smelled of plaster and mildew. In those surroundings, it felt a bit like getting the taped briefing at the beginning of a Mission: Impossible episode—all the more so because it’s full of the kind of history “they don’t teach you in school.”

I haven’t seen Baldwin’s latest feature, Mock up on Mu, but how could a Craig Baldwin movie about the Jack Parsons-Marjorie Cameron-L. Ron Hubbard story fail to entertain?

DVDs of Craig Baldwin’s films, and much else of interest, are available from Other Cinema.

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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