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Bleak paintings that portray the daily challenges of being ‘human’
11.15.2016
09:43 am

Topics:
Art
Economy

Tags:
Japan
Tetsuya Ishida


‘A Desk’ by Tetsuya Ishida, 1996.
 
Though Japanese painter Tetsuya Ishida left this world at the over a decade ago—a mere month before his 32st birthday—he left us with a large collection of his surreal paintings to ponder that some speculate support the claim that Ishida’s death was a suicide and not an unfortunate accident.

On May 23rd 2005 Ishida was killed after being run over by a train. The vast majority of Ishida’s paintings reflect the harsh reality of life in Japan that Ishida experienced while growing up—the relentless pressure to reach impossibly high academics standards, the lack of jobs and the fact that Japan during his lifetime held the dubious title of having the highest suicide rates in the world (though Japanese suicide rates have declined in recent years). While Ishida’s story perhaps ended like many of his peers his legacy does provide keen insight into his perception of what life is like in Japan through the eyes of someone who lived through it for a short time. Themes such as isolation and the loss of hope for what the future holds. Often Ishida will incorporate his dead-eyed human subjects into a mechanical apparatus or other tangible everyday objects in an effort to convey the brutal erosion of quality of life in the capitalist system.

Ishida’s work possess the ability to silently and effortlessly express what so many lie sleeplessly thinking about. His paintings are accomplished and hauntingly mesmerizing, reinforcing their importance to be seen. Ishida’s work is the subject of at least two books Tetsuya Ishida Complete and Tetsuya Ishida Posthumous Best Practices. A number of the paintings below are probably NSFW.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
‘American Honey’: Cruising the highways of a broken America


 
I think many us have been there: broke and looking for any kind of gig that will get us enough money to make it from one day to another. I did phone sales of subscriptions to a right wing Orange County newspaper. I was 16 and living on the streets of L.A. and needed money… badly. I worked with a dozen or so runaway kids sitting in a miserable loft dialing numbers all day and spewing made up stories of how the subscription revenue was going to help our high school build a new gym (I was a high school dropout) or help Vietnam vets get back on their feet (if they still had any). I lied all day, every day. And for all my bullshitting, I rarely walked with any money. The lying was easy. I read from a script. When I got really bored, I’d improvise.  Back then people were polite on the phone. A lot of them bought into my rap. I couldn’t stand myself. I didn’t last a week. Selling beat drugs on Sunset to weekend hippies seemed like a slightly better karmic option.

Andrea Arnold’s powerful, poetic and liberating new movie American Honey deals with “mag crews,” young people going door to door in mostly affluent neighborhoods selling magazine subscriptions, using lies and artful scams to make a few bucks. For every subscription sold, the magazine clearing houses and publishers get a percentage and the rest is split between crew leaders and the kids doing the selling. Whatever hook it takes to sell a subscription—school projects, charities, scholarships, etc.—is used to separate a customer from their money. Selling magazine subscriptions in the digital age is hardly a ticket to the big time. But desperate times require desperate measures… even when they’re stupid.
 

 
Director Arnold (Fish Tank, Red Road) first discovered the mag crew world when she read Ian Urbina’s article on the subject in the New York Times. She decided to make a movie based on the article. She flew from England to America, rented a car, and drove alone along 1000s of miles of America’s highways. She saw all of the things that make America beautiful, wretched, intimidating and heartbreaking. She encountered hopelessness in a lot of small towns that have gone to hell because of poverty and drugs—the kind of drugs that become intertwined with a sense of there being no future.

American Honey follows a mag crew as they make the kind of trip that Arnold made. A small family of lost souls traveling across America getting stoned, singing along to rap, rock and country songs, living in the moment while the quiet dread of the unknown permeates the air like invisible thunderclouds. At times exhilarating, often tense and foreboding, American Honey subverts most of the viewer’s expectations at every turn. The film seems bleak on the surface but rays of light are constantly breaking through the darkness. Underneath the hardened exterior of these kids are layers of softness, sweetness and pain. Cuddling and sleeping together in sleazy motel rooms they appear as they are: children.

Blue Diamond Sales is typical of the kind of companies that use mag crews to generate revenue. Their website paints a rosy picture of the road to success:

Blue diamond subscriptions sells door to door subscriptions to magazines and books. Blue diamond travels the entire country helping young adults who wish to earn experience in the sales industry.

But their YouTube channel gets closer to reality:
 

 
The mag crews are tight knit bands with an almost cult-like devotion to their crew leaders—very much like a hooker’s relationship to their pimp. They travel in small groups in battered vans, crisscrossing America desperate to grab hold of the lowest rung of the American dream. From hustling truckers at truck stops to millionaire good ol’ boy ranchers and lonely, extremely horny guys working the oil fields of Oklahoma, the girls in American Honey go to where the money and easy marks are. These scenes are filled with tension, effectively tapping into the audience’s horror flick presumptions. But this is not a slasher film. The knives are psychological and go deeper beyond bone and flesh into the seat of the soul. A scene where a little girl in an Iron Maiden t-shirt sings The Dead Kennedys’ “I Kill Children” while her crackhead mother lies comatose in the background makes the torture porn of “Human Centipede” seem like “Happy Days” with hemorrhoidal itch. Reality has now entered a zone that even horror movies struggle to find resonant metaphors.

The mag crews aren’t much different than many of the kids who ended up in The Haight in 1968, the year after the Summer Of Love. They weren’t looking for an Aquarian age, they were looking to get out of bad situations back home. Many had suffered abuses of every nature. They came to the Haight to hook up with kindred spirits and forge communities. They weren’t hippies but they were open to anything that might give them a sense of better days. A sense of love. Ten years later on New York’s Lower East Side there was a similar influx of suburban kids looking to get away from the soul-deadening schools, shopping malls, and apathy that gutted whatever feelings of freedom they felt entitled to. The crews are a slightly better dressed version of the crusty punks I see camping in the woods behind my store in Austin.

Unlike the hippies or punks, the mag crews haven’t turned their backs on capitalism or the American Dream. The kids in American Honey see Wal-Mart as an oasis in the tattered streets of Crack Town. They want money. And they want it now. Bling is their thing and the rap songs on the movies soundtrack set the tone. These kids are white but their frame of reference is Black. Together they create a sense of mattering. They matter to each other.

Comparisons will be made to the films of Larry Clark and Harmony Korine, but American Honey is more lyrical and less cynical than Kids or Spring Breakers. Clark’s Ken Park has moments of the kind of tenderness and bittersweetness of Arnold’s film. Both movies celebrate humanity over complete despair. And in each film, sex is threatening as well as liberating. Arnold’s point of view is that of a woman who knows from day to day experience that men are unpredictable animals and American Honey is suffused with an atmosphere of sexual peril without being gratuitous or exploitative.
 

 
American Honey is three hours long and it rambles and careens like the crews bouncing from state to state in their Econoline van. The length of the film never seems overlong. Its length actually gives the viewer the sense of being along for the ride. There are no big dramatic moments – except for the ones in the audience’s heads. The movie constantly subverts expectations.  The drama comes in the small observations and the occasional emotional explosions. All of it moving along to a soundtrack composed of 24 wildly eclectic songs ranging from Kevin Gates to The Raveonettes, Springsteen, Steve Earle, E-40 and Mazzy Star. It all works sublimely and for every moment of suffocating emptiness there’s an epiphany fueled by music, a bottle of cheap whiskey and lots of pot.

American Honey won awards at this year’s Cannes Film Festival including best actress for Sasha Lane. This is her film debut. Shia LaBeouf is perfectly cast as a cocky hustler. Sporting a Confederate flag bikini, Riley Keough (Elvis Presley’s granddaughter) is the cold-hearted crew leader and she’s amazing. The entire cast of non-professional actors ARE the real thing. Robbie Ryan’s cinematography is glorious, capturing the American landscape in a fugue-like state between night, day and what lays in between.

American Honey is opening this Friday in a few major cities and then nationwide on October 7. It’s an important movie. One that gets almost everything right about what’s bad and what’s good about America in the era of Trump. Being bombarded by dark prophecies from a sociopath running for President plays into the deeply pessimistic view young people already have of their future. American Honey hints at a way out: love  
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
There is a jock strap planter for men
08.22.2016
03:57 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Economy
Fashion

Tags:


 
You want to know why this is “dangerous”? Because it looks fucking painful, that’s why! The jock strap planter is by Pansy Ass Ceramics. It sells for around $100 and comes in green, purple and blue. Perfect.

Now how on earth you water this sucker and fertilize it, I simply do not know.

According to the website, the cactus is not included. Boo! Perhaps some nice succulent plants would make it less prick-ly?


 

 
With thanks to Rusty Blazenhoff!

 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Capitalism’s operating system has gone off the rails: An interview with Douglas Rushkoff
03.08.2016
12:51 pm

Topics:
Books
Economy
Thinkers

Tags:
Douglas Rushkoff


 
In his latest book, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity (Portfolio/Penguin), media/technology theorist and PBS documentarian, Douglas Rushkoff asks “Why doesn’t the explosive growth of companies like Facebook and Uber deliver more prosperity for everyone? What is the systemic problem that sets the rich against the poor and the technologists against everybody else?”

Rapid technological improvements have created unforeseen societal chaos and this change is just starting to pick up speed. Our economic operating system—the “program” at the heart of Capitalism itself—is deliriously out of control. The economy no longer serves the human race, just a tiny elite sliver of it. The rest of us, whether we realize it or not, to a certain extent toil on their behalf. Think about it: How did the Waltons become the richest family in America, amassing a collective fortune of around $150 billion, if not by siphoning off a micropayment from every single gallon of milk, bottle of shampoo or box of Hostess Ding Dongs sold there? Bud and Sam Walton might have started Walmart, but all their offspring did was win the lottery at birth.

If you think that sounds predatory—and it should—just wait until you get a load of what the big technology firms have in mind for us…

I asked my friend of some twenty years some questions over email.

Richard Metzger: You write how the operating system of capitalism is obsolete, creating vast spoils for a select group of lucky human beings who are more or less basically leeching off the rest of mankind’s activities, and in a world of increasing automation to make things even worse. What’s the new book’s diagnosis of the modern economy?

Douglas Rushkoff: That sounds like a pretty good diagnosis to me. Or I suppose those are the symptoms? The underlying problem is not a disease, however. It’s not that corporate capitalism has been corrupted by greed or even by the startup economy of digital businesses. The system is working precisely as it was designed to.

It’s just that the transfer of value from people and places into capital used to happen a bit slower. And our companies tended to do it to other places more than to us. So in the 1400’s, British East India Trading Company might have enslaved thousands of Africans or taken land from the people of the West Indies - where today it’s Walmart bankrupting our towns and Uber extracting labor from drivers.

So now, the extractive power of expansionary, growth-based capitalism has been turned against us. The same sorts of companies are growing, but at the expense of all humans - not just those we can’t see. And the startup economy does all this a whole lot faster. A company goes from zero to a billion in 24 months. And it only does that by abandoning its original goals of helping people do something new, and instead adopting scorched earth policies toward its own markets.

That’s the real problem: companies that want to be around for a long time need to keep their markets - their customers and suppliers and workers - healthy and viable. Once companies are in control of venture capitalists, that’s no longer the goal. They haven’t bought the company to own it, but to sell it. They only need their markets to survive long enough to get to the exit - the IPO or acquisition that lets them cash out.

In the process, the company can use its war chest of investment capital to regulate the marketplace in its favor, or undercut the prices of the competition. It’s not about doing business; it’s about selling the company.

Okay, if that’s the diagnosis, then what’s the remedy? Is there one?

There’s not a single remedy. That’s the one-size-fits-all ethos of the industrial age: figure out the solution, then scale it universally! (And make a ton of money in the process.) Rather, the solution set will be as varied as the people and communities of our planet. The first step is to remember that human beings retain their home field advantage as long as they stay in the real world, on planet earth. We are the natives here - the corporations and technologies and business plans are all invented alien. That’s part what the SF protesters mean when they lay in front of the Google buses.

The way to reduce the power of the companies extracting value from our economy is to begin transacting locally and laterally. Do as much locally as you can. See your town or city as the economy. If there’s people with needs, and people with skills, you have the basis for an economy. You just may need to develop an alternative means of exchange, such as a local currency or favor bank.

Of course that doesn’t replace the entire economy. People look at a suggestion like that, and they immediately thing I’m arguing that cash, banking, corporations, iPhones, and automobiles go away. We can’t help but think of things in apocalyptic terms. But all I’m suggesting is that we balance out even just a little of our Walmart or Amazon purchases with some more local, small-scaled value creation and exchange.

The other remedy is for those developing new technologies or applications not to accept so much venture capital. They still think that getting a lot of money for their idea is the best way to build it. But it’s not. The more money you take, the less control you have over the future of your company. When you take in VC, you have already sold your company to someone who doesn’t care about your app, your customers, your employees, or your mission. Kiss it good-bye. They only care about selling your business to someone else - to the next round of investors - and that means plumping it up. You will be forced to pivot from whatever you wanted to do, to something they think can let them sell the company. It doesn’t even have to make money - it just has to destroy a market and claim a monopoly over what’s left. 

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Depressing photos of an aging mall devoid of shoppers during the holidays
01.06.2016
12:51 pm

Topics:
Economy
Pop Culture

Tags:
1980s
Malls

The only two
The only two “shoppers” at the Century III, November 29th, 2015
 
Editor and former photographer for her high school newspaper and yearbook, Meg Stefanac took a trip back in time just before Christmas last year and paid a visit to a mall where she and her friends spent countless hours, the Century III Mall in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania. As it turns out, Stefanac was one of only a scant few people traipsing around Century III on Sunday, November 29th. Luckily, she took her camera with her and captured some pretty depressing shots of the mall that hasn’t changed much since it opened back in 1979.
 
The deserted Century III mall carousel
 
The empty food court at the Century III mall
The empty food court at the Century III Mall
 
Stefanac’s photos remind me of the Sherman Oaks Galleria from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, only without Damone trying his best moves on a cardboard version of Debbie Harry and without PEOPLE. Here’s Stefanac’s recollections of Century III, which sound pretty much like my own memories of being an 80s mall-rat:

This was THE place to be for those living in the South Hills of Pittsburgh in the 80s. We pitied those who had to live their lives without such a mall nearby. It was always crowded and bustling, and it was frequently difficult to quickly work your way across as you navigated through a sea of neon clothing and big hair held firmly in place with Aqua Net.

 
The saddest arcade in America in the Century III Mall
The saddest arcade in America in the Century III Mall
 
The wide open spaces of the Century III Mall, November 29th, 2014
 
Sometimes if I close my eyes and listen to Winger, I can smell the ooze of the fabled Aqua Net Pink Can wafting a hole through the ozone. I don’t miss those days. Much.

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Got $4000 Germs-burning a hole in your pocket? Buy signed (pitiful) royalty checks of Germs members!
11.23.2015
08:59 am

Topics:
Economy
Music
Punk

Tags:
Darby Crash
The Germs
Pat Smear


 
Let’s say you’re an ageing ex-punk who’s made it in the world of high finance. You’re on top of the world, but still something is missing. You’ve got the McMansion and the porsche and the cabin cruiser, but you still wear your FEAR shirt on the weekends up at the lake and there’s always that Germs-burn on your inner wrist which serves as a constant reminder of your rebellious roots. You still feel connected to those glory days, but time has built a wall between you and your lost youth. If only this great wealth could somehow help you reconnect…

Perhaps…

Allow me to direct your attention to three pieces of punk rock memorabilia currently for sale on eBay that would be considered absolutely priceless if it weren’t for the fact that they have an actual price: $3,998.00.
 

Germs’ royalty checks. Click on image for larger version.
 
These three royalty checks were made out by What? Records owner Chris Ashord to Paul Beahm (Darby Crash), Teresa Ryan (Lorna Doom), and Georg Ruthenberg Jr (Pat Smear) for sales of the first Germs’ single “Forming”, which was released in July, 1977. They are endorsed on the reverse side by the band members.
 

Endorsements. Click image for larger version.
 
What’s most remarkable about these artifacts is the fact that the royalty checks are made out for $3.00, $2.57, and $2.56. One is reminded of the Opti-Grab lawsuit scene from The Jerk in which Steve Martin’s character is reduced to writing hundreds of settlement checks for “one dollar and nine cents.” A $2.56 check seems hardly worth writing, but considering the value of that check now, there’s at least one eBay seller that’s satisfied that the payments were made in a timely manner. 

Money can’t buy you authenticity, but these checks do seem to prove the street-cred of early punk bands like The Germs. No one was in it for the money, and here’s the evidence! These items prove that, at least once-upon-a-time, there were some things more important than money—and you can have that proof to hold in your very own hands today for only $3,998.00.

After the jump, the hit What? Records single from whence the Germs got filthy rich. Listen to it and ponder, “What happened to Don Bolles’ check?”

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Pooping on the beaches in India (NSFW)
10.21.2015
12:06 pm

Topics:
Economy
Environment

Tags:
Mumbai


 
What you’re about to see is a reporter taking you into slums of Mumbai, India where a long time resident gives her an eye-opening tour of how the poor there “do their business.” There is no sewage system in the area, and few public toilets, so folks are forced to defecate on the beaches or in the water. While, yes, there’s a bit of a gross-out factor to this video, I actually found it quite fascinating.

I’ve never seen anything like this before. I’ll never take my toilet for granted again. Never. But what I can’t understand is the flip-flops. If I had to make potty in these places, I’d be wearing boots.

 
via reddit

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
The Sad Truth: Nauseatingly profound illustrations of what the world is turning into


 
Everything that’s bleak about the modern world is wrapped-up like a perfect, little package with these illustrations by London-based artist and animator, Steve Cutts. Rampant consumerism. Shitty jobs. Environmental devastation. Disinformation. Nonsense. Billionaire psychopaths. Overcrowded cities—all present and accounted for. We’ve featured Cutts’ work here on DM before with his dark animation about the current lives of ‘80s cartoon characters.

If a picture paints a thousand words, these pieces are Molotov cocktails for the mind.


 

 

 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Miniature recreations of Philadelphia’s vanishing urban artifacts
07.21.2015
11:41 am

Topics:
Art
Economy

Tags:
Philadelphia
miniatures

A miniature replica of The Forum
A miniature replica of The Forum XXX Theater in Philadelphia (RIP)
 
Long-time Philadelphia resident and artist Drew Leshko, has created incredibly detailed miniature versions of some of his city’s decaying architecture.
 
Miniature version of the Revival Temple in Philadelphia
Revival Temple
 
Inspired by subjects found in his own neighborhood, Leshko’s goal was to enlighten people to the ever-encroaching gentrification of his city by preserving structures and objects in miniature form that have been a part of his community for many decades. Especially structures that will soon be replaced by shinier, newer buildings or businesses. Using a layering technique, Leshko carves his three-dimensional relics out of paper and wood and creates 1:12 scale replicas of fading local attractions like the “Set- it-Up-Go-Go-Bar” (which is still open), XXX movie theater “The Forum” (RIP), or everyday objects like dumpsters decorated with bumper stickers, signs, long gone businesses or other reminders of the past.
 
Close up of miniature/phone and stickers (finger for scale)
 
Wherever you might be reading this, it’s likely that in the very recent past you have said goodbye to yet another part of your own town’s cultural heritage. And there seems to be no stopping this disturbing, profit-driven trend. Thanks to an artist like Leshko, a piece of that heritage will live on and be remembered by those who grew up with them, and will hopefully serve as a reminder to future residents of cities like Philadelphia that preserving our past has as much to do with ensuring our future as anything else.
 
Miniature of The World Famous Set it Off Go-Go Bar
Miniature of The World Famous Set-it-Off-Go-Go-Bar in Philadelphia
 
United Check Cashing miniature replica
United Check Cashing
 
More miniature Philly after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
‘In Drones We Trust,’ a grassroots protest of the U.S. military’s use of drones
12.08.2014
01:44 pm

Topics:
Activism
Art
Economy

Tags:
money
drones


 
Joseph DeLappe is not your ordinary artist. He’s a professor of art at the University of Nevada, and some have called him the first “gamer artist.” In October 18, 2002, with the TV show Friends still on the air, he and five gamer friends staged a recreation of “The One Where No One Proposes,” the premiere episode of Season 9, in the medium of a Quake III Arena game server (that is, a massively multiplayer environment where hundreds of players compete in the same arena). The project was called “Quake/Friends.” Each character in the show was given an avatar in the violent shoot-‘em-up, and the players used the in-game messaging system to render the episode’s dialogue: “Our performers functioned as passive, neutral visitors to the game—we were constantly killed and reincarnated to continue the performance. The piece was presented a second time in 2003 using six projected points of view, multiple audio channels and microphones for each performer.” The episode they were reenacting was not quite a month old at the time of the first performance. It was kind of a big deal at the time—the New York Times gave the second performance of the piece a writeup with the title “Take That, Monica! Kapow, Chandler!

More recently, DeLappe’s work has shown a more explicitly political flavor. From 2006 to 2011, DeLappe undertook the impressively subversive “Dead in Iraq” project, which involved logging on to the U.S. Army recruiting game “America’s Army” with the username dead-in-iraq and typing in the names of all 4,484 (at that time) service persons who had died to date in Iraq. In 2013 DeLappe commenced the “Cowardly Drone” project, which was essentially an elaborate effort to fuck with Google Image search results. He would take images of e.g. MQ9 Reaper Drones and Photoshop the word “COWARDLY” on the vehicle’s side in large bold letters, then re-upload the images with unprepossessing titles like “predator drone” in the hopes that some of his images would come up as hits in Google Search. The images are intended as “a subtle intervention into the media stream of US military power.”

DeLappe’s newest idea, “In Drones We Trust,” is combining a critique of the U.S. military’s use of drones with the defacement of U.S. currency. He noticed that all U.S. bills in wide circulation (except for the $1 bill) feature an etching of an august edifice connected with the U.S. government on its reverse side. (The $2 has a reproduction of Joseph Trumbull’s painting The Declaration of Independence.) In each case the building comes with an entirely featureless, placid sky, so DeLappe figured, why not add a menacing image of a drone to them? “It seems appropriate,” writes DeLappe, “considering our current use of drones in foreign skies, to symbolically bring them home to fly over our most notable patriotic structures.” He has created a couple hundred rubber stamps with the drone image and you can get one for yourself for a nominal price that simple covers the price of postage ($3 for domestic orders). I ordered one, and I can’t wait to ... er, use it on non-currency bits of paper! (Actually, if I’m reading this right, it’s not illegal to draw on or add markings to U.S. paper currency.)
 

 

 

 

 

 

 
No video of “In Drones We Trust” that I could find, but here’s a look at “Quake/Friends”:
 

 
via Internet Magic.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
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