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He-She: The most cunning, vicious and fiendish killer of all time!
12:33 pm

Pop Culture


One of the weirdest villains in the history of comic books was the formidable He-She. A creation of writer and artist Chuck Biro, the part man/part woman baddie appeared in the pages of Crimebuster comics featuring crime fighter Chuck Chandler. The series ran from 1942 to 1956.

Crimebuster had no super powers. Chuck Chandler decided to fight crime (Nazis, specifically) after his parents were murdered by Iron Jaw, who was Crimebuster’s main recurring nemesis and a really pretty nasty bad guy.

Want to read the whole exciting comic featuring He-She? Go here.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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David Gibson’s ‘Art of Mixing’ will blow your mind

People, I have a new guru. A visionary, a sage, a seer. I hang on his every uttering like they are precious droplets of Mana. He is a true master, and I am keen to follow in his ways.

His name is David Gibson, and he is the author of a book called The Art Of Mixing, a text used by some of the world’s top music production courses to show how best to “mix down” a track using its individual parts (drums/bass/vocals/etc). At some point in the early-to-mid 90s David also produced a video guide to accompany his book, using primitive computer graphics to help explain various ideas. Imagine if Wayne Campbell’s cable-access show had been directed by Tim & Eric, and concerned solely with music production techniques and the intricacies of a track’s mix, and you’re in the right ballpark.

The Art of Mixing (subtitled A Visual Guide to Recording, Engineering and Production) uses a very clever two-dimensional representation of a song’s “sound world” to show how effects, pan, track levels and EQ can be used to alter a song’s final mix, its shape, movement and dynamics. As well as imparting valuable information that any music producer will appreciate—be they bedroom or studio, headphone, Mackie mixer or Neve desk, witch haus, thrash metal or trad jazz—what really shines through is Gibsons sheer joy at working with music. This dude just exudes good vibes (in a slightly goofy, 90s-retro way, natch.)

In the modern world music is both hugely rejoiced and profoundly debased. Talent shows spread a myth that music is merely an easy route to fame, and that fame should be a musician’s ultimate goal before they are disposed of by the corporate behemoth in favour of the next big thing that comes down the machine’s pipeline. At the same time the tools for creating music have become easier than ever to obtain, as have the distribution methods, and now everyone’s voice can be heard. I believe we NEED people like David Gibson right now to remind us WHY we make music, and just why music is so precious, so magical, so moving and so much fun.

Gibson does not shy away from talking about music’s innate spiritual dimension and the long path of discovery, both personal and musical, for anyone who chooses to work with music. To the more literal-minded reader this may sound corny, but it is important to remember that music IS an artform, with as much wisdom to impart to the practitioner as any other discipline, be it scientific, artistic or spiritual. David Gibson is the Buddha of the track bounce. He IS the Anti-Cowell.

What you see below is the conclusion of The Art Of Mixing in its video form, as uploaded to YouTube, and it is truly inspiring. I have started at the end because it gives a very neat summary of the topics covered in the book/video, but also, in the words of Guru Dave himself: 

Now that we have covered all of the dynamics you can create using the equipment… we’ll let you begin this lifelong exploration on your own.

David Gibson “The Art Of Mixing (Part 17)”

David Gibson’s The Art Of Mixing: A Visual Guide to Recording, Engineering and Production is available to buy, in book form, on Amazon

Thanks to Kurt Dirt for expanding my mind!

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
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Ed Sanders’ brain-groping memoir is a real mindfugger

One of the defining moments of my life was when I picked up the debut album by The Fugs in a People’s Drug Store in Falls Church, Virginia in 1966. And when I say “picked up” that’s exactly what I mean. I didn’t even have to listen to it. All it took was picking up the album and looking at the cover to have my 15-year-old mind scrambled forever. A grainy black and white photograph of five scruffy-looking hippies holding musical instruments standing among rubble in front of an ancient looking brick wall somewhere in NY City’s East Village was not your usual teenybopper rock and roll imagery. If parents didn’t want their daughters to marry a Rolling Stone, they wouldn’t want them within 20 square miles of a Fug. This was punk rock in beatnik drag. Ten years later The Ramones would release their first album with a similarly New Yorkish cover. I stared at The Fugs with the awe of a kid coming upon a creature from outer space.

Of course, I bought the record (along with a copy of the first Mothers Of Invention album, Freak Out) and went home and eagerly put it on the turntable. The rest, as they say, is history. The Fugs were the hippest thing I’d yet encountered on vinyl. Their mix of the sacred and the profane, poetry and street talk, beauty and coarseness, was intellectual and spiritual manna for my hungry teenage brain and heart.

I wanted to be a part of whatever world The Fugs existed in so I ended up taking a bus to New York City and immediately went to The Fugs’ co-founder Ed Sanders’ bookstore, Peace Eye. There I began my serious Beat education, thumbing through the pages of books by Michael McClure, Alexandra David-Neel, Ginsberg, Burroughs, Kerouac, the whole underground scene…and it was still relatively underground at the time.

(While writing this I’m listening to the hugely underrated Fugs’ psychedelic/folk-rock masterpiece It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest .)

As much of a Fugs fan as I was, what eventually really knocked me out was Ed Sanders’ prose and poetry. He had a Whitmanesque/Blakean vision and bardic style coupled with gutter humor that bridged the heavens above and the mud below. He could undercut literary pretense with the foul-mouthed rants of a heavy-maned hillbilly cranked up on a ten dollar bag of crystal meth. His beatnik/hippie sensibilities were the foil to his truckstop cowboy skepticism. In other words, Sanders knew how to yin his yang, keeping the whole beautiful cosmic mess balanced between words of worship and the laughter on the tongue of a drunken whore. Within his howling vowels and clanging consonants, Sanders located that strange geography where the mythic mingles with tabloid headlines and TV commercials, where Jimmie Rodgers knocks back cheap bourbon while staring at the reflections of Isis and Ra in the bottom of his shot glass.

Drink up oh mighty yodellers and scribblers who praise the Dharma. The truth that envelopes us all and sends us squealing like delirious pigs into the arms of unbearable bliss is upon us like an ambergris-scented robe made of the pubic hair of two thousand and twelve Aztec virgins. Get naked, now! Or get the fuck out!

Yes, Ed Sanders was my guru of the gobble grope, my slum God of the Lower East Side, the dopethrill psychopath who pointed the way to a place where there is no shame in the flesh, the fuck or the flame that ignites the holy sacraments of the good lord Ganja. With Sanders as my shamanic guide I became a full-fledged member of the skin flower army, bravely facing the future with my hair flapping in the wind, a flag made of a million love tendrils.

That was then, this is now. And it is with great pleasure that I share with you good news indeed. The almighty Fug and editor of “Fuck You: A Magazine of The Arts,” has published a new memoir, Fug You, that covers his early days as a peacenik, poet, rabble rouser and musician in New York during the Sixties. It’s a great read full of fascinating anecdotes, essential counter-culture history, downtown bohemia, wrangles with the law, appearances by hundreds (yes, hundreds) of Sixties’ icons including Jimi Hendrix, Andy Warhol, Frank Zappa, Kenneth Anger, The Velvet Underground and tons of photos, images and manuscripts from his archives.

Unlike many a chronicler of those stoned days, Sanders has kept his wits about him. This isn’t a wobbly sentimental journey. The writing is sharp, witty and full of precise detail and facts. Of course, who would expect less of the author responsible for one of the best (and darkest) non-fiction books on the Aquarian Age, The Family. Sanders has always shown an abiding respect for form and tradition, even when fucking with them. Fug You is not only a personal history, it is history in the big sense. It is one of the few books that deals with the hippies and the counter-culture from the inside that doesn’t read like an amnesiac trying to reconstruct a past life or a brain-addled Deadhead recalling the time he caught the clap in a crash pad in the Haight as he desperately tries to keep his drool cup from toppling off his beer gut. Or worse, those guilt-ridden confessionals by former junkies who used to play in hair bands. Sanders doesn’t sound like an old fart spinning tales or pathetically trying to revive the good old days.

What kept Sanders interesting from the very beginning is still very much in operation in this new book: the clarity of his bullshit detector and his irreverent take on virtually everything, including himself. Which is not to say he doesn’t care about things in a deep sense, he does. He just approaches life with a Zen perspective knowing that getting overamped over shit ain’t gonna change a thing. He continues to be a revolutionary with a sense of the ridiculous. His strategy has always been to see the absurdity in the horror show and to shine a cosmic light on it. We see the Fug and Abbie Hoffman style of revolutionary theater echoed in today’s Occupy Movement. When The Fugs went to Virginia to levitate the Pentagon in 1967 not everybody was laughing, but they were certainly paying attention.

“You ask about my philosophy, baby, yeah? Dope, peace, magic gods in the tree trunks, and GROUP GROPE, BABY!”

The book ends in 1970, so I’m hoping this is the first in a series. More than four decades after I first encountered him, Sanders is still manna for my hungry brain.

Fug You: An Informal History of the Peace Eye Bookstore, the Fuck You Press, the Fugs, and Counterculture in the Lower East Side
is available here.

Here’s a little video mashup of some vintage film footage with selections from Sanders’ ode to rednecks, hippies and the trailer parks of absolute reality, Sanders’ Truckstop.

1. “Jimmy Joe, The Hippybilly Boy”   2. “Maple Court Tragedy”     3. “Heartbreak Crash Pad”     4. “Banshee”     5. “Plaster Song”     6. “Iliad”

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Holmes as Hamlet: Billy Wilder’s ‘The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes’

Billy Wilder spent seven years with his co-writer I. A. L. Diamond working on the script of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. The finished film originally lasted over 3 hours, but the studios panicked over the failure of such long form films (Doctor Doolittle with Rex Harrison, and Star! with Julie Andrews and Michael Craig) and demanded cuts. The film was hacked down to an acceptable 93 minutes. Diamond didn’t speak to Wilder for almost a year

It was a terrible act of vandalism that robbed cinema of one of its greater Holmes, as portrayed by Robert Stephens. It was also bizarre that Wilder, who believed in the primacy of the word, allowed his script to be so drastically altered, turning what was an original meditation on Holmes into a mildly distracting caper. In the process we lost Wilder and Diamond’s analysis of Holmes not as just a fictional creation, but in comparison to Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

The clues are all there to be found. Let’s start with the casting, Stephens, who was one of the most gifted and brilliant actors of his generation - who sadly only graced the screen in a handful of films: scene-stealing in A Taste of Honey, adding flesh to the boney The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,  and as the BFI states, “sublime” in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Stephens was stage actor, the heir apparent to Laurence Olivier, indeed a far better actor than Olivier, who depended for success by flirting with the audience - Olivier could never be bad as he needed, demanded, the love of his audience.

When Wilder cast Stephens, the actor asked the great director:

‘“How do you want me to play it for the movie,” I asked Billy. “You must play it like Hamlet. And you must not put on one pound of weight. I want you to look like a pencil.” So, that’s the way we did The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.’


The game’s afoot on ‘The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes’, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Documentary filmed in The Haight Ashbury during the Summer Of Love

Filmed during the Summer Of Love (1967) in the Haight-Ashbury, this groovy documentary features commentary from visionary poet Michael McClure, footage of The Grateful Dead hanging out at their Ashbury Street home, a visit to The Psychedelic Bookshop, The Straight Theater, scenes from McClure’s play The Beard and rare shots of the bard of The Haight, Richard Brautigan, walking through Panhandle Park in all of his glorious splendor.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Revolutionary, artist and man of conscience, Vaclav Havel R.I.P.

Velvet Underground meets Velvet Revolutionary

Vaclav Havel died today at the age of 75. A former chain smoker with chronic respiratory problems, Havel had been in failing health the past few months and died at his weekend home in Hradecek in the northern Czech Republic,

Czech independence leader, artist and human rights activist, Havel was elected the first president of a free Czechoslovakia since 1948 on December 29, 1989.

A prominent force in the Velvet Revolution, a bloodless overthrow of the communist regime in in Czechoslovakia, which returned democracy to Czechs after fifty years of Nazi occupation and communist rule, Havel was the very definition of a man of conscience. Soft-spoken, humble, impish and possessing a healthy sense of the absurd, Havel was that rare leader who chose the power of inspiration over rhetoric and empty gesture. He was a revolutionary who recognized that artistic creativity was every bit as important as political dogma or ideologies. Without the humanizing force of literature, theater and music and an understanding of the interconnectedness of all things, civilization is a hollow machine destined for spiritual starvation.

Himself a playwright, Havel was perhaps the only world leader who was closer to rock and rollers like Lou Reed, Frank Zappa and Keith Richards than politicians and bureaucrats. It is reputed that The Velvet Revolution was named after The Velvet Underground, whose music was made popular in Czechoslovakia by Prague’s radical avant-rock band The Plastic People.

Havel was a peacenik who somehow managed to navigate the treacherous waters of political power without losing his sense of perspective or soul.

Havel’s revolutionary message—which helped oust the world’s second strongest power from his country, but which Americans and in that moment the American Congress have not always been ready to hear—is that peace does not come by defeating enemies, it comes by making people free, governments democratic, and societies just. “The idea of human rights and freedoms must be an integral part of any meaningful world order. Yet, I think it must be anchored in a different place, and in a different way, than has been the case so far. If it is to be more than just a slogan mocked by half the world, it cannot be expressed in the language of a departing era, and it must not be mere froth floating on the subsiding waters of faith in a purely scientific relationship to the world.”

Today’s world, as we all know, is faced with multiple threats,” he said in 1993 in Athens, on accepting one of the countless honors he received. “From whichever angle I look at this menace, I always come to the conclusion that salvation can only come through a profound awakening of man to his own personal responsibility, which is at the same time a global responsibility. Thus, the only way to save our world, as I see it, lies in a democracy that recalls its ancient Greek roots: democracy based on an integral human personality personally answering for the fate of the community.

Without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness,” Havel told Congress, referring to a movement toward democracy, “nothing will change for the better in the sphere of our being as humans, and the catastrophe for which the world is headed—be it ecological, social, demographic, or a general breakdown of civilization—will be unavoidable. If we are no longer threatened by world war, or by the danger that the absurd mountains of nuclear weapons might blow up the world, this does not mean that we have definitely won. This is actually far from being a final victory.”

Havel speaks at the Forum for Creative Europe in March of 2009.

Part two, plus a clip about how rock and roll figured into the Velvet Revolution, after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Always a Hitch: R.I.P. Christopher Hitchens

It’s impossible to know where to begin when paying tribute to an intellectual giant and truly Dangerous Mind like author and journalist Christopher Hitchens, who died today of metastized esophogeal cancer.

Far more elegant remembrances will pour in from far more skilled writers than I could ever hope to be. Here’s three hours of the guy speaking for himself on CSPAN’s Book TV show.

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Discussion
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Home to Beats and literary rebels: Legendary Paris bookstore owner George Whitman R.I.P.
03:38 pm


George Whitman
Shakespeare and Company

A gathering place for adventurous writers like Allen Ginsberg, Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, William Burroughs and Lawrence Durrell among many others, Shakespeare and Company was far more than just a business, it was a breeding ground and spiritual center for literary pioneers who were drawn to the shop by its enigmatic American owner George Whitman who opened the English-language bookstore in 1951,

Whitman passed away last Wednesday at the age of 98.

He welcomed visitors with large-print messages on the walls. “Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise,” was one, quoting Yeats. Next to a wishing well at the center of the store, a sign said: “Give what you can, take what you need. George.” By his own estimate, he lodged some 40,000 people.

Whitman was generous but he also had a quick temper. He was loved but his fiery disposition could be off-putting and his methods of running his business somewhat dictatorial. He was a firm believer that anyone seeking shelter in his bookstore should expect to pay their way by doing some work in the bookstore and he evidently could be a tough taskmaster, like a Zen teacher wielding a bamboo stick. This didn’t dissuade thousands of writers from making the pilgrimage to his literary Mecca. There was no bookstore quite like it.

Whitman and his extraordinary bookstore were a seminal force in the lives and careers of some of the 20th century’s greatest authors. In this documentary, Portrait Of A Bookstore As An Old Man, we are introduced to Whitman and a life touched by the marvelous.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Joseph Arthur: Music, art and other leaps of faith
07:05 pm


Joseph Arthur

In pondering the best music of 2011, one must consider Joseph Arthur’s stunning album The Graduation Ceremony

Over the course of the past 15 years, Arthur has created a body of work that is beautiful, mercurial, romantic and touched by more than a little heartbreak and betrayal. Joseph manages to deal with relationships gone bad, loneliness, drugs and New York City with a pained tenderness that recalls Nick Drake. He does so without being maudlin or self-pitying.

No mere poet of despair, Arthur has written songs that shimmer with a sweet spirituality built around big fat Beatlesque hooks and there are moments of deeply solid funkiness to some of his material that is positively Prince-like. As I said, he can be mercurial. From his early collaborations with Peter Gabriel and T- Bone Burnett to his self-produced albums released on his own label, Arthur has never shied away from experimentation while maintaining a consistently high level of artistry. I’ve never been disappointed by a Joseph Arthur album and I own them all.

In recent years, Joseph has become a painter with a growing reputation among gallery owners and art collectors. His paintings have become a part of his live performances. In the course of a set, Joseph will start and finish a painting. The effect is thrilling and the results are astonishingly good. Art at the speed of sound.

Joseph spent an afternoon with me at my house and I filmed him painting and talking about his music, art and poetry. The video features tracks from some of his past albums as well as his latest.

If you don’t already know him, let me introduce you to Joseph Arthur.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Cancel my subscription to the Resurrection: Greil Marcus’s ‘The Doors’
09:15 pm


The Doors
Greil Marcus

Listening to The Doors’ second album, Strange Days, while peaking on half a tab of Purple Owsley was one of those mindbending events that alter the course of a young man’s life forever. I was 16 years old, living in the suburbs of Virginia and, with the exception of a couple of freak friends, was pretty much alone in the world. There weren’t a lot of support systems during the Summer Of Love in the American South for a kid who wanted to explore his spiritual side. Organized religion had more than failed me, it terrified me. Catholicism spooked me so bad that even the sight of a nun or priest would send me rushing in a cold sweat in the direction of the nearest mental exit sign.

Getting LSD was the easy part. Knowing the best way to navigate the experience was the challenge. You just took the trip and put your faith in the loving hands of the cosmos. At least that’s what I did. Jim Morrison and his band mates were the dark guides on my solitary psychedelic journey.

Well the music is your special friend
Dance on fire as it intends
Music is your only friend
Until the end
Until the end
Until the end!

The Doors’ apocalyptic rock might seem like an entry way to a bad trip, but for me their music echoed and expanded upon an interior shadow world I had always been drawn to and their anti-authoritarianism played into my distrust of bully gods and their black-robed hitmen. LSD gave me a glimpse into the spiraling DNA that contained everything I needed to know about the Universe and all I had to do was crack the code.The Doors provided the soundtrack in my search for the key. A search that continues to this day. Breaking through to the other side turned out to be harder than I imagined.

Jim Morrison was the first rock star that tapped into the same rich vein of poetic dreaming that had lured me into the web of the French surrealists and the American counter-culture. Here was a young Navy brat, like myself, who drew inspiration from Rimbaud, Baudelaire, the Beats, The Living Theater and cinema. He took it all in and spun it back out into lyric-driven music that was familiar and strange at the same time. Intense and filled with mystery and sex, you couldn’t call it pop, but you could dance to it….or melt to it like a pillar of Biblical salt. In my rock and roll world, Morrison was the benign high priest who led me not so gently into a dark night of the soul shot through with glistening shards of seductive light.

Along with most of the rock groups I grew up with, I don’t listen to The Doors these days. The iconic songs of my youth are etched in my genes - musical scarification. I hear them whenever I want by tilting my head in the direction of the Akashic records that spin on turntables somewhere in the Bardo. Years of hearing “Light My Fire” and “When The Music’s Over” on classic rock radio has dulled some of the magic for me. Yet I still get excited when I see a new book on The Doors, particularly when it’s written by someone who was “there.” The thought that hidden secrets might be unlocked from old songs making them feel new again or that some lost piece of history has been unearthed like a rock and roll version of the Dead Sea Scrolls triggers little jolts of excitement along my spine as electric as a Nicolai Tesla neck massage. Yes, hope springs eternal for fools like me.

Greil Marcus’s new book The Doors: A Lifetime Of Listening To Five Mean Years teased me into thinking there might be something fresh to be said about The Doors. Marcus has a rep for knowing a thing or two about rock and roll and pop culture, so I assumed he’d bring something to the mix that lesser writers managed to overlook, you know, a different perspective. But Marcus fails in almost every respect to engage the reader. Even the most devout Doors’ fan will find this slim volume of overstuffed prose and wild tangents a numbing experience. The Marcus perspective consists of bloated descriptions of Doors’ songs and performances, descriptions that are so subjective and adjective heavy that at times it’s like reading Olympia Press fetish porn by someone named “Anonymous.”

The Doors is less a book about the band than it is the experience of being subjected to Marcus’s stream of consciousness vamps on Thomas Pynchon, cult flick Pump Up The Volume, Oliver Stone’s dreadful Doors movie, Val Kilmer’s post-Morrison career, 20th century pop art, Eduardo Paolozzi, the Manson Family and so on. None of which he connects in any compelling way to the subject at hand (the subject becoming less clear as the book lurches along). It’s as if Marcus put some of The Doors’ music on shuffle and started writing whatever popped into his head - a Jackson Pollock action painting connected to The Doors by the mere juxtaposition of sharing the same room as their music. There are threads of elegant symmetry in Marcus’s writing but the center wobbles like a bead of sweat on a brooding hipster’s brow.

Read The Doors to get inside of Greil Marcus’s head if that’s of interest to you. He’s a smart guy and the book gives him an opportunity to show it off. But as a book about one of the planet’s great rock bands, The Doors is a brainy wankfest in which little of any significance is actually said. No amount of pop culture name-dropping and metaphoric over-kill in describing The Doors’ art can obscure the fact that there’s a big hole where the soul of a book ought to be. Marcus claims to be a Doors’ fan and yet there’s little love for the band between the pages of this frustratingly irrelevant book. The Doors may have been a labor of love for Marcus, but for the reader it’s just labor.

Meanwhile, somewhere in the south of France, an overweight bearded poet is writing his autobiography about his early days as a rock star: The End by J.M.

Video: The Doors interviewed in New York in 1969 for public television.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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