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Art Spiegelman: The Playboy Years
11.26.2014
03:23 pm

Topics:
Art
Media

Tags:
comics
Playboy
Art Spiegelman


January 1982
 
Art Spiegelman is about as close as you can come to an eminence grise in the comix game. As the co-editor of Raw in the 1980s (his wife Françoise Mouly was the other co-editor), Spiegelman injected the U.S. underground comix scene with a healthy dose of intellectual experimentation, introducing such talents to the country as Chris Ware, Joost Swarte, Mark Newgarden, and Charles Burns. In 1991 Spiegelman completed his autobiographical years-long project Maus—if you haven’t read it you really should. Not for nothing did it become the first “graphic novel,” as the terminology had it and fitfully still has it, to win the Pulitzer Prize. Since that time Spiegelman spent several years as art director for the New Yorker and published several high-quality works like In the Shadow of No Towers, Co-Mix: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics, and Scraps, and Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*! He has the credibility that only roots in the underground scene can give you, he’s blended high art and low art (he was also involved with the creation of Garbage Pail Kids, for instance), and he’s generally a walking encyclopedia of comix history and lore. In 2008 I saw Spiegelman give a presentation on “Comics 101” as part of the New Yorker Festival, and it was a delight.
 

 
Raw existed from 1980 through 1991, and it must have been quite a challenge for Spiegelman and Mouly to pull off the publication of such an ambitious and infamously large-format book in Soho, one that surely had a host of printing issues most magazines don’t have to worry about (having their own dedicated printing press surely helped with that). Fortunately, to help pay the bills, Spiegelman was doing freelance work for Playboy from 1978 to 1982. I’ll bet those checks with the little rabbit in the corner (??) sure came in handy. 

His first cartoon for Playboy was a wordless 12-panel item called “Shaggy Dog Story” in the January 1979 issue about a woman having sex with a dog. Maybe not content-wise, but visually at least it wouldn’t look out of place in Raw, which isn’t necessarily true of his other work for Playboy—it has a jagged look that evokes ... something earlier and continental, not art nouveau but something similar. Most of Spiegelman’s cartoons for Playboy came in the form of a running series called “Edhead,” which depicted the adventures of a poor fellow who consists of a head but no body—that ran through most of 1979, then stopped until two further strips in 1981. In the January 1982 issue Spiegelman and Lou Brooks did a large panel of “Teasers” full of sophomoric jokes. My favorite thing he did for Playboy was a one-off four- (or eight-)panel strip called “Jack ‘n’ Jane/Rod ‘n’ Randy,” which is so elegantly complex that you can practically see the germ for Chris Ware’s entire future career in it. The idea is that every frame is divided into two; in the top frame a man and a woman converse, and in the bottom frame you get a parallel dialogue between the man’s penis and the woman’s vagina. OK, so maybe it isn’t exactly Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary—it’s still pretty impressive for a few square inches of real estate in the back of a nudie magazine…..

(Click on the images for a larger version.)
 

October 1979
 

December 1978
 

February 1979
 

March 1979
 

April 1979
 
Several more “Edheads” and a rejected Playboy parody for Wacky Packages, after the jump…...

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘The Ouija board told me I was going to die!’: Is this ‘News’ or merely entertainment?
11.18.2014
06:12 am

Topics:
Belief
Media

Tags:
Ouija board
occult

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Angela Jackson thought she wouldn’t be seen at the back of the packed hall. She wasn’t sure why she thought this, but felt, knew something was going to happen and she didn’t want anyone (anything) to see her.  Angela wasn’t sure why she had come to this spiritualist meeting, it was just something she thought would be fun, but now she was here she felt she was meant to be here.

Angela thought about her father Charlie, how once as a child she had dreamt that her father would be dead before Christmas. A month later Charlie was diagnosed with cancer and died soon after. If dreams do come true, then maybe nightmares also come true?

The whisper of voices stopped as a woman appeared on the stage. Angela hunched in her seat. The woman looked like she was sleepwalking, but her eyes were open, scanning the audience, looking for someone (something). Angela felt the woman looking, staring at her. How can she see me at the back? She squirmed. But the woman stared at Angela and began to sing:

Welcome to my world..

The room felt cold. No one laughed, no one coughed, no one whispered. The psychic continued:

Won’t you come on in…?

It should have been funny but still no one laughed. It seemed everyone was holding their breath. Angela knew the song—Jim Reeves “Welcome to My World,” it had been one of her father’s favorite songs.

Miracles I guess, Still happen now and then….

Angela looked up at the psychic on the stage, her mouth opening closing singing the words. As soon as their eyes met the woman stopped and said:

“Your dad has a warning for you. You’re thinking about using a Ouija board, but don’t. No good will come from it.”

It was true—Angela had been thinking of using a Ouija board, she knew that it was “risky because there was no knowing who you may connect with. Demons and evil spirits could get through too.” And that he father maybe knew this and was worried about “demons and evil spirits.” Maybe. Despite his warnings, Angela couldn’t get the idea out of her head—she developed a fascination with Ouija board. An idea once sown grows.

Angela from Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire, Scotland, was telling her story to a reporter from the Sunday People newspaper. She sat at home, a cup of tea in her hand, thinking back to what had happened and the horrific events that followed.
 
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One night, two of her neighbors had invited Angela over for drinks. The evening started well, but then the conversation shifted, moved, onto Angela’s favorite subject—the afterlife, and that’s when someone (who?) suggested they try the Ouija board.

“They’d obviously done it before because they pulled out a stack of homemade cards with letters of the alphabet and numbers written on them.”

Angela described to the newspaper how the room was lit by flickering candlelight and the three of them sat cross-legged on cushions around a make-shift Ouija board—which all sounds like the opening scene to a Hammer Horror movie, but let’s continue:

“My heart thudded with excitement as we all placed our index fingers lightly on the bottom of an upturned whisky glass they’d placed on the table.

“It began to pull in every direction. ‘Who is it you want to speak too?’ Robert, my neighbour, asked.

“The glass started moving towards the letters, spelling out… A-N-G-E-L-A.

“The spirit wanted to speak to me. But then it spelt out, ‘Die bitch’. ‘That’s not funny,’ I said. But Robert said, ‘Angela, we didn’t do anything.’ He snatched his finger back from the glass and we all shrieked as the living room door slammed shut on its own.

“My voice quivering, I asked, ‘Who are you?’ With only my finger on the glass it moved faster. ‘I was murdered,’ it scrawled. ‘Just like you’re going to be.’”

Angela asked again: “Who are you?”

This time the glass moved quickly spelling out the word: “S-A-T-A-N.” (Was Satan “murdered”? I wonder…)

Angela screamed, then shouted, “I’m not scared—to hell with you!”

The tumbler flew from the Ouija board and smashed against the living room wall. (Of course, it did…)

One of the neighbors jumped up and turned on the lights. “We should never do this again,” he said. There was a sense of fear, panic, as the candles were quickly snuffed out, thin black fingers of smoke reached up.

Though Angela was terrified, she needed to know more—she couldn’t stop now, she had to find out what was going to happen—she was the one who was going to be “murdered,” or so she believed. It preyed on her mind, festered, she had to know. Eventually they (who?) did try again, but this time there was no answer, no message, nothing. But still Angela couldn’t stop thinking about it. (Cue dramatic music…)

“Then one night I woke screaming and sweating from a terrible nightmare. I’d dreamt I was being attacked by a man carrying a hammer.

“That’s when I knew things had gone too far. I was scaring myself to death. I’m not doing the Ouija board any more, I vowed.”

This was later, after the neighbors (what were their names?)  had moved away,  when Angela had no one to share her sense of foreboding, her fears. Everytime she went out she felt people staring at her, watching her, waiting.

Then one night, leaving her home to visit her 28-year-old son, Darren, who lived nearby, Angela locked the front door and walked down the cold concrete stairwell steps to the street below. As she left the building, talking to her son on a cell phone, from the corner of her eye she sensed someone move towards her.

“From behind me I heard a voice. ‘Die bitch,’ it growled. I froze at the sound of those words. Shaking with fear, I turned to see a man in a white T-shirt, emerging from the shadows wielding a claw hammer.

“I screamed as he brought the weapon down on my head with a sickening thud. He hit me again and warm blood began trickling down my face.

“I couldn’t see where my attacker was I just wanted to get away. Drenched in blood, I made it to the front door and then collapsed.

“Waking in hospital I felt confused and groggy. ‘You were attacked,’ a doctor explained. ‘You’ve suffered a fractured skull.’”

Angela told the police what she remembered, but her attacker was never found.

Over the following months, she lived in fear that this deranged man would return “and finish the job, just as the spirit had warned through the Ouija board.”

But this never happened. Six years on, Angela is still scared that “the spirit’s prediction will one day come true.”

“If I’d listened to Dad’s warnings through the psychic maybe none of this would’ve happened. But now I’m warning all of you - never mess with Ouija boards. You don’t know what evil lurks in the afterlife.”

It’s a good yarn, but is any of it true? It appears to me, we have three separate events that have been drawn together to create one personal narrative, which may (or may not) be true. Angela is a woman who has suffered various personal and private tragedies in her life (some of which have been documented in various newspapers), but my concern is not with her, but with the veracity of her tale and how it has been reported.

For example, when Angela was attacked in January 2008, she made “claims to know her attacker and that she has been involved in a financial dispute with the man.” If she knew her attacker, then why were there no arrests? If there was an arrest, then what happened next? There is no paper trail of news stories reporting what did happen next, just strange, scurrilous, rather serious and possibly libellous allegations made on certain blogs. This inability to ask pertinent questions is all part of that journalistic amnesia from which news reportage appears to suffer with growing frequency.

This is especially true in regard of the two papers reporting these stories as the Sunday People, who covered the Ouija board story, and the Daily Record, who reported the attack, are owned by the same company. Did they not carry-out any background research or delve further into the story?

Next, who were Angela’s neighbors who invited her in for a seance? What were their names? Where did they go? Was the tumbler smashed against a wall? Did the glass spell out “Satan”? Was murder threatened? Why is there no corroboration of these reported events? Surely it would not have been too difficult to ask other neighbors as to who these mysterious people are? Or, even check with the electoral register as to who lived in the house at the time?

Then of course, we are not told where this original psychic meeting held? Who organized it? When? What are other people’s memories of it? Who was the psychic who sang the Jim Reeves number? It’s all great atmospheric detail but little more than scene-setting without any corroboration.

Indeed, the story leaves so many questions unanswered that it suggests the whole tale is probably bogus. And if it is bogus then a bigger and possibly better mystery becomes visible—Why would anyone tell such a tale? And why publish it?
 
Via the Sunday People
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Martha Stewart’s idea of a ‘punk rock party’ is the least punk rock thing that ever happened


 
So look: I’m a slacker to the bone, purest Generation X, product release 1970. When I was paying the most attention to pop culture—the early 1990s—Richard Linklater and Douglas Coupland were new figures to the cultural discourse, OK Soda was available in stores, Ethan Hawke was starring in Reality Bites, and Steve Albini was writing about fucked-up record deals in an issue of the Baffler with the words “Alternative to What?” on the cover. The point in me telling you all this is that (a) I’m comfortable with the term “sellout,” and (b) I’ll never not worry, at least a little, about something crossing over too much.

With these thoughts in mind, we turn to Alexandra Churchill’s recent article on Martha Stewart Living about “throwing a punk rock-inspired party,” which, I swear to god, I think may represent a new signpost in the debate about corporate cooptation of rock music, just like, say, Bob Dylan’s Victoria Secret ad. It may be the least punk thing has ever happened, right alongside the 2013 Costume Institute Gala at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which took punk as its theme to honor the Institute’s exhibit “Punk: From Chaos to Couture” (if you haven’t seen the pictures in that link, you really need to click on it).
 

 
The pictures in the Martha Stewart Living article are utterly astonishing in their entitled, privileged cluelessness. Since punks are doomy and scary, they recommend serving “Spinach Ricotta Skulls” on a coffin-shaped platter, which obviously seems a lot more “goth” than “punk.” Their vision of “punk-inspired garlands” involve the use of safety pins—yes, MSL, you got that one right—and “plaid fabric,” which ends up evoking a Burberry’s catalog a lot more than it does the Bromley Contingent.
 

 
To be fair—which I’m doing despite myself—the text isn’t quite as bad as the imagery. Churchill at least has the wit to name-check “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” and “London Calling.” Honestly, if the phrase “ransom note” had even been mentioned as a possible design motif, I’d've let them off the hook completely. Apparently that did not occur to anyone. Instead they went with coffins and fondant with sheet music on it (?).
 

 
Even the one picture on the page that is within shouting distance of punk rock—the cover of the Police’s second album, Reggatta de Blanc—has this as its photo credit: “PHOTOGRAPHY BY: COURTESY OF WALMART.” Fuck the man!
 

 
I draw two lessons from all of this. The first is that the appeal of punk rock may be far stronger than anyone imagined. Punk rock—even the words “punk rock”—might be a toothless gesture in the direction of something angry and oppositional, but the root idea of it still has impressive staying power, to the point that someone at Martha Stewart Living wants to take some of it over and make it theirs, make it represent them. The second lesson is that there is still something profoundly scary about the anger and nihilism inherent in punk, to the point that Martha Stewart Living has to repress all traces of it and pretend that it’s a neutral style choice like the Pre-Raphaelites or Art Deco. Of course, it isn’t, and that very un-neutrality may mean that we’re heading for another 1977 moment in our culture sometime soon.

Here, MSL’s Erin Furey—almost an apt name, there—teaches you how to make Punk-Rock Inspired Pumpkins, or, er, “Studly Punk-ins,” at the end of which she hilariously throws down a “sign of the horns” hand gesture because it’s so punk rock!
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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T-shirt honors NYC mayor’s boneheaded ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ tabloid headline


 
On Friday, June 28, 2013, Michael Bloomberg, then serving out the last few months of twelve loooong years as mayor of New York City, made one of those comments on his weekly radio show that politicians sometimes make when circumstances have forced their hand on a policy position that is neither tenable nor reversible. For some years stop-and-frisk had outraged citizens over baldly racist N.Y. Police Dept. practices of detaining minority citizens, policies that yielded superficial improvements in crime statistics as well as a great deal of busywork for police officers. Rather than own up to the inherent disgrace in treating minorities as criminals, Bloomberg reached for one of those counterintuitive defenses politicians sometimes favor when they’re about to dismiss the rights of a great number of people.

Bloomberg said, “We disproportionately stop whites too much. And minorities too little.”

The next day, in the curious “headline-ese” of the N.Y. Daily News, that sentiment ran as follows: 
 

We stop
TOO
many
WHITES

 
Democratic candidate for mayor Bill de Blasio, then still in a primary hunt, blasted that statement, and some observers have credited that specific moment of distancing himself from the excesses of the Bloomberg administration with his later electoral victories. Four months later, Bill de Blasio, famously married to an African-American woman and the father of two biracial (and highly entertaining) children, was elected mayor of New York, a choice that was widely seen as a rebuke to Bloomberg’s handling of the NYPD. The era of stop-and-frisk was over—at least so went the hope. We all know that such policies have a way of being tenacious. (De Blasio has had considerable success in reducing the policy.)
 

 
Suffice to say that while the rest of the country might find all of this rather picayune, a certain subset of liberal New Yorkers remembers those months fondly. De Blasio became the first staunchly “liberal” mayor of the city since unfortunate David Dinkins, the only African-American mayor the city has ever had, who had the misfortune to preside at the absolute pinnacle of the crack epidemic and a major recession. His perceived failures ushered in Rudy Giuliani, who, suffice to say, looked a whole lot better at the time. In any case, Bloomberg’s comment, the headline, it all is a product of one of those charged moments that maybe only New Yorkers care about (even if they do become noticed by the nation at large): Bernie Goetz, Lizzie Grubman, Sully Sullenberger, Dr. Jonathan Zizmor, Robin Byrd….

Enter Ashok “Dapwell” Kondabolu, of the currently defunct and oddly timely NYC alt-hip hop outfit Das Racist. He’s designed a T-shirt with the Daily News cover. You can get a T-shirt for $20 and a sweatshirt for $40. As Dapwell says on the site, “Remember this guy? Remember when he said this shitty thing? ... Commemorate New York City’s gone but (sadly) not forgotten Mayor Mike with one of these high quality, screen-printed, and 100% ultra cotton sweatshirts and t-shirts featuring the ACTUAL June 29, 2013 cover of the Daily News.”

Rush as fast as you can to get one, because there ain’t many left—indeed, it may be too late. Dapwell says that there is “VERY LIMITED QUANTITY”—no kidding, just yesterday he said on Twitter that there’s just one sweatshirt left and “a dozen” shirts.
 

 
via Animal

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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iBeenHACKED
10.07.2014
04:57 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Art
Media
Music

Tags:
smartphones
Tim Fite


 
I’m one of those people—there are still a few of us left—who adamantly refuses to carry a cell phone. I had one in the late 90s for about a year, but I dropped it on a marble floor and didn’t replace it until 2007 during a period where I was traveling a lot. And that one is just a flip. It’s also never charged and I really have to hunt for it when I need it.

I simply don’t like the idea of anyone being able to reach me wherever I am. If I’m out in the world, or having lunch with someone or driving, I don’t want to take a phone call. My email can wait. I will not be texting anyone or Instagramming my selfies from the vegan food truck. All of it can wait until I get home.

I know it’s very… 1989 of me, but I honestly just don’t care. It’s not even that I am particularly anti-cell phones or anything, it’s that I personally do not require one.

Brooklyn-based art prankster/beatmeister Tim Fite is a man after my own heart. Realizing he had a “codependent” relationship with his smartphone he designed a glass iPhone replica called “The Phoney” to wean himself off the always on, constantly-updating datastream he was addicted to. Kind of like an e-cigarette that doesn’t have any nicotine. Or any battery for that matter.

Fite’s new project takes it further: iBeenHACKED is social commentary in the form of a musical concept album and art installation investigating the ways that the digital teet intrudes upon our daily lives and alters the way we live. The project includes a limited edition series of handmade glass “Phonies” and the taking over of a Brooklyn storefront that was turned into a giant smartphone and art studio, then gallery space. For the album, rather than try to sell CDs or downloads, Fite tried some alternative strategies to monetize his work such as the sale of advertising between songs and personal shout-outs. The songs lampoon online “liking” (“Like”), smartphone addiction (“Check Yo Cell”), the cult of Apple products (“Big Mac”), binge-watching (“4 Seasons”) and more.

If you like this post, please consider “liking” it…
 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Pirate Radio, Revolution and the rise of Radio Študent

00radiostu00.jpg
 
In the folly of my youth I was once involved with a student anarchist group. Alas, this hapless caucus of surly fellow radicals were more inspired by the swagger of The Sex Pistols and The Clash than by any reading of Kropotkin or Bakunin.

On those odd occasions when we met to discuss plans for the overthrow of capitalism, ahem, we did fire up a few interesting ideas. One such was to start an illegal radio station to broadcast revolutionary hymns (and punk rock) across the west end of Glasgow. Unfortunately, we never had enough radicals willing to take responsibility for setting the thing up and it all came to naught. Our lax attitude was (sadly) best summed up by a leather-jacketed Joe Strummer wannabe who kept asking, “Where’s all the free stuff?”

If only we had been a bit more like Slovenia’s Radio Študent who knows where we could have gone?
 
01radiostu10.jpg
 
Radio Študent came out of the political turmoil and student unrest of the late 1960s. Established in May 1969 by a handful of radical students at Ljubljana University, the station originally broadcast for just three hours a day, offering its listeners a potent mix of music and politics—an alternative voice to the country’s heavily censored and state controlled media. The station’s popularity grew during the 1970s as Radio Študent became the main source for dissent. With the influence of punk, the station attracted more journalists and campaigners and Radio Študent played in a major part in the movement for Slovenia’s independence in the Revolution of 1989.
 
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Now Radio Študent has over 250 contributors and broadcasts 24 hours a day. Though money is tight, people become involved with the station “because they believe in what they are doing.”

If you have an interest in radical media or in finding out how others have successfully created their own revolutionary outlet, then Siniša Gačić‘s short documentary on Radio Študent is a must.
 

 
H/T Voices of East Anglia

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Ten famous comic strip artists draw their characters blindfolded

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How many times have you heard someone boast, “That’s so easy, I could do it blindfolded”? Well, that was the very task set by Life magazine in 1947 to ten well-known comic strip artists, who were asked to draw their instantly recognizable cartoon characters blindfolded.

As comic strip artists create their characters with a few well chosen marks of pen on paper, it was believed these artists, having drawn hundreds of cartoon strips, should be able to draw their creations instinctively, without looking—just as most can tie shoelaces or touch type unsighted.

However, the results fell far below the magazine’s expectations—veering between the bad untutored scribble to almost miniature works of modern art. For example Mel Graff’s blindfolded drawing of Secret Agent X-9 looks Cubist with a cigarette being smoked thru the hero’s ear; while Frank Robbins’ Brandy looks decidedly unhappy with her results; and Frank King’s Skeezix from “Gasoline Alley” is reminiscent of those portraits drawn under LSD.
 
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001dixiedugan.jpg
 
002brandy.jpg
 
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Via A Hole in the Head, H/T Bored Panda
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Cool minimalist cover art for the new James Bond 007 audiobooks
09.04.2014
07:43 am

Topics:
Books
Literature
Media

Tags:
James Bond
007


 
Good news for Bond fans from SpyVibe:

The Reloaded editions of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, read by prominent British actors, was re-released yesterday in the US by Blackstone Audio. The collapse of AudioGo last year had Bond fans clambering for out-of-print CDs and box sets, but Ian Fleming Publications was able to strike a deal with Blackstone to keep the recordings in circulation. Each 007 title is available in CD, download, and MP3 CD editions.

The “prominent British actors” reading the novels include the likes of David Tennent, Kenneth Branagh, Rosamund Pike (who acted in the Bond film Die Another Day), and Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville, among many others. The new audiobooks also sport some extremely cool geometric/abstract cover art. If the artwork looks familiar, it should—these abstractions were used by Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer paperback series of the Ian Fleming novels just a couple of years ago. In addition to issuing the new series, Blackstone is also keeping in print a series of Bond audiobooks from 2009, read by the acclaimed narrator and voice actor Simon Vance. That series had a cheesecakey, retro-kitsch cover design scheme, which we thought would be fun to A/B with the new ones—the contrast is awfully stark.
 


Octopussy
 
 


Casino Royale
 
 


You Only Live Twice
 
 


The Spy Who Loved Me
 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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End of an era: NYC’s legendary cinephile paradise Kim’s Video closes (1987-2014)
08.26.2014
09:27 am

Topics:
Media
Movies

Tags:
Yongman Kim
Kim's Underground
Kim's Video


 
For anyone who hung out in the East Village between 1987 and 2010, the various Kim’s Video locations, which would sprout up and disappear depending on the economic vagaries of the moment, constituted an essential cultural landmark. Founded by Korean businessman Yongman Kim, initially when he rented out part of his Avenue A dry cleaning store to a fellow with a large collection of VHS tapes and then opened up a store down the street for him to manage. Kim’s Video lasted through the days when Napster reigned supreme and even after LPs made a comeback. When you stood in a Kim’s Video, it was easy to imagine that you were existing in an idealized community of punks, freaks, and artists, you could watch Stranger Than Paradise, After Hours, The Brother from Another Planet, or Do the Right Thing and know that those movies were shot in this same city and that the filmmakers themselves might walk through the door any minute.

Yesterday, August 25, was the last day of the last remaining location of Kim’s Video, at 124 First Avenue. For a certain kind of scruffy video-literate New Yorker, it was a sad day indeed.

Kim’s was one of the country’s great video stores, part of a community that included such hallowed places as Four Star Video Heaven in Madison and Scarecrow Video in Seattle. If you wanted to watch an Ozu movie or a Kenneth Anger film in the days before DVD, you had to go to a store like Kim’s. Kim’s ordered their shelves by filmmaker—the Godard shelf had a sign that read simply, “God”—and for hard-to-get movies that had never had an official release, they were perfectly content to stock bootlegs (this tendency would eventually get them into trouble). The only time in my life I had a 9-to-5 job in New York City was between 1997 and 2001, and those were also, not coincidentally, my prime Kim’s years (not that I used Kim’s for videos all that much—I lived up near Columbia University, where there were more convenient options). I can remember renting, over a period of a few weeks, the entire oeuvre of Errol Morris as well as selected early masterpieces by Wong Kar Wai. In my mind the quintessential Kim’s movie was Superstar, Todd Haynes’ 1987 movie that used Barbie dolls to tell the Karen Carpenter story and ended up getting withdrawn from circulation after Haynes lost lawsuit filed by Richard Carpenter.

In the late 1990s and into the 2000s it kept getting raided by the FBI for bootlegs, which were often displayed blatantly. I remember visiting one of the stores one day and learning the next day that a serious raid had occurred a couple hours after I left. Kim’s was legendary for its condescending clerks, but my only good Kim’s story involved a considerate and helpful clerk, so whatevs. (I received my share of eyerolls, I’m sure, but I must have shrugged them off.) I was visiting the Kim’s Underground location on Bleecker (formerly the site of both the Bleecker Street Cinema and the Cafe a Go Go), and at the time I was obsessed with the band Spoon, who disappeared for a couple years there after Elektra dropped them in 1998. I made it a habit of checking the CD bins for Spoon releases, and I was invariably disappointed. On this occasion I asked the music clerk (this location emphasized movies more than the others, and the CD section was pretty small) about Spoon, and he indicated that he had a stack behind the counter of perhaps a dozen copies of a newish promo, the “30 Gallon Tank” maxi-single, that Elektra had obviously given up on. The clerk reached back and gave me one, no charge.

Be sure to check out this detailed oral history of Kim’s at Bedford and Bowery. It does a far better job of filling in the blanks than I ever could. I didn’t realize that so many prominent people worked there as clerks—for instance, Todd Phillips, director of the Hangover movies. Here’s a choice quote from Louis CK about Kim’s you can read in there:

“When I first moved to New York there was a place next door to my apartment called Kim’s Video which was a sort of artsy video store. Instead of arranging the videos by title, they had them arranged by director or even photographer, so I educated myself. I went through the Godard section in one week and then Pasolini.”

Today the huge Kim’s video collection is languishing in Italy and the last of the stores is no more. I moved away from New York City last December for related reasons. New York’s still a great city but without places like Kim’s around, I’m not really sure who it’s there for anymore.
 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Demented 1988 video mixtape ‘Amok Assault Video’
07.15.2014
06:23 am

Topics:
Media
Pop Culture

Tags:
Amok


 
In the ‘80s VHS era, credible weirdness could be hard to come by unless you were well-connected. If you had that one slightly tweaked pal who hoarded nth-generation dubs of Mondo films and suchlike (and of course, some DM readers surely were that guy) you were golden. But otherwise, your average hinterlands video store probably never got any deeper into video arcana than Faces of Death, if even that.

So it was mighty cool of Amok Books to compile and distribute Amok Assault Video. Amok was an LA-based outré bookstore, noteworthy in its heyday for publishing thick catalogs, the 4th and 5th editions of which were themselves more compelling reads than some of the material they purveyed, and which could serve extremely well as a neophyte mutant’s introduction to deeper levels of cultural fuckedup-ery, even surpassing the admirable Loompanics catalog in many respects.

Though it wasn’t the most extreme stuff available, some scenes in Assault Video are nonetheless very intense. It was clearly contrived to cater to the interests of Amok’s more jaded customers—it’s an insane assemblage of footage, including questionable old cartoons, assorted Third-World atavisms, cattle mutilation, behind-the-scenes footage from Hogan’s Heroes star Bob Crane’s attempted Hawaiian travel doc, after the production of which he was murdered (retribution for offending the island gods?), the infamous CBS Evening News video of a dog attack on an animal control officer, a bonkers occult theory about the cartoon character She-Ra, creepy scenes of an altered seeming Alice Coltrane from her religious TV show Eternity’s Pillar, other televised religious/spiritual nuts, and OF COURSE, that disturbing touchstone of ‘80s VHS-swap culture, the Budd Dwyer suicide.

If you’re at work, you’re hereby forewarned, there’s graphic nudity and violence herein. It’s appeared on and disappeared from YouTube before, so if you’re keen to watch it, don’t dawdle.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Tell me your nightmares: ‘The Asylum for Shut-Ins: Video Psychotherapy” 80s cable access insanity

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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