Austerity, repression, police brutality and skyrocketing unemployment—young people the world over have so much to fight for, but it’s the protesters of Bolivia who have stolen my heart. A few days ago an estimated 2000 Bolivians—most of them appearing to be under 30—took to the streets in a multi city defense of The Simpsons. No, the show was not canceled, nor was it censored—but the timeslot was changed, and the people were not having it. Perhaps even weirder than the mobilization itself is its success—a few hours of marching in the rain and not only did the network reverse the scheduling change, they bumped up the airtime from 45 minutes to two full daily hours of Springfield’s favorite family!
If it seems like a shallow crusade, it’s worth noting there may be more to this action than meets the eye. Latin Times ran this story under the decidedly bitter old man headline of “Don’t They Have Jobs?”—but likely, they do, as the Bolivian youth unemployment rate is less than half the youth employment rate of the US. The network that made the scheduling change however, Unitel Bolivia, is recognized as right-wing, so it’s possible “The Simpsons” are a sort of semiotic stand-in for other values. Either way, always nice to see civically engaged young people winning their battles, right? Viva Bolivia! And viva Bart!
The serene face of a man with absolutely NOTHING on his mind!
If you live in the Georgia district represented by Republican Rep. Tom Kirby, rest assured that your government, via Mr. Kirby’s zany style of “leadership,” is “getting out in front of” the growing problem of genetically engineered glowing human beings. That’s right, Rep. Kirby introduced a bill in the state legislature, er… preemptively banning the mixing of human and for instance, jellyfish embryos. Forget about roads, schools, good jobs, that kind of shit, this is a real problem… or is it? Even Mr. Kirby himself isn’t so sure…
“I’ve had people tell me it is but I have not verified that for sure,” state Rep. Tom Kirby (R) told WSB-TV. “It’s time we either get in front of it or we’re going to be chasing our tails.”
Look at him. Look at that dumb Republican face on him. He looks like he DOES have a tail.
You could file this away with all the dipsy-doodles who want to stamp out sharia law in South Carolina, but that would be missing out on the special stupid that Mr. Kirby brings to the (grand, old) party. This is even a lower IQ fear than something like the Agenda 21 “thing.”
We in Georgia are taking the lead on this issue. Human life at all stages is precious including as an embryo. We need to get out in front of the science and technology, before it becomes something no one wants. The mixing of Human Embryos with Jellyfish cells to create a glow in the dark human, we say not in Georgia. This bill is about protecting Human life while maintaining good, valid research that does not destroy life.
Researchers have been able to splice jellyfish embryos with genetic material from rabbits, mice, cats, pigs and rhesus monkeys for well over a decade, this isn’t new, but the belief that science is trying—currently—to build “a glow-in-the-dark human” as Kirby puts it, is.
Like where did this idiot hear about this “problem,” huh? AN ALL CAPS EMAIL FORWARDED BY HIS GRANDPA? Radio frequencies only he can hear? An Alex Jones-wannabe’s podcast, perhaps? An old coot in a bar outside of Atlanta? He practically comes right out and admits in the clip below that he has no idea what he’s talking about.
Roads, schools, good jobs… or this cartoon idiocy?
Buffoons like Tom Kirby get elected because… people vote for them and for no other reason.
Sorting out who is and who isn’t in the 1971 “comedy” movie Dynamite Chicken, written and directed by Ernest Pintoff, is no easy matter. The montage-heavy movie relies so much on found footage that it’s accurate to say that John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Lenny Bruce, Malcolm X, Humphrey Bogart, and Richard Nixon “appear” in the movie even if they were scarcely aware of it or, in some cases, were long since deceased at the time. Not to put too fine a point on it, the makers of the movie were verging pretty close to fraud here.
Richard Pryor they definitely had, as well as a lot of countercultural figures like Paul Krassner, Tuli Kupferberg, Joan Baez, Sha-Na-Na, Peter Max, and a comedy troupe called Ace Trucking Co. that featured a young Fred Willard. The movie’s a bit like Kentucky Fried Movie, only far more political in intent; it’s chock-a-block with skits, snippets of musical performance, political debate, a strip-tease or two, and whatever else popped into the noggins of the filmmakers at the time. There’s tons of quick-cutting montage of newspaper clippings and just a ton of random footage.
The full title, “Dynamite Chicken: A Contemporary Probe and Commentary of the Mores and Maladies of Our Age … with Schtick, Bits, Pieces, Girls, Some Hamburger, a Little Hair, a Lady, Some Fellas, Some Religious Stuff, and a Lot of Other Things,” is an accurate reflection of what the movie is like. The emphasis here is squarely on free expression; the movie starts with a scroll explaining, in a way we today associate more with Lenny Bruce, that Richard Pryor had been witnessed “in the late ‘60’s” by a policewoman saying the words “bullshit, shit, motherfucker, penis, asshole” during a public performance. The distance between “free expression” and “annoying the audience for the sake of it” is pretty small, and in addition to some salubrious footage of women in various states of disrobe, we also get a pointless and somewhat sickening exegesis of a comic book about slicing women in two with a buzzsaw. Early on, I had been thinking that Chicken Dynamite is an almost perfect cinematic equivalent of SCREW Magazine, when who should materialize on the screen but Al Goldstein and Jim Buckley themselves.
Andy Warhol was one of the few luminaries who apparently did consent to be filmed, for a short sequence in which Ondine reads aloud from Warhol’s book a: A Novel while Warhol looks on. John and Yoko weren’t involved; their bit is just a statement about peace from the Montreal Bed-In a couple years earlier. The link to National Lampoon, mostly a spiritual one, is made explicit with a clip of Michael O’Donoghue, then one of the chief writers at the magazine, in a spoof of a cigarette commercial. There’s a bit towards the end in which Ron Carey (known to me primarily as a bit player on Barney Miller) dresses up as a priest and does some soft-shoe in front of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Ave., scored to Lionel Goldbart’s “God Loves Rock and Roll” that is pretty delightful.
The footage with Pryor was shot outdoors in a single day; Pryor riffs on a bunch of raunchy material while messing with a basketball somewhere in the projects. At this point in Pryor’s career, the similarities with Dave Chappelle were (in hindsight) particularly strong. After Pryor became a big movie star in the early 1980s, he apparently became annoyed with his association with Chicken Dynamite, as he successfully sued to bar “the distributors of the film ... from emphasizing his role in the film,” according to an issue of Jet from December 1982.
In the end, Chicken Dynamite was probably a little bit dated even when it came out. It’s a movie made by people who are waaaaay too “serious” to be funny, for the most part. It’s the kind of movie that even if you are “enjoying” it, you might choose to turn it off before reach the end of its 75-minute running time, just because it wears you out. Still, some parts are pretty entertaining, and it’s worth a look for those who missed the era and those who didn’t.
Musical visionary, street preacher, incendiary political activist, and Afro-beat progenitor, Fela Anikulapo Kuti is chronicled in Fela Kuti – Music is the Weapon, a compelling 1982 documentary directed by Stéphane Tchal-Gadjieff and Jean Jacques Flori. The film documents all-night politically charged performances at Fela’s Shrine nightclub, intimate takes from inside his Kalakuta Republic compound, and scenes of street culture in Lagos, Nigeria. It’s not a complete picture by any means, but it’s a singular and important historical record capturing Kuti in stage and home milieus that were vital to his life and work. If you had any doubt that Fela Kuti was anything short of an otherworldly human being, this film and these performances will dispel that belief quickly. As he did often in his music, Fela speaks out repeatedly against the Nigerian government throughout the film while discussing his political and musical ambitions.
Kuti’s attitude is defiant from the get-go. He takes command in the very first on-screen moment, saying “When you are the king of African music, you are the king. ‘Cause music is the king of all professions.”
Almost immediately it becomes apparent upon watching the film that life can be unforgiving in the place where Fela and crew choose to make their home base. Lagos, Nigeria is depicted as being the most dangerous and violent city in the country and, by extension, the world. Street scenes portraying the chaos, desperation and the day-to-day existence of citizens in and around the former Nigerian capital are beautifully shot. Scenes of poverty, humor and violence along with shipwrecks and scrapyards of decaying cars and motorcycles are interspersed with vibrant local markets. One chilling scene shows the body of a man washed up on a popular beach, a regular occurrence according to the film’s narrator.
In these surroundings Fela Kuti arrives nightly around midnight to his famous Shrine to unleash a combination of music, spiritual ritual, and personal political testimony. The performances captured in Music is the Weapon are magical things, encompassing dance, classic Afrobeat call-and-response and charismatic displays from Kuti himself who plays baritone sax and keys and often performs in nothing but his briefs. The vibrancy of Kuti’s work is obvious through his myriad recordings but it’s even more potent when you can see it radiating from what was ground zero for Kuti’s entire transcendent enterprise.
Inside The Shrine
Some of the most illuminating scenes take place off the stage. One notable sequence begins early in the morning, when “day breaks and the music stops,” and Fela and crew leave in a beat-up van and a rickety VW Beetle and The Shrine is left empty for the day. The band, looking like they could play for a few more hours if they felt so inclined, return to a ramshackle Kalakuta Republic compound where Fela lived with his controversial bevvy of “queens” and fellow musicians. At the time of the filming, Fela had been there for several years despite repeated attempts by the Nigerian government to intimidate him with shows of force, one of which tragically led to the death of his mother years earlier. One such incident actually takes place in 1981during the filming of Music is the Weapon and is documented with still photographs taken by the camera crew who didn’t have time to set up their movie cameras. Nigerian soldiers surround the compound, fire tear gas and brutally beat the occupants. Kuti finds himself in prison on trumped up charges but is soon released and is right back at it on stage within days at The Shrine, despite the fact that it was supposedly closed by Nigerian officials.
A car fit for a king.
Despite repeated jail sentences and years of beatings, persecution and all nature of mistreatments leveled upon him, Fela comes across again and again in Music is the Weapon as a not-from-this-world, heavy, unstoppable force attempting to live a life of pure principle where politics, spirituality, music and activism are indivisible.
Ultimately, Fela Kuti’s legacy is far larger than what could be captured in a short film, but this is an informative introduction to the Pan-African pioneer’s life and work.
Says the anti-colonialist visionary at one point in the film:
Music is a spiritual thing. You don’t play with music. If you play with music you will die young. See because when the higher forces give you the gift of music, musicianship, it must be well used for the good of humanity. If you use it for your own self by deceiving people… you will die young, you see. And I’ve told people this many times. So, I’m gonna prove them all wrong and prove myself right. Because now I’m 44, I’m getting younger. Because I’m doing it right. I can play music for ten hours and never tire. I’m getting younger because the spiritual life of music that I’ve led, RIGHTLY, is helping me now.
Kuti was the subject of a Toni Award winning Broadway production called Fela! from 2008 and of a recent 2014 documentary called Finding Fela.
You can watch all of Fela Kuti – Music is the Weapon below. It’s also streaming on Hulu Plus.
If you look carefully at the credits for DEVO’s 1982 album Oh, No! It’s DEVO, you will spot a name that doesn’t ordinarily pop up in the DEVO universe or even the music world generally. The name is John Hinckley, Jr., and he is best known to the world as the man who tried to kill President Ronald Reagan in 1981, in a batshit-crazy attempt to win the amorous affections of Jodie Foster, then still a teenager. Hinckley was strongly influenced by The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and, far more pertinently, Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, in which Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle considers assassinating a U.S. Senator named Palantine but then opts to murder the pimp who has rights over a teen prostitute portrayed by the selfsame Jodie Foster.
When Foster enrolled in Yale University, Hinckley moved all the way from Texas to New Haven, just so he could be near her. He engaged in a lot of creepy, stalker behavior that if you saw it in a movie, you’d think it was overdone, enrolling in the same writing class as her, leaving all kinds of poems and messages for her, and calling her repeatedly. Eventually he would squeeze off six rounds outside the Hilton Hotel in Washington, wounding two Secret Service agents and Reagan’s press secretary as well as (via a ricochet) the president himself.
According to Rolling Stone, DEVO got in touch with Hinckley and acquired one of his demented love poems to Foster and adapted it into a song called “I Desire.” Here are some representative lyrics:
I pledge allegiance to the fact
That you’re wise to walk away
For nothing is more dangerous
Than desire when it’s wrong
Don’t let me torment you
Don’t let me bring you down
Don’t ever let me hurt you
Don’t let me fail because
I desire your attention
I desire your perfect love
I desire nothing more
The stunt not only annoyed Warner Bros., who learned that they would be obliged to send Hinckley royalty payments for the song, but also, according to Rolling Stone, won DEVO the official attentions of the Federal Bureau of Investigation:
As Mark Mothersbaugh recalled, “[Hinckley] let us take a poem that he had written, and we used it for the lyrics and turned it into a love song. It was not the best career move you could make. We had the FBI calling up and threatening us.”
In November of 1982, Hinckley wrote a letter to the “Morning Zoo” crew of KZEW, a Dallas radio station, in which he professes his love for “New Wave music” (hey, me too!) and requests that the station play “I Desire” a total of “58 times each day.” Here’s the full quote:
I like New Wave music, especially Devo, since I co-wrote a song on their new album. The song is called “I Desire” and I want you to play it 58 times each day.
In the letter Hinckley also writes, “I used to listen to the song ‘Heroes’ by David Bowie when I was stalking Carter and Reagan. It got me in a strange mood. ... In March and April of 1980, I hung out at Peaches Record Store on Fitzhugh.” Peaches, which used to be on the intersection of Cole and Fitzhugh in northern Dallas, has, alas, bitten the dust.
Below, listen to “I Desire,” the only new wave ditty ever co-written by a presidential assassin:
When George Orwell died at the age of forty-six on January 21st 1950, he was considered by some of London’s fashionable literary critics as a marginal figure—“no good as a novelist”—who was best known for his essays rather than his fiction.
This quickly changed in the years after his death when his reputation and popularity as a writer grew exponentially. Over the past seven decades he has come to be considered one of the most influential English writers of the twentieth century.
This massive change in opinion was largely down to Orwell’s last two books Animal Farm first published in 1945, and Nineteen Eighty-Four published the year before he died. The importance of these two novels has enshrined Orwell’s surname, like Dickens, Kafka and more recently J. G. Ballard, into the English language as a descriptive term—“Orwellian”—for nightmarish political oppression, while many of his fictional ideas or terms contained within Nineteen Eighty-Four have become part of our everyday language—“Big Brother,” “Room 101,” “newspeak,” “doublethink,” “thoughtcrime” and so on.
Both of these books have become essential texts for radicals and conservatives in their individual campaigns against perceived invasive and totalitarian governments. After the Second World War Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four were considered damning critiques of Stalinist Russia, and their subject matter limned the growing paranoia between East and West during the Cold War. When Edward Snowden exposed the covert surveillance by US intelligence agencies on millions of Americans, copies of the book were sold by the thousands. Nineteen Eighty-Four‘s flexibility of interpretation has meant the book has been used to condemn almost everything from the rise of CCTV and wind farms, to the George W. Bush/Tony Blair war against “the axis of evil,” the rise of jihadist Islam, the spread of capitalist globalization, Vladimir Putin’s political “grand vision”, and (rather laughably) “Obamacare.”
But it wasn’t the meaning of Orwell’s writing that caused the BBC to sniff condescendingly about their employee during the 1940s, rather it was his actual voice which was considered by Overseas Services Controller, JB Clark as “un-attractive” as this secret internal BBC memo reveals:
Controller (Overseas Services) 19th January, 1943
GEORGE ORWELL STAFF PRIVATE
1. A.C. (OS) 2. E.S.D.
I listened rather carefully to one of George Orwell’s English talks in the Eastern Service on, I think, Saturday last. I found the talk itself interesting, and I am not critical of its content, but I was struck by the basic unsuitability of Orwell’s voice. I realise, of course, that his name is of some value in quite important Indian circles, but his voice struck me as both un-attractive and really unsuited to the microphone to such an extent that (a) it would not attract any listeners who were outside the circle of Orwell’s admirers as a writer and might even repel some of these, and (b) would make the talks themselves vulnerable at the hands of people who would have reason to see Orwell denied the microphone, or of those who felt critical of the B.B.C. for being so ignorant of the essential needs of the microphone and of the audience as to put on so wholly unsuitable a voice.
I am quite seriously worried about the situation and about the wisdom of our keeping Orwell personally on the air.
JBC/GMG (J.B. Clark)
The reason Old Etonian Orwell’s voice may not have sounded attractive was that he had been shot in the neck during the Spanish Civil War. However, Orwell got his own back on the BBC by naming Nineteen Eighty-Four‘s infamous torture room after “Room 101” in Broadcasting House, where he had to sit through long, tedious meetings about political vetting.
The only known footage of George Orwell (or Eric Blair as he was then) can be seen in this clip of him playing the “Wall Game” with fellow pupils at Eton—he’s fourth on the left and in the clip between a very young Melanie Griffiths and Grace Kelly.
Bringing world leaders down their basic bodily functions Their Daily Duty is a series of photomontages by digital artist Cristina Guggeri. The images present imagined intimate moments of President Obama, President Putin, Her Majesty the Queen and even Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama, all seated on the toilet performing their own “daily duty.”
Cristina (aka Kyrdy) made the images in collaboration with Area Shoot, and while they certainly rub our nose in our shared human frailty, they are also a reminder to the “sitters” of their moral responsibility in governance and leadership.
Bez the talismanic dancer from the Happy Mondays launched the Reality Party on Monday and announced his intention to stand as a representative for the party at the UK’s parliamentary elections in May. Bez is running on a platform of “free energy, free food and free anything.”
The perpetually bankrupt Celebrity Big Brother contestant (real name Mark Berry) is hoping to be elected to the Salford and Eccles constituency in Greater Manchester—the seat of former Labour cabinet minister Hazel Blears who is standing down.
The Reality Party is a new political party founded in 2014, and this is the first time it will take part in a general election.
On Monday, under a billboard bearing the slogan “It’s Real – It’s Your Reality,” Bez announced his candidature, standing on an anti-fracking ticket. Bez says he wants to “create a permaculture society,” and his election manifesto includes plans for a zero carbon economy, an end to tax breaks for big business, more nationalisation, bee hives in every school, glow-in-the-dark roads and hemp to be grown on Salford’s Chat Moss. Bez is one of three candidates representing the Reality Party in the election.
However, as the Independent newspaper reports, Bez has one major problem—the Reality Party is not registered with the Electoral Commission. In fact, the party was “deregistered” on the very day Bez launched his campaign.
According to the Independent, the regulator for the Electoral Commisison wrote Bez “several times” informing him that the Reality Party would be removed from the register as its name was too close to that of the Realist Party. Under the Commission’s rules there cannot be “two parties similarly named” as it may cause confusion with the electorate.
Bez was given until 12th January to register a different name for his party but failed to get back to the Commission:
The Independent has discovered that Bez, along with two other Reality Party members hoping to become MPs, will in fact never be able to stand in any election under that name.
A spokesman for the Electoral Commission said: “Following a review conducted last year, we contacted ‘The Reality Party’ on two occasions to tell them the party name they had registered, if seen on a ballot paper at a General Election, could mislead voters.
“We recommended what they could do to address this and whilst the party indicated that it was looking at ways to alter its name with the Commission, it did not submit a revised name before our 12 January deadline and so was removed from the register of political parties.”
However, it’s not all doom and gloom for Bez and his fellow Reality Party candidates—Nigel Askew, a pub landlord is standing in South Thanet against Ukip leader Nigel Farage, and Jackie Anderson, “who is listed as the ‘west Salford and Eccles’ candidate, although the constituency does not exist anymore”—as a Commission spokesman said:
“There’s still time for the [Reality] party to submit a revised name to the Commission before candidates who want to stand for a party have to submit their nominations papers to Acting Returning Officers with the name of the registered party they are standing for.”
Which means Bez and co. could still stand for election but not under the name of the Reality Party.
In response to the murderous events in Paris last week, Luc Besson the acclaimed director of The Big Blue, Léon, The Fifth Element, Lucy and Taken wrote a letter to Le Monde newspaper in which he expressed his love and hope for his “Muslim brothers.”
My brother, if you knew how much I hurt for you today, you and your beautiful religion which has been defiled, humiliated, blamed. Have you forgotten your strength, your energy, your humor, your heart, your fraternity. What has happened is unfair and we all must fix this injustice. We love you very much and we will all help you. But first things first. What is society offering you?
Based on money, profit, segregation, racism. In some suburbs, unemployment for those under the age of 25 is 50%. You are turned away because of your color or your name. Ten times a day you are checked and you are put into crowded apartment blocks where nobody represents you. Who can live and thrive in such conditions? If you raised a child, or even an animal, without giving them food and affection for months on end, they would die.
This is a life that puts profit above all else. We cut down the apple tree and sell the wood and are then surprised that we have no fruit. That is the real problem, and it is up to all of us to solve it.
I appeal to the powerful, the big bosses, all of the leaders. Help these poor and neglected youth who just want to be part of society. The economy is at the service of man and not the reverse. Doing good is the greatest profit. Dear powerful leaders, do you have children? Do you love them? Is there something you want to give them? Is it just money? Why not a better and fairer world? This is what would make you most proud of your children.
We cannot build happiness on the misfortune of others. It is not Christian, Jewish or Muslim. It’s just selfish, and it puts our society and our planet up against a brick wall. This then is the work we have to do today to honor our dead.
And you, my brother, you also have a job to do. How to change the company that is offered to you? By work, studying, taking a pencil rather than a Kalashnikov. Realize the power democracy offers you the noble tools to defend yourself . Seize your destiny in your hands, take power.
It costs 250 euros to buy a Kalashnikov but it’s only three euros to buy a pen—which can be a thousand times more effective.
Take the power and play with the rules. Take power democratically, together with all of your brothers. Terrorism will never win. History is there to prove it. It is the fantasy image of the martyr walking in both directions. Today thousands of Wolinski and thousands of Cabu have been born. Take the power and do not let anyone take it from you. Today know that these two bloody brothers are not yours—we all know that.
We know the perpetrators of this tragedy are not yours, they were just two weak-minded individuals, ostracised by society and then misled by a preacher who sold them eternity… The radical preachers who do this only play with your misfortune and have no good intention. They use your religion for their own advantage. It’s their business, their petty business. Tomorrow, my brother, we will be stronger, more connected, more united. I promise.
But today, my brother, I cry with you
Translated from the original French version which can be found here.
Last week we told you about Pet Photo Fun, the surely well-meaning but perhaps a tad strange people who’ll animate a photo of your dead pet singing you a song of consolation from the beyond. I thought that was an ultimate in funerary tackiness, but Cremation Solutions has that shit beat by a country mile. They will craft a cremation urn to resemble the head of your deceased loved one. And for reasons never clarified, their online sample urn is the head of US President Barack Obama.
Personal cremation urns can be designed to look like anyone. We just need good pictures. We prefer one picture from the front and one from the side. Complexions can be adjusted in the final stages and customers get a chance to proof the results. We will produce a computer generated image of what your urn will look like. Once you have approved the image, we will begin production. Like all of our custom made products, their are no refunds and we can not make changes to these urns.
The urns are available in two sizes: the “keepsake” size is essentially a shrunken head which, for $600, will hold only a portion of an adult human’s ashes, or you can opt for a full-sized replica of the decedent’s head for $2,600. Which I guess seems a fair price for a cremains-stuffed uncanny abomination of your dead loved one’s severed fucking head on a plaque? (If the decedent was more the active type, there’s a poseable figure option.)
The personal urn does not come with hair. For hair we can digitally add hair if you wish, as you can see with our sample of president Obama. For people with longer hair we can add a wig from your specifications. This cremation urn comes on an elegant solid marble base. A Plaque and nameplate are also available.