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Taiwanese funerals: Miniskirts and marching bands
11.15.2013
07:26 am

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R.I.P.

Tags:
funerals

taiwanfuneralband.jpg
 
I attended about half-a-dozen funerals before I was twelve years of age. To my young mind, they were all the same, dreary and cold, under slate-grey, rainy skies, which made me think that when my time comes, I’d like to be sent off by Viking long boat, set aflame on chilled northern waters. As you can tell, I was greatly influenced by the Kirk Douglas/Tony Curtis film The Vikings, and I’d decided it was either longship, or die like Ragnar (Ernest Borgnine), thrown into a pit to wrestle with starving wolves. Ah yes, a Viking’s funeral was my plan. But now, having seen these funerals from Taiwan, I may just change my future funeral arrangements.

Taiwanese funerals are certainly loud and cheerful, and make a change from the traditional damp-eyed family and friends pretending they actually liked you. It’s just a pity one has to die before enjoying such an exuberant send-off.

See more Taiwanese send-offs here.
 

 

 

 
H/T Arbroath, via RocketNews24
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Is Andy Kaufman alive? His ‘daughter’ says that he is
11.13.2013
05:37 pm

Topics:
Amusing
R.I.P.
Unorthodox

Tags:
Andy Kaufman

Andy Kaufman Awards, 2013
Michael Kaufman standing next to a woman who either is or is not Andy Kaufman’s 24-year-old daughter

Every year for the last several years, at the Gotham Comedy Club in New York, a ceremony called the Andy Kaufman Awards takes place in which the eponymous, dearly departed, and much-missed comedian is celebrated, and current performers carrying on the spirit of his baffling comedy are singled out for recognition (Kristen Schaal and Reggie Watts have been two of the comedians so honored).

On Monday evening, this year’s edition of the Andy Kaufman Awards took an unusually Kaufmanesque turn, not only when Kaufman’s brother Michael took the stage to announce that Andy is indeed still alive but even more so when a young woman took the stage, claiming to be his daughter and likewise “confirming” that Andy is alive and well.
 
Andy Kaufman
 
The woman in question did not, apparently, give her name, but she did reveal her age—24, which would put her birthdate at around 1989. The fact that intrigues is that Kaufman died in 1984 at the age of 35.

Killy Dwyer, who was part of the event as one of the potential honorees, posted the following on her Facebook page:
 

Ok. Tonight was a mindfuck. Anyone who was there will attest. Andy Kaufman’s daughter came onstage and claimed he was alive. It was. It was…I can’t tell you how it was, only that it was as real as any reality that i’ve seen. and yeah. I get that it is—could—might all be a hoax. That was the only and last thing I want to say. it was fucking fucked up. She said he is alive and that the passing of his father this July made him want to reach out via her- to Michael, Andy’s brother. She said he is watching the award entries, semi and finalists with great interest always. He just wanted to disappear. To be a father. To be an observer. As much as this seems like bullshit as I type it, it was as real as anything I’ve ever seen. There is video. It was chilling, upsetting and absolutely intriguing. I bawled my eyes out. The entire room was freaked out. It was, if nothing else, brilliant. and incredibly mindfuckng and AWESOME.

 
To supply a little background, the basic facts are these. Between roughly 1970 and his passing in 1984, Kaufman established himself as one of the most original voices in comedy, primarily through his appearances on Saturday Night Live and his status as a regular player on the cast of Taxi (1978-1983). He gave a number of live performances coinciding with his run on Taxi that are considered legendary, particularly his April 1979 show at Carnegie Hall in which, among other things, he took the entire audience out for milk and cookies (this required the use of 24 buses) and invited everyone to join him on the Staten Island Ferry the next morning.

Long accustomed to baffling and irritating his audiences, in his last years Kaufman refined what can only be called an especially provocative form of anti-comedy to its most sublime expression. Kaufman became renowned for belligerently boasting that he could beat any woman in the sport of wrestling—and several such matches were staged. He also had a scuffle and a heated exchange with Memphis wrestler Jerry Lawler on Late Night with David Letterman.

He developed an alter ego named Tony Clifton, whom Kaufman insisted be hired as a guest actor on Taxi—Kaufman’s partner in crime, a curious figure named Bob Zmuda, later continued with the Clifton persona after Kaufman’s death of lung cancer in 1984, in part to fuel speculation that Kaufman was still alive and controlling this macabre anti-comedy from offstage.

Rather brilliantly, Kaufman—alive or no—managed to set up conditions whereby almost anything that happens can be said to further corroborate either the facts of his death or the concocted nature of same. It is well known that Kaufman spoke often of faking his own death, but most reasonable observers have concluded that this is highly unlikely.

This is what makes the events of last Monday night so compelling and weird. Nobody claims to know who the young woman is or whether she is telling the truth. At the Andy Kaufman Awards on Monday, Michael Kaufman, Andy’s brother, told a story about Andy’s supposed promise to meet up with Michael on Christmas Eve of 1999, on which date Michael showed up at the appointed restaurant but Andy did not—however (according to Michael) an emissary did hand Michael an envelope that evening explaining about Andy’s faked death and his new family, including a daughter. 

So what we know is, either Andy Kaufman is alive or his brother and an unidentified woman staged a remembrance of his brilliantly perverse comedy in the most attention-getting manner imaginable.
 
Kaufman in rare form, taunting Jerry Lawler and wrestling a woman named Susan:

 
(The best account of this bizarre turn of events can be found at the Comic’s Comic.)

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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To Lou Reed and all of his satellites
10.27.2013
02:27 pm

Topics:
Music
Punk
R.I.P.

Tags:
Lou Reed


 
I was 16 years old and living in Fairfax, Virginia when I first heard The Velvet Underground’s debut album. It was 1967 and I was ready for something, anything, to slough off the teenage suburban blues that encased me like dead skin. I had no exact idea of what I was listening to when I listened to that album but whatever wild form of rock and roll it was it dug down deep into me and altered something very essential in my nature.

The Velvet Underground’s music was literally electrifying. Their songs were like subatomic particles saturating my cells and transforming me into some kind of new being. For 18 hours straight I listened to that album while eating bennies (benzedrine). Sitting and spinning in circles on a smooth wooden floor while the music hummed, droned, surged and sparked all around and within me. 

The electronic equivalent of one of William Burroughs word viruses or Rimbaud’s poetry as a “derangement of the senses,” the music of The Velvet Underground infected me and scrambled my brain forever.

I was indoctrinated into the splendid darkness, muttering the Warholian oath of Doctor Frankenstein: “To know death, Otto, you have to fuck life in the gall bladder.” Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Maureen Tucker and Nico were turning me into a teenage Frankenstein and I was ready to thrust myself into the “meat pit of mortal desire” with a monstrous passion. I was only 16 but I knew how to nasty.

A year earlier, The Fugs had prepped me for the surgery performed by The Velvet Underground and now the transformation was well on its way. I left the comfort and deadly dullness of suburbia for the untamed streets of New York City, landing in an apartment on West Houston street that I shared with a drag queen and a runaway friend of mine that had left the ‘burbs months before me. The streets were teeming with young hippies, rockers and weirdos and I felt immediately at home. This was a world in which we were all waiting for our man, whether he was a drug dealer, guru or lover….or all three. There was a jittery anticipation in the air like when you were about to cop something that would get you high or get you by or just make you thrilled to be alive. And that anticipation was its own high and very much like a song by The Velvet Underground.

Hey baby, don’t you holler, don’t you ball and shout
I’m feeling good, I’m gonna work it on out
I’m feeling good, feeling so fine
until tomorrow, but that’s just some other time
I’m waiting for my man
I’m waiting for my man
I’m waiting for my man
man-man-man-man-man-man-man

As much as I was formed and inspired by The Velvet Underground as an artist, it was Lou Reed specifically that made me want to become a songwriter. The title of his album “Transformer” was truth in advertising, it encouraged me to become something I wanted but never thought I could be: a rock singer.

Lou wasn’t a great singer and neither am I. So what. He made songwriting appear simple. It ain’t. But Lou made the art of song attainable by taking everyday reality and finding within it the riff that made it extraordinary. Like Warhol did with soup cans. The shape, the color, the essential “itness” of it. There is nothing in life that is artless. At certain angles, even shit shines.

Lou wrote about stuff, the stuff of life, the stuff I wanted to write about. The unspeakable stuff, the real stuff. I wasn’t interested in music that soothed the savage breast, I wanted to write savage music about breasts…and cocks and city streets and dark tunnels winding their way underneath those streets. Lou Reed made it all seem possible. You could write about your life while dancing to it. You could be both profane and divine. Lou found the spiritual in the dirty boulevards, Coney Island, hookers, junkies, and the whole of the wild side. Poetry was everywhere, under the mattress with a bag of dope and a blood-stained tee-shirt, in the shadow of the Berlin wall and inside the tenement where

Caroline says
while biting her lip
Life is meant to be more than this
and this is a bum trip

Lou Reed, more than any creative being on the planet, let me know it was possible I could become a rock and roller. And he did that for a lot of people. It has been said that The Velvet Underground spawned more bands than it sold albums. It’s true. Lou opened up the field for millions of us. There are few modern singer/songwriters that haven’t been influenced by his direct way of telling a story in song without hyped-up sentiment or maudlin platitudes. His hard-edged, cynical style, shot through with harsh beauty and tenderness, created a new level of sophistication and adultness in rock that hadn’t much been heard before him. He cut through the cute shit and talked about the raw side of city life like Cole Porter on a cocktail of crystal meth and Seconal. And yet for all the tough guy stance, here was a cat that could write lines like:

Thought of you as my mountain top,
Thought of you as my peak.
Thought of you as everything,
I’ve had but couldn’t keep.
I’ve had but couldn’t keep.
Linger on, your pale blue eyes.
Linger on, your pale blue eyes.

If I could make the world as pure and strange as what I see,
I’d put you in the mirror,
I put in front of me.
I put in front of me.
Linger on, your pale blue eyes.
Linger on, your pale blue eyes.

Beneath the black leather veneer and dismissive smirk of Lou Reed there was something vulnerable and fragile. It was covered up out of necessity. The shit he wrote about, the shit he lived, could kill you. But you can’t write with the insight he did about the darker side of life, the lost souls and broken hearts, without having an incredible sense of empathy and love. On the surface, Reed was a badass. But somewhere a satellite of love was beaming down signals and Reed was there to catch them….and to beam them out to other satellites, of which I was one.
 

 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Lou Reed dead at 71
10.27.2013
10:53 am

Topics:
Music
R.I.P.

Tags:
Lou Reed
Velvet Underground


 
Lou Reed is dead at the age of 71. He’d gotten a liver transplant in Cleveland back in May, but the cause of his death has not been disclosed.

Reed’s wife, Laurie Anderson told the Times of London earlier this year regarding the transplant: “It’s as serious as it gets. He was dying. You don’t get it for fun.”

Below,  Andy Warhol’s “Symphony in Sound,” one of the only known sync sound film recordings of The Velvet Underground:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Pioneering jazz drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson, R.I.P.
10.19.2013
05:25 pm

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Music
R.I.P.

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Ronald Shannon Jackson


 
Vernon Reid has posted on his Facebook page that legendary drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson has died at the age of 73.

I just got the news that my most important teacher & mentor Ronald Shannon Jackson passed away this morning. I am undone.

From Jazz Times:

Ronald Shannon Jackson, a drummer and composer who worked largely within the realms of free jazz, funk and fusion, died this morning, Oct. 19, in Ft. Worth, Tex. Jackson’s passing was confirmed by his cousin, Tobi Hero, on Jackson’s Facebook page. No cause of death was cited, however, Jackson was suffering from leukemia and had been living in a hospice. He was 73.

Jackson was a revolutionary in the avant-jazz scene taking cues from Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler and Cecil Taylor. With his group The Decoding Society, Jackson shattered the walls between jazz and rock and in collaboration with musicians like James “Blood” Ulmer, Vernon Reid and Bill Frisell introduced a style of music uniquely its own.

Here’s some recent footage (2012) of Jackson performing at the Kessler Theater near his hometown of Fort Worth:
 

With Vernon Reid and Melvin Gibbs at the Knitting Factory in 1999:
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Motown’s Charm School
10.18.2013
09:35 am

Topics:
Music
R.I.P.

Tags:
Motown
Maxine Powell


 
For five years the gracious Maxine Powell ran the only in-house finishing school at any American record label. Most people have probably never heard of Powell, who died this week, but music fans have unknowingly enjoyed her handiwork at Motown since the ‘60s.

As Mrs. Powell explained:

When I opened up, in 1964, the finishing school, the purpose was to help the artists become class, to know what to do on stage and off stage, because they did come from humble beginnings. Some of them from the projects and some of them were using street language. Some were rude and crude, you understand, but with me, it’s not where you come from, it’s where you’re going.

The petite former actress, model, manicurist, cosmetologist, and African-American finishing school-modeling agency founder was hired by Motown to help the label polish its artists’ public images. She met Berry Gordy through his sister, who was one of Powell’s models, and his mother, who took one of Powell’s self-development courses. Her official title was “artist development,” but her duties were broader than that.

It was Powell’s job to teach the likes of Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops, Martha Reeves, Tammi Terrell, The Marvelettes, The Velvelettes, and Smokey Robinson how to present themselves charmingly during interviews, performances, and off-stage public appearances. When they were in Detroit, Motown singers were required to attend two-hour session with Powell, learning public speaking, posture, walking, stage presence, etiquette, and personal grooming. Powell had studied African-American cosmetology at the renowned Madam C.J. Walker training school in Indianapolis.

Powell toured with artists on occasion, acting as counselor and unofficial bartender after shows. One of her mottos was “I teach class, and class will turn the heads of kings and queens.” She meant that literally. She wanted Motown’s artists to be able to comport themselves appropriately if they were ever invited to the White House or Buckingham Palace.

Perhaps more immediately useful was the instruction on how to sit in a limousine or on a stool (in a bar or on a talk who) in a short dress. Trying to act in a “ladylike” fashion is, let’s face it, like aiming at a constantly moving target. Even Diana Ross rejected the idea that shorter false eyelashes were classier than long, spidery ones.

Unlike Sharon Osbourne’s, Mo’Nique’s, and Ricki Lake’s Charm School candidates on VH-1, Powell’s students avidly listened to her and didn’t argue.

Martha Reeves of Martha and the Vandellas, told The New York Times, “Mrs. Powell was always a lady of grace, elegance and style, and we did our best to emulate her. I don’t think I would have been successful at all without her training.”

Although Powell left Motown in 1969 she left a lasting impression on the artists she had helped. For example, prior to a national TV appearance she counseled The Supremes to dance with their knees, not their buttocks (“Do not protrude the buttocks” was one of her maxims). “You’re not out on the streets here,” she advised them.

Powell’s memorial service and funeral are taking place in Detroit today.
 
mrspowell
 
Below, Maxine Powell on her approach to teaching “class” and how she motivated her students:

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
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Keiko Fuji, the ‘Joan Baez’ of Japan dead in apparent suicide
08.22.2013
02:39 pm

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Music
R.I.P.

Tags:
Keiko Fuji


 
Keiko Fuji, famed Japanese singer of sentimental folk (“enka”) songs, threw herself off her Tokyo apartment building in an apparent suicide yesterday morning. Fuji, the mother of J-pop superstar Hikaru Utada, was thought of as the Joan Baez of Japan and was famous for playing a white guitar.

From Japan Daily Press:

It was around 7AM when the body of Fuji was found on the street where she lived. She was living with a male friend, who claimed to be sleeping at the time of incident. Only a pair of slippers was left on the railing of her apartment’s balcony. As no suicide note was left, the police haven’t ruled out the possibility of foul play and are still making investigations.

The 62-year old Keiko Fuji, whose real name was Junko Utada, was a famous enka singer and actress in the 1970s. She made her singing debut in 1969 and had her debut album titled Shinjuku no Onna (“Woman in Shinjuku”) a year later. The album spent 20 weeks at the Oricon chart. Fuji, a native of Iwate Prefecture, ended her singing career in 1979 and went to the United States, where she lived for a time. She gave birth to her only child, Hikaru, in 1983 in New York.

Keiko Fuji’s biggest hit was “Keiko no Yume wa Yoru Hiraku” (“Keiko’s dreams blossom at night”). It’s about a prostitute who dreams of a better life while she services her clients.
 

 
Thank you Chris Campion of Berlin, Germany!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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RIP: Cult actress Karen Black has died
08.08.2013
03:53 pm

Topics:
Movies
R.I.P.

Tags:
Karen Black

kcalbnerakpir.jpg
 
After months of fighting against cancer, Karen Black, the cult actress who starred in such films as Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces and Nashville has died at the age of 74. Her husband Stephen Eckelberry posted news of her death on Facebook:

It is with great sadness that I have to report that my wife and best friend, Karen Black has just passed away, only a few minutes ago. Thank you all for all your prayers and love, they meant so much to her as they did to me.

Yesterday, in a heart-rending update on Karen’s blog, Stephen wrote:

A lot of people have been asking me what’s the latest with Karen, so here it is:

Last post I did was mid-June, we were in St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica. A week later, everything the hospital could do for Karen had been done; bacterial infections & anemia handled, heart & lungs working - everything but the cancer itself.  By the way, props to St John’s, a top notch hospital with a great staff of doctor’s and nurses.

Karen’s health continued to deteriorate at an alarming pace. She became bed-bound: the spreading cancer having eaten away part of a vertebra and nerves in her lower back. Her left leg stopped functioning.  We could not go to Europe as we had hoped. It would have been almost impossible to travel to the airport.  So we brought alternative treatments to her bedside.  Hardly as effective as doing a full treatment in a clinic, but I firmly believe that these treatments have been keeping her alive.  I can’t tell you how many times doctors and nurses have pulled me aside and told me that I better start hospice, as she was about to die….The cancer is still spreading slowly and it takes its toll.

Stephen and his daughter Celine gave up work to take care of Karen, and in June this year, they filmed a “deeply moving and candid conversation” between Karen and her friend Elliot Mintz. Though emotionally “raw,” it is hoped that this footage will one day be released. Read the full blog here.

R.I.P. Karen Black 1939-2013
 

 
Above, a Karen Black audio interview with Movie Geeks United from May 2012. Below, Karen Black in Trilogy of Terror, the legendary 1975 portmanteau TV horror movie that scared the living daylights out of a generation of Americans (skip straight ahead to about 45 minutes in for the devil doll story.)
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Elvis died for somebody’s sins, but not Mick Farren’s
07.30.2013
07:13 am

Topics:
Books
Heroes
Literature
Music
R.I.P.

Tags:
Mick Farren


A swashbuckling young rockstar Farren onstage with The Deviants.

During the last couple of years of his life, I had the pleasure of visiting the late, great Mick Farren a handful of times in his flat in Seven Dials, Brighton, mostly to discuss his Elvis Died For Somebody’s Sins But Not Mine collection, which I was helping to edit and flog for the publishers, Headpress. He was a very lovely geezer.

Mick’s place, as you’d imagine, was well littered with music and literature, as well as framed posters and other random knickknacks and artifacts from his distinguished life. There was always an open bottle of JD floating about, as near to hand as the plastic mask and oxygen tank that helped keep him relatively comfortable and alive. At his desk in the far corner, his chair was cocked between the computer he worked at, and the constantly murmuring television by the window—a set-piece that struck me as a pretty apt symbol of his prose.

In person, Mick was quite a sight. Physically, aging appeared to have almost uniquely traumatised him. Outraged folds of flesh drooped down between the curtains of his long curly black hair. “Don’t ever get old, will ya!” he once implored me, in his memorable, wheedling voice, after having had to avail himself of a few especially long pulls of oxygen.

But here was the thing…

Even as he was, essentially, slowly dying, Mick’s writing was still, I thought, getting stronger. The handful of new pieces Headpress commissioned him to write were among the finest he’d written (one of them we posted here at DM, an amazing article on Nick Cave and the devil): on the page, the man could boast almost burgeoning youth.

Only when he read his work aloud was this disparity brought into full relief. On the brink of publication, David Kerekes and I brought along a video camera and invited Mick to read a few passages from the collection. (See below.) Mick, of course, was up for it, and his sentences fell with chaotic but pleasing rhythm from his lips. At the end of each, though, he would have to inhale, gaspingly, his chest set off like a drill.

I was under the impression that Mick very rarely left the house other than to do gigs, and the thought of these genuinely daunted me. I imagined the words just about making it out, and the PA morbidly amplifying that deathly rattle…

So when I finally made it to a Deviants gig earlier this summer, I was in for a surprise. Mick sat there, hunched on a stool in the middle of the stage, and as the band rang out with impressive muscularity, his songs flew from his lungs, absolutely full bodied. I stood there grinning from ear to ear and shaking my head. How the fuck was he managing it? Not only getting through the set, but doing so in such style?  That he collapsed and died following one of these performances shows just how difficult these near miracles must have been… and how much he must have loved to pull them off.
 

Posted by Thomas McGrath | Discussion
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The death of Jerry Garcia as it was reported on ABC’s ‘Nightline’
07.22.2013
04:26 pm

Topics:
History
Music
R.I.P.

Tags:
Grateful Dead
Jerry Garcia


 
Jerry Garcia was a tie-dyed human symbol of the survival of the ideals of the hippie generation. Accordingly, when he died, a lot of people were very cut up about it, as this report reminds us with its live shots of grief-stricken fans in Washington, DC, New York and San Francisco on August 9, 1995.

I remember the day it happened. A guy I was friendly with from taking cigarette breaks outside of my office building—a fellow who always wore a suit, crisp white shirt and a tie, maybe mid to late 50s at the time and the manager of a big Hollywood sound stage—told me that he’d locked the door of his office and cried like a baby behind it for 20 minutes before regaining his composure.

He’d gotten into following the Dead around (and ‘shrooms) as a way to stave off a mid-life crisis after a divorce blind-sided him. He had a sort of “On the Road” moment as a Deadhead and that was really a liberating thing for him. Jerry Garcia’s death represented the end to something that was of huge emotional importance in his life, something that obviously a lot of people also felt.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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