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Krautrock for Athletes: What 70s East German Olympians just might have listened to while training


 
I have to admit, they had me going there for a while…. I thought it was real. I stumbled on the Bandcamp page for the Kosmischer Läufer project two days ago, courtesy of WFMU, who blandly supplied no information about it. The site purported to be the “secret cosmic music of the East German Olympic Program, 1972-1983.” (Kosmischer Läufer means “cosmic runners.”) Volume 1 came out last year, vol. 2 this week.

So I’m listening to these tracks of magnificent 1970s-style German electronic music and taking in the backstory of one Martin Zeichnete, an apprentice sound editor for DEFA (Deutsche Film-Aktiengesellschaft) who, starting in 1972, was transferred to the Olympic training music project, that is, to compose music for East German athletes to train to. Having furtively imbibed the forbidden Western tones of Kraftwerk and Neu! in his hometown of Dresden, Zeichnete managed to smuggle in some avant-garde ideas to the project and generate some pretty sweet Musik that (just by chance) would be tailor-made for the discerning hipster of 2013. Volume 1 represented a program that “should allow the average runner to complete a 5 kilometre run at a reasonable pace. Included are 3 minute warmup and warm down pieces.”
 

 
My knowledge of German came in handy, here. There was a puzzlement or two to clear up. The name “Zeichnete,” which means “drew” or “sketched,” isn’t an entirely convincing surname for a German national. The story of being scarily apprehended by the Stasi authorities, only to be suddenly transferred to the Olympic training department, seemed far-fetched. The titles were an absolutely perfect imitation of what the contemporary English speaker would want them to be—“Mausi Mausi,” for Chrissake? “Flucht aus dem Tal der Ahnungslosen” means “Escape from the Valley of the Clueless” and really, that’s a great title in any language and perhaps more to the point, a clue to anyone taking all this retro guff too seriously. The only real problem with it all was that sizable gap between 1989 and 2013. Where were these tracks all this time? What had taken Zeichnete so long? Why was he staggering the releases? Why did some of the tracks sound so perfectly like what a Stereolab-influenced electronic music nut would generate today, given the chance?

More to the point, the whole thing was beginning to seem a bit ridiculous.
 

 
Turns out, these fine tracks of faux 1970s e-music had been introduced in a (successfully funded) Kickstarter last year launched by one Drew McFadyen of Edinburgh. (This blog says there’s more than just one person behind it, but I couldn’t discern anyone’s name but that of Mr. McFayden.)

Sehr witzig, mein guter Kerl!

In any case, instead of the most marvelous musical find of this or the last century and an incredible artifact of the Cold War, we have a excellently rendered simulacrum of same. It’s a hoot if you’re in the mood for some free tracks to listen to on Bandcamp or YouTube, but the files can also be ordered on iTunes or Amazon (links to individual tracks are below). Unfortunately, as often happens with Kickstarters, the original run of LPs is sold out. (If you’re listening, Unknown Capability Recordings, remember me if you ever do a future pressing!)

You can read an interview with the fictitious East German, Martin Zeichnete—it’s worth reading, they did a very good job with it. The reference to Andreas Pavel’s Stereobelt was just the right touch.
 

Track listing:
Kosmischer Läufer: The Secret Cosmic Music of the East German Olympic Program 1972-83, Vol. 1

1. Zeit zum Laufen 156 (Time to Run 156)
2. Sandtrommel (Sand Drum)
3. Die lange Gerade (The Long Straightaway)
4. Tonband Laufspur (Audio Tape Running Track)
5. Ein merkwürdiger Anschlag (An Unusual Attack)

Kosmischer Läufer: The Secret Cosmic Music of the East German Olympic Program 1972-83, Vol. 2

1. Zeit zum Laufen 172 (Time to Run 172)
2. Morgenröte (Dawn)
3. Flucht aus dem Tal der Ahnungslosen (Escape from the Valley of the Clueless)
4. Die Kapsel (The Capsule)
5. Die Libellen (The Dragonflies)
6. Mausi Mausi (Mausi Mausi)
7. Walzer der roten Katze (Waltz of the Red Cat)
8. Der Hörraum (The Listening Room)
9. Für Kati (For Kati)
10. Weltraumspaziergang (Spacewalk)

 
Here are a couple of the videos, cleverly sync’d up to some bitchin’ footage of East German athletes in their former glory:

“Die Libellen”:

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Awesome Lucha Libre magazine covers from the 1970s
09.24.2014
09:38 am

Topics:
Amusing
Art
Sports

Tags:
wrestling
Lucha Libre


 
Admittedly, I don’t know that much about Lucha libre (meaning “free wrestling”) culture. But what I do know is the costumes, colorful masks and buff bodies make for some interesting eye candy. These vintage magazine covers and pages from a Lucha libre glossy, I believe, prove my point nicely.

They sure as hell beat American-style wrestling getups, anyway!


 

 

 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Michael Jackson, Joan Jett, and Rod Stewart compete in ABC’s ‘Rock-N-Roll Sports Classic,’ 1978


 
Those of us who lived through the seventies won’t soon forget the various ABC celebrity sports extravaganzas, especially the Battle of the Network Stars of various years. I didn’t remember, however, the Rock-N-Roll Sports Classic from 1978. Aside from a few genuine immortals (Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Rod Stewart, Joan Jett), the panoply of athletes is mostly reminiscent of a Columbia Records Club advertisement or the $1 bin at your local LP store (Boston, Leif Garrett, Anne Murray, Seals & Crofts, Tanya Tucker, Kenny Loggins, etc.).
 

 
Events include cycling, basketball, swimming, track and field. The main takeaway is that the Runaways kick ass, with both Joan Jett and Sandy West winning events. Michael Jackson appears in the 60-yard dash, but his brother Jackie wins that event. In soccer, Rod Stewart defeats ELO bassist Richard Tandy in a penalty-kick competition.

The roster of announcers is nearly as long and impressive as the list of performer-athletes: Ed McMahon, Sandy Duncan, Phyllis Diller, Kristy McNichol, Barbi Benton, and Alex Karras. Fred Travalena is also on hand to do a few timely impressions, such as Richard Nixon, who had resigned as president four years earlier.
 

 
At the 22:00 mark there’s a weird moment involving Alex Karras. Karras, who died in 2012, was a remarkable fellow by any definition, being an All-Pro defensive tackle for the Lions, Blazing Saddles bit player, and the adult lead for the ABC sitcom Webster for many years. But he was also one of a bare handful of athletes ever to suffer a league sanction for gambling, being forced by the NFL to sit out the 1963 season because of his involvement in gambling activities. So it’s especially weird when, after introducing Marlon Jackson before a race, he adopts the mock desperation of a gambling addict: “Marlon, you gotta win this one, I don’t care about you guys making money, but I need it!”

Indeed, the very existence of the Rock-N-Roll Sports Classic brings to mind the recent issue of drug testing in pro sports—one wonders what results the drug tests for this event would have yielded. Some of the events are actually edited out of this video, but most of them are there, but a judicious assessment of the video’s contents would still conclude that it mainly consists of introductions: “In Lane number two, William King of the Commodores!” It’s still a prime example of the dread nexus of music and television that only the seventies can supply, and well worth watching for connoisseurs of televised weirdness.
 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Baseball general manager gets prostate exam (during game) singing ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’
07.29.2014
07:27 am

Topics:
Amusing
Sports

Tags:
baseball
medicine

prostate exam
 
You’ve got to, er, hand it to Myrtle Beach Pelicans general manager Andy Milovich. Last month it was Prostate Cancer Awareness Night at Pelicans Ballpark, and true to the evening’s awareness-promoting events, he took to the mic during the 7th inning stretch and sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” while a grinning MD, dressed in surgical scrubs, investigated his prostate, as is the custom, from the rear entrance.
 
prostate exam
 
Under the circumstances, Milovich held it together admirably. He passed the exam without any problems, and the Pelicans, an Advanced-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers in the Carolina League, managed to put together a rousing comeback 5-4 victory against the hated (?) Frederick Keys, an Orioles affiliate.

We note without comment that this coming Sunday is Breast Cancer Awareness Night at Pelicans Ballpark.
 

 
via Ken Levine’s blog
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘Torchwood’ star John Barrowman opens Commonwealth Games with same-sex kiss

barrowmankiss.jpg
 
Well done to Torchwood star John Barrowman, who opened the twentieth Commonwealth Games in Glasgow last night with a kiss.

The ceremony, which was held at Celtic Park in the city’s east end, began with a kitsch musical number performed by Barrowman and comedy actress Karen Dunbar celebrating Scotland’s diverse culture and history. In front of an estimated television audience of 1.5 billion, Mr. Barrowman kissed one of the kilted male dancers during a sequence on Gretna Green—the romantic village where eloping couples have traditionally married.

The kiss was accompanied by shouts of “Here’s to equality in Scotland.”

The bill for gay marriage in Scotland received Royal assent in March this year, and the first gay weddings will take place in 2015.

The theme of the opening ceremony was equality for all, and Mr. Barrowman’s kiss highlighted the fact that homosexuality is a prisonable offense in an astonishing 42 of the 54 Commonwealth nations taking part on the games.

Among the other artists taking part in the “Friendly games” opening ceremony were Rod Stewart, Nicola Bendetti, Amy MacDonald, DJ Mylo, Billy Connolly, Susan Boyle, Karen Dunbar, Ewan MacGregor and 41 Scottish Terriers. Read a review here.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Nazi shirts celebrating Germany’s World Cup triumph pop up on Amazon.de

Nazi World Cup shirt
“Final Victory / World Champions 2014”; a Nazi cross topples Rio’s Christ the Redeemer
 
The combination of Argentina and Germany surely put the subject of World War II in the minds of some onlookers—it turns out that not all of them were outside of Germany. After Germany’s impressive 1-0 victory over Argentina on Sunday, “Unbekannt” (Unknown) has produced Nazi-themed T-shirts to mark the great victory of “Die Mannschaft” (“The Team”—as the German national team is often called).

The iconography is unmistakable, but in order to help with the vocabulary: we all know what “Blitzkrieg” means—the term “Blitzsieg” punningly replaces the word for “war” (Krieg) with the far more innocuous yet in this context still somewhat sinister word for “victory” (Sieg). “Endsieg” means “Final Victory”—as Wikipedia points out, “The term is today almost exclusively used with reference to its meaning in the Third Reich.” (In other words, the use of the word can’t be brushed aside as a reference to the referee’s final whistle or some such.) That Wikipedia entry is worth reading in full, as it points out the complex uses such a term is put to in the present day, many of them sarcastic; Germans are far too aware of their loaded history to throw around such a term lightly. The German word for “World Champion(s)” is “Weltmeister.”

As of this writing, those shirts are still available on Amazon.de. It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes for Amazon.de to pull them and issue an inevitable apology.
 
Nazi World Cup shirt
“Germany Brazil 7-1 Lightning Victory”
 
Nazi World Cup shirt
“Blitzkrieg / Victory 2014 / Germany World Champions”
 
Nazi World Cup shirt
 
via Kraftfuttermischwerk

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘Sad Brazilians’: Website dedicated to Brazilians crying
07.09.2014
10:39 am

Topics:
Pop Culture
Sports

Tags:
Brazil
World Cup


 
As the whole damned planet knows by now Germany slaughtered Brazil during their semi-final match yesterday. Lots of Brazilians were losing their shit and crying. I’ve never really understood the extreme emotional response some people have over their team losing (or winning). Perhaps I’m just not enough of a sports fanatic and I simply don’t get it?

Either way, there’s a website dedicated to Brazilians with serious cases of the sads over their epic loss to Germany.


 

 

 

 

 

 
via Sad Brazilians

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Make your own Marcel Duchamp chess set with a 3D printer
07.07.2014
08:44 am

Topics:
Art
Science/Tech
Sports

Tags:
Marcel Duchamp
chess

Marcel Duchamp
 
It’s well known that hugely influential French artist Marcel Duchamp, after basically introducing the world to the category of “conceptual art,” abandoned the art world for a new obsession, chess, in his early thirties. He qualified as a chess master by achieving a draw in the Third French Chess Championship in 1925 (for which he designed the poster, below).
 
Marcel Duchamp
 
Duchamp’s wife became so consternated at his obsession with the game that she glued his pieces to his board. He designed a handsome chess set, which, as far as I can tell, has never been mass-produced (meanwhile, editions of Man Ray’s minimalist chess set fetch prices of $200 and up).
 
Duchamp chess set
 
At the MakerBot.Thingiverse website, Scott Kildall and Bryan Cera have generated a 3D-printable version of Duchamp’s chess set, with the witty title “Readymake” (all of Duchamp’s most famous artistic interventions were called “readymades”):
 

Readymake: Duchamp Chess Set is a 3D-printed chess set generated from an archival photograph of Marcel Duchamp’s own custom and hand-carved game. His original physical set no longer exists. We have resurrected the lost artifact by digitally recreating it, and then making the 3D files available for anyone to print.

Inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s readymade—an ordinary manufactured object that the artist selected and modified for exhibition—the readymake brings the concept of the appropriated object to the realm of the internet, exploring the web’s potential to re-frame information and data, and their reciprocal relationships to matter and ideas. Readymakes transform photographs of objects lost in time into shared 3D digital spaces to provide new forms and meanings.

 
Duchamp chess set
 
Here’s a lovely French-language documentary (with English subtitles) about Duchamp called “Jeu d’échecs” (A Game of Chess) that covers both his extravagantly impressive artistic resume as well as his interest in chess: 
 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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The Beautiful Game: World Cup posters 1930-2014
06.25.2014
11:08 am

Topics:
Sports

Tags:
soccer
World Cup

1930urg.jpg
 
The FIFA World Cup 2014 moves into the last sixteen this week with many of the expected teams qualifying (Brazil, Mexico, Holland, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica) and some unexpected early knock-outs (previous winners Spain, Italy, England). Amongst the surprise successes have been the USA (who may qualify depending on the result of their game against Germany), Nigeria, Greece and Algeria—teams that have all performed better than their odds.

While nations put their hope in eleven men on the pitch, a large swathe of Brazilians have been demonstrating over the cost of the whole tournament—money that may have been better spent on helping the poor, as one demonstrator put it:

“The party in the stadiums is not worth tears in the favelas,”

2014 marks the twentieth World Cup and it’s the second time the competition has been played in Brazil. These are the posters for all twenty tournaments from the first held in Uruguay 1930.
 
1934ita2.jpg
 
1938fra.jpg
 
1950bra22.jpg
 
1954swiz.jpg
 
1958swe58.jpg
 
Via Graphic Design Junction and Vintage Everyday.
 
More soccer posters after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Home movie footage of Duke Ellington and his band playing baseball
06.09.2014
07:51 am

Topics:
Music
Sports

Tags:
jazz
Duke Ellington
baseball

Duke Ellington
 
Two of the greatest home-grown American inventions—indeed, grassroots institutions—are jazz and baseball. The consensus greatest practitioners of both pastimes—Louis Armstrong and Babe Ruth, respectively—were in their prime at the exact same time, the 1920s, and both men were raised in orphanages. Shit, it’s jazz and baseball, I’ve just accidentally named two Ken Burns PBS series, that’s how freaking iconic those two things are. You can tell the story of America through baseball, or through jazz. They’re both rich mines of meaning.

And if you have something that combines the two, well, that’s something I want to know about. Smithsonian Magazine recently came up with some truly remarkable footage, dating from around 1941, of the legendary jazz bandleader and composer Duke Ellington playing a little bit of baseball during an off moment with a few of his bandmates, namely cornetist Rex Stewart and valve trombonist Juan Tizol. For the record, that’s the Duke pitching and then swinging the bat from about 0:15 to 0:30. (That’s tenor sax man Ben Webster in the bathrobe at the end, clearly communicating something along the lines of “You guys can play out there if you want, I’m hung over and I’m staying right here.”)
 
Duke Ellington
 
This fantastic image actually has nothing to do with the footage. That picture was taken sometime in the mid-1950s—the massive slogan on the bus, “Mr. Hi-Fi of 1955,” in addition to being my own future nickname if I have anything to say about it, surely puts us pretty close to that year. The appearance of the neon word “Colored” at left certainly suggests that this little game of pickup ball took place somewhere in the South.
 

 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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