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‘The Junky’s Christmas’: The William S. Burroughs short film presented by Francis Ford Coppola


 
If you have even the most passing knowledge of the life and work of William S. Burroughs, nothing should seem more out of the ordinary than finding the author of surreal heroin tomes nodding pensively at the beginning of this 1993 Francis Ford Coppola-produced short film directed by Nick Donkin and Melodie McDaniel. I couldn’t help but chuckle watching Burroughs appear in a cozy, holiday-themed room complete with a roaring fireplace, tinsel and an amply lit Christmas tree. The film’s opening sequence reeks of an inappropriate wholesomeness, and the former bug powder purveyor looks as innocent as a kind old granddad ready to tell a bunch of rug rats to grab some hot cocoa and gather around for a tale of Christmas cheer. What, exactly, is going on here?

Then, Burroughs pulls a copy of his 1989 collection of short stories, Interzone off of a bookshelf and opens it to the piece called “The Junky’s Christmas.” As the black and white film cuts away to claymation, Burroughs begins to narrate the sad story of Danny, a heroin addicted hustler who finds himself being let out of New York City jail cell on Christmas morning with no cash and no immediate source for his much needed fix. Now we’re in familiar Burroughs territory. 
 

 
Well, sort of. If you’ve read it, you know the story, but now try to imagine the bleak, back-alley Christmas narrative read by Burroughs while classic holiday tunes and beats from the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy mingle with his monotone. If you haven’t read it, I won’t spoil it for you entirely, but suffice it to say that Danny the fiending anti-hero shares a holiday gift with an ailing fellow tenant in a shitty rented room after spending the day being kicked around New York City looking to score. Helping the guy out proves to be an act of kindness for which Danny is supernaturally rewarded. 

Burroughs’ story itself is gritty, odd, sad, touching and revelatory in its way. But we’re talking about the short film as a whole here, and the ending, I think, is meant to add something. We cut back to the holiday scene from the beginning, the claymation goes away, Burroughs closes the book and walks into a previously unseen dining room filled with smiling partygoers surrounding a classic holiday dinner spread. In the closing sequence that follows, Burroughs joins the other Christmas revelers in raising a toast. He also helps carve the turkey. The whole thing comes off as kind of silly, but the juxtaposition is perhaps meant a reminder to think about how lucky some of us are. Or, on second thought, maybe it’s just supposed to add a layer of weirdness. Either way, check it out below.

Notably, James Grauerholz, bibliographer and literary executor of Burroughs’ estate, is listed in the credits as one of the Christmas guests.

A different version of this story appeared in Burroughs’ Exterminator! originally published in 1973 as “The “Priest” They Called Him” which itself was read by Burroughs over Kurt Cobain guitar noise and released in 1993.
 

Posted by Jason Schafer | Discussion
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Slint and Will Oldham discuss that famous ‘Spiderland’ album cover
12.18.2014
08:41 am

Topics:
Art
Music

Tags:
Slint
Will Oldham


Brashear, Walford, and Oldham treading water
 
Spiderland was that haunting and evocative bit of early-‘90s indie rock, the second (and final) album from Slint, four fellows from Louisville, Kentucky, the reconstituted shards of Squirrel Bait. It took a long while, but it has emerged as one of the profoundly influential albums of the post-classic era, contributing to the foundations of post-rock and inspiring acts as disparate as P.J. Harvey, Pavement, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mogwai, and Sebadoh. No small part of the album’s appeal derives from the photograph that graces the cover, a black-and-white, ever-so-blurry pic of the band members bobbing in the waters of a quarry somewhere. The picture suggests the frolics of summer and youth, but the lack of color lends it a foreboding aura—a wholly apt introduction to the bracing, enervating music of the album. The picture was taken by Will Oldham, a buddy of the band’s who went on to record scads of music under the name Bonnie “Prince” Billy, among others.

In the following clip, filmmaker Lance Bangs brought Oldham and Slint members Britt Walford (drums) and Todd Brashear (bass) together to reminisce about the shooting of that cover. There’s some talk of Slint guitarist Brian McMahan cooking up some mayhem with a “sacrificial goat” and the entire band, save McMahan, getting arrested for trespassing. It’s evident that the quarry is the site of a tony residential community of some kind, we catch a glimpse of a billboard for a building development company from southern Indiana called Quarry Bluff, which bills itself as (initial caps and all) “A Unique Development Located on the Banks of the Ohio River in Utica, Indiana Just Across the New East End Bridge!” So it appears that the quarry isn’t in Kentucky at all but in Jefferson, Indiana.

This clip comes from Breadcrumb Trail, Bangs’ recent documentary on the band and the album. The clip ends with Oldham, Brashear, and Walford jumping into the water to re-create the album cover as best they can.
 

 
via Biblioklept

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Death defying downhiller nearly skates himself into a bus
12.18.2014
08:07 am

Topics:
Sports

Tags:
skateboarding

perropro
 
I grew up on a skateboard and have intimate, first-hand knowledge about what it feels like to literally slide on my face across unforgiving concrete after taking a hill way too fast. I probably don’t need to tell you that it hurts badly and scares the living shit out of you.

That’s why every time I see footage of longboarders bombing the hell out of insanely long declines spanning miles through no-room-for-error terrain, I watch with a combination of admiration, fascination and straight-up cringe inducing terror. 

The video below takes the cake, though. Really. The guy almost gets hit by a bus. 

It starts with a warning to “NEVER fully trust walkie talkies.” In spans like the one you’re about to see, a person at the bottom of the hill has to communicate to the guy who’s about to take the plunge that the road is all clear of oncoming traffic. Obviously, all sorts of things can get in the way in the meantime.

The raw, not-for-the-faint-of-heart footage appeared recently on the PERROPRO YouTube channel out of Spain which houses a cool collection of videos devoted to the sport of longboarding that you can check out here if you have the inclination. The clip below would be hair raising enough even without its death defying ending (which happens around the 2:35 mark if you want to skip ahead). The pure sound of wind and rolling urethane adds to the tension in my opinion.
 

 
Via GrindTV.com h/t Jeff Albers

Posted by Jason Schafer | Discussion
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Charlie Chaplin: Color photographs on set as the Little Tramp, 1917-18
12.18.2014
07:55 am

Topics:
History
Movies

Tags:
Charlie Chaplin

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Charlie Chaplin made his first appearance as the “Little Tramp” one hundred years ago when he co-starred with Mabel Normand in the short Mack Sennett silent film Mabel’s Strange Predicament. But as it turned out the public’s first sight of Chaplin’s comic creation was in his second outing Kid Auto Races at Venice, which was made after Mabel’s Strange Predicament but released two days before it. Chaplin later explained how the Tramp came about—he had been asked by Sennett to put on some “funny make-up” for his appearance in Mabel’s Strange Predicament:

I went to the wardrobe and got a pair of baggy pants, a tight coat, a small derby hat and a large pair of shoes. I wanted the clothes to be a mass of contradictions, knowing pictorially the figure would be vividly outlined on the screen. To add a comic touch, I wore a small mustache which would not hide my expression.

My appearance got an enthusiastic response from everyone, including Mr. Sennett. The clothes seemed to imbue me with the spirit of the character. He actually became a man with a soul—a point of view. I defined to Mr. Sennett the type of person he was. He wears an air of romantic hunger, forever seeking romance, but his feet won’t let him.

These Autochrome color portraits of Chaplin as the Tramp were taken by photographer Charles C. Zoller (1854 – 1934) between takes on the set of one of Chaplin’s films circa 1917-18.
 
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Chaplin out of character.
 
Via Shooting Film.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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The man whose stocking expanded: The Fall’s Mark E. Smith reads Lovecraft. For Christmas.
12.18.2014
07:28 am

Topics:
Literature
Punk

Tags:
Mark E. Smith
H. P. Lovecraft
the Fall


They say music should be fun / like reading a story of love / but I wanna read a horror story.”

Readers, if this post seems disjointed and disordered—if I sometimes lose the eldritch thread that knits together the all-too-discrete patches of this bafflingly incoherent holiday quilt—it is because I am slowly going mad with terror as I write these words. You see, I’ve just watched Mark E. Smith read H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Colour out of Space,” filmed in 2007 as part of BBC Collective’s Christmas festivities. And indeed, what better way to celebrate the birth of our Lord?

If you haven’t read “The Colour out of Space,” it’s basically the same story as O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi.” The main difference is that, instead of the woman selling her hair for a watch chain and the man selling his watch for some combs, there’s an extraterrestrial plague that kills the livestock, blights the crops, and drives everyone mad with terror. Merry Christmas! If you think about it, Mark E. Smith is kind of like Santa Claus, too, except instead of a bottomless sack of prezzies, he carries around a ruined stomach full of bile.

MES explained how he selected this festive text at the BBC Collective site:

I’ve been a fan of HP Lovecraft since I was about 17. I chose to read this story because it’s very unusual for him; it’s not like his other tales. They are usually about people who live underground, or threats to humanity - which I like as well - but The Colour Out Of Space is quite futuristic. He wrote it in 1927, which is weird.

I’m writing my own book at the moment. It’s supposed to be my autobiography, but I’ve put a few short stories in it too. It’s out in April 2008. My stories are very much like Lovecraft’s actually. Everyone wants me to write about dark and doomy things, like my lyrics. But some of my stories are quite cheerful.

 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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The women of ‘Twin Peaks’ re-imagined as Sailor Jerry style pin-ups
12.18.2014
06:49 am

Topics:
Amusing
Art
Pop Culture
Television

Tags:


 
San Francisco based illustrator Emma Munger is a recent MICA grad who’s working in a comix shop while producing fun portfolios inspired by the famed tattoo artist Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins. Though she’s done pin-ups and flash pages of characters from Orange is the New Black, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Parks and Recreation, and Thelma and Louise, her largest collection is the women of Twin Peaks. You may never look at the Log Lady the same way again, and before you even ask, yes, Agent Bryson is indeed one of the ladies. Prints of Munger’s work are available from søciety6.
 

Laura Palmer
 

Nadine Hurley
 

Audrey Horne
 

Denise Bryson
 
Log Lady and much more (some slightly NSFWish) after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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‘It tells you a story, and makes you want to to dance!’: Fantastic 1981 hip-hop report
12.17.2014
03:41 pm

Topics:
Hip-hop

Tags:
rap
1980s
hip-hop


How wholesome do The Sugarhill Gang look right here? It’s kind of surprising that parents weren’t rushing out to buy their kids some records by these nice boys.
 
I have to say—I was pleasantly surprised by this 1981 20/20 feature on rap music. Not only is it overwhelmingly positive, touting the artistic merits of black youth culture, it really does a decent job describing the phenomenon to people new to the concept. There’s a little bit of history on spoken word black music and the viewer gets a mini-tour of Harlem and the South Bronx. Plus you hear some samples and comments from legends like Kurtis Blow and (of course) Debbie Harry.
 

 
The only real gaff that I suspect is the reference to the “big boxes”—I have a feeling they mean to say “boom boxes” but something got lost in translation. That part of the segment actually includes a woman criticizing the aversion to boom boxes as a racist bias. (Edgy!) “Big boxes” aside, I say well done Steve Fox! You accurately predicted the longevity of a now institutionalized art form, and you have a great early 80s mustache!
 

 

 
And Part 2 is here!
 
Via 1981

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Indian comic book heroine is a rape survivor who fights violence against women and rides a tiger
12.17.2014
12:21 pm

Topics:
Art
Feminism

Tags:
India
comics
violence against women


 
Two years ago, a fatal New Delhi gang rape inspired mass protests all over in India, but the the legal reforms (which include things like the banning of acid sales) have done very little to protect women, and most of the more programmatic promises (tracking public transportation, more women cops, better lighting in urban areas, etc) have gone largely unimplemented. Feeling discouraged by the purely legalistic approach to rape, New York-based filmmaker Ram Devineni decided to fight violence against women on the cultural front—starting from childhood education.

Devineni has produced Priya’s Shakti, a graphic novel available online and in print, featuring a rape survivor protagonist who is aided by a goddess and her faithful tiger steed. The book is currently available in Hindi, English and Marathi, but will be translated into other languages to better serve India’s diverse population. The concept is a masterful utility of traditional values to further humane ends, and I’d argue something aimed at younger readers is going to have the greatest long term effect on culture at-large. 
 

 

The storyline focuses on Priya, a human woman and ardent devotee of the Goddess Parvati who has experienced a brutal rape and the social stigma and isolation resulting from it. The Goddess Parvati is horrified to learn about the sexual violence that women on Earth face on a daily basis and is determined to change this disturbing reality. Inspired by the Goddess, Priya breaks her silence. She sings a message of women’s empowerment that enraptures thousands and moves them to take action against [gender-based violence] around the world. This project highlights the threat of sexual harassment and violence that women face on a daily basis unless deeply rooted patriarchal norms are challenged.

 
The discussion of sexual assault in far-away lands often results in a lot of projection and avoidance of more home-grown violence, but I think we in the US could learn a lot from this project. The anti-rape movement here has only just begun to move beyond telling women “how to not get raped,” but I’ve yet to see a childhood sex education project that instills ideas of bodily autonomy and consent. Then again, I suppose our growing commitment to Abstinence-Only Education kind of precludes talking to kids about how to have mutually agreed upon sex.
 

 
Via NPR

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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The scream of a thousand corpses: Horrifying sounds of the Aztec death whistle
12.17.2014
10:26 am

Topics:
History

Tags:
Aztec death whistle


 
The Aztec death whistle, sometimes described as “the scream of thousand corpses” is a frightening sound indeed. The skull-shaped whistles, discovered only 20 years ago by archaeologists, were dismissed as toys or burial trinkets. THAT IS, until someone decided to blow into one and… oh my god that horrifying sound came out


 
Archaeologists and historians still aren’t exactly sure what the Aztec whistles were specifically used for. Some suggest the terrifying sound the whistles make were used as a weapon of psychological warfare to scare the shit out of their enemies. Imagine hundreds of these whistles going off at the same time. Horrifying, right? Others suggest these whistles were used as a sendoff to the dead during burial ceremonies or perhaps for human sacrifices.

The video below, lets you hear what a single Aztec death whistle sounds like and then imagines what hundreds of these things going off at once might have sounded like.

 
h/t Kevin K

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Nick Cave’s handwritten dictionary
12.17.2014
08:56 am

Topics:
Art
Books
Music

Tags:
Nick Cave
lexicography


 
Few musicians are as word-drunk as Mr. Nick Cave from Warracknabeal, Australia, wouldn’t you agree? As a younger man Cave kept a journal in which he jotted down new words he wanted to remember and arranged them in alphabetical order. It’s definitely a good tip for writers starting out, you’re always learning, there’s always something to learn. Take notes endlessly and don’t waver!

A section from the A’s and a section from the M’s was made available a few years ago, words include AUTOCHTHON (“primitive or original inhabitant”) and MICTURITION (“morbid desire to pass water”). I’d dearly love to see the whole thing. I hope that will happen someday.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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