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‘Toys’: Grizzly GI Joe stop-motion animation from 1966 takes a dark look at war toys
05.29.2014
07:58 am

Topics:
Animation

Tags:
toys
Grant Munro


 
Last week Donald Levine, the man who brought GI Joe to millions of little boys, died at the age of 86. A Korean War veteran, Levine introduced the first-of-its-kind action figure to the market in 1964 while working for the company that would later become Hasbro. While GI Joe was initially a runaway success, the Vietnam War soon soured much of public opinion on war toys and sales quickly took a hard hit. Production was actually halted in 1976 and it was six years before GI Joe was relaunched.

There’s little evidence to suggest that war toys encourage violence and far more to suggest that dolls socialize children. When you consider the fact that GI Joe still has the distinction of normalizing doll-play for millions of little boys, it could be argued that he is inherently transgressive, maybe even feminist. For many adults though, the idea of war toys is at least vulgar, if not insidious, and “Toys,” the 1966 short by Grant Munro, articulates those feelings with brilliant GI Joe stop motion animation.

The film begins with a nauseating cacophony of childhood cheer, as the kiddies gaze into a window display of toys. Then there’s a switch—the kids become as static as the playthings they covet and the GI Joes come to life, reenacting gory scenes of a brutal war. It’s pretty evocative stuff especially considering it’s all plastic toys staged on simple diorama sets.

It’s difficult to say whether or not the film is directly condemning war toys, but I suspect the ambiguity is purposeful and that Munro intended to inspire critical thought rather than propagandize directly. Like Levine, Munro was a Korean War veteran, and as a member of the Canadian Forces, he even received the Presidential Unit Citation for his service in the Battle of Kapyong. It’s interesting that the film came out only two years after the release of GI Joe—“Toys” was, ironically, the very first GI Joe animation, proceeding even the Saturday morning cartoons that doubled as half-hour commercials for this iconic toy. 
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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The fabulous album cover art of playwright John ‘Patrick’ Byrne
05.29.2014
07:47 am

Topics:
Art

Tags:
The Beatles
Gerry Rafferty
John Byrne

jpatb99.jpg
 
You may not know the name John Byrne, but you will have certainly seen his art work on the covers of albums by artists as diverse as The Beatles, The Humblebums, Stealer’s Wheel, Donovan, Gerry Rafferty and Billy Connolly.

Byrne is a Scottish artist and playwright, born in Paisley in 1940. He is the author of the multi-award wining TV series Tutti Frutti, which starred Robbie Coltrane and Emma Thompson, and Your Cheatin’ Heart, starring Tilda Swinton (to whom he is married).

For the theater, Byrne is best known for The Slab Boys which originally starred Coltrane, and later Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon and Val Kilmer in the 1983 Broadway production, Cuttin’ a Rug and Still Life. But Byrne is not just a writer and director for TV and theater, he is also a respected and successful artist, whose portraits of Coltrane, Swinton and Billy Connolly hang in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.

When Byrne first started as an artist in the 1960s, he found it difficult to have his work exhibited in London’s galleries. He therefore released a series of faux-naïf paintings under the name “Patrick” claiming the work to been made by his untrained father. “Patrick” became a star and was feted by London’s chattering classes, even having The Beatles commission “Patrick” to paint a cover for their 1968 White Album (it was later used on their Ballads compilation in 1980). When Byrne eventually revealed himself as creator of “Patrick’s” work, not everyone was entirely happy with his ruse, however by then, Byrne had established himself as a highly talented and successful painter.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Byrne produced a series of album covers for his friends Gerry Rafferty, Billy Connolly and Donovan. Byrne’s style is instantly recognizable, and as can be seen from this small selection of covers, book and DVD illustrations, utterly fabulous.
 
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More from John Byrne, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Exene Cervenka, the Victoria Jackson of punk rock?


What the fuck happened to this woman?

X’s Exene Cervenka seems more than a tad confused these days, based on the evidence of her rambling, paranoiac and just plain stupid YouTube channel and the fact that she’s now referring to the killings in Santa Barbara over the weekend as being a “hoax” on her Twitter feed—it’s a “gun control” ruse, don’tcha know?

Cervenka’s First Amendment right to make a complete and utter fucking laughingstock out of herself is indisputable—last time I checked, this was still America—but I can’t imagine that the other members of X think this is all that hilariously funny. (Consider what having to tour with this hillbilly nincompoop must be like, always wanting to listen to Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage on the radio).

Some of her fans seem unwilling to believe Cervenka could be this big of a fuckwit and are sticking up for her, saying this must be some kind of Andy Kaufman-esque “performance art.” Bullshit, she’s just an ugly human being. Fuck you, Exene. People died and you’re spreading batshit crazy conspiracy theories on the level of Alex Jones. You should be ashamed of yourself, lady, but these days, you don’t even seem acquainted enough with reality itself to fully comprehend why.
 
Exene is a fucking idiot
 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
X marks the Conspiracy Theory: Exene Cervenka, the new Alex Jones?

Thank you Rich Lindsay!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Andy Warhol shoots The Velvet Underground live (and in color) Boston, 1967
05.28.2014
09:54 am

Topics:
Art
Music

Tags:
Andy Warhol
Velvet Underground


 
A 33-minute 16mm film shot by Andy Warhol of the Velvet Underground playing live at The Boston Tea Party nightclub in 1967 started making the rounds on the bootleg torrent tracker sites a few months ago, and now a pristine version has been uploaded to YouTube.

Although this is one of only two known films of the Velvet Underground with sync sound, before you go getting too excited, it’s pretty hard to watch (although still fascinating.) Sound cuts in and out, the camera work is herky jerky—a sure sign that it was indeed the somewhat technically inept Warhol who shot it—zooming in and out on the Velvets, the crowd, the film projections, strobe lights and mirrored disco balls.

Songs heard include bits of “I’m Waiting For The Man,” “Guess I’m Falling In Love,” “Run Run Run,” “Heroin,” “Walk It & Talk It,”  “I Heard Her Call My Name,” “Venus In Furs” and Sister Ray (the sole complete number).
 

 
Thank you Velvet Lover!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Tuvan throat singer takes on Led Zeppelin, Kraftwerk, Beefheart, Joy Division & more
05.28.2014
08:50 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Albert Kuvezin
Yat-Kha

Yat Kha
 
I’ve been listening to Re-Covers, the 2005 album by Albert Kuvezin and Yat-Kha, all week—it may not be the prettiest or the catchiest music I’ve ever heard, but I can’t get enough of it. It’s a little bit as if someone had mashed up classic rock and my yoga class, with a healthy dose of salubrious grit.

Yat-Kha are a Tuvan band. For those who don’t know (hey, I had to look it up, too), Tuva is a republic of the Russian Federation located just north of Mongolia. Basically, if your predominant mental image is Siberia (it is, in fact, located in southern Siberia), you’re not too far off. (The Tuvan horsemen remind me somewhat of Genghis Khan and also of the Dothraki in George R.R. Martin’s ‎A Song of Ice and Fire, although this is most likely reductive in ways I can’t possibly know.) From a musical perspective, the Tuvans are most known for throat singing, an art form with which Kuvezin has a history. Kuvezin divides his time between Huun-Huur-Tu, which does more traditional Tuvan throat singing, and Yat-Kha, which pretty much blends Tuvan folk music with rock music.
 
Yat Kha
Albert Kuvezin and Yat-Kha, Re-Covers
 
What makes Yat-Kha so cool is that Tuvans aren’t exactly the most represented ethnic group at your local record store, either on the shelves or in terms of the customers. So when they turn their attention, on Re-Covers, to Led Zeppelin (“When the Levee Breaks”), Motörhead (“Orgasmatron”), Hank Williams (“Ramblin’ Man”), Kraftwerk (“Man Machine”), and Captain Beefheart (“Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles”), you know you’re getting something a little more special than, say, Cake’s cover of “I Will Survive.” In fact, the songs are so interesting and strange that it sometimes takes a while for it to become apparent what song is being covered. (Occasionally Kuvezin sounds a bit like Tom Waits—but you saw that coming.)
 
Yat-Kha, “Black Magic Woman” (Carlos Santana version):

 
Yat-Kha, “Orgasmatron” (Motörhead):

 
Yat-Kha, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” (Joy Division):

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Nick Cave area rugs because… why not?
05.28.2014
08:30 am

Topics:
Amusing
Music

Tags:
Nick Cave
Home decor
rugs


Find it here.
 
Paraphrasing Bongwater’s Ann Magnuson, “There are Nick Cave area rugs? I want one!” And it’s my solemn blogging duty to share them with you, too. The rugs range in size from 2’ x 3’ - 4’ x 6’ and are made with polyester fibers (too bad I was really hoping for wool!)

From her to domesticity! Liven up any room in your house or apartment with these Nick Cave area rugs, won’t you?


Find it here.
 

Find it here.
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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This 1958 ‘Beautiful Eyes’ contest is the creepiest thing I’ve seen in quite a while
05.28.2014
08:08 am

Topics:
Amusing
Fashion
Feminism

Tags:
beauty pageants


 
The spectacle of the modern beauty pageant is creepy enough as it is, and the irony of a toad like Donald Trump assessing women for their desirability is not lost on me. Still, most beauty pageants at least maintain a façade of depth. Sure, they uphold weird standards of virginal purity, and yes, there’s a swimsuit “competition,” but there are also talent contests, points for personality and everyone at least agrees to pretend that they’re aiming for scholarship programs.

Not so for this “Beautiful Eyes” contest held at a British holiday camp in 1958.

The women’s faces are covered below the eyes and their bodies are hidden below the neck, apparently to ensure the judges will properly isolate the single body part they’re supposed to be evaluating. As if that wasn’t already creepy enough, one judge—he’s a pervy looking motherfucker, too—actually walks down the line and handles the women’s faces like they were show dogs, eventually pulling down one woman’s veil to kiss her square on the mouth.

At least in the Miss America pageant you’re not expected to risk contracting oral herpes from one of the judges…
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Nuff said? Stan Lee’s letter confirming Steve Ditko as Spider-Man’s co-creator
05.28.2014
07:54 am

Topics:
Art
Pop Culture

Tags:
Stan Lee
Steve Ditko
Spider-Man

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In 1999, comic book hero Stan Lee wrote an open-letter confirming Steve Ditko’s role as co-creator of Spider-Man. The letter was in response to some public niggling between Ditko and Lee over who did what in the creation of the character.

The controversy came about after Lee “reminisced in Comic Book Marketplace about his inspirations for writing an acclaimed late 1965 issue of Amazing Spider-Man.” This led to artist Steve Ditko breaking his long silence on the subject, as told in Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics—The Untold Story:

“Stan never knew what was in my plotted stories,” the artist wrote to the [Comic Book Marketplace] editors, “until I took in the penciled story, the cover, my script and Sol Brodsky took the material from me and took it all into Stan’s office, so I had to leave without seeing or talking to Stan.”

A few months later, after Lee was identified in TIME magazine as the creator of Spider-Man, Ditko popped up on that magazine’s letters page, too:

“Spider-Man’s existence needed a visual concrete entity,” Ditko wrote. “It was a collaboration of writer-editor Stan Lee and Steve Ditko as co-creators.”

This time Lee picked up the phone and called Ditko, for the first time in more than thirty years.

“Steve said, ‘Having an idea is nothing, because until it becomes a physical thing, it’s just an idea,’” Lee recalled.

“And he said it took him to draw the strip, and to give it life, so to speak, or to make it actually some- thing tangible. Otherwise, all I had was an idea. So I said to him, ‘Well, I think the person who has the idea is the person who creates it. And he said, ‘No, because I drew it.’ Anyway, Steve definitely felt that he was the co-creator of Spider-Man. And that was really, after he said it, I saw it meant a lot to him that was fine with me. So I said fine, I’ll tell everybody you’re the co-creator. That didn’t quite satisfy him. So I sent him a letter.”

In the letter dated August 18th, 1999, Lee wrote:

To Whom It May Concern:

I would like to go on record with the following statement…

I have always considered Steve Ditko to be Spider-Man’s co-creator.

When I first told Steve my idea for a shy, teenaged high-school science student who’d be bitten by a radioactive spider, thus gaining the ability to stick to walls and shoot webs, Steve took to it like a duck to water.

Steve’s illustrated version of Peter Parker/Spider-Man and his coterie of supporting characters was more compelling and dramatic than I had dared hope it would be. From his very first panel, Steve created and established the perfect mood and gestalt for Spider-Man.

Also it goes without saying that Steve’s costume design was an actual masterpiece of imagination. Thanks to Steve Ditko, Spidey’s costume has become one of the world’s most recognizable visual icons.

Nor can I forget to credit Steve with the many, many brilliant plots he furnished as the strip continued to increase in popularity with each passing month. So adept was he at story-telling, that Steve eventually did most of the plotting and illustrations while I, of course, continued to provide the dialogue and captions.

I write this to ensure that Steve Ditko receives the credit to which he is so justly entitled.

Yours sincerely,

Stan Lee

Nuff said?! Perhaps not: Ditko was apparently upset that Lee used the word “considered,” as Lee explains in the clip from Jonathan Ross’ BBC documentary In Search of Steve Ditko embedded below.

Check out more of Sean Howe‘s on-line supplement to Marvel Comics: The Untold Story here. Below, Stan Lee’s original letter, plus a selection of Steve Ditko’s artwork for Spider-Man after the jump.
 
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Stan Lee discusses Steve Ditko’s role in the creation of Spider-Man—and Ditko’s reaction to this very letter—with Jonathan Ross from the BBC documentary In Search of Steve Ditko:

 
Some Ditko splash-pages from Spider-Man, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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The Cure’s Robert Smith interviewed on a playground carousel, 1985
05.28.2014
06:30 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
The Cure
Robert Smith

Robert Smith
 
This interview should be a delight to any Cure fans out there, as Master Robert is in awfully likable form, as the rest of the playground keeps sliding past him in the back. For the interview is being conducted on one of those carousels you surely played on when you were a child. As it happens, the origin story of The Cure actually involves a playground, so it all works out.

The questioner (in my head he is “the poor man’s Jools Holland”) is terribly interested in how they came up with the CRRRRAZY ideas for their videos for “Let’s Go to Bed” and “In Between Days” and “The Love Cats” (the first two directed by The Cure’s longtime collaborator Tim Pope, while “The Love Cats,” apparently, was not).

Easily the best moment comes at around 0:20, when Smith shouts at a bunch of rambunctious offscreen children to “SHUT UP!”
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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The Plasmatics destroy the stage with an exploding Cadillac
05.28.2014
06:11 am

Topics:
Music
Punk

Tags:
Wendy O. Williams
Plasmatics


 
The Plasmatics gained a unique notoriety in late-70s NYC, not necessarily for their metal/punk hybrid music, but for twisted and over-the-top live shows. These regularly featured live chickens and the chainsaw deaths of their own guitars and items symbolic of consumer society (like TV sets), but they mostly focused on the flaunted sexuality and aggressive attitude of singer Wendy O. Williams, known for performing practically nude save for a g-string and a “top” fashioned from shaving-cream or pieces of strategically placed electrical tape.
 

 
When you’re better known for your live stunts than your songs, there’s always a need to keep pushing things further, so when the time came to publicize their debut LP, the classic New Hope for the Wretched (their insane version of Bobby Darin’s “Dream Lover” is, by itself, worth the cost of the album), The Plasmatics devised something extraordinary.

Per the September 1998 issue of Spin:

The defining moment for the punk-metal band The Plasmatics was in New York City in the fall of 1980, when Wendy Williams jumped out of a moving Cadillac just before it exploded and catapulted off Pier 62 into the Hudson River. The victim, a ’72 Coupe de Ville, had been purchased from a couple who initially had doubts about selling the car they had driven all through their high-school days to the Plasmatics. “I don’t want my car to die!” the young wife said.

“Everything must die,” Wendy said sensibly, “but your car will be immortal.”

 

 
Williams was born on May 28, 1949, and so would have been 65 today had she not taken her own life in 1998. In their pursuit of the outlandish, she and her band did nothing halfway, and the Pier 62 show was just the beginning of an awesome career of wrecking shit. If you’re at work, be advised, Wendy O. Williams is in this video, and thus there are boobies.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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