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  • Krampus hits the American mainstream
    11:06 am

    Pop Culture


    With a major motion picture release and several significant organized events coming up across the United States this weekend, 2015 may be the year Krampus, the Christmas devil, breaks through to the American mainstream.

    Krampus, for anyone out of the loop, is a horned, anthropomorphic, demon-like creature who, according to Alpine folklore, is a companion to Saint Nicholas. He acts as the yin to Santa’s yang—punishing the naughty children while Saint Nicholas rewards the good. Krampus provides the dark balance to Saint Nicholas’ light.

    Traditionally, Krampus is thought to beat naughty children with sticks. Children that have been extra bad are treated more severely: they are stuffed into bags and thrown into the river. It’s really quite a brilliant legend: if your kids are misbehaving, scare the shit out of them with the threat of being flogged and tortured by the Christmas devil!

    It’s been theorized that the Krampus lore was brought over to the U.S. by German-speaking immigrants, but never took hold on American shores due to anti-German sentiment over the first and second World Wars… but that Santa Claus did catch on because he made a great mascot for the Coca Cola company. A devil who beats children isn’t really going to be an effective soda pop pitchman. A jolly fat guy who hands out gifts? Perfect.

    In Alpine countries, Krampusnacht is traditionally celebrated on December 5th or 6th. On this night festivals are typically held in which Saint Nicholas will visit the good children while townspeople dressed as Krampus or perchten, wild pagan spirits, will terrorize the naughty ones. These festivals include a Krampuslauf, or “run of the Krampuses,” and are often alcohol-fueled free-for-alls. It is customary for celebrants to be offered schnapps and, in some cases, for (naughty) people to be actually beaten by the hairy “creatures.”

    While the Krampus stories had been on my radar for some time through studies of Germanic culture, and a very special 2004 episode of The Venture Brothers,  it wasn’t until I saw a video which had gone minorly viral in 2008 that I became obsessively interested in the modern celebration of the Krampus traditions in the Alpine regions.

    This video titled “Krampus attack in Silandro (South Tirol)” is essentially a collection of clips of costumed celebrants beating the crap out of townsfolk. I was utterly mesmerized:

    Thus began a personal obsession with the creature and the customs which lead to eventually organizing an Americanized version (obviously with no beatings of random strangers) of a Krampuslauf in 2010 in Columbia, South Carolina. Another group of people in Portland, Oregon had a similar idea that same year, and the first two Krampus-related events in the United States were launched.

    Krampusnacht, Columbia
    It didn’t take long for other cities to quickly fall in line, and in the past six years the number of Krampus celebrations across the United States has grown by leaps and bounds. There were, at last count a year ago, over 30 different Krampus celebrations in different cities—some taking place on Krampusnacht, some taking place on weekends near the date. This year that number could double, with small Krampuslaufs popping up all over the map. Something about this Christmas demon is starting to resonate with Americans. Perhaps it’s the fact that he represents the antidote to the unrestrained American sense of entitlement?

    Some of the major Krampus celebrations are taking place this year in the aforementioned Columbia and Portland, but also in Dallas, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago and New Orleans. Perhaps the best Krampus event currently held in the United States takes place in Bloomington, Indiana. While many organizers take a more anarchic approach, the Bloomington group works with city officials to put on a major event which attracts thousands of spectators and has more of a “family fun day” vibe. The time they put into event planning and costuming is evident and they currently set the bar for American Krampus celebrations.

    Krampusnacht, Bloomington
    Every city seems to do something a bit different, which makes the whole phenomenon of these festivals sprouting up all the more interesting. Detroit’s event is held for charity. Dallas does a walk and pub crawl. Los Angeles has five different major events: a run, a traditional play, films, a ball, and another Krampus-themed show. Elgin, Illinois’ group received arts grant funding for their costume designs. New Orleans’ celebration culminates in a Krampus dance party. Columbia features a “Circle of Atonement” which allows volunteers to enter the circle and be spanked by the Krampuses in order to be absolved for their sins of the past year… so that Santa will visit them on the 25th!

    Krampusnacht, Richmond, VA
    Watching these festivals spring up over the past six years has been like watching a brand new holiday take shape, with each participating group adding their own spin. There are no established traditions for an American celebration, other than the bits and pieces that can (LEGALLY) be adopted from the Alpine traditions—which sends the whole shebang into different and interesting directions anyplace a new one pops up.

    Krampunacht, Los Angeles
    Krampus is seemingly everywhere now. Krampus: The Christmas Devil was released this year and the film Krampus receives wide theatrical release this week. A new graphic novel Krampus: Shadow of Saint Nicholas just came out as well as the novel Krampus: The Yule Lord.  A couple of years ago a fantastic book of Krampus-related art was released, titled Krampus: The Devil of Christmas There seems to be no sign of this tide slowing.

    It’s 2015. This weekend Krampus IS coming.

    And if you’ve been naughty…

    He will find you.
    Enjoy here the new holiday favorite, Actually Huizenga’s “Krampus Redux”:

    Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
    Want to see something REALLY WEIRD? Here’s Renaldo & the Loaf’s ‘Songs for Swinging Larvae’
    11:05 am


    The Residents
    Renaldo & The Loaf

    Renaldo and the Loaf are an extremely obscure English musical duo comprised of a pathologist (David Janssen or “Ted the Loaf”) and an architect (Brian Poole or “Renaldo Malpractice”). They met in school and made experimental music starting in the late 1970s that defied description.

    On holiday in San Francisco, one of them gave a tape to one of The Residents, who were suitably impressed. They soon made an album for Ralph Records called Songs for Swinging Larvae, which is known as one of the strangest records of all time— (if it is known at all) —and sells for exorbitant prices (when it can be found). The pair fell out of touch in the 90s but have made music together again in recent years. They even have an official website.

    Although there is no way this would ever happen again today, believe it or not, this video has actually aired on American television many, many times during the early 1980s on the eclectic “underground” Night Flight programming block on the USA Network. This video, the Residents’ “One Minute Movies” and a couple of other videos (“Big Electric Cat” by Adrian Belew also comes to mind) that I saw on Night Flight warped me badly enough that at the age of 16 I decided I was going to move to New York and “become an underground filmmaker”! (*Ahem*). Directed by Graeme Whifler who made many wonderful videos for The Residents, Tuxedomoon and The Red Hot Chili Peppers in the early 1980s.
    If you like things like Captain Beefheart, The Residents or Wonder Showzen, you should give this quirky, almost kinda scary, vintage video oddity a look.

    Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
    James Dean, Picasso, Prince, Robert Plant, Nirvana, Zappa, Jimi, Iggy & more in the bathroom!

    James Dean in the bathroom
    James Dean in the bathroom “multitasking”
    Here’s another installment of a series of posts I’ve become “known” for doing here on Dangerous Minds that features photos of famous folks hanging out and doing mundane things like we all do. This time your eyes will be treated to images of writers, artist, celebrities and musicians that were taken in, well, the bathroom.
    Pablo Picasso, 1956
    Pablo Picasso, 1956
    In this massive post, I’ve got over 30 pictures of famous faces (and their bodies in varying stages of undress) such as Serge Gainsbourg, Toni Iommi of Black Sabbath (as well as his pal Ozzy), Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen (snapped in the loo of Thin Lizzy vocalist Phil Lynott) and Pablo Picasso taking baths, spending time in a bathroom stall, or seated on the toilet. Some of the images date back to the late 30s, and others appear to have been snapped under somewhat candid circumstances. Go figure.
    Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin on the toilet
    Robert Plant
    I mean, did you ever think you’d see a photo of one of the greatest rock vocalists of all time, Robert Plant chilling out on the crapper? Well, if you didn’t (and as I often say in my posts), today is your lucky day! As always, I’ve tried to nail down dates and places whenever possible. Also, since we’re talking about images that were taken in the bathroom, it’s likely that some of what you’re about to see after the jump could be considered NSFW. But that’s why you clicked this link in the first place, now isn’t it? Enjoy!
    Nirvana (L-R Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl, and Kurt Cobain)
    Nirvana (L-R Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl, and Kurt Cobain)
    Prince in the bathtub (from the 1986 film, Under a Cherry Moon)
    Prince in the bathtub (from the 1986 film, Under a Cherry Moon)
    The late, great, Joan Rivers
    The late, great Joan Rivers, 1966
    Duke Ellington
    Duke Ellington
    Many more after the jump…

    Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
    The Cure: Intense TV performance from the legendary 1982 ‘Pornography’ tour
    09:21 am


    The Cure

    In a 2013 post about The Cure, I wrote that I was in attendance at one of the 1984 Hammersmith Odeon shows recorded for their live Concert album, and that I felt like this was the perfect time to have seen the group, with a high watermark setlist that harkened back to their earliest days through to the lighter poppier sound that began emerging after the existential wallop of their Pornography album. I was promptly disabused of that notion in the comments and on Facebook with a near unanimous opinion emerging that the Pornography tour was—no arguing—the very best tour they ever did.

    I think “they” might be right. Exhibit the first, this 30-minute live set taped for French television’s L’Echo Des Bananes program in 1982, in a Paris recording studio with no audience. When I saw them, they were a five-piece and super slick, with a great light show and amazing projections. Here they’re a seemingly nuclear-powered three member unit who require none of the showbiz frills to deliver the thrills and it’s… outrageously good stuff.

    Listening to the Pornography album some thirty plus years after it first came out, well, it’s still one of the most brutal and raw listening experiences one can possibly have. I wouldn’t classify myself as a Cure fanatic, but this album I rate an absolute psychedelic mindfuck masterpiece. It’s a great album to listen to on acid (guilty, many times over) and the band themselves have admitted to ingesting quite a lot of LSD (and booze) during its recording. Imagine the state of mind that you’d have to put yourself in to make music like this!. The album art is apt, it’s like they’re playing through flames.

    What may also have contributed to the blistering intensity of the 1982 tour—never mind the blunt force power of the material from Pornography—is what was apparently quite intense hatred that had developed between bandleader Robert Smith and bass guitarist Simon Gallup, who promptly quit after the tour’s completion. In fact, then-drummer Lol Tolhurst found that his two partners had both split back to England as a result of a fistfight backstage after a concert in Strasbourg, before Smith’s dad set his son straight, scolding him to get back out on tour because “People have bought tickets!” Two weeks later, after a final concert in Brussels, the three imaginary boys were no more.

    Setlist: “Cold,” “Hanging Garden,” “One Hundred Years,” “A Forest,” “Figure Head,” “Play for Today”

    There’s very little footage of this tour, so savor this. It’s incredible what these three guys do here, each of them a one-man band. Dig the bass synthesizer pedals!

    Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
    When Harrison Ford shot Jim Morrison

    1968: Harrison Ford was working as a carpenter (working on houses, building sets) when he was asked by photographer and former UCLA student Paul Ferrara if he would like help out on a documentary about The Doors. It was an opportunity the 25-year-old Ford gladly accepted—though his experience of working with the band would leave him “one step away from joining a Jesuit monastery.”
    Harrison Ford filming The Doors at the Northern California Folk-Rock Festival.
    Ferrara had access to The Doors through his friendship with Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek. He began filming his documentary Feast of Friends in April 1968 as single shooter/director. He then invited a colleague Babe Hill to record audio on a portable Nagra. After more filming, he decided one camera was not enough and asked around for a second unit cameraman. At a party, Ferrara met Harrison Ford, who he knew through carpentry work Ford had carried out on his house. Ferrara offered him the job of second camera/grip.
    Ford using a clapperboard at the start of filming.
    According to The Doors Guide, Ford had a crash course in shooting film at Sixth Annual Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Agoura, CA on May 4, 1968. John Densmore and Robby Krieger from the group were also in attendance while Harrison shot some footage.

    Ford’s first gig as second unit cameraman came two weeks later at the Northern California Folk-Rock Festival in San Jose, where he filmed The Doors performing onstage. Ford can be seen operating the camera among the audience.

    The following month, Ford was with band in Fresno and can be seen using a clapperboard before a take while Manzarek and co. play cards in the background.

    He then filmed at the band’s concert in Bakersfield Civic Center, where he was caught in shot walking behind Jim Morrison.
    Harrison Ford gets in shot during when filming Jim Morrison.
    What happened next is unclear. However, when later asked about his experience working with The Doors on MTV’s The Big Picture Show in 1989, Ford said:

    When it was over, I was one step away from joining a Jesuit monastery. I thought it was cool, I thought it was hip, but I couldn’t keep up with those guys. It was too much.

    One can only guess at what an alleged heavy dope smoker like Harrison Ford would define as “too much”!

    Continues after the jump…

    Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
    The Krampus has been BORN: Behold this one-of-a-kind Krampus nativity set!
    09:37 am


    nativity scene

    Krampus nativity set
    Krampus nativity set
    As I am a ghoul to my very core (as are many of our Dangerous Minds readers), I was pretty excited to stumble on this (as far as I can tell) one-of-a-kind Krampus nativity set. Yes.
    The Krampus child and one of his demonic minions
    Krampus claw-head, one-eyed nativity scene character
    Made by Kingston, New York-based artist Galen Djuna (I’m a big fan of her “knitty-titties” crocheted dolls that include the great Tura Satana) made her demonic little set of Krampus revelers out of all kinds of stuff that she “collects” like teeth (including shark teeth), bones and claws, as well as seed pods and various other materials. Djuna even painted a pentagram on the manger housing the newly born evil Krampus child who is swaddled in well, blood.
    Two-headed Krampus nativity scene character
    Krampus nativity set character
    There are a total of seven demons and ill-intentioned animals in the set which will run your bank account a fat $950 (!). And yeah, I can totally see someone throwing that kind of cash down for this strange bit of deviant folk art. The Krampus has been BORN!

    Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
    Vintage Japanese Young Person’s Guide to Sex
    09:30 am


    Japanese sex guide

    You may have read last week about the young man who ‘fessed up to having spent his “entire life” masturbating the wrong way—an unfortunate experience that left him unable to have sex without severe and debilitating pain. If only this poor kid had consulted one of the many sex guides available online or at his local library, or even spent a few hours browsing Tumblr for all the gifs of people wanking then he may have avoided considerable inconvenience and discomfort.

    I am generally of the mind that sex guides hinder rather than enhance what should be an intuitive and mutually pleasurable experience—one ideally where individuals tell their partners what they want and share the enjoyment of sex together. But I know this isn’t how things pan out, as in the case of Twerking Seahorse’s alleged masturbatory misfortune—so maybe it’s for the best that people do have handy guides to help them on the way to pleasuring themselves and others.

    Yet sometimes sex guides can seem strange and slightly off putting—like those creepy illustrations of hirsute men enjoying the missionary position in Alex Comfort’s The Joy of Sex—or even cold and scientific, like a technical drawing from Popular Mechanics. This Young Person’s Guide to Sex from the 1960s is a case in point. It starts off practical enough with courtship rituals and hints about handholding and flirtation, before suddenly switching into a kind of Ballardian handbook on sex—with test tubes for cocks, and artist mannequins attempting to straddle a young woman. From what I can figure out, this handy little guide was pretty popular in its day—so it did help youngsters scratch that itch—though I’m not sure if Twerky Seahorse would have been any the wiser from reading it.
    Handholding for beginners.
    Hair combing or shoe-shining is a practical way to show interest in someone of the opposite sex.
    More handy sex tips after the jump, some of them highly confusing…

    Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
    Roky Erickson’s isolated vocals for ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ are crazier than a bag full of snakes
    08:38 am


    Roky Erickson

    Along with mashups, shreds, goofy gifs, LEGO and crazy things Christians do, the isolated vocal meme has pretty much worn out its welcome at the unabashedly hip Dangerous Minds. Even the word “meme” is dead. So we’re busy moving on to the next big thing…whatever that is. Don’t worry, we’ll find it. But in the meantime, humor me.

    Roky’s isolated vocal track is from the studio session of “You’re Gonna Miss Me” synced to a clip of The 13th Floor Elevators performing the song on TV’s Where The Action Is in 1966. The vocal track is such a concentration of pure unadulterated rock and roll that I had to share it.

    Erickson’s vocals are as primal, soulful and manic as it gets. From the first “yeah” to a series of blood-curdling “ahhhhhs” and yowls of “not coming home,” Erickson sounds like a snake handler who has fallen into a psychedelic briar patch. If moonshine made a noise, this would be it.

    In the absence of sound, the head bobs and hand jive of The Where The Action Is dancers (The Action Kids) is some seriously spooky hoodoo - the rocking dead.


    Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
    The lost ‘Fast Times At Ridgemont High’ TV series that was actually totally awesome
    07:54 am

    Pop Culture

    Cameron Crowe

    Fast Times at Ridgemont High is one of those special films that manages to capture the zeitgeist—at least from an American youth culture perspective—of an entire decade. Amy Heckerling’s 1982 film is as much a time-capsule of the fashion, music, speech, and cultural climate of the 1980s as her 1995 film Clueless is of the 1990s.

    Future generations studying teenage culture in the second half of the 20th Century would be well-served in absorbing the gist by putting those two movies on a playlist with Rebel Without a Cause, American Graffiti, To Sir With Love, Animal House, and Dazed and Confused.

    That just about covers the ‘80s.
    The importance of Fast Times At Ridgemont High as a document should not be understated, but it’s the characters that make it truly memorable. The characters are all based on real teenagers observed by Cameron Crowe while freelance reporting for Rolling Stone.

    With the cooperation of the school’s administration, Crowe spent a year at Clairemont High School in San Diego, California, as a “student,” gathering material for his 1981 book Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which was produced the following year as Amy Heckerling’s film of the same name. The film resonated with audiences because of its honest and non-exploitative explorations into teenage drug use, sexuality, and social milieu, with relatable characters and just enough comedic flourishes to keep it entertaining without being screwball.

    What a lot of fans of the film are unaware of is the fact that it was spun-off four years later into a CBS television show called Fast Times.

    Oh yeah, and here’s the thing: the show was actually pretty damn good.

    Fast Times was a mid-season replacement show that only lasted for seven episodes before cancellation. It debuted on March 5th, 1986 and ran through April 23rd, 1986. Cameron Crowe was a creative consultant for the show and was on set during the filming of the show’s pilot, which was broadcast as the second episode. Amy Heckerling was a supervising producer of the short-lived series and served as director for three episodes (“Pilot,” “What is Life,” and “The Last Laugh”).

    All of the major characters from the film appear in the show, with the addition of a new-agey female teacher, Ms. Mellon, who may have been based on Mrs. George from Cameron Crowe’s original book.

    Ray Walston and Vincent Schiavelli reprise their roles from the original film as Mr. Hand and Mr. Vargas. The other characters are played by new actors, some of whom are sort of second-rate versions of the stars from the original film. Grey’s Anatomy‘s Patrick Dempsey plays the Mike Damone character, but is a bit too nerdy to fill slickster Robert Romanus’ shoes (though he was honestly more age-appropriate for the role). James Nadini’s Brad Hamilton (played in the film by Judge Reinhold) comes off as a bit too wimpy for the “big man on campus” character (particularly in scenes where he needs to appear intimidating to Damone). Dean Cameron, perhaps best known as “Chainsaw” from Summer School does an adequate job of filling the Vans of Sean Penn’s Jeff Spicoli character, perhaps adding a bit of sympathy to the stoner. The real stars here are Back To The Future‘s Claudia Wells as Linda Barrett (played by 80s mega-crush Phoebe Cates in the original film), and Courtney Thorne-Smith (Melrose Place, Ally McBeal) as Stacey Hamilton. Thorne-Smith’s excellent performance rivals that of Jennifer Jason-Leigh in the original film.

    Dean “Chainsaw” Cameron as Jeff Spicoli
    What’s most remarkable about Fast Times is how watchable it is today compared to most mid-80s situation comedies. It does a fine job of capturing the vibe of the 1982 film. Many of the cut-away shots used in some of the episodes look like they could have been out-takes from the original motion picture. The writing is impressive, there’s no obtrusive laugh-track, the situations are believable and are logical extensions of the world created in Heckerling’s original film, and, most importantly, it’s entertaining.

    One can’t help but watch Fast Times and imagine the scenes in the show as performed by the original film’s actors. Perhaps if the show had debuted in 1983 instead of 1986, it could have been a hit. The entire series run is highly worth watching. Or, if you’re like Jeff Spicoli, worth watching highly. 

    All seven episodes are up, for now at least, on YouTube. Watch ‘em after the jump…

    Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
    Sly And The Family Stone’s High Priestess Of Funk Cynthia Robinson R.I.P.
    04:39 pm


    Sly and The Family Stone
    Cynthia Robinson

    Cynthia Robinson stood out in a band in which every member stood out. She was a funky high priestess wielding a trumpet like a thaumaturgic ramsinga. And she wore a crown, a black afro, that was epic in its sculpted glory. Her presence was majestic. She was one of the first black women trumpet players in a rock band and set the tone for others to follow. But beyond the music, Robinson was a commanding figure, not content to stay in the shadows. She was the one that implored us to “get up and dance to the music” and showed us how it was done. Robinson died of cancer this past Monday.

    When learning of Robinson’s death, Roots drummer Questlove wrote…

    ... she wasn’t just a screaming cheerleading foil to Sly & Freddie’s gospel vocals. She was a KICK ASS trumpet player. A crucial intricate part of Sly Stone’s utopian vision of MLK’s America. Cynthia’s role in music history isn’t celebrated enough. Her & sister Rose weren’t just pretty accessories there to “coo” & “shoo wop shoo bob” while the boys got the glory. Naw. They took names and kicked ass while you were dancing in the aisle. Much respect to amazing CynthiaRobinson.

    In this rarely scene promo video from 1968, Robinson (in a perm destined for a blow-out comb) growls “all the squares go home” and her voice practically melts the microphone. It’s not a suggestion. It’s an order. And when she unleashes the full artillery of her trumpet the whole band revs its engine and the roof begins to wobble and shake.

    The video is particularly noteworthy for putting Robinson in the foreground where she really belonged. She’s every bit the front person as Sly and during the brief moments she’s featured in this film she totally upstages the rest of the group. She was one of those women who knew her place. Everywhere.

    Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
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