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  • Motor City is burning: A gorgeous look at the thriving queer vogueing scene in Detroit
    09:52 am



    Family portrait
    The seminal queer documentary Paris is Burning famously captured the underground NYC voguing scene while still keeping an eye on the violence and poverty its subjects endured—a difficult balance to strike. Filmmaker Mollie Mills managed the same delicate storytelling, and captures something really intimate in her little mini-doc, Vogue, Detroit. What’s startling is the similarities between the two documentaries, which have 600 miles and nearly 30 years between them.

    It’s encouraging to watch progress like the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage and the mass cultural shift regarding queer people, but the majority of the country is still pretty homophobic, and the voguers Mills found have formed de facto families, just like the NYC voguers of Paris is Burning. Some things have changed, of course—Mills travels to an LGBTQ youth center, who have designated resources specifically for vogueing, but even in a post-Madonna world, vogueing is a thriving scene for a working class queer subculture, an escapist artistic outlet in the midst of urban decline.

    And of course, the dancing is amazing.

    Via Dazed

    Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
    ‘You Are What You Eat’: Bonkers hippie-era relic featuring Tiny Tim

    Given how widely-beloved disjointed counterculture films like 200 Motels and Head are, it’s kind of surprising that Peter Yarrow’s insane You Are What You Eat has remained so tenaciously underground.

    Yarrow was the “Peter” in Peter, Paul & Mary, one of the most massively successful exponents of the folk scene that appeared poised to take over ‘60s pop music before Beatlemania came along—their 1980s PBS concert still gets rerun during pledge drives, so reliably does it haul in that fat boomer cash—and in 1968 Yarrow used some of his money and pull to finance a montage film of flower children freaking out to a lot of badass music. It was directed by one Barry Feinstein, who’d also worked on that year’s Monterey Pop documentary, ostensibly to document the fragmentation and identity crisis of the American youth movement post-Summer of Love. It’s hard to tell if that was what was intended, because complete versions of the film don’t seem to exist, and even complete versions would surely be as messy and disjointed. From a 2007 entry on WFMU’s Beware of the Blog:

    Contradictions abound in regards to who and what are contained in the film. This stems from very few complete prints having survived. Many have claimed that Frank Zappa, Improv maven Del Close, nor Harper’s Bizarre are[n’t] even in the film and that the assertions and apocryphal. Others can describe these scenes with precise detail. All three are listed in the closing credits. The film’s “official” VHS release of the mid-nineties disappeared into obscurity almost immediately. That release, however, was still missing several minutes. The soundtrack LP also omits the sounds of several performances that appeared in the picture. All of these factors have contributed to speculation. The only known complete print of YAWYE has been doing the tour of the Cinematheque circuit for the past couple of years and has is housed in Berkeley, California. Columbia’s soundtrack LP was re-issued on CD in 1997, but only in Japan (naturally). The album remains generally elusive in North America.

    More after the jump…

    Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
    That time Ween opened for Fugazi at City Gardens
    08:58 am


    City Gardens

    If you’ve read “Understanding Trump” by the cognitive scientist George Lakoff, you might recognize aspects of “strict father morality” in Fugazi’s code. It was funny, escaping the hierarchies of home and school to attend a Fugazi show as a teenager: You didn’t know which songs they were going to play, but you could be sure they would deliver a stern talking-to about your behavior before the night was over. That was a new development in rock and roll; I doubt Gene Vincent’s audience would have stood still for such a lecture, even if Gene had been the guy to give it.

    Don’t get me wrong, they were great. But the values we associate with Fugazi—discipline, hard work, sobriety, authority, frugality, self-reliance—are traditionally paternal.

    That’s why it’s such fun to imagine Ween, the crowned and conquering child of 90s rock, opening for them at Trenton, New Jersey’s City Gardens on March 19, 1991. Then a crazed, wasted suburban duo backed by a tape deck, Ween was still pretty loose back then, and at least as irresponsible as the Butthole Surfers: On that year’s The Pod, they encouraged their fans to believe Scotchgard™ was an excellent high. It’s almost impossible to imagine them lecturing a crowd about stage-diving. All they demanded of their fans was to keep bringing them home-cooked food.

    Apparently, the show is briefly discussed in the City Gardens oral history No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes. I had clean forgotten about it until last weekend, when, strangely enough, my copy of Flipside #84, in which I first read about this legendary bill, turned up during a long and fruitless search for my Pure Guava T-shirt. In Flipside reporter Ted Cogswell’s hard-hitting interview with Ween, conducted in January ‘93, Gener and Deaner cleared up some important points: if Pure Guava were a drug, it would be “love boat”; no, they had never really huffed Scotchgard™ (“Sorry kids”); and yes, they really had opened for Fugazi. All typos have been preserved out of respect for the indomitable fanzine spirit:

    Ted: Wasn’t there an infamous show at City Gardens (in Trenton, NJ) once when you opened for Fugazi?
    Gene: They hated us.
    Ted: I heard that you guys just started, like, playing one note over and over again, and were staring into space,...
    Dean: No, those are just rumors. We played that Ozzy Osbourne-Lita Ford duet, “When I Close My Eyes Forever”, They hated that. Then we did “Where Do The Children Play” by Cat Stevens.
    Gene: And they hated that. It’s not a problem now anymore though, because people are starting to like our shows, so we can’t do “Where Do the Children Play”. We save that for, like, when we’re about ready to get shot.

    More after the jump…

    Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
    Meet CreepyFig: Nightmarish LEGO-inspired cosplay
    08:10 am


    Frank Ippolito

    This is the kind of stuff to give the kids (and some grownups) nightmares—a creepy but way cool, hyper-realistic LEGO-inspired cosplay nicknamed “CreepyFig.”

    CreepyFig is a mask and gloves outfit created by special effects and make-up artist Frank Ippolito. Frank has given the usually bright, happy-smiley LEGO mini-fig a dark and twisted make-over. Just look at the head and see the surface skin is lined, veined, with troubled tufted brow. The hands are grubby with black, half-moon dirt under the fingernails.

    Every year Frank creates a new design project for ComicCon. This year he had originally considered creating CreepyFig with make-up but decided instead to sculpt and paint CreepyFig from silicone—which means the head alone weighs fourteen pounds.

    Frank’s lifelike design was made in association with Tested and was premiered at ComicCon where CreepyFig (understandably) was a hit with fans. Check out more of Frank Ippolito’s fabulous work here.
    More ‘CreepyFig’ plus video, after the jump…

    Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
    Can’s mind-boggling 1972 ‘Free Concert’
    01:34 pm



    I’ve seldom seen concert footage that was as inherently interesting as this 51-minute documentation of Can’s legendary “Free Concert,” recorded in Cologne’s Sporthalle on February 3, 1972. The show was filmed by Martin Schäfer, Robby Müller and Egon Mann for director Peter Przygodda, who is primarily known as the editor on many of Wim Wenders’ movies, including Wings of Desire, Paris, Texas, Alice in the Cities, and The American Friend. Similarly, Müller was Wenders’ main cinematographer and also shot several of Jim Jarmusch’s movies, including Dead Man, Down By Law, and Mystery Train.

    The circumstances of this Cologne show were unusual. Rather improbably for such an experimental band, Can actually scored a chart success in Germany with “Spoon,” which would later be tacked onto the end of Ege Bamyasi. For reasons I don’t fully understand, the success of that song, which had been used in a German crime TV show called Das Messer (The Knife), led to this free concert, which was attended by approximately 10,000 people. In his 2006 book on Can, German writer Robert von Zahn explains that the concert did much to improve relations between the “communes” and “rock music,” whatever that means.

    Note that the movie is not simply a concert film, it is a blend of a concert film and a documentary, with footage of Can during the Tago Mago sessions and in an airport, doing a soundcheck before the show, etc.

    The resultant show was an odd mix of uncompromising music-for-music’s-sake and a well-nigh circus-esque determination to entertain. Right off the bat Can breaks into the hit, “Spoon,” and proves they’re not fucking around by expanding it from its tidy three-minute length on record into a full-blown 18-minute jam. The concert starts out with a juggler named Fred Ray joining Can on the stage; at the end of the show, during “Full Moon on the Highway,” Ray returns and does a bunch of impressive things with three brightly colored umbrellas.

    After “Bring Me Coffee or Tea” about halfway through, a troupe of acrobats called Oberforstbach comes out and does their thing while Paul Joho plays the saw. (I know, right?) And of course Damo himself was not exactly boring to watch in his own right.

    Continues after the jump…

    Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
    Marxism: Highlights from Groucho’s FBI file
    12:06 pm


    Groucho Marx

    The other day I was refreshing my memory on Groucho’s LSD escapade with Paul Krassner, when it occurred to me that it might be beneficial to see if the FBI ever had a file on Groucho.

    Of course they did, and it’s available for anyone to look at, heavily redacted of course. The Xerox machines at the FBI a few decades ago were super shitty (a feature not a bug?) so a lot of the pages you can’t make out a damn thing, but other sections are perfectly legible.

    If you know anything about J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, the contents here aren’t too surprising—they were mainly worried that Groucho might be a Commie (if not a Marxist) in the early to mid-1950s. There are countless (redacted) reports to the effect that Groucho had a lot of pro-Communist sympathies but was almost certainly not an actual party member. (I guess the G-men already knew that he’d refuse to join any club that would have him as a member?)  There are some interesting references to a quotation of Groucho’s that appeared in the Daily Worker in 1934 that went “The battle of the Communists for the lives of these boys is one that will be taught in Soviet America as the most inspiring and courageous battle ever fought.”

    Keep in mind that in 1934 Hitler was running Germany but not yet regarded as an obvious scourge to be eliminated. Still his anti-Jewish sentiments were clear enough. As a well-informed Jewish American it would be weird if Groucho hadn’t gotten interested in Communism around then. Plus for similar reasons the mid-1930s was a high-water mark for leftist and/or pro-Soviet feeling, especially once the Spanish Civil War got going in 1936. A lot of people who weren’t all that political got into trouble later for things they did (and thought) before WWII.

    There’s also some business about Groucho and Chico being found guilty in a copyright infringement case in 1937 and having to pay a $1,000 fine.

    For some reason Groucho (né Julius) is invariably referred to as “GRAUCHO MARX.” Once we reach the 1960s he is referred to as “Groucho.” I don’t know what’s up with that. In the summary sections of the file there is some background about how musically talented Groucho and his brothers are—the musical talents of Harpo and Chico are well known, but the file also, intriguingly, says this: “GRAUCHO MARX is rated as one of the best guitar players in the country.”

    Did any of you know that?? So Groucho Marx, was, in a sense (at least according to his FBI file) a peer of Charlie Christian, Jimi Hendrix, and Eddie Van Halen? Well, maybe, maybe not.

    There’s some business I don’t understand from 1957 about someone trying to “extort” Groucho. I can’t tell if it’s just a weird piece of fan mail that was referred to the FBI that they were obliged to look into or something more serious. On that page there is this chilling passage:

    The death threat letter sent to GROUCHO MARX from ELVIS PRESLEY fanatics from Brooklyn stating that GROUCHO wouldn’t live through the holidays, might seem ridiculous if it weren’t such a serious offense to send such a threat through the mails.

    Much more from the Groucho file, after the jump…....

    Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
    The voyeuristic photography of Miroslav Tichý

    Some time ago I read an article in a Sunday supplement magazine about a street photographer in Czechoslovakia who wandered around his hometown of Kyjov taking pictures with a homemade camera. The photographer was an old man, with long unkempt hair and a Santa Claus beard. The article described this photographer as a “master voyeur” and because of his appearance suggested he was a dirty old man—Charles Bukowski with a weird contraption for a camera. The appraisal was perhaps a bit unfair—low class journalism to luridly frame the story of an artist whose work should really have been better known. I clipped the story, one to be filed away for future use, but lost it somewhere in my endlessly peripatetic lifestyle. Indeed, I had almost forgotten all about this strange man and his beautiful photographs until I chanced upon a blog by Rob Baker which thankfully reacquainted me with the life and work of Miroslav Tichý.

    Tichý was born in Netice, a village in Moravia, on November 20, 1926. He was one of fourteen children born to the local tailor and his wife. He was a bright kid, excelled in languages and a great talent for art. In his late teens he enrolled for an arts foundation course at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. He was considered a talented draftsman and was highly popular with his fellow students. This short happy time starting in 1946 changed dramatically with the Communist coup d’état two years later. Roman Buxbaum a young friend of Tichý described what happened next:

    After the Communist takeover in February 1948 drastic changes took place at the Academy. Respected professors and assistant professors were quickly thrown out. Instead of drawing women models, the students were forced to draw workers in overalls. Tichý refused to draw them. It seems that the political crisis overlapped with a personal crisis, and the young artist succumbed to both. He stopped working and spent his time walking about Stromovka park in Prague, and avoided his friends. He quit the Academy and had to do his compulsory military service.

    Stalin’s brutal dictatorship of the country led to a series of purges that destroyed the lives of anyone who did not submit to Russia’s Communist party rule. This all had a devastating effect on Tichý. He refused to conform which led to his being sent for treatment at the Opava psychiatric clinic.

    After Stalin’s death, Russia’s new president Khrushchev denounced much of what his predecessor had done and though there were signs of a “thaw” little changed in the Soviet rule over Czechoslovakia. Tichý returned to live with his parents in Kyjov. He began drawing and painting again and exhibited some work at an exhibition in Brno in 1958.

    At the start of the 1960s, Tichý made his opposition to the Communist rule more apparent by growing his hair long and no longer trimming his beard. Every day he dressed in the same worn at the cuffs and torn at the knee black suit looking like a down and out boozehound. His image was the opposite of the hunky, masculine worker of Communist propaganda. His appearance deeply irked the Czechoslovakian authorities. Tichý was repeatedly intimidated and arrested by local police—but he still refused to give over his independence to the state. He was unbowed and described himself as “a samurai” with his sole aim to destroy his enemies.
    An older Miroslav Tichý on his hometown streets.
    During the 1960s, Tichý started taking street photographs with an old field camera he had inherited from his father. He continued to draw and paint and was still very much a thorn in the local authorities’ side who arrived at his parents’ door the week before May Day every year to take him away so he would not offend the eye of any Communist dignitaries.

    The invasion of Russian troops to crush the Prague Spring in 1968 forced Czechoslovakia further under the Communist rule. The country became more authoritarian and oppressive. It meant Tichý became was more isolated and an easier target for the authorities. He lost his studio. Much of his work was tossed during his eviction by the housing cooperative. The eviction traumatized Tichý and he found it difficult to continue painting and drawing.

    Instead Tichý concentrated on photography as his means of expression. He wandered around his hometown streets, surreptitiously taking photographs of women with his homemade cameras. His style was the polar opposite to the sharp, clean, overly-idealized propaganda of his Communist overlords. His work was dreamlike, opaque, beautifully composed and realized. His life seemed chaotic. He was “the prophet of decay” as Roman Buxbaum described Tichý in a visit to his home:

    Disorder seems to be his agenda, not because of laziness or an inability to tidy up. Rather, it is his intention. When the visitor has finished looking through some book or at a photograph and returns it to Tichý, he or she will probably hear: Throw it on the ground! Other laws apply here. The world of chance and chaos constitutes a ferment in which material matures, immersed in the depths of Tichý’s ocean, to be brought back to the surface, but changed and worn by time.

    Tichý is a reactionary in the truest sense of the word. While Yuri Gagarin was conquering outer space, Tichý was making cameras out of wood. He put himself into reverse, moving backwards against the ideology of progress. A genuine reactionary, and a very effective one, because unlike the Five-Year Plans he achieved his aims. The Stone-Age photographer was the embodiment of an insult to the small-town Communist elite. He became the living antithesis of progressive thought, of the Marxist theory of history moving in a straight line.

    Technically-speaking, his photographs are deliberately enhanced by “mistakes” and stains from a haphazard processing of his film prints, which were done mostly in bathtubs and buckets (“A mistake. That’s what makes the poetry.”) Tichý would shoot up to 90 photographs a day, go home and then develop and print them. Each would be printed only one time, cropped with scissors, drawn and painted upon, perhaps. Some were framed by his hand.

    The police continued to harass Tichý. They tried to arrest him for being a voyeur—taking photographs of women walking the sidewalk, working in stores, sunbathing in parks. But the police could find no evidence and no one supported their allegations—so Tichý always walked free.

    More on Miroslav Tichý‘s photographs, after the jump…


    Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
    TSA says A-OK to mummified heads as carry-on luggage
    11:24 am


    mummified heads

    If you’re traveling with a mummified head and you’re curious as to whether or not the TSA will allow you to bring it as carry-on, don’t fret! Apparently the TSA is totally down with mummified heads as long as they’re “properly packaged, labeled and declared.” Good to know.

    According to the TSA, all you gotta do is snap a photo and tweet it to @AskTSA to see if your mummified head meets all their requirements.

    BTW, the head pictured above (and below) is that of English jurist and social reformer Jeremy Bentham the founder of philosophy of Utilitarianism. Bentham died in 1832.

    Have you ever debated about whether or not you can pack a certain item in your checked or carry-on bag? Like the mummified head of #JeremyBentham for example… Fret no more! Now you can simply snap a picture and tweet it to @AskTSA or send it via Facebook Messenger and our team will get back to you promptly with an answer. If you're a regular follower of this account, I'm sure you can think of many situations where it would have behooved somebody to send us a picture first. And that's not all. Contact us about any TSA related issue or question you might have. We can even help you with TSA Pre✓® issues. We look forward to answering your questions, 8am-10pm ET weekdays; 9am-7pm weekends/holidays. #AskTSA #TSATravelTips

    A photo posted by TSA (@tsa) on

    via Boing Boing

    Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
    ‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll’: Joan Jett & the Blackhearts killing it live back in 1981
    09:34 am


    Joan Jett

    The queen of zero fucks, Joan Jett.
    Rock and roll queen Joan Jett was only 23-years-old when she tore up the stage with the Blackhearts for New York radio station WLIR’s “Party in the Park.” And as you might imagine Jett’s set was the real deal—full of feedback, cans of Budweiser on amps and enthusiastic fist-pumping fans.

    The band rips through five songs in the footage from Jett’s solo album 1980’s Bad Reputation and from 1981’s I Love Rock ‘n Roll—“Bad Reputation,” Jett’s cover of “Crimson and Clover,” by Tommy James and the Shondells,” the Gary Glitter cover made famous by Jett “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah),” “Summertime Blues” (which according to Blackheart bassist Gary Ryan who announced to the crowd this would be the first time Jett & the Blackhearts would perform the 1958 Eddie Cochran cover live), and of course “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.” You’ll also see the cherub-faced Jett cursing and goofing around in bed while shooting TV promos with WLIR DJ John DeBella who helped champion I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll. Other bands on the “Party in the Park” bill included Rick Derringer, Todd Rundgren, Long Island band The Good Rats and the titanic Blue Öyster Cult. I’ve posted the footage of Jett’s amped up performance below as well as a promo from WLIR that includes footage of Derringer, Rundgren and The Good Rats but sadly, not BÖC.

    The videos after the jump…

    Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
    Massive trove of over 300 boomboxes for sale—only $14,000
    09:08 am


    boom box

    Boomboxes are kind of an of-a-certain-age thing, but if you were sentient in between the mid ‘70s and early ’90s, they were as common as stereo consoles and component systems. “Portable,” technically, inasmuch as they took batteries and weren’t literally furniture, they were huge, cumbersome radio/cassette deck combos with large stereo speakers. The classic stereotypes associated with the things were mulletted suburban rock ‘n’ roll scumbags tailgating with boomboxes in the trunks of their cars playing music at hateful and disruptive volumes, either oblivious to or give-a-fuckless about the public nuisance they were creating, or soul/disco/hip-hop fans with massive afros, strutting down crowded city streets with boomboxes on their shoulders playing music at hateful and disruptive volumes, either oblivious to or give-a-fuckless about the public nuisance they were creating. Their total ubiquity in breakdance culture (owing to their portability, naturally) led to the unfortunate and highly problematic nickname “ghettoblasters.”

    By the late ’80s, a boombox could have as many features as a stereo component system—sophisticated EQs, detatchable speakers, dual cassette decks for dubbing (HOME TAPING IS KILLING MUSIC, YOU GUYS), even remotes. By the early ‘90s, when the boxy metal units were phased out in favor of less distinctive (and way less awesome) rounded black plastic ones with CD players, they often even replaced consoles as home stereos of choice for many listeners as cassettes grew in popularity over vinyl. And those feature-loaded boxy metal ones are the models that have, in the internet era of ever-increasing granularity in collecting, developed a cult.

    Keep reading after the jump…

    Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
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