A highly irritated Hunter S. Thompson left a local audio/visual store a voice message, sometime in 2004, complaining about a faulty “DVD/combination tape player.”
It starts off, “This is Hunter S. Thompson in Woody Creek…” and goes downhill fast from there, “First, the machine is no good. It sucks. It won’t run, it jams.”
Then he starts threatening them:
I’ll be on your *ss all day long!...I’m going to destroy it and write about it. I’ll ruin your f*cking name!
What makes the story even better is the store he dialed, Design Audio Video in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, didn’t deserve the abusive call. After listening to the recording of the Gonzo journalist’s rantings at least fifteen times with his employees, the store’s general manager, Barrie McCorkle, sent someone over to remedy the issue which wasn’t even theirs to fix.
Years after the incident, McCorkle confessed, “It turns out, we didn’t sell him the stuff, but we ended up fixing it for him,” and, “he never apologized for it, but he was grateful.”
Take a listen to the glorious madness, which was later made into an animation:
With Seasonal Affective Disorder slowly crushing my soul into oblivion, I have been absolutely starved for some aural “sunshine.” The Beach Boys are the obvious choice, but a little too obvious, don’t you think? Enter The Honeys, the beachy girl-group that boasted Brian Wilson himself serving as songwriter and producer. You got your surfing anthems, your boy-crazy ballads and all the shimmering, girly harmonies you’ll need until spring.
The Honeys with Brian Wilson
The Honeys actually formed after sisters Marilyn and Diane Rovell saw the Beach Boys perform. Brian Wilson took to courting high-schooler Marilyn (the foxy brunette on the far left), and after the addition of the Rovells’ cousin Ginger Blake, Wilson took them into the studio to record some pop music gold, though most people would more likely recognize them on Jan and Dean’s “Dead Man’s Curve” and “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” or cheering on The Beach Boys’ “Be True To Your School.”
The Honeys never really blew up. Surf music faded, Marilyn Rovell became Marilyn Wilson and had daughters Carnie and Wendy (yes, thatCarnie and Wendy), but oddly enough, the girls attempted a very weird comeback in the 80s before embracing the nostalgia of their earlier work and releasing a box set. In addition to some of their earlier work, I’ve included (as a “bonus”) their 1983 album Ecstasy—it is very… 1983.
This morning Dangerous Minds pal Chris Holmes (he’s been all over the media recently with his “Anti-Paparazzi” clothing line) sent over the Soundcloud files of a couple of the “Ziggy Stardust” remixes produced, but ultimately not used, for Disney’s Fantasia videogame.
Although the remixes are simply wonderful as heard here, when Chris demoed the songs for me in his studio, he showed me his innovative idea for the game, which would have allowed the player to “parallel remix” (or “conduct”) the song on the fly, as with Ableton Live, or a similar program.
The idea for the remixes was to create fourteen separate remixes simultaneously in Ableton, and then have all of those tracks available in groups (drums, lead lines, strings, vocals, guitars) available to the user in the game to make their own remix each time they play the game. I think the concept of parallel remixing has a lot of potential in the VR, webspace, and future Oculus like worlds where users actions determine the how the music develops. It’s been sitting on my hard drive for almost two years now. The remixes turned out great, but I think the most important thing is turning people on to the concept of parallel remixing.
You could strip it down to the original version at any point or to a totally acoustic version, or go totally orchestral. These mixes have elements of each. It was very difficult because the timing had to remain in time with the original Bowie song which speeds up and slows down around 15 bpm over the course of the song. It would be far easier to do it with a consistent bpm.
This is the second version of our Fantasia “parallel remix” of “Ziggy Stardust.” This one is more electro dubstep, playing the game you can morph between any of the mixes and make your own using the game controller.
If you’ve never had the chance to watch the fascinating 1972 Academy Award-winning documentary, Marjoe take a look at it below. Produced and directed by Howard Smith and Sarah Kernochan, it’s flat-out great, a singular document chronicling the life of former child evangelist, Marjoe Gortner who, as an adult superstar preacher, admits on film that he’s using the whole evangelist racquet to scam answer-hungry parishioners out of their hard-earned cash. Gortner works with an infiltrating hippie film crew to expose his whole dishonest practice. Watching this is a truly I-can’t-believe-my-eyes experience not just because it gives first-hand evidence that the evangelist thing’s a scam (many of us are well aware of that already), but because of the willing, even eager participation of the film’s subject. This is just a truly only-in-America film that you have to see.
It starts by giving a little necessary backstory about Marjoe Gortner. Strangely, the name Marjoe is an odd combination of the biblical names Mary and Joseph, and from the age of three-and-a half, the boy’s parents, especially his bizarre evangelist stage mom, saw little Marjoe as a sanctified, Pentecostal cash cow. While other kids were out running around doing the things that kids are supposed to be doing, Marjoe was forced to memorize elaborate sermons with the threat of a pillow smothering or long dunks underwater hanging over his head when his mother got frustrated. She knew he had to appear in the public all the time to keep the money rolling in, so she didn’t want to leave any visible scars of abuse.
He would walk into press conferences as a six-year-old and tell the editor of whatever magazine that he was talking to that he was “here to give the devil two black eyes.” He blew people away while sometimes garnering all-press-is-good-press criticism. The film shows Marjoe as a child performing a wedding ceremony for full-grown adults while bedecked in a little white sailor suit with shorts and cowboy boots. He drew headlines. Preachers at the time were outraged at the sensationalism and the affront to the sanctity of marriage. Not unexpected of course. Preachers are always outraged about that sort of thing.
But all the while, despite the accolades, the controversy, LIFE magazine articles and all sorts of people telling him he was blessed with a supernatural gift sent straight from GAAAWD almighty, Marjoe Gortner never really believed it. He just knew he was a good performer trained to entice people to open their wallets, and he became very good at it.
Marjoe Gortner as a child evangelist
Quickly, the film cuts to a time years later where we find a now long and lean, tie-dye adorned, all-grown-up Marjoe Gortner in a hotel room with a very stoned looking hippie film crew. He’s debriefing them about what to do and what not to do when he lets them follow him around capturing his now thriving evangelistic enterprise on film. He’s very clear that the whole thing’s all an act, and Gortner warns the crew not to blow their cover by taking home any of the evangelist groupies (Marjoe sticks with the airline stewardesses himself) or smoking in front of anybody. He warns his far-out friends that they’re about to see people speaking in tongues, acts of faith healing, individuals writhing around on the floor, the whole nine yards.
Before you know it, film is being shot in a church and all of the above happens on camera. A lot of the “tent revival” footage throughout would be relatively unremarkable, except that you know the guy doesn’t really buy into one singular goddamned thing the he’s saying to the shouting crowds of gullible hayseeds and proto mega-churchers. You see how adept Gortner has become at getting people to hand over the “largest bill they have,” while behind the scenes we find him literally counting a pile of cash on a hotel room bed, shaking his head about how easy it is to get the money flowing. He knows he’s a business man, and he even has merch in the form of a record. He talks about how he used some kind of water-activated powder that made a cross show up on his head when he started sweating during one his “crusades.” People ate it up and, more importantly, ponied up the cash.
In a 1972 interview with Roger Ebert around the time of the film’s release, Gortner illuminates the materialist sham:
These people lead miserable lives, and suffer in silence because they know they’re going to get their reward in heaven. A preacher is a man who has been blessed by God on Earth. If he doesn’t drive a Cadillac, they don’t think much of him; God must not favor him. He’s got to look good, feel good and smell good.
There’s a moment in Marjoe where Gortner talks about imitating Mick Jagger when he throws down his stage act. He says he probably would have been a musician if he hadn’t chosen the ministry. The footage is pretty incredible. He nails it. He cock-struts, hand on his hip across the stage, the whole deal.
From the 1972 interview:
You have to go into the heavy religion in order to give people on excuse to loosen up and enjoy themselves. When I’d do a hip movement or a jump, or start walking over the backs of the seats, they’d say, ‘Hallelujah! God’s behind him!’ But if they saw Mick Jagger doing the same thing at a rock concert, that was the work of the devil.
Lest you conjecture, as I did, that the whole coming clean thing was itself a scam, Gortner claims in the 1972 Ebert interview that he actually stood to make a lot more money simply staying in the evangelical game.
A lot of people have charged that I made the movie for money. For example, some of the hard-sell radio preachers are attacking me. That’s ridiculous. At the time I quit, I honestly think I was the best preacher on the circuit, I could cut anybody. In five years I would have been on top and probably a millionaire. One thing a lot of people forget about is the tax advantage: I was tax-deductible.
Post evangelizing, however, Gortner eventually enrolled in acting classes and used his tan, blonde, curly-haired, So-Cal look to land himself a few leading rolls in films, including 1976’s Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw across from Wonder Woman herself, Lynda Carter:
Marjoe Gortner and Lynda Carter in ‘Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw,’ 1976
You can watch all of Marjoe below, courtesy of the Internet Archive.
Here’s something you don’t hear every day: Mark Andrews, 51, of Atascadero, CA, who believes he’s a werewolf allegedly shot his neighbor Colleen Barga-Milbury, 52, twice because he was convinced that she was a vampire.
Defense witness Carolyn Murphy, a forensic psychologist said, “(He believes) he transforms into a werewolf,” and “holds the spirit of the wolf.”
The first record of Andrews believing he was a werewolf, she said, dates to 1996, though she suspects he had that same delusion during his first psychotic episode three years earlier.
Murphy said Andrews believed the voice of God commanded him to kill Barga-Milbury, whom he believed was a vampire.
In 2009 Andrew became convinced that another one of his neighbors was a vampire:
Andrews believed a different neighbor was a vampire. Andrews left mounds of dirt and flour on that neighbor’s door and once pounded on the neighbor’s door, calling her a “bitch,” though she didn’t answer.
At his home, according to police reports, police found two lists of names, several marked “hate with death.”
As to why Andrews didn’t kill this particular vampire neighbor “God didn’t tell him to kill her” Murphy said.
Mark Andrews has believed himself to be a werewolf for the past 20 years. During the time of the murder, Andrews was apparently not taking his medication.
In the years following the success of her memoir The Happy Hooker and the launch of its film franchise, Xaviera Hollander dabbled fairly widely in merchandising the “Happy Hooker” name. She can hardly be blamed, it’s such a catchy phrase that it’s been cheekily co-opted by everyone from crochet hobbyists to fishermen. Hollander has been involved in drama production, written a long-running advice column (and penned plenty of sex-advice books), and she even had a Happy Hooker board game.
Lest you think I was kidding about that, here you go.
Hollander produced a kitsch artifact holy grail with her 1973 LP Xaviera! It’s mostly a spoken-word album, with tracks featuring Hollander detailing her philosophies regarding sex generally and prostitution specifically. There are a few tracks that are basically dramatizations of trysts, but the real money-shot here (sorry) is Hollander’s bonkers cover of the Beatles’ classic “Michelle.” It’s been a mix-CD staple of mine since I found it years ago on April Winchell’s old MP3 page (it’s not on her current page, but don’t let that stop you from heading there anyway to revel in all the marvelously bizarre delights contained therein), and it could not be more out of place, either on that LP, or on planet freakin’ Earth.
I don’t want to mislead, this isn’t anything like full on Mrs. Miller-level self-deuded badness. But it’s still pretty out there, and bad in a way and to a degree that make it truly compelling. At no time is the song ever actually “sung”—it’s moaned in a breathy, overwrought “Happy Birthday Mr. President” way that often out-camps most intentional campifications of sexuality. And when the most famous prostitute on Earth moans “I want you, I want you, I WANT YOU,” should it not maybe feel more believable? Fittingly, the track ended up on the Golden Throats 4: Celebrities Butcher the Beatles compilation, and as far as I know, it would be another ten years before Hollander endeavored to sing on an LP again, for the Dutch-only release Happily Hooked. (See what I mean about that branding? That shit is durable.) And even on that album—or at least the part of it that my DM colleague Amber Frost found—she still basically just talks over music. Not that exceptional singing is the reason you listen to it anyway, it’s all in good fun.
One last trivia nugget for the trainspotters: the Xaviera! LP contains a “special guest” credit to the rockabilly pioneer Ronnie Hawkins, who, apart from his own musical contributions, assembled the musicians who would come to be known as The Band. Whether his guest appearance is as the guitar player on “Michelle,” or as a male voice in one of the performances, or both, I couldn’t say.
A hobby can be an essential activity for relieving stress. Everyone should have one to clear their minds of the day’s tension and strain, whether it be stamp collecting or bird watching or model ship building or videotaping yourself pissing all over random objects in your living room.
In one of the murkier, moldier recesses of the internet you will find the YouTube channel of one “Johnny Urine.”
Johnny does one thing and one thing only. He posts videos, generally about 30 seconds in length, of himself whizzing on indiscriminate objects.
In the 25 videos posted to his channel, Johnny Urine lets loose—not only on the intended articles, but even more disturbingly, all over his living room carpet. His aim is not always true, and one wouldn’t imagine a whole lot of house guests having an extended stay in the Urine abode.
The stream of videos sadly cuts off in November of 2012, leaving us wondering if Johnny Urine may have departed this earth, leaving only a legacy of ammonia-stenched statements on the mundane objects that mock our sad existence. Let that soak in for a minute.
Fair warning, these videos are NSFW-ish.
Here, in what is certainly his greatest work, is Johnny Urine baptizing a Pink Floyd CD:
On January 1, 1976, Tinseltown’s iconic sign read “Hollyweed” after art student Danny Finegood and 3 of his college pals used $50 worth of dark fabric to transform the famous Hollywood landmark temporarily. They had practiced it first on a scale model Finegood had crafted.
It was more than a simple practical joke, Finegood considered it a statement on the relaxed California marijuana law that went into effect that day.
He also turned it in as a school assignment which earned him an “A.”
If you’re thinking of attempting a stunt like this, think again. On top of being illegal, it’s also quite difficult to get near the sign these days.
Two years after the intial alteration, in 1978, the Hollywood Sign Trust was established as a way of protecting the sign and the fragile hillside surrounding it. They’re serious about it too. In addition to a razor-wired fence, there’s 24-hour surveillance, infrared cameras, motion sensors, regular helicopter patrol visits by the authorities, and other high-security measures.
A folk song was written in 1976 about the sign-changing incident, by a man named David Batterson, with such lyrics as follows:
Now it’s finally safe
to take a little toke
In 1987, Dr. Timothy Leary paid a visit to MTV to be a guest VJ. He had a few more IQ points than some of their regular contributors. It’s a treat to hear him set up the video for Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”:
Now this is a real heavy one—I don’t know what this means. It has something to do with the third world and the exploitation by the first world and our hopes that the third world will get behind the camera and start becoming part of the cybernetic age. I don’t know. Watch it and make up your own mind. It’s a good tune.
Leary also talks about playing percussion on “Give Peace A Chance,” shows off some early CGI in the video for “Hard Woman” from Mick Jagger’s unloved She’s the Boss, and shares his thoughts on Nancy Reagan’s drug policy. It ends with a spectacular Ike and Tina Turner rendition of “Proud Mary” that’s worth sticking around for.
Buying audio equipment is an addiction for some people (99.99999999999% of these “people” being male people, of course). Although it is perhaps a more respectable addiction than either drugs or alcohol, and less expensive than gambling, it is, at its root, still an illness. For once you begin climbing on the ladder of high fidelity audio… they’ve got their hooks in you. You’re never satisfied, because there’s always something better. Buy that better amp and it’ll just expose the weakness of your speakers. The solution? Better speakers! But those new speakers don’t really blend well with your subwoofer, do they, which now sounds kinda flabby, doesn’t it? Finally you simply can’t take it anymore and replace your sub with a better one… Repeat this process several times per decade, if not annually. The story ends with the death of the audioholic or else said audioholic’s better half putting her foot down on his headphones while he’s wearing them.
That said, high fidelity audio equipment, like HDTV sets, is getting waaaaay cheaper while quality and performance is going up, up, up. A $10,000 stereo system purchased in the late 1990s is nowhere near as good as what you can buy for a fraction of that today. Over the years, I’ve owned gear from Marantz, Pioneer’s Elite line, Sony’s ES series, Carver, Klipsch, Hafler, Rotel, Harmon-Kardon, Boston Acoustics, Polk Audio, Yamaha, Philips, Panasonic and others. I am by no means an “expert” but I do research this stuff obsessively and keep up with what actual experts have to say. And I look a lot at the Amazon rankings and reviews because the group mind is seldom wrong in consumer reviews (and where do you go to demo and hear this kind of equipment in action anymore? Depending on where you live, it might take a leap of faith).
Recently a friend of mine asked my advice on building his sound system and this is the gist of what I told him…
First off, you’ll note that I’m keeping turntables out of the equation entirely. I disagree with the likes of Neil Young and others, who feel that vinyl is superior to digital. It’s not. No audio engineer thinks that. Young told a reporter at the CES show that “[vinyl is] the only place people can go where they can really hear.” Bullshit. It’s where you can really hear pops, clicks and dusty grooves. These things can be tested and measured, of course, it’s not a subjective judgment call. A pressed platter made of a petroleum product with a needle running across it isn’t going to sound as good as a CD, SACD, Blu-ray “Pure Audio” disc or a download from HDTracks.com. A record will not—will never—have that kind of sonic range.
If you are someone who “feels” vinyl sounds better than a CD, that’s fine by me, but let’s not pretend that the technology is superior. After all, it’s Neil Young himself who is hawking the “high definition audio” 192kHz/24-bit downloads for his PONO device. His was the first major artist Blu-ray box set, too, so his message seems muddled at best. Nevertheless, Young should applauded for at least trying to educate the public about better sound quality. He’s done more than any of the major labels ever have, that’s for certain.
So how best to work with the newfangled audiophile formats like Blu-ray audio and HDTracks digital downloads kept on an external disc drive? There’s really only one obvious solution, if you ask me, and that is an OPPO universal Blu-ray player. The top of the line OPPO players are packed full of super high quality features and components like the SABRE32 Reference ES9018, the world’s best performing 32-bit audio DAC for high-end consumer and professional studio equipment, 4K video upscaling and a proper headphone amp. In a word, they are magnificent.
My first bit of advice: Make an OPPO player the centerpiece of ANY home theater AV system. More than a mere universal disc player, it’s a full featured, powerful digital media nerve center/switcher that can even take the place of a high quality pre-amp—there’s simply no longer a need for one—and handle just about any kind of format you can throw at it. This Amazon review gave me a hard on. Read it now and then come on back, I’ll wait.
We all know Apple fanboys, well I’m an OPPO fanboy. Listening to music is one of the greatest pleasures in life and my life noticeably changed for the better the day that my OPPO BDP-105D was delivered. Unboxing it was a lot like getting a new Mac, come to think of it, and the OPPO player’s solid, obviously high quality build is impressive indeed, just like getting your hands on a new Apple product for the first time. (It’s also VERY heavy. When the Fedex guy handed it to me, I wasn’t prepared for this and nearly toppled over.)
Everything I had sounded better on it. I am currently still in the process of rediscovering my entire music collection through fresh ears, and hearing nuances I have never heard before in familiar songs. That’s really a gift, isn’t it? In the event of a fire, after my pets were safe, my OPPO BDP-105D and the drive with my music on it are the very first things I’d grab.
Now the OPPO BDP-105D player is their most expensive model ($1299), a hot-rodded version, if you will, of their OPPO BD 103, with the addition of aforementioned DACS, headphone amp and something called Darbee Visual Presence Technology, which is essentially a subtle drop shadow/luminance value effect that brings out insane levels of extra fine details of an 1080 line video signal (something users of HD projectors will REALLY notice, especially with wide shots) and even improves upon standard definition video sources. (Here’s a video that explains how Darbee works.)
Bear in mind that a good outboard DAC can cost $1000 and a decent headphones amp about the same or more. If you’re on the more demanding team of audiophiles, you’ll have to have the BDP-105D—it’s drool-worthy—but the rest of the OPPO line are pretty damned amazing, too and are priced starting at around $499 for the OPPO BDP-103 (a decent VHS player cost $600 in the mid-1980s for some perspective) and $599 for the OPPO BDP-103D with Darbee Visual Presence (a stand-alone Darblet costs $200).
As I was saying at the start, acquiring a better component—and let’s face it, the OPPO BDP-105D player is the ultimate better component—can expose the weaknesses of your system. The OPPO line features 4K video upscaling so you’re going to want a receiver that can handle 4K too and that would mean something introduced to the AV market in the past year or so. If I was going to buy a new, mid-priced receiver right now, I might go with something like the Onkyo TX-NR636 which has really nice specs, sounds great, handles Dolby Atmos multidimensional sound and is 4K video ready. If you are buying a new receiver today, you’d want something that won’t become obsolete too quickly and the Onkyo TX-NR636 is a popular model that’s a great value (it lists for $600 but Amazon sells it for around $430) and about as “future proof” as you are going to find today considering that 4K sets are about to become the next new thing in home entertainment. It’s even got a phono stage if you want to hook up a turntable.
(Some of you reading this might get sniffy at the idea of a mid-priced receiver, but do keep in mind that much of the circuitry present in receivers costing from $300 to $3000 is EXACTLY THE SAME STUFF.)
Which brings me to some utterly amazing—and as these things go, dirt cheap—speakers. A few years ago, Pioneer put out a line of low cost speakers designed by their chief speaker engineer Andrew Jones, a man known for making reference speakers that sell for $70k and now even audiophiles who can afford speakers that are that expensive find themselves preferring his cheap ones. Jones set himself the challenge to make the best possible speaker for the lowest possible price utilizing Pioneer’s vast resources, bulk purchasing power and production chain. The result is that the various models in the line of Andrew Jones Designed speakers have absolutely mind-blowing sound for a fraction of what it normally costs to buy sound gear that is this crazy good. A pair of Jones’ bookshelf speakers—perhaps the best smaller speakers I have ever heard—cost just $127. Two of the towers will set you back around $260, the subwoofer around $156 and the center channel speaker $97, but the sound is pretty priceless if you ask me. Amazon also sells the entire Andrew Jones 5.1 home theater speaker package for $549.
So if you add all of that up, for a totally kickass 5.1 home theater surround system, 4K video ready to boot, it would be around $1500 for a system utilizing the OPPO BDP-103 and $2100 for one built around the OPPO BDP-105D. I think the modded audiophile add-ons of the BDP-105 are well worth it for getting the most out of the newer digital audiophile formats, and the Darbee processing highly desirable for use with HD projectors, but with any OPPO model, you really can’t go wrong.
In conclusion, some of you reading this will think “He’s right, that’s not a bad little system for the money” and others will probably totally disagree with me, although I suspect near universal agreement on the merits of the OPPO BDP-105D, because it’s just that amazing of a device and is, if you ask me, not only a total game-changer in the AV marketplace, but something that should be incorporated into ANY attempt to put together a high quality home theater system. (They rated the hell out of an OPPO BDP-105D on Audioholics, tests which showed levels of distortion almost too low to measure. It’s so close to perfection already that it would almost be impossible to improve on its specs… well, for years to come.)
Quibble with the details in the comments, please do, but I think I gave my pal some damn good advice. Although the price is certainly right, this is no mere “entry level” audio system that I suggested—with all of his money Tom Cruise can’t buy a better universal media player than an OPPO BDP-105D and neither can you.
*Fun fact, our own Marc Campbell’s video rental store in Taos, NM was the first authorized OPPO retailer. These days Marc’s the proprietor of The Sound Gallery in Austin, TX, probably the world’s largest retail selection of vintage audio gear.
Below, a reviewer from AudioHead on the OPPO BD 105.