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My Unpopular Opinion: ‘Arrival’ is the very definition of pretentious ‘artsploitation’ cinema
02.24.2017
02:37 pm

Topics:
Movies

Tags:
Amy Adams
Arrival
Denis Villeneuve


 

I’m back. Remember me? It’s time for another one of my unpopular opinion pieces, and this time it’s about everyone’s favorite 2016 artsy-fartsy sci-fi hit (and Oscar contender) Arrival. The film has gotten nearly unanimous critical praise, and if that wasn’t enough to raise your suspicions, how about the constant use of that critical kiss-of-death word “refreshing”? Were they all paid to use that specific word? Makes you wonder, huh? But before I get into the meat of this essay I’m going to offer up two definitions to bear in mind whilst reading:

1.) Pretentious: attempting to impress by affecting greater importance than is actually present.

2.) Artsploitation: the exploitation of an art-house cinema audience, especially in regard to the critical merits of a film.

Thanks to Google for number one and as for number two, it’s my own coinage. Artsploitation refers, like other exploitation genre tags, to a particular audience’s desire to consume a particular kind of film regardless of its quality. In the case of “art-house” cinema, this means that as long as a film looks pretty or conforms to the audience’s notion of “artistic” merit—most often translating to a level of incomprehensibility that one viewer can use to claim a superior “understanding” over others—said “art” film can then be excused of all its flaws. Regardless of how bad they are or how poorly it may conform to other essential tenets of “good” cinema such as writing, editing, acting and directing.*

If you ask me, Arrival fits both of these definitions down to a tee.

 

 

“God Niall, why do you have to keep shitting on the things that everyone else loves?!” I can hear an imagined reader crying out from the deepest recesses of my ego. But this is the thing: I love genre movies. I love them in their own right, in-and-of themselves. There is no shame in genre cinema for me, there is no shame in gleefully enjoying well-executed action, in impressive explosions or a well-crafted monster, in camp humor and in over-the-top bad acting.

What pisses me off is directors/producers/writers who are unwilling to interact with genre works on their own terms. There is a palpable sense of fear and shame from these arty “updates” and “fresh retellings,” as if the director is afraid of getting tarred with the “genre film director” brush and losing their artistic cachet, or even of stooping to the level of less-acclaimed directors who work within the actual genre. An auteur placing themselves above a genre, not within it, never, ever works. Instead of making a decent movie based on a true understanding of what makes a genre film work, they instead force their own artistic aspirations on the audience, missing the point of why audiences love genre films in the first place. 

Now, Arrival may not be the worst contender—and I’m a big enough man to admit that there were some moments I kinda enjoyed—but it IS guilty of these crimes, nonetheless. I have divided my critiques up into vague categories for clarity, and need I mention: SPOILERS AHEAD! Okay, here we go…

 

 

THE FILM’S SUPPOSED AND WIDELY DISCUSSED “ORIGINALITY”

There’s only one shot in the entire film that stayed with me, and if you have seen the film, you’ll know the one: the slow-motion, aerial approach to the alien ship via a mountain range with cascading clouds. And that shot, indeed, is breathtaking. If only the rest of the film could have stayed at this level of artistry. Unfortunately, it didn’t. So it is surprising to hear seasoned critics gushing over the supposed “originality” of this film, when it’s really not that original at all. The story is a slightly modified take on Contact, the tone of detached wonderment is cribbed from 2001: A Space Odyssey,  the alien ships are lifted from the opening of Prometheus, and the aliens themselves are your bog-standard “tentacled” creations that recall both the mighty Cthulhu and the not-so-mighty Karg and Konos from The Simpsons. None of these are in any way obscure references, so it puzzles me as to why they have not been acknowledged more honestly. But it’s not just Arrival‘s concepts that lack originality: it’s the film’s execution.

DENIS VILLENEUVE

Denis Villeneuve attracts a lot of critical praise for his directorial work. This is the first film of his I have actually seen, so I guess I was expecting a lot. And in the end I couldn’t help but feel utterly disappointed at a film whose central conceit is the power of new forms of language, but which itself leans so heavily on so many tired-ass cinematic cliches. The flashback/forwards/dead daughter “memory” sequences in particular rely on the worst kind of Hallmark-esque imagery. You know the type, it’s on page one of the playbook titled “How To Crassly Manipulate Feelings Of Warm Sentimentality in Your All-Too-Willing-to-be-Manipulated Audience.” Turn on your television right now and you will be bombarded this within kind of imagery in hundreds, no thousands, of adverts: tiny hands brushing through the long grass of a sunny meadow, colourful wellingtons splashing the clear waters of a babbling brook, a laughing baby’s face shot in floaty shallow focus and obscured by lens flare. An old couple holding hands on the porch. All that was missing was a breathy-voiced, piano-ballad cover version of some trashy dance-pop (“Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” perhaps?) Arrival uses a visual language so cliched that I kept expecting to see the Vodaphone or Ikea logo materialise in the corner of the screen, with details of the great new offers available at my local branch. In effect, the director has taken a lazy visual short-cut to the audience’s emotions. And it’s not the only one.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Google’s new toxic-language algorithm is surprisingly TERRIBLE at detecting toxic language
02.24.2017
12:15 pm

Topics:
Science/Tech

Tags:
hate speech
algorithms


 
There’s little doubt that AI and robots pose a very interesting challenge to the assumptions human beings have about work, utility, wages, and productivity. “Labor-saving” was always a positive adjective, but lately it seems more like a threat. In certain quarters of Silicon Valley, however, the war’s already been lost, the rise of the robots is inevitable and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Every now and then, though, you run into an example of how hard it is for machines to mimic the kinds of intellectual work we do with hardly a thought. A recent example is Perspective, the new machine-learning service that Alphabet (as Google is now called) released yesterday. The purpose of Perspective is to use machine learning to identify hateful or trollish content on message boards as a way of enhancing the quality of online discourse. In the wake of the 2016 elections, in which armies of anti-Clinton trolls paid by the Russian government almost certainly had a significant impact on the outcome, the question of how to improve social media is a pressing one indeed, and I wish Alphabet all the luck in the world in achieving that objective.

However, Perspective’s got a ways to go, and some of the errors the program has been shown to make are enough to cause one to question if machines will ever be able to parse meaning-laden human expression with any accuracy. Bottom line: humans, in their ability to evade detection for nasty invective, are way, way ahead of the machines.
 

 
A report by David Auerbach in the MIT Technology Review offers plenty of vivid examples. Perspective gives comments a rating from 1 to 100 on “toxicity,” which is defined as “a rude, disrespectful, or unreasonable comment that is likely to make you leave a discussion.” For certain kinds of basic statements, Perspective does fairly well. The program understands “Screw you, Trump supporters” to be highly toxic, but “I honestly support both” is not. So far, so good.

But the algorithm is a bit too dependent on hot-button keywords, and not enough on the surrounding contextual clues in the statement, especially a word like “not,” which tends to reverse the polarity of what’s being said. “Rape,” “Jews,” “terrorist,” and “Hitler” are all likely to increase your toxicity score, even in comments that are mostly placating or unobjectionable.

Auerbach supplies a hilarious account of the ways Perspective gets it wrong: 
 

“Trump sucks” scored a colossal 96 percent, yet neo-Nazi codeword “14/88” only scored 5 percent. “Few Muslims are a terrorist threat” was 79 percent toxic, while “race war now” scored 24 percent. “Hitler was an anti-Semite” scored 70 percent, but “Hitler was not an anti-Semite” scored only 53%, and “The Holocaust never happened” scored only 21%. And while “gas the joos” scored 29 percent, rephrasing it to “Please gas the joos. Thank you.” lowered the score to a mere 7 percent. (“Jews are human,” however, scores 72 percent. “Jews are not human”? 64 percent.)

 
Humans are highly subtle when it comes to language, and machines find it hard to keep up. A particularly chilling example from the MIT Technology Review article is the sentence “You should be made into a lamp,” which is a direct allusion to Nazi atrocities and has been directed at several journalists in recent months. Perspective gives that a toxicity rating of 4.

It’s hard enough to parse language for hateful intent; imagine how much harder when you toss in a factor like juxtaposition with an image. A sentence like “You can trust me to do the right thing” has a completely different meaning when placed next to a picture of Pepe the Frog, wouldn’t you think?

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘They Walk Among Us’: Barry Adamson’s unsettling 21st century vampire blues, a DM premiere
02.24.2017
11:18 am

Topics:
Movies
Music

Tags:
Barry Adamson


 

“The blues is the blues and if the heart aches then that’s the sound that will come out whether you are playing guitar, a synth, a piano or playing futuristic guitar solos on your iPhone!”—Barry Adamson.

Multi-instrumentalist composer/filmmaker Barry Adamson first gained attention for his rubbery, metronomic and very precise bass guitar work in Magazine and then later in Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. His first solo release, 1989’s moody, astonishing Moss Side Story, was an original soundtrack for a film noir (“In a black and white world, murder brings a touch of colour…”) that didn’t exist and shrewdly announced his intention to compose music for cinema. He’s done that—for the likes of Derek Jarman, David Lynch and Oliver Stone—as well as prolifically releasing his own idiosyncratic, and relentlessly changing music over the years. A chameleonic master of sonics, Adamson is conversational in nearly any musical style, moving effortlessly from covering the Alfred Hitchcock Presents music to a ska version of the “James Bond Theme” to brooding and pulsating electronic beats.

He’s also getting into directing films himself and got behind (and in front) of the camera for his latest video “They Walk Among Us,” which comes from Adamson’s upcoming six-track EP Love Sick Dick out on April 14th. You can get it signed from his online store.

Adamson says of the song and video:

“‘They Walk Among Us’ explores the conviction of who or indeed what lies beneath the mask we present. The fantasy, the illusion and all too often foreboding reality.”

 
Watch it after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Iggy Pop’s ‘Raw Power’ jacket: The rock-n-roll Shroud of Turin
02.24.2017
09:52 am

Topics:
Fashion
Music

Tags:
Iggy Pop
The Stooges


 
One of the most striking and iconic pieces of rock and roll clothing has to be the leopard head jacket worn by Iggy Pop on the back cover of 1973’s Raw Power, in the classic shot taken by photographer Mick Rock (above). The jacket was made by John Dove and Molly White in 1971 and appeared in L’Uomo Vogue. They only ever made five of them. Iggy bought one. Zoot Money bought another. One was a gift to their agent in Paris, Dove kept one and an unknown guy bought the other.

From their Wonder Workshop website:

The saga of IGGY POP’S JACKET returns 18 years later when Iggy’s Jacket turns up on the back of Stan Lee, lead guitarist of the Dickies in the pages of Rolling Stone. Ruby Ray’s picture shows Stan half-heartedly assuming the Raw Power stance. The interview starts with Vale’s recognition, “The jacket looks like the one Iggy wore on Raw Power!”

“It IS Iggy’s jacket - I got it in a dope deal a few years ago. He didn’t have the bucks so I took that for collateral. For a while, he couldn’t afford it back, and now he’s a rich bitchin’ Iggy, he tried to buy it back and I said NO!...”

The same story is recounted in We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk by Marc Spitz and Brendan Mullen.

Andy Seven: “I remember seeing Iggy at Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco after the Stooges broke up when he still had the platinum rinse, with Michael Des Barres, the singer for Silverhead. Stan Lee, who later started the Dickies, used to go there. He was this short, pushy little puffed-out guy with a Marc Bolan poodle shag, and he claimed he had the leopard jacket that Iggy wore on the back cover of Raw Power, he told me he got it from Iggy for dope collateral.”

Ron Asheton: “Oh, yeah, Iggy would trade his possessions all the time for drugs. That’s how he lost some of those great clothes, like that plastic jacket on the back of Raw Power with the Leopard’s head ... that got traded to somebody for drugs or whatever.”

Stan Lee: “When I was sixteen I used to hang out with Iggy. I got his Raw Power jacket in a drug deal that went down in The Whisky parking lot. It was used as collateral, and thankfully I
kept it.”

 

 
A few years later, art, record and toy collector extraordinaire, Long Gone John, boss of the mighty Sympathy for the Record Industry label (where the White Stripes, Hole and many others got their start) bought the jacket from Stan Lee. He picks up the story now in an email sent to John Dove and Molly White:

John and Molly

I wrote this for you while flying home from no. California… let me know if you need anything else ... want an updated photo of the jacket ?? all the best as ever…like that, john xx

“I remember Stan Lee from the Dickies wearing the Iggy jacket every time I saw him and remember thinking he’s gonna wear it till it falls apart…he was obviously really really proud of owning it…when you see photos of him wearing it you can see it was still in very good condition at the time…about 5 years before I bought it from Stan, a friend of mine, Tim Warren who ran the label Crypt Records who was living in Germany came to LA. and apart from whatever else he had to do he had intentions of buying the jacket from Stan for his cute french girlfriend ...Tim offered Stan $5000.00 which seemed an enormous amount of money…seems Stan was pretty flush at the time or at least he didn’t currently have a severe drug habit which he often did have throughout the years…anyway, Tim’s offer was turned down and his girlfriend was considerably heartbroken, but still very cute…

I didn’t think about the jacket for a long time until one day a friend called and said Stan wanted to sell the jacket and asked if I was interested…he said he thought Stan wanted $3000.00…I thought that the jacket was so important and would one day belong in a museum and figured it was well worth the money…I drove out to the Valley to meet him at the converted garage he lived in…the jacket was pretty worn, but it was also obvious it was made out of really cheap fake leather material to begin with…the cheetah head on the back was a bit rubbed off, but to me that was inevitable with age and gave it an air of authenticity considering it was at least 25 years old at the time…best as I can remember this was about 1998…being the bargaining fool that I am I offered Stan $2000.00 and after considerable haggling he finally agreed to accept it…the jacket was tiny Iggy is 5’ 1” as documented in the song with the same name Stan was also short, but not that short…i’m 5’ 11” so of course it didn’t fit me, but my interest in it wasn’t to wear it anyway…to me that jacket was so iconic I thought of it as The Shroud of Turin of Rock ‘n’ Roll…

I was about 21 yrs old when Raw Power came out and very impressionable…it was one of my favorite albums and I was completely mesmerized by both the front and back cover photos…that record was amazing and I never got tired of listening to it and never got the image of the jacket out of my mind…I have always felt extremely honored to own the jacket and will protect it’s legacy until the next caretaker happens along…”

Last year Lewis Leathers in London, working with John Dove and Molly White, recreated the classic jacket.

The soundtrack to Gimme Danger, the new feature-length Stooges documentary from director Jim Jarmusch is already out on CD and digital with a vinyl version hitting stores on April 7th.
 

 

Iggy Pop and Jim Jarmusch discuss their new documentary film ‘Gimme Danger’ with VICE’s Kim Taylor Bennett.

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Johnny Depp ‘speaker dives’ to Agent Orange in the punksploitation episode of ‘21 Jump Street’


 
Though a bit late in the game in 1987 to achieve the same sort of classic punksploitation TV status held by the likes of the Quincy and CHiPs “punk rock episodes,” the “Mean Streets And Pastel Houses” episode of 21 Jump Street did give us Johnny Depp in a Discharge “Protest and Survive” t-shirt slam-dancing to a Flock of Seagulls-looking dude lip-syncing Agent Orange songs.

As embarrassing as this sort of thing often tends to be, credit is due to the producers for almost actually capturing a realistic punk-show vibe.
 

 
In the episode, Depp’s character goes undercover as a punk rocker to investigate a rash of vandalism being committed by rival bands/gangs “Klean Kut Kids” (KKK, get it?) and “Your Friendly Neighbors.”

A young Jason Priestly plays one of the gang members.
 

Jason “Wattie” Priestly
 
The episode contains classic “hello fellow kids” lines like “Ever done any speaker diving?”

The “band” in this episode, “Klean Kut Kids,” mimes to three classic Agent Orange songs from the Living in Darkness LP: “Too Young To Die,” “Everything Turns Grey,” and ” A Cry For Help In A World Gone Mad.” The song “Bloodstains” is also briefly heard.

This was about as “hardcore” as network TV got in 1987…

Watch it, after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Bizarre lollipop flavors including breast milk, beer, booze, and blue cheese?
02.24.2017
09:18 am

Topics:
Amusing
Food

Tags:
lollipops
Lolliphile


The Intergalactic Garble Blaster lollipop by Lolliphile. The fruity/ginny-flavored sucker is a nod to the 1979 novel by Douglas Adams, ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.’
 
So as I was attempting to deprogram my brain last night while watching an episode of competitive cooking show Chopped (don’t judge), I was intrigued by one of the basket ingredients that was forced upon the contestants—a blue cheese-flavored lollipop. As I’d never heard of such an abomination, I decided to see if I could find out who came up with this strange food hybrid. Which I did and now I’m taking all of you faithful Dangerous Minds readers down with me because the power of Austin confectioner Lolliphile compels me.

There are 30 different flavors of suckers to choose from on Lolliphile’s site that run the gamut of gross to “shut up and take my money.” Such as the following more inventive flavors: “Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster” (a fruity/ginny nod to Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), the “Salty Dog” which tastes like a salty Greyhound cocktail, and one simply called Pizza which is fairly self-explanatory. Lolliphile’s gourmet suckers ain’t cheap and four will run you eight bucks, with packs of six, three flavor combos nicely priced at twelve dollars each. I’ve included a few images of Lolliphile’s suckers along with their flavor profiles below. More information and ordering can be found here. A few combo packs, such as one featuring six individual sucker flavors, Wasabi Ginger; Breast Milk; Sriracha; Chocolate Bacon; Bleu Cheese, and Pizza, can be purchased on Amazon.
 

A Breast Milk flavored lollipop. According to Lolliphile their team of flavor specialists created the confection after taste-testing actual breast milk and made a vegan lollipop that tastes just like the real thing. Get them here.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Haunting photographs from ‘The Blue Bird’ a fantasy play performed in Moscow in 1908


Actress Maria Germanova in character as a fairy for the 1908 stage production of ‘The Blue Bird.’
 
The captivating images of actors in full costume and character for a performance of The Blue Bird are apparently the only extant visual reminders of the play as it premiered, originally directed by Konstantin Stanislavski in 1908 at Moscow Art Theatre. Written by Belgian playwright and poet Maurice Maeterlinck, it has had many adaptations throughout the decades since, most notably the 1940 film by director Walter Lang who cast a twelve-year-old Shirley Temple as an irritable child who, with her brother, set out in search of the Bluebird of Happiness. The intention of 20th Century Fox was to give the smash The Wizard of Oz a run for its money, but it was a dismal box office failure. To its credit, the film would later be nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects. Another notable adaptation would come in 1976 when director George Cukor would try his had at another remake of the film this time with starring Elizabeth Taylor. Though it was packed with star power—including Jane Fonda and Ava Gardner—it was a twelve million dollar flop.

At its foundation, Maeterlinck’s play is a story of wistful yearning told from the perspective of a brother and sister who are dissatisfied with their lives. When a fairy becomes aware of their discontent, she sets them off in search of the Blue Bird of Happiness. The pair travel through various fantasy worlds in search of the elusive bird—which serves as a metaphor for their search for their own spirituality. If after reading this description you feel a little lightheaded—it’s perfectly understandable. The Blue Bird is a weirdly, wonderful story that closely parallels plotlines in The Wizard of Oz. The concept for the wildly creative costumes worn by the actors at the Moscow Art Theatre was conceived by the theater’s owner Constantin Stanislavski who enlisted the help of artist V. E. Yevgenoff to create them.

According to historians well versed on the Moscow Art Theatre, which at the time was considered one of the most vital dramatic arts communities in the world, anything connected with the 1908 production was destroyed once WWI commenced in 1914, with the exception of these photographs. Despite their age and lack of color, they are remarkably vivid. While they are all stunning, the images of actress Maria Germanova (who played the mythical fairy in The Blue Bird and is best known for her role in the silent film based on Leo Tolstoy’s novel Ana Karenina) are particularly arresting.
 

Maria Germanova.
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Salvador Dalí on how to eat sea urchins
02.24.2017
09:06 am

Topics:
Art
Food

Tags:
Luis Buñuel
Salvador Dalí


 
Someday I hope to see Luis Buñuel’s 1930 short film Menjant garotes (Eating Sea Urchins). Discovered in a biscuit tin that belonged to Salvador Dalí‘s sister, Ana Maria, after her death, it’s a home movie of Dalí‘s family gobbling echinoderms in Cadaqués, shot around the same time as L’Âge d’or.

Sea urchins were a favorite dish of Dalí‘s, and they figure in the initiatory path he lays out in his guide to becoming a painter, Fifty Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship. It’s not an easy path to follow; even if you manage to pull off the instructions he gives you, what about the ones for your valet and your maid? Secret Number Four, “the secret of the sea-urchin slumber,” is relatively practicable:

To begin with, you will eat three dozen sea urchins, gathered on one of the last two days that precede the full moon, choosing only those whose star is coral red and discarding the yellow ones. The collaboration of the moon in such cases is necessary, for otherwise not only do you risk that the sea urchins will be more empty but above all that they do not possess to the same degree the sedative and narcotic virtues so special and so propitious to your approaching slumber. For the same reason these sea urchins should be eaten preferably in the spring—May is a good month. But in choosing the time you must make the gathering of the sea urchins coincide with the precise moment when the first tender new beans are picked, and this varies according to the years. These tender beans, prepared in the manner called à la Catalane, are to be the second course of your meal, and I guarantee you that this is a dish worthy of the ancient gods and quite Homeric, for I am convinced that the Greeks of antiquity were acquainted with it and therefore that they were also familiar with chocolate—for, strange as this may seem, the tender beans à la Catalane are in fact prepared with chocolate as a base.

After washing this down “with a light, very young wine,” you are to take a four-and-a-half hour nap preliminary to staring at your blank canvas “for a long, long time.”

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Witches plan mass hexing of Donald Trump tomorrow night outside Trump Tower


 
The so-called Wiccan “Rule of Three” (also called the “Three-fold Law” or “Law of Return”) is a moral code held by many witches. Karma is another word that (more or less) covers the same general territory. The energy that you “put out there”—whether good or ill—will return to you three times stronger. It’s not something that’s really a dogma among Pagans, but more of an admonition, or warning to neophytes, that there is a reward—or punishment—in harmony with the magic you work and the intent behind it.

Spit in the wind and it comes back to hit you in the face. What goes around, comes around. Treat others as you would like to be treated and someone is less likely to turn punching your fucking Nazi face into a popular meme.

Tomorrow night, February 24th, starting at one minute to midnight and going on for six minutes until 12:05 AM, a group of witches will perform a binding spell on Donald Trump and those who enable him outside of Trump Tower, or wherever they happen to be:

Join the largest mass binding spell in history as participants around the world, individually and in groups, focus their consciousness to prevent Donald Trump from doing harm.

 

 
An unflattering picture of the babbling orange idiot who knows the nuclear codes and a candle are all it takes to participate. The event’s Facebook page is here. If you can’t be at Trump Tower at the appointed time, face east and let ‘er rip… Some helpful instructions can be found here. Facebook event page here.

Fuck it. Sometimes you just have to exorcise the Pentagon, folks…
 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Storytelling Giant,’ offbeat Talking Heads video compilation from the 1980s
02.23.2017
12:55 pm

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:
Talking Heads


 
When MTV ran the world in the 1980s and a few years after, it was de rigueur for bands to release VHS video compilations. The Police had one, Duran Duran had one, ZZ Top had one, you know Madonna had one. Typically, They Might Be Giants decided to name theirs Video Compilation.

Talking Heads were unquestioned pioneers of the music video form, so it would be only proper for them to release such an item. The band’s last studio album was Naked in 1988, the same year that Storytelling Giant, their video comp, came out. The band would wait until 1991 until announcing that they had broken up, but it seems likely that everyone knew the writing was on the wall, so Storytelling Giant can be seen as a quasi-conscious capper to their career as music video artists.

Here’s the (slightly bizarre) writeup of the compilation from the back of the VHS box:
 

“Storytelling Giant” is a work composed of all ten Talking Heads videos made over the past decade. They are connected by random, unrehearsed, spontaneous footage of real people talking. None of the people are actors, and all of them are wearing their own clothes. Many of them know nothing of the Talking Heads, and sometimes they tell stories that have nothing to do with the band’s music. Yet, somehow, their stories bring the Talking Heads music into another place. A place of giant lizards. . . A place where little girls sit on clouds. A place where everyone has enough to eat. . . And the government provides hairdressers if you can’t afford one. A giant man walks into a bar. He begins to wrestle with three nuns. A man with a toupée stops them, and they begin to speak.

 
The compilation is very effective in that cerebral Talking Heads way—the interstitial spoken-word bits are interesting but generally short—most of the time you’re hearing a bit out of context and you’re never really supposed to know what they’re talking about, it’s all about generating arbitrary connections. 
 

 
A few notes about the videos. I’d forgotten that John Goodman is in the video for “Wild Wild Life.” That song is off of True Stories, and Goodman’s rendition of “People Like Us” is probably the high point of that movie, so that makes sense. Interesting to see him here, before he became famous.

The most pleasant surprise on this compilation, for my money, is “And She Was,” which was directed by Jim Blashfield, who has mentioned Terry Gillam’s cutouts as an influence. That makes total sense—the video kind of a 1980s version of the “Eleanor Rigby” sequence from Yellow Submarine using moving cutouts, and it’s dated extremely well in my opinion. I didn’t realize that Jim Jarmusch had directed a Talking Heads video, but there’s a reason for that, “The Lady Don’t Mind” is one of the less interesting videos here.
 
More after the jump…....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Badass Danish girl, 1969…wait for it’
02.23.2017
12:47 pm

Topics:
Amusing

Tags:
badass


 
Here’s a short 37-second video clip of a young Danish woman who’s being interviewed by a reporter about why she’s traveling alone on foot. Apparently, a woman traveling alone in 1969 was considered unusual for those parts and she needed not only parental permission to do so, but official approval as well. She even procures “a document with a stamp from the local police chief, to verify her story.”

The reporter is worried about her safety and the potential for unwanted harassment, and wonders how she’ll protect herself and… well, the rest is history.

I do not know the provenance of this video. I’m assuming this was perhaps part of a local news segment. A very memorable local news segment…

 
via reddit

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
They Live by Night: Photos of gangsters, prostitutes & drag queens from Tokyo’s red light district

001gangskab.jpg
 
Kabukichō is the red light district in Shinjuku, a commercial and administrative ward in central Tokyo. Apparently Kabukichō took its name from plans to build a kabuki theater in the district sometime in 1940s. This never happened. Instead the area became a busy red light world of nightclubs, hostess clubs and love hotels. It’s estimated there are some 3,000 such enterprises operating in Kabukichō today. At night, the busy neon-lit streets thrive with the curious and the criminal—around a thousand yakuza are said to operate in the area. All this relentless activity gave Kabukichō its nickname as the “Sleepless Town” (眠らない街).

Among the curious drawn to Kabukichō was photographer Watanabe Katsumi (1941-2006). During the 1960s and 1970s, this seemingly quiet and unassuming character prowled the streets camera in hand offering to take pictures of the sharp-suited yakuza, the pimps, the prostitutes and the drag queens who lived and worked in and among this red light district’s narrow streets. Watanabe thought of Kabukichō as his theater and the men and women who posed for him as his actors.

He approached each of his subjects and offered to take their picture.  He took the pictures quickly. But whatever he said to make each individual sufficiently relaxed worked. His photographs captured something unguarded and utterly spontaneous about his subjects. The next night he would return, deliver three prints of each photograph for 200 yen—roughly around a dollar back then. This was how he made his living.

In 1973, the first volume of Watanabe Katsumi’s photographs The Gangs of Kabukichō was published. This book was reissued in 2006, details here.
 
002gangskab.jpg
 
005gangskab.jpg
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
While we’re waiting for Moby’s evidence of Russian blackmailers, enjoy Tunnelmental’s badass remix
02.23.2017
08:52 am

Topics:
Current Events
Music

Tags:
Moby
Tunnelmental


 
It’s not like American politics could get weirder (he wrote, praying that American politics doesn’t overhear and respond with an “Oh yeah? Hold my beer”), but that kind of baffling episode last week when noted musician Moby asserted definite insider knowledge of Russians having blackmail material on President Godfuckinghelpusall was, while far from a new and dizzying height of strangeness, certainly an amusing diversion. Here are his FB posts; I’d be loathe to accidentally misrepresent his words by paraphrasing:
 

 

 
It’s pretty hard to argue with much of that second post, and you can’t say he didn’t totally call it on Michael Flynn with a few hours to spare, though it may be a sign of encroaching Trump fatigue (if anything ever needed a long German portmanteau word, THAT’S IT) that my bigger takeaway from that was “How cool of a Dangerous Minds post would it be if Moby actually was into making balloon animals?” Moby, if that’s for real, please get in touch.

But still, this prompts, um, QUESTIONS. I don’t think it’s such a foregone conclusion that a pop musician couldn’t possibly know someone with such information and a willingness to gossip about it, but wouldn’t you think that someone possessing evidence of foreign blackmailers with a grip on the West Wing might find it more utile to share that with an investigative journalist or a prosecutor instead of, you know, MOBY?

But there’s news from the musician of a less cloak-and-dagger nature. That long-lived and celebrated unit Tunnelmental Experimental Assembly have done a new remix of Moby & The Void Pacific Choir’s “Don’t Leave Me,” that single from last fall’s These Systems are Failing with the incongruously animal-rightsy video to accompany the song’s plaintive breakup lyrics. Tunnelmental’s version is a good bit noisier and more aggressive than the already headstrong original, and the man himself seems to be pleased, telling DM “I love this Tunnelmental remix, and that I’m now in the Psychic TV, Killing Joke club of people who’ve received Tunnelmental remixes.” For Tunnelmental’s part, producer Nigel Mitchell’s comment was a good bit more verbose:

We all see things differently, so when Derek [Pippert, producer/beat doctor] and I work on a remix we use our experience as songwriters as well as our producer skills. We paint a “tunnelmental” picture from pieces of someone else’s painting, it’s like “collage” art where you get to add your own colours and shapes to form an alternative piece of art. We have the greatest respect for artists and it is an honour when they entrust us with their art. Remixing an artist like Moby’s music is a fun challenge, his work is already so good, you really have to channel that original and find an innovative way to make it your own without losing the original creative energy.

 
Listen after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Pleasure Goat: The art of the fake magazine cover
02.23.2017
08:26 am

Topics:
Amusing
Art

Tags:
satire
magazines
Sean Tejaratchi


A fake magazine designed by Sean Tejaratchi.
 
Many of you may be well acquainted with the brilliant work of graphic designer and writer Sean Tejaratchi—and as it had sadly been a while since I had visited his awesome Liar Town USA Tumblr. When I did I found it hard to stop clicking on his ludicrous faux books and other odd yet authentic looking magazines and found myself wishing that there was a website that featured photos of things that Marilyn Monroe kicked.

As couldn’t stop yucking it up over at Liar Town USA I thought I’d share a few of my favorite fictional magazines that Tejaratchi put together, most of which center around inappropriate knitwear and unexpected orgasms. Two things that when they appear in the same sentence sound like a great premise for a publication, don’t you think? Someone, please get on that immediately. That said many of the images that follow are NSFW.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
‘A for ABBA’: The story of the Swedish sensation as told by John Peel, 1993
02.23.2017
07:46 am

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:
John Peel
ABBA


 
International superstars though they may have been, the members of ABBA were not, individually, all that fascinating. If you think the group identity that emerges during, say, their medley of “Pick a Bale of Cotton,” “On Top of Old Smokey,” and “Midnight Special” is less than exciting, check out what Agnetha, Björn, Benny, and Anni-Frid had to say when they met representatives of the press in their capacity as persons. I’m not just being snotty. As I understand it, the absence of personality is a key part of ABBA’s appeal, and I’m all for it. Zero subjectivity—let’s go! In the same way Kraftwerk audiences greet robotic simulacra of Ralf and Florian with ten times the enthusiasm they muster for the actual human beings in the group, I’m counting the days until I can buy tickets to hologram ABBA, even though I probably would not get out of my chair to see plain old meatbag ABBA reform. The collective, or in this case the brand, is everything.

But the ABBA brand itself could not talk to journalists, and compelling TV the meatbags’ interviews did not make. Into this void, BBC cast John Peel, duded up in smarter attire than wardrobe provided on other occasions. Enlivening the proceedings with Peel in this 1993 retrospective were Ray Davies, Elvis Costello, Roy Wood, and Ian McCulloch. Generous helpings of these and other interview subjects, plus clips of ABBA parodies from Not the Nine O’Clock News and French and Saunders, make A for ABBA (in homage to the 1985 TV special A for Agnetha?) the best encapsulation of the band’s story for those of us who are grouchy, impatient, and easily bored.
 

 
One thing we cultural anthropologists of the amazing future year 2017 know that contemporary viewers of this program did not: the lone ABBA LP in John Peel’s collection was their disco record, Voulez-Vous. An orthodox ABBA fan, Peel asserts in A for ABBA that Stig Anderson was the group’s fifth member, ignoring the heresy of the Tretowist deviation. Without discipline, the party of ABBA is nothing!

More ABBA after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
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