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Muppets with people eyes still haunt my dreams
04.16.2018
10:12 am
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This morning I legitimately woke with an image of Kermit the Frog with soulless stoner eyes staring through my soul, wondering if I was remembering a terrifying image I had actually seen on if it was conjured in the darkest nightmare-worlds of the subconscious. It bothered me enough to do a google search to jog my memory, and I was relieved to learn that I’m not actually losing my mind—Muppets With People Eyes is (or was) an actual thing.

Rewinding to eight years ago, a tumblr page with that title appeared and quickly got its fifteen minutes of fame. In this case, it was almost literally fifteen minutes. The page, created by WONDER-TONIC only lasted for about two weeks in 2010. After eleven posts, I suppose the novelty wore off, but these images—I dare say—are timelessly horrific.

There’s an “uncanny valley” quality about slapping realistic human eyes onto slightly humanoid-but-not-really forms. Our brains—or at least mine—immediately perceive such visages as foreign and threatening. The ones that don’t look straight-up terrifying, look… somehow… HIGH AS FUCK.

Muppets with People Eyes might be old news to some of our readers—possibly not to some of our younger readers. If you have never seen these off-putting images before, be forewarned: you too may awaken from a dream, a decade later, wondering if the images that haunt you are imagined… or real-life crap from the Internet.
 

 

 
More Muppets with people eyes after the jump…

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Posted by Christopher Bickel
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04.16.2018
10:12 am
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What Mark E. Smith liked: Lou Reed, Sex Pistols, Frank Zappa, Philip K. Dick & Kurt Vonnegut, a list
04.04.2018
12:18 pm
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When asked what he would do if he was ever elected Prime minister, Mark E. Smith replied:

“I’d halve the price of cigarettes, double the tax on health food, then I’d declare war on France.”

Daft questions got daft answers. Smart ones were few and far between. Most questions were recycled answers from previous interviews. No matter the question, Smith always stayed true to what he thought was right and what he believed in—he never softened his answer to suit more fashionably sensitive times. That’s what made his band the Fall so special—it led, it never followed, even if it was just Smith and “your granny on bongos.”

Among the more interesting questions came in 1981, when the NME asked Smith for a list of his favorite things. The list was for the paper’s column “Portrait of the Artist as a Consumer” which centered around the idea the way to the heart of artist was through the food their brains consumed. Or something like that… In his answers, Smith offered up an eclectic mix of genre and cult writers—including Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick, Norman Mailer and two novels by Colin Wilson; artists, in which he includes soccer player-cum-manager, Malcolm Allison; comedians where he gives a nod to “Ian Curtis derivatives,” Bernard Manning and drag artist/comedian/actor Alan (Alana) Pellay; and some of his favorite albums/cassettes. All of which ran as follows in the NME 15th August 1981:

READS

Gulcher—Richard Meltzer
A Small Town in Germany—John Le Carré
A Scanner Darkly—Philip K. Dick
The Sirens of Titan—Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
The Deer Park—Norman Mailer
The Black Room—Colin Wilson
Ritual in the Dark—Colin Wilson
Cogan’s Trade—George V. Higgins
At the Mountains of Madness—H.P. Lovecraft
Beyond Good and Evil—Frederich Nietzsche

....AND

U.S. Civil War Handbook—William H. Price
How I Created Modern Music—D. McCulloch (a weekly serial)
True Crime Monthly
Private Eye
Fibs About M.E. Smith by J. Cope (a pamphlet)


WRITERS

Claude Bessy
Burroughs


ART

Wyndham Lewis
Malcolm Allison
Virgin Prunes Manchester live, Manchester Dec. ’77


COMEDIANS

Lenny Bruce
Alan Pellay
Bernard Manning
All Ian Curtis derivatives


FILMS

Polanski’s Macbeth
Mel Brooks’ High Anxiety
Fellini’s Roma
The Man with X-Ray Eyes and The Lost Weekend starring Ray Milland
Visconti’s The Damned
Days of Wine and Roses with Jack Lemmon
Charlie Bubbles with Albert Finney


TV

Bluey
John Cleese adverts


MUSIC

Take No Prisoners—Lou Reed
Peter Hammill
Johnny Cash
The Panther Burns
God Save the Queen—The Sex Pistols
Raw and Alive—The Seeds
Pebbles Vol. 3—Various
16 Greatest Truck Driver Hits cassette
Radio City—Philip Johnson (cassette)
Der Plan
Alternative TV
Land of the Homo Jews and Hank Williams Was Queer, live—Fear (L.A. Group)
We’re Only In It for the Money—Mothers of Invention

 
MES on interviewers ‘waging war on you with your own words,’ after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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04.04.2018
12:18 pm
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Ian MacKaye’s article on DC skateboarding for Thrasher magazine, 1983
04.04.2018
09:04 am
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All photos by Glen E. Friedman
 
A few months ago, I told you about the Cedar Crest Country Club and the importance it played within DC’s skate punk scene. The political climate of the capital in the early eighties inspired a revolution significant of the times, one that would continue to influence underground culture up until present day. And we have Ian Mackaye to thank for much of it.

The origins of skateboarding are rooted in Southern California surf, but many can say its attitude came from DC punk. Bands like Government Issue, Bad Brains, SOA, and of course Minor Threat, brought a much needed edge to the sport, substituting the sunny beaches with grit and concrete. The only issue was, in DC there was nowhere to skate. So, the punks had to improvise. Later in 1986, the ramp at Cedar Crest Country Club opened, a steel halfpipe oasis just an hour outside the city.

In October 1983, Ian MacKaye, founder of Dischord Records and frontman of Minor Threat, Fugazi, Embrace, and Teen Idles, penned a “scene report” for skateboarding magazine, Thrasher. The article, set to describe the skate vibe of the nation’s capital, characterizes Ian not as a hardcore punk legend, but rather as a DC kid who lives to skateboard. The young MacKaye was a member of ragtag boarding crew Team Sahara, along with another punk forefather, Henry Garfield (now known as “Henry Rollins”). Ian’s piece is a nice little snapshot of the spirit of skate culture during the era; his feature goes on to describe the team’s favorite ramps, a legendary wipeout by Rollins, their first empty pool, and an infamous team session at the Annandale halfpipe. Also in the issue is a photo spread of vertical sequences, a story on a Swedish skate camp, competitions in Del Mar and Oceanside, and a music piece on a punk band called The Faction.

Read Ian MacKaye’s article in Thrasher magazine, along with a complete transcript below:
 

 
Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Bennett Kogon
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04.04.2018
09:04 am
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Polaroids from ‘Return of the Jedi’

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Harrison Ford wanted his character, Han Solo, to die in Return of the Jedi. Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan agreed. Kasdan thought Solo’s death would freak out the audience and make ‘em appreciate no one was safe. George Lucas nixed the idea. Lucas wanted Return of the Jedi to deliver a huge payload from merchandising and as Ford later explained, “George didn’t think there was any future in dead Han toys.”

Merchandising was certainly one influence in making of Return of the Jedi. Stars Wars merchandise had given Lucas a “Golden Ticket” and he was determined to use it to get everything he wanted. Lucas had ambitions to use this money to fund his dream of an independent studio, Skywalker Ranch. It’s long been discussed by fans as to just how much Lucas changed things to help him achieve his ambitions. Keeping Solo alive was one. Changing the Ewoks from butt-ugly lizards to cutesy teddy bears was another. As were the multiple feel-good endings—something probably inspired by the double-ending of Oscar-winner Chariots of Fire. At one point in its development, Return of the Jedi closed on Luke Skywalker wandering off into the sunset like a war-weary samurai. In another, he turned to the Dark Side after the death of his father Darth Vader. These were a bit too downbeat for Lucas who wanted to make a “kid’s film.”

Aside from the merchandising and “Nub Yub,” Lucas had some far-out suggestions for the film’s director. He originally wanted Steven Spielberg, which is understandable, but then he offered the film to David Lynch and then David Cronenberg which would have been pretty awesome if one or the other had signed-up. They both turned the offer down. It was eventually given to BBC TV director Richard Marquand to helm, as Lucas wanted a safe pair of hands as he thought movie-making really happened in the cutting-room. It’s also been long rumored Marquand didn’t direct all of the film as he had a difficult relationship with the cast.

Return of the Jedi merchandise made Lucas gazillions. It may not be the best of the first three Star Wars movies made but it is a damned sight better than some of those that were made afterward.

As any fule no, during a movie’s production, make-up and wardrobe take Polaroids of cast members in their different costumes and slap to ensure continuity. Here’s a little collection of continuity Polaroids featuring Luke, Hans, Princess Leia, and co.
 
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More on-set Polaroids, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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04.02.2018
09:08 am
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What Netflix might have looked like in 1995
03.27.2018
10:38 am
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Everything would look better if it were made in the ‘90s, right? No? Nostalgia for the heartwarming simplicity of early technology has, in recent years, had many of us reimagining what our lives would look like if certain present day inventions or creations had existed just a decade prior. You may recall the tongue-in-cheek parody commercial on “The Facebook” that came out a few years ago. Presented in late night television “friend-helping-friend” format, the ad explores the hypothetical, crude components of the social media platform pre-DSL, pre-selfies, even pre-Cambridge Analytica.
 

 
Retro-nerd YouTube channel Squirrel Monkey has captured the very essence of nineties-style “new technology” videos with its latest presentation on the online movie platform, Netflix. Founded just two years after the spoof is intended to take place, in 1995, the video is a how-to introduction to streaming movies through the website. Obviously, things would have been much different back then and this video does a pretty excellent job of capturing the nuances of the not-so-distant past. In a nutshell, in order to watch your favorite films online, you will need a fast computer (Windows ‘95 preferable), a reliable dial-up connection, and have to sign up to receive their Welcome Package, an homage to the free AOL CD-ROMS that littered the decade. But after everything is said and done, don’t expect to “Netflix and Chill” at ease. As you would probably predict, the quality of the stream would either be indistinguishably slow, or it would take nearly half the day to load!
 
Watch Squirrel Monkey’s ‘Streaming Netflix movies in 1995’ after these stills:
 

 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Bennett Kogon
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03.27.2018
10:38 am
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Comics from Hell: Before Video Nasties and Splatterpunk there was the gory horror of ‘Weird’
03.26.2018
09:15 am
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Cheap, nasty, gruesome, and revolting, blah, blah, blah. And these were just the good points of Eerie Comics’ gory publication Weird which ran for 69 issues between 1966 and 1981.

The brainchild of “gun-toting” publisher Myron Fass and editor Carl Burgos who “ground his axe against the entire comics industry,” Weird rehashed pre-code comic strips with violent, shocking, blood-splattered tales of Frankenstein’s monster, “Sewer Werewolves,” “Flesh-rippers.” and the “Horrorama of Squirming Demons and Vampires.”

Taking its lead from EC’s Tales from the Crypt and Warren’s Creepy, Weird eschewed any pretence for good taste and decorum and aimed straight at the teenage jugular. It literally chewed the face off its competition with nasty, badly-drawn tales of the most gruesome excesses—cannibalism, torture, murder, and sordid occult rites. If there is a need to show evidence that brutal horror does not corrupt innocent minds, then may I present Exhibit A.: Weird.
 
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More cheap ‘n’ nasty horror covers, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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03.26.2018
09:15 am
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You can own Andy Warhol, Jack Kerouac and Jimi Hendrix’s apartment doors from the Chelsea Hotel
03.23.2018
09:44 am
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We here at Dangerous Minds have written about a LOT of peculiar and astonishing auctions. Just from memory: Elvis’ pill bottles (twice), Marilyn Monroe’s hair and her pelvic x-rays (separately), John Lennon’s school detention records, a motorcycle from Easy Rider, a guitar destroyed by a member of the Misfits, claymation figures from a Zappa video, Alice Cooper’s prop guillotine, the actual Maltese Falcon… The list goes on for quite a while, but we may have reached the apotheosis or nadir of weird specificity today: coming up for exhibit and auction next month are celebrity apartment doors.

The Hotel Chelsea on West 23rd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues is one of the great landmarks of New York City’s rapidly disappearing Bohemian culture. Built and opened as a co-op in 1884, and re-opened as a hotel in 1905, it has served both short and long-term residents, and its register of long-timers is basically an absurdly long list of incredibly accomplished people in the worlds of letters (Mark Twain, Arthur C. Clarke, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, basically all of the beats), music (Iggy Pop, Cher, Patti Smith, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Janis Joplin, and the Chelsea Girl herself, Nico), and visual art (Robert Mapplethorpe, Diego Rivera, Robert Crumb). Madonna photographed her infamous Sex book there. Sid (maybe) killed Nancy there. Andy Warhol famously made a really long, formally experimental film about its residents, and if you get a chance to see it screened as was intended do not pass it up.

There’s a Jon Bon Jovi song about it too. Can’t win ‘em all.

Even if seemingly everyone who’d ever been awesome in the 20th Century hadn’t lived there, it’d be an architectural treasure, and it’s been closed (except to long-term residents, obviously) for several years for long-needed renovations; it’s supposed to re-open later this year. Those years of renovation are where we come around to the forthcoming auction: specific doors known to have belonged on the rooms of various notables are going on exhibit on April 5th at the Ricco/Maresca Gallery (529 W. 20th, so basically a stone’s throw away from their original home), and they’ll be auctioned off by Guernsey’s on April 12th. Doors verified to specific individuals so far include those of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Janis Joplin, Jack Kerouac, Thomas Wolfe,  Jackson Pollock, and Andy Warhol. More may be identified as research into the doors’ provenance continues, according to Guernsey’s:

Through exhaustive research, roughly half of these large wooden doors can be traced to the iconic individuals who lived behind them. And although the research is continuing, it is expected that some doors can only be confirmed to be from the Hotel without a more precise personal connection. But even in those cases, owning a piece of Chelsea history is significant. Indeed, behind these doors lived the talented and famous (and infamous like Sid Vicious), where the Hotel served as home, workplace, artist’s retreat, hideaway, and love nest for the hippest, most talented, and most outrageous.

The doors are being consigned by one Mr. Jim Georgiou, a one-time Chelsea resident who took it upon himself to rescue the artifacts. Per his instruction, a portion of the proceeds from the auction will benefit City Harvest, a pioneering food-rescue non-profit (Mr. Georgiou himself once suffered a period of homelessness and hunger). If the prospect of owning a hero’s apartment door appeals to you but you can’t be in New York on April 12th, absentee bidding will be conducted on liveauctioneers.com and invaluable.com. Good luck to all who plan to bid.
 

Andy Warhol
 

Humphrey Bogart
 

Bob Marley
 
More doors after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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03.23.2018
09:44 am
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‘Behind the Mask’: Michael Jackson’s posthumous cover of the Yellow Magic Orchestra


 
We learned a lot from the insane Quincy Jones interview from a couple weeks back. To recap, and this is all according to an unfiltered 84-year-old Quincy Jones, the Beatles were notoriously bad musicians, Marlon Brando and Richard Pryor were lovers, Chicago mobster Sam Giancana killed JFK, and… Jones once dated a twenty-four-year old Ivanka Trump. Probably the greatest reveal of them all, however, was about Michael Jackson, whom Jones worked with as the pop star’s producer.

Immediately into the interview, Quincy declares Jackson to have been “as Machiavellian as they come,” alleging that he would steal material from other artists for his own personal gain. More specifically, Michael Jackson supposedly stole the riff from Donna Summer’s “The State of Independence” for his smash hit “Billie Jean.” Vangelis and Jon Anderson from Yes originally wrote “The State of Independence,” which was covered and popularized by Summer the following year. Quincy Jones arranged an all-star cast of guest vocalists for the newly revamped track, Michael Jackson being one of them.

Bizarrely enough, “Billie Jean” wasn’t the only song with supposedly “borrowed” material intended for Jackson’s 1982 best-selling album, Thriller. In the early eighties, Quincy Jones discovered a song that he felt could work well for Michael Jackson’s upcoming record. That track was “Behind the Mask” by Japanese electronic synthpop pioneers, the Yellow Magic Orchestra. The song was originally a synth instrumental written for a 1978 Seiko quartz wristwatch commercial. YMO later re-recorded the track, with lyrics written by British poet Chris Mosdell and vocals performed by songwriter Ryuichi Sakamoto using a vocoder. The song appeared on Yellow Magic Orchestra’s highly influential 1979 record Solid State Survivor in Japan, and their ×∞Multiplies album in the US and Europe.
 

The first version of ‘Behind the Mask,’ recorded for a Seiko wristwatch commercial
 

The classic, album version of ‘Behind the Mask’ by Yellow Magic Orchestra
 
Jackson liked the “Behind the Mask” and agreed to record his own version of it during the Thriller sessions. With Sakamoto’s permission, additional lyrics and an extra melody line were added to Jackson’s version. The new lyrical content turned the focus to Jackson’s girlfriend, who he felt would often hide her emotions behind a symbolic “mask.” Conceptually, this was much to the contrary of the original YMO version, which contained a discordant thematic approach to “the mask.” Lyricist Chris Mosdell had this to say about the adjusted context:

“When Michael Jackson took it, he made it into a love song about a woman. It was a completely different premise to me, I was talking about a very impersonal, socially controlled society, a future technological era, and the mask represented that immobile, unemotional state. But hey, I let him have that one.”

 

 
Michael Jackson’s “Behind the Mask” was an anticipated smash hit and made the final cut for Thriller. A royalties dispute involving YMO’s management and Sakamoto, Mosdell, and Jackson ended up preventing the track from getting released. It wasn’t for another 28 years that a reworked version of “Behind the Mask” would be released…

More after the jump…

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Posted by Bennett Kogon
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03.06.2018
09:32 am
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‘Bare-ass naked’: The KLF and the live stage production of Robert Anton Wilson’s ‘Illuminatus!’


Prunella Gee as Eris in ‘Illuminatus!’ (via Liverpool Confidential)

In 1976, the Science Fiction Theatre of Liverpool mounted a 12-hour stage production of Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus! Trilogy. It was a fateful event in the life of the show’s set designer, Bill Drummond, for reasons he’s detailed in the Guardian: for one thing, it was in connection with Illuminatus! and its director, Ken Campbell, that Drummond first heard about the eternal conflict between the Illuminati, who may secretly control the world, and the Justified Ancients of Mummu, or the JAMs, who may be agents of chaos disrupting the Illuminati’s plans. (Recall that in Illuminatus!, the MC5 record “Kick Out The Jams” at the behest of the Illuminati, as a way of taunting the Justified Ancients—or so John Dillinger says.)

Before they were known as the KLF, Drummond and Jimmy Cauty called themselves the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, appropriating the name for the eschaton-immanentizing hip-hop outfit they started in 1987. Over the next few years, they seized the pop charts and filled the airwaves with disorienting, Discordian hits, until a day came when you could flip on the TV and find Tammy Wynette singing “Stand By The JAMs,” or Martin Sheen narrating the KLF’s reenactment of the end of The Wicker Man.
 

Bill Drummond in Big in Japan, live at Eric’s (via @FromEricsToEvol)
 
After the Liverpool run of Illuminatus!, Drummond rebuilt his sets for the London production, but he suddenly bailed on the show, walking out hours before it was to open. I guess he missed the nude cameo appearance Robert Anton Wilson describes in Cosmic Trigger, Volume I:

On November 23, 1976—a sacred Discordian holy day, both because of the 23 and because it is Harpo Marx’s birthday—a most ingenious young Englishman named Ken Campbell premiered a ten-hour adaptation of Illuminatus at the Science-Fiction Theatre of Liverpool. It was something of a success (the Guardian reviewed it three times, each reviewer being wildly enthusiastic) and Campbell and his partner, actor Chris Langham, were invited to present it as the first production of the new Cottesloe extension of the National Theatre, under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen.

This seemed to me the greatest Discordian joke ever, since Illuminatus, as I may not have mentioned before, is the most overtly anarchistic novel of this century. Shea and I quite seriously defined our purpose, when writing it, as trying to do to the State what Voltaire did to the Church—to reduce it to an object of contempt among all educated people. Ken Campbell’s adaptation was totally faithful to this nihilistic spirit and contained long unexpurgated speeches from the novel explaining at sometimes tedious length just why everything government does is always done wrong. The audiences didn’t mind this pedantic lecturing because it was well integrated into a kaleidoscope of humor, suspense, and plenty of sex (more simulated blow jobs than any drama in history, I believe). The thought of having this totally subversive ritual staged under the patronage of H.M. the Queen, Elizabeth II, was nectar and ambrosia to me.

The National Theatre flew Shea and me over to London for the premiere and I fell in love with the whole cast, especially Prunella Gee, who emphatically has my vote for Sexiest Actress since Marilyn Monroe. Some of us did a lot of drinking and hash-smoking together, and the cast told me a lot of synchronicities connected with the production. Five actors were injured during the Liverpool run, to fulfill the Law of Fives. Hitler had lived in Liverpool for five months when he was 23 years old. The section of Liverpool in which the play opened, indeed the very street, is described in a dream of Carl Jung’s recorded on page 23 of Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections. The theatre in Liverpool opened the day Jung died. There is a yellow submarine in Illuminatus, and the Beatles first sang “Yellow Submarine” in that same Liverpool Theatre. The actor playing Padre Pederastia in the Black Mass scene had met Aleister Crowley on a train once.

The cast dared me to do a walk-on role during the National Theatre run. I agreed and became an extra in the Black Mass, where I was upstaged by the goat, who kept sneezing. Nonetheless, there I was, bare-ass naked, chanting “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” under the patronage of Elizabeth II, Queen of England, and I will never stop wondering how much of that was programmed by Crowley before I was even born.

 

Robert Anton Wilson (via John Higgs)
 
In 2017, 23 years after they split up, Drummond and Cauty reunited as the JAMs. Instead of a new chart-burning house record, they released their first novel…

More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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02.27.2018
10:08 am
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‘Out There’: The Transcendent Life and Art of Burt Shonberg

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Scene: A medical facility in California, December 1960. Dr. Oscar Janiger, a research professor at the University of California-Irvine, carries out a series of investigations into the impact of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide 25, or LSD to you and me, on the creative processes. Janiger enlisted a variety of artists, writers, and actors as test patients, tasked with discovering the drug’s potency. Among those who signed-up for the trials was an artist named Burt Shonberg who had two sessions with Janiger. During his first session, Shonberg received an injection of 100ml of LSD. This led him to see a hidden structure to the universe where “Humanity is literally hypnotized by the Dream Reality of momentum caused by life (meaning external influences).”

There is an illusion of movement in life which is not the truth. This all relates to so-called time. Time is motion—is evolution. One might say that the Big Criminal in all this is identification. To be apart from the form is the answer to real vision—consciousness. To be awake is to be really alive—to really exist.

March 1961: Janiger carries out a second experiment with Shonberg upping the dose of LSD to 150ml. At first, the artist didn’t think the trip was working but suddenly he was propelled into an experience that led him to believe he had left the clinic and had witnessed an undiscovered world where giants danced in the sky. He quickly understood that this “psychedelic experience” could “possibly reach to actual magic and beyond.”

There are, of course, certain things that one experiences in the transcendental state that are not possible to communicate in the usual way, so new types of parables would have to be created to get the message through. These discoveries I refer to could be insights or revelations into various aspects of the world we live in, nature, the mind itself, the universe, reality, and God.

The experiments radically altered Shonberg and his approach to painting. He continued his own experiments with LSD which eventually led him to believe he was, in fact, a living embodiment of Baphomet—“a divine androgyne, a unification of light and darkness, male and female and the macro and microcosm,” or Aleister Crowley’s pagan, pre-Christian deity, or “the Devil in all his bestial majesty.”
 
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‘Waking State Consciousness’ (1965).
 
Burt Shonberg was born on March 30, 1933, in Revere, MA. He had a talent for art and started his artistic studies before enlisting in the U.S. Army. After his discharge in 1956, he continued his studies at the Art Center of Los Angeles. He had interest in the occult, UFOs, and horror movies, in particular, Frankenstein’s monster which was a suitable avatar for his life and work as a creature made from disparate elements with no understanding of his true significance. His paintings drew various admirers including Forrest J. Ackerman who signed him to his talent agency and introduced him to the film world. He gained respect and began painting murals for a selection of hip nightclubs and coffee houses including Theodor Bikel’s Unicorn Cafe, the Purple Onion, the Bastille, Cosmo Alley and Pandora’s Box, eventually opening his own venue Café Frankenstein in 1958 at Laguna Beach, CA, where he decorated the walls and windows with startling imagery of his favorite movie monster.

As his reputation grew, Shonberg started a relationship with Marjorie Cameron—widow of the notorious rocket pioneer, occultist, and Crowley-devotee Jack Parsons. Cameron believed she was Babalon incarnate and initiated Shonberg’s interest in magick and the occult. Together they started an artist’s colony called ERONBU—a name composed from “camERON+BUrt.” But Cameron was a “Lady Macbeth figure, with hooks in Burt that penetrated deep,” and their relationship was doomed to failure.

His mural work drew the attention of independent movie-maker Roger Corman who hired Shonberg to paint the family portraits for his film version of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher starring Vincent Price. Corman and Price (an avid art collector) were deeply enamored of Shonberg’s work, which led to more movie, magazine, and album cover commissions in the sixties and seventies.
 
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Vincent Price in front of two of Shonberg’s portraits for Roger Corman’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher.’
 
Biographer Spencer Kansa was hipped to Burt Shonberg when writing his biography of Marjorie Cameron. Kansa is an acclaimed novelist, writer, and outsider maverick who is ideally positioned to write the first major biography of Shonberg, Out There: The Transcendent Life and Art of Burt Shonberg.

Spenser Kansa: I discovered Burt’s work while I was researching my biography of Marjorie Cameron, Wormwood Star, in Los Angeles in the mid-2000s. I knew they’d been lovers but I got to meet two of Burt’s chums who raved about him and showed me some examples of his incredible artwork. And the more I got to know about him, the more I realized I just had to chronicle his life story once the Cameron biography was completed.

DM: Why do you think Shonberg is important?

SK: Firstly, he’s the pre-eminent psychedelic artist of the 1960s. Plus he’s an intriguing figure who straddles a mid-century cultural nexus that encapsulates the rise of alternative religions, the UFO phenomenon, the Beat Movement, the popularity of monster movies, sixties counterculture and psychedelia. 

DM: How did he meet Marjorie Cameron?

SK: My educated guess would be that they probably met at the Unicorn, L.A.’s first beatnik-era coffeehouse, which stood next door to what became the Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip. Burt designed its décor and menu and Cameron was known to frequent the place, as well as the bookshop upstairs.
 
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‘Self Portrait’ (1958).
 
DM: What was Shonberg’s relationship to drugs? How important were they to him?

SK: His mural work was often quite time-consuming and laborious, and amphetamines helped fuel the necessary energy he needed to complete such undertakings, without losing his concentration. He would stay up for days at a time working on pieces, and his speed usage helps explain why he was so industrious and prolific. His use of hallucinogens, firstly, peyote then LSD, sparked his inner visions, and on canvases like “Seated Figure and a Cosmic Train,” he captured his transcendent state in such a moving and powerful way that many of his contemporaries, who’d also experienced such altered states, instantly related to it. Also, it’s important not to forget that he was able to translate onto the canvas, not only the occult and Crowley-inspired themes he’d been exposed to by Cameron but some rather weighty metaphysical concepts, particularly those deriving from his deep interest in Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way system.
 
More from Spencer Kansa talking about Burt Shonberg, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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02.22.2018
12:40 pm
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