“The Wanna Be Oddie” is a short animated film made by Ben Lam as his MFA project at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. In it, he masterfully appropriates certain qualities of vintage, black and white animation, then updates them with 3D graphics and a kooky homage to Transformers, for one of the most charming animations I’ve seen in some time. Thoroughly modern, yet retro (in the best sense), too.
When I was a little kid, I used to collect silent movie comedies on Super 8 film from Blackhawk Films. I’d project them on the wall in my parent’s basement and I’d watch them over and over again. I really studied them and I must say, Ben Lam must’ve watched the same stuff, because he really perfectly abstracts and captures the “vintageness” (and all that would imply) of Chaplin, Keaton, Harold Lloyd, early Mickey Mouse, Ub Iwerks and Max Fleischer cartoons. He didn’t just slap a scratch filter over his animation, in other words, there’s some organic magic happening here that really puts his work at the head of the class. When you get the small details right, the bigger picture is so much more vivid.
Even in this crappy job market, I’m sure a talent like Ben’s was snapped up by the likes of Pixar, post haste. If this was a Coca-Cola commercial and only the difference was that the vending machine and bottles were red and sported logos, not much would change, and it would still be just as great.
Stated differently, If advertising was this cool, I wouldn’t tune it out.
“Come Fly With Me” by Larry Tee and the Love Machine, is yet another of the low budgetmusic videos I co-directed with Alan Henderson in the 80s. The video for this club kid anthem featured RuPaul, Lady Bunny, Lahoma Van Zandt, “Party Monster” Michael Alig, Vanity Fair‘s George Wayne, Justine Cooper, Amy Mellon, DJ Keoki, and many more people whose names I can’t recall. The brunette with the great eyes later played Jerry Seinfeld’s girlfriend in a few episodes of Seinfeld. I think this was made in 1989.
The “Kaleidoscope” digital effects device was new on the market then and we used the crap out of it, here. This was made and mastered on analog tape. It’s not impressive now, but before you had After Effects, you had to be a maniac to attempt something like this. Larry Tee was later responsible for RuPaul’s “Supermodel” song and is an in-demand DJ and remixer who has recently worked with Lady Gaga. The infectious bassline sample is from “Reach Out in the Darkness” by Friend & Lover.
I’ve never watched a soap opera in my life. But if this is what I’ve been missing, I suddenly feel a sense of loss and deprivation. This clip from The Guiding Light is like something concocted by John Waters in the midst of a Sirkian wet dream.
Apparently, this scene thrust actress Kim Zimmer into the realm of soap opera super stardom and won her a Daytime Emmy Award. She deserved it.
Just thought I would check in and report on how it’s going on the other side of the world on this momentous day. And I just LOVE this “Prairie-Dog Rapture” pic! Well, so far so good… unless you are a fundie, I guess. No sign of any earthquakes or bodies being mysteriously sucked up into the sky. Yet. There’s still two hours to go ‘til the official kick-off time so you never know, it might happen, but reports from the expanses of the planet that have already hit that 6pm deadline report nothing unusual. Oh, wait, there WERE a couple of earthquakes in the Pacific, but they were small (3-4 on the Richter scale, surely not God bothering size?) and apparently there tends to be a small earthquake somewhere in the Pacific every day anyway.
I am in Ireland at the moment and interestingly (for such a predominantly Catholic country) no one seems too fussed by this whole rapture malarky. Maybe the populace have had other things to think about. This week has seen a royal visit by Queen Elizabeth, the first visit to this isle of a British monarch since Ireland fought for, and won, independence way back in 1922. Now THAT is a momentous occasion. People who would normally be described as “patriots” and who within their own lifetimes have seen periods of real animosity against the British were seen cooing and ahhing at the British monarch’s presence. There were protests, of course, but the turnouts were small, estimated at around the 200 mark. This is what they looked like from the inside:
By all accounts the visit was a roaring success. Liz had a tour of ghostly Dublin, where roads were blocked off to keep people away from her highness. She was brought to Croke Park, the 80,000+ capacity sports arena that has a very special significance in the history of Irish nationalism. Bought by the Gaelic Athletics Association in 1913, it was used to encourage the playing of indigenous sports hurling and Gaelic football (at a time when the country was under strict British rule) and was seen as a hotbed of anti-British conspiracy by the then powers-that-be. It was at Croke Park that the infamous original Bloody Sunday occurred in 1921 when, in retaliation for a number of assassinations by the IRA, the British army and the Royal Irish Constabulary indiscriminately shot into the crowd during a Dublin-Tipperary football match killing 13 spectators and the Tipperary football captain. It was this incident that turned the tide of the war of independence against the British and ultimately led to the withdrawal of British troops from most of the island. The fact that the Queen visited this specific arena says a lot about how far relations between the Irish and the English have come in the resulting ninety years.
Her Madge also stopped off at the Coolmore Stud, the world’s largest breeding centre for thoroughbred horses, and in Cork city made a visit to its famous English Market. That bit was of particular significance to me, as my mother’s family have had a fruit and vegetable stall there for over 100 years. The English Market is a beautiful, hidden treasure in the vastly under-rated city (Cork is MUCH nicer than Dublin!) and could dearly use a boost in visits and trade in this era of multinationalization.
The English Market - the white haired man is my uncle.
Even more excitingly though, for me and a lot of people other people anyway, on Monday we will be being graced by a visit from President of the United States and the First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama. It’s only a flying visit really, as he is on his way to the UK for 4 days, but while here he will be travelling to County Offaly to look up some of his ancestors, and giving a public address on College Green in Dublin city centre. I expect the turn out for this to be very strong, and even though there will be a stepped up security presence, I really don’t think he has anything to worry about. In fact I think he will be greeted by a very warm Irish welcome, something that eluded President Bush a few years back. I won’t be here then, unfortunately, but the Irish media will be supplying day-long rolling coverage of his visit if you are interested in watching. I expect there to be protests too, but they will most likely be Queen-sized.
Anyway, so where was I… oh yes! The Rapture. Hmm, well there’s still a bit of time to kill before believers get hoovered up (or not). If there is any breaking news on this side of the pond I will dutifully report it. Or I might not actually, preferring to spend that time with my family. But for some reason or other all day I just haven’t been able to get this bloody song out of my mind. Any ideas why? Answers in a comment to the usual address…
Drag artiste John Epperson as his glamorous alter ego “Lypsinka” performing at The Tiffany Theatre in Los Angeles, 2001. Lypsinka! The Boxed Set was the winner of the LA Weekly’s “Best Solo Performance Award” that year. This video is a great look at a brilliant performer, really on fire here.
Say what you will about Facebook but the fact that I can befriend life long heroes such as Zappa/Beefheart LP sleeve designer / visual muse Cal Schenkel and get a glimpse of his middle-of-it-all perspective is a wonderful by-product of selling out my privacy to gawd-knows who, really. Cal was gracious and generous enough to allow me to share these marvelous snapshots he took in 1968 at Zappa’s Laurel Canyon compound, known as The Log Cabin which once stood at the corner of Canyons Laurel and Lookout. The basement jam session here was also well documented in John French’s recent book as well as Bill Harkleroad’s Lunar Notes, which I quote here in order to give a small sense of what we’re looking at:
It turns out Frank was trying to put together this Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus thing, which The Stones later put together without him. I don’t know how many Rolling Stones were there at the time, but Mick Jagger certainly was, as were The Who and Marianne Faithfull. She was so ripped she was drooling - but what a babe - I was star struck! It was funny because Jagger really didn’t mean a whole lot to me at that point. I’d played all their tunes in various bands. To me he really wasn’t a signer - he was a “star”. But when I actually met him, all I can remember thinking is, “How could you be a star? You’re too little!” ....I ended up in this jam session in a circle of people about six or seven feet apart and we’re playing Be-Bop-a-Lu-La”! Done was to my immediate left wearing his big madhatter hat and to his immediate left was Mick Jagger and right around the circle all these people were playing, Frank included. So I’m jamming with these guys almost too nervous to be able to move or breathe. I started to ease up after I noticed that Jagger seemed to be equally intimidated. Then we went into Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ & Tumblin’” and a couple of blues things and that was it. It was such a strange experience - somehow just out of nowhere I’m down in Hollywood meeting Frank Zappa and this whole entourage of famous people like Jagger, Marianne Faithful [sic] and Pete Townshend. What an audition! There I was 19 years old and I’m very taken with these big important people.
Don Van Vliet and Mick Jagger
FZ and Miss Christine
More photos and a link to Cal’s online shop after the jump…
Two of the planet’s most dangerous minds, Timothy Leary and Paul Krassner, meet in a video shot by Nancy Cain, Paul’s wife, a few months before Leary’s death.
There is an aura of sadness (perhaps mine) laced with much humor and hope in this intimate video. Understandably wistful and distracted at times (he’s dying), Leary becomes most alive when talking about death. He seems to be genuinely excited about exploring the psychedelic possibilities of the final frontier (or is it?), the ultimate out-of-body experience, THE death trip. In these moments you see the fearless shaman who always embraced expanding his realities, regardless of public outcry or legal persecution. And it is both moving and inspiring.
In an e-mail message to Dangerous Minds, Nancy reminisced about Leary and that day in September of 1995:
Paul and Timothy had been friends since the early days at Millbrook when the famous LSD experiments took place. Now that Timothy had inoperable prostate cancer that was moving into his bones, we stopped by more often to visit him at his home up Laurel Canyon. Even though he was not well, Timothy was ever the perfect host. On the afternoon of this interview I had tagged along, and Paul and Tim were happy to have me record what would probably be one of the last times they would be together. Paul interviewed Tim. I could feel the sweetness and the warmth that they felt for each other. The back and forth and banter was wonderful. Tim’s remarks about technology and the future still seem fresh and innovative today.
Among other visits with Tim in Laurel Canyon, I recall one Sunday afternoon with guests Ed Moses, the painter, Harry Dean Stanton, the actor, and Aline Getty, the heiress (by marriage). Aline was currently touring with Timothy, doing college gigs. They had a traveling psychedelic video show and gave a talk on the subject of death. They were both near it. Death, that is. Aline had AIDS and Tim had senility (so he said). They did a flashy good show, which I had seen at Chapman College in Orange County. That afternoon Aline was playing us the videotape that she and Tim shot the previous week when they were busted at the airport in Dallas for smoking a cigarette inside the terminal. They set the whole thing up (perhaps more of an art event, I thought), arriving in a silver stretch limo and video of them looking around the airport for a police officer to light up in front of. The nice young cop said, “Oh, please go outside to smoke—don’t do this—you give me no choice.” So Aline and Tim were busted and carted off to a place where the camcorder couldn’t go. They were the first, I think, to get popped for any nicotine-related crime, other than Connie Francis (smoking on an actual airplane). I think it was quite satisfying for them. Especially for Aline. Tim, after all, had already had some rather more astonishingly terrifying adventures, including escaping from prison and being a fugitive.
On an afternoon not long before he died, I recall Tim asking each of his guests to join him in a balloonful of nitrous oxide. At first I said no, but Timothy pointed out, “Why not?” He shuffled over to his closet carrying a gigantic wrench, pulled back the sliding door and revealed the hugest tank of nitrous I had ever seen.
During the political conventions in 1972 in Miami, there was a lot of nitrous. We had what they called E-tanks full of the gas. Hudson Marquez, of TVTV, scored it by posing as a whipped-cream artist. Nitrous is used to propel whipped cream, which I hadn’t known until then. An E-tank of nitrous, which is the size you see at the dentist’s office, is heavy but it can be carried. The tank in Timothy Leary’s closet would need to be moved on a dolly. Anyway, Timmy took his wrench to the thing and expertly filled the first balloon. “Here ya go. Take it back over to the bed so you can fall back if you like. But wait till we all get there so we can do it together.” We had our twenty seconds that day.
On the day Timothy Leary died, Friday May 31, 1996, on Channel 9 they said it happened a few moments after midnight. The news crew interviewed a friend who was standing out on Timothy’s driveway. She said that he suddenly sat up in his bed and said, “Why?” Then a moment later, “Why not?” He seemed excited and he died. Channel 9 then showed a recent clip of Timothy standing outside a club on Hollywood Boulevard wearing a jazzy black and white sport jacket. On TV, Timothy was disregarding the reporter altogether and looking directly into the camera. “Don’t ask me anything,” Timothy was saying. “Think for yourself.” Then he added, “And question authority!”
We’re pleased to share Nancy Cain’s video of Paul Krassner interviewing Timothy Leary (October 22, 1920 – May 31, 1996) on September 5, 1995 in its entirety.
For insight on the cultural impact of video read Nancy’s fascinatingly informative “Video Days.”
Paul Krassner’s homepage is a motherlode of wit, insight, provocation and counterculture history. Indispensable.
If you generally detest today’s pop music, you may be sick of hearing Janelle Monae’s name so much. And considering that she’s firmly inside the music industry machine, it’d be hard to blame you.
But unlike many women in the pop and R&B realm, the girl has pretty confidently determined and shaped her own music and visual style. Synthesizing new rock and traditional soul into the kind of futuristic brew her foreparents David Bowie and Grace Jones served up back in the day, Monae’s still got the aesthetic zeitgeist at her back.
Let’s hope she retains the integrity and panache shown below. This video is excerpted from an appearance she made in the summer of 2007, just as she released her first EP on her Wondaland Arts Society label. And even though she was already officially signed to the megalith Bad Boy label, she saw fit to play the independent Criminal Records store in the Little 5 Points district of her adopted Atlanta hometown with her guitarist Kellindo Parker. Aaaand she tore it up.
Whatever happens to Monae’s career going forward—sometimes it pays to brace for disappointment, sell-out fuckery, etc.—we’ll be able to recount a time when she seemed like the future of pop. Go girl.