Friday, August 22, 2008

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Cliché watch: ‘___ is the Michael Phelps of ___’

“Young Jeezy: ‘Michael Phelps Is the Young Jeezy of the Swim World’ ”

Jeezy’s comment, in a Rolling Stone interview today, is brilliant in its own right. But intentionally or not, it’s also a subversion of what is fast becoming the most annoyingly overused cliché of 2008:

Museum of propaganda: ‘Have you really tried?’

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Watchmen: Owlship, and bullcrap

I missed this the other day, but another interesting making-of video has been posted to the Watchmen blog, which you can download in various formats, including HD. This one is about the Owlship, the Nite Owl/Dan Dreiberg’s crime-fightin’ craft. As we’ve come to expect, the production values here are through the roof.

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I could have done without the bogus story of location scouting, however, in which they claim to find a subterranean hangar for a mysterious flying vehicle with “circular glass lenses, peering from under the oily fabric like two owl eyes.” Fuck you, your audience is too old for this.

Museum of propaganda: ‘Someone talked!’

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Office of War Information, 1942. Artist: Frederick Siebel.

Monday, August 18, 2008

‘World’s smallest record player’

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(Via Vintage Ads.)

More on music in China

Andy Beta has a thoughtful and well-researched article on the Beijing rock scene in the new issue of Paste magazine. He interviewed me by email for it, and he has now posted my comments in full on his blog. As those who have talked to me on the subject know, I was impressed by the scrappy energy of this small scene but also think the musicians have a long way to go to define themselves:

The absence of new ideas in Chinese rock is partly due to a lack of confidence among the musicians: they haven’t fully figured out what it means to play rock music in their culture, what Chinese rock should sound like. All their musical heroes are Westerners, and they’re still making their way through that influence. It’s like England in the early ’60s: everybody’s still playing Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley covers, still learning a foreign musical language.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

‘Whoa-oh-Obama, bam-a-lam’

Filmed Aug. 9, 2008, by the ever-ingenious Du-Tels, a.k.a. Peter Stampfel and Gary Lucas, an Obama ode sung to the tune of “Black Betty”:

Obama has a vision, bam-a-lam
Obama has a dream, bam-a-lam
His shit don’t stink, bam-a-lam
We’re on his team, bam-a-lam

I don’t imagine the Obama people will pick it up, but if they did this would be the greatest campaign theme since “Ike for President” in 1952.


Click here to read my Du-Tels piece in New York Press from seven years ago.

Friday, August 15, 2008

1920s Dutch movie posters

Someone has uploaded to movieposterdb a bunch of absolutely gorgeous posters from the Netherlands in the 1920s. Here are four of them, which can be a little tricky to identify from their Dutch titles, but from top they are: Die Geschiedene Frau (“The Divorcée,” German, 1926); Maciste Imperatore (Italian, 1924, from a very interesting series); Der Geisterzug (“The Ghost Train,” 1927, based on an Arthur Ridley play that would be adapted again); and Triumph of the Rat, with Ivor Novello (1926, British).


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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sales spike for ‘Watchmen’ book

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The film trailer for “Watchmen” is proving to be a considerable boost to sales of the graphic novel the movie is based on. “As far as we can tell from our conversations with the book industry people, there has never been a trailer that did this,” said Paul Levitz, the president and publisher of DC Comics, which has printed 900,000 additional paperback copies of the novel since the trailer began running in mid-July... Mr. Levitz said “Watchmen” would have a print run of more than a million copies this year. Last year it sold about 100,000. (Link)

Also note: Dave Gibbons is writing a book called Watching the Watchmen, due in October. In it, according to the book’s Amazon page, Gibbons “gives his own account of the genesis of Watchmen ... opening his vast personal archives to reveal never-published pages, original character designs, page thumbnails, sketches and much more, including posters, covers and rare portfolio art.”

Devo LP insert, 1984

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(Via Vintage Ads.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Boredoms rumors: 9/09/09?

For various reasons, I didn’t go to the New York version of “88BOADRUM” on Friday night, which was led by Gang Gang Dance while the Boredoms themselves performed the piece in Los Angeles. “77BOADRUM,” last year, was one of the concert highlights of my life. But I knew that this one, while cool, could not compare; I’d rather hold on to the memory. (More important were conflicting social plans — I had a date with a very important 4-month-old that no number of indie drummers and freeloaders in skinny jeans was going to keep me from.)

But a source in Los Angeles tells me that when Eye was asked whether he would gather 99 drummers on 9/09/09 for a third iteration of the “BOADRUM” cycle, he had a surprising answer: 99 drummers was “too much,” but he would consider doing it with 9.

So who knows whether the show will happen, but we at least have learned one thing about Boreology: 77 is good, 88 is good, 99 is too much. I would love to know what the exact cutoff is.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Speechless

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Yern Peh Lay semakute, Thailand, 2007.

Plot summary from IMDb begins: “Yern, a bus driver, Lay, his cross-eyed best friend, and Peh, a crippled woman who sells fish at the local market are all sick of being poor. They feel the only way they will ever have a chance to be rich is to join the gang of Mafia godfather, Boss Tod.”

‘Dirty Dancing,’ Polish style

Why can’t our posters be like this?


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Friday, August 8, 2008

Olympics and the art of the state

The full opening ceremonies won’t be broadcast here until tonight (because NBC wants a prime-time audience for its $894 million investment), but the early photos are stunning. Absolutely beautiful, absolutely grand.

In the West the pre-Olympics story has been all about fear and condescension. Bracing for things to go wrong, we yell gotcha at China’s polluted skies and await the protests and the riot-gear soldiers; even our benighted president met with dissidents and publicly scolded the Chinese government over human rights. Repeat: George W. Bush criticized another nation about rights.

But China has been working hard to introduce a new, modern face, and it is doing so — boldly and with the kind of coordinated vision that simply is not possible in fragmented Western societies. China has hired some of the world’s leading architects and given them wide latitude to experiment. With bottomless labor resources the whole thing has been built pretty much from scratch in just a few years.

(I’m reminded of something I saw in Beijing last year. I was staying in a hutong hotel off a busy street, and one night my cabbie had to drop me halfway down the block; the rest of the road was swarming with a huge construction crew, under a cloud of steam and tar fumes. The next morning the road was open, and newly paved along one side. When I came back the next night it was under construction again; by morning, the other side had been paved.)

I’m amazed by the scale and unity of the Chinese displays at the opening ceremonies, and their almost classical sense of beauty and proportion. The idea, in scene after scene, is the harmony of the multitude, which in visual form means repetition of geometric shapes:

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Somehow I can’t imagine a Western nation doing this. We have big cheerleader formations and other one-out-of-many stadium dances, but I think the theme there is noise, not harmony. And the shapes on display in Beijing absorb the individual to a greater degree. Maybe as a consequence, crowd dances have never been so gorgeous.

The other visual theme is the might and size of the state:

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(Photos from NYT.)

The political message is clear enough: China is big, strong, healthy and united. But it also says something about the power of all-powerful governments to create great, or at least massive, art. Steven Heller’s new book, Iron Fists: Branding the 20th-Century Totalitarian State, looks at propaganda in Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and Communist China and Russia. We view a lot of this art as kitsch now. But the architecture, poster design and typography in those societies were in many cases the most advanced of their era; the Soviet absorption of the post-World War I Russian avant-garde, for example, is well known. We also tend to view this in terms of the psychology of propaganda, its ability to manipulate.

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But what about the simple fact of the state’s ability to sponsor and create powerful, original art? That art would not have happened in a democratic, marketplace society. The Romans are the model for this. They ruled with the first iron fist; they also created the first great public artworks of our civilization. The design may have come from Greece and Egypt, but Rome branded it and stamped it all over the known world. Which was basically military policy made artistic policy. That’s Leni Riefenstahl, too, and Beijing 2008.

What strikes me about the ceremony in Beijing is that only a state with total control could do what has been done there. It’s an ugly thing in political terms. But it’s an artistic triumph.

More later ...

‘Gojira tai Megaro’!

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Headline/press release/correction trifecta: Britney NOT playing lesbian killer stripper

“Britney Rep: Singer Not Playing Killer Lesbian Stripper In Film”

A rep for Brit denied the reports, telling Access Hollywood, “Though she definitely intends to explore acting roles down the road, right now she’s concentrating on recording her next album.”

Somewhat of a surprise, since it wasn’t just the London scandal-sheet tabs that reported it: so did the Daily Telegraph, a respectable broadsheet, and even the LA Times. (None were sourced, of course.)

(Via, via.)

Press release of the day: Extreme syrupsploitation

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World’s First Extreme Relaxation Beverage is Premiere Sponsor at 3rd Annual Tastemakers DJ/Music Conference & OZONE Awards

drank™ is Official Beverage of Artist Panel Discussion at Largest Music Event in Southern Rap History

HOUSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--drank™, (IBGH.PK) the world’s first extreme relaxation beverage, is participating in the Tastemakers DJ/Music Conference & OZONE Awards in Houston, Texas, August 8-11, 2008. Now in its third year, the conference is one of the hip hop music industry’s foremost annual events.

PhotobucketAs part of the 4-day conference, drank is the title sponsor of the popular Artist Panel discussion on Sunday, August 10 from 4:00 - 5:30 p.m. cst, which in the past, has drawn record crowds eager to learn the secrets of success from some of hip hop’s most notable and up and coming stars. Panelists slated to participate in this year’s Artists Panel include Slim Thug, Webbie, Killer Mike, Shawty Lo, Rick Ross, Bun B, Flo Rida and others. During the panel discussion, hip hop royalty will be sipping the grape-flavored, carbonated relaxation beverage while sharing their stories...

drank will have a full-court presence during the Artist Panel discussion. Peter Bianchi, drank creator and CEO of Innovative Beverage Group of Houston will introduce the Artists Panel along with famed DJ TJ Chapman. drank models stationed around the Ballroom of the Americas will help guests “slow their roll” with continuous servings of the light purple drink, and the Artist Panel participants will keep their cool with this new beverage that has already received widespread media attention.

So it’s a light purple drink called “drank” that will “slow your roll,” and it’s being marketed heavily in the Houston rap scene. Hmm, I wonder what sizzurp drug craze they’re exploiting? Have they considered making Pimp C a posthumous mascot?

Apparently they needed to ramp up their marketing from two months ago, when it was called “extreme relaxation” in a press release but on the can was labeled merely an “anti-energy drink.” Because who would really associate that with getting high and rapping really slow?

‘Bullet & Brain’!

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Headline hall of fame: ‘Britney’ + ‘lesbian’ + ‘stripper’ + ‘killer’ + ‘Tarantino’

‘Britney Spears to play lesbian killer in Quentin Tarantino film’

And the dek: “Britney Spears is being lined up to play a killer lesbian stripper in the [sic] Quentin Tarantino’s next movie, it has been reported.”

It’s a remake of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, which means that Russ Meyer also could have — and really should have — made it in the headline somewhere.

Fallen teen-pop virgin princess, undone by fast living and bad motherhood, stars in Tarantino version of one of the kinkiest sexpolitation flicks ever made. Pretty brilliant move for both Brit and Quentin, I’d say, although I’m sure that somewhere out there are some very disappointed boob fetishists.

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‘Thank God she only had two!’

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Monday, August 4, 2008

Bragging rights: ‘Best Music Writing 2008’

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I’m thrilled to report that an article of mine will be included in the 2008 edition of Da Capo’s Best Music Writing anthology, which will be out in September. Nelson George was the guest editor, and he chose my profile of Stargate, the Norwegian production duo behind hits by Beyoncé, Rihanna and others.

I’m in very good company. Here’s the full table of contents:

  • CARL WILSON * The Trouble With Indie Rock: It’s Not Just Race, It’s Class * Slate
  • BILL WASIK * Annuals * Oxford American
  • CLIVE THOMPSON * Sex, Drugs and Updating Your Blog * The New York Times
  • JEFF WEISS * Soulja Boy: Cranking the Chain * LA Weekly
  • DANYEL SMITH * Keyshia Cole: Hell’s Angel * Vibe
  • NOAH BERLATSKY * Underrated Overground * Chicago Reader
  • SOLVEJ SCHOU * First Person: Auditioning for this Season’s ‘American Idol’ * Associated Press
  • BEN SISARIO * Wizards in the Studio, Anonymous on the Street * The New York Times
  • BRANDON PERKINS * Wu-Tang: Widdling Down Infinity: Can a Bunch of old, dirty bastards save hip-hop for a third time or will the math just collapse upon itself? * URB
  • JONATHAN CUNNINGHAM * Freaks Come Out at Night: Grandmaster Dee Cuts a Wide Swath on the Comeback Trail * Broward-Palm Beach New Times
  • NADIA PFLAUM * Pay 2 Play: Hip-hop Hustlers are making Off with Kansas City Rappers’ Hard-Earned Cash * The Kansas City Pitch
  • ANN POWERS * It’s Time to Kick this Addiction * Los Angeles Times
  • NIKE D’ANDREA * Bad Habits: NunZilla’s Punk-rock Catechism Will Leave you Praying for More * Phoenix New Times
  • J. BENNETT * Dimmu Borgir * Decibel Magazine
  • ERIC PAPE * “We Sing Everything. We have Nothing Else” * Spin
  • ANDY TENNILLE * Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings * Harp
  • MARKE B * Gayest. Music. Ever.: The Death of Circuit, Energy 92.7, and the New Queer Dance Floor Diaspora * San Francisco Bay Guardian
  • PHIL SUTCLIFFE * Pete Seeger * MOJO
  • JEFF SHARLET * The People’s Singer: the Embattled Lee Hays * Oxford American
  • LARRY BLUMENFELD * Band on the Run in New Orleans * Salon
  • DAVID KAMP * Sly Stone’s Higher Power * Vanity Fair
  • MATT ROGERS * Beast from the East: Mandrill’s Musical brew is Equal Parts Brooklyn and Motherland * Wax Poetics
  • OLIVER WANG * Boogaloo Nights * The Nation
  • SAM KASHNER * Fever Pitch: When Travolta Did Disco; the Making of Saturday Night Fever * Movies Rock
  • SEAN NELSON * Dead Man Talking: “Kurt Cobain: About a Son” * The Stranger
  • JODY ROSEN * A Pirate Looks at Sixty: Jimmy Buffett’s Mid-Life Crises * Slate
  • ALAN LIGHT * The Notorious BIG * Blender
  • ALEX ROSS * Apparition in the Woods * The New Yorker
  • GARY GIDDINS * Back to Bossa: Rosa Passos and Fifty Years of Bossa Nova. * The New Yorker
  • DAVID MARGOLICK * The Day Louis Armstrong Made Noise * The New York Times
  • CRAVEN ROCK * On Lynyrd Skynyrd and the White Trash Thing * Around the Bend * Ten Years * Eaves of Ass #6
  • TOM EWING * The History Book on the Shelf: ABBA * Pitchfork Media

The series has been coming out annually since 2000, and always includes as an appendix a list of “other notable essays” that are often just as good. This year Idolator has put together a handy four-part index of links to those articles.

‘Panik in Manhattan’?

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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Also appreciated ...

... in the industrial design galleries at MoMA: vintage posters.

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Not wild about wartime slave labor, though.

(Via.)

‘Groucho-Shiva’

Finally made it to “Dalí: Painting and Film” at MoMA over the weekend. An interesting and well designed show, and a real feast for any Surrealism fan. But must, must remember never to go to MoMA on a Saturday afternoon. It felt like an airport, and Dalí in particular was the most crowded show I’ve been to since Leonardo at the Met five years ago. At least this time people didn’t go over each piece with a magnifying glass, but the cattle pen that was the opening room (with Un chien andalou) almost sent me home.

The biggest reason I’m glad I stayed is this:

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Dalí was apparently a huge Marx Brothers fan, with a particular admiration for Harpo. (Dalí once sent him a harp strung with barbed wire; Harpo sent back a photo of bandaged hands.) Dalí proposed a script for a Marx Brothers movie, called “Giraffes on Horseback Salad”; Groucho rejected it. But at some point he drew a number of pictures of the Marxes, including the above “Groucho-Shiva” from 1937.

Unfortunately that image, which is credited to the collection of “James and Lee Marx,” is not reproduced in the exhibition catalog, nor on any poster or postcard or anything else that I could see. I would love to know more about it.

The show also features Dalí’s collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock (he did the dream sequence in Spellbound) and even Walt Disney, with whom he worked on an aborted cartoon called “Destino,” which is shown in posthumously completed form, and it’s amazing. Also worth seeing are Dalí’s insane portraits of Hollywood bigshots like Jack Warner.


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Friday, August 1, 2008

Bragging rights

Thank you, Brooklyn Vegan, for referring to two of my recent stories in four consecutive blog items.

BV also has information about the Bell House, a significant new venue under construction in Brooklyn, which was unfortunately omitted from my piece on Thursday.

‘Japan was fucking confusing, and I was confusing too’

Ladies and gentlemen, voters of Japan: Yuya Uchida, singer of the Flower Travellin’ Band, Ventures collaborator, co-writer of what was perhaps the first Japanese film “conceived in a jail cell,” and onetime candidate for governor of Tokyo.



(Thanks to Hiro.)