Sunday, August 31, 2008
Charles Krafft, American Artist from Seattle, has used the techniques of the Delft ceramics masters to create stunning porcelain artwork of switchblades, skateboards, and assault rifles. His disasterware series is beautiful fine china commemorating disasters such as the Hindenburg explosion, the sinking of the Andrea Doria, and the bombing of Dresden.
Perhaps his most controversial work involves "Spone," or human bone china--granulated calcified human "cremains" commonly known as mortuary ash -- added to a porcelain "slip" and used in a variety of funerary and commemorative art.
"I've always found the lowbrow fringe of contemporary pop culture infinitely more fertile than the highfalutin academic mainstream -- I prefer the company of criminals, undertakers and blue-haired ladies." - Charles Krafft
An interview in Salon.com can be found here.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Thomas Frank talks about his latest book, The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule. Frank is the author of What's the Matter with Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America.
Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and President George W. Bush
"Fantastic misgovernment of the kind we have seen is not an accident, nor is it the work of a few bad individuals. It is the consequence of triumph by a particular philosophy of government, by a movement that understands the liberal state as a perversion and considers the market the ideal nexus of human society. This movement is friendly to industry not just by force of campaign contributions but by conviction; it believes in entrepreneurship not merely in commerce but in politics; and the inevitable results of its ascendance are, first, the capture of the state by business and, second, all that follows: incompetence, graft, and all the other wretched flotsam that we've come to expect from Washington." -Thomas Frank
Frank spoke at Powell's Bookstore in Portland, and was filmed by PDX Justice; check out their site for a wonderful archive of political and social thinkers. To read an excerpt of the book, click HERE.
Friday, August 29, 2008
The three day weekend is here, and in Seattle that means the Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival. To celebrate, here is a clip of a couple old rovers strumming guitars on a hillside in Greece. Just a loose jam between friends. These talented troubadours were probably sipping Ouzo and enjoying the classical view before slipping into the mystic. We're lucky to join them for an old favorite.
Here, a video exclusive, two masters at play, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Some say he is trying to steal the thunder from the historic nomination of Barack Obama and his selection of Joe Biden. Some say he is a damaged and angry man who sold his soul for power. Some say he did it all for George, the love of his life, and George tossed him aside like a used Kleenex.
Not counting George W. Bush, possible McCain running mates being discussed have included Mitt Romney, Condoleeza Rice, and Republicrat Joe Lieberman, who will be speaking at the Republican National Convention to be held next week on the seventh level of Hell.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
For too long "Support the Troops" has been shorthand for "Support the War." Bush supporters have used the phrase to cut short protest, and to imply that if one opposed the war one opposed the people sent to fight it. Bullshit.
So what do these people say about Iraq veterans who oppose the war? Do they support these troops? That's a tough one.
Earlier this year, the Congressional Progressive Caucus held a meeting to hear the experience of members of Iraq Veterans Against the War. For more about the group, visit their website HERE.
Here's a news story about the group on Good Morning America.
George Lucas, Academy Award-winning director, producer, and screenwriter most famous for creating the Star Wars saga, has thrown his considerable weight behind restoring classics of the American cinema. Here, he transforms the delightful Gene Kelly musical, "Singin' in the Rain." Even though I still love the original, it's a treat seeing Kelly fending off attack. You have to see this hilarious parody.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Crosby, Stills, & Nash
Here are some damn hippies. When you were out running in the rat race, these lucky bastards were playing guitars, smoking weed, growing their hair long, and stealing your girlfriend. Or trying to, anyway. Sure, they were freaks and weirdos, outsiders and losers, even anti-war protesters...but they made some good tunes.
They're easy to poke fun at now (What does a deadhead say when he runs out of pot? This music sucks!) and sure they were naive and utopian, but maybe they deserve a little respect for escaping the lock-step conformity of their time and having some joi d'vivre back when you were still wearing white belts and feathering your hair, back when you thought Tricia Nixon was hot. Own your lameness. For just a moment, transcend...kick off your shoes, light a banana, and groove along with these crazy hippies!
For the grand finale, here's the Grateful Dead--yup, I make fun of them myself on occasion--but listen to the interplay of bass and guitar in this lysergic classic, "China Cat Sunflower," and hear how it evolves into "I Know You Rider." It really doesn't get more hippie than this. Come on, you're practically there. You're nearly groovy. Peaceout.
Monday, August 25, 2008
A chilly genius, Kubrick created a series of expressionistic masterpieces that covered everything from the dawn of man to man's future in space, and nearly everything in between. He made films about the Great War, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War, films set in a haunted lodge, a space ship, a seedy racetrack, and the prison cell of condemned soldiers. These movies provide a record of our time.
Here are some shorts about the director.
"The Art of Stanley Kubrick," a documentary of the director.
"The Making of the Shining" is a short film made by Stanley's daughter, Vivian Kubrick, who was seventeen at the time. Some great behind the scenes shots. Vivian Kubrick provides the commentary.
The Charlie Rose Show focusing on Kubrick, featuring director Martin Scorsese.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Meanwhile, across town, John McCain is losing track of how many houses he owns. So much for the common man angle. (By the way, the number is seven.) Is anybody in his right mind voting for this guy?
Here's some soul music--two classics to get you into the weekend and help tighten up your wig. Watch these fantastic performers and see if they can lift your spirits.
Things have changed since this classic soul came out. These songs about love and happiness and respect made you want to move your feet. Now that we've all attained freedom and affluence, and bigotry is a thing of the past, listening to classic soul is like opening a time capsule from a distant world where people had to struggle to make ends meet, where class and wealth drove a wedge between people, where race limited people's opportunities and affected our politics (even Presidential campaigns!), where unpopular wars dragged on and on for spurious reasons. Not so different, come to think of it.
You can't beat soul.
Fellow blogger Expatbrian, over at World Gone Mad, set up a challenge. I'd pick two old favorites, and he'd do the same, and we'd have an old fashioned battle of the bands. Sounds like fun, eh? Be sure to check out his blog, too.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
"Nothing, however, captures the full measure of Brown's talent like the opening moments of the Boston show, when he plants himself center stage in front of a crowd still reeling from King's death, and launches into a version of "That's Life" that substitutes defiance for resignation without changing a word."
--The A.V. Club (9/20/08)
FYI, James Brown comes on about 7 minutes in, if you want to skip the intro. "That's Life" is at 1:08.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
My hardcore punk rock pals will think I'm going soft, but it's a gray day and it looks like rain and these are rainy day songs. Coincidentally, they're both from 1971. Maybe I was prone to melancholia back then--adolescence can be a bitch--or maybe there was something in the tea I was drinking--but either way, they moved me back then and I think they still sound pretty good. How about you? You're a little older now and maybe a little colder, but if you're not reaching for a glass of whiskey or a kleenex by the end of these two ballads you're a cold-hearted bastard and there's no hope for you, so sod off.
Ray Charles, the genius, performs a song about the conflict between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia.
The U.S. corporate media keeps framing this battle in Cold War terms, and setting black hats or white hats on the actors involved depending on whether they are allied with Moscow or Washington, but it doesn't seem to be that simple. In fact, it's not simple at all, and the media isn't helping.
According to some, Georgia, the former Soviet republic and darling of the West, was encouraged to move into the breakaway pro-Russian enclave called South Ossetia and take back what is legally Georgia’s. But the plan failed. Instead, Russian forces invaded Georgia last week and crushed Georgian resistance. According to U.S. military officials, Russia is out to decimate the U.S.-trained Georgian armed forces. According to the military, it's pretty simple.
The Los Angeles Times (8/13/08): “Russia has itched to strike at southern neighbor Georgia’s brash, Western-oriented leader, President Mikheil Saakashvili. And Saakashvili gave the Kremlin an opportunity when he sent troops into the separatist region of South Ossetia last week in an effort to reassert Georgia’s sovereignty.”
A few media outlets reminded readers of Saakashvili’s crackdowns on dissent and independent media outlets, but for the most part, the conflict was presented as black-and-white struggle between Moscow’s aggression and Georgia’s pro-Western democracy.
According to Human Rights Watch, (8/14/08) Georgia’s military actions involved intensive shelling of civilian areas–reportedly caused many noncombatant deaths and prompted a large proportion of the South Ossetian population to seek safety in Russia.
This morning, NATO said regular contacts with Russia were impossible until its troops had been fully withdrawn from Georgia, and said they were "seriously considering" the implications of Moscow's actions. The White House had called on NATO nations to consider at least suspending ministerial meetings with Russia, but Britain and others said it would be counter-productive to cut channels of communication with Moscow now.
An alternate to the mainstream U.S. viewpoint can be found at the Guardian.Some information from Peter Hart, who writes for the national media watchdog group FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting)
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Parisian graphic novelist Pierre-François Beauchard (professionally known as David B.), the co-founder of the artist-run publishing group L’Association, and author of the brilliant "Epileptic," will be joined by cartoonists Peter Bagge and Jim Woodring in a discussion of comics and graphic novels. Expect these artists to discuss their work and how they employ image, space, and text to create narratives, capture visions, and change our views of the world.
The conversation will be moderated by Kim Thompson, the co-owner of Fantagraphics Books and English translator of "Epileptic." After the event, works by the artists will be available for purchase and signing.
Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, Sunday August 17th, at 4PM
FREE to Henry members or with museum admission
Tickets available at the Henry Admission Desk beginning August 10; seating is limited.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Here is the talented and lovely Gladys Knight with some New Pips. They all look vaguely familiar. I guess Tropic Thunder didn't open so big this weekend, and these poor actors are looking for gigs. Bummer, dude.
Yup, that's Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., and Jack Black from the White Stripes. Something funny...have a nice weekend.
Meanwhile, TV station executives are tripping over their martinis trying to justify not airing a short infomercial calling for a dialog about pot. What gives?
The ACLU launched the infomercial (hosted by Steves) about the unjust history and legacy of marijuana law, and the show was ready to air on local KING 5 TV, but the station yanked it at the last minute. They say that according to station guidelines, the 30-minute show cannot advocate any legal reform.
the killer weed
To see the show, Marijuana: It's Time for a Conversation, please visit the website:
We did another post on Steves--click here.
To visit Rick's site, Europe Through the Back Door, click here.
The word on the street is that Ry is coming out with "I, Flathead," an album about offbeat Los Angeles in the 1950s. It's the third in a series of LA slices of life that includes "Chavez Ravine" and "My Name is Buddy."
The above clip is classic Ry Cooder, playing with The Moula Banda Rhythm Aces, an all-star lineup, from a film by Les Blank taped at The Catalyst, Santa Cruz, CA on March 25'th 1987.
Ry Cooder: guitar, vox
Jim Keltner: drums
Van Dyke Parks: keys
Jorge Calderon: bass
Flaco Jimenez: accordion
Miguel Cruiz: percussion
Steve Douglas: sax
George Bohannon: trombone
Bobby King: tenor
Terry Evans: baritone
Arnold McCuller: tenor
Willie Green Jr: bass
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Here's old punk rocker Billy Bragg live in Seattle at the Triple Door. This song is political folk and like the man says, it ain't American Bloody Idol.
LIBERAL is only a dirty word to the greedy creeps who've screwed things up so badly, maybe people will start using the word again proudly.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
...not to mention Artie Shaw, the Ventures, and Robert Crumb?
Check out the brilliant website "Honey, Where You Been So Long?" to find out--and listen to a few versions--by clicking HERE.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
This is beautiful--just listen to this snakey bluesline from Mali and you can hear the sounds of Africa and the Mississippi Delta crawling across the land like a giant Kingsnake. This is Desert Blues, a music project with Habib Koité, Afel Bocoum and the Tuareg Women Ensemble Tartit from Timbuktu. These African musicians are poets and play the traditional instruments like the Tinde, Tehardant, Balafon, Imzad -- and some electric guitars, too. Timeless and mysterious, like nothing you've ever heard before but somehow strangely familiar.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Dowling, a Royal Air Force lieutenant, forged passports, made maps and helped dig the one tunnel the Germans didn't discover before 250 prisoners escaped from Stalag Luft III in occupied Poland. Many who escaped carried documents forged by Dowling, who couldn't accompany them because he wasn't one of the 250 chosen by lot, The London Times reported. Three got away; 50 were reported executed on Adolf Hitler's personal order.
Stalag Luft III, in occupied Poland
Dowling survived the war, but didn't much care for the film that made the escape famous, because it altered some facts to tell the story. Here is part one of a featurette about the history and the making of the film. (part two can be found here)
Dowling died in his sleep in a nursing home in Bristol.
This election year, it's worth taking a look at campaigns of the past. In 1968, Max Frost and the Troopers led a revolution of young people who challenged the status quo and eventually took over the country. LSD was put in the water supply, hip kids wore crushed velvet bell-bottoms, and people over thirty (!) were taken off to camps.
Talk about California Uber Alles! (Somebody call Jello).
Yup, it was a cautionary tale, and a "youth-sploitation" movie, but we kids thought it was pretty cool, and the song was great. Years later, The Ramones covered it, but here you have Max Frost himself performing the original, the rallying cry, "The Shape of Things to Come."
Most people know Hayes for his popular "Theme from Shaft," the quintessential blaxploitation soundtrack from 1971 with the whacka-whacka guitar, but earlier, in the 1960s, Hayes co-wrote such soul classics as "Soul Man" and "Hold On, I'm Coming" for Sam and Dave. You may also know him as the voice of Chef on the crudely animated TV show "South Park."
This film clip shows the "Shaft" soundtrack recording session, with Hayes leading the band and discussing the movie soundtrack with acclaimed photographer Gordon Parks, director of the film. They play "Cafe Reggio" and "Theme from Shaft."
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Henry Valentine Miller (American writer, 1891-1980) was a novelist most famous for writing "Tropic of Cancer," "Tropic of Capricorn," and "Black Spring." Shocking to some, he was a radical in style and content, and probably as infamous for his obscenity trials as his written works. Miller wrote joyously and exuberantly about sex and other taboos and shocked a prudish America. He was a cranky mandarin expat who didn't suffer fools gladly, and would just as soon spit in your eye as use a polite euphemism or censor his freewheeling imagination. Miller once said you could travel thousands of miles in America and never once taste good bread.
In 1940, George Orwell praised Miller in an essay entitled, "Inside the Whale."
"Here in my opinion is the only imaginative prose-writer of the slightest value who has appeared among the English-speaking races for some years past. Even if that is objected to as an overstatement, it will probably be admitted that Miller is a writer out of the ordinary, worth more than a single glance; and after all, he is a completely negative, unconstructive, amoral writer, a mere Jonah, a passive acceptor of evil, a sort of Whitman among the corpses."
"Actually we are a vulgar, pushing mob whose passions are easily mobilized by demagogues, newspaper men, religious quacks, agitators and such like. To call this a society of free peoples is blasphemous. What have we to offer the world besides the superabundant loot which we recklessly plunder from the earth under the maniacal delusion that this insane activity represents progress and enlightenment?" - Henry Miller
I read the news today, oh boy. Shaft singer Isaac Hayes died, funny man Bernie Mac died, too, a tourist at the Olympics was stabbed, and John Edwards had to put his political aspirations back in his pants.
Damn! Times like these, we all think of getting away. It's summertime, vacation time--even tireless workaholic Barack Obama went to Hawaii. What's that smell? Luau pork? No, that's a billion fat tourists baking in the sun. I've never had the desire to go to Hawaii, but I can see the attraction of finding a remote island and leaving this mad world behind. I'd prefer an island all to myself, but that's me. If you want to join the unimaginative hordes, this vintage cartoon travelogue might help you plan your trip to Blue Hawaii.
Where's my sunblock? Where's my damn pina colada?
Friday, August 8, 2008
The Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai, 1956) was an amazing film by Japanese master director Akira Kurosawa about seven samurai (including the grizzled, unkempt Toshiro Mifune) who defend a town against marauding bandits. It was a rousing, mythic, influential film that spawned many imitations. This is art.
The Magnificent Seven (1960) was a great American western based on Kurosawa's film--same story, this time in English, with such great character actors as Steve McQueen, Eli Wallach and Yul Brynner. This is entertainment.
The Magnificent Seven is a song based on the western, based on the samurai movie--this time performed by the magnificent Clash--led by punk rabble rouser Joe Strummer. Here they perform it on the Tom Snyder show in 1981. This is rock and roll.
This Walt Disney cartoon was made during World War II as part of the war effort, and shows the indoctrination of German youth into Nazi racism and antisemitism. Interesting propaganda film, it also deals in stereotypes. At one time Disney said this would never be re-released. Here's a chance to watch a rare cartoon.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Ever heard of Walt Disney? Sure you have. He singlehandedly owns your childhood dreams. Joseph Campbell spoke about the "mono-myth," the underlying archetypes in myths and folk tales worldwide, and in the USA and much of the Western World our mono-myth has a copywrite mark from Disney Productions. In the land of the imagination, Disney redesigned our childhood fantasies and fears. He fit our subconscious mind like a three-fingered glove.
Here's an old documentary from the 1930s about making cartoons, Disney style. Of course, they no longer make them this way. Still, it will give you a glimpse into the Golden Age of Cartoons, when the Empire was young.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Randy Newman is back with maybe the best album he's done in a couple decades. For a while, it seemed he'd gotten sucked into the animation soundtrack whirlpool and we'd never again see the brilliance of "Sail Away" and "Political Science" and "Rednecks."
In the new album, "Harps and Angels," Randy takes on America. There are songs about the president, and immigrants, and the economy--politics mix with ballads, and stories are told by unreliable narrators. Entire states may not get this album. Irony and satire don't work in certain zip codes and voting precincts, but that's all right. We're hip. We knew he didn't really want to bomb the rest of the world ("Boom goes London, boom Paree") that he really wasn't an antisemitic redneck ("Last night I saw Lester Maddox on the TV show, with some smart ass New York Jew") and that he really didn't want short people to die ("short people got no reason to live..."). Or did he?
Maybe we're too dumb for satire. Maybe we're a little gun shy, sitting on this powderkeg with Randy Newman flicking lit matches at us.
I hope not.
For the New York Times review of the new album, click HERE.
Jonathan Swift, satirical bastard
For extra credit, read "A Modest Proposal For Preventing The Children Of Poor People In Ireland Being A Burden To Their Parents Or Country, And For Making Them Beneficial To The Public" by Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) For Swift, click HERE.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
I read the news today, oh boy. Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr have stopped the release of the Beatles film 'Let It Be'.
The 1970 documentary reveals tensions between the Fab Four - Paul, Ringo and the late John Lennon and George Harrison - shortly before their break-up, and insiders at the band's record company, Apple, claim the two surviving members do not want it re-released.
(Sorry...the "Let it Be" film has been removed) For educational purposes only, we present the film in it's entirety. As unrepentant Beatles fans who bought every album and movie, and happily forked out dough for the "Love" show in Las Vegas, we think you should see this--with all due respect to Paul and Ringo, it's part of the story. They should release the film.