Friday, August 31, 2007


Damien Hirst, the controversial British artist and provocateur, famous for sawing cows in half and putting a 14-foot Tiger Shark in Formaldehyde, has done it again. Hirst just sold this diamond-encrusted skull for $100 million. "For the Love of God" is cast in platinum, and covered with 8,601 flawless diamonds. That's a lot of ice, baby. The massive diamond mounted on the forehead is reportedly worth $4.2 million alone. Hirst says the skull cost between 10 and 15 million to put together. The buyer, an anonymous investment group, reportedly payed cash for the skull. Bling, bling.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

HILLY KRISTAL -- 1932-2007

Back in 1974, Hilly Kristal opened CBGBs, the original New York punk and hardcore club on the Bowery, providing a dirty, greasy home for the likes of the Dead Boys, the Dictators, Television, Blondie, Talking Heads, the Ramones, and Patti Smith Group, among others.

Patti Smith: "All who passed through the portals experienced, as Arthur Rimbaud would say, 'new scenes, new noise'. He offered us artistic freedom and his gruff yet unconditional love. We evolved,we left and went out into the world like prodigal children. When we returned he always accepted us with open arms."

Like it or not, punk rock came along like a brat with a baseball bat to whack the bloated pinata of overblown, overproduced stadium rock. In the days of highly processed cheese like Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles, Punk Rock brought music back to the basics, three chords and a howl.

In 1977, "the year that punk broke," I interviewed Patti Smith Group and the Ramones for a newspaper in Portland. I was nearly decapitated by a flying chair during Smith's encore. This was definitely not the Eagles. The Ramones played triple speed garage rock like surfin' birds with their tails on fire. They seemed certifiably insane. Patti Smith wailed like the Shirelles on acid, infusing Nuggets electric guitars with Beat poetry. Her guitar player, Lenny Kaye, had in fact produced "Nuggets," the influential anthology of psychedelic garage rock. An appreciative crowd threw folding chairs and shoes and "gobbed" the band with spit. These days it's hard to believe, now that you can find CBGB T-shirts at Gap for Kids, what a riot punk rock was in the early days. Thanks to Hilly Kristal, it had a place to be born.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I'm Not There

The new Todd Haynes movie, "I'm Not There," stars the amazing Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan, circa 1966. You heard me. Cate, along with five other actors, will play Dylan at different periods of his life. It sounds weird and arty but I'm really looking forward to seeing this one. It looks like a fantastic soundtrack, too, which includes a killer version of the title tune by Sonic Youth.

Check out the trailer.

Check out the soundtrack:

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

I loved this show when I was a kid.

Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin could do no wrong in my book. They had ultra-cool gadgets and guns and gorgeous babes, everything a grade-schooler like me could hope for. When they whacked some foreign despot, or helped destabilized a regime, they were martini cool and lighthearted, and my sense of history didn't come flooding in to undermine my idiotic pre-pubescent pleasure.

Anyway, I watched a couple episodes last night, and they still had the gadgets and the chicks but it all seemed rather silly. Very tongue in cheek. I'd always wondered why Austin Powers was necessary with so many 1960s spy spoofs already available -- U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart, Our Man Flint, the Bond franchise. Mission: Impossible. Oh, and Secret Agent Man, with that cool theme song by Johnny Rivers. And, perhaps best of all, The Prisoner.

Why so many spy shows? They were probably a product of our Cold War anxieties, the pressures of a changing world, the post-colonial era, low-intensity rumblings in the jungles of Africa, South America, and even Southeast Asia. Or maybe we just liked the gadgets and gorgeous babes.

Police State Put on Hold

Never a watchdog, always a lapdog, little yipper Alberto Gonzales resigned today in a two minute prepared statement. One minute forty, actually. The Attorney General gave no explanation, nor did he respond to accusations of criminal misconduct – perjury, violations of the Hatch Act, misrepresentations to Congress, suborning perjury and obstruction of justice. Not to mention the political firings of eight judges.

For nearly seven years, Gonzales, an old friend and ardent supporter of the President from his Texas days, helped push the Bush agenda first as White House counsel and then as Attorney General. The prime legal architect behind the Bush torture policy, he dismissed the Geneva Convention as "quaint" and "obsolete." On the homefront, he helped whittle away civil liberties and opened doors to wiretapping and other invasions of privacy of the American citizen.

For more on the case against Gonzales, check out this video from Robert Greenwald.

War Minus Zero (No Limit)