Monday, December 31, 2007
Jay-Z came out with a great record this year, "American Gangster." The beat, and especially the horns, make this cut "Roc Boys (and the winner is...)" one of the singles of the year. Unless you're already too far gone, this will make you tap your foot.
A Clear Midnight
THIS is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou
Night, sleep, and the stars.
Fred Flintstone, role model for today's youth, smokes cigarettes with neighbor Barney. No wonder many young kids are trying to be cool like Fred, and lighting up a butt.
Twenty-three percent of high school students in the United States are current cigarette smokers—23% of females and 22.9% of males. Eight percent of middle school students in this country are current cigarette smokers, with estimates slightly higher for females (9%) than males (8%). At fifty bucks a carton, this is even more stupid than it sounds.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Shot by a security camera
You can't watch your own image
And also look yourself in the eye
Black Mirror, Black Mirror, Black Mirror
I know a time is coming
All words will lose their meaning
Please show me something that isn't mine
But mine is the only kind that I relate to
Le miroir casse
The mirror casts mon reflet partour
Black Mirror, Black Mirror, Black Mirror
Arcade Fire makes our top ten albums of the year. Here they play Black Mirror live at the Reading Festival, 2007.
Reckoner/ You can't take it with you /Dancing for your pleasure
You are not to blame for/ Bittersweet distractor /Dare not speak its name
Dedicated to all you all human beingsRadiohead caught more attention this year with pricing as you wish, but they actually made a beautiful record, and easily made our list of top ten albums of the year for 2007.
No one on the corner has swag like us
Hit me on my banner prepaid wireless
We pack and deliver like UPS trucks
Already in hell just pumping that gas
Now you know what that girl behind the counter is thinking when you order those sandwiches. M.I.A.'s album Kala is definitely in our top ten albums of 2007. Yes, the sample is from the Clash, "Straight to Hell."
If you're like us, you celebrate the New Year with the traditional Russian bread drink Kvass, a fermented non alcoholic beverage made from black or rye bread. Now that's Russian! I love this commercial because old Nikola enjoys his Kvass so much! Na zdorovje! S Novym Godom!
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Flight of the Conchords follows a two-man neo-folk band from New Zealand living in the New York trying to make it big in music. They're desperate and talented, and they travel in and out of musical numbers, spoofs, and derivative masterpieces such as this sexy nugget of hot-buttered soul, "Business Time." We wish them the best.
Robert Wyatt is unique. The rack-jobbers can't seem to find a cubbyhole for his experimental avant-music, which puts him at a great disadvantage -- at least commercially -- in this age of Balkanized musical tastes, where so-called "indie music" is often just a marketing tool and truly avant-garde music is off the map and hard to discover. If popular musical tastes are the mainstream, and so-called "alternative" music is a major branch of the river, Wyatt isn't even near the water. He's standing far off in a morning field, playing a silver horn as the sun comes up. To a horse.
Wyatt is the former drummer and singer for Soft Machine, a mid-sixties British art-rock group from the psychedelic Canterbury scene. Soft Machine predates other excessive art-rock Brits like Tull and King Crimson, and preferred jazzy, experimental sounds to the overwrought theatrics that would come with the later prog acts. Wyatt has been recording ever since those halcyon days, writing his own stuff and doing some surprising covers like "I'm a Believer" by the Monkees -- which BBC wouldn't let him perform on television while sitting in a wheelchair (Wyatt has been paralysed from the waist down since an accident in 1973). His music is fragile and complex, with elements of pop and jazz swirling around a frail voice like mist around a bare winter tree. His music is not for everyone. Most people (like those surveyed by Komar and Melamid -- see below) probably won't like it, but give it a chance and you will discover something new.
"Just as You Are," from Robert Wyatt's new album, "Comicopera"
Friday, December 28, 2007
Nigel wrote in to tell me it was exactly forty years ago the Beatles unveiled their experimental movie on British television --Boxing Day, 1967, to be exact. Here's another clue for you all.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
You may remember Russian graphic artists Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid from the time they combined survey results to ascertain popular preferences in art, and came up with the most pleasing,"perfect" painting. Of course, these Ruskies are having a laugh, right? (Komar and Melamid founded sots art, a strange combination of conceptual art and Soviet pop art, with some Dada thrown in for good measure) America's Most Wanted Art is shown above -- a landscape, with natural beauty and wildlife, and a beloved historic figure, George Washington. K and M made their point -- not only about the weakness of collectivist art, art by committee, but also a little slap at popular art itself.
Well, the Ruskies have done it again. This time they've collated their surveys and come up with the perfect popular song. According to the duo, "most participants desire music of moderate duration (approximately 5 minutes), moderate pitch range, moderate tempo, and moderate to loud volume, and display a profound dislike of the alternatives."
What do you think? See if your tastes are mainstream normal -- click the button to hear The Most Wanted Song.
Alternative tastes? Follow a different drummer? According to K and M, fewer than two hundred people worldwide will enjoy The Most Unwanted Song:
Some people can't get enough "art talk." Others would rather do anything else -- including make art. Either way, here's the folks at Art a Go Go chatting about the Seattle Art Museum, Banksy, and a Francis Bacon painting in the trash that sold for almost £1m.
Art a Go Go:
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
I am signaling you through the flames. The North Pole is not where it used to be. Manifest Destiny is no longer manifest. Civilization self-destructs. The goddess Nemesis is knocking at the door…
What are poets for in such an age? What is the use of poetry? If you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge of Apocalyptic times, even if this means sounding apocalyptic. You have to decide if bird cries are cries of ecstasy or cries of despair, by which you will know if you are a tragic or a lyric poet. Conceive of love beyond sex. Be subversive, constantly questioning reality and the status quo. Strive to change the world in such a way that there’s no further need to be a dissident. Read between the lives, and write between the lines. Be committed to something outside yourself. Be passionate about it. But don’t destroy the world, unless you have something better to replace it.
If you would snatch fame from the flames, where is your burning bow, where are your arrows of desire, where your wit on fire?
The master class starts wars. The lower classes fight it. Governments lie. The voice of the government is often not the voice of the people.
Speak up, act out! Silence is complicity. Be the gadfly of the state and also its firefly. And if you have two loaves of bread, do as the Greeks did: sell one with the coin of the realm, and with the coin of the realm buy sunflowers.
Wake up! The world’s on fire!
Have a nice day!
-Lawrence Ferlinghetti, from "Poetry as Insurgent Art"
Therefore, this classic boxing clip has nothing to do with Boxing Day. Still, I couldn't resist posting it. You may argue about the greatest boxers of all time -- Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Jack Johnson, Rocky Marciano, Larry Holmes...but this is my all-time favorite pugilistic artist.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Andres Segovia performing "Leyenda" by Asturias de Albèniz. There are many great guitar players, but few match the beauty and precision of this Spanish classical master who is considered the father of modern classical guitar. Born Andrés Torres Segovia, Marqués de Salobreña, in Linares, Spain in 1893, Segovia died in Madrid in 1987.
Astor Piazzolla and Yo Yo Ma -- a beautiful tango. Tango is the music of street criminals and dangerous women, smoky hangouts, quick flashing eyes. Jorge Luis Borges described his tango stories as ''a brief and tragic mirror of the character of those hard-bitten men living on the edge of Buenos Aires before the turn of the century.'' A chorus of hookers, an intruder with a knife, a man of legendary machismo awaiting his fate at the dark end of the bar. See if you can hear the tension and the drama. Libertango.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Banksy, a graffiti artist from Bristol, has been sneaking actual paintings onto museum walls for years. His most famous shopdropping attack was pretty clever, remixing Paris Hilton's inane dance party CD with her own inane and insensitive remarks, then professionally re-wrapping them, and sneaking thousands of the new, improved CDs onto the shelves. Shoppers expecting Paris got more Paris than they expected. Check out the video of Banksy shopdropping:
The Barbie Liberation Organization (BLO) came together to subvert Barbies, undermining the voiceboxes of busty, leggy Teen Talk Barbie. Originally, the doll uttered such things as "Math is hard!" and "Will we ever have enough clothes?" They switched the voiceboxes with the Talking Duke GI Joe action figure, resulting in Barbies that blurted "Vengeance is mine!" The GI Joes said breathlessly, "Let's plan our dream wedding!"
Here are some recent examples of shopdropping from an article in the New York Times:
Jeff Eyrich, a producer for independent bands, puts his bands' CDs -- marked "free" -- on music racks at Starbucks.
At Powell's Books in Portland, Ore., religious groups have been hitting the magazines in the science section with Christian fliers, while their adversaries have been moving Bibles from the religion section to fantasy/science fiction.
Ryan Watkins-Hughes, a Brooklyn photographer, has teamed with four other artists to shopdrop canned goods with altered labels at Whole Foods stores in New York City. The labels consist of photographs of places he has traveled combined with the can's original bar code so people can still buy them. "[Andy] Warhol took the can into the gallery. We bring the art to the can," he said.
Oakland artist Packard Jennings shopdrops his Anarchist action figure at Target and Wal-Mart. "When better than Christmas to make a point about hyperconsumerism?" asked Jennings, whose Anarchist has tiny accessories including a gas mask and Molotov cocktails. He films people trying to buy the figures, but for safety reasons he retrieves them before customers take them home.
So get out there and shopdrop till you drop!
Here's an interview with the BLO.
Also check out The Consumerist
To hear some mob music from M.I.A., Mango Pickle Down River (featuring Wilcannia Mob) please click button
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Something unusual here. I don't know what to make of this. These poor little kids talk to a creepy Santa Claus about a creepy monkey Christmas. It really freaks me out a little, like mixing the Night Before Christmas with David Lynch's Eraserhead. There is a monkey Santa Claus, too, and a battle between good monkeys and bad monkeys. Please pray there is really no monkey Christmas, and that the horrible people behind this "film" got a lump of coal in their stocking.
I got an email from Springsteen today wishing us all a Merry Christmas. He's really a decent guy, no superstar BS. Back in the Stone Pony days, back before the stadium shows when Bruce still had skinny arms, these guys were a tough bar band that could play anything. Back then, no holiday season was complete without a Christmas carol from the E Street Band.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Wouldn't it be nice to have a democracy for Christmas? My disappointment and anger with the Bush administration could be focused on one moment in this news clip from Reuters: when Bush smirks as he says "It's pretty clear." It's pretty clear he's lying, but he's lying the way a spoiled rich kid who's never been held accountable for anything in his life might lie. "What of it?" he could be saying. "So what?"
This commercial leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. Still, I like the idea of "expert, professional smokers." What kind of a job is that?
Look at Perry. He's looking mellow. I know this is an ad for Chesterfields, but I think he's been smoking some of that Mexican mistletoe.
Christmas commercials can be kind of cool -- nostalgic, sentimental, heartwarming. Take the Norelco Santa, for example. This commercial has none of that. Aiming for the darkly humorous, it fails to connect holiday joy with bloody trench warfare. Maybe I'm a little cranky. I admit, there may be a lighter side to getting gutshot Christmas Day in a rat-infested trench -- for a pair of designer jeans, no less -- but I remain unconvinced. Our Bad Taste Award goes to Diesel Jeans.
Friday, December 21, 2007
We love old classic cartoons here, and this great MGM cartoon stars the Captain and the Kids, and features Santa Claus and a scary peg-legged pirate villain. What more could you ask for?
Katzenjammer Kids? Good question. That strip was created by German immigrant Rudolph Dirks in 1887, in a Sunday supplement to a paper owned by William Randolph Hearst -- the mogul model for Welles' Citizen Kane. Next to the Yellow Kid, it's probably the second oldest comic strip in the world -- and it's still in syndication!
Dirks left the Hearst organization in 1914, after two years of legal battles, and started a new strip featuring the same characters called The Captain and the Kids. The two strips competed for years, until 1979, when The Captain and the Kids ended its sixty year run. At the end, it was being illustrated by Dirk's son John.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
This great cartoon was directed by Max Fleischer (1883 - 1972) for the Jam Handy Organization in 1944. Fleischer directed so many wonderful cartoons, inluding Out of the Inkwell, Koko the Clown, Popeye, Superman, and Betty Boop. Born to a Jewish family in Krakow, Poland, he immigrated to New York City and worked with his brother Dave to produce cartoons that rivaled Disney, and some say bested Walt. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" is certainly one of my favorites.
Popeye and Max Fleischer, animation genius.
And remember. If there's a bustle in your hedgerow don't be alarmed now. Whatever that means.
Thanks to Scott for sending this in.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
For more info on Santarchy, check this
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Here's a medley of traditional Christmas carols with Judy Garland, her daughter Liza Minelli, and the Velvet Nog, er, Fog -- Mel Torme. A fire is blazing in the hearth, and the liquor cabinet is well-stocked. Somewhere, a festive holiday platter is arranged entirely with Kraft products.
Jump forward a couple decades, and society as we know it has collapsed. These punks have trashed the Kraft platter, drained the liquor bottles, and even ransacked the medicine cabinet. Nobody has any manners these days. It's a good time for The Ramones, to perform "Merry Christmas (I Don't Wanna Fight)"
Jump even further forward, and everything disintegrates into an ironic, post-modern pastiche, a re-mix of previous forms, a digitized cut-and-paste ransom note. We wander in a world where there is nothing firm to stand on, no up or down, and everything is spoken within "quotation marks." It's hard to know what to make of any of this, but no one cares, anyway. This is now...or ten minutes from now. This is Taking Back Sunday, with their take on "The Twelve Days of Christmas."
You know how I love Italian food. This is a wonderful Italian ad campaign promoting the joy of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. This classic grating cheese -- also called Parmesan -- has been produced in Italy since the Middle Ages. In the twelfth century, Boccaccio praised it in the Decameron, writing about a mountain of Parmigiano to accompany his macaroni and ravioli.
I found this ad campaign on a great food site run by Bob del Grosso, A Hunger Artist. Any site that combines good food with Franz Kafka (the name comes from a short story by the Czech writer) can't be all bad. In fact, it's quite good. Check it out.
A Hunger Artist, website:
A Hunger Artist, the Kafka short story:
A Hugh Harmon-Rudy Ising Merrie Melodies in which a poor boy visits the North Pole and sees the toys come to life. Yes, this is a true story, kids. Great animation unfortunately includes some blackface stereotypes not uncommon in the period (1933), but apart from that contains jaunty musical numbers and a wonderful Santy Claus.
A short film by Alfonso Cuarón, director of "Children of Men," and Naomi Klein. Directed by Jonás Cuarón.
Disasters are good for some people. In the Shock Doctrine, author Naomi Klein follows the money trail and puppet strings and shows how exploiting disaster-shocked people can make some folks a huge profit in money and power. You may not be surprised, but Klein manages to show disaster relief as an underlying strategy of government/business in the past four decades, from literal "shock treatment" to the "reconstruction" of post-Katrina New Orleans and Iraq. The Green Zone/Red Zone dichotomy may be the model of the future. A provocative book worth reading.
Naomi Klein discusses Shock Doctrine in this interview:
Naomi Klein's website:
Thanks to pdxustice Media Productions, a great website from Portland with video and links:
Monday, December 17, 2007
"Borges and I"
The other one, the one called Borges, is the one things happen to. I walk through the streets of Buenos Aires and stop for a moment, perhaps mechanically now, to look at the arch of an entrance hall and the grillwork on the gate; I know of Borges from the mail and see his name on a list of professors or in a biographical dictionary. I like hourglasses, maps, eighteenth-century typography, the taste of coffee and the prose of Stevenson; he shares these preferences, but in a vain way that turns them into the attributes of an actor. It would be an exaggeration to say that ours is a hostile relationship; I live, let myself go on living, so that Borges may contrive his literature, and this literature justifies me. It is no effort for me to confess that he has achieved some valid pages, but those pages cannot save me, perhaps because what is good belongs to no one, not even to him, but rather to the language and to tradition. Besides, I am destined to perish, definitively, and only some instant of myself can survive in him. Little by little, I am giving over everything to him, though I am quite aware of his perverse custom of falsifying and magnifying things.
Spinoza knew that all things long to persist in their being; the stone eternally wants to be a stone and the tiger a tiger. I shall remain in Borges, not in myself (if it is true that I am someone), but I recognize myself less in his books than in many others or in the laborious strumming of a guitar. Years ago I tried to free myself from him and went from the mythologies of the suburbs to the games with time and infinity, but those games belong to Borges now and I shall have to imagine other things. Thus my life is a flight and I lose everything and everything belongs to oblivion, or to him.
I do not know which of us has written this page.
Jorge Luis Borges, Argentine writer, 1899 -1986
-- Abbie Hoffman
Celebrity chef Abbie Hoffman prepares his famous Gefilte fish. You won't see this on the Food Network.
"Steal this Book" online:
to catch a whif of the Croc, click button:
This is an actual Perry Como Christmas Special, from 1958. The picture quality isn't great, but neither were television sets back then. This is probably what it looked like on your TV. Suspend your disbelief and pretend it's 1958: Sputnik has just been launched by the Russians, Nabokov is causing a stir with "Lolita," and Elvis has just gone into the army. Listen to this and you'll wish Elvis had never left.
The nicest gifts under the tree are the ones you make yourself. Especially the ones you make with these industrial food products. Of course, no holiday is complete without some of these delicious treats, and no television holiday Christmas special is complete without these weird commercials. Believe it or not, the holiday tradition of prominent product placement may go all the way back to the first Christmas, when the Magi, also known as the three wise men, are said to have traveled from afar with gifts of frankincense, myrrh, and Kraft miniature marshmallows.
"Congo" the chimpanzee recently sold three paintings at a London auction house for more than $25,000. Howard Hong, an American collector, bought the paintings at Bonhams' auction house. The chimp art, painted when the animal was three, was included in a 1957 chimp art exhibition curated by famous zoologist Desmond Morris. Morris, author of The Naked Ape, had attempted to understand "chimpanzees' ability to create order and symmetry as well as to explore, at a more primeval level, the impetus behind our own desires for artistic creativity," auction house Bonhams said. The directory of modern and contemporary art at Bonhams added "We had no idea what these things were worth. We just put them in for our own amusement."
Pablo Picasso, noted human artist, is said to have had a painting by "Congo" hanging in his studio. The painting had been a gift.
To hear "This Monkey's Gone to Heaven," by the Pixies, please click button.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Check out this live clip from back in the day, "Eaton Rifles." The song was inspired by an unemployed demonstrators 'Right to Work' march being heckled by what Weller described as "a bunch of tossers" from the prestigious Eaton College.
Thought you were smart when you took them on,
But you didn't take a peep in their artillery room,
All that rugby puts hairs on your chest,
What chance have you got against a tie and a crest.
Hello-hurray - what a nice day - for the Eton rifles!
Hello-hurray - I hope rain stops play - with the Eton rifles!
Thought you were clever when you lit the fuse,
Tore down the house of commons in your brand new shoes,
Compose a revolutionary symphony,
Then went to bed with a charming young thing.