Come On, Let's Go.
15Oct/091

No User Serviceable Parts Inside

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers has been ever so kind as to provide us with a database of abstractly horrible things happening to abstract people.

Pacific Novelty Shadow Puppet Theater Presents:

Worker's Comp. - A Retrospective and Revue


Warning: Flash origin story in progress.


Make sure crack pipe is properly oriented before use.


To prevent serious injury, Tetris should only be played with digital controls.



The goggles! They ... work quite well, actually.


Before using bidet, make sure to remove lid.


Warning: HADOKEN!


By law, all desegregated work sites must be designated as such.


Caution: Ridiculing the crucified may result in unexpected lightning strikes.


Unattended microphone stands left at 4 Freedoms Plaza will be violated.


Caution: Your boss is too stupid for cliched executive gifts. Get him the Hickory Farms sampler instead.


Caution: Ultimate Nullifier does not contain user serviceable parts.


Space between gears has rendered them useless. Feel free to reach in and get that wrench you dropped. C'mon. Don't be a pussy.


Caution: Superman ricochet zone.


Warning: Darkness screaming as much in pain as in relief.


Awesome: This gravity bong works great.


All craps tables come with accessibility features for the disabled.


Danger: Retreat to safe distance after Yar has fired the Swirl.


Soylent Veal harvest area.


Snakes respect Black Vulcan.


Where's the fucking money, Lebowski?

(This originally appeared as a guest post on November 5th, 2008, on the fantastic blog Pacific Novelties)

14Oct/090

Rave On, This Crazy Feelin’

Today is my birthday, and to honor the fact, two of my favorite bands are playing live, together. The Raveonettes and the Black Angels are playing a show at Webster Hall, and the lady and I will be there, front-and-center-ish. The Raveonettes, hailing from Denmark, actually played a show in New York City while I was visiting Denmark. This will make up for it in spades, however. (I hope they're still selling the LUST LUST LUST t-shirts, as well.)

Here's Suicide, off their new album from a live set they did in Chicago, just two months ago. Said new album, In & Out of Control, is the best LP of 2009. Uncontested. Except by someone with differing tastes in music. Wrong tastes in music:

And here're the Black Angels, with an unknown song, played live just last Friday. I don't remember how I came across them, but they are named after The Velvet Underground's The Black Angel's Death Song, and sound like a down-in-the-whiskey Jesus and Mary Chain so that's a bit of something good:

(Thanks to alterna2 for the photo.)

--

UPDATE
The show was absolutely fantastic. The Raveonettes even did a slow-dance cover of Little Animal, which is one of my most favorite songs of theirs.

The Black Angels:

The Raveonettes:

Awesome tour poster:

13Oct/090

Only Shallow on the Inside

Taking figurative advantage of my utter lack of content, let's take a look back at some of the darlings of the short-lived Electroclash scene. Sprung from the fertile wombs of the New York, Detroit and "Europe" (some would say the roots of the genre lay in the Dutch group I-F's "Space Invaders are Smoking Grass," a few years before New York City-based DJ Larry Tee coined trademarked the term,) it romanticized cheap sex, expensive drugs, easy glamor and robots. By the time I was going to electronic music dance clubs in the mid 2000s, these songs became absolute staples, some of the earlier tracks already long played out. New York's Electroclash-specific night, Berliniamsburg, closed down in 2002, the year I started going to college and turned 18. Although never achieving the heights of their New Wave predecessors, the genre has made an indelible mark on music. I hope. Here are some (and I emphasize some) tracks from the scene that made a particular impact on me, for one reason or another:

I-F with Space Invaders are Smoking Grass. Still more on the house-y side, but you can definitely see the groundwork laid:

Miss Kittin and Golden Boy with Rippin Kittin. I wonder if Danzig or Jerry Only have ever heard this track. Well, they more than likely have. I wonder what their reactions were...:

Tyga and Zyntherius' cover of Corey Hart's Sunglasses at Night, bringing some android life into what was a nearly (hurr hurr) heartless 80s single:

Berlin-based Mount Sims with How We Do. Mount Sims, along with Peaches (who was one of the biggest success stories,) takes the cake for most overt sexuality in the music without become intolerably campy (ahem Avenue D ahem.) He/they also take the cake for my favorite song of the entire genre, Hate Fuck (NSFW). Unfortunately, the video being rather racy (albeit I don't think there is any actual nudity) I'll post this one and have you get a taste of him rather than not:

Finally, here is Kathleen Hanna's post-Bikini Kill project Le Tigre with Deceptacon, adding some much needed "fuck you" to the music, which prior had concentrated more on "fuck me":

There's absolutely no way to finish up this post without mentioning New York's Fischerspooner, but EMI saw it fit to disable embedding. So, here's a link to their music video/short film for Sweetness.

12Oct/093

The Unlucky Ones

Unfortunately, due to my status as a scholar, I will not be always able to provide you with well-researched posts tempered in the furnace of my wit and even, on the rarest of occasions, proofread. I've spent this weekend avoiding writing papers on Samuel "Slick" Beckett and John "Peanuts" Donne. Having finished the latter, I am now in the process of avoiding the former, while catching up on all the reading I neglected avoiding both.

I was going to provide you with a clip of Joe Orton's What the Butler Saw, which is a sexual revolution-era British farce. It is, honestly, one of the funniest things I've ever read. Beats out Oscar Wilde in every conceivable manner, beginning with Orton's realization that writing every line as a shining example of wit is tiresome and off-putting. I've never finished The Importance of Being Earnest, but I am devouring Orton's. Unfortunately, every clip I've found on YouTube completely misses the point of this being an English play, meant to be performed dead-pan (think John Cleese in Fawlty Towers) and not like an overblown Alfred Jarry revival. On the other hand, I might be completely wrong. Either way, I don't like it and I'm not going to subject you to something I don't like.

Anyhow, in lieu of that, but keeping theater in mind, here is an excerpt from a filmed production of Beckett's Waiting for Godot. The scene is Lucky's speech, performed with the manic calmness one would hope was the playwright's intent. I've been lucky enough to see the play performed live twice, the second time revived on Broadway. I can honestly say I was excited: Nathan Lane was playing the part of Estragon. I've seen him in several (or maybe just one other) stage production and he is more impressive in person than I've ever seen him on the screen. When you watch him, he makes sure you know that he is Nathan Fucking Lane, Actor!, without chewing the scenery or taking away from the performance of the other actors or the workings of the play itself. Imagine my surprise when the role of the sadistic Pozzo was being performed by one of my favorite actors ever, John Goodman. Goodman, who has mastered the role of terrifying-nice-guy, is a pleasure to watch doing anything at all; I'd love to see him make breakfast in the same way I'd love to hear Patrick Stewart read the phonebook. The contrast between his intimidating heft and pleasant face and tone is absolutely ominous. For those of you who have only experienced him in, say, Roseanne, go rent Barton Fink to see, to straight-up feel what I am talking about. He won't scare the shit out of you, but build up a wall of dread like a mason. Hell, go rent it anyway. It's a fantastic movie.

Anyhow, here's the clip (unfortunately featuring neither Lane nor Goodman):

(...and here's a higher quality version that, unfortunately, does not allow for embedding.)

Oh, and for shits and giggles, here is Sesame Street's take on Beckett and Godot. (Which is not all that different from the Onion's opinion.)

--

(Fawlty Towers photo thanks to the Age)

9Oct/091

Paul Robertson Retrospective

Here is a Cadbury commercial. Yes, Cadbury the chocolate people. By the end of this article (if you manage to make it all the way through) you will be aghast that it exists.

Now, let's go to hell.

I hate to call Paul Robertson a pixel artist. It just doesn't seem right. The man is an artist, period. Certainly, he works in the realm of pixels: his video projects resemble 16-bit era video games, albeit if they were conceived by a Japanese Jeffrey Dahmer. Make no mistake, no matter what your sentiments toward sex and violence are, Paul Robertson will, at the least, try his gosh darn hardest to offend the ever-loving shit out of you. Unless noted, everything following is obscene, violent and very, very NSFW (not safe for work). Giant-monster-shooting-fetuses NSFW. Pope-girls-ejaculating-rainbows NSFW. Very little of his stuff can be appreciated by anyone not already inured by guro, Cannibal Corpse album covers, any other source of baroque violence without getting a bit pale.

The indie-inclined of you might already be familiar Paul Robertson. He directed the absolutely adorable videdo for Architecture in Helsinki's Do the Whirlwind.

The video features most of his artistic trademarks (except, of course, the obscene violence.) There's electronic-y music, pixel art in smooth motion, a jawdropping amount of intricate detail in every nook and cranny, and character design straddling the fence between absolutely adorable and “what the hell is that thing?” Here's two more relatively “safe” video for Jeremy Dower's The Magic Touch and Qua's Devil Eyes, respectively. Qua is the music project-name used by his music collaborator Cornel Wilczek.The second video features some blood.

Okay, are we ready to venture out into the big, bad, world of the unbridled Paul Robertson? Good. Let's start off light. This is black and white and not pixel art, but shows off his incredible skill in both the expressions of characters and depiction of violence. Appropriately enough, it is called “Bloodbath Overkill” and stars a number of characters from the Super Mario Bros. World.

Wasn't that fun? Even here you can see how devoted he is to smooth animation. In the pixel art-based pieces, this becomes even more important. He presents us with the games we wish (well, some of the more maladjusted of us) we were playing on our Super Nintendoes and Sega Genesii.

In 2006, Mr. Robertson submitted a short film to Melbourne's Next Wave young artist multimedia arts festival. The piece was called, in loving reference to convolutedly translated Japanese video game titles, Pirate Baby's Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006. The plot of the video should be recognizable to anyone who has so much as seen a side-scrolling beat-'em-up game: rescue the girl from the bad guy. Except the bad guy is, as the title indicates, a pirate baby. Along the way they destroy squid, zombie babies freshly emerging from the womb and just so many other monstrosities, utilizing super abilities that include Walter from The Big Lebowski (he enters the bad guys into a world of pain.) Here it is in two sections, in YouTube-brand high quality. Due to the nature of pixel art, compression really kills the beauty so if it loads slow, let it. The non-HQ ones take almost everything away.

Part 1 of 2:

Part 2 of 2:

Finally, here is his latest and greatest work. In glorious full-color I present Paul Robertson's Kings of Power 4 billion %. Melding his entire gamut of style with a ADD-ridden production, more pop-culture and video game references than I can name (or even recognize), this is, so far, the absolute apex of the man's abilities. Of particular note is Part 2's cruficix of rotating pop culture characters at around 1:25. I definitely caught caught Ash (from Pokemon,) Alf, Bomberman and George Washington in there. I really need to stop describing it at this point. If you actually enjoyed everything so far, you'll probably love this as much as I do.

Part 1 of 2:

Part 2 of 2:

AVI download link (via MegaUpload):
http://www.megaupload.com/?d=RQCUZUIU

See how absurd that Cadbury ad is now? Yeah, yeah you do.

If you haven't had enough:

  • His LiveJournal where he posts animations for his works in progress and his single-image works.
  • His blog on the MechaFetus art collective website. (There is a lot of cross-over with the LiveJournal content.)
  • His Pixiv (Japanese DeviantArt-type site.)
  • Frequent music collaborator Cornel Wilczek's site.

8Oct/090

Yes, Always (and Forever)

If you grew up watching television during the Clinton administration, as I did, you were almost doubtlessly watching the numerous Steven Spielberg-produced Amblin/Warner Bros. series on Fox at the time. Beginning in 1990 with Tiny Toon Adventures, the numerous series mixed kid-friendlified Looney Tunes-style slapstick comedy with an everpresent hovering eye, winking at the adults.

Animaniacs debuted a few years later. Considerably more anarchic in its approach that Tiny Toon Adventures, the eye twittered like a hummingbird's wings, with enough inside-Hollywood references to challenge, in quantity, the equally anarchic and ill-fated Arrested Development. Even the theme song, which I can still recite from memory as well as my mother can the opening verses to Eugene Onegin, had a line about pay-or-play contracts, the meaning of which was lost on me until Wikipedia came about. The years went by, more series debuted, many mercifully aborted almost on the spot (I'm looking at you Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain.)

In 1995, eleven years old and barely cognizant of pop culture, I watched the most confounding Pinky & the Brain short, in fact the most confounding piece of what I could've sworn was children's animation ever. Entitled “Yes, Always,” the episode began with the Brain, arriving at the Warner Bros. Studio to record some commercial dialogue (the series treated metacommentary as a limb, for all intents and purposes.) He proceeds to verbally abuse the crew before firing them and then spends the rest of the short fighting with his producer, Pinky, over minutiae in the script. I had no idea what was going on: there were no sight gags, it was almost entire shot-reverse-shot. The dialogue wasn't particularly funny, never really hitting the highs I was used to. It wasn't until years later that I found out the origins of those odd six minutes.

Flashback: It is somewhere between 1960 and 1980 (thanks, Wikipedia.) Orson Welles, the man who brought America to its knees over the wireless, who, at age twenty-six, directed and starred in the film the American Film Institute dubbed the Greatest American Movie of All Time, was recording a commercial for Findus frozen foods. Guess what? The dialogue in “Yes, Always” was taken, nearly verbatim, from this outtake reel.

A few choice lines were changed the fit the format: “This is a lot of shit” became “a lot of tripe” and Welles' offer to go down on the director became the Brain's offer to “make cheese for [him].” Some dialogue was added, more than likely to stretch out the episode and let Pinky use his narf catch-noise. Finally, unlike Orson's storming off, the Brain's departure ended with a realization that he is not so nearly in demand as the director of F is for Fake once was.

--

Some bits of trivia I couldn't find another place for:

  • Maurice LaMarche, the Brain's celebrated voice actor (you might recognize him as everyone Billy West isn't in Futurama) is the man you hear in just about any animated parody of Orson Welles.
  • Orson Welles' last chronologically-recorded acting role was for an animated movie. He was Unicron in Transformers: The Movie (1986).
  • Animaniacs wasn't the only cartoon to use the "Frozen Peas" bit. The Critic, one of Fox's better-received attempts to follow up The Simpsons, used it for a one-off dick joke. Not only did it riff on the opening to Citizen Kane, it was also drawn in the style of Welles infamous outtakes. (The Critic took those on as well):

(Thanks to reneesilverman for the watertower photo.)

7Oct/090

Venus, Part Two

I can't say I have a clear memory of the album's first few tracks. Sunday Morning felt sweet and innocuous; I doubt I was paying attention to the lyrics particularly, but I was on the fence regarding everything except how the goddamn celesta's tinkling – any of its (intended) ethereal beauty lost on the sound's voyage up the rusty needle, through the labyrinthine wires and out a set of speakers long past their prime. I'm Waiting for the Man was rockin', any favor I had toward it anticipating my future love of garage rock, the rawer the better. Nico's crooning on “Femme Fatale” suffered the same fate as the celesta; the instrumentation yielding to the unintentionally over-overdriven crackles and crunches of the high notes. I awaited Venus in Furs.

I don't think I can accurately describe what happened at that moment. Viola and tambourine, guitar and distortion tumbled out in an mildly Arabic dirge. Discounting the occasional brief and unsatisfying foray into early 90s punk rock, this was my first encounter with genuine dissonance, with instrumentation that looked you in the eye and sternly stated “I am not here to be your friend.”. The drums beat out a somber death march for the guitar. The tambourine struck and the viola shrieked in instantaneous response. The highs screeched, the lows distorted themselves out of melody. Lou Reed started singing. No, that's wrong entirely -- this wasn't singing. The music was a black mass, and Lou, plaintive and beat, intoned the incantation.

”Tongue of thongs, the belt that does await you. Strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart.”

There was no mistake about it, the song wanted me sick. The noise rose and crashed, rose and crashed like against the surf within me. The repetitions were hypnotic, and yet the distortion, the grating, kept me awake, on that bleeding liminal edge. The images effortlessly flashed before my mind's eye. I could see the almond color of the furs, adorned, imperiously. In my gut, I could feel Severin's lust-sickness, his insatiable hunger for the blow.

”A thousand dreams, that would awake me. Different colors, made of tears.”

Until that day my only encounter with psychedelia was the occasional replay of Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit on the classic rock station, and a brief infatuation with the unabashedly silly Strawberry Alarm Clock. Venus in Furs was no Incense and Peppermints. Grace Slick made Alice a little stranger; Lou Reed destroyed a man named Severin before my ears. This wasn't a good-natured freak-out. I felt alien in my own crawling skin, embraced by a desire not wholly my own.

Certainly, I'd encountered these images before, courtesy of my unfettered and tortuously slow Internet connection. This wasn't the usual teenage kick, however, wherein the illicitness of the viewing itself was half (or more, depending on the [frequently piss-poor] quality of the material) the fun. I grew up a bit, that night, laying in the dark, enthralled to the rhythm. One bleary eye cracked just enough to let the light of self-realization make itself known; I couldn't see, but I knew I would, eventually. After doing some research, I went down to the Barnes and Noble and picked up a copy of the book to which the song was ode. It was, for the content, absolutely dreary. An item good for getting lambasted for carting around filth by an octogenarian substitute teacher, and that little else. It didn't matter, though. I'd seen the gate to the thousand dreams, that was enough.

Here is an incredible book. It will shock and amaze you. But as a documentary on the sexual corruption of our age, it is a must for every thinking adult.

The next time this album was in heavy rotation was six years later. I had now been working on St. Mark's, the slowly dying punk rock mecca of New York City, the very street on which I bought the record over a half-decade prior. I was living the dream, managing a boutique (read: t-shirt shop) I frequented as a kid. I closed Saturday nights and opened Sunday mornings, hungover more often than not. Those Sundays, I knew I could look forward to at least three things: peace and quiet (the owner, nursing her own hangover, left us alone on Sundays,) a grease-drenched Philly cheese steak from the falafel place a few doors down, and The Velvet Underground and Nico. My shoulder-length hair had been long since chopped off, given way to an overgrown mohawk dyed green long past its expiration date. The ultra-wide jeans and extra-large band shirts replaced by skin-tight everything. The ubiquitous flannel shirt replaced by a vintage blazer (“Made in Czechoslovakia.”) Eventually, Venus in Furs would come on the store's miswired (guess by whom,) stereo system and I would lean against the gumball machine, light a cigarette, and be more glad I wasn't a teenager than ever.

6Oct/090

Venus, Part One

The title of this blog is derived shamelessly stolen from a song title by a British band named Broadcast, whom I fell for in the summer of 2002. Shortly after I graduated from high school, several internet-buddies and I, having met on a forum and discovered a tentatively mutual taste in tunes, set up an FTP and began trading music.

...let's rewind, though. To the first time a song hit me so hard, everything I was before that moment suffered a mortal wound. If this melodrama hasn't alerted you to it already, it happened during my teenage years: an era of malignant tedium, gratefully punctuated by moments such as these:

It is sophomore year. I've been collecting vinyl for a while now, discovering it as both an affordable and rewarding hobby. Access to eBay and the East Village, and armed with nearly indiscriminate taste, made this materialistic fetishization of my forefathers' (well, fathers') past a particularly easy task. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” original cast recording for six fifty? Sure, I'll take that off your hands. An assorted lot of beaten Beatles albums I've heard of in passing? Why not! I made my money compiling, editing and typing my mother's graduate school homework, and being an IRC- and MUD-addicted shut-in, I had nothing better to spend my it on than relics. Her ex-boyfriend's stereo system (a record player sitting atop a radio and tape deck,) warbled out Pinball Wizard and the I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag at an average of thirty-three-and-a-third RPM (accounting for the disk's glacially-raised, millimeteric hills and valleys.) Perhaps two out of any of the four speakers would be working at a time, with even money on the fact that I was listening to only the left or right side of a stereophonic recording. I'd hardly ever notice, outside of, for instance, the tomfoolery on Yellow Submarine, which I could've sworn had singing the last time I played it, and would have had at the moment, were the speaker set-up wired by someone who knew what he was doing, rather than trying his best to simultaneously tie together wires and not fall from a shaky and, more importantly, wheeled office chair.

I've sidetracked myself.

It is the Spring of 2000. I am lollygagging about the East Village, wasting time in my favorite music shop with an 88 cent CD rack: St. Mark's Sounds. I'm with an old friend and his girlfriend. Inspiration drives me to the new vinyl section; I'd never before bought an new record. Perhaps it was spending the day reminded of my ongoing datelessness that made me crave something of my own and a new record would have to do. However, I didn't want the usual: a circa-1985 reprint of Dark Side of the Moon, sold off with everything else to make room for the new baby. It was a brand new album I was after.. An artifact not aged by someone else's time and, having worn out it's welcome, put on the path of least monetary resistance toward me. Well, what do you know, there it is: pristine and shrink-wrapped, unstained, uncreased shiny white with a big ole yellow banana on the cover: The Velvet Underground and Nico. I am sixteen; I've heard of them. My friend's ex-punk girlfriend vouches for group (the absurdity of her self-declared position within the counterculture was wholly lost on me.) I take the album home. I get the shrink wrap off, admire the sheer newness and slide out the record.

Holy shit. It's orange.

Orange.

Continued Tomorrow.

(Thanks to appleshampoo64 on Photobucket)

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