Archive for May, 2011




interview with Carl Snow…


On the strength of their one EP, KoRo is one of my all time favorite bands. They played a stripped down, raw brand of hardcore that’s as fast as can be while maintaining amazing song writing qualities. That’s to say, I don’t think you can write songs that are simultaneously faster and more catchy than KoRo did. Along with bands like Deep Wound, Die Kruezen, Anti-Cimex, Void, and Poison Idea, they raised the bar and pushed the limits as to what you could accomplish musically in the genre of hardcore. Unfortunately, those high standards haven’t even been challenged.

I managed to get in touch with the founder and main songwriter of this band. The smile didn’t leave my face for a few days after Carl first wrote me, and the opportunity to pick his brain and get to know him was more than welcome. While many thought KoRo had disappeared off the face of the earth I found out that, quite to the contrary, Carl is still as passionate about music as ever. I was able to learn a great deal about their history and that the short lived band wasn’t just a one night stand in Carl’s life as a musician. I’ll excerpt from a recent article on Knoxville’s musical history written by Mike Gibson as a way of introduction:

Two of the remarkable guitarists who emerged from that milieu were burly, tattooed axe-mangler Carl Snow and Van Halen-obsessed Bearden kid David Teague, the foundation of Knoxville’s Koro in 1982. That hardcore unit set out to be “the fastest, tightest band in the world…and they came damn close,” remarks Sewell. “They blew everybody else out of the boat. The first time I heard them, they scared me.” The singular ferocity of the outfit (their lone 7-inch is now a punk-rock collector’s item) owed much to the skills of those two players. Both were chameleons, capable of adapting their styles to multiple contexts, but best-known for their fast, impeccably tight rhythms and rabid solos. “Carl is as talented a musician as has ever been in Knoxville; he can play anything effortlessly, and he can write it out on music paper,” says Sewell. Snow played in a handful of other locally-renowned outfits (Red, Whitey…), as did Teague. But Teague’s questing took him to points West, where he would record an independent album with the Los Angeles band Muzza Chunka. The band later broke up, but the six-string deities smiled on this particular son of Knoxville guitartistry. Today, he’s a member of the long-running and very successful punk band the Dickies and has appeared on the group’s last two albums.

DAVE HYDE: You started getting into music in Knoxville, TN in the late 70′s, right? Was there anything happening there locally or did you just start getting into other stuff you heard?
CARL SNOW: The guys I was hanging ’round those days…well, we had the XTC LPs, SOME Sham 69, Ruts, Stiff Little Fingers, etc, but not much HC (as it was not recognized yet). We (some of us landed in KoRo) had a band in 1979… whew now I feel old. I’m the guy who started KoRo, then I got Dave Teague on board.

DH: How did you go from that first band to KoRo?
CS: Dave Teague used to hang around the Trivia Birds practices and shows, and was/is a good friend. I was “over” the Birds and searching for more and needed a bigger GIT sound. I thought of Dave. The bassist for T-Birds was Danny, Ron’s younger brother (not a great bassist). Greg was an incredible drummer, but he was forming Turbine-44 with Trey and Bart so I could not get him. We (Dave and I) found out our long time buddy Ron was a really good bassist, but we needed a drummer. Dave knew this guy in a metal band named Bill (god, was he good). We played him the Germs LP and got him to join. For a while I did the vocals a well as (twin leads) guitar, but those songs were very physically demanding to play (the speed) and I would get dizzy after a few songs. So we hunted with no luck until one day, Scott (Bills much older half-brother) got dragged to practice. We were fuckin’ around playing “Amoeba” and “Kids of the Black Hole” by the Adolescents and “Revenge” by Black Flag or something like that when he walked in the garage. He knew the songs! We asked if he’d sing to “Gimme a Break,” and BLAMO!, he was in. That’s the formation of KoRo.

DH: What about the name Koro?
CS: The name KoRo (also – shookyong) was found in Ron’s psychology book (he was the “older guy” in the band and was in college). It was/is a mental disorder that at the time was prevalent among Asians (mainly Japanese) To paraphrase from memory: “Men suffering from Koro (shookyong) have an overwhelming fear that their genitals will be sucked into their body as they sleep. This causes extreme sleeplessness and panic, sufferers have their mates HOLD their genitals as they fall asleep or by a CLAMPING DEVICE (haha) to hold the genitals in place.” Now if YOU were 15 or 16 and YOU read THAT SHIT while wanting to name your new band something… how the fuck could you resist!?

DH: So THAT’s what KoRo means… always figured it was either nonsense or some obscure word with a deep meaning. Well, maybe it is in a way. Ha. Was there much of a local scene by the time KoRo started playing? What bands were from around there besides you guys?
CS: Sure, great “scene” as scenes go, I suppose. All “scenes” start fairly well only to dissolve into smaller cliques and factions. ’79-’85 some great things happened. Knoxville for a while, was almost a shared scene. Bands traveling found K-town a great layover between say “Atlanta, Nashville, Athens etc.” so the Athens/Atlanta/Nashville thing (Chattanooga to some extent) “helped”. We had B-52′s, Big Star, REM, Brains, 86, Lets Active playing here a lot as they shared our region. Some brilliant K-town bands ’79-’85 would be Balboa – incredible and incenerary, the best o’ the best by far! A few tunes on local compilation, a BRILLIANT 12″ EP (brown cover , then “live like this”), 5-Twins–great teen-love song power pop, Jelly Babies… Later there was STD’s (Jon “vox” later was in Whitey w/ me), Turbine 44 (also later incarnations = Turbine 25, L7 “box”), Beyond John, who had a great self titled LP, WH-WH (T-hills band after Balboa) great stuff, UXB, The Scam (Dave’s pre-KoRo band), Iron Hawg, The Wedge (Dave’s post KoRo band), Real Hostages who were later Smokin’ Dave and the Premo Dopes. They had some good output, a few CDs…not my fav though I like all the guys a lot. Also Hector Qirko Blues Band (Hq’s band after Baloa) who are STILL great still a band, Semi-Conductors, another great T-hill band, Teenage Love, Barbed Wire Shela, and on and on…

DH: Knoxville’s music history was richer than I’d thought. Was it just local bands or did touring groups pull through town?
CS: We played with too many bands over the years to remember: Decendants, Ramones, Big Boys, Dicks, SOA, Minor Threat, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, TSOL, Channel 3, Scream, Chili Peppers, Iggy, and so on. The most fun show was us and Circle Jerks in 1982(3?). The DK show was hilarious. Another funny story was eating with Black Flag. Hank ending the meal in a food fight with. And Ian (Minor, Fugazi) and crew’s odd eating regiment (always stayed at my place…very funny).

DH: The EP that you guys put out is easily one of my favorite records, but not many people even know it exists. You didn’t press very many copies of the record. I’ve heard 300 copies, is that right? How was the reaction to the record, did it sell well, was it well received?
CS: You mention us pressing 300 copies… naw, it was 500. We opened for the Dead Kennedys at the 688 club in Atlanta. Jello was a fan, he gave me some whiskey and I ended up selling records out of the box at that show…then (me+Jello+whiskey) I ended up getting convinced to let Jello take the rest of the EP’s to California for us. That’s why they ended up missing… and also why the EP is so bootlegged.

DH: Oh yeah… Jello took all the records to California? That’s strange. Did he sell all the copies, or did they get lost. Or are they all sitting in his basement still.
CS: Well… I knew Jello for a very short while but from what I know about him he probably forgot that the box was in the van until they cleaned! He was theorizing about governmental issues while reading a book by Karl Marx while drinking.

DH: Oh, also, I was actually having a conversation with someone about the KoRo record, and he mentioned that many copies were sleeveless, some had the oversize sleeve, and a few had an offset printed sleeve. Is that true? I never knew about the offset version.
CS: The original EP was regular size with gatefold cover and a hand written phone number inside and “the baby” on the EP itself. What you are referring to must be one of the many bootlegs out there. So, all told, baby plus phone plus lyrics plus old English KORO writing (cover- Koro, 8 songs for a grave age), hand done back and sleeve is original…..ANY others are boots.

DH: Why aren’t there any lyrics to “Acid Casualty” on the record?
CS: My mom an pop “put up” the 400 bucks for the ep and we told them “Acid Cassualty” was an anti-drug song, when in fact it was about the band getting high! So you can understand why at 16 years of age I would not include those lyrics. They would have worried my parents. Funny thing: after a while KoRo went “straight-edge”, haha. Mentioning Bart and Trey (friends then) and the “goings on” would not have been good at the time.

Lyrics to “Acid Casualty”:
Bart’s got the ludes, Bart’s got the speed

he’s a great guy, he’s all we need

people call us queer, people call us tweeked

we keep right along X 3

we keep snortin’ speed

I start to mumble, I can only stumble, my thoughts all crumble like saltine crackers, I’m fucking up and I don’t know what to do!

At Trey’s house…

we fry!

I believe that’s accurate… been awhile.

DH: The first song, “700 Club”, is, obviously enough, about Pat Robertson and the religious right. How prevalent was evangelical religion in the early 80′s in Tennessee?
CS: I wrote this whole mess after getting sick of Pat Robertson and co. Also, these religious zealots used to harass the fuck out of us at school. They called themselves “young life.” It was just an excuse to get drunk Friday at the high school football game and repent later. They used to follow us around trying to “save” us. Great Bill drum fills and me trying to play a solo in less than 2 seconds.

DH: “Nauseous” makes reference to Carl and David. Is that self-referential/is there any story behind that or was it just a coincidence that the names used happened to be the names to two members?
CS: Haha, deep song. On the surface I wrote it about me and Dave puking, but it had a twist. A lot of shit made me wanna puke in those days. Me and Dave hurling after a bottle of something was an unintented “cover” for everything making me wanna puke. Another funny thing. Blap! is about a dumb girl we all knew who did one to many Qualudes fell down and asked “did I go ‘blap?’”, haha. Nauseous. As I said earlier Richard (RIP) Creekmore wrote the words. It started as a TRIVIA BIRDS song (Me, Danny (bs) [Ron's younger brother!] and Greg [Later of (forget the name) "The Obsessed?"...dunno]). At the time Dave had a band called THE SQUAD (hence the line calling him “Dave Squad”) Richard called him D-Squid. We used to play this beautiful dump with Dave’s “SQUAD”, Greg’s TURBINE 44 (yup, he was in 2 bands at the time), and Jon’s band JELLY BABY’S (later called STD’s). The original (TRIVIA) version was without the intro and outro – Greg could have played it, but Danny was not that great on bass. KoRo decided to do it cause we all dug it, but it needed the “KoRo” signature on it somewhere. At first I was like, well, I like it like as it is, then under pressure (and help) from Dave it was decided to add the intro and outro. I said “o.k. lessee if we can play this!” “Ha!” “I’ll show them” The intro is a tough cord progression to say the least, but the guys nailed it. So me wanting still to fuck with them said, “yeah but at the end I wanna do the intro again DOUBLE TIME!!” I thought I had ‘em but was wrong (thankfully). This is my favorite Dave solo ever! He nailed it in one take… one note at the solo intro is OFF the neck (high) and Dave was determined to “get it” so he practiced the lick forever with great result. Note: Dave always “wrote” his solo’s and prided himself on reproducing them. I always just played whatever came to mind (solo wise). I’ve noticed the difference in Dave’s and my lead styles: what a hoot Dave=Ozzy, metal lead and Carl=Hendrix, jazz, blues lead. The intro/outro became a critical part (years later) of WHITEY’s “Guns, Bibles, and Beer”. Man, I miss Richard. By the way, he did get quite ill at a show at Bundulees. We had (pre-show) listened (at Greg’s house) to the ENTIRE Phillip Glass Opera “Einstein On The Beach” while tripping and drinking. It was enough to fuck with anyone’s stomach!!

the interview continues


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examining the famed sasquatch footage…


Was the Patterson-Gimlin film ever proven to be a hoax? The short answer: No.

But what about the rumors? What about the rumor that one of the people who helped obtain the footage “confessed” to wearing the costume? There are, in fact, several different stories involving different people who claimed (or were suspected) to be the man in the costume. Logically, if the stories involve different culprits then most of those stories must be completely bogus because not everybody who made the claim of being the guy in the costume was the guy in the costume. Some of those bogus stories have been commercially exploited in books and TV documentaries. That his how most people have “heard” that the Patterson footage was “proven to be a hoax”.

Thankfully, in January 2010 new information was presented on television which graphicly demonstrates that all of those costume stories were falsified. A new documentary on the National Geographic Channel titled “American Paranormal: Bigfoot” presented some compelling math and anatomy to show it’s not a costume at all. The strategy for analysis of the Patterson creature built upon strategies employed in prior documentaries, namely “Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science” and at least one episode of Monsterquest (History Channel). That’s not a bad thing. The three different examinations all mutually corroborate each other in various ways. The mathematical data of the latest examination gives a more precise measurement of the Patterson creature’s height: Seven (7) foot, six and a half (6 1/2) inches tall.

All the Costume Confessions, Now Obsolete

Between the beginning of 1996 and the end of 1999, a new crop of PGF debunking rumors blossomed, as large segments of the North American population were connecting to the Internet for the first time. Some of those claims were promoted by clever opportunists. A handful of these rumors received regional press attention. A few received national press attention. The stories did not corroborate each other. They were all contradictory in their details, but they all claimed to debunk the Patterson footage. After a while it became increasingly ludicrous to hear more stories claiming to be the “final resolution of the mystery.”

In the nine years between the widely publicized Jerry Crew tracks in October, 1958, and the Patterson-Gimlin footage in October, 1967, several people in the Northwest had the idea of making a documentary about the bigfoot mystery, but only a few actually made progress in that direction. Patterson was, apparently, the only one among them who was willing and capable of leading extended horsepacking trips in the mountains where tracks were being found most often — down around Bluff Creek, California.

The Real Story Behind the Patterson Footage

The real story behind the Patterson-Gimlin footage is a remarkable intersection of uniquely western talents, bravery and entrepreneurial motivation.

In the summer of 1967 Bob Gimlin was asked to accompany his friend and fellow rodeo rider Roger Patterson on a horsepacking trip to Northern California. Patterson wanted to obtain footage of a sasquatch for his own documentary about the subject. Had Gimlin not been a gifted handler of quiet-stepping Rocky Mountain horses, and had Patterson not been a seasoned rodeo rider, with a strong drive to make documentary about sasquatches … the footage would probably not exist.

When the two men came into view of the creature, Roger’s normally unspookable mountain horse reared up in panic and fell over on him. Roger’s leg was pinned to the ground. With a thrashing horse pinning him to the ground, he pulled himself out from underneath it, and whipped out a 16mm camera from a saddle bag, and then dashed toward the fleeing figure, finally steadying his aim as it walked away. It all happened faster than it takes to describe. You get a sense of how fast it actually happened when you watch the unstabilized full version of the footage. It was a violent burst of energy and motion, then a quickly steadied control of his body and hands — the characteristic maneuvers of a seasoned rodeo rider.

Patterson was not a hoaxer. Patterson was an authentic cowboy, on an authentic cowboy mission. He accomplished that mission on the afternoon of October 20, 1967 and then died from cancer a few years later (probably due to his cowboy lifestyle).

The Significance of the Patterson-Gimlin Footage for Bigfoot Research

Dr. Jeff Meldrum, Professor of Anthropology at Idaho State University in Pocatella. The image above shows him giving an authoritative lecture about the Patterson-Gimlin footage at a bigfoot conference. The PGF has tremendous significance for bigfoot research. To the public it represents both the purported creature, and the controversy over its reality. To most bigfoot researchers (“bigfooters”), the PGF is what it appears to be — a unique peek at a surviving giant ape species, in North America.

read the entire article here…

(BFRO  1.31.10)

Copyright © 2011




a great American artist… 


Clementine Hunter was born on Hidden Hill Plantation near Cloutierville, Louisiana; a place so isolated and harsh that local legend claimed it was the real-life inspiration for Uncle Tom’s Cabin. her family moved north to the Cane River area when she was a child, and eventually they moved to Melrose Plantation near Natchitoches, where Hunter spent a lot of her life picking cotton. She attended school for just 10 days and never learned to read or write. Later, she cooked for the Big House, using her creative spirit to make dolls for the children, as well as quilts, baskets, and lace curtains.

But in the late 1940s, one of the many artists who visited the plantation left behind some tubes of paint. Plantation curator Francois Mignon encouraged Hunter to try her own hand at painting. During the next four decades, she created thousands of paintings. Hunter worked all day at the plantation Big House and took home washing and ironing to be returned the next day. Once home, she took care of her worthless husband.

It was often midnight before she was free to ”mark some pictures,” as she once said of her painting; using cardboard, paper bags, lumber scraps, milk jugs, the insides of soap boxes, and other throw-outs. Almost all of her works were ”memory paintings,” showing plantation life as she remembered it: picking cotton, gathering figs, threshing pecans; the weddings, baptisms, funerals, and other scenes of everyday life. Her titles were often intriguing, too.

Some simple ones were selected by collectors and were merely descriptive of their content: Watermelon, Flowers, Ducks, and so on. When collectors did ask for a title, Hunter gave her own, such as “Trying to Keep the Baby Happy,” “She’s Not Pretty But She’s Strong,” and “Saturday Night at the Honky Tonk.” Visitors to the plantation would buy her paintings, starting at 25 cents and 50 cents in the 1940s. Contemporary collectors consider these early works her best. Eventually, her various patrons were able to get her work into shows, the first big one being the New Orleans Arts and Crafts Show in 1949.

A June 1953 article in Look magazine brought her to national attention. In 1957, some critics dubbed her “’the Black Grandma Moses.” And, in 1979, Robert Bishop, director of The Museum of American Folk Art in Washington, called the artist, then in her 90s, ”the most celebrated of all Southern contemporary painters.” By the 1970s, there were large public and private collections of Hunter’s work, and by the 1980s, several important traveling exhibitions featured her paintings. The prices for her work had risen from 25 cents to several thousand dollars.

In the last years of her life, Hunter left her rented cabin and moved upriver, living in a trailer she bought with money from selling her paintings. She painted until the last few months of her life, dying at the age of 100 on January 1, 1988. Hunter was more modest about her abilities. “God puts those pictures in my head and I just puts them on the canvas, like He wants me to,” the artist said.





Norman Foster‘s project for Kazakhstan…


You hear a lot about pushing the boundaries in architecture. In Astana, the new capital of Kazakhstan, this overused phrase is literally true. Walk a few hundred yards from the manicured central boulevard, sidestep the preposterously grand presidential palace, and you are quickly into a shanty town of construction workers’ huts. Cross the river, and you are out on the dusty steppe. And there, pushing the city boundary right out, is the Pyramid of Peace. It is designed by Britain’s most high-achieving architect, Lord Foster.

I have seen a lot of Foster buildings in my time but none so curious as this 203-foot high platonic object. Set in the middle of a once virtually unknown former Soviet republic which happens to be the size of the whole of Western Europe, it is curious in all its aspects – the what, the where, the why, the how. The how is especially compelling. I saw it a week before it was meant to be finished. Were this a European or American building, you would have said it was three months off. But they do things differently in Central Asia. The swarming interior, all swirling smoke and deafening clamour shot through with torrents of sparks, was William Blake crossed with Piranesi, as imagined by fantastical film-makers Powell and Pressburger.

As well as the hundreds of Turkish and Kazakh workers, many of them women, they had drafted in the army to get things speeded up a bit. By the time you read this, it will be complete, after a fashion. The shrieking, fiery Pandemonium will have become a mysterious kind of heaven. This is the whole point of the place. It is all about peace, love and understanding. Oh, and it has an opera house in it, too.

You have to imagine a country where the ex-Soviet president, buoyed up by his country’s oil, gas and mineral wealth, first decides to move his capital city from the edge to the centre, and then instigates a triennial congress of the world’s religious leaders in an attempt to put the world to rights. Kazakhstan is roughly half Muslim, half Russian Orthodox. He then decides he needs an appropriate building to house this congress. It ought to be a pyramid, he thinks, and it should stand just across the river from his own palace. He then picks up the phone and calls Norman Foster.

There is a bit of a cult of personality around this powerful, well-connected and somewhat aloof figure. You could say the same about President Nursultan Nazarbayev. His official portrait is to be found hanging on walls everywhere. But usually quite small, and always indoors. Not huge and outdoors, which is when you have to start to worry. Opposition political parties don’t get very far here. But there’s a context to this kind of thing: in a volatile region, stability is prized. And as one seasoned Turkish observer put it: “They don’t put up golden statues to the president here.” True enough, though his handprint is set in gold at the top of the city’s observation tower, and newlyweds touch it for luck. Some say he intends the pyramid as his eventual mausoleum.

You also have to be aware of the Ottoman, Silk Road, aspect of all this. Foster and Partners have collaborated with their Turkish colleagues Tabanlioglu Architecture. Their clients are the Turkish development and construction company Sembol. It is said that Turkish interests were instrumental in encouraging Nazarbayev to build the new capital. In the site office at the base of the pyramid, the inevitable presidential portrait is flanked by one of Kemal Ataturk, the reforming yet similarly authoritarian founder of modern Turkey.

For all that, a surprising amount of the new architecture in Astana is post-Soviet classical stuff of a kind that would be familiar to Stalin. Much of the rest is a tragically misguided attempt at 1980s Western postmodernism, and all of it is dropped onto a grandiose masterplan originally drawn up by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa in 1998. Kamaz construction trucks, the indestructible vehicles beloved of the Russian military, are everywhere. But they share the broad highways with shiny new Mercs and BMWs and Lexuses. There is no shortage of stretch limos, as you’ll notice on Saturdays when the wedding parties, fresh out of mosque or cathedral, charge around town in them. There’s not much “there” there yet, not much sense of cohesion, but that may come: I’ve seen the plans for the next 15 years. This is Nazarbayev’s version of Brasilia or Canberra.

Why get involved in all this? Foster has described the pyramid as “dedicated to the renunciation of violence and the promotion of faith and human equality”. As Foster’s fellow-director David Nelson, charged with delivering the building, puts it: “It was one of those things that captures the imagination. We felt that if someone wants to bring together the world’s religions, that is something that is well worth doing at the moment. As a symbol, the pyramid is not really owned by any of today’s religions.”

Besides, Nelson points out, the Foster practice had done all kinds of buildings around the world, but nothing like this, in a climate that ranges from minus 40 degrees in winter to plus 40 in summer. “In a way, it’s a connoisseur’s building. Could we do something like that, very fast, in a more extreme situation than usual? There’s no point in just repeating things.”

The gamble has paid off. Foster now has at least one, even bigger follow-up project (a large year-round entertainment centre beneath a tented roof at the other end of town) and has set up an office in Istanbul to serve the region. The steel-framed, pale granite-clad, $70m pyramid with its apex of stained glass by artist Brian Clarke has been built at dizzying speed. It has risen from its man-made hill, inside which the 1500-seat opera house (a late addition by the president) is concealed. You enter via the side of the hill so as to leave the pyramid as a pure object in the manner of the visionary 18th century French visionary architect Boullée.

It is, however, steeper-sided than pyramids usually are. Instead of being an equilateral triangle in section, its height is the same as the width of the base, so pulling the apex upwards. This trick works best visually when you are close to the building, when its taller proportion counteracts the foreshortening effect of gazing up at it from below. It is unbroken by entrances though it is pierced by diamond-shaped windows that fit within its characteristically Fosterian latticework structure. You arrive in a cavernous black-granite foyer from which dramatic hanging staircases take you up into the heart of the building. Rather than interrupt this enormous open space with lift shafts, they have learned from the Eiffel tower and put slanting funicular lifts in the corners.

In this central space, you are standing on top of the opera house, walking over the triangular glass segments of its circular ceiling. The theatre consultant, architect Anne Minors, previously worked on both the Royal Opera House and Glyndebourne, and the experience shows: below your feet is a traditionally horseshoe-shaped room with two tiers of balconies, lined with warm wood inside and out. Although this was shoehorned into the project late – its flytower having to be staggered so as to fit inside the pyramid above – it feels anything but pinched.

Things get rather less traditional as you ascend the building. First you pass some relatively straightforward floors earmarked for offices and museums. Then you hit double-height Toblerone-shaped rooms for special events. Then the space flares out again and you walk up a ramp past walls festooned with hanging plants. Thus you arrive at the mystic chamber at the apex, light flooding in through the yellow and blue (Kazakh national colours) of Clarke’s coloured glass with its motif of giant fluttering doves. Quite a departure for an artist who used to be known for abstraction. In this space, representatives of 18 of the world’s religions will meet in a circle, arranged around an open oculus through which daylight floods into the atrium below. Once again, you think of filmic heaven, as seen in Powell and Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death. Say what you like about Foster, there’s no denying he’s the man for the big architectural set-piece.

As I left, all of this was rising from a moonscape of caked earth, whipped up into dust-storms in the wind by the huge tyres of the trucks. They were just starting to construct the road to the building. Within days they would whisk away the scaffolding inside and the tower crane outside. The landscaping – already advanced on the eastern approach side – would then be extended over the work site to the west. Whereupon Nursultan Nazarbayev would look out of the back of his palace and, like some modern-day Tamburlaine, see his religious vision on the steppes complete.

It is a strange story. The building looks surprisingly small in the endless landscape, though it will soon be surrounded as Astana continues to expand. It feels more Inca than Egyptian, with its steep sides and its sacred chamber at the top. Like a temple, it is not a thing you can warm to. It is a folly on a grand scale. But it is a place to wonder at.


Text © Hugh Pearman


unfinished work…


a brief history of three momentous films that didn’t make the cut…


Alfred Hitchcock’s “Kaleidoscope”

In the mid-1960s, with his career at a low ebb following the critical failure of Marnie and an ambivalent response to Torn Curtain, Alfred Hitchcock worked on a groundbreaking experimental film that would have represented a radical change in his style-possibly heralding a new late phase of cinematic creativity.

Kaleidoscope was the story of a serial rapist and killer. It was initially envisaged as a kind of prelude to Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt. There would be several murders, including an attempt on the life of a decoy policewoman – an idea that particularly excited Hitchcock – and a Psycho-style stabbing. And the director intended to use story details from infamous UK criminal cases (including an acid bath murderer and a necrophile).

This could have been Hitchcock’s darkest film. Indeed, Hitchcock himself worried that some scenes might be too frightening for the audience. In a bold move, he wanted to tell the entire story from the perspective of the killer, envisaged as an attractive, vulnerable young man (Hitchcock later decided that the character would be gay). More radically, he planned to experiment with innovative filming techniques such as hand-held filming and natural light.

Unfortunately, MCA studios turned the film down as they apparently thought that the protagonist was too “ugly”, a decision that rankled with Hitchcock for the rest of his life. All that remains now of his experiment is an hour-long tape of silent footage – and the tantalising prospect of a new wave of Hitchcock films in a new vérité style, influenced by the European avant garde, to whom he had become a deity.

Sergei Eisenstein’s “Que Viva Mexico” 

In the 1920s, the pioneering Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein changed the face of cinema with his celebrated Battleship Potemkin – a seminal illustration of his theories of montage. And if he had succeeded in completing Que Viva Mexico, his ambitious social history of Mexico, weaving together its myths, art, religion, and social history, he might have changed cinema history once again.

Unfortunately, Eisenstein’s financial backer, the American novelist Upton Sinclair, cancelled the production before filming was completed in 1932. In part this was due to the film’s extended delays and increased expenses brought on by arduous working conditions in Mexico, as well as Eisenstein’s increasingly epic conception of the film. However, a telex from Stalin presenting Eisenstein as a traitor to Russia also weighed heavily on the project. The director was forced to return to Russia empty-handed. Although Sinclair promised to send him the footage, he was prohibited from doing so by the Russian state.

Que Viva Mexico represented a breakthrough in Eisenstein’s artistic development. Gone was the social realist approach to montage; in its place came an innovative improvised approach, a freer, more personal kind of cinema, exploring picture composition and mise-en-scène, anticipating directors like Von Sternberg. He was never again to achieve this kind of creative freedom.

Several versions of the film were culled from the footage, but none bear comparison to Eisenstein’s ambitious vision, notwithstanding the fragmentary beauty of Edouard Tisse’s stark vivid images. However, the influence of the film’s imagery can be seen on directors such as Luis Buñuel, John Huston and Orson Welles.

Orson Welles’s “Don Quixote”

Although Orson Welles left a myriad of incomplete films during his 50 years in cinema, Don Quixote was his most enduring passion. He began filming in 1955 and continued in Mexico, Spain and Italy over the following decades, bringing together the cast and crew whenever he could raise the finance. Indeed, Welles was still talking about finishing the film months before his death in 1985. Don Quixote was Welles’s great obsession. “What interests me is the idea of these dated virtues [like chivalry] and why they seem to speak to us, when by all logic they are so hopelessly irrelevant,” he said in an interview, revealing that this was a key theme of his films. In Welles’s film, Quixote was a timeless figure who leaves 16th-century Andalusia to confront modern Spain and the modern world.

The film mutated countless times over the years. Unable or unwilling to finish it, Welles continued proliferating images and stories, not unlike the style of Cervantes’ book. All that was left at the end of Welles’s life was 300,000ft of film footage poorly organised and distributed across the world.

A hastily “restored” version of the film, put together by Jess Franco in 1992, director of exploitation films such as She Killed in Ecstasy, was received with revulsion. It offered only occasional glimpses of Welles’s brilliance and Francisco Reiguera’s superb performance as Don Quixote.

Over the decades, Welles indiscriminately accepted films in order to raise finance for this film. This was not the only sacrifice he made. At the end of editing Touch of Evil, he rushed off to Mexico to film Don Quixote. And Universal studios, taking advantage of his absence, radically re-edited his dark noir masterpiece.

read the entire article here…

(THE GUARDIAN  7.30.04)

also see Kubrick’s “Napoleon”







the Dancing Plague of 1518, the Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic, and plagues of Koro…


In July of 1518, a woman referred to as Frau Troffea stepped into a narrow street in Strasbourg, France and began a fervent dancing vigil that lasted between four and six days. By the end of the week, 34 others had joined her and, within a month, the crowd of dancing, hopping and leaping individuals had swelled to 400.

Authorities prescribed “more dancing” to cure the tormented movers but, by summer’s end, dozens in the Alsatian city had died of heart attacks, strokes and sheer exhaustion due to nonstop dancing.

For centuries this bizarre event, known variously as the dancing plague or epidemic of 1518, has stumped scientists attempting to find a cause for the mindless, intense and ultimately deadly dance. Historian John Waller, author of the forthcoming book, “A Time to Dance, A Time to Die: The Extraordinary Story of the Dancing Plague of 1518,” studied the illness at length and has solved the mystery.

“That the event took place is undisputed,” said Waller, a Michigan State University professor who has also authored a paper on the topic, which has been accepted for publication in the journal Endeavour.

Waller explained that historical records documenting the dancing deaths, such as physician notes, cathedral sermons, local and regional chronicles, and even notes issued by the Strasbourg city council during the height of the boogying rage, all “are unambiguous on the fact that (victims) danced.”

“These people were not just trembling, shaking or convulsing; although they were entranced, their arms and legs were moving as if they were purposefully dancing,” he said.

Possible Causes

Eugene Backman, author of the 1952 book “Religious Dances in the Christian Church and in Popular Medicine,” sought a biological or chemical origin for the dancing mania. Backman and other experts at the time believed the most likely explanation was ergot, a mold that grows on the stalks of damp rye. When consumed unknowingly in bread, the mold can trigger violent convulsion and delusions but not, Waller says, “coordinated movements that last for days.”

While at Australia’s James Cook University, sociologist Robert Bartholomew proposed a theory that the dancers were performing an ecstatic ritual of a heretical sect, but Waller counters, “there is no evidence that the dancers wanted to dance.”

“On the contrary,” he added, “they expressed fear and desperation,” according to the written accounts.

Unusual Events Preceded the Epidemic

A series of famines, resulting from bitter cold winters, scorching summers, sudden crop frosts and terrifying hailstorms, preceded the maniacal dancing, Waller said. Waves of deaths followed from malnutrition. People who survived were often forced to slaughter all of their farm animals, secure loans and finally, take to the streets begging. Smallpox, syphilis, leprosy and even a new disease known as “the English sweat” swept through the area.

“Anxiety and false fears gripped the region,” Waller said.

One of these fears, originating from a Christian church legend, was that if anyone provoked the wrath of Saint Vitus, a Sicilian martyred in 303 A.D., he would send down plagues of compulsive dancing.

Waller therefore believes a phenomenon known as “mass psychogenic illness,” a form of mass hysteria usually preceded by intolerable levels of psychological distress, caused the dancing epidemic.

Mass Hysteria

Ivan Crozier, a lecturer in the Science Studies Unit at the University of Edinburgh, told Discovery News that he “agrees completely” with Waller’s conclusion.

“His cultural explanation, combined with a contextualized view of the conditions in which people lived at the time on the Rhine and Mosel, is very convincing and is superior to the arguments about ergot, which is a compound like LSD,” Crozier said. “Ergot gave people visions, not energy to dance,” he added.

Crozier is a world authority on yet another mass hysteria epidemic: koro.

Since at least 300 B.C., plagues of koro — an irrational male fear that one’s genitals have been stolen or are fatally shrinking into the body — have swept through various parts of the world, particularly throughout Africa and Asia. Most recently, a 1967 outbreak, documented in the Singapore Medical Journal, caused over 1,000 men to use pegs and clamps in hopes of protecting themselves from the gripping fear.

“In both cases we see cultural issues impacting on collective behavior,” Crozier said, explaining that preexisting superstitions, fears and beliefs surrounding both koro and the dancing epidemic led to group beliefs turning into “collective action.”

Waller explained that victims often go into an involuntary trance state, fueled by psychological stress and the expectation of succumbing to an altered state. “Thus, in groups subject to severe social and economic hardship, trance can be highly contagious,” he said.

More Deadly Dancing, And Laughing

At least seven other outbreaks of the dancing epidemic occurred in medieval Europe, mostly in the areas surrounding Strasbourg. In more recent history, a major outbreak occurred in Madagascar in the 1840′s, according to medical reports that described “people dancing wildly, in a state of trance, convinced that they were possessed by spirits.”

Perhaps the most unusual documented case of mass psychogenic illness was the Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic of 1962. A paper published the following year in the Central African Journal of Medicine described what happened.

Triggered by a joke among students at a Tanzania boarding school, young girls began to laugh uncontrollably. At first there were spurts of laughter, which extended to hours and then days.

The victims, virtually all female, suffered pain, fainting, respiratory problems, rashes and crying attacks, all related to the hysterical laughter. Proving the old adage that laughter can be contagious, the epidemic spread to the parents of the students as well as to other schools and surrounding villages. Eighteen months passed before the laughter epidemic ended.

Curing the Mind

According to medical epidemiologist Timothy Jones, an assistant clinical professor of preventative medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, who also reported an incident of hysteria in Belgium following soft-drink consumption, “Outbreaks of psychogenic illness are likely to be more common than is currently appreciated, and many go unrecognized.”

Jones recommends that physicians treating such problems “attempt to separate persons with illness associated with the outbreak,” conduct tests to rule out other causes, monitor and provide oxygen for hyperventilation, attempt to minimize the individual’s anxiety, notify public health authorities and seek to assure patients that, while their symptoms “are real…rumors and reports of suspected causes are not equivalent to confirmed results.”

Aside from their medical interest, Waller believes such epidemics, particularly those from past centuries, are “of immense historical value.”

He said the dancing plague “tells us much about the extraordinary supernaturalism of late medieval people, but it also reveals the extremes to which fear and irrationality can lead us.” He added, “Few events in my view so clearly show the extraordinary potentials of the human mind.”

(DISCOVERY  8.1.08)




choreographer, costumer, lighting designer, muse…


Best known as a pioneer in the fields of modern dance and theatrical lighting, Loie Fuller was one of very few dancers who not only permitted the filming of her performances, but also encouraged it. It is largely thanks to Fuller that early modern dance was filmed at all.

Born outside of Chicago to a struggling family who later moved west and found success in business, Fuller was a child actress. By her teens she was choreographing and performing in burlesque, vaudeville, and circus shows.

Like Isadora Duncan, Fuller embraced the ideas of free dance and improvisation. Her technique of combining choreography with flowing silk costumes illuminated by colorful lighting sets Fuller apart from other modern dance pioneers. She transferred her lighting techniques to film, and hand colored each frame in multi-color.

Her most famous work, the “Serpentine Dance” (1891) brought her acclaim, and she was enthusiastically received in Europe, particularly Paris. She was in fact the first American modern dancer to perform in Europe, and paved the way for Isadora Duncan.

Her efforts in Europe are significant to dance history, as at the time Ballet reigned supreme and modern dance was considered a fad at best and barbaric at worst. Fuller is largely responsible for influencing Europeans to accept modern dance as a serious art form. She became a regular performer with the Folies Bergere.

Prominent European artists and scientists were impressed with Fuller’s lighting techniques and that she had patented her designs and compounds used to create the colors. Poets, too, were impressed with Fuller. William Butler Yeats featured Fuller’s “Chinese dancers” in his poem “Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen.”

She was an influence to artist Toulouse-Lautrec, who sketched her during a performance in Paris. She authored a memoir entitled, “Fifteen Years of a Dancer’s Life” 1913.

Fuller’s travel and acclaim permitted her to move in certain exalted circles. She befriended Queen Marie of Romania and the Crown Prince Carol. Fuller remained in Paris for most of the remainder of her life, though she occasionally returned to the United States. She died of breast cancer, in Paris, in 1928 and is buried there.

Fuller continues to prove an inspiration to dancers and choreographers. Interest in her work has revived in recent years, including reconstructions of her most famous dances.

the unknown dancer in the Lumière film is not Fuller…





what goes up must come down…

James May, a toy fanatic from the UK built a real house from Legos. This two-story Lego palace, which resides in the middle of a vineyard, sports a working bathroom, and is covered inside and out with bricks pieced together by 272 Legos. Over three million bricks were used to build the Lego pad, so doing some quick math here — that’s over 816 million Lego pieces.

(GEEKSUGAR  8.27.09)

The famous James May’s LEGO House has been destroyed.





in the 1940s and 50s, the heart of Fillmore jazz…


Billie Holliday singing at the New Orleans Swing Club. Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Kenny Dorham. Dexter Gordon hanging out at Bop City. During the musical heyday of San Francisco’s Fillmore District in the 1940s and 1950s, the area known as the “Harlem of the West” was a swinging place where you could leave your house Friday night and jump from club to party to bar until the wee hours of Monday morning. Nonstop music in clubs where Young Turks from the neighborhood could mix with seasoned professionals and maybe even get a chance to jump on stage and show their stuff. A giant multi-block party throbbing with excitement and music and fun.

“You might have four clubs in a block, two on each side of the street. And then you go around a couple more blocks and then you have another couple of clubs,” Earl Watkins recalls in an interview with Carol Chamberland for her documentary on Bop City. “You had the Club Alabam (1820-A Post Street), which was one of our old established jazz clubs. Across the street was the New Orleans Swing club. They had a (chorus) line of girls in there. The guys had an excellent band. On Fillmore between Sutter and Post, you had Elsie’s Breakfast Club… Then down the block was the club called the Favor. Across the street from that was the Havana Club. And then when you went down the next block, Fillmore between Post and Geary, you had the Long Bar, which had Ella Fitzgerald. Then down another couple of blocks and you had the Blue Mirror. Then across from the Blue Mirror, they had the Ebony Plaza Hotel. In the basement, they had a club. And if you went up Fillmore to Ellis Street, you had the Booker T. Washington Hotel. And on their ground floor, in the lounge, they had entertainment.”

As World War II ended and the decade changed, so did the music. Bebop, which had been introduced to San Francisco just after the war, was being embraced by the city’s musical community like a long-lost child. Jazz clubs began opening up all over, especially in the Tenderloin and in North Beach.

The Western Addition music scene was also growing larger. You could hear jazz, blues, and R&B at the dozens of clubs in the neighborhood. Vout City (1690 Post) was a club run by the handsome and colorful musician Slim Gaillard, who had a good ear for music but lousy business sense. The club quickly folded and Gaillard took off for Los Angeles, leaving Charles Sullivan, a prominent African American businessman and entrepreneur who owned the building, to find a new tenant. Sullivan approached Jimbo Edwards, one of San Francisco’s first black automobile salesman, to rent the space. Jimbo agreed to open up a cafe, which he called Jimbo’s Waffle Shop. However, local musicians had other ideas.

In an interview with Carol Chamberland, Jimbo tells more: “Now I opened up this little cafe thing with Jimbo’s Waffle Shop. But there was a big old room in there. So musicians didn’t have no place to play their work and whatnot. About eight, ten musicians come and say ÔLet’s take this back room and have us a hangout house.’ So when I opened it up, I said, yeah, OK. Now when we opened it up, we didn’t even have a bandstand… So I built me a bandstand… And so that’s how Bop City came. Now it didn’t have no name, so we figured since Bop City’s closed in New York, we might as well name it Bop City. But the bottom line, it was never Bop City, it was always Jimbo’s Waffle Shop.”

Bop City quickly became the place to play. After all the other clubs in the city shut down, everyone would head to 1690 Post for amazing after-hours jam sessions and parties. Duke Ellington, Ben Webster, Billy Eckstine, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Dinah Washington, and John Coltrane were but a few of the many musicians who graced the club’s stage.

Pony Poindexter describes the scene: “One night, or should I say one morning, Art Tatum was honored with a special party at Bop City. There was lots of food… Up on the piano were cases of liquor. After everyone had stuffed himself or herself, we all settled back to look and listen to some real piano playing. Still, several hours went by and no one moved. It was daybreak. No one moved. Finally it came to an end. When I left there, I was spent — both from playing and listening…The very next weekend we had at Bop City the big three trumpet players of the bop style: Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Kenny Dorham. Dexter (Gordon) was also there. The session went on til early noon the next day. Jimbo honored them all with a special dinner. The next week the Woody Herman band came to into town, and there was another party for them. That night we heard Stan Getz and Zoot Sims stretch out.”

Saxophonist John Handy, who later went on to play with Charles Mingus, began sneaking into Fillmore clubs at the age of 16 in 1949. For Handy, Bop City was like a second home, and musically it was his first home, having been a member of the house band at one time or another. He told me the club was a place where young aspiring musicians could sit mesmerized for hours, watching their heroes play on stage, and maybe even be given a chance to join them on stage.

In bebop, if you couldn’t play, the musicians would tell you to get right off the stage, even during your solo,” Hester says. “They didn’t care. You had to be good, or forget it.”

the article continues

(PBS 2001)

“THE LEGEND OF BOP CITY” 1998 directed by Carol Chamberland




celebrating 100 years…

from NYPL

The New York Public Library is featuring over 250 artifacts from its incredible research collections in the new exhibition Celebrating 100 Years, which opened May 14 at the Library’s landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.

The exhibition – a cornerstone of the Library’s celebration of the Schwarzman Building’s 100th birthday – is organized by independent curator Thomas Mellins and will shine a spotlight on items spanning thousands of years and representing the worlds of literature, dance, social activism, invention, exploration, religion, history and innumerable other intellectual disciplines and creative pursuits. Artifacts belonging to literary giants such as William Shakespeare, Charlotte Bronte and Jorge Luis Borges will complement historically important items related to a wide variety of issues and events, from the Age of Discovery, to the creation of the Soviet Union, World War II, the Civil Rights movement and the AIDS crisis.

Specific items in the exhibition include 4,300-year-old Sumerian cuneiforms – among the earliest known examples of writing; John James Audubon’s Birds of America; some of Jack Kerouac’s personal effects, including his glasses and his harmonica; Virginia Woolf’s walking stick and the last entry in her diary before she took her own life; the first Gutenberg Bible brought to The United States; photographs by Diane Arbus and Vik Muniz; Johannes Kepler’s Mysterium Cosmographicum of 1596; Katharine Cornell’s makeup box; first-edition sheet music of the “Star Spangled Banner”; a letter from Groucho Marx; a board game from 1809 called “A Voyage Round the Habitable Globe”; a copy of The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot with Ezra Pound’s edits; Jerome Robbins’ visual diary, which is made up of a series of collages and is a piece of beautiful artwork in itself; illustrations from the Bhagavata Purana; Charlotte Bronte’s writing desk; Terry Southern’s “Easy Rider” script; Malcolm X’s briefcase and a personal journal written during his 1964 trip to Mecca; a ballot from the first post-apartheid election held in South Africa; photos from Ellis Island; W.W. Denslow’s “Wizard of Oz” illustrations; a lock of Mary Shelley’s hair; a diary from Chester F. Carlson, the inventor of Xerox; John Coltrane’s handwritten score for his arrangement of “Lover Man”; the copy of David Copperfield that Charles Dickens used for public readings and Dickens’s personal letter-opener, made out of his beloved cat Bob’s paw; a 1939 New York World’s Fair scrapbook; Ludwig van Beethoven’s handwritten score for the Archduke Trio; a 16th Century scroll of The Tale of Genji; an Andy Warhol silk screen; copy of Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book owned by Lin Biao, Mao’s designated successor who was later denounced as a traitor to the nation; a costume from Ballets Russes; and etchings from Francisco Goya’s anti-war print series The Disasters Of War.


“Celebrating 100 Years” now on view through 12.31 — for more information go to




the biggest prison rodeo in the U.S.A…


The Angola Rodeo, the longest running prison rodeo in the nation, got its start in 1965.  The first arena was small, built by a handful of dedicated inmates and personnel.  It wasn’t much in those days, and the rodeo was staged just for the entertainment of prisoners and employees.  The 1967 rodeo was opened to the general public on a limited basis.  There were no stands.  Spectators had to sit on apple crates and the hoods of their cars to watch the performances.  The success of the 1967 and 1968 rodeos prompted construction of a 4,500-seat arena for the 1969 rodeo.  A near disaster occurred when the bleachers collapsed during one of the shows.  Spectators weren’t alarmed; most didn’t even get up.  They sat on the collapsed structure and continued to watch.  The 1971 rodeo was the wettest in history, but the show went on.  As years passed, the rodeo grew in size, adding events and sponsorships.  The official Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rules were adopted in 1972 and the rodeo became a permanent fixture.

The Angola Prison Rodeo is a professionally produced rodeo.  Angola contracts with professional rodeo stock contractors to provide the rodeo stock used in events; professional judges are contracted with to objectively judge each event.  In addition, to ensure inmate participant safety, professional rodeo clowns are always present in the arena during events.  A full complement of emergency services personnel are on-site to provide medical assistance to inmates and spectators.

In 1997, spectator capacity was expanded by 1000 seats and construction of a roof over the seating area began to provide increased comfort for spectators under Louisiana’s blazing October sun.  Hobbycraft space was also expanded to the point where it is no longer just a little concession area on the side for some inmate organizations to make a few bucks.  It is now an all-day full-blown arts and crafts festival, complete with entertainment and food galore.  The arts and crafts festival begins at 9 a.m. and continues throughout the rodeo which begins at 2 p.m. each Sunday in October.  Many fans come to the rodeo for the arts and crafts show alone. Ticket, concession, and hobbycraft sales for the next two years broke all records, prompting the administration to build another arena.  Construction began on the new stadium in April 2000 and increased capacity to 7,500.  The new stadium was completed for the first rodeo in 2000.

What began 40 years ago as a “fun” thing by a handful of rodeo-loving inmates and employees is now big business.  Proceeds from the Angola Prison Rodeo cover rodeo expenses and supplement the Louisiana State Penitentiary Inmate Welfare Fund which provides for inmate educational and recreational supplies.

Rodeo Events:

BUST OUT — All six chutes open simultaneously, releasing six angry bulls, with temporarily attached inmate cowboys.  The last man to remain on the bull wins the event.

BAREBACK RIDING — Riders are expected to keep one hand in the air, and must stay on the horse for eight seconds to qualify.

WILD HORSE RACE — Six wild horses are simultaneously released into the arena with short ropes dragging behind them.  Three-man teams attempt to grab the ropes and hold the horse long enough for a team member to mount.  The first team to cross the finish line while still on top of the horse is the winner.

BULL-DOGGING — The animal is placed in a chute, with two cowboys positioned just outside the chute.  Their job is to wrestle the animal to the ground as quickly as possible.  The team with the best time earns points toward the coveted “All-around Cowboy” award.

BUDDY PICK-UP — This event requires one man on a horse (riding bareback) to navigate the length of the arena, pick up another inmate who is standing on a barrel, and race back to the finish line.

WILD COW MILKING — Teams of inmate cowboys chase the animals around the arena trying to extract a little milk.  The first team to bring milk to the judge wins the prize.

BULL RIDING — This dangerous and wide open event is what the fans come to see.  Inexperienced inmates sit on top of a 2,000 pound Brahma bull.  To be eligible for the coveted “All-Around Cowboy” title, a contestant must successfully complete the ride (6 seconds).  The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rules govern this event.

CONVICT POKER — It’s the ultimate poker game, and even winning has a price.  Four inmate cowboys sit at a table in the middle of the arena playing a friendly game of poker.  Suddenly, a wild bull is released with the sole purpose of unseating the poker players.  The last man remaining seated is the winner.

GUTS & GLORY — A chit (poker chip) is tied to the meanest, toughest Brahma bull available.  The object here is to get close enough to the bull in order to snatch the chit.  This is the last event of the day, and perhaps the most exciting.


rodeos are held in April and October…




35 years of painted racing machines…

from BMW

The concept for the BMW art cars was introduced by Hervé Poulain, an auctioneer and ardent racing driver from France. Poulain was searching for a link between art and cars and he asked his friend and renowned artist Alexander Calder to paint a rolling canvas on the BMW 3.0 CSL that he would race in the 1975 Le Mans endurance race. Poulain’s 3.0 CSL was the first car to create a symbiosis between the world of art and the world of motorsport. Prompted by enormous enthusiasm for this work of art on wheels, BMW then decided to put its brilliant idea of establishing the Art Car Collection into practice.


the artists: Alexander Calder 1975Frank Stella 1976Roy Lichtenstein 1977Andy Warhol 1979Ernst Fuchs 1982R. Rauschenberg 1986M.J. Nelson 1989Ken Done 1989Matazo Kayama 1990Cesar Manrique 1990A.R. Penck 1991Esther Mahlangu 1991Sandro Chia 1992David Hockney 1995Jenny Holzer 1999Olafur Eliasson 2007Robin Rhode 2009Jeff Koons 2010




L.A.’s first and finest punk rock magazine…


Slash Magazine grew out of the tasteless wasteland of Los Angeles in 1977, when a cluster of punk malcontents emerged who would challenge prevailing attitudes with as much verve as any group of nonconformists who had preceded them. Slash set trends not only in music, but also in street fashion and visual art. It offered tirades against the corrupt music industry and its stars along with endless rants in favor of turning the status quo upside down.

Slash provided coverage of local punk concerts and extensive interviews with LA punk bands like the Weirdos, Germs, X, Fear, and Black Flag. It also gave approving coverage to English bands like the Clash, Sex Pistols and the Damned – when hardly a single US paper would dare write about them. Slash was also the primary source of record reviews for punk and “new wave” records. I was an avid reader of Slash from the beginning, but in 1979 decided that perusing its inflammatory pages was not enough. One day I waltzed into their offices and got myself hired as a part time designer and production artist. Ultimately I was to contribute two cover illustrations to the publication, both of which are presented here (Sue Tissue & last edition).

Slash was founded by Steve Samioff and Claude Bessy on May Day of 1977. Bessy turned out to be the publication’s main writer and editor. Samioff grew bored with Slash and around 1979 he partnered with Bob Biggs, a bohemian entrepreneur who saw a goldmine in Slash. In 1980 Samioff handed the project over to Biggs, who terminated the publication and built a record label upon its ashes. I’m eternally proud to have created the cover art for the very last issue of Slash. an edition as hard hitting and full of integrity as the first issue. It’s hard to believe that in only four years of existence as a publication, Slash would have attained such far reaching success. It not only helped change the face of music, it trailblazed a path that eventually would have an effect on millions.

Claude Bessy’s words have been ringing in my ears for many years now, so I’m thrilled to be able to inflict his vision upon the rest of the world by posting some of his old Slash editorials on these pages. What’s remarkable about Bessy’s diatribes is that, while they reveal just how far we’ve come – they also show how little has actually changed. The screaming banality observed by Bessy in the late 70′s has now grown so pervasive that few seem to notice any longer. Ever so often I recall working at the Slash office, putting together the pages of the magazine – all the while hearing Claude typing in the other room, chuckling as he contemplated the effect his words would have on an unsuspecting audience. Sometimes he’d excitedly run out of his tiny room with a mischievous glint in his eyes, to share with me some of his poisonous barbs.

One of my favorite Slash stories concerns the reviewing of vinyl records. It was 1980, and the number of records and tapes sent to Slash by bands hoping to be reviewed was staggering. Most submissions were vinyl 45 singles self-produced by bands who then promptly faded into obscurity. One day we received a 45 sent to us from Ireland by an unknown band. Claude placed it on the turntable and we listened to it once, before he muttered something about “typical pop” and tossed the record aside. It fell into the Slash Black Hole of music not edgy enough to be considered punk. The name of the single was I will follow, and the unknown band was U2.

While working at Slash Magazine, I crossed paths with a number of artists, writers, musicians, and photographers – but few such encounters could top my being rude to one of the contemporary art world’s biggest stars. One day, as I was designing pages for the magazine, Bob Biggs popped in with a disheveled looking blond fellow. I immediately recognized the scruffy fair-haired man, but feigned blankness (not being a fan of the luminary). Claude Bessy had stopped pecking at his typewriter in the adjacent room, no doubt to better overhear something.

Biggs stepped up to me with his guest at his side, and with stars in his eyes pronounced, “Mark, I’d like you to meet David Hockney.” Barely looking up from my work, I said, “Should I know that name?” Biggs was more embarrassed by my insufferable attitude than was his famed UK artist friend, but the both of them retreated to a friendlier setting. Bessy emerged from his room sniggering and grinning ear to ear after having heard the encounter. I had apparently passed his test of not falling to celebrity worship, and from then on he considered me a friend.

Soon after Slash Magazine folded in 1980, Claude and Philomena left the country for good, eventually settling in Spain. The Hollywood punk scene had splintered and many of its innovators moved on to other things, though a few of the original torch bearers continue to exemplify the spirit of ’77. Punk rock exploded onto the world stage in the late 70′s like a cataclysmic act of God – and just in the nick of time. It saved some of my generation from the clutches of a mind-numbing conformity. But as it’s been said, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Slash was just one small stab at altering society and re-energizing a rebellious state of mind, a mission that is certain to be taken up by others… starting now.





ART IN CINEMA part 5: “cosmic cinema”…


Jordan Belson is an enigma and a legend of the experimental film world. He has produced a remarkable body of over 33 abstract films over six decades, richly woven with cosmological imagery, exploring consciousness, transcendence, and the nature of light itself. His films have been called “cosmic cinema,” and the imagery is not terrestrial — it is of skies, galaxies, halos, suns, stars, auroras. He works with a vocabulary of film images he’s created since the 1940s, but does not use computers. He withdrew his films from distribution decades ago, thus many are difficult to see. Belson doesn’t give interviews, write about his work, or discuss his methods, leaving the viewer to derive his/her own experiences and meanings from his films. He states, “The films are not meant to be explained, analyzed, or understood. They are more experiential, more like listening to music.” (1992–94 interview with Scott MacDonald)

Belson has decades-long ties to the museum, so we’re pleased to bring his work back to the museum on October 14, with new preservation prints and some rarely screened early films. In fact, some of Belson’s major influences were films and kinetic light art exhibited at SFMOMA (then the San Francisco Museum of Art) in the 1940s–60s.

Born in Chicago, Belson moved to San Francisco at age seven. He attended Galileo, then Lincoln High, studied painting at the California School of Fine Art (now San Francisco Art Institute), and received a B.A. in Fine Arts from UC Berkeley in 1946. He was first a painter, until he attended the seminal Art in Cinema series at the museum from 1946–53. Art in Cinema exposed the San Francisco cinema community to European avant-garde films and new American experimental films. It was here that many young artists first saw films by Oskar Fischinger, the Whitney Brothers, the European surrealists, and the French avant-garde. Art in Cinema had a profound effect on Bay Area artists and painters, some of whom were inspired to make films.

Belson especially appreciated Fischinger’s films (calling him “one of my heroes”); the work of Norman McLaren; and Hans Richter’s Rhythmus 21 (1921–25). Belson made two short animated films in 1947–48, shown in later Art in Cinema programs; however, he still considered himself primarily a painter. Belson’s painting and film work soon merged with films he made with scroll paintings, including Caravan (1952).

In 1953 Belson attended Fischinger’s performance of his Lumigraph (a mechanical color-light performance instrument) at the museum. The Lumigraph was performed in pitch darkness, and Fischinger created what he called “fantastic color plays” with spontaneous movements of colored light dancing to accompanying music. Belson was struck by the simple elegance and the mysterious soft, glowing images. Similarly, Belson later saw one of Thomas Wilfred’s Lumia color-light machines exhibited at SFMA, which became an influence on his later work.

A few years after Art in Cinema, Belson and Henry Jacobs created the legendary Vortex Concerts.

In May 1957 the first Vortex Concert was held at the California Academy of Science’s Morrison Planetarium. Featuring new electronic music from avant-garde composers worldwide curated by composer/DJ Henry Jacobs, Vortex was described by Belson (as visual director) as “a series of electronic music concerts illuminated by various visual effects.” In the blackness of the planetarium’s 65-foot dome, Belson created spectacular illusions, layering abstract patterns, lighting effects, and cosmic imagery, at times using up to 30 projection devices.

Belson filmed interference-projector patterns for Vortex, and later used some of these patterns in Séance (1959) and Allures (1961).

Vortex was an immediate success, and five Vortex series were performed through 1959, with over 38 concerts. Unfortunately, planetarium management did not share the press’s and audiences’ enthusiasm, and cancelled in 1959. The Vortex legacy is evident in 1960s psychedelic light shows, live multiple-projector shows, and VJ culture. Belson has even been called the first VJ!

Belson and Jacobs tried to remount Vortex, but were unable to find a venue and sufficient backing. In October 1959 Belson and Jacobs presented a “concert of electronic music and non-objective film” called Vortex Presents at the SFMA. This was a very different, single-screen event. Belson screened early versions of films he was working on, including one which became Allures, plus films by others. Only one evening of Vortex Presents occurred; though it was planned as a series, the audience reaction was disappointing. According to Belson, they came expecting a multiple projector planetarium show, but saw instead a film screening.

The Vortex Concerts were crucial to Belson’s transition to a new style of filmmaking — he stopped using traditional animation techniques and began working with pure real-time light sources.

Belson has continued to create a resplendent body of work. Other films with spectacular cosmic imagery include Light (1973); Cycles (1975), made with Stephen Beck; and Music of the Spheres (1977), all screening this week. His film Epilogue (2005) was funded by the NASA Art Program and commissioned by The Hirshhorn Museum. Belson’s films today are often installed in major museum exhibitions, and Center for Visual Music has presented special retrospectives of his work in the U.S., Germany, Netherlands, and Australia.

© Cindy Keefer, all rights reserved.

(SFMOMA  10.12.10)

for more on Jordan Belson visit the Center for Visual Music Belson Research page

Cindy Keefer curates, preserves, and writes on experimental film, and is working on a book about the Vortex Concerts…  she produced the recent Belson and Fischinger DVDs, Belson’s last film Epilogue and is currently the director of Center for Visual Music in Los Angeles…

images (from top): Allures (1961), 16mm film by Jordan Belson. © Jordan Belson, courtesy Center for Visual Music.  Chakra (1972), 16mm film by Jordan Belson. © Jordan Belson, courtesy Center for Visual Music.  Epilogue (2005), videofilm by Jordan Belson. © Jordan Belson, courtesy Center for Visual Music.  Seance (1959), 16mm film by Jordan Belson. © Jordan Belson, courtesy Center for Visual Music…

for more ART IN CINEMA see part 1part 2part 3 and part 4




a slice of nirvana near Puerto Escondido, designed by Gabriel Orozco and built by Tatiana Bilbao using basic techniques and materials such as prefab cement block, plaster and wood…


Stefano Boeri: I am very interested to know more about your work with Tatiana Bilbao, who is the architect who helped you with this project.

Gabriel Orozco: I designed the house. The project is based on the Jantar Mantar Astronomical Observatory, which was built in Delhi in 1724. I first visited that observatory in 1996. It took a little time for me to understand that I wanted a house inspired by that example, so I needed an architect who could help me with the permits, with the engineering, the construction and of course with the technical drawings. The main ideas, the whole concept – and also the circulation within, the distribution and the measurement of the rooms – all derive from that initial decision. Tatiana was perfect or the realization of this house. Her office was in charge of drawing up the detailed plans, and then we had a local engineer on site. He was able to put together the team who built the house. Some of the stones and material were brought by a donkey called “panchito”, and they gave him a lot of beer so he could keep working.

SB: Was this the first time that you worked with Tatiana?

GO: Yes, it was the first time.

the house has two bedrooms, kitchen and a living room..

SB: Tell me something more about the inspiration from the Jantar Mantar Astronomical Observatory.

GO: Honestly, it was just a chance thing, which took place when I was visiting India. The first time that I travelled there and saw this complex in New Delhi I was impressed. I really loved it, but then I walked into one particular construction that is one of the several little buildings that make up the complex and I had this vision of trying to rebuild something inspired by it, because people were really enjoying the site, walking on top, sitting on the stairs, and going up again. There was something I liked about the whole thing and I had this idea that it could be great. A building that you can place in nature, from which you could observe nature because it is built so that you can watch the stars.



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