Archive for the ‘main:’ Category

h1

GRAND CENTRAL STATION

02/10/2013

Grand Central Station in New York City is turning One Hundred Years Old this year…

by DOUG MAGNUSON

About these ads
h1

“UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING”

01/10/2013

reviews…

DAY OF RECKONING

THE ATLANTIC  (11.30.12)  by IAN BUCKWALTER

The ‘Universal Soldier’ Paradox: When a Bad Franchise Produces a Great Film

CITY ON FIRE  (10.28.12)  by HK FANATIC

“Director John Hyams isn’t content to merely serve up your typical action movie dreck. He’s made it his mission to challenge audiences and their expectations of what a film like “Universal Soldier” can do… and it might take more than one viewing of “Day” to truly appreciate it…”

CRAVE ONLINE  (9.24.12)  by FRED TOPEL

“…intense, brutal and beautiful all at once.”

DEN OF GEEK  (12.26.12)  by GABE TORO

“…easily the best action film of the year.”

FILMDRUNK  (10.24.12)  by VINCE MANCINI

New Universal Soldier has Van Damme, Lundgren, Facepaint, and Face Punching

FLICKERING MYTH  (11.17.12)  by TOM JOLLIFFE

“…Day of Reckoning is a film so intense and dark of tone that, as a Unisol movie, it really shouldn’t work. Hyams though keeps such a tight grip of proceedings, with a good script and engrossing direction, that he never lets the ball drop… it’s actually one of the ballsiest movies out there.”

GRANTLAND  (11.16.12)  by ALEX PAPPADEMAS

“I love Reckoning’s formal audacity, its pretensions, and its willingness to throw backstory out the window…  I wish there were more movies like it, and I can’t recall ever thinking that about a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie.”

IGN  (9.25.12)  by CHRIS TILLY

“It may not always be successful, but in an age when filmmakers seem happy to churn out the same movie over-and-over again, credit should go to Hyams for mixing up the tried-and-tested formula.”

INDIEWIRE  (9.23.12)  by ERIC KOHN

Fast and Furious ‘Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning’ Is One of the Best Action Movies of the Year

INDIEWIRE  (10.24.12)  by ERIC KOHN

Why the Latest ‘Universal Soldier,’ Now On VOD, Is Better Than ‘Skyfall’

INDIEWIRE  (11.28.12)  by GABE TORO

‘Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning’ Combines Art House Intentions & Strong Action In A Franchise Return To Form

JOBLO

“I relished its off the wall and deep storyline, its trippy audio/visual style, strong acting, insane action scenes and its ‘take no prisoners’ attitude.”

L.A. TIMES  (11.29.12)  by MARK OLSEN

“…the movie creates something of the sensation of huffing industrial solvents — in a good way! — a waking-sleep zombification that can’t exactly be described as pleasurable but definitely has an odd, distinct power.”

MOVIEHOLE  (10.29.12)  by JONATHAN URBAN

“…a complex, thought-provoking film, words not usually used to describe a balls-to-the-wall action genre film. In fact, it may be impossible to define it by any one genre as, if anything, it is genre-bending in some of the most unexpected ways.”

MOVIES.COM  (11.28.12)  by EVAN SAATHOFF

8 Reasons Why ‘Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning’ Is Among the Weirdest Movies Ever

NERDIST  (9.23.12)  by LUKE Y. THOMPSON

“It’s no stretch to say this is the best Universal Soldier movie – better to say it’s the biggest cinematic boner your inner (or outer, depending) 17 year-old boy is likely to have this season.”

NY TIMES  (11.29.12)  by ANDY WEBSTER

Technologically Enhanced Strongman vs. Government Evildoers

SCREEN CRUSH  (9.24.12)  by MATT SINGER

“…muscular, atmospheric and surprisingly scary… John Hyams has resuscitated a long-dead franchise and restored it to its former glory…”

TWITCH  (9.23.12)  by JAMES MARSH

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning Will Take Your Head Off!

THE VILLAGE VOICE  (11.28.12)  by NICK SCHAGER

John Hyams Is the Best Action Director Working Today

THE VILLAGE VOICE  (11.28.12)  by CHRIS PACKHAM

“The melee fight scenes are seemingly conjured into this dark, poo-encrusted world from some other, happier film containing sunshine and magic, in which muscley men grapple and put one another’s heads through walls.”

VARIETY  (9.23.12)  by JOE LEYDON

“Hyams and co-scripters Doug Magnuson and Jon Greenhalgh reference a wide range of sources throughout…  To their credit, however, the filmmakers make mostly clever use of their borrowings, and they play fair: that surprise twist is signaled early on by clues hidden in plain sight.”

UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING”  2012  directed by John Hyams; written by John Hyams & Doug Magnuson and Jon Greenhalgh; starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Scott Adkins, Andrei Arlovski, Mariah Bonner, Craig Walker and Andrew Sikking

and look for the Blu-ray release 1.22.13 including the documentary “DAYS OF RECKONING: THE MAKING OF US4“…

h1

year four…

01/01/2013

monolith

h1

FADE TO BLACK.

12/31/2012

NEW YEARS EVE 2012

h1

the FREDERICK R. WEISMAN ART FOUNDATION…

11/15/2012

the cloistered treasures of a mad collector…

Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation

by WILLIAM POUNDSTONE

The Museum of Modern Art’s blockbuster Willem de Kooning show presents Pink Angels (c. 1945) as the launchpad for the artist’s career. After dabbling in naturalistic and abstract styles, de Kooning created his first series of “women” paintings in the early 1940s. Pink Angels is the last and most abstract of that group. The toothy-grin on the pink proboscis at upper right is not just a blend of Picasso, Gorky, and H.R. Giger; it’s the cartoon signature of all the later, more famous de Kooning women. Pink Angels was no less a jumping-off point to pure abstraction. Palette notwithstanding, it prefigures the black-and-white abstractions that made de Kooning’s reputation.

This pivotal painting is owned by a more-or-less public Los Angeles collection, the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation. The Weisman collection of 2000 modern and contemporary pieces by Kandinsky, Picasso, Brancusi, Dalí, Miró, Ernst, Magritte, Giacometti, Dubuffet, Still, Motherwell, Bacon, Stella, Warhol, Lichtenstein, and the whole L.A. Cool School is installed in Weisman’s former Holmby Hills home. (Pink Angels is normally just to the right of the fireplace.) The home is open to the public for free, though only by appointment. Never heard of it? The Weisman Art Foundation doesn’t advertise, aside from a website and a Facebook page. Even the home’s street address is on a need-to-know basis.

Who is Frederick Weisman? A generation ago, he was Eli Broad—the most famous and ego-driven collector of contemporary art in L.A. He was himself related to two great collectors, Marcia Simon Weisman (his first wife) and Norton Simon (his brother-in-law). Weisman worked for his brother-in-law’s ketchup company, then struck out on his own with a chain of Toyota dealerships. With Marcia, he became an avid collector of contemporary art and, through a corporation, traditional Japanese painting. The marriage is commemorated in one of the most brilliant of David Hockney’s L.A. paintings, American Collectors (1968, now owned by the Art Institute of Chicago). Fred Weisman may not have been the most discerning of L.A. collectors, but he got the most publicity and made the best copy. There was the time that Weisman got into a fight with Frank Sinatra in the Polo Lounge. Sinatra punched Weisman so hard he had amnesia for several days. Marcia sparked his memory by bringing a prized drawing to the hospital. Snapping out of it, Fred said, “Jackson Pollock, I remember when we bought that.”

David Hockney American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman)

Hockney showed Fred and Marcia in their own separate spaces. A decade later, the couple divorced, splitting the art collection. Fred promptly embarked on a new life as a swinging bachelor art collector. In search of fresh masterpieces, he jetted from city to city in his Ed Ruscha-painted Lockheed jet (below), accompanied by nubile young art groupies and a ten-ton checkbook. Weisman began lending and donating works to museums, leading to hopeful speculation that his collection might one day land at one of the city’s museums. Some important Japanese paintings and prints were given to LACMA (including its flawless impression of Red Fuji). At times Weisman seemed to bask in the attention, but it ended as such things often do, in mutual disappointment. Weisman decided he had to have his own museum.

In 1986, he sought permission to use Beverly Hills’ Greystone Mansion to display his collection. An ever-present phantom in the L.A. museum world, the mansion had also been proposed for housing the Joseph Hirshhorn art collection—it of course went to Washington D.C.—and the stuffed bird collection of the L.A. County Natural History Museum. Neighbors went ballistic over the Weisman proposal, and a local newspaper editorialized that Old Masters would be more Beverly Hills’ style. This led Ellen Byrens of the Greystone Foundation to ask: “Where in the hell are all these Old Masters going to come from? Are we going to bring back Rembrandt?”

Weisman backed out. He talked with UCLA about a museum—as did Norton Simon, in fact—but no deal resulted.

Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation 2

Instead Weisman funded a Frank Gehry museum building for his alma mater, the University of Minnesota. This is now called the Weisman Art Museum, and its namesake promised to supply it with art. Weisman also spoke of constructing a sculpture garden for L.A.’s Barnsdall Park. That never happened. In 1990 he donated 33 mid-range works by California artists to the San Diego Museum of Art. Weisman had felt out LACMA with a laundry list of demands. He wanted all the pieces to be on display at all times, in a separate gallery. “We don’t do that,” LACMA director Earl Powell told the L.A. Times. “We integrate our collections, so we encouraged the foundation to give the works to a museum that could really benefit from the collection. I think it’s great for San Diego.”

It must have been an easy call. The 33 pieces were nice, nothing more. Meanwhile, Pepperdine University in Malibu opened a small and underfunded art gallery. In 1992 Weisman donated a relatively modest $1.5 million towards the gallery’s red ink, and put works from his collection on long-term loan, in exchange for the university renaming the gallery the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art. The move was as generous as it was odd, for Weisman, of Jewish heritage, had no previous connection with the Churches of Christ-affiliated liberal arts school. At the time of the gift, Weisman explained that “young people should have the opportunity to live with art… so they don’t just become bookworms”—one of the lesser-known hazards of going to school in Malibu.

Between the two Weisman museums and San Diego, it was easy to imagine that the collection had been spoken for. But then as now, the cream of Weisman’s collection filled to overflowing his Holmby Hills home and a Frank Israel-designed gallery annex. Great art hangs next to comfy sofas and crystal chandeliers. Every room is a Louise Lawler waiting to happen.

Pink-Angels by DeKooning

It’s not all big names. Weisman was the type of collector who liked to “discover” artists. That was a very good thing for the artists involved, though few of Weisman’s discoveries have been discovered by anyone else. Weisman also had a thing for trompe l’oeil, 2D and 3D. One room is peopled with Duane Hanson simulacra of Weisman’s mother and father. Elsewhere, a nude couple frolic in bed, a donkey peers out a doorway, and a disembodied derriere protrudes from a wall. Weisman spoke of converting the place into a Frick Collection-type house museum—referring to a New York institution that doesn’t have a derriere sticking out of the wall.

Weisman died at home in 1994. Since then, not much has changed. The art is owned by the Weisman Art Foundation, run by the collector’s second wife, Billie Weisman. Tours are available by appointment, Monday through Friday, 10:30 AM to 2:00 PM. Despite the friendliest possible price (free), the schedule rules out anyone with a 9 to 5 job, unless that job is scoping out art. The home attracts a steady trickle of curators and scholars from all over world. Billie sometimes greets them. But despite Fred’s talk of creating a house-museum, he didn’t manage to do that. His art resides in a private home that’s not zoned for a museum, surrounded by wealthy, tetchy, and politically connected neighbors. The Weisman Art Foundation is a bit like a Valley home-turned-porn studio—tolerated only as long as it keeps things on the DL. And that’s why the the Weisman collection is the best in L.A. that practically no one’s ever seen.

(BLOUIN ARTINFO  9.19.11)

h1

HD85512b: SUPER EARTH…

11/01/2012

life…  life…  LIFE!!!

by BRIAN VASTAG

Astronomers on Monday announced the discovery of 50 new planets circling stars beyond the sun, including one “super-Earth” that is the right distance from its star to possibly have water.

“If we are really, really lucky, this planet could be a habitat” like Earth, said Lisa Kaltenegger of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany.

Construction on the first space-bound Orion space capsule started Sept. 9, 2011, after pressure from Congress to complete construction.

The planet, dubbed HD85512b, circles an orange star somewhat smaller and cooler than our sun about 36 light-years away. The star, HD85512, is visible in the southern sky in the constellation Vela.

The newly found planet circles this star every 59 days, putting it at the edge of the “habitable zone” where water could exist if atmospheric conditions were right.

In a teleconference, Kaltenegger said that the planet is at the warm edge of its star’s habitable zone, as if “standing next to a bonfire.” That means the planet would require a lot of cloud cover — which reflects starlight — to keep the surface cool enough to prevent any water from boiling, she said.

Astronomers have not determined whether the new super-Earth is rocky like the Earth or gassy like Jupiter, let alone whether it has an atmosphere. The new super-Earth is 3.5 times the mass of Earth.

Astronomers inferred the existence of the planet by watching its star wobble ever so slightly. The speed of the wobble indicated the existence of a planet tugging at the star.

This “radial velocity” technique has been productive, offering astronomers working at La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile evidence of the 50 new “exoplanets” announced Monday. The planet-hunting instrument, called HARPS, are operated by the European Southern Observatory.

Sixteen of the new planets announced Monday, including the new super-Earth, are of the right mass to be made of rock instead of gas.

“We are building up a target list of super-Earths in the habitable zone,” Kaltenegger said.

To determine whether the planet has an atmosphere, astronomers need to capture an image of the planet — which they have not done — and analyze the light for signs of water, carbon dioxide and other gases. No existing telescope is sensitive enough for that task.

But a new telescope to begin construction next year, the European Extremely Large Telescope, will be up to the task, said Markus Kissler-Patig of the European Southern Observatory. It will be “technically capable of finding life around the nearest stars,” he said, by analyzing the atmosphere of exoplanets. The new super-Earth is a “prime target” for the new telescope.

Since 1995, astronomers have found more than 600 planets beyond Earth, according to a catalog.

In the accelerating race to bag and tag planets outside our solar system, HD85512b marks the second super-Earth found at the right distance from its star to possibly hold water, considered a vital ingredient for life. The first, called Gliese 581d, was discovered by the same telescope in Chile in 2007.

(THE WASHINGTON POST  9.12.11)

h1

giant eyeball…

10/12/2012

a monster mystery…

by ALAN BOYLE

A giant eyeball that washed ashore and was found by a beachcomber in Pompano Beach, Fla., is mystifying wildlife officials — but probably not for long.

The softball-sized eyeball was reported to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissionon Wednesday, and wildlife officers put the specimen on ice. It will be preserved and sent to theFish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., for analysis.

Marine biologists couldn’t immediately identify which species of sea creature would be associated with the eye, but researchers will use genetic testing if necessary to solve the mystery, said Carli Segelson, a spokeswoman for the commission. “I shouldn’t say this, but they may be able to eyeball it,” she told me today.

Segelson said she’s been fielding tons of inquiries about the case, especially since a picture of “THE MYSTERY EYEBALL” was posted to the commission’s Facebook page. “It’s just gone viral,” she said. There are more pictures in the commission’s Flickr photo gallery.

Some have suggested that the eye came from a monster fish, a giant squid or even a whale. It does look a bit like this picture of an eye from a giant squid, but Segelson said wildlife officers are leaning toward a different scenario.

“The primary suspect right now is that it would be a large fish,” she said. Among the possibilities are a swordfish, or a tuna, or some sort of deep-water fish species.

(COSMIC LOG  10.11.12)

h1

“DAY OF RECKONING”

09/18/2012

the premiere…

FANTASTIC FEST 2012

UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING” has it’s U.S. Premiere this Saturday 9.22.12 in 3D at FANTASTIC FEST, Austin, TX… 

it will also be screening at the TORONTO AFTER DARK FILM FESTIVAL in October and opening in theaters 11.30.12…

UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING”  2012  directed by John Hyams; written by John Hyams & Doug Magnuson and Jon Greenhalgh; starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Scott Adkins, Andrei Arlovski, and Mariah Bonner

and look for the Blu-ray release 1.22.13 including the documentary “DAYS OF RECKONING: THE MAKING OF US4“…

h1

SOUTHPORT, N.C…

07/21/2012

“Safe Haven” by Jocko Weyland

photographs by JOCKO WEYLAND 2012

also check out DETROIT

h1

MARCO FERRERI…

04/29/2012

“La Grande Bouffe” and “Tales of Ordinary Madness”…

by THOMAS BRITT 

Anecdotal evidence that arises in the wake of notorious films measures their impact in an incomplete, specious manner. Marco Ferreri’s La Grande Bouffe and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom are two such infamous films that carry a history of scandal that clouds their actual import. Both darkly satirized the appetites of the ruling class and were emblematic of the taboo-shattering international film trend that appeared in the ‘70s, which was also the decade that gave birth to Star Wars and the production excesses of the modern blockbuster era.

To review the spectrum of negative effects represented:  The Star Wars series eventually lost fans’ goodwill and dispensable income, La Grande Bouffe made Ingrid Bergman vomit at Cannes, and the outrage over Salò is said to have led to the murder of Pasolini. Each cinematic transgression has its conveniently scaled outcome, in degrees bitter and tragic, but none more pronounced and sobering than the loss of Pasolini.

To watch the new DVD release of La Grande Bouffe a few decades after its original release is to experience a fulcrum point in shock cinema. Never does it reach the nihilistic depths and explicit corporal destruction of Salò (few movies do), but the film remains absorbing in its unique way.

Ferreri’s most enduring and successful choices in the film have little to do with the mere existence of onscreen debauchery, which generated the original controversy but has lost its shock over time. A contemporary viewing reveals that the ensemble of bona fide legends, the visual design of the film, and a purposefully ambiguous moral stance have much to do with its staying power.

Philippe (Noiret) is a judge, Michel (Piccoli) is a television host, Ugo (Tognazzi) is a chef, and Marcello (Mastroianni) is a pilot. The four men gather at an expansive house to have what they refer to as a “gastronomic seminar”. The introduction is a rather soft sell, establishing each character’s comfortable wealth and refinement but also hinting at mysterious quirks.

The rest of the film takes place beyond the boundaries of social norms and within the walled-city of the villa, as the men accept a massive delivery of meat and other food and invite prostitutes and a mysterious schoolteacher to eat from a “Whore Menu”. Over time, the audience realizes that the men’s goal is to eat themselves to death.

In an early indication of the where the plot will lead, the four men look at vintage erotica as they competitively slurp oysters and try to offset their baseness with sophisticated references to art and culture. As they plot their own destruction through consumption of flesh, they are careful to feed the turkeys “chocolate, nuts, and cognac” to perfect the flavor.

The audience senses that they want to take in the full sensual pleasure of their demise. But when desires multiply and Marcello suggests they add women to their vacation menu, the pretense begins to drop and various “epiphenomena” appear, each with its root in the men’s shared suicide pact.

Ferreri and co-writer Rafael Azcona use the women as a catalyst to develop each character’s unique psychology through individual behaviors. Fastidious Michel practices ballet and rehearses a simple song on the piano—a song he can never get quite right. Boorish Ugo plans the meals and becomes an increasingly dominant chef, force-feeding Michel to cure him of his gas. Narcissistic Marcello obsesses over a car he’s rebuilding in the garage and seems to tie his personal virility to the vehicle, at one point pleasuring his whore with the manifold.

Finally, Philippe resists the whores to keep a promise he made to his nurse and is only able to perform sexually with schoolteacher Andréa (Ferreol) on the condition that she agree to marry him. As each man dives further into his obsession, he is weighed down by the constant eating. Each point of no return connects the endless buffet to the insatiable adjacent fixation.

Interestingly, it is the prostitutes that cannot bear the purposelessness of the gorging. Despite their occupational self-destruction—an empty reciprocation of an act of desire—they cannot withstand an act that cannot be reasonably explained and yields no benefit. The whore’s life is, after all, at least a ritual with clear rates and returns.

Their departure from the house leaves only Andréa, whose presence is as nurturing as it is destructive. The most interesting dramatic situation of La Grande Bouffe is how all of the men share Andréa and the effect it has on them. I’ll resist spoiling the order and specific manner of deaths here, but the film really hits its stride when the ideal “domestic fairy” (as Andréa calls herself) proves to be every bit as destructive to these men as their excessive eating.

She fully enables the gastronomic suicide, creating an air of paranoia by accommodating everything for everyone. Having promised her hand to Ugo only to placate his need for domesticity (itself rooted in a twisted mother/wet nurse fantasy), she is happy not only to share their meals, but also to be shared among them.

The actors are fully committed to the material, and their investment is critical to the profundity of La Grande Bouffe. As cinematic legends playing irresponsible (possibly insane) man-children, each actor is at his best when he risks the most. The ensemble functions as a cross-section of the vanities of men with power, and there is an unmistakable sense throughout the film that the actors are playing skewed versions of their popular personas (the characters even take the names of the actors that play them).

This is a film largely unconcerned with emotional and spiritual development, but the actors manifest these qualities despite the dominant satirical tone. Only this cast could find grace notes in a film where scatological explosions accompany or replace moments of pathos. As Philippe, Noiret is at his hangdog best, and the film delays his demise in the hope that he can escape the hell of domesticity, but that is precisely his weapon of choice and the prologue tells us as much. So Philippe’s final scene in the garden is Ferreri’s punch line to a two-hour dirty joke, but Noiret makes it unshakably sentimental.

The visual design of the film is also striking as it preserves a proscenium view of the action. At first, this approach foregrounds the strong ensemble, but as the film develops the wide compositions communicate the growing dysfunction and codependency of the characters. The first death is directly preceded by the characters’ decision to live communally by sleeping in the same bed. This contrast—between the vast living spaces of the enormous house and the men’s self-imposed, miserable, excremental confinement—is a vital part of Ferreri’s sardonic look at the culture of consumption.

Another benefit of the reliance on the master shot is that the film ages quite well visually. In fact, a similar “hedonism weekend” film such as William Marsh’s Dead Babies already feels significantly more dated because its visual aesthetic is so hopelessly tied to the trends of its release year (2000). The exception to his standard wide compositions—and one could hardly call this a crack in his design, as it is a conscious choice—is Ferreri’s use of intermittent close-ups that distort the wide interior view and frustrate the spectator’s ability to take in the full ensemble and environment. The audience has become so accustomed to self-directing its attention that when Ferreri fragments the space, via a tragicomic close shot of Philippe’s face, a soft lens close-up of Marcello that actually calls attention to his age, and several close shots of Andréa’s beautiful/dangerous visage, the audience experiences the previously noted creeping of sentiment into satire.

Ferreri is to be praised for not prescribing a desired response to his film, which despite being about the limits of flesh and the inescapability of death, is not classically tragic. These characters aren’t forced to come to terms with their decay. Instead, they willingly accelerate death, perhaps because of a world gone to hell or perhaps because they are past their prime and cannot face a downhill slide. Their welcoming of an exterminating angel is part of the director’s conflicted presentation of the feminine ideal and woman’s culpability in man’s mollification and destruction.

Tales of Ordinary Madness, the other Ferreri film given the re-release treatment, is a far leaner and possibly more successful examination of hell on earth, the voraciousness of man, and the ephemeral nature of sexual satisfaction and romantic salvation. Based on Charles Bukowski’s Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions, and General Tales of Ordinary Madness, the film presents a version of Bukowski (here called Charles Serking) as he wanders the darker corners of Los Angeles and connects with the “defeated, the demented and the damned”.

In a bravura performance, Ben Gazzara plays Serking more like a force of nature than a human being. The raw propulsion of his anti-heroism recalls Lee Marvin’s Walker from Point Blank. There’s no logical reason that these men are still up and walking, but the other characters and the audience quickly learn not to question why.

Ferreri maintains his master shot technique, again to great effect here. Employed for social realism rather than satire, its impact is even more meaningful because it allows the spectator to take in the broad hopelessness of the locations and characters. One could argue that this vista keeps at a distance the milieu that was so necessary to Bukowski’s writing, but the tour he gives us has weight because the characters hold nothing back.

The plot is not intensely eventful, as it roughly concerns the impact of Serking’s alcoholism on his career and relationships. There is no grand arc, and a development late in the film that appears to give the writer a chance to clean up and be professional rings false. Perhaps Ferreri intends for it to, as Serking pokes fun at the straight world the entire time he’s in it (which is only a few minutes within the film).

Nevertheless, the film’s overall development is measured by Serking’s encounters with six women, each one representing a distinct desire and unique set of complications. These characters include a runaway thief (Wendy Welles), an ex-wife (Tanya Lopert), a widow (Judith Drake), an unhinged seductress (Susan Tyrrell), a damaged prostitute (Ornella Muti), and an angelic teenager (Katya Berger).

Tales of Ordinary Madness presents a man so insecure with the world around him that he can never be without the chaos of his drink and these romantic and sexual relationships. As in La Grande Bouffe, codependency abounds. Serking and his women role-play and justify aberrant behaviors because it is easier to do so than to face recovery. The meaning of the film is found in the order of the women he encounters and the growing intensity of effect each one has on him.

The runaway just tempts and robs him, the ex-wife berates him but enables his irresponsibility, and the seductress betrays him by having him arrested after she has her way with him. There are moments of dark humor in each of these encounters, most notably with Vera, the seductress, of whom Serking says in voice-over:  “Her brand of psychodrama could make a man a little paranoid”.

But something altogether more serious happens when Serking interacts with the other women. His time with the widow, whom he meets on a lark, leads to perhaps the strongest moment of realization in the film. Ferreri is again careful not to wallow in the misfortune of the character, but his strategic close-up is put to use here and it provides insight into the source of Serking’s torment.

In Cass, the prostitute, Serking finds a figure he wants to protect and to save. His altruism is mixed with lust, but as the relationship deepens and Cass proves to be an even more disturbed character than Serking himself, his interest in her transforms into a rescue mission. There are shades of Taxi Driver in this part of the film. Serking talks a hopeless game, but he has to believe for the good of the world around him that Cass is both worth saving and capable of being saved. To say that her problems have no simple solution is an understatement, and Serking’s undoing is the result of the vulnerability that Cass opens up within him.

The coda of the film, far removed from the grimy streets that define Serking’s world, hints at the possibility of the tortured writer’s deliverance but also introduces yet another object of desire—a naked teenage girl on the beach. Serking clings to her like she alone prevents his world from ending.

La Grande Bouffe and Tales of Ordinary Madness are products of a dark worldview. Neither film assigns origins for the spiritual crises it explores or any direct solutions about how to improve a disintegrating society. Ferreri’s approach allows such a wide range of readings that one could see in his films a straightforward embrace of self-indulgence, a condemnation of worldly desires, or something in between.

What is lasting about the films is their timelessness and lack of causal specificity, which make it nearly impossible for spectators to look at the screen and think, “that could never be me”. When the audience engages with the material in an honest way, these films become interactive tragedies. As one of the prostitutes says in La Grande Bouffe: “Why do you eat if you’re not hungry? It can’t be hunger”. Ferreri sets up the question. The audience is responsible for the answer. Ferreri’s work boldly encourages his audience to consider its own struggles and appetites and in doing so uses the onscreen suffering to create recognition within the audience, even if the characters continue to waste away in ignorance.

The release of these films on DVD should rightfully renew interest in Ferreri’s work. Although the transfers are a bit grainy, the image quality is a significant improvement over previous VHS releases. One major oversight is the failure to include substantial bonus features. Each DVD carries only a sloppily extracted excerpt from Marco Ferreri:  The Director Who Came from the Future. Films this historically important, controversial and open to critical discussion are deserving of a feature commentary at the very least.

(POP MATTERS  5.28.09)

“LA GRANDE BOUFFE” 1973 and “TALES OF ORDINARY MADNESS” 1981 directed by Marco Ferreri

h1

THE GLASS HOUSE…

03/12/2012

revisited by Frank Stella…

from MUTUAL ART 

The Philip Johnson Glass House Oral History Project records the memories and reflections of some the worlds most important architects, artists and scholars about one of the 20th Century’s most influential architects and design legacies — Philip Johnson, the Glass House and Modernism & Leadership more broadly. The Glass House offers a unique context for eliciting memories from people who were Philip Johnson’s friends, students, associates and collaborators.

The first phase of this project, completed in July, 2009, resulted in two short films. Frank Stella: Return to the Glass House, features artist Frank Stella as he explores the grounds and shares his memories while he revisits his work installed throughout the site.

(MUTUAL ART  1.20.12)

h1

WANG SHU…

03/01/2012

winner of this year’s Pritzker Prize

Ceramic House © Lv Hengzhong, Courtesy of Amateur Architecture Studio

by DAVID BASULTO

, Chinese architect and founder of Amateur Architecture Studio, has been just announced as the recipient of the 2012 Pritzker Prize.

The ’s purpose is “to honor a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision, and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture”.

In my opinion Wang Shu’s architecture presents a contemporary and progressive approach that acknowledges the rich tradition of Chinese architecture. As the future generations of Chinese architects are influenced by his architecture, a generation that will be an active part of China’s growth, he will indirectly improve how millions will live in the next few years.

He calls his office Amateur Architecture Studio, but the work is that of a virtuoso in full command of the instruments of architecture — form, scale, material, space and light 

- Karen Stein, Pritzker Prize jury.

Wang Shu, a 48 year old architect whose architectural practice is based in Hangzhou, The People’s Republic of China, will be the recipient of the 2012 Pritzker Architecture Prize, it was announced today by Thomas J. Pritzker, chairman of The Hyatt Foundation which sponsors the prize. The formal ceremony for what has come to be known throughout the world as architecture’s highest honor will be in Beijing on May 25.

In announcing the jury’s choice, Pritzker elaborated, “The fact that an architect from China has been selected by the jury, represents a significant step in acknowledging the role that China will play in the development of architectural ideals. In addition, over the coming decades China’s success at urbanization will be important to China and to the world. This urbanization, like urbanization around the world, needs to be in harmony with local needs and culture. China’s unprecedented opportunities for urban planning and design will want to be in harmony with both its long and unique traditions of the past and with its future needs for sustainable development.”

Ningbo History Museum © Lv Hengzhong, Courtesy of Amateur Architecture Studio

The purpose of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, which was founded in 1979 by the late Jay A. Pritzker and his wife, Cindy, is to honor annually a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture. The laureates receive a $100,000 grant and a bronze medallion.

Pritzker Prize jury chairman, The Lord Palumbo, spoke from his home in the United Kingdom, quoting from the jury citation that focuses on the reasons for this year’s choice: “The question of the proper relation of present to past is particularly timely, for the recent process of urbanization in China invites debate as to whether architecture should be anchored in tradition or should look only toward the future. As with any great architecture, Wang Shu ́s work is able to transcend that debate, producing an architecture that is timeless, deeply rooted in its context and yet universal.”

Wang earned his first degree in architecture at the Nanjing Institute of Technology, Department of Architecture in 1985. Three years later, he received his Masters Degree at the same institute. When he first graduated from school, he went to work for the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou doing research on the environment and architecture in relation to the renovation of old buildings. Nearly a year later, he was at work on his first architectural project – the design of a 3600 square meter Youth Center for the small town of Haining (near Hangzhou). It was completed in 1990.

For nearly all of the next ten years, he worked with craftsmen to gain experience at actual building and have no responsibility for design. In 1997, Wang Shu and his wife, Lu Wenyu, founded their professional practice in Hangzhou, naming it “Amateur Architecture Studio.” He explains the name, “For myself, being an artisan or a craftsman, is an amateur or almost the same thing.” His interpretation of the word is relatively close to one of the unabridged dictionary’s definitions: “a person who engages in a study, sport or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefit or professional reasons”. In Wang Shu’s interpretaion, the word “pleasure” might well be replaced by “love of the work”.

© Iwan Baan

By the year 2000, he had completed his first major project, the Library of Wenzheng College at Suzhou University. In keeping with his philosophy of paying scrupulous attention to the environment, and with careful consideration of traditions of Suzhou gardening which suggests that buildings located between water and mountains should not be prominent, he designed the library with nearly half of the building underground. Also, four additional buildings are much smaller than the main body. In 2004, the library received the Architecture Art Award of China.

His other major projects completed, all in China, include in 2005, the Ningbo Contemporary Art Museum and five scattered houses in Ningbo which received acknowledgment from the Holcim Awards for Sustainable Construction in the Asia Pacific. In that same city, he completed the Ningbo History Museum in 2008. In his native city of Hangzhou, he did the first phase of the Xingshan Campus of the China Academy of Art in 2004, and then completed phase two of the same campus in 2007.

True to his methods of the economy of materials, he salvaged over two million tiles from demolished traditional houses to cover the roofs of the campus buildings. That same year in Hangzhou, he built the Vertical Courtyard Apartments, consisting of six 26-storey towers, which was nominated in 2008 for the German based International High-Rise Award. Also finished in 2009 in Hangzhou, was the Exhibition Hall of the Imperial Street of Southern Song Dynasty. In 2006, he completed the Ceramic House in Jinhua.

Other international recognition includes the French Gold Medal from the Academy of Architecture in 2011. The year before, both he and his wife, Lu Wenyu, were awarded the German Schelling Architecture Prize.

Since 2000, Wang Shu has been the head of the Architecture Department of the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, the institution where he did research on the environment and architecture when he first graduated from school. Last year, he became the first Chinese architect to hold the position of “Kenzo Tange Visiting Professor” at Harvard Graduate School of Design in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is also a frequent visiting lecturer at many universities around the world, including in the United States: UCLA, Harvard, University of Texas, University of Pennsylvania, He has participated in a number of major international exhibitions in Venice, Hong Kong, Brussels, Berlin and Paris.

Ningbo Contemporary Art Museum © Lv Hengzhong, Courtesy of Amateur Architecture Studio

Upon learning that he was being honored, Wang Shu had this reaction: “This is really a big surprise. I am tremendously honored to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize. I suddenly realized that I’ve done many things over the last decade. It proves that earnest hard work and persistence lead to positive outcomes.”

The distinguished jury that selected the 2012 Pritzker Laureate consists of its chairman, The Lord Palumbo, internationally known architectural patron of London, chairman of the trustees, Serpentine Gallery, former chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain, former chairman of the Tate Gallery Foundation, and former trustee of the Mies van der Rohe Archive at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and alphabetically: Alejandro Aravena, architect and executive director of Elemental in Santiago, Chile; Stephen Breyer, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Washington, D.C.; Yung Ho Chang, architect and educator, Beijing, The People’s Republic of China; Zaha Hadid, architect and 2004 Pritzker Laureate; Glenn Murcutt, architect and 2002 Pritzker Laureate of Sydney, Australia; Juhani Pallasmaa, architect, professor and author of Helsinki, Finland; and Karen Stein, writer, editor and architectural consultant in New York. Martha Thorne, associate dean for external relations, IE School of Architecture, Madrid, Spain, is the executive director of the prize.

(ARCH DAILY  2.27.12)

more projects by Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio here

h1

the SOLAR SINTER…

02/21/2012

an interview with Markus Kayser…

by BRIAN NITZ

Sweat and Sahara sand had forced my eyes closed so that, even as I stood in front of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, I saw nothing. My eyelids were a back-lit sandy-orange in the sun’s glare. I pried them open and squinted up at the shapes the pharaohs and their slaves had conjured out of the desert 4500 years ago. The Great Pyramid of Cheops towered over the camels and tour buses on the outskirts of Cairo.  It was a sight I will never forget and yet in the beginning I saw nothing.

Visitors often see the desert in this way, as an endless stretch of sun and sand and nothing.  But when German-born 3D Designer Markus Kayser first set his eyes upon the Egyptian desert, he saw possibilities. He imagined harnessing the resources which existed in great abundance here, sunlight and sand. And here he talks with Green Prophet about his 3D printer that runs on sun and sand.

Markus Kayser didn’t need tens of thousands of slaves to conjure something out of the desert. He used his own ingenuity to design and build a machine called a Solar Sinter. This machine uses photovoltaic panels to power a computer and the electromechanical workings of a 3D printer.

The print head holds a lens which concentrates sunlight from a larger Fresnel lens onto a tray of sand. This focused beam reaches temperatures of over 1400°C which sinters (melts) the sand to form a glass or ceramic object. The idea isn’t entirely new.  In the June, 1933 issue of Modern Mechanix, W.W. Beach envisioned giant lenses burning roads and canals into the desert.  Markus Kayser took the first steps towards making this dream possible.
Markus earned a BA in 3D Design from London Metropolitan University and a MA in Design Products at the Royal College of Art in London. He is busy with the next phase of his project but he was kind enough to allow me to interview him for Green Prophet.

Green Prophet: What changes would you like to see in the way products are manufactured and consumed?

Markus Kayser: The Solar Sinter project is all about a potential which questions current manufacturing in a positive way.  I would like to see changes in the way energy is used which in this case means to use the immense power of the sun in a more direct way than just the conversion to electricity.  I think there is a basic logic, which is that sunlight is ‘powering’ this earth as a whole and that this energy can also be used to produce the products or even buildings.

GP: Given your imagination, sunlight, sand and enough financial resources– how would you improve the environment in the Mideast?

MK: I would try to develop the material to be able to replace concrete as a building material.  I would concentrate on architecture and water distribution as well as sanitary products.

GP: Note that the production of concrete releases large amounts of CO2, consumes fossil fuels and requires large amounts of water. Solar sintered sand does not. Do you ever see a mass-produced product and say to yourself, “I could make that out of sand and sunlight?“

MK: I think there are plenty of glass and ceramic objects which could be produced with the Solar Sinter. Of course, the Solar Sinter as it is now is not developed into a manufacturing process but is a prototype for industry to get inspired to look in that direction. I also see a great potential in architecture and infrastructure (sanitary, water canals) for the process.

GP: Your project shows potential for desert manufacturing and architecture.  Can it scale or should it always remain a small scale project for producing unique art?

MK: Yes I think it can be scaled given enough funds to experiment on a large scale. I think it has already moved out of the ‘unique art’ context even though that’s what it is producing today.  I hope that it influence on industry will show in the future.  At the moment I’m sponsored by a big ceramic manufacturer (KOHLER) who are interested and supportive of the process as they see its potential for the future manufacturing.  I think that’s a small start in involving industry to really start thinking in this direction.

GP: What were the practical problems you encountered? Was it difficult to find the right kind of sand? Was it difficult to keep the sand from clogging the machine?

MK:  The problem with the first Solar Sinter was that there was very little time to experiment in the desert – only about two weeks.  So to get it working in that timescale was a challenge, which thankfully just worked out. Heat is of course one of the biggest problems with electronics involved.  Finding the right sand was not an issue as desert sand in Egypt and Morocco worked without previous tests.  I have build the machine fairly robust but lightweight for traveling and the mechanics are designed slightly oversized so that the sand cannot do any damage.

GP: How will 3D printing change the relationship between consumers, manufacturers and the environment?

MK: 3D printing is moving in two directions – desktop DIY printers and prints on demand for so called ‘mass-customization’ of products.  I think both will have a great impact in how products are consumed as well as on manufacturing. If for instance I can modify the product to my personal needs before I buy it, it might have an impact on the way I feel about the product, its usability and I might think twice before throwing it away as I was part of its ‘creation’.  This again could lead to less consumption.  Also the way in which DIY 3D printers are looking at recycling the printed products, reusing the once printed but now unwanted products to make new ones at home.

GP: How will 3D printing change architecture?

MK: In a way architecture has changed already through 3D printing as models of buildings are churned out by the hour in large architectural practices. This means a building can be analyzed very quickly.  3D printed full scale architecture is just emerging with works by Fosters+Partners and Enrico Dini (among others) and it could bring about more ‘intelligent’ materials, which include walls with cavities for all wiring etc. as well as materials with insulating thermal properties with possibly ever changing qualities copied from natural processes. (see Neri Oxman, MIT)

GP: What will you do next?

MK: At the moment I’m working on a new improved prototype as the first Solar Sinter is on exhibition tour.  I will be traveling to the desert again in March to produce new work with the Solar Sinter.

Many thanks to Markus Kayser for helping us see the resources of the desert with new eyes. 

Photos by Amos Field.

(GREEN PROPHET  2.20.12)

h1

SPACEHOG…

02/11/2012

an interview with monster of rock — Timo..!

by CHARLOTTE

This Thursday, Spacehog fans fortunate enough to be at New York’s Rockwood Music Hall, will not only be amongst the first to hear live performances of tunes from the upcoming new album, but they will also be there for the debut of Spacehog’s new guitarist Timo Ellis. “Wait, what???,” you might be saying. That’s okay. Take a minute, I’ll wait.

Yessssss, you did read that correctly. There is a new album, As It Is On Earth, due out this May, and joining Royston, Jonny, and Rich, is The Netherlands’ Timo Ellis, who has stepped in on guitar and vocals for Antony, as Antony pursues fame and fortune in film on the west coast.

For those who may be wondering about this fresh face in the band, Timo was kind enough to allow me an interview.

Charlotte: Jonny Cragg once mentioned jamming with you and Sean Lennon back in the summer of 1994. Was this when you first met? What was your impression of the Spacehog guys at that time?

Timo: ..I just remember initially thinking that they were sweet and totally hilarious (and then not too much later that they were making a really great record!!)

C: On your website you list yourself as performer, producer, tv/film composer, arranger, drummer, guitarist, bassist, singer, songwriter, ukulele-r, programmer, visual artist, and graphic designer from New York City, and on your Facebook band page under genre you list that you do it all. Is it fair to ask if there is an instrument, a role in the music world, and/or a specific type of genre that you like best or is that too much like asking a parent which kid they like best?

T: I’m a drummer first but I’ve been playing guitar and bass for almost as long..in recent years I’ve done a lot more composing/ recording/ producing stuff as distinct from really becoming more virtuosic on any one instrument…+ “genre-wise” on a professional level it would probably help me if I really aesthetically refined/ simplified my “brand”, so to speak, but well, I don’t really feel like doing that, frankly!

C: Bands that you are currently in are The Netherlands, Miho Hatori, Cibo Matto, and of course Spacehog. How do you balance your time between various bands and any other projects that you may have in the works?

T: I work at least 12 hours a day, every day IE I don’t have a lot of “balance”. C’est la vie tho, ya know?

C: Thursday, February 16th, you play with both Spacehog and The Netherlands. Is that as exhausting as it sounds?

T: Not in the slightest! It’s gonna be wicked!!!

C: Is it true that you’ve released over 25 EP’s and Albums, including your first solo EP, The Enchanted Forest of Timo Ellis in 2001? What is it that inspires you?

T: I wouldn’t say I’m inspired really; obsessed is more like it

C: How long have you been working with Spacehog? You may be considered by fans to be “the new guy” but in eyeballing your accomplishments, your projects, and collaborations, some with names that have also been associated with other members of Spacehog, is “the new guy” an unfair or inaccurate assessment of your relationship with Spacehog?

T: I’ve only been playing with these guys this year..+ I am the “new guy” so I don’t mind being called that (+ doesn’t it connote being young, or “fresh” or something?)

C: After waiting over ten years, long time Spacehog fans finally got the news they wanted to hear last month, that the 4th album is to be released this spring. The website was revamped and a brand new Spacehog tune and video was premiered. Then holy moley, there was a bit of a shock, as fans realized that Antony Langdon was not in this line up. As Ant’s presence in the band has always been a strong one, there may be some fans who find the idea of someone, anyone, stepping in on guitar and vocals for him to be a bit disconcerting. Does knowing this affect you going on stage, particularly for the upcoming shows, where some fans may still not be aware of the change?

T: yeah…I’m not even caught up in any of that; hopefully people won’t be put off by it fer very long, if at all

C: You provide lead vocals in some of your other projects, will you share in the lead vocal duties with Roy for Spacehog? If so, would this be for some of the new songs, their old songs, or both?

T: yes, both! ..mad fun, it is!

C: The list of other musicians that you’ve collaborated with is quite extensive. So a fun question…. with no limits what so ever, even if a time machine were required, who or what band would you love to perform with?

T: Spacehog in 1996 (+ I was skinnier back then…)

C: What are your interests aside from music?

T: ..the arts!!! food, film, design, politics, history, philosophy…ya know, the humanities/ the usual left-wing stuff

Here’s sending huge amounts of gratitude to Timo for taking time out of his insanely busy schedule to answer my nosy questions! And for those reading this, quick, quick… turn up the volume and click the links below to hear and see the talented Mr. Ellis’s other projects…

TheNetherlands.tv

TimoEllis.com

(SPACE ODDITIES  2.10.12)

h1

GAINTS!!!

02/05/2012

h1

DJOKOVIC!!!

01/29/2012

h1

AMIGOS SHOP…

01/25/2012

an interview with Nick Ferreira…

by NUNO OLIVEIRA

Nick Ferreira and his lady Kerry recently opened up Amigos Shop in Providence, RI (in addition to Amigos Publishing). Amigos shop will sell Zines, Art, Books etc.  I threw some questions at them about it all, so check that out.

Nuno Olivera: How did Amigos Publishing & Shop come to be?

Nick Ferreira: Originally, Kerry and I started Amigos Publishing as a side project when we were living in LA. We just thought it’d be cool to publish stuff that our creative friends made. We never really had any big goals for it and since we both work or go to school or whatever, it was just a fun side project, and continues to be except as a legit business which is interesting and weird at the same time. And as for the shop, it’s something that I’ve wanted to do since I graduated high school probably. Well, some sort of art space that is. Then the first time I went to Printed Matter in New York at its old location pretty much solidified my ideas and real interest for art books and art objects offered in an affordable manner. Also, while living in LA my girlfriend and partner, Kerry, interned at Ooga Booga. Between attending events there and just experiencing the real positive vibe that Wendy, Max, and crew put off, I really saw how important and helpful a place like that can be to an area. A good way to look at it is your local bike shop. The vibe I got from Ooga Booga was always welcoming, similar to the two bike shops I’ve frequented most over the years, Dick Maul’s and Circuit BMX.

NO: What is the goal with the shop, and what will be available there?

NF: The goal for the shop is to offer a large selection of independent publications, books, media, and art objects. We’re not really going to pigeonhole what are goals are too much in the beginning because I like the idea of things sort of coming together naturally and learning from previous things. But we do hope to offer a good amount in the form of release parties, movie screenings, and small openings that use our tiny space wisely. I’m looking forward to working with local and non local artists and, like the zines we publish, our friends who make and are about interesting things. Right now our inventory is pretty small but we will have books and zines published by us, Amigos, Swill Children from Brooklyn, The Kingsboro PressHamburger EyesElkMothersnewsTeenage Teardrops, etc. We also have a bunch of stuff from various artists.

NO: How did the name “Amigos” come about?

NF: It came about because it seemed like the simplest and best looking name we could think of. We’re about our friends but, friends doesn’t look as good as Amigos. I hate naming things.

NO: For those who are not familiar, give us a little insight into the Zine scene. Even though it’s pretty niche, it is definitely a popular creative outlet.

NF: Well, I’m no expert but there’s a lot of cool stuff going on with zines, and art zines in general. Way more than your sort of stereotypical peace punk, vegan recipe zine. If you have been to the N.Y. Art Book Fair that Printed Matter has been putting on for a few years now, this year especially, the whole third floor of MOMA’s P.S. 1 was taken over by some real awesome and interesting zines. It was so overwhelming. Publishers like Swill Children are doing real cool things in a sort of “zine” format. Their new Peter Sutherland book Worked, is great. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that there’s a whole bunch of things going on with art books and zines right now.

NO: You have been doing Holeshot for a minute, what is it about Zines that gets you stoked?

NF: Just knowing how getting zines in the mail used to make me feel sort of keeps me going and psyched. I also just really like creating this space that is exactly how I want it to look. My knowledge of web based things is limited so I can’t manipulate it as well as I can with print. My interest in zines and art books has also sort of led me to the only normal job I can see myself actually doing, which is a Librarian. It’s super niche and competitive but eventually, and hopefully, someday I’ll be able to work with artists’ books as a special collection. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll be happy to work a reference desk or be a Young Adult librarian.

NO: What are some of your favorite zines?

NF: Elk Zines and Books are consistently awesome. They are like the analog version of a site like Them Thangs but with contributors, images culled from archives, old skate zine covers, and just a whole bunch of ephemera. He also publishes books with artists and writers. It’s pretty awesome and I highly suggest checking it out when you get a chance. Some other cool zines I’ve grabbed recently were a No Age/Brian Roettinger collabo zine. The layout is dialed, its printed on a RISO machine and has letters that one of the band members wrote to Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth and in turn a letter Lee Ranaldo wrote back. Also, this series of Fanzines Oliver Payne makes Safe Crackers are sweet. The newest one was a fanzine devoted to arcade tokens and a 12 inch LP was released with it that featured field recordings of arcade games remixed. Prashant Gopal’s Locals Only, which is part of his series called Yo Sick, is one of my favorite newer BMX zines. My all time favorite BMX zine though is Skunk Zine. So raw and basically sums up what BMX means to me even to this day. It was made by some Skunk Bros affiliates in the late 90′s and blew my 13 year old mind.

NO: What can we expect from Amigos Publishing & the shop in the future?

NF: More titles published by Amigos and a constantly growing inventory. Right now we’re in the very early process of working with a few friends on a Black Sabbath inspired sound/print book. We also plan on having monthly events and rotating art installations, for this month we have an installation by Providence based artist Rachel Fae Coleman. April is set up for a surf themed month to sort of help usher summer in. We’ll be showing Point Break on April 20th and having some surf inspired art and books featured.

NO: Thanks, and good luck with the shop! Anything you would like to add before we wrap this up?

NF: Thanks for caring! If anyone reading this comes through Providence we’re located at 200 Allens Ave. Studio 7F (Second Floor), Providence RI 02903. There’s a bunch of sick spots by if that helps! You can also check us out on the web at www.amigospublishing.com.

(DEFGRIP  2.28.11)

FREE SCREENING!!!

AMIGOS SHOP will host a screening of

“OBJECTS ALSO DIE”  

Doug Magnuson‘s documentary short featuring music by George Draguns

SATURDAY, JAN 28 @ 7pm

200 Allens Ave. Studio 7F, Providence 401.439.9532

refreshments and copies of ELK Books publication “Objects Also Die” as well as other Elk zines and books will be available for purchase, and check out…  the Amigos interview with Doug Magnuson here

h1

filmmakers on filmmakers…

01/05/2012

using the outside voices…

by JASON BAILEY

1. Francois Truffaut on Michelangelo Antonioni:
“Antonioni is the only important director I have nothing good to say about. He bores me; he’s so solemn and humorless.”

2. Ingmar Bergman on Michelangelo Antonioni:
“Fellini, Kurosawa, and Bunuel move in the same field as Tarkovsky. Antonioni was on his way, but expired, suffocated by his own tediousness.”

3. Ingmar Berman on Orson Welles:
“For me he’s just a hoax. It’s empty. It’s not interesting. It’s dead. Citizen Kane, which I have a copy of — is all the critics’ darling, always at the top of every poll taken, but I think it’s a total bore. Above all, the performances are worthless. The amount of respect that movie’s got is absolutely unbelievable.”

4. Ingmar Bergman on Jean-Luc Godard:
“I’ve never gotten anything out of his movies. They have felt constructed, faux intellectual, and completely dead. Cinematographically uninteresting and infinitely boring. Godard is a fucking bore. He’s made his films for the critics. One of the movies, Masculin, Féminin, was shot here in Sweden. It was mind-numbingly boring.”

5. Orson Welles on Jean-Luc Godard:
“His gifts as a director are enormous. I just can’t take him very seriously as a thinker — and that’s where we seem to differ, because he does. His message is what he cares about these days, and, like most movie messages, it could be written on the head of a pin.”

6. Werner Herzog on Jean-Luc Godard:
“Someone like Jean-Luc Godard is for me intellectual counterfeit money when compared to a good kung-fu film.”

7. Jean-Luc Godard on Quentin Tarantino:
“Tarantino named his production company after one of my films. He’d have done better to give me some money.”

8. Harmony Korine on Quentin Tarantino:
“Quentin Tarantino seems to be too concerned with other films. I mean, about appropriating other movies, like in a blender. I think it’s, like, really funny at the time I’m seeing it, but then, I don’t know, there’s a void there. Some of the references are flat, just pop culture.”

9. Nick Broomfield on Quentin Tarantino:
“It’s like watching a schoolboy’s fantasy of violence and sex, which normally Quentin Tarantino would be wanking alone to in his bedroom while this mother is making his baked beans downstairs. Only this time he’s got Harvey Weinstein behind him and it’s on at a million screens.”

10. Spike Lee on Quentin Tarantino (and the “n-word” in his scripts):
“I’m not against the word, and I use it, but not excessively. And some people speak that way. But, Quentin is infatuated with that word. What does he want to be made — an honorary black man?”

11. Spike Lee on Tyler Perry:
“We got a black president, and we going back to Mantan Moreland and Sleep ‘n’ Eat?”

12. Tyler Perry on Spike Lee
“Spike can go straight to hell! You can print that… Spike needs to shut the hell up!”

13. Clint Eastwood on Spike Lee:
“A guy like him should shut his face.”14. Jacques Rivette on Stanley Kubrick:
“Kubrick is a machine, a mutant, a Martian. He has no human feeling whatsoever. But it’s great when the machine films other machines, as in 2001.”

15. Jacques Rivette on James Cameron (and Steven Spielberg):
“Cameron isn’t evil, he’s not an asshole like Spielberg. He wants to be the new De Mille. Unfortunately, he can’t direct his way out of a paper bag. “

16. Jean-Luc Godard on Steven Spielberg:
“I don’t know him personally. I don’t think his films are very good.”

17. Alex Cox on Steven Spielberg:
“Spielberg isn’t a filmmaker, he’s a confectioner.”

18. Tim Burton on Kevin Smith (after Smith jokingly accused Burton of stealing the ending of Planet of the Apes from a Smith comic book):
“Anyone who knows me knows I would never read a comic book. And I would especially never read anything created by Kevin Smith.”

19. Kevin Smith on Tim Burton (in response to “I would never read a comic book”):
“Which, to me, explains fucking Batman.”

20. Kevin Smith on Paul Thomas Anderson (specifically, Magnolia):
“I’ll never watch it again, but I will keep it. I’ll keep it right on my desk, as a constant reminder that a bloated sense of self-importance is the most unattractive quality in a person or their work.”

21. David Gordon Green on Kevin Smith:
“He kind of created a Special Olympics for film. They just kind of lowered the standard. I’m sure their parents are proud; it’s just nothing I care to buy a ticket for.”

22. Vincent Gallo on Spike Jonze:
“He’s the biggest fraud out there. If you bring him to a party he’s the least interesting person at the party, he’s the person who doesn’t know anything. He’s the person who doesn’t say anything funny, interesting, intelligent… He’s a pig piece of shit.”

23. Vincent Gallo on Martin Scorsese:
“I wouldn’t work for Martin Scorsese for $10 million. He hasn’t made a good film in 25 years. I would never work with an egomaniac has-been.”

24. Vincent Gallo on Sofia (and Francis Ford) Coppola:
“Sofia Coppola likes any guy who has what she wants. If she wants to be a photographer she’ll fuck a photographer. If she wants to be a filmmaker, she’ll fuck a filmmaker. She’s a parasite just like her fat, pig father was.”

25. Vincent Gallo on Abel Ferrara:
“Abel Ferrara was on so much crack when I did The Funeral, he was never on set. He was in my room trying to pick-pocket me.”

26. Werner Herzog on Abel Ferrara:
“I have no idea who Abel Ferrara is. But let him fight the windmills… I’ve never seen a film by him. I have no idea who he is. Is he Italian? Is he French? Who is he?”

27. David Cronenberg on M. Night Shymalan:
“I HATE that guy! Next question.”

28. Alan Parker on Peter Greenaway (specifically The Draughtsman’s Contact):
“A load of posturing poo-poo.”

29. Ken Russell on Sir Richard Attenborough:
“Sir Richard (‘I’m-going-to-attack-the-Establishment-fifty-years-after-it’s-dead’) Attenborough is guilty of caricature, a sense of righteous self-satisfaction, and repetition which all undermine the impact of the film.”

30. Uwe Boll on Michael Bay:
“I’m not a fucking retard like Michael Bay.”

(FLAVORPILL  12.31.11)

h1

the OBLITERATION ROOM…

01/03/2012

an artwork for kids by Yayoi Kusama

by CHRISTOPHER JOBSON

This December, in a surprisingly simple yet ridiculously amazing installation for the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, artist Yayoi Kusama constructed a large domestic environment, painting every wall, chair, table, piano, and household decoration a brilliant white, effectively serving as a giant white canvas. Over the course of two weeks, the museum’s smallest visitors were given thousands upon thousands of colored dot stickers and were invited to collaborate in the transformation of the space, turning the house into a vibrantly mottled explosion of color. How great is this? Given the opportunity my son could probably cover the entire piano alone in about fifteen minutes. The installation, entitled The Obliteration Room, is part of Kusama’s Look Now, See Forever exhibition that runs through March 12.

The first four images courtesy Queensland Art Gallery and photographer Mark Sherwood. Additional images from Stuart Addelsee and heybubbles.

(COLOSSAL ART & DESIGN  1.1.12)

h1

year three…

01/01/2012

h1

FADE TO BLACK.

12/31/2011

h1

the CRETTO…

12/21/2011

Alberto Burri’s sculptural masterwork…

by JUDY ROZNER 

At a meeting of Gibellina City Council on the 25 of September 1979 it was resolved, following the advice of Mayor Ludovico Corrao, to issue an official invitation to Alberto Burri. The resolution read as follows: “The merit and  significance of your artistic message is considered to be human and poetically inspiring more than any other it is able to translate for the present generation and for future generations the tragedy, the  struggle, the hope and the faith in the land of the people of Gibellina”. They asked Burri to add one of his  works to the many artists’ contributions already scattered in the new town. As Burri did not react, the Mayor went to visit him at his home in Città di Castello and issued him a personal invitation to be a guest  at his home.

In a newspaper article of April 2006 calling for the completion of the monuments, known as the Cretto,  the now Senatore Ludovico Corrao recalls Burri’s first visit and the genesis of the Cretto as a  monument. A few days after the personal invitation was issued, Burri had relented and arrived in Sicily. He wanted to meet with the locals and was  taken through the elaborate, newly erected welcome gate, Stella, a sculpture by Pietro Consagra, into the  now mostly completed new city. Corrao does not elaborate on the visit to this location. We known that  Burri thought that “in this place for sure there is nothing for me to contribute as the place has plenty works  of art.” Alberto Zanmatti, the architect involved in the project, in his comment on this said that knowing  Burri, he would have never agreed to be one of many. At Burri’s request, Corrao took him to the site of  the destroyed old city. The sight of the devastation and ruins brought Burri close to tears, but Burri  remained silent. They continued and drove to Segesta to the ruins of an old Greek amphitheatre that Burri  wanted to photograph at dusk. There he told Corrao, “I have the project in mind” but did not elaborate.

The archaeology of the future.

Later that evening Burri told Corrao that while they were walking in Segesta and he saw how the shadows on the steps of the amphitheatre changed the appearance of the architecture from one minute to the other, giving it both life and immortality, he decided to create a large Cretto over the ruins of the destroyed city. “Above all” he said, “strength like history had to emerge from the comparison of the great civilizations of Segesta, Selinunte, Motia and the ruined world of the poor and the dead.” He defined his work as “the archaeology of the future” which would be a testimony to the continued presence of great civilizations in this land.

A Cretto resembles a dried up clay lake bed. Burri started incorporating craked surfaces into his work with other materials as early as 1951, turning the Cretto into a painting in the 70s. On the genesis of the Cretto, Burri says: “when I was in California, I often visited Death Valley. The idea came from there, but then in the painting it became something else. I only wanted to demonstrate the energy of the surface.”  The Cretto design had also been used by Burri in sculptures. In 1976 and 77 he created two ceramic sculpture walls (5 x  15m), one for the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden in UCLA, Los Angles, and the other is located at the Capodimonte Museum in Naples. Another sculpture based on the Cretto design is a metal Grande Ferro of 1980 (5.18 x 0.61m) located in Palazzo Albizzini, Collezione Burri, in Città di Castello.

Burri produced his Cretto paintings in collaboration with the forces of nature, in this case, a chemical reaction that causes the surface of the material, when it dries up, to crack. It is a process of destruction/construction that also involves time. The eventual destruction of the surface becomes the construction of the work. The material he used to produce the Cretto was a mixture of wet kaolin, resin, pigment and polyvinyl acetate that was applied as a smooth layer on to a horizontal surface. By changing the composition of the chemicals, the concentration of the catalysts and the depth of the layers the artist was able to control the density of the cracking, but not the exact location of the cracks.

The enormity of the Gibellina project did not become apparent until 1981 when Burri presented the city with a model of the monument. In the model, Burri had recreated in plastic, an aerial view of the topography of Old Gibellina and its surroundings on which he had superimposed a Cretto that covered the side of the destroyed old city. The footprint of Old Gibellina’s main street and one other thoroughfare were incised into the work, while the rest of the Cretto cracks has been allowed to form spontaneously.

Alberto Burri and “The International Land Art Panorama”.

In his speech at a convention titled: Alberto Burri; nel Panorama della Land Art  Internazionale, help in Gibellina in October 1998, Zanmatti, the architect of the  project and a friend of Burri, said, that Burri, whose original profession was a Doctor, had arrived in Gibellina with the spirit of Asclepius, the Greek God of Medicine. As one who had taken the Hippocratic oath, Burri could not refuse a call for help, but had managed to wriggle his way out of contributing to the many works that had already been constructed in the new city, and came up with the idea of the Cretto. It was a  project so immense that even the Pharaohs would have been bewildered by it. Zanmatti was  faced with unstable ruins, a type of construction never attempted before, no funds, no materials  and no organized labour force. It looks two years to raise sufficient funds, mostly donated by  Italians and material donated by a cement factory in Palermo, for the experimental construction of the first irregular shaped block. At the same time a controversy was stirred by those who wanted the ruins left untouched. In an area filled with ruins of previous civilizations that are greatly admired and income-producing, it was a strong argument. Countering this argument, mayor Corrao likened the ruins to a corpse of a beloved that was left to rot, “It is unconceivable to allow the debris of the old city to rot as a testimony to death.” The need “to obliterate the ruins in order to commemorate them” was accepted.

Each section of the Cretto, averaging 700 sq.m, had to be surrounded by reinforced concrete, with the rubble piled and compacted into it to a height of 1.6 m. and the whole covered by a layer of white cement. The gaps between the sections, the walkways, were paved in white cement; these gaps form gullies of varying width from 1.5m to 4m. The army was called in to assist with the clearing of the ruins. All the debris and everything found on site in the ruined buildings, included clothing, dolls, wine and olive oil bottles, farming implements and household items, were piled and buried in the confined perimeter of each section.

Fondazione Orestiadi, the new beginning.

Further funds were raised through a public lottery, the white cement continued to be donated and work on the project commenced in August 1985. Lack of funds stopped the work in December 1989. In 1997 a petition calling for the completion of the work was signed by prominent Italians, from art historian to politicians, authors and academics. This petition succeeded in raising further fund from institutions and another nine acres were added to the monument. As is evident from Senatore Corrao’s call in 2006 for the completion of the monument, it has yet to be completed. Now that the ravages of time and weather are evident, its fate is somewhat reminiscent of that Gaudi’s Sacred Family Church in Barcelona. The monument is no longer the pristine white it was, moss, weeds and trees have invaded it, the surrounding weeds are as tall as the sections themselves, and it is in need not only of completion but of restoration, a task Corrao, who now heads Fondazione Orestiadi, a Regional Art Institution, is still engaged in.

For the casual visitor guided to the place by the sign Gibellina Ruderi (Gibellina ruins), after expressing astonishment at this huge apparition of cracked off white cement in the middle of a rural setting, questions of – What is it? Why is it here? – come to mind. It is useless to look for an explanatory sign, as there is none there. There are a few signs honoring the latest financial donor that mention the earthquake, but these are incorporated into the cement walls and are hard to find. However a feeling that an event, that connects the structure to the site, had occurred there, soon creeps in.  The question of what the event was is answered by the few ruined structures that are still  standing, by the upturned land, and the abruptly ending roads that abound in the area and the  separation from the cultivated land. The scale of the event is transmitted, when wandering  through the cracks does not transmit a sensation of desperation such as being lost, on the  contrary, it transmits a sensation of adventure, as at no time, despite the silence within the structure, in the cultivated land surrounding it is obscured; it remains visible between the cracks and over the top of the structure, and completes the integration of the monument with the living landscape that surrounds it.

(GIBELLINA SICILIANA)

h1

SPEED, GLUE & SHINKI…

12/11/2011

the short lived ’70s Japanese power trio of legend…

by EDUARDO RIVADAVIA

One of Japan’s most iconic purveyors of early-‘70s heavy/blues/psych rock, Speed, Glue & Shinki was composed of three uncommonly talented, freakishly tall (six-foot-plus!), and exceptionally wasted longhairs of mixed descent; Shinki was half Chinese, “Glue” half-French, “Speed” a Filipino, and, yes, their drugs of choice inspired the group’s moniker. As is often the case, the group’s legend was established primarily posthumously, but the improbable nature of their very existence and the retrospectively appreciated uniqueness of their spare musical output totally warrants it.

Speed, Glue & Shinki started out as the brainchild of Atlantic Records impresario Ikuzo Orita and guitar hero Shinki Chen, who was just 21 but already deemed the “Japanese Hendrix,” thanks to a résumé boasting stints with Brit-blues purveyors Powerhouse, Super Session emulators Foodbrain, and the house band for Japan’s own production of the musical Hair, to name just his most then-recent exploits. However, rather than settling on faceless no-names to support Shinki’s genius, the duo sought his instrumental and charismatic equals in highly respected bassist Masayoshi “Glue” Kabe — himself a veteran of Group Sounds staples the Golden Cups, among others, including Shinki’s first pro band years earlier — and the comparatively inexperienced, Filipino-born singing drummer Joey “Speed” Smith (aka Pepe), whose larger-than-life persona, pharmaceutical fixations, and songs to match helped define the group’s radical musical vision. Ironically, and despite its shared instrumental pedigree, when the band unveiled their 1971 debut album, Eve, it was distinguished by astonishingly raw, loose, and at times even clumsy extrapolations on the era’s reigning heavy blues and acid rock templates.

Even more astonishing was how its abject commercial failure to chart on Japan’s still very buttoned up hit parade actually surprised all involved, expediting Speed, Glue & Shinki’s dissolution when the easily distracted Kabe took to vanishing after just a few scattered public band performances. The far more driven Joey did manage to coax a chronically unmotivated Shinki back into the studio, alongside former Zero History bassist Mike Hanopol, but the band’s sprawling eponymous sophomore double album, literally lost the plot in a maze of proto-metal/art-rock chaos and indulgence. The LP was pretty much dead on arrival upon release in early 1972, and it wasn’t long before Joey and Hanopol both gave up the fight and moved back to Manilla, where they founded a new power trio named, oddly, Juan de la Cruz. Shinki Chen proceeded to squander his six-string gifts by forming an organ-dominated outfit named Orange before fading away into session work, while the free-spirited Kabe resumed his itinerant lifestyle, whereabouts unknown (just kidding: he settled down in old age, but where’s the romance in that?). Speed, Glue & Shinki duly graduated to cult band status, and yet, for a brief moment, in a flash of light, this ragged trio forced the rock & roll firmament to its bended knees and carved a monument to primal guitar rock for the ages.

(ALL MUSIC)

h1

SPACE SUITS…

12/01/2011

interview with designer Bill Elkins…

by MICHAEL KLESIUS

Bill Elkins has been called “one of the true fathers of the space suit.” Within months of the Sputnik 1 launch in October 1957, he began working at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio on “restraint couches” for astronauts. In the late 1960s, as a chief engineer at Garrett AiResearch, his team outcompeted four established space suit manufacturers to win the NASA contract to build long-endurance lunar suits that were to have flown on Apollos 18, 19, and 20. His suit never made it to the moon, however, because NASA cancelled all landings after Apollo 17 in December 1972. Since then Elkins, who is in the U.S. Space Foundation’s Space Technology Hall of Fame, has founded several companies. Today, at age 80, he lives outside Sacramento, California, and continues working, having founded bioCOOL Technologies in 2004 and the consulting firm, WElkins in 2007. He spoke recently with Air & Space Associate Editor Mike Klesius.

Air & Space: How did the first astronaut restraint systems compare to jet pilot systems already in use?

Elkins: A jet pilot restraint system has a hard backpan and seat. It mainly is trying to contain the pilot in the seat, in a sitting position. In an astronaut couch you’re lying on your back. [In the late 1950s] they were planning a cast, form-fitting, backpan restraint couch for the astronauts. But in tests at high G it was causing substernal pain, where the sternum of the occupant would compress into the chest. I designed a sophisticated hammock supported by a tubular steel frame. It left your body in a more normal, natural form at high G. The Mercury project was then transferred to NASA and I lost track of that research. In the end, they went with the harder, backpan restraint couch.

A&S: You once sustained 16.5 Gs, an apparent record for pulling Gs and remaining conscious.

Elkins: We were examining a worst-case G scenario for a Mercury launch. So they put me in the 20-foot-arm centrifuge at Wright-Pat. The G profile was based on the maximum G that could be experienced during the launch. If the escape rocket was fired at maximum dynamic pressure—Mach 1 at roughly 40,000 feet—then 15.5 G would be experienced by the astronaut. So we [added] one G…and “flew” it on the centrifuge. The whole run duration was about three minutes. I began to gray out a bit at 13 G. Then I was above 15.5 G for about six seconds. I “flew” a tracking task with my right hand, and I had a button I could press with my left hand to respond to peripheral lights. I recently discussed this matter with Jim Brinkley, who was contemporary with me at Wright-Patterson. He became the head of the Biodynamics Lab and is an internationally recognized biodynamicist. He confirmed, to the best of his knowledge, that the 16.5 sustained G remains a benchmark achievement. They shut down that centrifuge for good not long after we did those runs in December 1958. We burned it out, I guess.

A&S: How did you get into designing space suits?

Elkins: Those runs are what got me into the spacesuit world, first at Litton where I developed the RX (rigid experimental) series of suits, and then at AiResearch, where, in about two years, I became chief engineer and developed the EX-1A and the AES [Advanced Extravehicular Suit] that won the competition for the extended Apollo mission suit.

Early on, a physicist at Litton was developing a vacuum chamber pressure suit, but Litton thought they were causing permanent heart damage. I had miles of EKGs from my centrifuge runs, so I had a certified healthy heart and was chosen as the test subject to verify or deny the problem. The lab they brought me to was in Beverly Hills, California, of all places. For lunch that day, at a local deli, I made the mistake of ordering a corned beef sandwich with the hottest mustard they had, and shortly before the test began, I started getting some serious heartburn. Well, they put me in a pressure chamber and took me up to 400,000 feet equivalent. The doctor asked me how I was feeling, and I said,  “Fine, but I’m feeling a little heartburn.” He said, “Lay back!” and made me swallow a nitroglycerin pill. A subsequent conference of heart specialists determined there was no problem with the vacuum chamber suit.

A&S: What’s the biggest challenge in designing an effective space suit?

Elkins: Well, a big one is mobility, specifically the joints. If you look at the Apollo [suit] joints, the farther you bent them, the more effort it took and the harder it was to hold that position. Those suits were spring loaded to come back to the neutral position. So it took a constant force to keep them out of neutral, and that was very fatiguing. But when you move a constant volume joint to a new position, no further force is needed. When I left Litton and went to AiResearch, I invented the toroidal joint. Toroids maintain constant volume so long as the centerline remains constant. At AiResearch I designed the EX-1A [suit], the first prototype suit to use toroidal joints, in 1967. It was an outstanding suit.

A&S: What were the advantages of the hard suit versus the soft suit? Why two totally different kinds?

Elkins: There are some advantages of the hard suit, although I did not remain a proponent of it. The hard suit had value for being able to go to much higher pressures. The higher you go, the less likely you are to have the bends when exiting a higher-pressure space vehicle. So if you were wearing one, you could scramble to do an emergency [spacewalk] because you didn’t have to pre-breathe for four hours. It’s a very mobile little spaceship, if you will. Vic Vykukal, a NASA Ames engineer, also did pioneering work on the hard suit. Although it demonstrated excellent mobility, it was heavier because of the hard structural components, and the joints did not exhibit the long-life capability of the toroidal joint.

The soft suit came from a line of pressure suits used by the Air Force and Navy. BF Goodrich’s soft suits for the Mercury project were evolved from a Navy pressure suit. David Clark made soft suits for Gemini. Then ILC came into the Apollo program. They all came from that same soft emergency pressure suit lineage. It was a question of cultures and politics within the R&D labs. There was the West Coast technology such as Litton, and NASA’s Ames Research lab; but then the older timers from the East who knew soft suits. Ultimately, soft suits won out.

A&S: It’s often pointed out that the moon suits were so heavy. What was the single heaviest element?

Elkins: I think it was the PLSS, portable life support system [backpack]. The suit by itself would weigh about 60 pounds.

A&S: What was driving the desire for design changes in lunar suits for the extended Apollo missions?

Elkins: They had to be different from the earlier Apollo suits because the lunar rovers would carry astronauts some distance away from the lunar lander. They wanted to explore interesting geological features on the moon. NASA wanted a suit that, should the rover fail, had the mobility for the astronaut to quickly traverse back to the lunar module.

Apollo 16 and 17 used the ILC A7L suit that was not much of an improvement over the previous Apollo suit. In the competition for the extended Apollo missions, the AES was the first truly high mobility suit. It had about 95 percent of nude mobility range. It had significantly greater lifecycle capability. I don’t remember, but I believe the [target length for a lunar stay] was about eight days.

A&S: It’s interesting to see that so much of Constellation, such as the shape of the crew capsule, the composition of the heat shield, the launch abort system, etc., is almost identical in their general design to what was used on Apollo. It appears we figured a lot out the first time around. Will the same be true of the suits?

Elkins: Well I’m hoping to influence that. I hope to work with Oceaneering International [a NASA contractor for the Constellation lunar suits]. I have a concept for an EVA [extravehicular activity] suit with some pneumatic restraints. I think elements might apply to Constellation. It’s already applied to a host of applications in the medical field in liquid cooling and pressurization for MS and epilepsy and head trauma patients.

A&S: How will the new suits handle the damaging lunar dust?

Elkins: Good question. I have some concepts. I’m in the beginning stages of some ideas on electrostatic solutions to dust. One of the suits I studied for Lockheed was for doing polar [Earth] orbits, in which you’re introduced to more radiation than with east-west orbits. I came up with the idea of using high density tungsten fabric to increase radiation protection. Tungsten is highly conductive electrically, but still flexible. That high conductivity woven fabric with an electrostatic charge might repel lunar dust.

A&S: What do you think of the proposed suit that would attach its back entry to the outside of a moon base? After a moonwalk, the astronaut exits the suit to enter the base.

Elkins: I’m not a great proponent of the rear entry arrangement. It’s heavy, and uses valuable real estate that interferes with full mobility. My philosophy is to allow the human to operate as the magnificent machine it is. Back door entry does not easily allow for a two-axis waist joint, and that’s especially risky in unprepared terrain. Almost any maneuver you do, you’re unconsciously using your waist. I doubt that you can make the back door entry suit with the waist joint. Furthermore, there would be maintenance issues. Eventually you’ll need to replace components. So you’ll need access to the suits. For me, the human body is an engineering marvel that took several million years to develop. I want the pressure envelope over that body to exhibit the same mobility. That would minimize learning time in using the suit, and allow rapid solutions to problems during [spacewalks].

A&S: The old Apollo suits were used for one mission and retired. How will the new suit be built to handle repeated use?

Elkins: It will have to have a three-million-cycle life, minimum. One bend in one direction, and returning to neutral, that’s one cycle. The Apollo suit joints, and the latest shuttle suit joints, are not much good above 60,000 cycles.

A&S: What drives you to continue your work?

Elkins: I’m 80, and I’m still pretty much working around the clock. If I can contribute to mankind, space, medicine, and other-life hazardous protective applications, it keeps me young.

photos courtesy Bill Elkins

(AIR & SPACE  6.10.09)

h1

GRAND WIZARD THEODORE…

11/25/2011

an interview with the inventor of the scratch…

by BILLY JAM

For me, someone who lives for scratch music, visiting legendary DJ Grand Wizard Theodore—the creator of the scratch—at his Bronx, NY home could only be compared to an Elvis Presley fan making a pilgrimage to Graceland to visit the King of rock’n’roll in his day. I had met Grand Wizard Theodore (GWT) once before a few years earlier when he had been flown out to San Francisco to receive an ITF award. Our meeting was brief so I really had no idea what kind of person he really was. And after years of interviewing hip hop and other music stars I had admired, I was used to discovering that some of the greatest artists were the biggest assholes in person. But such was far from the case with GWT. When my disoriented white face emerged from the “D” subway station deep in the Boogie Down Bronx among a sea of black and brown faces, GWT was there to pick me up in his sturdy but old American car. You can’t have a fancy new car in the Bronx, he explained in his soft-spoken but firm voice as we drove the fifteen blocks back to his modest Bronx apartment. Like many of the great pioneers of hip hop that created the genre here on these Bronx streets three decades earlier, GWT was not rich from a culture that he helped shape and form. But unlike many of his contemporaries from hip hop’s seminal years, who are embittered by the fact that they live in comparative poverty/obscurity while so-called “hip hoppers” like mogul Puff Daddy are making millions off something they created, GWT is not at all bitter. In fact he is a warm and humble man who is gracious to be a part of a cultural movement that he never thought would spread from these Bronx, NY streets to every other corner of the world.

BILLY JAM: How did you first create the scratch 26 years ago in 1975?

GRAND WIZARD THEODORE: I used to come home from school and go in my room and practice a lot and this particular day I came home and played my music too loud and my mom was banging on the door and when she opened the door I turned the music down but the music was still playing in my headphones and she was screaming ‘If you don’t turn the music down you better turn it off’ and I had turned down the speakers but I was still holding the record and moving it back and forth listening in my headphones and I thought ‘This really sounded something….interjecting another record with another record.’ And as time went by I experimented with it trying other records and soon it became scratching.

BJ: At that time Kool Herc was around here doing his thing but he wasn’t doing anything like scratching, was he?

GWT: Well Herc is like an old school DJ. Basically he would put a record on and let the record play. He might have both on at once but the cross-fader was on one side only. I think many people were on the verge of discovering it back then but I happened to be the first.

BJ: After you discovered the scratch who did you show first?

GWT: Well actually I didn’t show anyone. I just did it. I was always the type of DJ who wanted to be different from everyone else coz everyone else was playing the same records the same way. So after a time people started to notice that I played different records and was scratching the records and interjecting different records and needle dropping coz I also invented the ‘needle drop’ and basically I would just display my talents when it was time to do a party. At first I would only scratch maybe one or two records during a party but as time went by I would scratch more and more and soon I would scratch on every track I played.

BJ: So what kind of parties would these be and how did people initially react?

GWT: These would be house parties and big parties here in the Bronx and people loved it when they first heard it. It was raw and they appreciated it!

BJ: What was it like in the very early days of hip hop?

GWT: I had an older brother named Mean Jean and he was down with Grand Master Flash. They were partners and I was like the record boy for them and I would carry their records for them or go downtown to Downstairs Records and pick up 45′s for them. But Flash and my brother had different ideas about music so they split up and Flash formed the Furious Emcees and my brother and me and my other brother Corleo we formed The L Brothers since our last name is Livingston and everybody was like ‘The Livingston Brothers’and for a while they called us the ‘The Love Brothers.’ And we took on two emcees… and later on my brother quit DJ’ing and I went on and formed my own group… and back in those days it was not just Blacks but Latinos as well who helped form the culture of hip hop: like a lot of the graffiti artists and break dancers were Latino. We were all down together

BJ: Does the fact that hip hop is so popular all over the world today amaze you?

GWT: It does and it doesn’t but really I just did it for the love. The money was good but I did it all coz I love music. My mother and my uncles and my family growing up would always gather around and play good music and eat good food so I was always surrounded by music so I had the love for it and when I would DJ parties I would always try to make it a good time for people to forget about their problems.

BJ: How important is the DJ in hip hop?

GWT: The DJ sets the tone for the party. He has the records, the speakers, the amps—he has everything. The b-boy couldn’t come out and break until the DJ was playing the music. And the rapper: all he has to do is show up and pick up the mic and just start rapping, but not until after the DJ had set everything up. Back in the day with someone like Kool Herc, he was the DJ and he had rappers with him but he was the one out front and they just backed him up. But as time went by the rappers started phasing out the DJ as they became more and more popular and moved to the front. So I think it is great that the DJ is now making a comeback coz the DJ played a major, major part in this hip hop culture.

BJ: What do you think of all the new techniques being developed by today’s ‘turntablists’ and how companies are streamlining DJ equipment for scratch DJs.

GWT: With all of these new developments, like say the new needles made just for turntablists, it means that the art form of DJ’ing is going to keep evolving and I think it has a little further to go until it is fully evolved.

BJ: What are you working on nowadays?

GWT: I am working on a new CD called The Nights of the Round Table coz the turntable is round and when you think of a DJ he does his work at night… And I do a lot of traveling to other places like Europe. I just want people to know that I am still out there and I want to educate people on the culture coz a lot of people do not know about the culture.

BJ: Which brings us to Heineken beer’s recent TV ad campaign in which they got their facts all wrong and misinformed people saying that scratching began in 1982, seven years after you created it.

GWT: I don’t know if they knew what they was doing and just decided to make a spoof out of it or whatever but they have to realize that this is a culture and that this culture affects a lot of peoples’ lives and we want people to understand the truth of a culture so it won’t be misinterpreted. Like back in the days we never called women ‘bitches’ or ‘hoes’ but nowadays you’ve got guys calling women these things and rapping about ‘my big car this and that’ and ‘selling drugs this and that.’ But back in the day hip hop wasn’t about that. It was only about ‘clap your hands’ and ‘stomp your feet, you know?’ People have to learn the culture.

BJ: Do you think that the new documentary Scratch that you are featured in is a fair portrayal of the scratch DJ?

GWT: Yes I do.

BJ: And where do you see the scratch DJ in the future?

GWT: I see scratch DJs getting more and more recognition and winning awards like Grammies just like rappers and any other type of musician. And nowadays you have a lot of bands with DJs in them so I see the DJ evolving and getting the type of recognition that they have always deserved.

(HIP HOP SLAM)

h1

the FLAMING LIPS HOUSE…

11/19/2011

project team — fitzsimmons architects / michelle martin-coyne / studio f construction / obelisk engineering…

from FITZSIMMONS ARCHITECTS

“It’s worth the battle, it’s worth the stress, it’s worth waiting for, and it really does do what art’s supposed to do.  It makes you remember that we can go for it, and then life isn’t just normal and average.” – Wayne Coyne

This appropriately quirky residence and music studio is as free thinking and boundary pushing as the art and music of its owners, Michelle Martin-Coyne, a photographer and artist, and her husband Wayne, front man of the Flaming Lips.  Located in an eclectic neighborhood of Oklahoma City, the addition/renovation of their home is the first phase and central piece of a larger master plan developed for six adjoining properties. These properties, referred to as “the compound” for those familiar with it, is being transformed in phases.

Phase one consisted of the partial refinishing of the main house, and the renovation of an existing garage and storage space into a large family room, and a new master suite including the master bath “dragon egg”.  The existing low roof structure of the storage space was removed, making room for a new “fractured plain” roof that floats above a ribbon of clerestory windows.  This angular roof cantilevers away from the house off a thin exoskeleton of steel, shading the patio below while still allowing indirect daylight to flood the living space.  This connection to the outdoors is further emphasized by a wall of sliding glass doors that open to the outdoor patio and expansive yard.

The master suite was converted from a former attached apartment and includes the bedroom, water closet, powder room, large dressing room, and a hall to the “dragon egg” a concrete walled, egg shaped pod that contains the shower and Japanese-inspired soaking tub.

The Coynes have been actively engaged in the renovation of their house from design phase through construction. The creativity they share and bring to the design table has been as asset to the Project. Michelle’s artistic talent, excitement, and willingness to take an active role in the projects finer construction details and finishes has led the architects to creating rooms and structures as “blank canvases” to receive the final finishes guided by her vision for the house.

Perhaps the most important attribute of the Project and the Compound is its expression of commitment by the musician and his wife to stay and live in a long troubled neighborhood where he grew up. through their commitment and the architects work on other projects adjoining the neighborhood, signs of renewed revitalization efforts are beginning.

(FITZSIMMONS ARCHITECTS)

h1

“WAVELENGTH”

11/17/2011

cinema’s most unflinching zoom…

by SCOTT FOUNDAS

To call Canadian artist Michael Snow a filmmaker somehow seems woefully inadequate. For while Snow undeniably makes films, he may be more aptly described as a film sculptor, or perhaps a cine-alchemist. For five decades now, this founding father of avant-garde cinema has been tearing apart and reassembling the DNA of film language in a series of dazzling experiments — and lest that sound austere or forbidding, I should add that Snow possesses a healthy reserve of impish good humor.

Born in Toronto in 1929, Snow graduated from the Ontario School of Art and, by 1956, had already made his first short, a four-minute animation titled A to Z. But at that time Snow was preoccupied with his painting, photography and jazz musicianship — interests he continues to pursue today — and so movies were put on the back burner until the 1960s, when he moved to New York. There he found himself at the epicenter of a heady experimental-film scene whose guiding lights included Hollis Frampton, Jonas Mekas and Ken Jacobs.

Wavelength (1967) remains Snow’s best-known work, and it is some kind of historic achievement, a movie in which time, space and movement are the stars, with human characters tossed cavalierly to the sidelines. Famous for having the longest zoom shot (45 minutes) in cinema, and as an influence on filmmakers from Stanley Kubrick to Chantal Akerman, Wavelength offers an uninterrupted traversal of a New York loft space from one end to the other, accompanied by a sound track of waves (both sonic and oceanic) and the Beatles singing “Strawberry Fields Forever.”

Yet it’s hardly as single-minded as it sounds. Without cutting, Snow employs tricks of exposure and filtration to take us from day to night to day again, from the dingy-gray environs of a Lower Manhattan walk-up to a shock-white mod nightmare. Wavelength catches us up so profoundly in the raw possibilities of movies’ structural (as opposed to narrative) properties that when its own “murder” occurs, most viewers don’t immediately realize anything has happened.

(LA WEEKLY  11.17.11)

screening friday 11.18 @ Cinefamily 611 N Fairfax, L.A…

“WAVELENGTH” 1967 directed by Michael Snow

h1

BANZUKE or 番付表…

11/15/2011

the artful ranking of pro sumo wrestlers…

by NICOLAS SCHULER

(translated by Julien Griffon, proofread by John Gunning, many thanks to Thierry Perran for his valuable help on numerous translations from Japanese)

The banzuke (or banzuke-hyo) is a calligraphied document drawn up after each tournament, giving the positions of the fighters, depending on the results of each participant. But it also contains the full list of gyoji (referees) and oyakata (masters). By extension, banzuke is also the name used for the ranking itself. It is set by an assembly (banzuke hensei iinkai), composed of the 23 members of the shimpan-bu: the 20 shimpan (judges) and the 3 kanji (supervisors). They gather especially for that purpose a few days after the tournament. Their task is to give no less than the 800 fighters belonging to the 6 divisions of sumo new positions. No rule indicates precisely the place a rikishi will occupy the next session; the only basic rule governing the banzuke is the following one: “a kashi-koshi (more victories than defeats during the former tournament) means a promotion, whereas a make-koshi (the opposite) forces the rikishi down the ranking. The wider the gap between wins and losses, the greater rise or fall in position”. Of course, like any other rule, there are exceptions to this one… but this is out of the focus of this article!

During the assembly, led by a gyoji, the discussion goes from the top of the previous ranking down to the apprentices in the jonokuchi division. The gyoji writes on a paper roll (maki) the new rank of each rikishi. After the meeting, once each position is assigned, they place the precious roll into a safe for it to be kept secret until it is revealed to the public, several weeks later, on the Monday, 13 days before the beginning of the next tournament. 
Actually, the safe gets opened one week before for the gyoji to draw up the final version of the ranking. He spends one entire day tracing the characters composing the names of the fighters, with a particular style called negishi-ryu. He uses black ink and a traditional Japanese sheet of paper (washi), 108cm large by 78cm wide. Many tenths of thousand smaller copies (58cm x 44cm) are then printed and provided to the different schools, where they are folded and sent to the sponsors and “friends” of the establishment. A number of them is also provided to the shops on the site where the basho takes place, where one can buy them only during the tournament. Some people consider the banzuke-hyo to be art pieces. Still, a sumo lover who does not have any knowledge in Japanese language will not be able to read them. For lack of a full “translation”, here is a few elements that will help getting familiarised with the layout of these rankings.Reading is from right to left and from the top to the bottom.


(LE MONDE DE SUMO)

h1

“(nostalgia)”

11/07/2011

Hollis Frampton’s Hapax Legomena I…

from HOLLISFRAMPTON.ORG

“In (nostalgia), Frampton is clearly working with the experience of cinematic temporality. The major structural strategy is a disjunction between sound and image. We see a series of still photographs, most of them taken by Frampton, slowly burning one at a time on a hotplate. On the soundtrack, we hear Frampton’s comments and reminiscences about the photographs. As we watch each photograph burn, we hear the reminiscence pertaining to the following photograph. The sound and image are on two different time schedules. At any moment, we are listening to a commentary about a photograph that we shall be seeing in the future and looking at a photograph that we have just heard about. We are pulled between anticipation and memory. The nature of the commentary reinforces the complexity; it arouses our sense of anticipation by referring to the future; it also reminisces about the past, about the time and conditions under which the photographs were made. The double time sense results in a complex, rich experience.” – Bill Simon

“In (nostalgia) the time it takes for a photograph to burn (and thus confirm its two-dimensionality) becomes the clock within the film, while Frampton plays the critic, asynchronously glossing, explicating, narrating, mythologizing his earlier art, and his earlier life, as he commits them both to the fire of a labyrinthine structure; for Borges too was one of his earlier masters, and he grins behind the facades of logic, mathematics, and physical demonstration which are the formal metaphors for most of Frampton’s films.” – P. Adams Sitney

“(nostalgia) is mostly about words and the kind of relationship words can have to images. I began probably as a kind of non-poet, as a kid, and my first interest in images probably had something to do with what clouds of words could rise out of them… I think there is kind of a shift between what is now memory and what was once conjecture and prophecy and so forth.” – Hollis Frampton

“(nostalgia) is a film to look at and think about, not a film that seizes your mind and forces its sensations on you. It liberates the imagination rather than entrapping it. It raises questions about the nature of film, the tension between fact and illusion, between now and then. It advances our understanding of film magic, and for this I am grateful.” – Standish Lawder

“(nostalgia), beginning as an ironic look upon a personal past, creates its own filmic time, a past and future generated by the expectations elicited by its basic disjunctive strategy.” – Annette Michelson

(HOLLISFRAMPTON.ORG)

 “(nostalgia)” 1971 directed by Hollis Frampton
h1

SPRAY PAINT…

11/05/2011

a history…

by HILARY GREENBAUM and DANA RUBINSTEIN

That a paint salesman from northern Illinois created the tool through which rebels, gang members, artists and anti-Wall Street protesters alike have expressed themselves merely confirms that inventors can neither control nor predict the impact of their innovations. After all, Jack Dorsey never imagined that Twitter would facilitate Anthony Weiner’s self-immolation.

The spray-paint can, however, has eminently practical origins. Ed Seymour, the proprietor of a Sycamore, Ill., paint company, was in search of an easy way to demonstrate his aluminum coating for painting radiators. His wife suggested a makeshift spray gun, like those used for deodorizers. And so, in 1949, Seymour mixed paint and aerosol in a can with a spray head. As it turned out, compressing paint in a can made for a nice finish.

THE EARLY YEARS

Seymour’s humble creation quickly proved so popular that Seymour of Sycamore began customizing its own manufacturing equipment and eventually expanded into new businesses, including the auto and industrial-machine markets. Soon afterward, home-furnishing heavyweights like Rust-Oleum and Krylon jumped in. And by 1973, Big Spray was producing 270 million cans annually in the U.S., according to the Consumer Specialty Products Association. Last year, U.S. spray-paint manufacturers produced 412 million cans.

By this time, of course, aerosol spray paint had begun to forge an industry beyond home improvements and quickie D.I.Y. projects. As the safety pin did with punk, it eventually transcended its utilitarian roots. Early nonradiator-painting devotees tended to split into two camps: protesters and vandals. While it is impossible to determine the first student or activist to aim an aerosol paint can at cardboard or buildings, forefathers of the latter include Cornbread and Julio 204, the Philadelphia- and New York-based artist-defacers, who took advantage of the technology to make their tags (né names) well known in the ’60s and ’70s. Spray paint, after all, was the ideal medium for this form of branding. It came in small, easy-to-conceal, easy-to-steal cans. It was paint and brush in one. It dried quickly. It worked well on building materials and subway cars. More important, perhaps, the imprecise application lent it an inherent disregard. Its inability to be perfectly controlled also made it an apt metaphor for rebellion. In other words, it was pretty badass.

THE RECKONING

Public outrage, and laws restricting spray paint sales to teenagers, ensued. Though not all enthusiasts were deterred. “There was a Red Devil spray-paint factory in Mount Vernon, which is near where the 2 and 5 trains end in the Bronx,” says the graffiti artist Caleb Neelon wistfully. “There are a couple of great, legendary stories about breaking into that factory for the ultimate shoplifting.”

According to Neelon, who, with Roger Gastman, wrote “The History of American Graffiti,” there were not a lot of options for high-quality spray paints in those days. The American spray-paint giants like Krylon and Rust-Oleum resisted tapping into the graffiti-artist market, refusing to upgrade their colors or valves to allow for more creative tagging. In recent years, however, graffiti’s outlaw status has been softened a bit through the auction circuit’s embrace of guerrilla art. In 2006, Angelina Jolie paid $226,000 for a painting called “Picnic,” by Banksy, an artist who made his name through graffiti. The painting features starving Africans watching a white family picnic. Banksy’s “Keep It Spotless” sold for $1.8 million two years later.

THE EUROPEAN REVOLUTION

In the late ’90s, serious graffiti writers noticed the influx of higher-quality paints made by European companies. “Honestly, if you win the graffiti prize and you get to take home a palette of different colors of either American or European spray paint,” Neelon said, “you’re taking the European.” The European paints now come in colors with names like quince and Mad C Psycho Pink and attributes like weather resistance and UV-protection.

Companies like Montana, based in Spain; Molotow, based in Germany; and Ironlak, based in Australia, were pleased to associate with street artists. They offered professional-grade enhancements too, like different kinds of valves that emit different types of mists. (Some artists now complain that American alternatives are like buying a tube of paint with only one brush.) “The control you can get with the can, from the pressure, is phenomenal,” Gastman said.

Such innovation is not without blowback. Some spray writers dismiss the European brands as “fancy paint,” and in pursuit of lost authenticity, stick to Krylon, which is based in Ohio, and Rust-Oleum, which is located outside Chicago. “American writers really want to be loyal to Rusto,” Neelon said. “Rust-Oleum is like the Ford F-150 of spray paint. It’s the workingman’s paint.”

(NY TIMES  11.4.11)

h1

MURMURATION…

11/03/2011

chaos by starling…

by DANIEL BUTLER

As the Shropshire sky gradually deepens from yellow to orange and finally angry red, so the noise levels build above the reed beds. A swirling, chattering,flock of starlings swirls above the wetlands of Whixall Moss on the Welsh Border, shimmering dark then light as it drifts like a plume of smoke from some monstrous pyre. Back and forth it twists like an out-of-place tornado before suddenly, when it is almost too dark to see, the flock streams to earth and is gone.

“Numbers build up slowly near the roost over the afternoon as small groups of birds return from foraging in the area,” explains Paul Stancliffe of the British Trust for Ornithology. “By late afternoon there is a huge swirling cloud. It’s all about safety in numbers – none wants to be on the outside, none wants to be first to land.”

A “murmuration” of starlings, as this phenomenon is known, must be one of the most magical, yet underrated, wildlife spectacles on display in winter. Impenetrable as the flock’s movements might seem to the human eye, the underlying maths is comparatively straightforward. Each bird strives to fly as close to its neighbours as possible, instantly copying any changes in speed or direction. As a result, tiny deviations by one bird are magnified and distorted by those surrounding it, creating rippling, swirling patterns. In other words, this is a classic case of mathematical chaos (larger shapes composed of infinitely varied smaller patterns). Whatever the science, however, it is difficult for the observer to think of it as anything other than some vast living entity.

Until recently such sights were common over London. Indeed, in 1949 so many roosted on the hands of Big Ben that they stopped the clock. Sadly, such invasions are a thing of the past, but Rome is currently subject to a vast influx of several million birds each winter. This produces spectacular swarms, but the problems associated with the roosts are not so wondrous. Starling droppings are extremely acidic and the authorities are worried about the damage to ancient ruins, while car owners have to pay out millions of euros for resprays.

The logic behind this spectacular behaviour is simple: survival. Starlings are tasty morsels for peregrines, merlins and sparrowhawks. The answer is to seek safety in numbers, gathering in flocks and with every bird trying to avoid the edge where adept predators can sometimes snatch a victim.

Flock sizes vary around the year. During the breeding season, groups are rarely more than a few birds gathering at a good food source, but in late summer juveniles begin to congregate and are soon joined by adults. These flocks are in turn swollen by continental birds fleeing the harsher winters. During the Seventies a particularly large murmuration of one and a half million birds regularly gathered near Goole in East Yorkshire, but the current flock of around 5,000 at Slimbridge is more typical.

During the day, big flocks disperse into smaller foraging groups. The search for calories is now critical and grouping allows each to put more effort into finding food, safer for scores of watchful eyes. These tend to scour rough pasture for insects, but they punctuate these bouts by preening and chattering in tree tops or on telephone wires where there is good all-round visibility. In late afternoon, however, the smaller groups move back to the main roost, flying up to 20 miles to coalesce in ever-growing numbers. By dusk this murmurating cloud can number thousands or even millions of birds.

Sadly, starlings have recently declined sharply; the breeding population is down by some 73 per cent since 1970. It is not clear what lies behind this fall, but it is probably due to the loss of suitable nest cavities and a decline in the rough pasture where they find most of the insects which form the backbone of their diet.

To put this drop in context, however, a shortage of literary references to the birds before the 18th century suggests they were comparatively uncommon even two centuries ago. Certainly their Welsh name adern y eira (“snow bird”) suggests they were regarded as winter migrants. It seems that they expanded rapidly after the Industrial Revolution, probably aided by milder weather and better food thanks to agricultural improvements.

There is another glimmer of hope. In 1890, an American eccentric, Eugene Schieffelin, decided to introduce all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare to his native land. He released 60 starlings in Central Park and the birds have thrived, spreading as far as the Pacific. There are now 200 million and thus, in years to come, it seems we are as likely to see murmurations over New York as a Shropshire peat bog.

WHERE TO SEE THEM

Flocks are unpredictable and move around, but huge gatherings are usually on show at the following: Brighton and Eastbourne piers; Westhay Moor, Somerset; Slimbridge, Gloucestershire; Aberystwyth; Whixall Moss, Oswestry; Leighton Moss, Lancashire; Gretna Green.

(THE TELEGRAPH  2.23.09)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 26 other followers

%d bloggers like this: