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for over 20 years, photographer Phyllis Galembo has chronicled the costumes of West African countries with a portable studio…


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“View from the Window at Le Gras (La cour du domaine du Gras)” taken with a camera obscura, is the world’s first photograph…


Long before the first public announcements of photographic processes in 1839, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, a scientifically-minded gentleman living on his country estate near Chalon-sur-Saône, France, began experimenting with photography. Fascinated with the craze for the newly-invented art of lithography which swept over France in 1813, he began his initial experiments by 1816. Unable to draw well, Niépce first placed engravings, made transparent, onto engraving stones or glass plates coated with a light-sensitive varnish of his own composition. These experiments, together with his application of the then-popular optical instrument, the camera obscura, would eventually lead him to the invention of the new medium.

In 1824 Niépce met with some degree of success in copying engravings, but it would be two years later before he had success utilizing pewter plates as the support medium for the process. By the summer of that year, 1826, Niépce was ready. In the window of his upper-story workroom at his Saint-Loup-de-Varennes country house, Le Gras, he set up a camera obscura, placed within it a polished pewter plate coated with bitumen of Judea (an asphalt derivative of petroleum), and uncapped the lens. After at least a day-long exposure of eight hours, the plate was removed and the latent image of the view from the window was rendered visible by washing it with a mixture of oil of lavender and white petroleum which dissolved away the parts of the bitumen which had not been hardened by light. The result was the permanent direct positive picture you see here—a one-of-a-kind photograph on pewter. It renders a view of the outbuildings, courtyard, trees and landscape as seen from that upstairs window.

listed by Life magazine as one of the “100 Photographs that Changed the World” it was exhibited in 1898 and then forgotten — in 1973, the University of Texas acquired the plate and it’s now on display at the Harry Ransom Research Center



the films of WILLIAM KLEIN…



Klein’s first feature — a film Stanley Kubrick described as ten years ahead of its time…

Kubrick saw Polly Magoo in his private screening room.  Then he wrote me a letter saying that the film was ten years ahead of its time, that he related to it very strongly, and that he felt we had a great deal in common.  I was very pleased by this letter.  I was just getting ready to do “Mr. Freedom”, and I wrote back immediately, saying that I was trying to raise money for my new film.  And never got an answer!

– William Klein 1988

“WHO ARE YOU POLLY MAGOO?” 1966 directed by William Klein

once impossible to find, now part of Criterion’s box set “The Delirious Fictions of William Klein” along with “Mr. Freedom” and “The Model Couple”…

(quote excerpted from a conversation with Johnathan Rosenbaum, “Cinema Outsider: The Films of William Klein”, Walker Art Center 1989)




one of the best documentaries you’ll ever see…


Trailing a platoon of U.S. Army soldiers in Afghanistan, “Restrepo” is a nerve-jangling work of “you are there” combat correspondence. It’s also being pitched as the first apolitical war documentary of the post–9/11 era. Named for the platoon’s fallen medic, and for the outpost that the soldiers erect in his memory, Restrepo adopts the grunt’s p.o.v. through battle and boredom alike, eliciting sympathy for young American men fighting — and sometimes dying — half a world away from home.

If that tack sounds, well, political, the filmmakers — Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington, veteran war correspondents who repeatedly risked their own lives for the movie — would much prefer to call it something else.

“Left-wing people — and I include myself among those people — tend to have this idea that war is the expression of some kind of modern ill, of civilization gone wrong,” says Junger by phone from Houston, where he’s promoting his book WAR, the film’s companion piece. “But the politically incorrect truth is that war is extremely ingrained in us — in our evolution as humans — and we’re hardwired for it. I think our movie communicates that in some ways.”

It’s no wonder that Restrepo, which opens this week, is being distributed by National Geographic. The film plays like a documentary study of the human animal in his natural state — war being how homo sapiens display the survival-of-the-fittest principle that’s also central to other species.

“The most important thing for us was to make an honest film,” says Hetherington from his Brooklyn apartment. “After many years of war reporting, we’d both gotten to the point of wanting to see people in war not as symbols or illustrations but as people. Often, war reporters gloss over things. Sebastian talks about that in his book, about how reporters try to deny the excitement of war, when the fact is that war is exciting. We thought, ‘Let’s just show what’s going on out there and not editorialize.’ ”

Restrepo eschews voice-over narration and keeps intertitles to a minimum, but it’s not exactly cinema vérité. When the soldiers fly by helicopter into the Korengal Valley — known among grunts as the “Valley of Death” — there’s Afghani music on the sound track. (Welcome to hell, boys.) When the survivors of the platoon finally leave the Korengal, some 15 months later, to recuperate in Italy, they’re interviewed by the filmmakers, whose point-blank shooting catches the men’s every twitch and hollow stare.

Restrepo alternates between the traumatic and the posttraumatic, so we’re reassured throughout that at least some of the soldiers will survive. Nevertheless, the film imparts a stressful experience, in part for our having gotten to know — and quite possibly like — the men. Gentle, baby-faced Pemble grew up the son of a “fuckin’ hippie” who once took his squirt gun away. Cortez reports with a curious smile that sleeping pills don’t help his insomnia or his nightmares. After a firefight with the Taliban, a bulky shooter named Steiner says, “That was fun. You can’t get a better high. It’s like crack.”

Junger, whose dozen years of death-defying journalism in Afghanistan have made him no stranger to adrenaline, says that an even stronger narcotic for Steiner and his platoon buddies is the buzz of social inclusion. “For a 19-year-old to feel necessary as part of a small group of men, to have a completely clear identity and a reciprocal duty to those around him, that’s intoxicating: ‘I’m one of the two 40-gunners on weapons squad, and my job is to shoot.’ When a young guy builds his identity around that, and then comes home, where he’s just another 19-year-old, why would some part of him not want to go back into combat? That’s where he was functioning at his highest level, where he had the clearest understanding of who he was.”

Do the filmmakers feel similarly actualized when they’re on the battlefield? “You can put me in a really difficult situation, and I will make good images for you,” says Hetherington, a photojournalist who “got into the business of conflict” in 1999, when he was sent to cover the civil war in Liberia, and has mostly remained in the theater of operations ever since. “It’s a weird skill set that I’ve mastered,” he says. “I make images under pressure.”

“My first war was Bosnia,” recalls Junger. “I was a failing freelance writer and waiter. I was 31 and felt like I wasn’t going anywhere. I wanted to prove myself in some ways. War is often seen as a rite of passage by young men. There was that appeal. When I got to Bosnia, the work was completely intoxicating. It’s very intense to be covering combat, and I definitely feed off that intensity.

“In Bosnia, I was beside myself. I couldn’t believe that I was in this role of communicating to the rest of the world something of great urgency that was going on around me. It’s important work, and I’m stunned and delighted that I’m good at it. It’s nourishing to me.”

Like the band of brothers they filmed, Junger and Hetherington had mixed feelings when their own tour of duty finally came to an end: “After being elbow-deep in editing for most of a year, it was exhilarating to finish the movie,” Junger reports. “But at the same time, there was an incredible sense of loss.”

(LA WEEKLY  6.24.10)

find the entire review here

“RESTREPO” 2010 directed by Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington


the world’s highest tennis court…


the photo’s real, the grass is not…

that’s Andre Agassi and Rodger Federer high above Dubai at the hotel Burj Al Arab on the world’s highest tennis court…

at almost 700 feet who’s could concentrate on a game..?

check out the video — at about 4:30 they start firing firing balls off at the unfortunates below…

meanwhile, “Real Tennis” — the game from which all racquet sports evolved — dates back to the Renaissance and is much more down to Earth…

played on an asymmetrical 90′ x 40′ court, the scoring is similar to tennis — but Real Tennis uses a cork-based ball, way less bouncy than a modern tennis ball, and a very stiff racquet with an angled head… only 47 courts still exist — in the U.K., Australia, the U.S., and France — all of them at ground level…





according to billionaire entrepreneur Robert Sillerman — who four years ago spent 100 million bucks on the lion’s share of Elvis Presley’s estate — the BBC reported in 2002 that IRS information indicates 84,000 people in the U.S. claim “Elvis impersonating” as their job…

in other 84k news…

The Republic of Seychelles is an island country 932 miles east of mainland Africa with a population of 84,000, the smallest of any African state…  (WIKIPEDIA)

The National Statistics Office will engage the services of 84,000 additional personnel to help in the conduct of the 2010 Census… (BUSINESS MIRROR 5.16.10)

The Wyoming Dept. of Environmental Quality says cleanup continues after a pipeline break caused 84,000 gallons of crude oil to spill in the Bridger Valley…  (BILLINGS GAZETTE 4.25.10)

The White House says President Obama’s stimulus bill was responsible for 84,000 jobs during the first quarter of 2010…  (STAR NEWS 4.16.10)

On July 25, Singapore will host its largest synchronized mass-walking event, which will involve 84,000 residents…  (ASIAONE NEWS 4.5.10)

The Australian Crime Commission has released figures showing police arrested 84,000 people in relation to illegal drugs last year…  (ABC NEWS 1.8.10)

Companies in the U.S. cut 84,000 jobs in December, according to data compiled in the ADP National Employment Report…  (BLOOMBERG 1.6.10)

Last week 84,000 new cases of the swine flu virus were reported, as experts predicted another spike as the weather gets colder…  (THE TIMES 11.10.09)

Britain’s government confirmed that it lost a digital memory device containing information on 84,000 prisoners, every inmate in England…  (MSNBC 8.22.08)

the “84,000 Buddhas” at the Ichibata-Yakushi temple in Japan, represent the 84,000 ideas which pollute the mind and body…


life in the Anthropocene…


remember when you could find a parking space, no problem, or get a sun-tan and not worry..?  well, now, as the world goes bankrupt, 95 year old scientist Frank Fenner — AC, CMG, MBE, FRS, FAA, and the  man who eradicated smallpox — says it doesn’t matter, the human race will be extinct in a hundred years anyway…


Professor Frank Fenner, emeritus professor of microbiology at the Australian National University, has warned that the human race can not survive. As the scientist who helped eradicate smallpox he certainly know a thing or two about extinction. And now he predicts the human race will be extinct within the next 100 years, unable to survive a population explosion and “unbridled consumption.” “Homo sapiens will become extinct, perhaps within 100 years” Fenner said. “A lot of other animals will too. It’s an irreversible situation. I think it’s too late. I try not to express that because people are trying to do something, but they keep putting it off.”

Since humans entered an unofficial scientific period known as the Anthropocene – the time since industrialisation – we have had an effect on the planet that rivals any ice age or comet impact. Last year official UN figures estimated that the world’s population is currently 6.8 billion. It is predicted to exceed seven billion by the end of 2011. Fenner blames the onset of climate change for the human race’s imminent demise. “We’ll undergo the same fate as the people on Easter Island” he said. “Climate change is just at the very beginning. But we’re seeing remarkable changes in the weather already. The Aborigines showed that without science and the production of carbon dioxide and global warming, they could survive for 40,000 or 50,000 years. But the world can’t. The human species is likely to go the same way as many of the species that we’ve seen disappear.”

Professor Fenner’s chilling prediction echoes recent comments by Prince Charles who last week warned of “monumental problems” if the world’s population continues to grow at such a rapid pace. And it comes after Professor Nicholas Boyle of Cambridge University said that a “doomsday” moment will take place in 2014 – and will determine whether the 21st century is full of violence and poverty or will be peaceful and prosperous. “In the last 500 years there has been a cataclysmic ‘Great Event’ of international significance at the start of each century” he claimed.

Retired professor Stephen Boyden, a colleague of Professor Fenner, said that while there was deep pessimism among some ecologists, others had a more optimistic view. “Frank may well be right, but some of us still harbour the hope that there will come about an awareness of the situation and, as a result the revolutionary changes necessary to achieve ecological sustainability.” Another esteemed academic, Professor James Lovelock, warned that the world’s population may sink as low as 500 million over the next century due to global warming. He claimed that any attempts to tackle climate change will not be able to solve the problem, merely buy us time.

(DAILY MAIL  6.19.10)

this only means more room for space people




the man behind legendary SF punk outfit and Grateful Dead cover act, Joe Pop-O-Pie celebrated his 51st birthday this year by putting the band back together for a few shows at the Warfield in SF…


photo by Hugh Brown


Joe Pop-O-Pie is the mad genius behind the pioneer punk band: Pop-O-Pies. Joe and crew started off their career in San Francisco (Joe’s originally from New Jersey) by playing their cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Truckin’” over and over … A one song show—that became a must-see act in the Bay area. Soon enough, however, Joe added new tunes to the play-list, including one of the best Beatles covers I’ve ever heard: “I am the Walrus.” His song “The Catholics Are Attacking” is one of my all-time favorite songs. I mean, it’s right up there with “Havana Affair” by the Ramones and “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” by the Dead Kennedys. It’s that good. Joe was also the first singer for the band Faith No More—until they got that guy that sounds like he sings with balloons in his mouth. Other Faith No More alumni have played and recorded with Joe as well as members of Mr. Bungle.

BRAD: When playing 40 minute sets of “Truckin’” or extended plays of the repetitious and somewhat hypnotic “Fascists Eat Donuts” I imagine crowds became a little unglued at times. Describe the most extreme crowd reaction your band inspired.

JOE: Oh m’gosh, there are so many … but ummm lemmy see, that would have to be Long Island, NY on the 1st Pies tour in February, 1983. I think I still have a recording of it somewhere. We had just played our 3rd “Truckin’” and then launched into “Fasicists Eat Donuts” (the 1 chord song). For some reason I had wandered off over to the bar and some gal offered to buy me a drink. Being the diplomatic guy that I am, I felt it only polite to hang out with her for at least the duration of the drink. At that point, some guy with a Black Flag T-Shirt and matching tattoo got up and took over the microphone and started to make up his own lyrics. He said: “Play sumpin’ different. Play sumpin’ different. Play sumpin’ dif-fer-ent.” Almost as soon as that started, the Club DJ started a rapping war with the guy over the PA system while the instrumentalists were playing. The DJ’s stuff was real clever and the Black Flag guy’s stuff sounded really dumb. It was an EXCELLENT contrast. It was so entertaining that I proceeded to spend the remainder of the show at the bar, taking in this great piece of entertainment. It got to a point where it was so frenzied that the whole place was continually chanting “Make those donuts with extra grease, this batch is for the Chief of Police” while the rapping dual was going on. It wasn’t your typical punk rock show turned riot, it was more like an insane asylum that got a hold of a bag-a-speed. This went on for a while. It was getting more and more hypnotic, when all of the sudden the power went down. The lights, sound, everything. It just went pitch black and quiet like a big THUD! Pretty intense.

B: Who were your contemporaries? Flipper? The Dead Kennedys? Did you play gigs with other 80’s punk bands?

J: Sure, we played with those 2 bands several times and are still good friends with them to this day. And yes, there were many other bands from the classic early 80s punk genre that the Pies played with. Way too numerous to mention them all, but a few that come to mind are: Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Lydia Lunch, Iggy Pop, Glenn Danzig … I’d like to do a “Pop-O-Pies UNPLUGED” band. I think that would be great fun, The Pies have never done anything like that before.

B: Will you record new Pop-O-Pie music?

J: Let’s put it this way, I don’t think I’m going to be able to get away WITH NOT recording new Pop-O-Pie music. I’ve got so many people bugging me about it. I’m just too busy working right now and I’m not the kind of person that can split himself in two: be creative & work a straight gig at the same time. I’m not that schitzy. The mind sets are in direct conflict with one another. When I try to do something like that, usually both suffer. It’s a disaster. But recently, Klaus Fluoride and I recorded a track for this Punk Rockers Unplugged compilation. It’s called “Go Contrary, Go Sing.” It’s on the Made In Brooklyn label. The compilation features, members of the Dead Boys, DOA, MDC, Iron Cross, and many more … all doing acoustic versions of one of their punk rock classics. The one Klaus and I did is my “A Political Song.” It’s a sort of Burt Bacharach meets Frank Sinatra version of it.

B: I heard you were a classical composition major in college. What are some of your favorite classical pieces of music?

J: The theme from Star Wars and anything by Steven Foster.

B: What are some of your non-Pop-O-Pie punk favorite songs?

J: Wow!, that’s a huge question which I could fill a couple of volumes with. It’s like asking me what kind of food I like to eat. There are some REALLY obscure things that I think are works of genius that have fallen into complete obscurity over the years or were never even heard by lots of people. There was a band called “Middle Class” from Los Angeles, CA. They only put out one 45 RPM 7 inch with 4 songs on it (back in 1980) the 2 songs that stand out were “Out of Vogue” and “Insurgency” but they were all great! This stuff is a MUST HEAR. It isn’t fast enough for hard core not slow enough for “tempo de early Ramones.” That’s why it’s so fuckin’ awesome. It’s like watching that old video of Little Richard doing “Lucille.” It’s not quite 50s rock and roll tempo yet and it’s a little too pushy for a 40s R&B tempo. In short what I’m trying to say is, in both of the above described cases, you are witnessing the birth of a new genre. That’s why Middle Class was such an exciting band. BUT does anybody even know them?! Fuck no! SAD. Some of the best stuff I’ve heard never even made it to vinyl (or CD). Middle class ROCKED! To this day I still think it’s one of the best early 80′s punk rock records ever put out. I wonder what they’re doing now? But as a side note to all of this, when you look back at music of an era, it’s actually very difficult to get into the frame of mind of the time, when listening to it. Which makes a lot of difference as to how you hear it. The reason for this is, in the back of your mind, you are already aware of what came after it, so that taints the excitement of it somewhat. So listen to some Pablo Cruise and Journey and THEN listen to early 80s punk rock and you’ll be a little closer to the correct mindset.

B: Tell us something new that no one has ever heard about Joe Pop-O-Pie.

J: I got a vasectomy back in 1990 because I knew I could never afford to have children. That’s still true. Also, the Pop-O-Pies were actually a big influence on Kurt Cobain. He wrote favorably about the Pies in his now published Diaries which you can buy.

B: Give us a rant. What are you pissed off about?

J: Lately we’ve been reading a lot about Global Warming in the news. Some articles that I’ve read on the subject were blaming Cow Flatulance as the major contributor to Global Warming. A recently article on the front page of “The USA Today” stated that, according to the experts at Johns Hopkins and the Center for Disease Control the REAL culprits when it come to Global Warming are in fact HUMANS! May I read between the lines here? Look, it’s simple, people just need to stop farting so much and only then can we nip this Global Warming thing in the butt. Avoid Cabbage and garlic religiously. Save the Planet!


read the entire interview here

the line-up for the reformed Pop-O-Pies includs drummer Nino Moschella, Kurt Heydt on guitar and Klaus Flouride on bass…

for a taste of “Joe’s Greatest Disasters” and the “Pop-O-Pies Anthology” — go to POP-O-PIE.COM


Lakers 83, Celtics 79…





the unlikely making of a classic…


In 1961 Paramount Pictures’ publicity department attempted a remarkable acrobatic feat. It tried to explain why Holly Golightly — the professionally adorable heroine of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” a woman who stayed out all night and regularly accepted $50 gratuities from sundry gentlemen friends — was actually squeaky-clean. “Since Miss Audrey Hepburn has never played any part that has suggested she was anything but pure, polite and possibly a princess,” said one desperate press release, “a hard look at Miss Golightly is in order.”

Sam Wasson’s “Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.” is willing to take a fond and incisive look, if not Paramount’s self-importantly tough one. This alluring little book is devoted to the contradictions that pervade “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”: the contrivances that kept it so frothy, the weirdly backhanded feminist message (Holly was certainly free spirited) and the unusual place occupied by this sprite, her evening gown and her 5 a.m. Fifth Avenue Danish in the history of American film.

Having already written the evocatively titled “A Splurch in the Kisser” about Blake Edwards, who directed “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” Mr. Wasson is well positioned to spin off this love letter to one of Mr. Edwards’s most atypical projects. Known at the time for the sleek television style of “Peter Gunn” and “Mr. Lucky,” Mr. Edwards wound up using the over-the-top madcap comedy for which he would be both cheered (the “Pink Panther” films) and jeered (“The Party”) to mask what was actually going on in even this watered-down version of Truman Capote’s story.

Mr. Wasson’s book is filled with anecdotes about just how confounding “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was from the start. A reader at Paramount took the crucial first look at Capote’s book and pronounced it “not recommended.” The role of Holly Golightly was deemed too sexually outré for Marilyn Monroe. (“Marilyn Monroe will not play a lady of the evening,” her acting coach, Paula Strasberg, said.) And in one more bad decision that is immortalized here, Paramount’s head of production felt that Henry Mancini simply wasn’t up to the job of composing this movie’s theme song. Mr. Mancini and the lyricist Johnny Mercer managed to get “Moon River” (originally “Blue River”) into the film and win their Oscars anyway.

With knowledgeable verve that brings to mind “Frankly, My Dear,” Molly Haskell’s superb monograph on “Gone With the Wind,” Mr. Wasson approaches his subject from many angles. His book winds up as well-tailored as the kind of little black dress that “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” made famous. And, yes, there’s lots to say here about that dress’s widespread influence. Audiences used to brightly costumed homebodies and Doris Day-type career girls were in for a big, chic, liberating surprise when Holly and her elegant simplicity came along.

Since she looked so smashing, why was Paramount issuing statements like this: “The star is Audrey Hepburn, not Tawdry Hepburn”? Because the studio was petrified, and its confused, hamstrung public statements reflected that alarm. “Let’s face it, now: what is a kook?” one such document inquired. A kook was a headache, especially when embodied by a girlish star who was understood to be demure no matter how much her movie character’s behavior indicated otherwise.

Hepburn had been thoroughly uncontroversial a few years earlier. (“Audrey’s Advice: Have Fun, Let Hubby Wear the Pants,” read a 1957 newspaper headline.) But she had begun to grow up since then. The making of “Sabrina” involved a pitched battle between the director Billy Wilder and the writer Ernest Lehman about whether the romance between Hepburn’s character and Humphrey Bogart’s would be consummated.

But chastity wasn’t an option with “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Both Holly and the story’s male lead were, at best, cockeyed romantics; both were being paid for their services and neither was a babe in the woods. So this story would be over in a single scene if its plot hinged only on seduction. It had to be about two people who yearned for a new kind of fulfillment, and that made “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” a new kind of romantic comedy, Mr. Wasson says: “Not one about 1950s people who shrink from sex before marriage, but one about modern people who embrace it.”

In addition to its larger points, “Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.” is crammed with irresistible tidbits. Mr. Edwards actually fell to his knees to beg the film’s producers not to cast George Peppard in the male lead. Mickey Rooney’s grotesque performance as Holly’s buck-toothed Japanese neighbor (he pronounces her last name Go-Right-Ree) would later haunt one of those producers when he was invited to a dinner party by Akira Kurosawa. Mel Ferrer, Ms. Hepburn’s husband, had a wet-blanket effect on the production in general and his wife in particular. After a preview screening of the film for which she would become most famous, he was heard to remark, “I liked your hat.”

And for all its romantic associations with New York City, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” involved only about a week’s worth of location shooting. Most of it was shot in California, where Hepburn — then a brand-new mother, despite her sylphlike shape — relocated to Coldwater Canyon. According to Mr. Wasson, “Audrey plunged into knitting.”

(NY TIMES  6.13.10)

“FIFTH AVENUE, 5 A.M.” 2010 (Harper Studio) written by Sam Wasson

“BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S” 1961 directed by Blake Edwards




just in time for the finals, the Havana, Cuba based art collective of Marco Antonio Castillo Valdés and Dagoberto Rodríguez Sánchez, Los Carpinteros, has created “Free Basket” — an installation for the 100 Acres Art & Nature Park

opening this month adjacent to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, 100 Acres is one of the largest art parks in the country — in addition to Los Carpinteros, it features Atelier Van Lieshout, Type A, and Andrea Zittel…


Free Basket is a full-size basketball court, broken by red and blue arches that illustrate the path of  bouncing balls and may allude to Indiana’s history of shifting Republican and Democratic values… “It’s an endless game — with every bounce the geography of the game changes” says Rodríguez.  “No one wins” Sánchez adds, imagining the court will be a paradise for skaters “this place can be used for anything — except basketball”…



a digital camera obscura…


bringing the magic of pure analog to the binary realm, german photographer Felix Hardmood Beck has developed a couple of versions of a camera obscura that feed directly to your hard drive…

pinhole diameter determines sharpness of image…

for more projects go to Hardmood Beck




squares bewares — LACMA will present a screening of Rhino Films‘ new documentary “Robert Williams: Mr. Bitchin'” next week…

look for the theatrical release this fall…

“ROBERT WILLIAMS: MR. BITCHIN'” 2009 directed by Mary C. Reese


robots on the moon…


there goes the neighborhood…


An ambitious $2.2 billion project in the works at JAXA, the Japanese space agency, plans to put humanoid robots on the moon by 2015, and now official backing from the Prime Minister’s office says the Japanese could have an unmanned lunar base up and running by 2020.

As currently envisioned, the robots that will land on the lunar surface in 2015 will be 660-pound behemoths equipped with rolling tank-like treads, solar panels, seismographs, high-def cameras and a smattering of scientific instruments. They’ll also have human-like arms for collecting rock samples that will be returned to Earth via rocket. The robots will be controlled from Earth, but they’ll also be imbued with their own kind of machine intelligence, making decisions on their own and operating with a high degree of autonomy.

Those initial surveyor bots will pave the way for the construction of the unmanned moon base near the lunar south pole, which the robots will construct for themselves. That base will be solar powered and provide a working/living space future robot colonizers, as well as — presumably — a jumping off point for future human moon dwellers.

Sound far-fetched? It’s certainly an ambitious project given the timeline. But considering Americans put actual men on the moon in a decade span with far inferior technology it certainly seems within the realm of possibility. Moreover, the massive technological fallout from that initial push for the moon was a boon for private industry, seeding some important and amazing technological breakthroughs. Even if Japan falls short of its 2020 deadline, the advances in robotics technology that could fall out of this little project could be as exciting as the moon base itself.

(POPSCI  5.27.10)




D.K. is the best artist…


This show was inspired by a project archiving Kramer‘s productive twenty-year career of art making. His practice began in the time-honored traditions of painting and sculpture, expanded to include the live performance of concrete poems, which further evolved into the text-based drawings that he is best known for.  Kramer rounds out his art production as director, set designer and star of a number of videos, which has lead to the creation of elaborate gallery installations. This introductory survey reaches as far back as 1989 and presents a selection of work that highlights the radical, multi-disciplinary nature of Kramer’s creative process.

opening tomorrow night at Armand Bartos Fine Art — 25 E 73rd, NYC…




from the house that Elvis built…

the annual event opens friday on the very stage where The King had his eight year run, playing 827 consecutive sold out shows attended by over 2.5 million people (thank you very much)…

featuring shorts, foreign films, docs, animation, music videos, TV pilots, a screenplay competition, pool parties, VIP events and more…

6.4- 6.6 @ the Las Vegas Hilton — for info go to The Las Vegas Film Festival


the new NYC subway map…


more Manhattan to love…


Next month, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will unveil a resized, recolored and simplified edition of the well-known map, its first overhaul in more than a decade. Manhattan will become taller, bulkier and 30 percent wider, to better display its spaghetti of subway lines. Staten Island, meanwhile, will shrink by half. The spreadsheetlike “service guide,” along the map’s bottom border, will be eliminated, and the other three boroughs will grow to fill the space. A separate, stripped-down map will also be produced, to be displayed only inside subway cars. Neighborhood names, parks, ferries and bus connections will not appear on this version, making for a less cluttered composition that may be easier to read over a fellow rider’s shoulders. Indeed, the current map, and its imminent successor, are direct descendants of a 1979 version, introduced when the authority did away with Massimo Vignelli’s abstract design because its right-angled routes and nondescript background left riders puzzled. Central Park, for instance, now a green rectangle, appeared as a grayish square. At the time, the authority wanted geographical accuracy so that passengers would not be confused upon ascending back to the street. Hence, subway lines that wiggle and curve, reflecting the exact route of the train, and a simple street grid that highlights popular attractions and neighborhoods. Over time, however, the map acquired new elements like ferry routes and obtrusive balloons showing bus connections. The authority now concedes that the map became overcrowded. For the latest iteration, Mr. Walder decided that the service guide, which purports to show a weekend schedule, was theoretical at best. The guide was removed, along with a growing list of handicapped-accessible stations that had begun to dominate the bottom right corner. Small wheelchair symbols will continue to denote those stops. To improve contrast, the taupe background took a lighter tone, and subway lines gained a gray border. The bus balloons stayed, but they have been made smaller, making room for geographical features like Rikers Island, which will now appear in its entirety. The maps that will be inside subway cars eliminate the balloons. The authority has ordered 1.5 million copies for distribution in June, with 6 million copies a year expected to be printed.

(NY TIMES  5.27.10)

the predecessors… maps from 1968, 1972, 1979 and 1998…

read the entire article here




a nine year old cop just doing his job…


Bugsy Malone may have won the Golden Palm in 1976, but the real deal, the true gem in kids-masquerading-in-adult-clothes-and-shooting-each-other films is “Hawk Jones” — think Serpico on training wheels! When a local gangster turns our fair city into one of blood feuds and despicable violence, the only shred of light in the darkness is not unlike Shaft, John McClane and the kid from Cop And A Half all rolled into one tough nine-year-old package, one who won’t stop until the mobster’s head is served to him on a cafeteria tray, with a Capri Sun to wash it down. To make matters worse, he’s teamed up with the most vile of creatures — a cootie-coated dame! This unlikely pair have no choice but to sweep through this rat cage of spoiled brats, young ruffians and floozies (acting just a little too sexy for comfort) until it’s left spotless. Be prepared to watch a whole bunch of kid gangsters die graphic, yet adorable deaths.

“HAWK JONES” 1986 directed by Richard Lowry

screening saturday 5.29 @ 10:30 pm as part of the “Fucked Up Kids’ Movies” program at The Cinefamily, Los Angeles — plus a Q&A with Richard Lowry after the show…


1927 Studio Map of CA…


location, location, location…


This 1927 Paramount Studio map of California’s geographical facsimiles for feature films was used by the motion picture industry as a basis for bond financing. Who knew that the New England coast could be found in Santa Cruz?

(SLASH FILM  5.24.10)




the seminal skate-horror film “Blood Shed” will screen this weekend along with assorted shorts that include loads of unseen Andy Kessler footage…

films start at dark @ Mollusk Surf Shop in Williamsburg — a 9’9″ longboard and other stuff is being raffled, all funds raised will benefit the Andy Kessler Foundation

“BLOOD SHED” 2010 directed by Rick Charnosky and Buddy Nichols




more waves from Macro Sea


For David Belt, a developer who created a stir last summer by installing do-it-yourself swimming pools made from Dumpsters in a semi-secret location in Brooklyn, the answer was once again in trash.

His latest project, called “Glassphemy!” is billed as a psychological recycling experiment. The idea is to make recycling a more direct, visceral experience and to purge some New York aggression simultaneously. The installation, set like the previous project in a private space along the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, is a 20-foot-by-30-foot clear box, with high walls made of steel and bulletproof glass. People stand on a high platform at one end of the box and a low platform on the other. Those on the higher platform take empty glass bottles and just chuck ’em into the box — aiming, perhaps, at their compatriots across the way, who are safely outside the onslaught zone. The bottles smash fantastically, artfully designed lights flash, and no one is harmed.

With bottles donated by neighborhood bars, “Glassphemy!” will officially open on May 20 to invited guests. The shards of glass collected will be recycled onsite. To finish out the project, ReadyMade magazine will run a contest asking readers for their best recycling ideas, and Mr. Belt’s company, Macro Sea, will make the discarded glass into the winning design. A few potential reuses have already been explored: designers from Hecho, a Brooklyn company, developed a DIY glass polisher out of a cement mixer that is powered by a couple of bikes chained together; the smooth, colored shards created after hours of pedaling are pretty enough to become part of lamps that light the space. Another machine will pulverize the glass into sand for use in the beer garden that Mr. Belt plans for the site, the sort of add-on that helped make the Dumpster pools a must-know-about spot last summer.

The immediate and visible reuse also helps counter the widespread suspicion that recyclables are just thrown out anyway. Though for logistical reasons, “Glassphemy!” will not generally be open to the public — the lot where it sits is hidden from the street — people who send good recycling ideas to the Macro Sea Web site,, may earn an invitation with the address, Mr. Belt said.


Belt (left) and Weyland…

Macro Sea, the company Mr. Belt formed with author Jocko Weyland and creative director Alix Feinkind, has a history of turning loopy ideas into cutting-edge coolness. Their Dumpster pools caught on in unexpected ways: Hollywood party planners came calling, as did TV show hosts, Mr. Belt said. Macro Sea is now working on a mobile version of the pool, which is expected to be used as part of New York City’s Summer Streets program this year. What started out as a lark in industrial Brooklyn has gone legit.

Mr. Belt, a successful developer and construction consultant and manager — his main company, DBI, has a spacious loft office in SoHo, and works on commissions all over the world — said he viewed his Macro Sea projects as a creative mission, to help turn underused objects and areas into covetable destinations. It makes things on the cheap so people can copy and improve on them. (The Dumpster pool, a concept borrowed from a musician in Georgia, cost barely $1,000.)

J.W. and Danny:Macro-sea Pools:June 2009 by D. Belt

Tinneny (left)…

Danny Tinneny, the 64-year-old owner of the industrial space, gave it to Macro Sea rent-free. “To tell you the truth, when they first came here, I thought they were nuts,” he said of Mr. Belt and his partners. But the success of the Dumpster pools and Mr. Belt’s belief in his own ideas persuaded Mr. Tinneny to welcome “Glassphemy!”

At the preview party a few dozen of Mr. Belt’s friends and colleagues donned safety glasses and drank beer kept on ice not in a cooler but in the shovel of a backhoe. Heavy metal blared from a boombox, and Mr. Tinneny operated the scissor lift to get people to the top of the installation, which has a twinkling view of the city beyond. The inaugural bottle was thrown at Mr. Belt by his wife, Antonia. She really seemed to enjoy it.

“Ideally, people will think it’s interesting, and they’ll want to do something with the broken glass,” Mr. Belt said. “If not, it’ll be fun, and we’ll just break some glass.”

(NY TIMES  5.12.10)




this week the Academy of Motion Picture Arts is presenting a 35th anniversary screening…

with an all new digital cinema presentation and the original quintaphonic soundtrack — Ken Russell will be on hand for a panel discussion with Who documentarian Murrary Lerner and editor Stuart Baird…

“TOMMY” 1975 directed by Ken Russel, starring Roger Daltry, Ann Margret, Keith Moon, Elton John, Jack Nicholson, Tina Turner and Oliver Reed

May 21 @ the Samuel Goldwyn Theater, L.A…




to commemorate the 101st birthday of John Fante, the City of Los Angeles has designated the corner of 5th and Grand as John Fante Square…

the square is located at the foot of the Bunker Hill neighborhood where Fante lived, adjacent to the Central Library where many years later a young Bukowski discovered “Ask the Dust” and was inspired to become a writer…

see the old neighborhood brought to life – tunnel, Red Car, Angels Flight and all – in Robert Towne’s film adaptation of the novel, where Towne turned a South African rugby field into ’30s L.A…

“ASK THE DUST” 2006 directed by Robert Towne

check out a deconstruction of the film’s version of old Bunker Hill…

and for more information from LAVA — the organization behind the inception of John Fante Square — go to the Los Angeles Visionaries Association




an interview with Harmony Korine…


“I won’t say too much about the movie except that maybe it’s not even a movie. The fact that it’s even playing in theaters is mindblowing for me. Uh… so… I’ll come back to answer some questions if you have any afterwards but this movie was meant to be more like the kind of thing you could imagine being buried in a ditch somewhere or floating in a Ziploc bag down a river or if a convict had shoved it in the ass of a horse or something. It’s just a—well anyway, you’ll see. It’s like that. I’ll see you afterwards.”

And that’s how Harmony Korine introduced his new movie, Trash Humpers, to an audience at Cinema Village in New York last Friday. The lights came down veee-eee-eeee-eeerryyyy slo-oooo-ooowly and the movie began. Trash Humpers has a real loose narrative structure. Four old people (played by Harmony and his friends in scary masks) break shit, terrorize people and hump all sorts of inanimate objects. There’s a lot of chanting, people performing for one another, and repetition. The whole movie was shot on VHS and the surprise noise burps and static that creates, as well as the grain of the VHS, are beautiful to look at. I’d forgotten how nice VHS looks. What once looked mediocre now looks special.

I don’t know if there’s more to discuss about the movie beyond the things that Harmony Korine volunteers. While the end credits were on the screen, Harmony came out and did a Q&A.

Audience: “Did you shoot on VHS?”
Harmony Korine: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

“How much footage that was shot made it into the movie and how much was cut?”
The movie’s presented in the way it was shot, so each day was like a chapter. The characters would sleep out in the woods or behind strip malls or under bridges. We’d get these big tractor tires and we’d fill them up with hay and sleep there, like nests. We would wake up the next morning and knock on doors. Usually we’d start filming an hour or two before it got dark. It was easier to disappear. Pretty much everything we shot is in the film. There was no coverage the way you’d cover a movie. I wasn’t even thinking of it in terms of narrative moviemaking where there are scenes. It was more of a collection of moments. I would never do something more than once. If it happened and we happened to be recording it then it would be in the movie, kind of like a home movie. If I started to edit the film and think about it, it would be more like a [air quotes] “movie.”

“Is there a pure way to watch this? Is it ideal to watch it on VHS?”
With this movie, I really don’t care. It’s weird. It doesn’t matter to me if you project it into the toilet bowl. It makes no difference to me.

“Where did the masks come from?”
These people who live out in California. Uh… tweakers? Guys who do a lot of crystal meth. But they’re talented.

“Did you guys get in trouble with residents or cops or anything?”
No, the thing that was most surprising is how accommodating everyone is. When I started making it we were all preparing ourselves for getting hassled or arrested or whatever. Maybe it has to do with being from the South. For the most part nobody even noticed. I think it’s easier to get away with actual murder now than it ever was. People don’t really pay attention. I remember one specific time it was two or three in the morning in an alleyway by where these hunchbacks that I know live. There’s a group sex scene with all these trashcans and they were fucking the hell out of these cans and I heard a door open and this old woman walked out and I heard her say, ”Can I turn those porch lights on for you to make things easier?” I said “Yeah, go ahead,” and she did and she just sat there and watched it. She seemed excited by it. Nowadays people are very accommodating.

”One thing that gave it continuity were the audio motifs like the cackling laughter and the little lullabies. Was that something you thought about before making it?”
Not really. You know that “Three Little Devils” song? Someone played me a recording once of a woman who had most of her larynx removed and she’d been abandoned in a well. This was probably the early 20s somewhere in North Carolina and I think they were throwing dirt on her head while she was singing, so she was getting buried alive. It was one of the most horrific sounds I’d ever heard. I don’t know if you ever heard what a fox sounds like when it’s in heat but it’s something very awful. It just stayed with me and when were filming this it seemed like a natural place to insert it.

“The scene with you and the women, how did that come about?” (referring to a scene in which the characters interact with prostitutes).
The black one was my girlfriend in high school and she looked much better back then. She let herself go. She married this guy, he worked at this place called the Doughnut Den. It’s really strange to see her now because she’s probably four or five times the size she used to be. I heard through the grapevine that she’d got into that Craigslist dominatrix scene. So when we were doing this, I thought she’d be a good person to call. That was her house in the movie. That was a daily occurrence at the place.

“You mentioned that you could imagine them shoving the tape into a horse’s ass. What were the characters going to do with the tape they were making?”
I don’t know. I think it’s just like a record they were making. I had a friend who recorded every single minute of CNN from 1988. I don’t think he ever watched it, but I think he had the whole year.

“Did you have a lot of fun doing this and if so is it going to be hard going back to making movies the way you have in the past?
I really enjoyed it because I feel like the way conventional filmmaking is, it’s stacked up against you. The process is in conflict with creating. The people involved and how long it takes, I find that it kills the excitement for me. I was always a person who wanted to be able to work as quickly as I could think and kind of act on impulse. Film could never be as immediate as this. But I still have a fondness for traditional moviemaking as well.

“What came first, wanting to shoot on VHS or the idea and the characters?
I grew up very close to where I live now. When I left New York I moved back down to Nashville. When I was a kid there were a lot of alleyways where I lived. It was an intricate system of alleyways that you could basically get around anywhere if you just used these back alleyways. You don’t have to see the fronts of houses. In junior high, a couple blocks from where I lived there was a retirement home that was really just someone’s basement. For nineteen dollars they would house these people who you’re trying to get rid of. It was a strange place. There was always a smoke machine that was on. You know that band, Herman’s Hermits? They would only play that one record for them, over and over again on repeat. I guess there must have been fifteen or twenty people living there and they would always wear white nursing shoes and black turtleneck sweaters. I had a pretty hot next door neighbor and I’d see these guys staring at her late at night, doing God knows what. It stayed with me. When I moved back I would walk my dog down these alleyways and it made me remember them. And there are all these trash bins that look like humans to me. Some of them look like they’d been beaten up or abused. There were all these spotlights and it looked like a war scene. Something post-war. I just combined the two things. So I would dress up my assistant in these really crude masks like a burn victim, like someone whose face looked like a marshmallow. Like a burnt marshmallow. And he would walk around at night and he would just vandalize the neighborhood. And I would take photos with disposable cameras and stuff. I don’t know why it just seemed like a natural thing to do. Once I saw the photos I thought there could be a movie. The look of it reminded me of VHS and that’s how it came to be.

“How did you make a movie out of a memory.”
There were certain things I wanted to see. I wrote them down on napkins and showed them to the other guys and we would wake up and do it.

“So it was just totally random?”
No, because I knew there were things I wanted to see. You know sometimes in life it’s good to just close your eyes and not think about it too much and just let someone take you there. If it felt right to destroy that thing or fuck that thing or set this on fire or to speak then that’s what we did and I didn’t think about it. What’s a home movie mean? What’s the story of a home movie? Sometimes I just don’t think about what anything means because people can mean too much.

“Could you tell a story about Paige Spain?”
Paige is dead. He died. He was one of my favorite characters. He was the guy who does the exercises with his neck. I was going to see him because a friend of mine’s house had just washed away in the flood. So I knocked on his door and when he answered he was wearing a pink bathrobe and he was, you know, gay. He was like, ”Oohooh, what’s going on?” I was like, ”Is Mac there?” And he was like, “No, but come on in.” And I said, “Look man, I’m… straight.” And he goes, “So’s spaghetti till you boil it.” So I walked into his house and he was watching nine or ten televisions simultaneously. They were all on car racing and game shows and the sound was turned down on all of them. He’d had a special bed made and he was very big into alcohol. He was a busboy or something at Holiday Inn. He was a great wit and a really amazing guy. What happened is actually a sad story. He would tell dirty jokes to the people he worked with. He worked there for thirty years. One day there was a new manager and he told a joke and the manager was some right wing zealot, a real bastard, and they fired him after thirty years. They found Paige dead. He was naked, in his house. He also collected a lot of Nazi memorabilia.

“Who was the kid in the beginning?”
The kid who smashed the doll in the head? He’s a well-known preacher. He hangs out at these 7-11s and sits on milk crates. He’s memorized the Bible. He’s another very interesting guy.

“Why are the characters murderers?”
Murder is just part of their vocabulary. It’s what they do. They are artists of evil, not evil… destruction. They’re vandals. They see vandalism and destruction as a creative act. They turn it into something beautiful. In the way that creating is artistic, they think that destroying is. So murder, it’s part of their language.

“Where’d you get the baby at the end?”
It’s best not to talk about those things.

(VICE  5.13.10)

“TRASH HUMPERS” 2009 directed by Harmonie Korine

opening friday at the Nuart — enjoy the trailer at the film’s official site and listen to Korine discuss Humpers via podcast




100% medically accurate, 100% making people angry, and somwhat creatively inspiring


In Tom Six’s torture-porn game-changer “The Human Centipede”, an evil German doctor (Dieter Laser) kidnaps a Japanese man and two vapid American girl tourists, imprisons them in his basement lab and shows them a presentation of simplistic hand-drawn slides that illustrate his diabolical plan: by surgically connecting all three via digestive tract, he will turn three beings into one. Just like that, an iconic movie monster is born.

The notion of a human centipede assumes that live bodies are interchangeable widgets, and thus as long as there are more available, the centipede can keep growing indefinitely, and it’ll be exactly the same, except more horrible. The sequel possibilities are endless. But even with a confirmed follow-up on the way, the film also mocks the idea of a traditional horror franchise, where the monster/threat/body count gets bigger with each iteration. (This Godzilla movie is just like the last Godzilla movie, except now he’s even more radioactive! Human Millipede is just like Human Centipede, except with even more gastric extension!) Either way, Six has created a marketer’s dream — if not for the whole “ass to mouth” thing.


the cat toy…

Yes, The Human Centipede depicts three live humans surgically attached so that food fed to one has to pass through the other two, but the film itself is not as scat-pornographic as you might think; there’s no excrement on-screen. (That said, when spoken in Centipede, the line “Swallow it, bitch!” gruesomely transcends its usual hard-core-porn context.) Never as explicit as a Saw or Hostel film, Centipede disarms the viewer with comedy early on (the doctor is so demented and the Americans so stupid that at first, Centipede plays as parody), then swiftly shifts into the shit (literally and figuratively), managing to maintain a steady aura of stomach-churning dread purely through performance and suggestion. It’s definitive psychological horror, positioning the viewer to identify with the victims’ suffering and lack of free will, even after harshly judging what they did with that free will when they had it.


the necklace…

In fact, The Human Centipede is startlingly relatable: Six uses the centipede to talk about being human. In the tradition of the first Frankenstein films, various contemporary “enhanced interrogation techniques” and certain interpretations of Catholic purgatory, Centipede plays on the notion that the only thing more frightening than death is a state bridging life and death, in which, though one’s body is no longer his or her own to control, the mind remains conscious. In Six’s view, the moral imperative to preserve life only goes so far — eventually, death is a relief.

…and — wtf?

Centipede may fit into a certain horror tradition by hyperintensely depicting the fundamental fear of limbo, but it zigs where most of those films zag. If the standard cinematic way of dealing with that fear is by giving victims a last-minute burst of heroism to arrange their own reprieve, then The Human Centipede is truly subversive in its hopelessness, its refusal to transform its victims into self-saviors with dubious impromptu powers. Centipede ultimately manages to correct mainstream horror’s bullshit conservative ideology. It’s become an old film-theory chestnut that the horror heroine who says no to sex gets to live while her friends die — thus, the Final Girl. There’s no sex at all in Six’s beyond-twisted vision, but in the end, the final girl is well and truly fucked.

(LA WEEKLY  5.6.10)

“THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE” 2009 written and directed by Tom Six

a sequel is due out net year — for now, the original is playing at IFC in NYC and as the midnight movie 5.14 at the Nuart…




Brian Jungen has become the first living Native American artist to exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

“Cetology” a 40-foot whale skeleton made of plastic lawn furniture…

(click on image to enlarge)

in “Prototypes for New Understanding” reconfigured Air Jordans become Aboriginal masks…

Brian Jungen’s exhibition “Strange Comfort” is on view through August 8 at the NMAI on the National Mall, Washington, DC…

“Little People in the City” is a book by London based artist Slinkachu that documents his projects — placing tiny hand painted figures out on the city streets and leaving them to be discovered by giants (people)

please don’t step on the art

“Little People in the City: The Street Art of Slinkachu” 2009 (Macmillan) forward by Will Self

lots more on Slinkachu here




replace the sign with a hotel?  file under: not gonna happen…

a very Hollywood piece of concept architecture from Danish firm Bay Arch (could it be the name?) led by architect Christian Bay-Jorgensen…

the facade is designed at about three times the surface area of the real sign — which Hugh Hefner saved from developers last week by throwing down almost a million bucks (thanks hef!)…

for more projects go to Bay Arch




welcome to Roky ‘X…


It’s Record Store Day, and Roky Erickson has just finished signing autographs at Waterloo Records in his hometown of Austin, Texas. Now, he’s treating himself to ice cream—rocky road!—as his partner, Dana Morris, shows him a book of bumper-sticker photos she just bought. One is written upside-down. “If you can read this,” Erickson begins, reciting it word for word, “then you are crazy as a nut.”

That’s not how the bumper sticker ends—it says something about rolling your SUV—but perhaps this is Erickson’s way of acknowledging what he is not. Namely, crazy as a nut.

Most crazy people don’t come back from the insane asylum, electroshock treatment, illicit drug use, and alien encounters that have besieged Erickson these past 40 years, as is startlingly conveyed in the 2005 documentary You’re Gonna Miss Me. And they certainly don’t record a triumphant comeback album at 62, as he has now done with True Love Cast Out All Evil, a glorious new collection of autobiographical numbers culled from his old songbooks and meticulously recast by Will Sheff and his Austin rock band, Okkervil River.

“When I heard the songs,” Sheff explains, “there were 60 to choose from, and there are songs like ‘Please, Judge’ [a broken-down piano ballad with a chorus of cicadas, written by Erickson while at Rusk State Hospital following a drug bust in '69] and ‘Be and Bring Me Home’ [another incarceration song, with redemptive effects fit for an Irish pub following a wake] . . . I just really fell in love with the songs. I knew that as long as I didn’t screw it up, the songs would speak for themselves.”

True Love is truly symphonic, with tranquil touches and a rise-and-fall-and-rise completeness. It’s a much different feel from when Erickson’s 13th Floor Elevators beat the Grateful Dead to psychedelia with 10-plus-minute, peyote-laced jams, later inventing horror rock (heavy metal, really) with songs like “Two Headed Dog” and “Bloody Hammer.” True Love is the at-peace Erickson, his voice front and center, shedding his various myths. (Have you heard the one about the time he levitated?)

Sheff asks Erickson to name his favorite song on the album. “Well, the one you like,” Erickson replies. “I like ‘Fore’ [as in "Forever," a dreamy Roy Orbison–inspired song about "the pleasure of knowing one's own name"]. And I like ‘I Am’—’I Am Satan’s All-Purpose Love,’ or something like that.”

“Wait, which song is that?” Sheff asks.

“I am,” Erickson starts singing softly, “dum, dum, I am Satan’s all-purpose love.” He then quotes the Greek-Armenian mystic George Gurdjieff: “Life is only real, then, when I am.”

Erickson drank a lot of vinegar and honey to preserve his voice for these songs, a trick he learned from his mom, a classically trained singer. Sheff also helped him prepare by playing him old r&b music before each session. Indeed, the Okkervil River gang helped him focus. “Sometimes, you just have to make sure that you have guidance,” Erickson says. “Because some things can really be, I guess, annoying to people, and so I try to always just have faith that I’m doing the right thing and have patience. If you do it, do it right.”

I ask Erickson what love means to him, in reference to True Love’s title track, a song he says his mom asked him to write, and whose titular refrain he sings with Elvis-like bravado.

“Well, I like that song by the Beatles,” he replies, attempting to sing it: “All you need is . . . help . . . somebody to help you write a song.”

“Do you think love is a really important thing to have in your life?” Sheff asks.

“Love is a good thing, yeah.” Just then, a little boy comes over, says hi, and grabs Erickson’s doughy hand, as if to shake it. Erickson obliges and says, “OK, thank you.”

(VOICE  4.27.10)

see Roky with Okkervil River @ the Mayan Theatre L.A. 5.18, the Fillmore S.F. 5.20, and Webster Hall, NYC 5.25…




LAX’s landmark structure is open again…


For the last three years, it was shrouded in scaffolding after a 1,000-pound chunk fell off one of the upper stucco-covered arches and landed on the roof of a restaurant. No one was injured, but the need for serious renovation was highlighted.

As the building was being repaired, and retrofitted to better withstand earthquakes, it served as a disorienting eyesore, rather than a welcoming icon. Its completion was delayed several times, to the consternation of airport officials.

But now the $12.3-million project is nearly done — all but some roof treatments and a few coats of paint — and it will soon be back to its former glory, only with earthquake protection.

Maintaining the Theme Building’s midcentury flying-saucer shape while correcting for significant flaws in the design that threatened its structural integrity was a major challenge for architects, engineers and contractors.

Rather than reinforcing the building with lots of new concrete, which would be expensive and change its physical features, the designers built a 1.2 million-pound steel weight that sits on flexible bearings — known as a tuned mass damper. It anchors the existing roof of the central cylinder of the building and essentially serves to counteract the movement of the structure in an earthquake.

The Theme Building, designed by the futuristic architects William Pereira, Charles Luckman Associates, Welton Becket & Associates and Paul R. Williams, was built in 1961 to serve as the center of the airport, a ticketing spot through which all passengers would pass.

But as a result of the manner in which LAX developed — highly decentralized without a single point of orientation, much like the city it serves — that plan never came together. However, the building’s other features, like the observation deck — where people could watch planes take off and land and peer through the mini-telescopes — still attracted visitors. (The deck was closed to the public after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but airport officials are contemplating a way to make it accessible again to visitors, possibly by appointment.)

In 1997, the Encounter, a totally round restaurant, was opened in the building, with interiors and retro lighting created by Walt Disney designers, and it has remained a trendy drink spot.

After the chunk of building fell onto the Encounter in March 2007, the restaurant was closed for eight months, while the Theme Building was dressed for renovation and its flaws were attacked.

The center of the 135-foot-high arches, for instance, had inadvertently allowed condensation to collect on the steel supporting the plaster around them. The architect Gin Wong Associates addressed that by having the air outflow from the restaurant — once directed outside — piped through the arches as a continual drying system. The arches themselves were reinforced with new steel and flexible polymer-based plaster.

A screen wall that surrounds the building — a disaster waiting to happen, according to Jaime Garza, a project manager for Miyamoto International, the earthquake engineers behind the renovation — was reinforced at the top with carbon fiber.

By far the biggest feat was the tuned damper, 22 layers consisting of six two-inch steel plates each, and each layer ranging from 8,000 to 11,000 pounds, lined up with 164 bolts through the plates on top of the existing center cylinder of the building to absorb shocks.

Cranes had to squeeze in under the arches. And the restaurant had to remain open the entire time, or the contractors would face a daily $5,000 penalty for any day it was closed.

read the entire article here

(NY TIMES  4.17.10)


mayday! mayday! mayday!


nearly forty years before Steven Soderbergh’s four-hour biopic — 20th Century Fox released the first Hollywood film about Che Guevara, Richard Fleischer’s “CHE!”…

“the t-shirt profits alone will be revolutionary…”

tonight, Soderbergh presents his digital production “The Girlfriend Experience” at the Billy Wilder Theatre as the U.C.L.A. Film Archives kicks off the series “From Nitrate to Digital: New Technologies and the Art of Cinema

the evening’s program will begin with Josef von Sternberg’s “The Devil is a Woman” — a prime example of his extraordinary collaborations (one of seven) with Marlene Dietrich…

CHE!” 1969 directed by Richard Fleischer

THE DEVIL IS A WOMAN” 1935 directed by Josef von Sternberg

THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE” 2009 directed by Steven Soderbergh

the series continues through 5.9…




Leslie Buck, designer of New York’s iconic coffee cup, died Monday…


It was for decades the most enduring piece of ephemera in New York City and is still among the most recognizable. Trim, blue and white, it fits neatly in the hand, sized so its contents can be downed in a New York minute. It is as vivid an emblem of the city as the Statue of Liberty, beloved of property masters who need to evoke Gotham at a glance in films and on television. It is, of course, the Anthora, the cardboard cup of Grecian design that has held New Yorkers’ coffee securely for nearly half a century. Introduced in the 1960s, the Anthora was long made by the hundreds of millions annually, nearly every cup destined for the New York area. A pop-cultural totem, the Anthora has been enshrined in museums; its likeness has adorned tourist memorabilia like T-shirts and ceramic mugs. Like many once-celebrated artifacts, though, the cup may now be endangered, the victim of urban gentrification.

The Anthora seems to have been here forever, but in fact, it was first designed by Mr. Leslie Buck for the Sherri Cup Company in Kensington, Conn. Mr. Buck’s cup was blue, with a white meander ringing the top and bottom; down each side was a drawing of the Greek vase known as an amphora. (“Anthora” comes from “amphora,” as filtered through Mr. Buck’s Eastern European accent, his son said.) On front and back, Mr. Buck emblazoned the Anthora with three steaming golden coffee cups. Above them, in lettering that suggests a Classical inscription, was the Anthora’s very soul — the motto. It has appeared in many variant texts since then; Mr. Buck’s original, with its welcome intimations of tenderness, succor and humility, was simply this:

We Are Happy

To Serve You

Laszlo Büch was born on Sept. 20, 1922, to a Jewish family in Khust, then in Czechoslovakia. (It is today in Ukraine.) His parents were killed by the Nazis during World War II; Laszlo himself survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald. After the war, Mr. Buck made his way to New York, where he Americanized his name and ran an import-export business with his brother, Eugene, who had also survived the camps. In the late 1950s or thereabouts, the brothers started Premier Cup, a paper-cup manufacturer in Mount Vernon, N.Y. Leslie Buck joined Sherri Cup, then a startup, in the mid-’60s. Originally the company’s sales manager (for a time, he was its entire sales force), he later became its director of marketing.

Sherri was keen to crack New York’s hot-cup market. Since many of the city’s diners were owned by Greeks, Mr. Buck hit on the idea of a Classical cup in the colors of the Greek flag. Though he had no formal training in art, he executed the design himself. It was an instant success. Mr. Buck made no royalties from the cup, but he did so well in sales commissions that it hardly mattered, his son said. On his retirement from Sherri in 1992, the company presented Mr. Buck with 10,000 specially made Anthoras, printed with a testimonial inscription. In recent years, with the gentrification of the city and its brew, demand for the humble Anthora has waned. In 1994, Sherri sold 500 million of the cups, as The New York Times reported afterward. In 2005, the Solo Cup Company, into which Sherri had been absorbed, was selling about 200 million cups a year. Today, Solo no longer carries the Anthora as a stock item, making it only on request. Other companies still turn out versions of the cup, though not in the quantities of its 20th-century heyday.

(NY TIMES  4.29.10)


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