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The Young Turds were a Washington, DC punk-era band with a vision, heart, garage rock sincerity, noir-ish humor, and about an LP's worth of tunes never committed to vinyl (with one exception). Emerging in Fairfax County, Virginia in the late '70s, they played many dates there as well as in DC proper, sharing the stage with better-known groups of the time. Their song "Murder One" (.mp3 below) appeared on the seminal compilation 30 Seconds Over DC (Limp Records, 1978) along with such giants as the Slickee Boys, White Boy, Da Moronics, and 1/2 Japanese. They also shared a bill with District legends the Bad Brains, at a Yippee-sponsored "Smoke-In" on the Washington Mall. By late 1980 they were gone; eventually they morphed into other bands (see below) but the "Turd thing" was unique.
A reviewer at the time called them a "zoned-out Roxy Music" but their sound really has more in common with Cleveland bands such as the Electric Eels, albeit not as extreme or angsty. At least one member, sax player Kevin Landes, had some music theory and you can hear it in songs like "One Mad Act" and "Hold at All Costs." What sounds today like a Klezmer influence was most likely unconscious. Whatever ambitions the group had to rise above three-chord rock, their sound is very raw and home-schooled, like so many of the groups of that DIY era. Landes and his brother Kerry had a Rodgers & Hart-style songwriting collaboration going back to their childhoods (or perhaps Siegel & Shuster, as manifested in comic book-themed tunes they occasionally still played as adults, such as "Gorilla Boss"). This collaboration spilled over into the Turds' songwriting. "One Mad Act" dramatizes the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, partly in tribute to the Landes's father, who had a voluminous basement library of Lincolnabilia.
Three of the songs below are covers. The one by the King is obvious, but you might not know that "Green Slime" is the theme of the 60s sci-fi film of the same name, or that "Tapeworm of Love" ("eating my heart out over you") is by Brute Force, a quirky singer/songwriter the Landeses were fond of. Many of the songs were about murder and violence, as befitted the end of the '70s, an era of social turbulence and malaise that continued until President Reagan brought Morning back to America in the '80s, or so the story goes. Kerry Landes's murky singing style made the lyrics difficult to understand but occasional snatches ("teenage boy with a deranged mind/cruising for burgers is not hard to find") give you a pretty good idea what's going on.
Below is a selection of .mp3s. Except for "Murder One," from the Limp compilation, the songs were ripped from a cassette of a reel-to-reel master, originally recorded in a bandmember's friend's basement studio. A few minor blemishes can be heard on the ancient cassette tape.
"Green Slime" [2:09 min. - 2.9 MB]
"Berserker" [2:55 min. - 4.2 MB]
"Hold at All Costs" [3:59 min. - 5.8 MB]
"Tapeworm of Love" [2:38 min. - 3.7 MB]
"One Mad Act" [5:16 min. - 7.5 MB]
"Burn1ng Love" [2:21 min. - 3.3 MB]
"Vigilante" [5:12 min. - 7.5 MB]
"Murder One" [3:09 min. - 4.5 MB]
Personnel are Kevin Landes (saxophone), Steve Walker (rhythm guitar), Kerry Landes (vocals), Paul Ragan (lead guitar), Tim Carter (bass), and Tom Payne (sensible drums). The Turds dissolved sometime in 1980, but various members continued playing in DC bands. Carter, Landes, and Walker formed The French Are From Hell (still active) after one of them (Carter?) saw an appalling documentary about the ostensible Gallic taste for munching live birds, and Carter, Payne, and Walker were mainstays of the Assbeaters, fronted by singer, novelist, and zine-producer Mark Mellon, which survived until fairly recently (.mp3s of taped material to follow). The text of this post is being published as a separate tribute page--hopefully I can get some photos and other information and will add to it and post updates here.
UPDATE: Some photos of bandmembers have been added.
UPDATE 2: I just noticed the links to the .mp3s in this post and on the tribute page weren't working. They have been fixed now.
UPDATE 3: Two song titles were corrected after I found my notes off the tape case.
UPDATE 4: Re-recorded all the .mp3s at higher volume and a 192 kbps streaming rate instead of 128 kbps.
UPDATE 5, Oct. 2010: The ending of "Vigilante" had annoying dropouts in one channel. I did my best to fix it--the panning still goes a little haywire but the volume is more uniform in both channels.
The Battle Your Teachers Fought For You
Clem Greenberg is chainsmoking, but more nervously than usual. He has just punched out a long-haired conceptualist, in the best Cedar Tavern tradition. The young man lies on the ground, groaning.
Other conceptualists arrive. "What did you do to him, man?"
"I said his work was minuh," which is how Clem pronounced "minor." "He hit me, I hit him back, and there he lies, the putz."
"'Minuh'? What are you, the Rule Man?" one of the kids asks.
"No, that's your projection. I just interpret; I've been doing it since the '30s. I can't be blamed for having a cult. Artists won't leave me alone."
"Rule Man! Rule Man!" one of the kids screams. A group of them are now standing around Clem in a menacing circle.
"Will you shut up with that, already? What I do is describe, not prescribe."
"You know who you are, you fascist? You're Nixon, man!"
"NIX-on! NIX-on!" the group chants.
Someone whips out a knife. The kids converge on him. Clem goes down fighting, but he never gets up.
Thickeye has piqued my interest to go see William Pope.L's show at Artists Space. The video work looks particularly interesting. Actually that's not a very good word: try wrenching, heartbreaking, black-humorous (in a dual sense)... I say that based not on seeing the work but checking out this web page discussing Pope.L's "crawl pieces" such as The Great White Way: 22 miles, 5 years, 1 street, 2002, then reading Thickeye's description:
I really liked his old school performance stuff [...] which includes portions of his Great White Way wherein he crawls around portions of Manhattan wearing a suit and tie. While I had read about this before and seen still images they do not convey the degree to which this performance is about time, tedium and the agony of the slow. It's really painful to watch the pace as he crawls, flowers in hand, his glasses falling partially off, and hanging from his sweaty face. While the piece is about race and the "other" in many obvious ways, for me, the portion that most interestingly touched on the layers of otherness was when two other black men, seeing him crawling (and presumably the camera man) attempt to get him to stand up. While I could not hear what they were saying (though there is sound included) as a silent act to me they did not want him exhibiting his otherness, brandishing it with such bravado, bringing attention to their own (from both inside themselves and outside). I will probably write a more formal review of the show after I go for a visit during a more mellow time. The best part was probably getting one of his business cards that has his name and "friendliest black artist in America."The "formal review" did get written and appears on The Blowup Review site. It's well worth reading, but good luck finding it in that unlinkable frame-o-rama (hint: look over on the right and use that scroller).
UPDATE: D'oh, I assumed because the Pope.L exhibit was on the front page of the Artists Space website, that it was still up. It closed Feb. 21.
UPDATE 2: The Pope.L "crawling" performances have a lot in common with Momoyo Torimitsu's robotic dummies of bellycrawling salarymen (currently at Deitch Projects--see photo in the comments to this post). Momoyo used to walk one around the city streets wearing a nurse's uniform, which was a nice macabre touch. I first saw her work around '96 or '97. When did Pope.L start crawling? Did he know Momoyo's work or vice versa? Is anyone else asking these questions?
"Show Us Your Gnomes."
I know a woman who works at an uptown, blue-chip-type gallery in NYC. She tells the story of a major Abstract Expressionist artist--she won't say who--that for decades had been selling nonrepresentational paintings for the big bucks. One day he invited her to his studio and said, "You know, I have this body of work I rarely show anyone that I've been doing for a few years now. It's really different from my abstract work but I'd like for you to look at it and tell me if you think it has any potential." So the woman looks at it and at this point in the telling of her story she literally screams and says "Oh, my god, it was these GNOMES! These horrid cutesy drawings of little men! Etc Etc sarcasm abuse..."
I find this story really poignant and compelling. The gnomes are probably the guy's real art, what he actually feels and cares about. But his market is this fake art that may very well have emerged from a place of sincerity 40 years ago but now is just a simulacrum he's doomed to repeat because it's his "job." So he's stuck. By not revealing the gnomes sooner, and attempting to gather support among critics and fellow artists (say, by covertly sponsoring shows with portentous titles like "Unpacking Little Men: The Content Paradox"), they're forever his dirty secret, bringing him only ridicule from the guardians of uptown taste. As the dealer's scream implies, to loose them on the world now would be a devastating career ender.
This gave me the idea for a curated exhibition called "Show Us Your Gnomes." It would consist of work artists are hiding from the public because they find themselves locked into a "signature" style or sensibility. It would essentially be a free pass for them to exhibit their gnomes, or gnome-equivalents, before it's too late. Work they care about but find embarrassing that might actually turn out to be more important than their accepted work. Talk about a minefield. (Pictures accompanying this post found by searching "gnomes" under Google/Images. For illustrative purposes only. That top one's pretty good.)
UPDATE: Edited slightly to reorder sentences and remove a gratuitous classist swipe.
UPDATE 2: This is not an actual call for work, just an idea.
We're discussing nuclear explosions in Japanese animation here and Richard Box's latter day "lightning field" of bulbs fluorescing around a giant electric pylon here. Regarding American consumption of the former, in videos with apocalyptic themes and spectacular battles, Sally says "culturally it's a disturbing kind of acquisitiveness--buying products of catharsis from the culture that we inflicted with the suffering that we feared." Regarding Box's work, where the array of light bulbs on the ground mysteriously glows in response to powerline flux, I suggest the artist is hitching a p.r. ride on electricity-related health fears just as others say his piece hitches a free ride on the power lines: "The piece looks lovely but it owes a big debt to someone else's work [Walter De Maria's], and the science around it appears to be more unsettled than unsettling."
"Daddy, tell me about Powell's meltdown again."
This story has been much repeated, but I just love rereading it, so here it is again. The subject is a recent public flip-out by soon-to-be-ex-Secretary of State Colin Powell, who as you recall went before the UN last year and lied and lied and lied about the pressing need to go to war. This is from James Ridgeway in the Village Voice:
Last week, Powell tried hard to regain the righteous high road with testimony in Congress, but when Ohio congressman Sherrod Brown mentioned Bush's AWOL problems as an aside in one question, Powell sprang into a generalissimo pose, ordering Brown, "Don't go there," as if the congressman were some dumb enlisted peon.
Then, as Powell was ruminating about how hard he tried to understand the pre-war intelligence—"I went to live at the CIA for four days"—he broke off and stared at a committee staff person sitting behind the congresspeople. "Are you shaking your head for something, young man, back there?" Powell intoned. "Are you part of these proceedings?"
Sherrod Brown, who has been in Congress 12 years, jumped to the staffer's defense: "Mr. Chairman, I've never heard a witness reprimand a staff person in the middle of a question."
Powell snapped, "I seldom come to a meeting where I am talking to a congressman and I have people aligned behind you giving editorial comment by head shakes."
Powell just doesn't seem to get it. He's not in some army camp. This is the people's house, and any member of Congress can ask whatever he or she pleases.
Who does Powell think he is? Douglas MacArthur?
A new, old review--written in 1982--has been added to the Doris Piserchia Website:
Mister Justice, 1973.My exhaustive, spoiler-ridden explication of the novel is here. Thanks to Joanna for finding the Trombetta review.
Crammed into half an Ace double and never reprinted, Mister Justice remains in a class by itself: hardboiled America, sci-fi style. Here the 2030s appear as a mutated 1930s, complete with an economic catastrophe that threatens evolution itself. The Shadow, the Green Hornet, the Untouchables - they never had what Mr. Justice has going for him. Sprung from humanity's threatened altruistic genes, this masked vigilante has the ability to travel into the past, where he can witness, but not prevent, murders.
He then returns to the present, where he arranges an "eye for an eye" treatment for the slayers, including full-scale gangland rub-outs. But he can't easily dispose of one Arthur Bingle, global crime archon who has the same powers as Mr. J. and then some. Bingle feels about the human race in general what Mr. Justice feels about criminals, and he plans to thin us out and "empty the world." With the help of his powers, his syndicates of henchmen and corrupt cops, and his dreadful lady friend Godiva - she of the constrictor thighs - Bingle gets the drop on humanity. But justice is just a matter of time. Piserchia relates this furious folktale with Chandler soul, Hammett snap, and not a trace of camp.
Jim Trombetta, "The Coolest Sci-Fi," from The Catalog of Cool (1982), edited by Gene Sculatti, p. 87.
"If there's any better definition of high crimes and misdemeanors in our Constitution, than misleading or fabricating the basis for going to war, as the press has documented ad infinitum, I don't know any cause of impeachment that's worse." Who said that--John Kerry? Tom Daschle? Don't make me laugh. No, it was Ralph Nader, the man conservative Democrats love to hate (on Meet the Press). Look, you don't have to vote for him, but shouldn't we all be happy if his candidacy gives him a platform to say what mainstream pols are too gutless to say?
One of NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman's repeated themes is the idea that global capitalism will lift all boats. As he puts it, "No country with a McDonalds has ever fought a war with another country with a McDonalds." Forget that the work is demeaning and the food is crappy. Since 9/11/01 he's been embarrassing himself in print with great regularity, trying to reconcile his "we are the world" thesis with the need to show Muslims who's boss. He's also been weighing in on the exporting of American jobs, which of course he thinks is great, and today he's come up with a clever name for the "new class" of Indians who are getting an increasing chunk of American white-collar work. The hokey neologism shall not be repeated here lest it add to his meme-pool cred, but here's a modest prediction: that it will end up being used, not like he hopes--as a cutesy way of understanding and relating to the people taking our jobs, sorry, our fellow laborers, across the Pacific--but as a term of derision by the so-called "protectionists" he hates. God, if only.
It's funny that a fresh kind of appropriation theory is thriving on the Internet, what with the ease of copying and mashing-up sound and image files, while the gallery world seems doomed to repeat the tropes it already knows--with only conspicuous "value added" labor as a selling point. I haven't see all this work in person, but here's a few examples of this bad recycling of content in the art world: (1) Sharon Core at Bellwether, who meticulously photographs baked goods in the identical set-ups of famous (but basically lame) Wayne Thiebaud paintings (Thiebaud was always a prettied-up, calendar art version of Pop, and Core appears to be making a calendar of the calendar); (2) Dan Fischer, who does finicky pencil drawings of famous artists posing with their work (or in the case of Cindy Sherman, Felix Gonzales-Torres, and a few others, drawings of the works themselves); and (3) Sharon Lockhart, who's suddenly, inexplicably devoted to the art of Duane Hanson.
In all of this work, we're not talking Sherrie Levine rephotographing Edward Weston, or Elaine Sturtevant researching methods and materials to "repeat" Warhols, Stellas, and Beuyses, both of which projects were touted as critiques of male authorship and prerogative in the art world. (If it is that, it's about 20 years behind the discourse.) Nor is it anything as relevant to current technological practice as the theory around sampling or what Rick Silva calls "uploadphonics." No, it's apparently just an advanced form of fan art, as well as collector bait--if you can't afford a Thiebaud or a Gonzales-Torres or a Hanson, here's the next best thing. And the craftsmanship--ooh, to die for.
Whoops, still tinkering with a post about new "appropriation art" in the galleries. If you got notified by email, sorry, I should have the text back up soon. [UPDATE: Here it is, severely pared down.] In the meantime, here's a nice image by SquareWave:
Follow-up to an earlier post about Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Dance Music: Did I forget to mention the guy is funny? Below are some examples of his Lester Bangsian blurbs explaining different genres*:
Acid Breaks! This and Chemical Breaks (and Big Beat, I guess) are the most favorite genres of action movie trailers, sports highlight reels, corporate powerpoint presentations, and spastic TV ads featuring people doing something extreme like driving really fast while birdwatching. I can't listen to this anymore without getting silly images in my head of jumping in the air, pausing while the camera pans around me, and then resuming kicking some guy in the head. This is part of the "electronica" wave of mainstream acceptance in the late '90s.*...which had to be retyped--note to all using Flash or the like: those formats are good for some things, but no one will ever quote you or find your words through a search engine on the Web if you hide them in the stinky folds of a proprietary format. Simple html pages are the way to go.
2 Step Garage. God, this stuff is so fucking boring! Retaining the idiotic basslines of Speed Garage, the hiccuping staccato beats of that derivative Top 40 schlock that dares call itself RnB, and even worse: the endless crooning by "guest" popstars (hence all the "featuring" accolades in playlists), divas, and whiny narcissists who like to think of themselves as just too damn cool to be listened to by you. The only good thing about 2-Step is, unlike Speed Garage, it won't be used by invading alien armadas to their high councils as grounds for turning the Earth into a giant ashtray. [This is mostly true but expect a mix of "good" 2-SG on this page soon. --ed.]
Hard Acid Techno. Here we go: the genre that reveals all the awesome destructive power of the little silver box [Roland TB-303, dispenser of the squelchy "acid sound" --ed.]. Hard as fuck acid techno. Acid that'll kick your ass so hard you'll be shitting shoes for a month. This is the kind of music everyone listens to before doing something destructive. Sports teams listen to it before a big game, politicians listen to it before a speech, armies listen to it before they go to war, kids listen to it before they clean their rooms. I bet God was listening to it before he made humans.
Robert Rauschenberg interviewed in the NY Times, Feb. 15:
Are dinner parties as good as they used to be in the bohemian '50s?
Of course not. The art world isn't interesting anymore, because when I lived in New York, the problems in the art world were my fault. But they no longer are. They're the fault of dealers, who are influencing the quality of art.
Reading that, many artists will say "Right on. F-ing dealers, they pick the shallowest work." But one could just as easily say "C'mon, Bob, like you and Jasper weren't jockeying for position back in the day. Whether something was 'your fault' wasn't an issue until a dealer put it in the pipeline." He's right about the dinner parties, though: Bohemia isn't as freewheeling in New York now. Everyone's juggling art and day jobs. Plus people can't smoke. It's still the best art town, though.
Heads of David Koresh, from Mark Allen's weblog. The New York & Toronto perspective on the interactive computer game these came from is here; my photos of the heads in action accompany this post of Allen's about the Davidians' New York debut.
The Videogame Art Show That Wasn't Amusing
Tomorrow is the last day for the New Museum's videogame art show "Killer Instinct", not that it's recommended. I missed the Joe McKay/Kristin Lucas gaming show in the same location in 2001 (the museum's hard-to-hang-out-in Media Z Lounge) but I know some of the work (e.g., McKay's Audio Pong) and it's way more fun, and way less pretentious, than this. You are greeted at the entrance of "Killer Instinct" with a selection of Brody Condon's "fake screenshots," which are lackluster collages mounted on foamcor or sintra board1: I'm revealing my own ignorance/apathy that I don't know if it's the games or the shots that are "fake." Next you encounter a sub-Kenny Scharf, faux ultraviolet installation by Condon & Shih Chieh Huang consisting of agglomerations of plastic toys and containers of water (connected by myriad tubes) with some SEGA type game imagery not doing much on a screen. This looked like bad outsider art. Anne-Marie Schleiner's piece was frozen, the video in Eddo Stern's sculpture was barely moving, and in another Stern piece, the sound only worked in one earpiece in each of the two sets of headphones hanging from a duct-taped rack2 (different ears malfunctioned in each). The Cory Arcangel/Paul B. Davis hacked Nintendo cartridge piece was nice, but shoved over in a dark corner discouraging lingering. Tom Betts's big screen installation work of fragmented, negatively-inverted game elements was hyperactive and psychedelic, but didn't live up to the curators' hype:
[The work] explores how artists translate the aesthetics and tactics of gaming culture into real space and real time--and how this new kind of fluid cinematic "gaming space" affects participants' behavior and experience.Mostly you stood there and worked three buttons until you figured out what formal elements were being manipulated by which buttons, and then you watched the light show. As far as "gaming space," as a friend pointed out, the console was set ridiculously far back from the screen so you never got the full-on immersive experience. Maybe that was the point, but it made it less entertaining. As for the ymRockers game music compilation, that would probably be more effective as a download or CD than a non-interactive art piece that you sit and listen to sequentially through headphones. I know I left out a few things but I wanted to get out of that show pronto so I didn't take notes. This was a perfect example of the type of hybrid exhibit with no appeal to either constituency it supposedly represents (too formally sloppy for the art world, too "deconstructed"--and not fun enough--for gamers). Way to go.
1. The board looked denser than foamcor but lighter than sintra, with some kind of metallic color around the edges(?) Just trying to be accurate in this on-the-fly reporting. 2. Again, it wasn't exactly duct tape, it just gave the same slapdash impression. Where the headphone wires entered the rack somebody had done a bad splice job with white electrician's tape. There's good nerdy and bad nerdy but this was the latter.
2. Again, it wasn't exactly duct tape, it just gave the same slapdash impression. Where the headphone wires entered the rack somebody had done a bad splice job with white electrician's tape. There's good nerdy and bad nerdy but this was the latter.
Here's a first stab at mixing some analog music (from vinyl) for a downloadable mp3: the Tuxedomoon Mini-Mix [.mp3 removed]. It's approximately 18 minutes, a 17 MB file. This favors broadband users, and I'm sorry, I've really been trying to keep this page surfer-friendly. Just consider the mix a bonus to the online music-crit below (yeah, I know, right).
Tuxedomoon was a kind of art-punk-cabaret band that emerged from late '70s San Francisco, specifically the scene around the Mabuhay Gardens and the Deaf Club: a time and place band member Blaine Reininger described as "our own Belle Epoque." Principal instruments were bass (that's a pun, sort of--the bassist is Peter Principle), sax, violin, keyboards, and rhythm box. Adjectives used to describe the band would be "innovative," "psychedelic" and "angsty." Three vocalists alternated on the singing chores and all sounded tortured, or suffering from post-breakdown ennui; all members were accomplished musicians downplaying their talent at the height of garage band streamlining. The band flowered during the postpunk era with a recording contract on the Residents' Ralph label, then relocated to Belgium before eventually drifting apart in the mid-'80s. In this selection I've somewhat slighted sax-and-keyboarder Steven Brown's contributions in favor of violinist Reininger's, but I love both. Here's the track listing; all songs are by the band unless noted:
"Volo Vivace" from Half-Mute (1980). Jazzy chamber music anchored in organ-and-synthesizer gloom. Principle's ultracool bass, playing counterpoint to a sequencer, supplies the rhythm.
"Incubus (Blue Suit)" from Desire (1981). Trippy scifi lyrics sung by Reininger, and you gotta love that beatbox.
"Crash" (flip side of Ralph 45 rpm "What Use") (1980). With its flailing drums, repetitive piano refrain, and filtered acid guitar, this is like proto-breakbeat techno. Never made it onto an album, but this is one of my favorite TM tracks. Guest guitarist Michael Belfer resurfaces on Reininger's solo LP described below.
"Birthday Song," from the Reininger solo outing Night Air (1983). Very '80s noir. Steven Brown's charmingly almost-inept sax makes an appearance here.
"Next to Nothing," 1977 rehearsal recording (from the Pinheads on the Move compilation, 1987). Singer and performance artist Winston Tong popped in and out of the TM lineup: his emotional vocals are featured here. The raw use of the analog synth here is inspiring, from the lurching, stop-and-start notes underneath the vocals to the ending where the sound hisses away in ever-rising pink noise increments. Gives me chills.
This "outsourcing of jobs" business--whether it's blue collar ones going to China or white collar ones going to India--should be a potent campaign issue. I'm betting that many workplaces have rumors going around that certain tasks will soon be sent overseas. Why should anyone trust their employers on this issue? As long as no government restrictions on the practice exist, the corporation's job is to maximize profits, so goodbye jobs. The Republicans are speaking out with their usual sensitivity to the problems of the middle class. You may have read that Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, called outsourcing "just a new way of doing international trade." The White House hasn't criticized Mankiw's comment, "focusing on the belief he was espousing that freer global trade benefits workers and consumers in all countries, including the United States," according to a recent AP article. Mankiw said his remarks were "misinterpreted" and he meant to emphasize "the importance of knocking down trade barriers while helping workers who inevitably will lose their jobs to transition into other work," according to the same AP story. In other words, retraining them from computer programming to the intricacies of waiting tables. (Though in the current let's-automate-everything climate, even those jobs are in jeopardy.)
A lot of Democrats moved to the right on this issue during the Clinton years, embracing all that "free market" jabber. Whatever candidate the Democrats put up against Bush is going to be in the pocket of Big Business, so don't expect any change come 2005. What we need, though, is to move away from the kneejerk idea that "market wisdom" is the sole way to run a society. If the market were truly wise child labor wouldn't exist anywhere. Societies (meaning governments) always draw lines regarding what is acceptable behavior. What's needed, now that even the managerial class is feeling the sting of outsourcing, is a bigger national dialogue on the American way of doing business. To me, outsourcing combined with insane executive compensation is fouling our own nest, gradually destroying the communities which originally nurtured the multinationals. Which means, we need to start passing legislation limiting predatory levels of compensation (tying executive earnings to the overall health of the company, not just the perception of being a "mover"), taxing companies that outsource and using the money to create a national unemployment fund, and penalizing corporations that move offshore to evade these laws. Sharp intake of breath from Clintonians and Republicans alike--heresy!
"Home Hip Hop," from Dragan Espenschied's Casio Gallery (guest photographer: Olia Lialina). The .gifs are rearranged here so you can see them horizontally: normally they play sequentially (in time)--hope that's OK. Espenschied is an artist, a musician (one-half of the home computer band Bodenstandig 2000), and an opinionated computer geek. His Dogma-manifesto-like wisdom on keeping things basic in computer publishing is persuasive: How to Correctly Print Low Resolution Screen Graphics makes me ashamed for putting up so many gnarly jpegs, riddled with "what professionals call 'bicubic mush.'" One could take issue with some of his rules of screen design, though: no matter how pure or innate a black screen is, it's oppressive to look at. So go ahead, call me an analog sissy for "trying to imitate paper." Other noteworthy Dragan projects are what he calls the Worst Drum Machine (which is to say, the best), and the Gameboy Camera Gallery. Especially intriguing on the latter page is the ultra-lo-res tour of a Camille Pisarro painting exhibition. If theorists from academia were still taking up causes in the art world, this might be of interest to them (unfortunately they've abandoned us to journalists).
Until today, this earlier post about the Iowa caucus still occupied the front page of this blog; since it was written, in the hoary, ancient days of January 25-26, the whole political landscape has changed. Back then, everything was "Dean Dean Dean" and now it's all "Kerry Kerry Kerry." The latter's pro-war vote will give him more credibility with Toby Keith's America, I guess, and he is at least now questioning Bush Jr.'s cred on defense issues. Without being for him, I can still say "let's hope he wins."
The same post discussed Alexander Cockburn's takedown of Errol Morris's film The Fog of War, and Cockburn has a few more thoughts today on Robert McNamara, specifically his 13 years at the World Bank. McNamara is reportedly unhappy that these glory years aren't mentioned in the movie, but Cockburn reminds us that sacking the Third World economically isn't any more noble than killing millions of Vietnamese, really.
In Vietnam, Agent Orange and napalm. Across the Third World, the bank underwrote "Green Revolution" technologies that the poorest peasants couldn't afford and that drenched land in pesticides and fertilizer. Vast infrastructural projects such as dams and kindred irrigation projects drove the poor from their lands, from Brazil to India. It was the malign parable of "modernization" written across the face of the Third World, with one catastrophe after another prompted by the destruction of traditional rural subsistence economies.Regarding the McNamara/Morris tour to promote the movie, Cockburn says: "It's as though Eichmann had launched a series of lecture-circuit pillow fights with a complaisant biographer." I know Democratic centrist types are wont to bash Cockburn as an "old lefty"--a lot of them sided with power-nebbish Eric Alterman in his recent food fight with the Counterpunch editor--but Cockburn is still the more incisive writer, and more fun, too.
Watch Great Teacher Onizuka morph into a museum inflatable here (360 KB file). This 22 year old biker turned student teacher is fantasizing about "being in his 40s and marrying a 16 year old." Don't ask.
Bruce Sterling, on his blog, steers us towards Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Dance Music, which definitely merits a moment or two of your time. It's a handy manual to all the different electronic dance genres, where you can hear samples and go "Ah, that's what Nu Style Gabber sounds like!" On the other hand, it's a novel and fairly persuasive form of criticism. Ishkur makes no bones that this is his take, and by combining a flowchart taxonomy with written argument and clickable soundbites, he's made a formidable first draft of pop music history.
I like the way he includes Dub as a forerunner of House (along with Disco); that's a little less America-centric than the usual version, which has NY djs moving to Chicago and reinventing disco with more electronics. (Curiously, Hiphop is treated as sui generis--under "Breakbeat"--when it also had a strong Caribbean influence, e.g., DJ Kool Herc.) He gives Techno short shrift, though, treating it as a genre for boring purists when it in fact has interpenetrated and informed almost all the other styles. It's interesting the way he divides early 90s breakbeat rave techno into Rave, which becomes the progenitor of Hardcore, and Breakcore, which spins off Jungle and Drum & Bass, but mysteriously, Rave never intersects with the "Techno" timeline and Breakcore never intersects with the "Breakbeat" timeline.* Also, I'm not sure I understand the distinction he makes between two 80s styles: EBM (Electronic Body Music, posited as a forerunner of Goa Trance) and New Beat (a Hardcore antecedent). When I hear both I just say "Belgian."
One style new to me is Speedbass, which sounds like a cross between Noizecore and what Ishkur's calling Experimental Jungle (AKA Drill'n'Bass). It seems very DIY and upload-oriented (see website at www.speedbass.net), and while it's a bit more chaotic than my usual around-the-house fare, it's hard to resist anything with repeated samples of whips cracking and Hollywood extras crying out in fake pain, for example, DJ Tendraw and the Gypsies Dog's "Vocal Tripe (I'm Gonna Hurt You Mix)."
*If I was going to collect a genre in depth (meaning spending a fortune tracking down 12-year-old vinyl and dubplates) it would probably be the one Ishkur calls Breakcore [in version 2.5 he changed it to "Oldskool Rave Hardcore"]. The energy and sheer creative nuttiness of that particular musical moment has never been duplicated.
UPDATE: There was so much to say here I forgot to mention that the writing on Ishkur's site is lively and funny. Some excerpts have been posted here.
There's a nice mix of video game and game-related music over at cuechamp. A good chance to hear artists frequently plugged here, including 8-Bit Construction Set and Monotrona, as well as punchy electro tracks such as Knifehandchop's "Ryu vs. Sakura," with samples of a Real Don Steele-type announcer (from "Streetfighter Alpha 3") yelling out stuff like "Select your fighting style!" and "Beat'em up guys!" Here's the link to the .mp3 of the mix; it's a 22MB file so you probably need broadband. And here is the playlist:
1. super mario brothers - london symphony orchestraWhile at cuechamp, I followed the link to Hektor, a graffiti-writing robot that produces some really clean, seductive imagery with a spraycan rigged up on pulleys. The principle recalls the Etch-a-Sketch, or I suppose what happens inside a mouse, only in reverse: the program translates data into sweeping movements of the dangling, spritzing can, within imaginary horizontal and vertical axes. The device is documented on the under-construction website with pop-up jpegs, a quicktime movie and an extensive pdf file. Now to figure out how to get it into the trainyards.
2. video computer system - golden shower
3. bmx kidz theme - input 64
4. saucemaster - 8 bit construction set
5. ah, enemy - monotrona
6. ryu vs. sakura - knifehandchop
7. manhunt (rephlex manhood remix) – lords of the dance
8. computer games - yellow magic orchestra
New Yorker movie critic David Denby's self-lacerating book about losing all his money in the late '90s stock bubble, discussed briefly a few posts back, fits into a larger story, but not the one told here--of Denby the noodge dispensing crappy criticism. No, the real story, according to this month's Vanity Fair, is that Denby's wife left him for a woman, and his daytrading binges grew out of his rage over that, or some such. Katha Pollitt, mentioned here briefly, also has more interesting things to offer than her discussion of the hypocritical standards applied to campaign wives: in this month's New Yorker, she discusses her obsessive cyber-stalking of her ex.
I know people think that weblogs emphasize the confessional and the private over substantive analysis, but the reverse is increasingly true. Lately, if you want to discuss art and politics outside the usual defined boxes, parse the contradictory positions of institutionally compromised critics, and find a wealth of links to Internet metacriticism, you'll likely find that in the blogosphere. If you want a good gossipy wallow in the tawdry personal misfortunes of these same institutional critics, the major media is for you!
You may have heard that CBS refused a Superbowl ad from the grassroots organization Moveon.org, because it dared to criticize the President. Where are we living, North Korea? The ad emerged from a competition among independent film and video makers called "Bush in 30 Seconds." The finalists from the competition are here. I haven't seen all of them but my favorite so far is "What Are We Teaching Our Children?" (high bandwidth) / (low bandwidth). In this parody of a junior-high school election debate, kids stand up and enthusiastically attack Bush's sorry record on the War, the environment, the economy, and so forth. Reaction shots from parents in the auditorium show the discomfort so-called adults feel at such bracing exercises of free speech in our current McCarthyite climate. This was CBS's reaction, too. I recommend watching the ads tomorrow and experiencing the exhilaration of still being free. I also suggest sending the links to a Republican friend with the note: "See, we can still do this!"