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The following list of online videos (with commentary) was found on Singe's Journal. Eventually I'll annotate the list, remove items, etc. Kid's Show I wrote about here, and it's great, but it's about a 23 MB file. The other ones I've seen and enjoyed were the octopus, stupid cat tricks, the exploding "firemelon", and the second stinger test, which looks digitally enhanced. (Regarding that last item, the soldiers probably aren't yucking it up so much now that those weapons are knocking our helicopters out of the sky.)
octopus.mpeg - Octopus camouflage
funnyCats.wmv - Video montage of various cats being silly.
hummer.mpg - Hummer-fired antitank missile live fire test.
JavelinLiveFireVsT72.mpeg - Javelin shoulder-mounted antitank missile live fire test. (Even better!)
desertBikeCrash.avi - Awesome bike crash.
1short.mpeg - "Alright, are you ready?" "Damn skippy I'm ready!" (higher-rez than the more common firemelon.mpg)
kidshow2.wmv - A "TV Funhouse"-like fake twisted kids TV show pilot. Beat kids! [23 MB]
Course de Pikes Peak (Ari Vatanen).mpeg - And finally, to wind down, "Climb Dance". Goin' up Pike's Peak in a rally car. [66 MB!]
Jonathan Yardley revisits author John D. McDonald in the Washington Post (there may be a few questionnaire questions at the Post website--just lie). McDonald's most famous book is probably The Executioners, filmed twice as Cape Fear. I would say he's a brilliant writer but not a good writer. He could produce some stinker lines, sometimes in the same paragraph with the most cutting social observations. Even some of the sentences Yardley quotes are kind of overdone (the Meyer excerpt is first rate, though). I recently reread McDonald's two science fiction novels from the 1950s, and found Wine of the Dreamers dated but Ballroom of the Skies unbeatable. A conspiracy of alien telepaths keeps Earth in a constant state of war and economic strife to produce "Earthlings," titanium-tough administrators who prevent a decadent galactic civilization from declining further. I believe it's all true and the telepaths heavily influenced the 2000 Presidential election (Bush being not the Earthling but a catalyst for war).
Here's a sample McDonald passage, from Pale Gray for Guilt, a Travis McGee book from '68. Readers are invited to put more choice quotes in the comments to this post.
It had been a fine hot lazy summer, a drifting time of good fish, old friends, new girls, of talk and laughter.
Cold beer, good music and a place to go.
That's the way They do you. That's the way They set you up for it. There ought to be a warning bell on the happymeter, so every time it creeps high enough, you get that dang-dang alert. Duck, boy. That glow makes you too visible. One of Them is out there in the boonies, adjusting the windage, getting you lined up in the cross hairs of the scope. When it happens so often, wouldn't you think I'd be more ready for it?
Excellent Mike Davis piece connecting the marauding, raping protagonists of Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian with the recently revealed Tiger Force atrocities no on is talking about (from the Vietnam era), and by implication, atrocities we may yet discover if the Government keeps pouring on the counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq. Good question he raises: How the fzck is Bob Kerrey still president of the New School after it came out that his unit was a bunch of throat slashers in Vietnam? That was then, this is now, right.
Kudos to the Wachowski Brothers for making the best live-action anime ever. The concluding chapter of the "Matrix" series features a Starship Troopers-quality battle sequence with men in giant Mecha battle suits blasting away at boiling chains of furious robot Squids, and the climactic duke-out between Neo and Agent Smith recalls the never-ending, crater-blasting combat of Goku and Lord Frieza in Dragonball Z. Gluing the whole thing together is a mystical or theological investigation a la Final Fantasy. It's too bad the first episode created expectations the series could never live up to, owing to the late dot com cultural context and what was at the time a cogent social critique of a fake, media created world. As recently as Bush's staged aircraft carrier landing, the Simulacrum still seemed firmly in place. However, since then, news has slipped past our own Machine filters of the hundreds of US dead and wounded in a bloody, ongoing war with the people of Iraq, making a more serious, non-ironic drama about matters worth dying for suddenly relevant. As it turns out, Zion's battle against the Empire of Machines is won or lost depending on what the Empire wants for itself--its own interior conversation. How long will it take the U.S. to realize, as did the Machine City, that its own Agent Smiths (i.e. unelected leaders), growing in power, threaten the stability of the system far more than any struggling band of separatist humans?
Sue de Beer, Making Out With Myself, 1997, color video short.
Sue de Beer, whose work will be appearing in the 2004 Whitney Biennial, started her career with some fairly blunt, often violent imagery, circling around the theme of the doppelganger. (An essay I did on Heidi 2, her collaboration with Laura Parnes, fills in some background.) She is fascinated by the late-90s high-school shootings and adolescent trauma in general. Her 2-channel video installation last year at Postmasters, Hans und Grete, featured a male and female actor, each of whom played two parts: a Gothic and a "normal" teen. Highlights include a sex scene with giggle-inducing prosthetic ejaculation, the bloody dismemberment of a stuffed dog, and some seriously wack guitar playing, taking place mostly on charmingly handmade sets littered with heavy metal posters and bits of Teutonic kitsch such as plastic garden gnomes. Two stock "bored teenagers in class" scenes used sampled teacher-student dialogue taken from Nightmare on Elm Street (a discussion of Shakespeare) and Halloween (a much headier colloquy on Thomas Costain and free will with brainy Jamie Lee Curtis nailing the answers). The video shifts back and forth between good kids and bad kids, all of whom seem equally alienated, with much mawkish diary reading and eventually, gunshots.
An issue de Beer wrestles with is the impossibility of a true outsider stance, in a world where goth, punk, and goth-punk moves are heavily recycled, researched, and marketed. Like an art world version of Quentin Tarantino, who equates film and life, she makes no distinction between real teens and media teens, and the boredom we sometimes feel listening to/watching their existential dilemmas mirrors the vacuity of popular entertainment, from coming of age films to reality TV. It made little difference to me to learn that the parts of the script were taken from writings as diverse as Ulrike Meinhof's and Kip Kinkel's; it all sounded like bad TV dialogue of "disaffected youth" to me. Whether the kids shoot up a school or become CEO of Raytheon, they (we) all wade out of the same sludgepool of media cliches. The banality of the dialogue is belied, however, by de Beer's complex mise en scene mixing game imagery/sounds, cult insignia, scrambled architectural references, and pop culture bric-a-brac from both sides of the Atlantic.
De Beer's next work shows signs of brightening up: perhaps her trajectory will be the reverse of Cindy Sherman's ingenues-to-vomit trail. Below is an image from a new installation titled The Dark Hearts, "a nostalgic romp through punk coming-of-age in suburban America. Part road movie, part Mike Mills romance, the loose narrative revolves around two teenagers sneaking out of their parents' house to go prowl the neighborhood." Looking forward to seeing where they go (and she goes).
Shown here is Lord Norman Foster's original proposal for the Hearst Tower completion project (see previous post). While very much in the spirit of Belgium's Atomium museum, which resembles a giant molecule, Lord Foster's design was even more radical, taking into account environmental and social engineering concepts unknown to the earlier Modernist architects from whom he draws obvious inspiration. The left hand picture shows the building in warm weather, in the so-called "erectile" state, taking advantage of solar energy and prevailing breezes in the summer to cool the interior. In the right-hand, or "cocoon" state, shown as a greatly simplified computer model, the building reconfigures itself in the winter months, through an ingenious system of moving floors and flexible outer panels, to a squat, easier-to-heat shape. The entire building is open plan, which means Hearst employees would have a seasonal scramble to claim new work space in the reconfigured structure, thus breaking down rigid social hierarchies and territorial codes not just in two dimensions but three, possibly four.
On viewing the design, Hearst executives were not kind, offering comments ranging from "are you insane?" to "lose the Christmas ornaments." To satisfy corporate higher-ups, the overt molecular reference and shapeshifting design were removed, leaving a futuristic-looking but merely decorative shell. Despite the structure's incongruity with 75 year-old Art Deco "base" that is to support it, the watered-down project sailed easily past the Landmark Commission.
Artist Bill Schwarz refers to a certain type of architectural addition as "spaceships settled on rooftops." Above is a picture of the one that will "finish" the Hearst building at 8th Ave. and 56th Street in Manhattan. Construction was halted during the Depression (I'd previously heard it was during World War II due to steel shortages), and "resumed," with a slightly different plan, this year. I believe the original five-story deco structure is in the historic registry--it always looked oddly truncated, but if it's going to be a "base" for something, dear God, why does it have to be this? A compendium of articles here calls it a "lava lamp," but I think I prefer "geodesic sock puppet."
UPDATE: According to some of the linked articles, the "base" was built by Joseph Urban in 1928 and the structure never completed because of the onset of the Depression and the decline in William Randolph Hearst's personal fortunes. It was designated a Landmark in 1988, which means the Landmark Commission actually signed off on this turkey of a "completion" project!
UPDATE: I want to be as clear as I can about why I find this design ludicrous. I'm not opposed to "parabuildings"--Herbert Muschamp's intellectually dishonest term for add-ons usually motivated by greed or vanity, but sometimes just to pay the mortgage--nor am I some Prince Charles purist who hates Modernist-style architecture. The Hearst building is like mixing stripes and plaids though. Not only is the combination of building styles jarring and ugly, the Modernist top is a sham. The "Fuller-esque" structure serves no practical purpose, it's just modern-looking cladding over your standard post-and-lintel box.
The hiphop years: detail of F-Factor 2.