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In an earlier post I linked to some sample tracks by BASIC and other musicians from humanworkshop.com, a Netherlands-based sample and .mp3 trading forum, which has just released a CD of site artists. Track 14, about 30 seconds of BASIC's "Narrow Minded Fool," caught my ear, and after a few listens I pegged a couple of the sources (I know, music nerds, big whoop)--"Accidentals" by Broadcast (1997), a kind of post-Portishead ambient pop outfit from the UK, and "Gui La Testa (Duck You Sucker!)" from The Big Gundown, John Zorn's otherwise not very good 1986 tribute to Ennio Morricone (or is it just that anything with a jaw harp makes me think of that?). I dug out those tracks from the crates (as we say) and did a short "educational" mix, consisting of the BASIC sample followed by Broadcast, Zorn, and the BASIC again, just to hear how everything overlapped. We're talkin' some serious chronological folding here, with the non-hippie '60s as the epicenter. [.mp3 removed]
One of the finest things about Paul Thomas Anderson's psychotic film Punch Drunk Love was the revival of the Harry Nilsson/Van Dyke Parks/Shelley Duvall love song "He Needs Me," from Robert Altman's pretty-much-forgotten Popeye movie. Duvall, as Olive Oyl, sings this ballad of co-dependency (hers, to Bluto) with a meek, charmingly off key voice, and Nilsson's perpetually ascending kiddy-song melody coupled with Parks' Charles Ives-cum-Max Steiner orchestation pretty much guarantee goosebumps. The song was the reason I bought the Popeye soundtrack years ago (but regrettably wasn't enough reason to keep it during a later vinyl purge). I was actually thinking about tracking it down again, so I could play "HNM" obsessively and see if the score contained other warped gems.
But now I don't care.
I heard it again today, in the movie house during the usual interminable string of pre-show ads. Fucking Nilsson estate (or fucking someone) sold it for a commercial, fast on the heels of Anderson's rediscovery of it--hawking what, I don't even know (shoes?); it was one of those concept advertisements where the product isn't mentioned, with a gaggle of teenage girls competing for the amorous attention of a buff tennis pro while Duvall sings sweetly in the background. (The next ad featured the Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want'," selling soda, I think.)
Fucking hell, fucking marketing culture, it wrecks everything it touches. (OK, Popeye wasn't exactly Ibsen, but it wasn't about selling tennis rackets either.) Fucking sellout artists (or their dependents), always needing more to live the lifestyles of "playas," destroying creative legacies and the unique auras of songs. Fuck.
Still working on this, trying to nail the continuity bugs (and lapses in drawing skill) frame by frame. I found a good description of what it's about, though:
I don't think it's possible to touch people's imagination today by aesthetic means. [Moody's dumb animations] are psychological provocations, mental tests where the aesthetic elements are no more than a framing device.apologies to bloggy and J.G. Ballard
It's interesting that this should be the case. I assume it is because our environment today, by and large a media landscape, is oversaturated by aestheticising elements (TV ads, packaging, design and presentation, styling and so on) but impoverished and numbed as far as its psychological depth is concerned.
Artists (though sadly not writers) tend to move to where the battle is joined most fiercely. Everything in today's world is stylised and packaged, and [Moody] is trying to say, this is [Spider-Man vs Doc Ock]. He is trying to redefine the basic elements of reality, to recapture them from the ad men who have hijacked our world.
Good Tom Tomorrow cartoon here makes fun of the "Sensible Liberal" who thinks it's rude to call Bush a liar and who distances himself from Michael Moore's rather effective filmmaking. Slate movie critic David Edelstein is a typical SensLib, declaring Moore "a blowhard the left can call its own" and implicity comparing him to Rush Limbaugh and Morton Downey Jr. (really climbing into the wayback machine on the latter). Does Edelstein really see no difference in Moore's incisive, frequently hilarious documentary and this schtick from the July 1 broadcast of the nationally syndicated Rush Limbaugh Show (via Media Matters)?:
LIMBAUGH: [laughter] Folks, it doesn't get any better than this. [laughter] Do you know something that's -- I'm sorry. [laughter] Oh, I'm trying to maintain my composure. The Democrats have found their keynote speaker for their convention: Saddam Hussein. [laughter] "The real criminal is [President George W.] Bush." Give him a talk show. Put him on "Dead Air America". [laughter]Believe it or not, I actually can laugh at jokes at the expense of the left, but the above is just supremely unfunny. Moore's film nails Bush and his cadre (including the media) and doesn't deserve all the mealy mouthed qualifications it's getting from the center-left Democrats. Fortunately theatregoers are paying the full ticket price ($90 million in box office receipts so far), unlike the left-leaning pundits who insist on a "Michael Moore discount."
LIMBAUGH: It makes you wonder who hates Bush more, Saddam or the Democrats.
LIMBAUGH: Let me -- let me ask you liberals out there: Did that image of Saddam in a sport coat and an open collar just melt your heart?
LIMBAUGH: All he's doing is reading Democrat talking points. Come on. Bush is a criminal? What's the difference in what Saddam says and what you hear coming out of MoveOn.org every day, or George Soros, or any of these other people that are out there speaking against George W. Bush?
LIMBAUGH: We killed his sons. We took his country. We put him in jail. He is still calmer and more rational than Howard Dean after he lost Iowa. He's calmer and more rational than Gore after he lost his mind. He's calmer and more rational than George Soros is.
An email for a "Bands Against Bush" event received late last night led to an orgy of random (mostly apolitical) linkage; here's what came up, some of which bears further investigation:
Cotton Ponies (boston garage rock)
cotton ponies download page (2 songs)
Googled "cotton ponies":
Deadly Productions Records (hardcore techno label based "in the Poconos"--reps another, different cotton ponies) w/ links to:
Widerstand Records (hardcore label out of Austria) mp3 download page listed:
doppelganger mp3 "Can't See Cali4nia With The Marlon Brando's Eyes" (Atari Teenage Riot-ish)
Leisure B & BASIC (nice neurofunk/drill track on mp3); widenstand mp3 download page for Leisure B & BASIC also listed homepage for:
humanworkshop.com (Dutch ambient D&B label) with link to sample page:human workshop 1
Stephen Moody as Stretch Armstrong, 2004
Another film I watched on satellite this week was Michael Mann's The Keep, a tripped-out, ultraserious '80s artifact, filmed with lots of Mann's (then) characteristic slo-mo and a pulsing Tangerine Dream score. It's horror, somewhat in the Poltergeist mode, with weird "living fog" effects and gratuitous exploding body parts, but nevertheless great atmosphere and cinematography. The plot weds a German-side-of-World-War-II, "we have met the enemy and he is us" theme a la Das Boot with a Lovecraftian evocation of occult Forces Beyond Our Comprehension. In 1941, a German patrol arrives in Romania to guard an obscure but strategic mountain pass; the captain finds an enormous stone fortress there, bizarrely engineered with the largest stones on the inside (embedded with silver crosses) and the smallest on the outside. "This appears to be designed not to keep something out but to keep something in," he says ominously. Soldiers begin dying mysteriously. Some late-arriving Nazi brass declare the casualties the work of a local partisan cell, and begin shooting innocent villagers to make an example, but the captain and other "good Germans" have figured out the culprit is a primordial demon eating souls in preparation for a big keep-break. Ian ("Gandalf") McKellen plays an ailing Jewish intellectual who makes a pact with the monster, not realizing that it is worse than the Nazis he hopes to vanquish, while brooding existential hunk Scott Glenn appears on the scene with a tightly-locked wooden box strapped to his motorcycle, ready to play his ancient, recurring role as yin to the monster's yang. Apparently Mann doesn't like the movie so it isn't the getting the DVD-release-with-commentary treatment it deserves: one supposes he doesn't want to take away from his really fabulous recent work, such as The Insider, Ali, and the soon-to-be-released hitman movie with that super-fantastic actor, Tom Cruise.