Archive for January, 2008

Infinity People

Infinity People
I’m tracing an imaginary line between each framed family picture as I brush my hand gently along the wall, slowly advancing up each step in the stairway that leads to the bathroom. The loud sounds of socializing adults downstairs in the kitchen grows dimmer, their laughing voices bounce all around the excess of cozy surfaces in the home—lots of drywall and carpet—and become more and more indistinct the further I climb. Combined with the central air system roar, their voices coalesce to a soft drone once I reach the top of the stairs…straining to peer down the dark hallway that contains even darker doors into the bedrooms, and an upstairs guest bathroom. Being the only 11 year-old at the gathering, I had asked to be excused to the restroom. The husband and wife who lived there (church friends of my parents) told me it was upstairs and immediately to the left. I turn and feel for the light switch inside the only open door to my left. My hand touches a fuzzy surface, mixed with a smooth coldness. Turning on the light reveals the wallpaper to be done in synthetic crushed velvet and foil—all in gold hues. I sit staring into the bathroom before I enter, my hand still resting on the light switch. All the fixtures in the bathroom are fake tarnished brass. The counter tops are bone-colored fake marble, with those too-perfectly imperfect squiggle lines in them like blue cheese. Wall-to-wall carpet spans the entire floorspace, with giant furry brown throw rugs on top of them anyway…also covering the toilet seat and its tank, which hisses slightly. I hear the muffled laughter downstairs getting louder. More adults have arrived. I enter the bathroom and shut the door.

The light…

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Swimming Pool (1989)

Swimming Pool, 1989. Directed by Mark Allen. Starring Mark Allen. 1/2 inch VHS; 6 minutes, 21 seconds; color; sound.

This was a spontaneous, solitary creation. I shot the video alone it at my parent’s suburban Dallas house one weekend when they weren’t home. Then I edited the footage in the (spooky) middle of the night, deep within the cavernous hallways of the University of North Texas RTV&F department editing rooms, with occasional help on the deck from anyone who happened to wander in. The editing was inspired by Jean-Luc Godard MTV, and the overall style was inspired by 80’s Helmut Newton Falcon videos. I added the beginning title just now.

UPDATE: That YouTube link was kinda harsh-looking, here’s a clearer version on Vimeo (linked above too). If you still want the old YT version it’s here.

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What Would It Be Like To Be a WFMU DJ on Another Planet?

Wfmuonotherplanets What would it be like to be a WFMU DJ on another planet? Let’s explore the possibility, using the planets of our own solar system as examples! We’ll begin with the farthest-away, newly demoted “dwarf planet.” If the four floors (and don’t forget the basement) of the WFMU in building in Jersey City was to be planted firmly on the ground somewhere in the middle of Pluto (a solid 70% rock, and 30% ice), and you were broadcasting from that building, you’d find little light, few friends, and would probably be complaining about the building’s heating system not working right. It would no doubt be remarkably lonely doing a radio show, literally billions and billions of miles away from the “WFMU 91.1 FM East Orange, WXHD Mount Hope, and wfmu.org on the web” that existed for you on Earth as a station ID only…yet now is oh so very far away (overnight shift anyone?). But whatever you do, make sure you don’t step your suicidal outer space self outside onto the deck of Studio A for a cigarette break, or step outside at all, because Pluto’s atmosphere is extremely tenuous, consisting mostly of nitrogen, carbon monoxide and methane (plus wear a hat, it’s 508 degrees below zero fahrenheit). But, feel free to throw on a long Stockhausen CD and go look out the studio windows pensively—Pluto seems designed for such daydream-y behavior. The glow of Pluto’s frozen methane, ethane and carbon monoxide “lakes” will look stunning from the second story atrium window as well, as they reflect sunlight coming from 3,670,050,000 miles away (give an take a million, due to Pluto’s notoriously erratic orbit path). As for Neptune

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Raw Mudland Killers (1989)


Raw Mudland Killers, 1989. Directed by Mark Allen and Eddie Holland. Written by Mark Allen. Starring Thomas Vasquez, Michelle Simmons, Cary Adams, David Lamb, Eddie Holland, Mark Allen. 1/2 inch VHS; 5 minutes, 58 seconds; color; sound.

Here is a piece of video art (really a short film, shot on video) that I did in 1989. It was written and directed by me, with tons of assistance from my whiz-kid college friend Eddie Holland. It stars my friends Thomas Vasquez, Michelle Simmons, Cary Adams, David Lamb, Eddie Holland and me (there’s even a partially-obscured cameo by Trey Angles). PLOT: two filmmakers begin arguing over the aesthetics of their latest collaborative project, and a violent crime is committed.

The film itself—a strange spoof in the worst taste imaginable—is an osmosis of the mindsets of me and my friends at the time. All of us were art and film students at the University of North Texas, in Denton, Texas, and spent a lot of time bantering about art theory, philosophy and the omnipresence of pop culture. Although I’d hate to think this film represents our brains. The results here aren’t exactly Artforum critical theory…more like Cracked.

The film-within-a-film-within-a-film opening is a homage to Jean-Luc Godard (subtitles…get it? Haha?), particularly his film Weekend, with me as the bossy director and my friends Cary and David playing hapless actors blinded by cartoon eyes I’d taped to their faces (a reference to Annie, the musical Broadway version). Thomas and Michelle play the filmmakers who are arguing over the pre-edited dailies of said film and, when they run out of hackneyed crit-quote catch-phrases to use, just resort to violence.

The too-much Madonna reference is supposed to be a joke about the too-much use of rock music in films and television at the time (a lazy way for directors to get emotional mileage with audiences, instead of plot or character development), as well as the still-peaking influence of MTV in the late 80’s. The joke was that, instead of the rock music eventually drowning out the film, wouldn’t it be funny if the rock video itself just started to replace the action on screen? Haha? Get it? Like a lot of irony-infused, dripping-in-quotation-mark concepts of the era, the results don’t exactly communicate well (it’s not that we weren’t bri-i-i-i-i-illiant). A few of us also had a Warhol-ish Madonna obsession at the time, aided immeasurably by Sonic Youth’s Ciccone Youth project that came out the year before.

The cultural value of “appropriation” was also a hot topic for us. We were fascinated with the plagaristic pranks of artist like Sherri Levine and Michael Bidlo (although unlike them, when I submitted this film to a festival that year I obediently went through the proper channels at Warner Brothers to obtain a lawyer’s written permission to include the rock video footage for non-profit exhibition only—Viva la Revolucion!). There’s also a stack of Pepsi cans that Michelle knocks into like a bowling ball—that was supposed to be a jab at commercial product placement (again…haha?). The mood of the film was also influenced by Raymond Pettibon’s shot-on-VHS film Weatherman ‘69, which had just begun circulating around on shared VHS tapes.

I love looking at this now because it’s really flavored by the town of Denton, Texas (even if just barely) and shows one of the many rambling old ranch-style houses with crooked tile floors and fake wood paneled walls that I lived in with my friends, some of who are in this cast. This was the first video project I ever did that I got to edit on a real video editing deck (UNT’s facilities), the mechanics of which Eddie helped with greatly. Our original idea for the story was supposed to be much longer (the additional footage can be seen in the fake dailies scenes), but when we ran out of time and money, Eddie and I wrapped everything up with cheap plot tricks, in the true B-movie tradition. Then, the whole thing was flippantly given the nonsensical title Raw Mudland Killers, to give it pointless camp cache.

*Ugh!* What a post-modern mess!

I submitted this film to a Dallas festival that year, and I remember being surprised it didn’t make it in (especially since I had a few friends on the judge panel, *wink wink*). My friends later told me that some of the women on the panel thought the film was “horribly misogynistic” (gee, I wonder why?) and refused to allow it. My friends at school, male and female (and some that were in the film), didn’t have that opinion. Even deep in the heart of Texas, we all slavishly followed the bombastically humorous films of artists like Herschel Gordon Lewis, Richard Kern and Russ Meyer with great enthusiasm, obviously, and pretty much viewed criticisms of that nature as road blocks to great work. Oh well…I guess bohemia is a bubble, at least it used to be.

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Camille’s latest…

Ohh…Camille Paglia answered my letter in her latest Salon column (see here for my letter at the bottom, the following page contains her response). I feel just like a 70’s suburban housewife who’s letter was answered in an Ann Landers newspaper column, and then clips 100 copies and proudly dashes around her neighborhood showing everyone. That’s because I am! I love how Camille’s entire column is serious talk about geopolitics, and my letter at the end is gushing fandom for an obscure British comedy from 20 years ago.

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Three Textures and a Conversation (1985)

Three Textures and a Conversation, 1985. Directed by Mark Allen. Starring Douglas Martin, Dave Smith. 1/2 inch VHS; 2 minutes, 21 seconds; color; sound.

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A Mathematical Equation Calculating the Current State of Gay New York (part XI)

This is part eleven of an ongoing mathematical equation attempting to calculate the current state of Gay New York. As each portion is finished it will be added to the final equation in the appropriate place. The final equation is collected here.

plusOscar Wilde's The Importance of Being EarnestplusQuentin Crisp's The Naked Civil ServantplusJames Baldwin's Giovanni's RoomplusSusan Sontag's Notes on Camp plusa cluemultiplied bya bunch of other stuffplusOneplusAfter DarkplusOutweekplusDiseased Pariah Newsplusthe side of a cereal boxpluswienerspluspornplusa billboardplusHX magazineplusNext magazine

plusjust using the internetplusbrainsplusvisionplusperspectiveplusstyleplusa mall

plusnothingplusnothingplusnothingplusLance Bass's Out of SyncplusomgBICH c blog w/gr8 ASS? plz wtf?lol w/e g2gplusgay New York City now

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