Mark Allen's Top Six for October 25th, 2004:
"Cream buns and doughnuts and fruitcake with no nuts... so good you could go nuts!"
1. The failed pie-throwing stunt on Ann Coulter
I've always been a weird fan of Ann Coulter, the little bits and pieces I hear about her, and from her. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, most of the information you can find about her is in the form of "I Hate Ann Coulter" sites. Although I love this collection of quotes from her books and television appearances (minus the ho-hum counter-comments). I dunno how much of her opinion we're supposed to take seriously... sometimes I think she's the way she is because the only way to rise above the rowdy rubble of right-wing political commentators is to be a little nutty (and look as sexy as hell - although I've seen a few TV appearances where she looks much harder than she does in some of her photos). I absolutely love this photo (from the official website) of Ann shooting a gun of a back porch.
Ann Coulter is a potential master at "media synergy" - a kind of kaleidoscope mirror funhouse mix of ideas and platforms that touch on several different mediums at once, right and left brain-ed ones, and are able to reflect of of each other wile pulsating through a cultural bloodstream and build in momentum until they concentrate into one white-hot, mega-wattage laserbolt of unstoppable horror/delight. Do I sound like a PR guy right now?
It's kind of like that super destroyer laser gun that the slapstick villain madman character (Chief Inspector Dreyfus) from "The Pink Panther Strikes Again" has at that secret castle in Bavaria, Germany. It had a complex series of small lasers that reflected off of little mirrors hidden within the weapon's core... which reflected off each other, over and over, and then met in the center to concentrate on one super-beam of power that wiped out the United Nations building.
Very few media figures are able to obtain this highly sought-after throne (that's size and shape shifts along with the changing media's landscape and logistics), and those who do obtain a seat at it, for however long, seem to almost fall into it by accident. Ann Coulter kind of has the makings of one of these people... certainly in her ability to give memorable quotes, and throw her right-wing political ideas into sentences that read like choice zingers from a really great, darkly comic, Tennessee Williams play. Eloquently outrageous quotes parade out of her jaw, with a seasoned actor's grace. On television, she has this empowered, un-hesitant gaze that sits inside an Aryan head - and looks straight forward at you, unafraid and willing to fight you with a big smile.
Certain television commentators are prime game for her... and make for the best TV. Immobilized by their PC-based mind-set, Ann's outlandishly shameless comments slice and dice through everything they hold true and dear, as they sit there getting skewered... kind of like the same way maniacal killer Leatherface eviscerated the pathetically wheelchair-bound Franklin character with a rusty chainsaw in the original "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Could I just sit here all day crapping out lengthy analogies? Yes... yes I could.
Ann's comments are often knee-slappingly funny, almost surreal... and her ability to hold her own in an argument comes from her experience as a lawyer. She wins on comic timing, grace, beauty, wordmanship, and being unflappable while spreading neo-Nazi ideals... the woman is a true terror, and embodies the original spirit of rock and roll (undeniably powerful but ultimately only symbolic rebellion).
Unfortunately the things that make her stand out also make her an easy target for those that want to dismiss her. Her comments and columns act as surfaces for wiser conservatives to bounce and reflect off, of as they drive past her to the finish line (similar to the way Zell Miller's slapstick speech was employed at the 2004 Republican National Convention). Those that love her see her as a uniquely proud, privileged spit-fire, with a big mouth, courtroom showmanship and not-so-secret Nazi tendencies to scorch the Earth of all those not fitting within her idea frame. Those that hate her see her as a uniquely proud, privileged spit-fire, with a big mouth, courtroom showmanship and not-so-secret Nazi tendencies to scorch the Earth of all those not fitting within her idea frame. Her characteristics; feminism, good 'ole boy conservatism, Christianity, Hollywood glamor and fascism... mish-mash, filter, refract and shape-shift all over her being... kind of like an assembled, unlovable Frankenstein's Monster.
Which brings me to the recently failed stunt by University of Arizona student William Zachary Wolff and friend Phillip Edgar Smith (members of the activist group 'Al Pieda'). Wolff and Smith attempted to pelt Coulter with pies while she was giving a speech in an auditorium at UA (the whole thing is caught on video here, warning: ad-littered, memory-heavy iFilm site). Indeed, the history of pelting political or public figures with pies is a long-ish one, and it has yet to be proven ineffective in tarnishing that person's image, as long as busy cameras are present at the pelting. It may be wimpy (you can't elevate yourself to the public platform they hold and debate them with words, or simply know you'll lose in an argument with them, so you pelt them from the sidelines with shame bullets made of baked cream and bananas because you just hate them), but it works. There's nothing more hysterical than someone trying to act dignified in an impossibly undignified situation, and if you're covered in pie cream, acting dignified is the worst (and often the only) choice for victims. Once that meringue hits your profile and the flashbulbs start whizzing... you're in deep shit. Even if you try and laugh it off and "go with the flow" whilst standing there covered in goo, you still end up looking to everybody like that pedophile with the house-arrest ankle bracelet who just moved in down the block. There's something about the pie's white cream all over your face that hides your facial features in the same way Japanese Butoh dancers cover their faces in white paint to remove all emotion in their performance. With your face subtracted... people just end up projecting all the shame and guilt they think you might be feeling right onto you.
But Wolff and Smith, gutsy and noble as they may have been, blew it BIG TIME by missing their target, reversing the power-hold of the stunt. Now Coulter's reputation is quadrupled as a Marilyn/Nazi-esque martyr. After briefly dodging the lolled desserts (flung from practically right next to her), she finished her uninterrupted speech to listeners who were of course by then on the edge of their seats... and she then got to quip the painful but succinct "From that far away they can't even hit me?" line to throngs of press regarding the duo's flaccid stunt, who ate the soundbite up and went with it straight to the wires. Ouch.
There are all kinds of pie-throwing-at-public-figures organizations, resources and manifestoes out there. There is the Biotic Baking Brigade, there is this wonderful article on the whole Bill Gates stunt and related tid-bits, and also this handy guide (thanks to Metafilter.com for the links). And as I've typed on this screen before, there are enthusiastic splosh and gunge fetishists out there who love this sort of thing for non-political reasons (whom I'm sure loved the Coulter almost-splat).
Couldn't Wolff and Smith maybe have come up with something different to distract her with? Like maybe subtly rig one of those plastic Fembot robot face plates from that episode of "The Bionic Woman," made to looks like Ann, to kind of fall off somewhere on the podium by her feet on the floor of the stage... just to see if she instinctually reaches up to feel if it came off of her face.
See, the trick is to get inside their heads...
"Long live the new flesh!" - Jandek performs in Glasgow, Scotland, October 17th, 2004 (photo: Heather Leigh Murray)
2. Jandek in the unbelievably 3-D flesh
Well in case you didn't hear the very Earth rumble beneath your feet on October 17th, 2004 ...it actually did in many small, obsessive corners around the globe. Once word spread through the web that in Glasgow, Scotland (at the Instal.04 music festival) a very unannounced and unnamed Jandek , (an weirdly renegade marketer/musician who has anonymously released homemade albums of spooky, amateur folk music from some unknown location in Houston, Texas, complete with cryptic photos on the covers and very little info, and has never once given an interview or revealed any information about anything or shown his face to anyone ...and become quite famous for it) took the stage and proceeded to perform a 51 minute set in front of a confused crowd.
Even after the eventfully non-eventful show was over, many people in the audience, and involved with the festival, still weren't sure it was him that had performed. He was never named from the stage (he was only referred to, even by people setting up the gig, as 'a representative of Corwood industries'), he never spoke, and the whole thing was a reflection of the completely ghost-like, passive-aggressive, simultaneously ingenious (many people think so) and infuriating (many people think so) aesthetic of his confusing, cherished quarter-century career as the most mysterious and haunting musician of all time. Only a Texan can command this kind of attention by (appearing to) do nothing folks, trust me.
WFMU music and program director Brian Turner said he got as many emails in his inbox about this event, as he did on 9/11. Is there a similarity between a famously hidden outsider music legend finally showing his face, and a spectacularly horrific terrorist attack? Maybe.
Indeed, a lot of fans feel that the world has come to an end, so to speak. It turns out that his last album, "The End Of It All" was indeed just that... his last recording.
I think if he had stayed so ingeniously hidden until the very end it would have been more "pure" and weirdly exciting. But it's not to be... I suppose this is one of the sad prices you pay for living a long time... seeing things decay and end.
"Well, I ain't making love to a bush!"
3. Ashlee Simpson's "Lina Lamont" moment on Saturday Night Live
In case you hadn't heard the story (three days after updated story: here), celebrity Ashlee Simpson (sister of Jessica - trust me, my regular readers might not know who either of them are) who's nepotistic talents in the field of standing up and looking at a camera have been celebrated in countless product-oriented magazines and websites for months now... had her own little Lina-Lamont-"Singin'-in-the-Rain" moment on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" this last weekend.
During the first musical break of the show, Simpson was flawlessly forgettable holding a microphone in front of her face and moving her orbicularis oris to a song that is on some CD that her face and name are on the cover of. But during the second break, just as the crane camera inside the SNL studios started to lower down on Ashlee and her band... and they broke into another one of the songs on the same CD... from out of nowhere, Gene Kelly and Donald O'Conner pulled a rope and, oops... I mean... right as she put the "microphone" towards her orbicularis oris again, the vocal track of "Ashlee's voice" from the previous song began to erratically play out of nowhere, over the music of the second song.
Ashlee yanked the "microphone" from her "face" in confusion and, darting her "head" around in wonder, she proved her true talent: ventriloquist voice throwing. "Her" "voice" (from the previous song) echoed throughout the studio as her mouth didn't move at all... amazing! Proving she's a spunky gal who's quick on her "feet," she tried to save the moment by putting the "microphone" down and doing an impromptu square dance routine as her pre-recorded "live vocals" from the previous song now mashed over the "band" as they haphazardly improved and strummed their guitars like oars in a sinking ship. For a second I thought Yoko Ono had become the musical guest.
I must say Ashlee's Seventeen-esque "street" ensemble looked totally "hot" as she sulked off stage in suppressed horror, before what seemed an eternity of darkness and dread as the show awkwardly tried to cut to commercial. I must say, it was single-handedly the most avant garde musical performance ever on "Saturday Night Live."
1. You can see a video of the whole thing here (CollegeHumor.com - link should be at the top of the page)
2. Also here is a growing collection of video links and even whole websites on the debacle (at ContemporaryInsanity.org), including a hilarious parody that resurrects the ghost of Benny Hill.
3. Also, here is another reliable list of links (TheMediaDrop.com) on this shallow scandal, growing and speading it's horror like airborn AIDS itself across the internet.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm no Scrooge. I'm sure Ashlee is a normal person (did you know bother her and her sister are directly from my hometown of Plano, Texas?) and I have nothing against fun pop music... and I know live performance can be a bitch... but c'mon commercial music industry! If it's all gonna be fake, fake, fake at least keep your ass halfway clean ...like the Bush Administration!
At the end of the show, the host (Jude Law) nailed the 1,347,075th nail in the coffin of SNL's respectability as a showcase of edgy comedy by telling the audience, with a completely straight face, "Hey folks... it's LIVE television, OK?" and Ashlee then did a great impersonation of a transient prostitute on "C.O.P.S." trying to explain a crack pipe found in the bottom of her purse... by smiling and earnestly blaming her band for "...starting the wrong song." Grooooaaannnn.... apparently the west coast airing of the show cut off the beginning of the flub where the taped voice was really noticeable, but weirdly went ahead and aired the second half of the disaster (maybe to coincide with Ashlee's explanation that it was the band's fault?)
I was actually watching it when it happened. I remember right as it was happening I kind of woke up out of a little fog and felt really special for a moment... having witnessed something so odd. I felt alive. It was like I saw Bigfoot or something.
To see a larger version of Amy's photo, where it looks like I'm smuggling a pillowcase full of Mexican quaaludes underneath a bun of hair in the back of my head,
visit Amy's Interweb of Radness here.
4. Jim and me were not hermits
This last weekend Jim and I un-hermit-ized ourselves (shouldn't that be an ad slogan for something?) and actually went out on the town and socialized with people. Shocking! Trust me.
We started our evening of talking to people at super-talented Ed Shepp's way uptown digs, for a Halloween party he was giving. In case you don't know, Ed is a genius and his music is a weird cross between Joe Frank, Don Pardue, Angelyne, Pee Wee Herman, Richard Simmons, Snufalufagus, The Butthole Surfers, Rip Taylor and Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel. You can hear a lot of it here (I recommend starting with 'Girl of Convexitude'), and a lot more of it through these links. The party was an all-out affair, as Ed's usually are. Jim got to meet Ed, who gave me an advance copy of his new Christmas CD which I of course think is brilliant. I asked Ed recently if he has thought about performing his weird stuff live anywhere around town, and he's working towards that actually.
Just like at Ed's last party, I spent an unfair amount of time talking to the lovely and talented Pseu Braun, who was also in attendance and was featuring a fantastically assembled "office domanitrix" hair-do. Pseu's camera happy and way-sexy Russian boyfriend was there, as well as some other friend of hers from way back in her Children in Adult Jails days (Jim was impressed when he found out she was a founding member) who was very cool and funny. There were actually a lot of cool people there... I talked with a lot of them, but I have this bad habit of magnetically gravitating back towards people I already know at parties... like some kind of strange attractor.
At one point Pseu and I were on the couch talking, and our respective boyfriends were in another corner having another conversation, and I really started to feel like it was a scene from "Bewitched" where Samantha and Louise Tate mixed martinis and chatted gossip in the kitchenette while Darrin and Larry Tate talked advertising business matters in the living room. Before Pseu and I donned capes and witch hats and sat up in the ceiling corner, invisibly watching everyone (which, trust me, I am prone to do at parties) I jammed a million more orange and black cupcakes in my mouth and grabbed Jim and we ran downtown to Vice magazine's 10th anniversary party. There was a total mob scene outside (according to Brian, who was there but we never saw him because it was such a mob, the door scene was very 'zombies attacking a building where people with brains might be inside' ...like fingers ripping door hinges off and moaning and everything) but we got in as quickly as possible so not to miss the migraine-inducing Japanese sludge onslaught that is Boris. But... surprise... we missed them!
The event was in this huge space on Hudson street and was packed to the rafters. It was so huge that it almost had a "corporate" feel to it, which was surprising for Vice, maybe... but this was counteracted by things like a room showing sleekly futuristic but very real Japanese shitting porn, and also a room featuring, literally, dwarf tossing. Jim and I spent most of the night in the back parking lot by the port-a-potties (no, really, we did) hanging out with our brilliantly insane friend Amy, who was so drunk and in such a good mood that she spent all night doing this weird interpretive genie-in-a-bottle gypsy dance with her hands and hips and half talking/singing every single detail of everything that was going on in her life to anyone within a 30-foot radius. I got to meet Vice's editor Jesse, finally in the flesh ...a witty and ribald chap, we had a nice long talk about Japanese noise music and heterosexual vs. homosexual dildo cleanliness while Jim held Amy's head as she puked a little over by some trucks.
Then it was to home! Ahhhh... a night on the town!
"Would you like to see some modeling? I bet you would... and I don't mind!"
5. Biker Fox!
Most brilliant photo self portrait gallery ever... in the history of this week.
Rah! Rah! Punch!
6. Horror Elementary
Hahaha! Oh God I love this story. I don't know why stuff like this makes my day.
Mark Allen's Top Ten for October 11th, 2004:
I've been watching the presidential debates avidly this year. The first debate had Kerry sticking to his facts and Bush kind of doing OK but then failing all over the place during the second half. The second one had Bush coming back stronger (duh!) and Kerry sticking to the same routine and also getting a little brainy. All through it, a lot of my friends (mostly Bush-haters) were always pointing out, first and foremost, certain verbal and personality quirks that George W. Bush possesses in public. Every time I hear someone laughingly talk about how Bush is a "moron" in front of a camera, I'm kind of like... I dunno... don't they realize every time Bush says "internets" on national TV (like he did in the second debate) without flinching that his support base creams their jeans? No I mean really cream their jeans and feel like its the very word of God?
These subtle verbal red flags have neutron bomb powers within their respective zones, and act as decoys for those un-hip to their semiotics, which signify unspoken rules. Bush saying "I've been hearing rumors on the internets..." or bobbing his head every which way in confusion during press conferences sends a POWERFUL message to his base supporters. In their eyes it says that Bush is a very real person, a simple man, with good, homespun values. He's lost in the "Hollyweird" world of media politics, even perhaps a little worn from it... but he's gonna keep trudging on despite how foolish he may look because "those people's" rules are irrelevant to the big picture. It's kind of an underdog thing like in a "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" way but with more limos.
When Bush said "internets" there was a pause before he said it, as if he was actually having to collect his thoughts to be able to pronounce it correctly (a lie - he knows it by heart) and then the word was delivered slightly slow, and pronounced with a subtle up-turn in pitch, like at the end of a question, as if he was actually asking those listening if they he was pronouncing it correctly. Every Bush supporter tuned in to those debates screamed with ecstasy and maybe passed out with sheer delight like those clips from the audience at the Ed Sullivan Show for The Beatles. It's true.
I grew up in Southern Baptist circles in Dallas, Texas for most of my formative years. Many of the adults I was around (at church mainly - duh) exhibited these characteristics. It's all an act, but it's a social grace that is expected within the clan. They pronounce certain words with a feigned apprehension and a touch of phony ignorance. These are words that represent NEW objects, places, technologies or social concepts that have not been fully integrated into traditional society for at least a couple of decades, but are nevertheless obviously very popular in the society at large, and that the speaker is aware of. It's a romantic unfamiliarity communicated with verbal cues. It's feigned ignorance that moves one upwards in those particular social circles. Weirdly, it's mostly the men who do it. Southern christian women can get away with saying new fangled words representing things not fully accepted by family values-preaching subcultures. They can just blurb out, without pause, "new hat" or "microwave" or "aloe vera" without pause. Women can get away with it because the traditional rules of femininity within their realms gives a green light to becoming familiar with new things quickly, and even talking about them enthusiastically. But for a man in those circles to say a word like "internet" with brisk ease, and no pause to collect his thoughts, is to seal the doom of his reputation amongst his peers.
Remember how everyone was mocking that Republican publicity campaign to change the words "french fries" to "freedom fries" in response to France's refusal to support the U.S. position on Iraq during 2003? Everyone was all "Haw! Haw! Can you believe the stupidity!" and loudly and proudly pointing out how truly laughable the whole thing was because the actual food came from Belgium and really had nothing to do with France, and the word "french fries" was just developed over time due to complex linguistic paths throughout American history. A correct rebuttal, but a total misfire. These people were impenetrable to that accusation. To counter-attack with such bookish brainy-ness was to only strengthen the original plan. In fact, whether they knew it at the time or not, upon learning this fact, it no doubt made their resolve that much stronger, and their proud smiles that much wider. To be familiar with how french fries got their name, or that they were invented in Belgium, would be very bad. To be unfamiliar with culinary history would be very good. My bet is that many of them knew all along.
Remember the first time you heard "shock and awe" uttered from a Republican's totally serious, without-irony face on television? Remember how you instantly understood what they were trying to convey, but you were thrilled and delightfully "baffled" at how stupid-sounding and clueless and parody-proof the whole grouping of words was? Sure did sound stupid didn't it?
Not that they're plotting and scheming... far from it. These thought processes are automatic. Laugh at Bush all you want, but don't misinterpret his verbal flubs as mistakes. They're affects. Trust me.
2. Christian Bale as Trevor Reznik in the upcoming film "The Machinist" (2004, dir: Brad Anderson)
Speaking of identifying subtle semiotics in like-minded individuals... have you seen, no I mean really, have you seen the transformation actor Christian Bale went through into totally unfathomable power babe-ness for his upcoming film "The Machinist?" Hooo-leeee shit! When I first saw the print ad I thought "Oh who is that cute guy?" and then when I looked up "Christian Bale" on the web, and saw that it was the same guy that was in "American Psycho" (a film that I saw in the theater), I was all "Who-what-whe-whow-whah?" Obviously, even though I have seen Christian Bale close-up on screen many times, honestly I never really noticed him.
Now, I am noticing him.
Wow... from boring and ordinary to sizzling hot and boner-popping... and all it took was loosing 60-100 pounds! I'm drowning in DROOL! My babies are on FIRE!!! A little male anorexia and LOOK OUT! Yow-wow-wow! Ain't nuthin' wrong with that BABY! OH! OH! Ooouuuhhhhwwwww! Who needs a defibrillator? Not my boner!
OK here are some more sizzling photos and a trailer and stuff. Here are some more. I hope my monitor doesn't EXPLODE!
You know Jim and I were talking recently about how animals like cats and dogs see "beauty" in potential mates. I mean... when a female cat is in heat, is she just attractive to any male cat that comes along and fights for her? If she's missing an ear and has bugs crawling around a spot on her back does the male cat get turned off? Animals look for certain signifiers that will insure their mates will be good providers (genetically or literally) for the young that will spread from their mating... it's all automatic and instinctual. So since us humans have overdeveloped brains that stretch and bend and complicate these signifiers... is it still instinctual? Since I have a gay brain that is obviously malformed because it chooses to mate with the same sex and therefore cannot result in an offspring, does that mean I am a diseased, deformed strain of mankind? Does that mean I can't see beauty, like a cat can't? Then how come so many gays are such better artists and writers than straight people? You know I saw a cat at a fair in Texas once that could paint watercolors with it's paws. Some of them sold for $100!
Whoa! I think my brain is overheating! Whew!
So I am all for this hot new look that Christian Bale is promoting for men: "patient zero" crossed with "crack/meth-head prison rapist" with a little bit of "dawn of the dead" thrown in for flair. Do you think when you get that skinny you can feel your heart beating in your throat all day long? I know mine is! *pant!* *pant!* I'm ready for all the boys downtown who will be starving for that fabulous "intravenous tube feeding" look. The latest fashion magazines from New Germania are already all up in this rad shit! Color me all over it! Hey dudes... I have four words for fall: HOLD THE PROTEASE INHIBITORS!!!
3. Taking one entry in the Village Voice's "Best of New York" issue to task
The Village Voice's "Best of New York" issue came out recently, which is always fun to browse through, and acts more as a fractured list to discover new things from, rather than an "...and the winner is" kind of thing where you either agree or disagree with what the individual writer chose in that particular wacky, insta-quipped, made-up-on-the-spot category (if you think it's a contest, or that any publication in NYC could be a debatable expert in all things 'New York,' then you're obviously from out of town).
I must say though that I took great offense at their winner in the food category for "Grossest Gutbomb." Their choice is: okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki is, as I have written on these cathode ray pages before, a weird Japanese "youth food" that is a fairly recent invention. It is made from shredded cabbage that is kind of mixed with flour and eggs, and often vegetables and chives, and then is fried like a pancake. It then sometimes has beef, pork (not pork stomach as the V.V. so grossly exaggerates), octopus, shrimp or squid pieces laid on top. It's fried to the point where it all stays together in one giant, thick disc. It's then dusted with this bright green seaweed powder, then has (Japanese) brown sauce and mayonnaise squirted out of those plastic squirt bottles with the cone tips, in a criss-cross checkerboard pattern across the top, and the whole thing is then covered with dried, shaved tuna flakes (Katsuobush) which undulate and curl from the heat and kind of look alive. I eat them all the time, and think they're great. And I can think of a bazillion other foods available in NYC that fall into the "gutbomb" category. But okonomiyaki as a "gutbomb?" Sorry... it's way too light. Whenever I eat one, even through they are very filling, I'm always hungry afterwards like after I've had sushi. The category should have been "THING THAT ISN'T REALLY A GUTBOMB BUT THAT IS SO WEIRD ANYWAY THAT WE THOUGHT IT WOULD BE TOTALLY SURPRISING AND UNIQUE TO CALL IT A GROSS GUTBOMB" I guess they thought referring to a (normally thought of as quaint and light) Japanese dish as a "gutbomb" was like ...really clever to them.
The place the Voice is ribbing on so much is Otafuku, who makes in my opinion the best okonomiyaki ever (and that includes the minuscule, ho-hum versions I was served while in Japan). They are take-out only, and also serve some other things like "squid balls." The interior (and store facade) are a carved-wood, fish patterns with marble eyes wonder... while you're watching them prepare your dish right there in front of your face, you'll be looking at the way the place is decorated and be all "Wha...?" Turns out a lot of these youth-oriented Japanese food-skewered-on-stick joints are decorated in a similar way. There are a couple of new ones that have sprung up on the main strip of St. Marks Place that have similar carved-wood interiors.
Hello four walls...
4. Don Ritter's "Vox Populi" (Jack the Pelican gallery, Williamsburg, Brooklyn - until Oct. 17th)
So I wandered into Jack the Pelican gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn this week. I've seen some pretty good work there on occasion on some of my escapist strolls. Anyway, in the back room of the gallery from now until October 17th (hurry!) is this great multi-media installation by this guy named Don Ritter (yes that's his real name) and it's called "Vox Populi" (stroll down for a RealPlayer movie).
The instillation consists of this elevated podium under some spotlights with a live microphone and a teleprompter screen with a scrolling, pre-written speech (you can choose from Martin Luther King, George W. Bush, Adolph Hitler or John F. Kennedy) - all ready for you to walk up to and start speaking. In front of the podium, on the wall, is projected an ingeniously seamless series of streaming videos of a crowd (sometimes viewed from far back, sometimes close-up) that are relentlessly shouting for you to "Speak! C'mon! Speech! Say your mind!" that kind of overlap each other in a deafening crowd roar - and their actions change according to different signals being given off from the microphone and the podium and the sound in the room. Apparently if you start speaking they shut up and sit there and watch you judgingly, and if you start to stammer of take too many gaps, they "Boo!" or deplore you to not give up. I think if you make it all the way through one of the speeches they burst out in roars of applause... but if you don't complete it they call you a quitter.
I say apparently because... well, I lost my nerve all alone there in the gallery on a sunny October afternoon... caught by surprise by the exhibition and knowing that the person working in the front office would be able to hear me loud and clear if I got up and started speaking. I was caught unawares, and I chickened out.
Maybe I'll go back. One of the reasons it freaked me out so much was I was literally feeling the tension, all alone back there, the tension you felt in middle school before you had to stand in front of English class and give an oral report and you had to go first because your name started with "A," or that tension you felt backstage on the opening night of that play you're in where you're praying you don't vomit on your choked-out opening line, or that awful feeling before you go on stage at that terrible club in Berlin that the dipshit, K-holed club promoter back in NYC booked you and your go-go dancing friends at, even though you just found out you're getting paid almost 1/4th of what was agreed on and you did some drug earlier that you shouldn't have and then you had some drinks to counteract it and you're praying for the music to cue so your nervous, nauseous, high, enraged, jet lagged ass doesn't just drop dead right there on the spot behind the jizz-stenched black curtain with the sequin fist and eagle pattern on it.
Ritter's work literally channeled all those past experiences and others right there alone in that room with nothing but electronics. I literally had sweaty palms. Would the guy working in the gallery office hear me? Should I be embarrassed? Is he used to hearing people do this all day? What if I make a mistake!? Gawrsh!
I noticed as I moved closer to the podium, that the people in the video projection started shouting and employing me even more to "...get up! Speak your mind!" and when I reached way up and tapped the mic a few times (to see if it worked), they amazingly shut up and just stared. Spooky. As soon as I didn't step up and start talking into the microphone, they started to "Boo!" and again harassed me to give a speech. The way it seems to work is different crowd sequences (using the same crowd of actors) are programmed to kind of fade in and out of each other very quickly according to what response is needed. And the sound they make is really overwhelming.
The only other artists that come to mind are Richard Serra, who in the 1960's and 70's created huge metal sculptures inside giant rooms... sculptures out of heavy flat slabs of rusted metal that leaned precariously against each other and tilted at really odd angles, or seemed to barley be able to stand up by themselves, looking like like they might topple over on top of you if you walked too close to them. His goal, among others, was to create psychic "tension" in a room, which was as much a sculptural medium to work with as the metal itself.
Also, in a show that I read about but sadly missed, and now I can't remember the artist name or gallery or anything about it except the article I read (if you know what I'm talking about, the artist or anything, please email me!) It was at some gallery in Chelsea (I think) about a year ago, and was this bare room with a hole in one of the walls about eye-level that was shooting a little flame out of it. There was a motion sensor in the room that measured how close you were towards the flame. The closer you got to it, the farther the flame shot out, and the stronger it got. Backing away lessened it... leaving it alone just kept it stable. Eek! I would love to have seen this show and I think the energy it would have created in the room would have been, amazingly, quite similar.
Here is a link with all the info you need about the Don Ritter "Vox Populi" installation at Jack the Pelican gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (it's only there until October 17th!) I highly recommend going... facing your fears and speaking your mind. Try to picture the guy working way up in the front office naked.
5. Best spam attention-getting subject line ever:
> From: "Kristopher Robinson " <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Date: Fri, 08 Oct 2004 22:59:27 -0500
> To: <email@example.com>
> Subject: why did you tell eevyrobdy i had adis?
> B;uy meds for 8O% 1ess than in regular st0re
> Or;der H;ere
> That thereby beauty's rose might never die,
> Tis hard to say, if greater Want of Skill
It's a liver-ing!
6. How foie gras is made
It turns out I'm a big dumbo about how foie gras is made and am even more lackadaisical about a food I was pretty much indifferent to anyway. According to a NYTimes article, which is apparently news to no one but myself... ducklings are literally bred in farms by the bazillions and force fed (via a metal tube) way, way, way too much grain ...like imagine a Medieval torture chamber for anorexics... so their livers get all fatty and engorged, hence the weirdly addictive high-fat richness of the end product. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently signed a bill banning the production and sale of foie gras in that state... which has chefs and farmers and animal rights people all freaked from both sides
Indeed that sounds harsh and cruel.,.. but I'm far from an animal rights champion. I dunno. The very first time I tried foie gras I was like "uuuggghhheeewwww..." and then after about ten minutes I immediately wanted some more. It's all the weirdly dense fat in it that makes your brain's endorphins zoom all over your skull when it hits your tongue... craving more on afterthought and treating it all precious. It's like crack for creepy snobs.
Maybe if they made those metal tubes that they shoved down those cute little duckling's throats taste like the equivalent of foie gras... like maybe smeared with the fatty liver of a lesser animal than a duck... I don't know, maybe an earthworm? Maybe if they made the metal tubes shoved down their throats have that same endorphin-rushing taste and food in them... maybe make the grain itself like that... all super amazing fat content to cause the duck's brain to go haywire with pleasure, then the ducklings would actually crave the tubes and want to be fed over and over until they couldn't eat any more and then they still would want more. They would be like fags in a gay orgy video with their mouths open all "...mmmwwwahhhh ooohhhwwwoooouuu... shove that shaft down my throat baby!" ...like unsuitable. They would be in heaven! I don't know... I'm just trying to think constructively here.
7. Mats Gustafsson + Sonic Youth + others: "Hidros 3 (to Patti Smith)" CD (Smalltown Supersound)
Mats Gustafsson is a renowned Swiss avant-free-jazz figurehead know for playing an instrument called a "fluteophone" (a flute played with a saxophone mouthpiece) which makes the sound ducklings probably do when being force fed with a metal tube in the evil foie gras death farms of California. He also plays the "contrabass saxophone," a similarly rigged instrument which makes it's first real appearance on track three of this CD, and makes a gurgling sound found way, way down at the sub, low-base level of the sound pitch spectrum (imagine a broken tuba being played by a phlegmy Godzilla in the ballroom of the S.S. Poseidon, right as the whole place starts to topple over).
This completely rag-tag, impossible, patchwork quilt CD captures, as best as possible, one day of music and performance from the Ystads Konstmuseum in the small town of Ystad, Sweden (part of the Kulturbro 2000 Festival). It "documents" a day-long performance by Gustafsson, the members of Sonic Youth and some others. Specifically, this is the live mix-down of some sort of set-up where each musician in a giant gallery space was situated in a separate room, cut off from one another, each playing their respective instruments - and the viewer was able to wander around the space each getting their own unique experience. Participants included Jim O'Rourke, Sven Åke Johansson, Mats Gustafsson, Loren Mazzacane Connors, Leah Singer, Lotta Melin, Kim Gordon, Steve Shelley, Lee Ranaldo, and Thurston Moore. It is recommended for hardcore fans of noise/music improv, and fans of musicians that are not afraid to do things that might be construed as mortifyingly embarrassing. And THAT'S ME! Parts of the performance included Kim Gordon giving Thurston Moore a haircut, Jim O'Rourke playing a cardboard cutout of a cello, Thurston improving over a tape of 15 screaming geese, and a rope blocking off the performers from the viewers with signs that read 'Don't Touch the Musicians." High-laree-us!
I of course eat this stuff up. This disk is over an hour long and has all kinds of fascinating and moody sounds and textural kind of guitar and electronics on it... real ups and downs between clustered frenzy and quiet stillness... plus frequent appearances by Kim Gordon showcasing her ever controversial improv vocal "stylings." The whole thing is a hoot, and I've been listening to it all weekend. In fact, I'm listening to it right now as I type this.
For even more unexpected "Huh?"-ness, take a stroll over to Kim Gordon's latest gallery art show at the distinctively odd Lizzi Bougatsos at Reena Spaulings Fine Art, 371 Grand Street in NYC. The show runs from September 17 to October 15 (hurry!) and gallery hours are Thursday through Sunday, noon to 6pm. The show is OK but certainly not great. This weirdly located gallery is actually right around the corner (sort of) from my house... and is right between some bagel bakeries and down from this weird pickle place. I wandered in and saw these "faux watercolors" of celebrities and rock band equipment (which look like photographs that have simply been put into Photoshop, hit with a 'watercolor' texture, printed out, blown up, and tacked onto a gallery wall). I was looking at them and was like "Haha! That's hilarious!" and also "Why is this weird gallery here on Grand Street?" and then I looked at the place card and realized it was Kim Gordon's work. There is also some shiny mylar strips hanging from the ceiling with some paint squiggles on them, and some dried leaves on the floor.
8. Freeman's alley, NYC
I have a couple of favorite, weird alleyways in NYC that look kind of like this at night, except instead of the dark leaves and bushes of Central Park hiding possible killers and gay men having sex... they are made up of concrete and metal hiding possible killers and gay men having sex. The thing they share in common with that spooky Central Park at night photo, is that they look kind of fairy tale-ish... like if you were to wander down into one you might find a house made of candy at the end of them, or some fornicating unicorns behind a dumpster. There are quite a few in the Soho/Chinatown area... and most of them look best at night.
The one pictured above is called Freeman's alley, and it is located here (you can't see it on that map because it's so 'secret' but it juts north off Rivington and ends halfway in the block). It actually looks best in the daytime (I photographed it at night above ...aren't I great at managing my time?) So anyway... for years I would always walk past it and kind of look down it and think of Alice in Wonderland or something. It just looked really magical and stuff. I think once or twice I ventured back there and found that there was nothing there, but that it was very well kept... like some of the doors might have lead to apartments or something. It was also well lit... which let me know someone cared about it.
So I was shocked this week to walk past it and look down and see an actual business at the back of it... no, two businesses! A restaurant and a gallery. Gasp! No rabbit holes? No little tables with bottles on them that say "drink me?" No magic beans? Oh well... I suppose it was inevitable. It turns out the restaurant (which is called Freeman's) is actually very hip (or was last week) and "ssshhhh!" even though everybody and their dog knows about it by now, and is supposedly pretty good. I poked my head in and saw that they share my love of old, decaying taxidermy... which covered the walls. There's a gallery called Silo about halfway down the alley, before you reach the restaurant, on the left. I looked around it... they had some kind of interesting giant color photos of some old doors and rooms... and a weird little white room where you could sit down and watch this kind of Todd Haynes' "Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story"-style rock video thing made with stop motion dolls... I guess it was all right I suppose.
The restaurant looks like the real best part. Maybe I'll check it out with Jim when he's in town next week. It almost looks european kind of doesn't it? It looks like something you might stumble upon in the back parts of Paris or Barcelona... it's kind of ...OH MY FUCKING GOD IT'S JUST A FUCKING ALLEY!!! WHAT THE FUCK AM I WRITING!?!? WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME?!?!
...including a heartfelt letter from the editor
9. Vice magazine's 10th year anniversary issue
Cruel and horrible. Brilliant. Highly recommended. I was laughing my head off at the latest issue of Vice, which is their 10th year anniversary and I guess is mocking every other kind of celebrity and media and consumer culture magazine that it is not. It's very "us vs. them," which Vice usually is, but more sly here... it's a flawless double agent, and if you didn't know better you'd think you were looking at the real thing. It proves it's point without once slipping out of disguise or explaining itself, mocking cruelly by simply imitating. For Vice, it's the first time the features and the real ads have melded together so seamlessly... and isn't that the point of any culture or media magazine?
You can check out the entire masterpiece online, eventually, here (you might have to wait because their online edition usually goes up about a week or so after the print edition is distributed... so keep checking back). Otherwise you can get it wherever you can get Vice.
10. Homeless people's bag contents (in the UK)
Ripping! Here is the link.
Mark Allen's Totally Minimal
Top Ten for October 4th, 2004:
Still too busy...
Must revert typical "Top Ten" format...
to efficency of...
bank hold up note....
:5 (5a, 5b).
Copyright 2004 Mark Allen
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