Friday, December 30, 2011

Samoa plays jump-rope with International date line

And I wasn't even going to post today...

But couldn't resist the story of how today just isn't going to happen for a few pieces of real estate in the South Pacific. As reported in the Huffy-Poo, Samoa and its little cousin Tokelau, will now be considered part of the same time zone as New Zealand and parts of Australia. This happened at midnight, so Samoans literally skipped a day ahead in their calendars.

They did this to be aligned more with the rest of Oceania, rather than with the United States. This also means that the New Year will hit Samoa first instead of last.

This may sound like momentous news, and it sort of is, but in fact the International date line, as you can see in the image, is a crazy twisted zigzag running through the freckled islands of the Pacific. This isn't the first time it's moved.

"...the Samoan government passed a law to move Samoa west of the international date line..."

I just wish they'd not phrase it that way. The date line moved; they didn't pick the whole island up and shift it west...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Alejandro Jodorowsky Leads A "March of the Skulls"

You know just from looking at this blog that Jodorowsky would be brought up here eventually. Apparently last November, he led a "March of the Skulls" in Mexico, as a kind of spiritual healing from all of the drug-gang violence they've had down there.

I confess that all I thought Jodorowsky had done was direct surreal cult films. No, no, far from it! His Wikipedia profile lists him as having worked as a mime, founding a French collective of performance artists (one show is described as "included a staged murder of a rabbi, a crucified chicken, a giant vagina giving birth to Jodorowsky, naked women covered in honey and the throwing of live turtles into the audience." Sounds like my kind of party), writing science fiction comic books, written other books, delivered lectures, and has created his own kind-of sort-of religion based on wacky New Age stuff.

Whew! One busy guy!

Anyway, I'll certainly be paying more attention to Jodorowsky in blog posts to come. Apparently I could have made this whole blog about him.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Kim Jong-il as Marilyn Monroe

From The Washington Post. Artists who were forced to depict worshipful images of the Kimster are now letting their real feelings hang out after he's gone.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Before there were iPods, the Katzenclavier

A cat organ is a musical instrument in which a series of cats are arranged in a row by vocal range, with their tails secured inside the machine with a keyboard attached, such that when a key is played the corresponding tail is pulled and makes the cat yell.

Referenced in this music ensemble posted recently on BBC news, where Prince Charles just thinks this is the funniest damn thing ever, even though they're only playing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" using toy doll cats (animal rights people, you can relax now).

Meanwhile the Wiki page on cat organs describes some pretty disturbing abuses of animals for entertainment's sake in general.

Would you believe there's a whole field called "zoomusicology", dedicated to the use of fauna in composition? There is an elephant orchestra in Thailand, thankfully with the elephants playing instruments rather than being the instruments themselves. And then there's Hatebeak, a death metal band employing a screeching parrot for vocals (and they still sound better than Nickelback).

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

First Act Of Live, Consensual Cannibalism Shown On Dutch TV

Well, that put me off my feed today...

Story here. I've heard of going to ridiculous lengths to get ratings, but this is above and beyond anything seen before. The meat is barely a spec, however, and easy to miss when it's removed from the body (the butt of one, abdomen of the other).

Bite me!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Vintage Tex Avery

"Who Killed Who?" Notable for being one of the few times when Tex Avery actually did voice duty (as Santa Claus, no less!) And you thought all Tex Avery did was silly sex stories between leggy showgirls and lustful wolves!

Everybody either forgets Avery today, or only remembers him as the creator of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. A select few in the cult following know him for Droopy and the wolves. But really, Avery was at his best when he was doing stand-alone stories, where he didn't have to stay boxed into one character's frame. Here he is again in 1949 with "The House of Tomorrow":

And just one year earlier in 1948 with "The Cat Who Hated People":

Yeah, still relevant today, isn't it?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Captain Beefheart - Still one of the most mind-blowing artists ever

This is "Bat Chain Puller" from a 1990 performance in France.

At Lyric-Interpretations, I already wrote up The Weird, Weird, Weird Story of Trout Mask Replica. This is the most widely-known album by Captain Beefheart, definitely his magnum opus.

And here's "Pena", from that album:

Don't just dismiss this as noise music. Listen to Captain Beefheart once, you'll think he was a madman spouting nonsense. Listen to him three times, you'll realize that in fact they were doing this on purpose, they meant every note and beat to sound exactly the way it did. Listen to him five times, and you'll appreciate a great experimental genius inside all that racket, somebody whose approach to composing music was so novel that it defies categorization or imitation, even to this day.

Here is Captain Beefheart's 10 commandments of guitar playing.

Rule 1:

1. Listen to the birds

That's where all the music comes from. Birds know everything about how it should sound and where that sound should come from. And watch hummingbirds. They fly really fast, but a lot of times they aren't going anywhere. 

 Here's a full discography, for further exploration. But now, I must leave you with one of his more accessible songs, "Ella Guru":

Friday, December 16, 2011

Buried alive for 80 hours and recovered...

"FBI authorities probably knew that it would take a doozy of a crime for a woman to break the Ten Most Wanted list’s gender barrier, and Ruth Eisemann-Schier was certainly involved in a horrific one. In 1968 Eisemann-Schier and her lover, Gary Steven Krist, kidnapped construction heiress and Emory University student Barbara Jane Mackle. The pair demanded a $500,000 ransom from Mackle’s father.

Any kidnapping is horrible enough, but Eisemann-Schier and Krist escalated the horror by burying Mackle alive in a ventilated box in the Georgia woods so she wouldn’t be found until the ransom was paid. When the pair finally received their money, Krist called the FBI with directions to where Mackle was hidden. Amazingly, Mackle was alive and in relatively good health despite spending over 80 hours underground.

Police quickly caught up with Krist, but Eisemann-Schier proved to be more elusive. On December 28, 1968 Eisemann-Schier became the first woman ever to appear on the Ten Most Wanted list, and authorities nabbed her just 79 days later. She spent four years in prison before being deported to her native Honduras."

This and seven more hair-raising stories on Mental Floss' Bad Girls Club: Women of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Brown Owl Keeps His Head

It seems that owls have this amazing ability to keep their heads stable in space regardless of how their body is moving around.

I can't quite get how this is any kind of advantage. Maybe so you can focus on prey while sitting in a swaying tree branch? Otherwise, unless owls regularly go sea-faring or ride amusement park rides, this appears to be a marginal skill.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Zardoz: The Review Is Evil But The Gun Is Good!

Zardoz speaks to you!

Zardoz (1974) is one of the top five cult films ever made, defining "cult" as "with extreme appeal to a very narrow audience". I love the goofy big lug. It's flawed and crazy and fried out of its gourd, but I have to admit that on the second or third watching, it still never fails to keep my attention.

You can buy the complete dorm-decorating kit from Hot Topic for $29.95.

And while such iconic images as the flying stone head and Sean Connery in his day-glo orange Pampers Pull-Ups are all over the web and memed to death, I wonder how many members of the modern web audience have actually watched this movie, actually trying to follow it. I can... up to a point. It's really not that difficult.

Who the hell designed this set?

Spoliers ahoy!

In a post-apocalyptic future, we start out with Zed and his band of brutal savages (the Exterminators) worshiping the great rock-face (who looks like he was peeled off the cover of a lost Led Zeppelin album) vomiting guns to his followers, who are just police for controlling the population. Understand that the whole stone-head religion hugger-mugger was invented by the Eternals. Zed stows away in the stone head and confronts these Eternals, who are immortal, and have one of two possible fates: either be punished for crimes against their own by being aged until they live forever in senility (the Renegades), or be good citizens but live forever until they are so apathetic that they're breathing statues (the Apathetics). Eternals can kill themselves, but the damn Tabernacle just brings them back to life.

The acid begins to kick in.

Zed goes on a magical-mystery tour within this isolated world of the Eternals, who bicker endlessly about what to do with him. Zed is pulsing with raw, juicy life-force which the Eternals have had pulped out of them, you see, so among other things they're mystified and intrigued by his sexuality. Zed decides, for God knows what reason, to free the Eternals from their existential hell by destroying the Tabernacle, a tiny glass pyramid that talks to people through diamonds and holographic rings.

Don't worry, Sean Connery doesn't understand this story either.

Right about here is where the story loses me. Things dissolve into an acid-fried psychedelic trip for about half an hour, during which things happening might be symbolic, real, dreamed, hallucinated, or metaphorical. But after all that crap, Zed destroys the Tabernacle, his Exterminators swarm the city and shoot all the Eternals, Apathetic and Renegade alike, and Zed takes a wife and has a kid with her and they all age time-lapse and die, for absolutely no reason except to tack on a happy-ish ending.

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius!

Of course, even as can be seen from the screen shots, I've left out a ton of details. but that's the gist of the whole thing. And you never saw an ending in which everybody's dead, yet works out to be so happy.

Yes, you must give us all a good spanking!

The intriguing aspect of this film is that trapped inside it are about three and a half good science fiction films fighting to get out. Hardcore science fiction fans will notice that in fact Zardoz simply seems to have eaten science fiction themes at random and presents them half-digested:

I am the walrus! Koo koo kah-joo!

  • Future overpopulation requiring killing off - reference Soylent Green.
  • False god used to keep people in line - reference a half dozen original Star Trek episodes, countless science fiction stories, and not to mention a certain children's fantasy which gives this movie its MacGuffin.
  • Division of society into elites and savages - reference the Eloi and Morlocks from The Time Machine.
  • Plants cultivated in bio-domes - reference in Silent Running.
  • Sex (ther penorz) is evil - reference the "Junior Anti-Sex League" in 1984.
  • Giant face controlling population - 1984 again. The film posters even mention that Zardoz is "beyond 1984".
  • Immortality sucks after awhile and will drive you mad - Geez, where to start? Asimov, Heinlein, Tolkien, and even Arthur Conan Doyle took a shot at this.
  • Computer (the Tabernacle) controls human population, keeping them alive but miserable - Once again, countless SF stories - I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream for instance.
  • Society of cruel psychics turning into a mental Big Brother dystopia - Again, half a dozen Star Trek episodes.
Please let this movie end soon!

I could go on all day. But it becomes obvious when you consider that writer/director/producer John Boorman reportedly wanted to film Lord of the Rings first and only came up with Zardoz when that fell through: Boorman (flush from his success with 1972's Deliverance) spent from 1972-1973 smoking hash and watching TV from dawn 'til dusk, along with randomly cramming science fiction paperbacks, and came up with this mish-mosh on the fly. You can even see where Boorman missed the opportunity to build upon these themes he plunders; for instance, no co-relation is drawn between the Tabernacle's control of the Eternals and Zardoz's control of the Brutals. There's also lazy plot holes, like how Zed, for a man who's educated through reading an entire library, sure seems to approach both jack-in-the-boxes and hologram-communicating rings with equal, caveman-like astonishment.

For my next trick, I will pull the entire plot out of my ass.

Yet there's still a lot to love about this pitiful and deformed witch-baby, because while it's biting off so much more than it can chew, it's also getting some big themes onto the screen that don't normally make it this far. Science fiction geeks love it, just so they can sit through it and analyze it.

...and the White Knight is talking backwards...

I, too, have bad news for the future: Zardoz will be re-made some day. Given the way Hollywood auto-cannibalisticly consumes its own tail year after year in recycled remakes, it is inevitable that some producer will re-discover Zardoz, notice its long-standing cult status, and try to fix it. It's only a matter of time. When that happens, it will be a disaster. The appeal of Zardoz is that it's goofy and wacky and insane and incomprehensible - any producer trying to remove that will wipe out the core audience's attraction.

But... wait... but how did... what the... ?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The mysterious architectural cult of Sheela Na Gig

All over Ireland and Great Britain are found enigmatic carvings of female figures displaying prominent genitals. Usually the figures are hunched, squatted, or crouched down, stretching their labia with their hands in a gesture that reminds one of the Internet's "goatse" meme (just with a different orifice).

Oddly for its brutally grotesque and exhibitionist attitude, the figure's motif is often found in church architecture, as well as decorating castles and other historic buildings. The mysterious part is that nobody can say for sure why, or how it incorporated itself into European architecture. It appears in history starting about in the 12th century. It is found in France, Spain, Scandinavian and Slavic countries.

Scholars heatedly debate the lineage of the figure. It is variously said to be Pagan, Wiccan, Celtic, or even related to South Seas fertility symbols. This historian makes a strong case for linking Sheela Na Gig with the mythical crone archetype. Meanwhile, fan pages are all over the web, such as this Tripod site devoted to Sheela Na Gig (Tripod sites themselves being a historical anomaly).

But the grandma of all Sheela Na Gig sites is, a vast resource dedicated to tracking down and exploring every corner of this strange mythos. Is it a fertility figure, a deity, an erotic symbol, a gargoyle, a demon, or a reminder of both birth and death? Perhaps, like all mind-blowing art, it is all of these, open to whatever meaning the viewer wants to project.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Deer With Arrow Through Its Head Survives

From Slightly WarpedThe deer apparently goes on about its business, not at all minding the hunting arrow through its skull. Either that, or it's a comedian deer who borrowed a prop from Steve Martin.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mr. T's singing career

Mr. T was basically the Mayor of the Eighties. And yet Michael Jackson out-charted him. Imagine that!

The Universe People

The Universe People would like to remind you "just say 'no' to chip slavery!"

"We love you and we help you!"

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Jack Smith's "Flaming Creatures" - a liveblog review

Here is my Avant-Garde blog post in which I live-blog every stupid thought that pops into my head while I attempt to sit through "Flaming Creatures" (1962) by Jack Smith (1932-1989), courtesy of (UBUWEB).

DISCLAIMER: This is an experimental art film that deals with adult subjects, NSFW!

Credits: Nothing says "experimental film" like the title card for the movie being a piece of paper drawn on in ball-point pen and tacked to the pegboard. Titles are depressing; I can't read them, the film print quality is terrible, the music is dramatic '30s canned orchestra that's all blurred and warbled and distorted until it's practically dubstep, and they go on forever.

Then there was a few minutes of a very pretty opera and a few people in formal wear standing around not doing much of anything, but they all seemed rather pleased to see each other.

It has now been about 10 minutes of women (and the occasional man) putting on lipstick. That's all, just one set of lips after another in your face, greasing the lips, moving lips, puckering lips, sucking lips, piles of women laying around on the floor idly putting lipstick on, another close-up and suddenly A PENIS IS ON HER SHOULDER and then its gone and more lipstick application, and more and more and more and then A PENIS IS WIGGLING and then another set of lips, etc.

Somebody with dirty feet is sitting wriggling their foot at the camera. Background music, as close as I can identify, is the Japanese version of Hee-Haw.

A bunch of women run back and forth in front of the camera, as if loping after a cab. By the way, I'm making assumptions about gender all the way through. Drag queens - I was told I'd be seeing some - are hard enough to identify in person even without seeing them in grainy black-and-white on a shaky camera.

A man has now caught one of the women and is dragging her to the ground. Another man joins then and the woman is flailing and struggling while he sniffs her armpit. The Japanese music is now growing on me. Now another guy and this appears to be a gang-rape in progress, woman screaming, clothes torn off, boob flapping around. This was what life was like before 911. Suddenly the action is interrupted by a rumbling, wobbling hanging lamp. More rumbling, camera shaking, random shapes, focus on the tree in the vase on the set but this isn't the tree's doing.

Now a whole pile of people, multiple males and females, screaming bloody murder while they all apparently rape each other right through their clothes and the earthquake or whatever it is. It's been ten minutes now of screaming, screaming, screaming, flailing, jerking, THE TREE IS STILL DOING NOTHING, rumbling, rape orgy, screaming like a busload of baboons being burned alive, more screaming, more shaking lamp. Guy wiggling tongue at the bottom of a foot, camera has been thrown into a blender now. I miss the music. I even look back nostalgically on the lipstick part.

How this movie got in trouble for obscenity I can't tell. Except for about one minute total of floppy penis and thirty seconds of jiggling boob, I can't even make out identifiable body parts anymore. Just shaking and flailing and screaming. It's like trying to concentrate on your cell phone while strapped into a car that is currently tumbling down the steepest wall of the Grand Canyon.

IT STOPPED! THE SHAKING AND SCREAMING STOPPED! The pile of people is so relieved and happy. So am I. Maybe that was supposed to be a representation of what it's like to be a sperm during an ejaculation. A dizzy women with a boob hanging out of her dress... oh forget it.

Things are heating back up again. The camera has gotten agitated again while the music suggests that now it's a pile of violins somewhere that's screaming bloody murder. Leaves fall on the body pile. Scene ends.

We are back to The Tree. I guess it's a cherry blossom tree or a bonsai marshmallow tree or something, in an ornate vase, lovingly framed in close-up. The Tree is the most likable part of the movie so far. A fly lands on the vase. What does the fly want? What does it think of this film? As I understand it, this fly would have to be dead by now. Does the fly live on forever in IMDB's omniscient database? Did the fly participate in the screaming? Did the fly ever imagine, in its wildest fly dreams, that it would be preserved on film for all eternity?

Sudden jarring music and a dramatic wooden box. The box is opening and apparently it's some kind of drag queen undead coming at us. The person emerges from the box and grasps flowers - the camera is still just randomly everywhere as if they strapped it to a hyperactive toddler and just let him go. The music is now a very enjoyable English folk tune I don't recognize. The undead drag queen is now apparently feasting on the corpses from the formerly-screaming orgy pile.

Wait! I get it! Sexual attraction = lipstick, sex = screaming orgy, conception = happy moment, gestation = tree with vase, birth = opening box! Ha! Take that, avant-garde, I understood you for once.

Confirmed drag queen: undead is now lying on back with dress up, flopping flaccid penis around. Might have been the same penis all along. Dude, your penis is a shitty actor. If your penis is going to be in a movie, the least you could do is have it stand up. I mean, if my penis was going to be in a movie, I'd be giving it a big pep talk and rehearsing with it for months. I'd make it get up every morning at 5AM and do pushups. I'd put a lot of pressure on it to make me proud.

Drag queen dancing a merry little waltz in front of that center-framed, prominent tree. I'm starting to hate that tree now. Everything else in this movie gets savaged and destroyed, and that bastard tree just sits there smugly. I hope somebody kicks it over. Now several people dancing in front of the tree (right, this must be drag queen's childhood after being born from the box, and now it's in school playing with friends - the metaphor still holds!). Count the props so far: tree, lamp, box. the dancers are all in mismatched costumes doing mismatched dances not in time to the music. One guy is dancing like he needs to pee. Knowing this movie, he probably does.

Suddenly the music changed to stock bullfighter music and a female figure in black is salsa-ing about. Armpit. Hairy armpit, camera close-up of hairy armpit, what does IT MEAN??? Shot from overhead. The dancing is frantic now, like those nature documentaries of what goes on in a beehive. About ten minutes of all kinds of dancing now. I'm beginning to expect another lipstick thing, and then the Circle Of Life is complete, The End.

The female figure (ha! I may not know its gender, but I know it's dressed as a woman! tricky tricky) in black keeps spinning around with a rose in its teeth. The crowd dancing now is almost moshing, they're rudely slamming into each other. Suddenly there's a languid woman lying there with somebody's finger on her tit, not moving, just buzzing the doorbell. I told you; the lipstick's coming out any minute now.

Woman smoking something and somebody who looks like the guy from "The Room" ("You're tearing me apart Lisa!") kissing on her. I almost miss the screaming now. No, I'm kidding. Please don't scream and shake for another twenty minutes. Now the music is cool doo-wop! It's like a '50s teen pop version of "Yessir, That's My Baby!" or whateveritis, I recognize it.

The lamp is shaking again, I remember that from before. The dancing is now mellow. Subtly, the words "The End" pan by, written in cake frosting or what, I can't tell with the film quality. Who knows, maybe my earlier interpretation of the meaning of this movie was full of shit. One last loving ogle at somebody apathetically playing with their tit, and fade to grainy, linty black.

Well, that wasn't so bad. I've seen "Blood-Sucking Freaks", you know. Also, at least it didn't have Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, or Nicolas Cage in it.

The thing that sucks about this kind of exercise is that it's impossible to write about it and not make it sound like more fun than it was. Really, even at its best points, it wasn't what I would call a date movie or even a fun night with the guys movie. The peek-a-boo nudity was not in the least bit sexually gratifying. This is clearly "for the art". It is also clearly experimental.

Really, really experimental.

The Robot God

"I killed Hitler"? Is that another story in the same mag, or did the Robot God kill Hitler? Why is that little white caption box just floating there? Answer me, dammit!

With a head like an angry toaster. Also, isn't this where they got the idea for the Terminator?

Sci-Fi mag covers

Spoon Power!

A classic animutation.

If this is your first time experiencing animutation, you might as well try to make sense of it from the Wiki.

Every kind of meat I've ever eaten so far

  • Alligator
  • Chicken
  • Cow
  • Clam
  • Crab
  • Crayfish
  • Deer
  • Fish
  • Frog
  • Lamb
  • Lobster
  • Mussel
  • Octopus
  • Oyster
  • Pig
  • Shrimp
  • Squid
  • Turkey

Inaugural Post