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I Didn't Write That!
25 November 2011
  Andrew Graham-Dixon: "Art of Russia" (BBC)

A documentary on something that my own education(having studied Soviet art & film, along with history and theatre) and work (Vladrushka) have familiarized me with, but perhaps you don't know much about, because it's not much talked about. Well, here's a really good introduction to the fascinating history of Russian art by Andrew Graham-Dixon(who also did the excellent Art of Germany). Enjoy.

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24 November 2011
  Patti Smith "You Light Up My Life" on "Kids Are People Too"(1979) --No, Seriously

Found utterly randomly, and that's why Youtube is one of the greatest things ever. Happy Thanksgiving!

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20 November 2011
  Detour (1945, Edgar Ulmer)

Watch and compare to much of David Lynch's work, especially Lost Highway.

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19 November 2011
  Oscar Wilde - "Salome"

A relatively recent production of the Oscar Wilde classic.



Text here.

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17 November 2011
  Monsters

Is there a single person anywhere near the Sandusky scandal at Penn State who could ever be clean again?

Yesterday, cowardly assistant coach Mike McQueary, the fellow who walked in on Sandusky raping a child in the showers and later testified to that effect(how willingly is in doubt), claimed he "made sure it stopped, not physically." We can presume, since he says nothing in his sworn grand jury testimony about Sandusky and his 10-year-old victim leaving--but that McQueary did--that he means the fact he was seen by them seeing them was enough to presume it ended.

So McQueary does not at least get the child out of there, even if he does not beat Sandusky to death? No, he left him there with him. Left a helpless child with someone he was being raped by. As he goes to tell who knows who. Sandusky had every reason to think McQueary was going to security or the cops, because that's what any even marginally responsible adult would do. Because when caught, no criminal kills and hides their victim to cover it up, ever, when given the opportunity. Like here. That could easily have happened. Terrified guilty people can do crazy things.

If McQueary in fact did go to the cops, as he now claims--though not under oath-- why not take the kid along, coward? There is no way to squirm out of this.

But he did not.

Investigators later made McQueary come forward. But McQueary at the time only ran to his dad, and once his dad said it was okay, he went to Paterno, who covered it all up. That's what his sworn testimony says, no matter what this disgusting coward says now. I say "disgusting coward" because I do not care how many excuses I see people making about this. He saw a man raping a child. McQueary's a big strong football guy. Sandusky was a 58-year-old man. There was no reason at all for him to not stop Sandusky physically. Shut up with all your rationalizations.

What I don't see McQueary's dad saying to him in the grand jury testimony-"Wait, you left the kid there with him?"

The interview he did with Costas has been much discussed. Like how any lawyer could be so fucking stupid as to let his client destroy himself right on TV--with his lawyer sitting right there, next to Bob Costas, as Costas practiced some pretty harsh and professional journalism.

But given that when 49, his lawyer got in trouble for impregnating a teenage client, I think he thinks the more we hear Sandusky, the more we will start to empathize with him. I think his lawyer, like Sandusky, thinks on some level there's nothing wrong with what he did. And if that's the case, the move makes sense. It's insane and will destroy Sandusky, but you can see the insane logic behind it.

The interview itself reminded me of Michael Jackson's defenses of his sleepovers with little boys. Truly scary is Sandusky's little story of the shower, which...you know, there's places even my mind won't go. (I'm not posting any links with this. Go look all this up yourself; I'm not helping put that picture in your minds) The manner, the tone, the phrasing in which he describes it...his tone is a wistful one. Not a guilty one. I mean that in his mind, not guilty. You can tell that he's barely hiding that this is a fond memory for him.

Jesus Christ. I think Sandusky thinks it's romantic.

In regard to this when I mentioned it on Twitter last night(out of which this piece was consolidated) Jeff Chon said, "That's why Humbert Humbert is the most compelling monster in literature." And that's correct. Nabokov, certainly, knows Humbert is a monster. But Humbert hasn't the slightest idea he destroyed lives, that he's killing a little girl's soul. He thinks he means only the best. And that's Sandusky here.

Possibly worse: There must have been a moment Paterno & Sandusky had a private talk, Sandusky right there possibly saying at least as bad as that interview, "explaining." And sounding all the guiltier for it.

This is your (depending what year you mean) present or former assistant coach. And a man you know also works with children.

Imagine yourself with that right in front of you, someone you know saying that kind of thing. Then imagine your decision is to ENABLE this.

What the hell kind of person is Paterno. Wonder about that.

I'm just glad Sandusky considers that sort of thing in the shower "horseplay." Prison will be easier for him. (And what the fuck IS "horseplay" anyway?)
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12 November 2011
  Robert Hughes: "American Visions"

The great Robert Hughes series on the history of American art.


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08 November 2011
  Rage Addict/Deadbeat Dad Rep. Joe Walsh Decides Yelling At His Constituents Is Good Politics

...and when you see this, it's not hard to understand what he must have sounded like as a husband and father. He yells impatiently at his own constituents within less that two minutes in this clip. Whenever I've seen him on any news but Fox, he always has that biting-my-lip-waiting-to-talk look like he could break out into a yelling fit at any time. That he cannot STAND to be disagreed with.

Well, all I can say is: his opposition now has their ad. He's scary and pathetic at the same time.

Walsh: these are not your children, whom you refuse to pay child support for. These people can, and now probably will, vote your ragey ass out of office.

I'm so glad the current crop of GOP that came in last year are mostly complete idiots. Walsh is simply the loudest one. And he's...not bright.
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05 November 2011
  Goldfrapp-"Koko" (live in Germany)

A big huge magnificent song(with music that reminds me a bit of Suicide or Gary Numan) by Alison Goldfrapp, live in 2008, from her album Supernature.


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  Slowdive-"Souvlaki Space Station"

A beautifully spacy song I never seem to get tired of. From 1994's Souvlaki.

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  Krautrock - The Rebirth of Germany (BBC Documentary)

An excellent recent documentary on one of my favorite music genres--which isn't really a "genre" at all--Krautrock. If not familiar, this will give you a good basic training in the subject.


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02 November 2011
  "The Hills Have Eyes" (Wes Craven, 1977) -Hollywood Bitchslap Review, 2000

(Not one of my better-written reviews, but eh.)

Wes Craven is maddening. I really cannot stand the SCREAM films--except the first. After that the postmodernism becomes an excuse for one more fucking slasher series but one that can sell itself to those too smart for such things. Along with Romero, Cronenberg, Carpenter and Hooper, Craven helped create the very rules of the modern horror film, and now he's killing it. This film was one of the most important horror flicks of the past 35 years, and stands quite in contrast to his current, smirking work, but is of a piece with it too.



The others of this sort would be best exemplified by Night of the Living Dead (1968), most of all, because it broke every conventional rule of horror till then, and since. Barbara goes inside the car, always the "safe place" in horror films till then. The attacker simply smashes the window with a brick. They hide someplace safe. But no place is safe. The threat has no cause, nor can it be reasoned with; it comes and comes and will not only kill you but(yuck!) eat you. Family ties mean nothing; a man's daughter dies and, re-animated, kills and eats him. Everyone you ever loved will now seek you out to kill you. And in the end everyone is dead but one, who is then killed by those who in another movie would've been the rescuers, and his body is tossed with all the other corpses on an anonymous bonfire.

Basically, kneecapping your psyche. This film ushered in the idea of horror as absolute, irrational, dionysiac chaos, unreasoning destruction that can only overwhelm in the end; the good guys do not win in these sorts of films, at least not while remaining good. One can see in these films the pain of the Vietnam era, the idea that one could be sent to die for nothing simply because some arbitrary authority said so; in a way "Night..." is a nightmare encapsulating the fear of that era, as Invasion of the Body Snatchers reflected its own--both versions did, really; I was shocked when I moved to the Bay Area how accurate its depiction of the Bay Area of California is. (Particularly toward the end.) The Bomb would be, in a way, another anxiety tapped here, indirectly--just the idea death can come for no reason, for reasons you cannot understand, that anything can happen, and you only have the illusion of control and safety. After Romero, after Hooper's weirdly restrained Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Wes Craven upped the actual violence, savagery and gore, not to mention the sadism. He'd show you what Hooper was actually not showing--there's less actual blood in Texas than it feels, less than in Psycho, even. Craven instead gave you the film you'd heard the former was. But sometimes he made a good one.

I've never seen Last House on the Left, but I understand it's not worth the bother. (note: I have seen it since, and it's even worse than that--it is one of the worst films I've ever seen and worse, it's based on THE VIRGIN SPRING, which I love)

Eventually Craven's films became steadily more cartoonlike, more distanced and tongue-in-cheek, culminating in the near-theory that is the SCREAM films. Indeed, it was he who came up with most of the rules he's so fond of quoting, so he ought to know what he's talking about. But they don't scare. I miss horror films that do. Blair Witch Project scared the bejesus out of me, I'm not ashamed to admit, and fuck anyone who calls it overrated. It was frightening, and it's been a long time since a horror movie scared me; damn slasher films, and damn Wes Craven for making the whole genre look silly. But recently Steve Bissette of Swamp Thing fame (ironically, since Craven did the film adaptation of that work), a virtual expert on the genre who teaches a class in the subject and has written and drawn(and written and spoken)about it for almost 30 years, quite cannily recommended this film to me, and I have to say, it was gripping and I simply must tell you about it a bit, though how much I can say without ruining it, I'm not sure.

The fun in this film is the unexpected extremity of the activities(but nevertheless, the odd restraint of their depiction.) So since I want to write freely, SPOILERS A-COMIN'! It's very loosely based on a true historical story. In the medieval era, there was a family of cannibals, the Sawney Beane clan, living in a cave on the Scottish coast, who lived for decades in an incestuous, primitive state with masses of kids and grandkids, robbing, killing, and eating anyone who happened past--eventually all caught and brutally executed. By the time they were caught the clan exceeded 48.Transpose this to the southwest a-bomb-testin' part of the desert in the present day(well, early 70s), reduce the clan to about 10, and make it the story of one family's victimization, and that's this movie. Oh, and they have walkie-talkies.

Essentially, a family who has been given a silver mine as an anniversary gift is stranded out in the desert among just such a tribe of cannibals, who stay out of sight till dark, then move in and pick them off one by one, starting with the middle-aged, haughty father, who is exploded and cooked by an incendiary explosive stick inside him. One can almost hear, "That'll teach you to send me to Vietnam, you fucker!" in the sadism of this scene; Craven makes the father rather authoritarian and an unlikeable asshole from the start, so his death is made rather a joke, particularly in one relatively restrained, visually, but emotionally wrenching scene where the clan(most of which have the names of planets, or gods if you prefer) is munching down on his now-flayed, barbecued body. We see his boiled face, that's all, but it's enough. Like David Cronenberg says, some things cannot be suggested.

But more strikingly here, the "Sawney" figure, the father & leader of this bunch of cannibal desert rats, Jupiter, rants at the body of the father, making it quite clear he is eating him out of contempt for his defeat. "How dare you come out here and stick your life in my face!" he shouts defiantly at this dead man. Jupiter is a striking and well-acted, magnificently dreadful and somewhat cartoonish villain, with a bizarre but fascinating "x" scar across his face(his nose split in two halves), caused by his father hitting him in the face with a tire iron when young. It almost resembles, in its stylization, some ritual tribal scarification, and indeed there are some that resemble this. He wears bits of his enemies as trophies. He looks like a Neanderthal dressed in bits of modern clothes, and people.

But more, it's almost presented as a class thing--nice perfect middle-class little blond family destroyed by desert hillbilly cannibals. This fear of "primitives," whether hillbillies or hippies(in the case of, say, Helter Skelter ), was prevalent in that time (cf. Deliverance ), almost like controlled, white, Imperial America was scared shitless of losing control even for a second. These films exploited and mocked their paranoia that for all their assumed sophistication they were still just monkeys like us all. They showed the nightmare you get if you scratch the fears of that time, which I'm not sure anyone much younger than me(31, just old enough to recall at least the tail end of that era properly)It's also bizarrely professional for what appears to be a low-budget production all the same, and the acting (particularly Susan Lanier and Robert Houston, who are frighteningly plausible as brother & sister) is first-rate. I must go on about Houston's performance a bit more. It's rare sarcasm works when deliberately in a script, particularly a horror script.

Houston's sarcasm is not only still warm, and convincing anyway, but the range of terrors he goes through is nothing short of astonishing. At one point, when telling the others he found his beloved dog gutted(the mate of this, a German Shepherd, exacts the most brutal revenge in the end, BTW)--before anyone else has died--he cries so genuinely he loses control; a tiny bit of snot even flies out his nose--because that's what happens when you really, really cry, after all. Craven does encourage you to care about the characters--which makes the deaths of many of them all the scarier. In a way, Craven is far more the traditional horror filmmaker than the relatively punk attitude of a Romero.

There are brutal parts to this movie. A gutted, skinned dog is, as I said, found at some point(interestingly, the credits very specifically state "No animals were killed or treated inhumanely in the making of this film"--and considering the extensive use of the two dogs as actors, that's a relief--but interesting they thought to say this before they legally had to). The father is burned alive and quite clearly eaten. There is a particularly brutal(but not really graphic, nor presented as at all titillating) rape scene. The revenge is quite vicious, but considering what's gone on till then you certainly don't mind. And the ending is very abrupt.

All in all, a true classic of the genre. Have a look. But caution--not for the easily-made-paranoid. Bon appetit!

03/04/00

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