Saturday, May 23, 2009

Dead Weather, belated interview video.

Dead Weather. Jack goes through the origin myth in this video from 04/16/09. Sorry, you have to endure an ad to see the actual footage.



Little Jack Lawrence, on the left, appears to be half-sphinx, half man. Of course sphinges are already half-man, so I guess he's actually quarter-cat, three-quarter-man. The cat side appears mostly in the posture and facial expressions, of which he has exactly one each. When Jack explains at great and expanded length about how he can't sit still, my eyes kept wandering to Little Jack, who is doing an almost monklike job of sitting quite alarmingly preternaturally still.

I found this via Jack the White (jtw.seesaa.net), the best place on the nets to find Jack White news. Yes, it is entirely in Japanese. But it does have a translate this page into English button that sort of works, and even when it doesn't it just makes the page funnier. And anyway, what famous people are doing is almost always more interesting when written in Japanese, unless you are Japanese in which case I imagine it's much more exciting in English.

While I'm on about Jack White I'd just like to add that I bought a copy of the White Stripes' Icky Thump. It has a warning on it, "unauthorized copying is punishable under federal law." You know how much I hate to be preached at by fucking record covers. I don't have to buy these things, you know. If I never buy another piece of music again it won't hamper me in any way whatsoever. I'm paying because I have some vague sentimental feeling for the musicians. But if you can't at least keep the CD covers free of your polemics, I'll just do without them.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

You had me at 'Hello'

Talking of occult philosophy, here's a picture of an autograph penned by Jimmy Page.



93 93/93 is an Aleister Crowley-approved quick way to write, "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law, love under will." Which is a slow way to write "Greetings".

Here's the explanation. I assume the autographee was a casual acquaintance - good friends don't ask for autographs usually. But it's still interesting that Jimmy Page can spell "Greetings" in his fan's native tongue. I think.

I don't know where the picture originally came from, or whether the owner is claiming copyright, so if it's being distributed without their knowledge, perhaps they could drop me a line and I'll remove it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Horrors

I got over my snit about being accused of music piracy by the very cover art that contained the proof of purchase, and listened to my The Horrors CDs today. I was advised to watch out by one friend because she felt they sounded unpleasantly like A Flock of Seagulls. I doubted that, but now I've listened I have to admit she has a bit of a point. There is a certain synthesizeriness to Primary Colours that does recall the 80s. But there's a big difference between their first, Strange House, and the new one. They're evolving, and not necessarily in the direction I want them to evolve.

How to describe Primary Colours?

Imagine you're at a traveling funfair or maybe a circus. The funfair has set itself up on a dusty field of stubble. There's a midway, with the usual attractions – darts, air-rifles with feathered flechettes to shoot at those trains of flat metal ducks, a coconut shy, hamburgers in fat white buns, sweet yellow popcorn in paper cones. There are balloons to pop and goldfish to win if you pitch a ping-pong ball into the right bowl. It's night and the lights of the fair are too bright, too white, glaring spotlights narrowed by the pitch dark of the sky beyond. It's warm with truck exhaust and lights and crowds, but you can sense the frost on the hills all around you in the distance. There's the usual smell of diesel and fried onions, but you can just barely catch the scent of wild tarragon on the cold breeze as you pass the gaps between the generators that form a henge in the gloom beyond the food trucks. At one point you hear a sound that might be a snatch of synthesized pop from the Waltzer or even the scrape of one of the bumper-cars' contact bars on the electrified mesh of the ceiling, but it certainly sounds like a wolf howling.

Now imagine Joy Division (for it is they) are walking down the midway, eating cotton candy. A few feet behind, three dead-eyed red-nosed clowns are following them, quietly and purposefully. At least one of the clowns appears to have very sharp teeth - very long teeth, at that. A raven-haired woman with a low-cut bodice opens the door of a gypsy vardo and stands at the top of the steps, hands on hips. You can see a color TV behind her, but the flickering picture makes no sense to you. She beckons one of the band over and he stops, hesitating, and then strides towards her, taking his hands out of his pockets as he increases his pace. You notice she has three breasts. You lose track of the rest of them in the crowds of Teds and Greasers at the foot of the Helter Skelter.

The members of Joy Division who survive that night with their minds intact, be they alive or be they dead, become The Horrors and they write and record this album, "Primary Colours".

"Strange House", subtitled "Psychotic Sounds for Freaks and Weirdoes" was a much more straightforward Goth album. It could have been recorded by a different band. It sounds like London Music Hall performed by crazy people with access to a Farfisa organ and possessed of (American) post-punk chops. Max Wall meets Crocodile Rock on Bedlam Night at CBGB. Some tracks, the Horrors' Theme in particular, resemble Max and the nutcases tackling a strange subterranean arrangement of Telstar. Schizophrenic Surf.

I have to say I like the bass-playing on Primary Colours in particular (they swapped instruments around between albums). It reminds me of Peter Hook mixed with Massive Attack. I like Massive Attack. And I like Peter Hook. Both albums are growing on me[1].

Website: http://thehorrors.co.uk/ Warning: plays sound.

[1] Ahh! Get it off me!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dutch Masters of Cheese and occult philosophy

My local supermarket sells Dutch Masters - of cheese. I usually buy Rembrandt Cheese - I mean, who wouldn't? But yesterday they were selling my favorite Dutch Master, Mondrian.



Piet Mondrian (1872 to 1944) was a Dutch artist who developed a non-representational style called Neoplasticism. Although he passed through a vaguely Cubist phase, he was not a true cubist. He was a Theosophist, studying the work of Madame Blavatsky, and he developed his abstract art as he developed his spiritual philosophy. He believed that it was possible to render the true nature behind the actual form of a thing. Only the simplest possible elements were allowed, in order to get as close as possible to the ideal. Horizontal and vertical lines in black, filled with blocks of primary color or white, laid out with intuitive artistry, were the closest one can come to representing this underlying truth.

According to the Tate Gallery's online article on Neoplasticism, his essay 'Neo-Plasticism in Pictorial Art' sums up his artistic philosophy: 'As a pure representation of the human mind, art will express itself in an aesthetically purified, that is to say, abstract form …The new plastic idea cannot therefore, take the form of a natural or concrete representation … this new plastic idea will ignore the particulars of appearance, that is to say, natural form and colour. On the contrary it should find its expression in the abstraction of form and colour, that is to say, in the straight line and the clearly defined primary colour'.

According to Hermetic.com, in this review of the Book of Dyzan Theosophy was considered by Aleister Crowley to be a natural cousin of his philosophy, Thelema.

Crowley recognized Blavatsky as a Sister of the A\A\[...] specifically pointing her out as his immediate predecessor in "The Temple of Truth," published in The Heart of the Master through O.T.O. in 1938. He thought it especially noteworthy that he was born in the same year that the Theosophical Society was inaugurated. Crowley reissued Blavatsky's Voice of the Silence (Extracts from the Book of the Golden Precepts, including "The Two Paths" and "The Seven Portals") with his own commentary as Liber LXXI, a Class B publication of A\A\.
While Crowley boasted that O.T.O. was "the first of the great Old Aeon orders to accept the Law of Thelema," he evidently hoped that the Theosophical Society might be the second. In his Confessions, he claimed that the publication of Liber LXXI in the eleventh number of The Equinox was intended "to bring back Theosophists to the true principles of their founder."



With Theo Van Doesburg, Mondrian founded the Dutch movement called De Stijl.
So, I'm going to eat some cheese and listen to the White Stripes album of the same name. I deserve it after Six Degrees of Separationing Jack White and Aleister Crowley in only four steps.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Throw Rag

I was reminiscing recently, as one does, about great gigs I have known and recalled the sweaty hours spent watching the inestimable Throw Rag. These guys are among my very top favorite bands, and like many, are even better live than on record.

I've seen the band in Southern CA, their preferred haunt, about twenty times. I got a demo tape many years ago, which has since been transferred to digital and played into the ground, and later their stunning first CD Tee Tot, which was pressed into my hands anonymously as I was walking between the trees at work, as if it were a Russian Spy code drop, presumably ultimately deriving from Captain Sean himself. Since then the freebies have died down but the band hasn't, gigging furiously and gaining reputation.

Throw Rag are a force of nature, with far more energy than one could reasonably expect from a handful of human beings. Loud, joyous in a non-trivial way and more punk than a 100 Club full of punks, they have to be experienced to be believed.

I checked their web page yesterday, and of course I've just missed them. (It's time bands mastered RSS feeds so I could stay on top of this stuff.) I checked Amazon and there's another album out, which I will now buy.

Here's Lady Boo, an early tune found on Tee Tot and my absolute favorite from that album. The Captain is in full flow on this one, though the sound leaves something to be desired.



Second Place
Desert Shores

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Typing

Someone challenged me to a duel, so...

68 words

Speed test



And how fast are you?

Care Parcel

My Care Parcel arrived from Amazon today. How I love opening their little boxen and taking out the CDs inside.

Today I received The Kills' Midnight Boom, which I already know pretty well, and two new ones, The Horrors' Strange House and Primary Colours. The Horrors have already pissed me off by having an FBI anti-piracy warning on the outer cover. Look, I bought your fucking CD, all right? Why ruin packaging that belongs to me, is my space, the space for you to entertain me if you want me to pay for your tunes, with a fatuous threat over something I clearly haven't done, otherwise I wouldn't be holding the cover in my hands? Bastards. Anyway, you're English, so why an FBI warning and not a Plod warning or an Interpol warning? Double bastards.

When I get over the effrontery of being threatened in my own house by record company drones who are relying on me for the food they eat, I'll listen to the CDs and give a heads up.

Monday, May 11, 2009

May the funny be with you




Star Wars/Disney ad Campaign - with some funny takes on air travel. Queen Amidala is cool. Wonder if that 'elected-queen-thingy' position of hers pays for extra baggage?



Many more funnies at Standardatl (link has decayed and been removed 07/17).

Sunday, May 10, 2009

(44016) Jimmypage

I found out today that Jimmy Page isn't just a star - he's also a minor planet.

(44016) Jimmypage takes 4.31 years to revolve around the sun, is between 6 and 14 kilometers in diameter and his next perihelion is due in April 2011.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

I didn't know we had birds

The LA Times has an article called The Rigors of Life Unplugged.

It discusses an experiment to have high school kids turn off their television, iPods, cellphones, Blackberry's and computers for a week, and includes soundbite interviews of the unlucky class mates. Being the Luddite LA Times of course, it takes the tack that internet access is an addiction, the kids "had no idea just how sick [they were]" and presents the whole deal as though it was a much needed bout of Cold Turkey. The kids are on the strong stuff, and only tough love from a real down-to-earth newspaper can save them from themselves. They even slip up at one point and call it a 'media fast". A media fast? Did they also ask the class to give up their paper LA Times? Why do I suspect they didn't, hmm?

Without Evil Tech to find work for their idle hands to do, the kids, as we used to do, Made Their Own Fun. One cleaned his room. One read an entire Harry Potter book.
Without her headphones blocking out the real world, Flor Salvador heard strange chirping sounds."I didn't know we had birds!" she wrote in her journal.
I didn't know she had birds either. I bought the re-release of The Kills' first album, and I've been listening to that. I guess I missed them.

I found the LA Times article, not through reading the LA Times though actually, LA Times, if you're reading this, I did try to read my paper copy of the LA Times at lunch today but was interrupted by someone who wanted to talk about zombies and the Archie McPhee catalogue – obviously he Makes His Own Fun – and didn't get to this article.

John Scalzi picked up the article. Here's Scalzi's commenters' takes on it.

When thinking about the girl who didn't know she had birds, the comments briefly morphed into "what the real world looks like", and brought up one woman who had never seen leaves – until she got glasses and realized the big fuzzy blob was actually a tree covered in separate green leaves. That struck a chord with me. (Interesting that there isn't a visual metaphor equivalent to "strike a chord" – I wonder why music gets the honors there?)

I was very short-sighted as a kid. Nobody noticed, of course, and I certainly didn't, particularly as things are weird when you're growing up. For instance, all your teeth fall out, and you don't even panic, and then some more grow behind them and you think this is all perfectly natural. So everything going fuzzy was just something that happens. Anyway, when I couldn't see the blackboard any more, the teachers sent me for glasses.

When I first saw the stars, I cried.

I ended up getting more and more short-sighted of course, and eventually, after many years of increasingly thick glasses and more years of contacts, I had RK (radial keratotomy), and suddenly I could see my feet when I got out of bed in the morning. (Among other things.) Of course, when I saw the stars with my naked eyes for the first time, I cried, again. This time the crying hurt more because I'd just had RK, which involves slicing your eyeball open with a razor.

Seeing the real world - if there is such a thing, ultimately – is rare even in places without technology. It's perfectly possible to never look outside because the model of the universe in your own head is more satisfying than the one that is actually draped all over the dirt outdoors. I believe many people prefer the company of their thoughts to the "Look! A patch of grass!" school of going for bracing walks in the country air.

Never seeing the world, of course, will eventually lead to a bad case of Third Artist Syndrome. TAS was, I believe, coined by Jo Walton and refers to the progression of artistic expression. The first artist goes paints from life. The second artist copies the first artist, and is often more technically adept, having grown up with the techniques. The third artist only copies the second artist. Nowadays, I suppose, the third artist simply samples/ctrl-c_ctrl-v's the second artist.

The first artist paints what's there. The second artist paints the same things because that's what the first artist did. The third artist is "playing with the furniture in the doll's house". His art is not related to life, but involves moving around elements that are traditionally present.

I remember reading an interview with, I think, the head of Studio Ghibli. He was finding it hard to get animators, or at least animators he liked. All the applicants were great animators. They'd watched lots and lots and lots of anime and were very good at it. But he didn't want someone who knew all the anime techniques. He wanted someone who had observed real life and could draw it. Had any of the applicants ever actually seen a fire burning? No.

The way to get over Third Artist Syndrome is to go back to basics, paint or draw from life, become a first artist.

Beyond the Beyond discusses an article in the New Statesman that claims technophilia has led to a kind of third artist depletion of morale. In Parasitically Paralyzed by Digital Technology. Cultural Exhaustion Sets In Bruce Sterling quotes from the New Statesman article:
"Those of us who grew up in the decades between the 1960s and the 1990s became accustomed to rapid changes in popular culture. Theorists of future shock such as Alvin Toffler and Marshall McLuhan plausibly claimed that our nervous systems were themselves sped up by these developments, which were driven by the development and proliferation of technologies. Popular artefacts were marked with a technological signature that dated them quite precisely: new technology was clearly audible and visible, so that it would be practically impossible, say, to confuse a film or a record from the early 1960s with one from even half a decade later. The current decade, however, has been characterised by an abrupt sense of deceleration. A thought experiment makes the point. Imagine going back 15 years in time to play records from the latest dance genres – dubstep, or funky, for example – to a fan of jungle. One can only conclude that they would have been stunned – not by how much things had changed, but by how little things have moved on. Something like jungle was scarcely imaginable in 1989, but dubstep or funky, while by no means pastiches, sound like extrapolations from the matrix of sounds established a decade and a half ago. Needless to say, it is not that technology has ceased developing. What has happened, however, is that technology has been decalibrated from cultural form."
That decalibration is not just from cultural form, however, but from the roots of the culture itself. Music is further down the road than most things – way back in the eighties my favorite band was called Pop Will Eat Itself – but it's affecting the cartoonists too, and I suppose the LA Times is expecting (or 'calling for', as the newspapers say) an imminent Grey Goo of the Mind, when there's nothing to do but rearrange the furniture in the doll's house, endlessly, like a Philip K Dick character off his rails. I doubt that'll happen. It's easy to get to be a first artist again. You can go outside right now and hear the birds.


"Look! A patch of grass!" © Ivor Cutler. Do yourself a favor, stay in and put Ivor on the mp3 player. You owe it to yourself.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

JG Ballard Comic Tribute

Or homage, or something. Possibly a diss, even. Somethingawful.com has a page of Lost Comics of the Golden Age riffing off the JG Ballard novel Crash. Funny and rather cruel.

Courtesy of my friends at the JGB group on Yahoogroups.

More robots again already

Robot/People Art by Kacie Kinzer These are cute. The perfect antidote to EATR. The developer of these little guys made them with a mission to get from A to B, withough any real way of accomplishing it. They have their destinations on a pennant, and rely on much help from passing humans. To her surprise, the humans did help them, rather than ripping their heads off or setting them on fire.




It's the faces, I think. No one could resist such a happy camper with such a look of determined bliss on its little face. You couldn't not help it towards its destination. Videos and more photos at the site.

Nobody tell EATR or it'll adopt this as camoflage.

More Robots, Less Cuddly

Wired.uk has an article by Warren Ellis on autonomous robots and how we can be useful to them - as food.

As I write this, the EATR is under active development. The Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot, funded by Darpa, is a robot designed to eat everything in front of it for fuel. Fuel that it will use to swarm around with its mates and kill humans. Even better – once the human corpses have dried out a bit, EATR could eat them too, to fuel more roaming and swarming and human-killing. Sure, the builder, RTI, states that this filthy business is for “the benefit of humanity”. But if Darpa could have found a way to fit a death ray on to the internet… well, most of you probably wouldn’t be around to read this. EATR – they called it EATR! – isn’t intended to roll around the farm and eat slugs for power like that cute little agri-bot that was on the BBC a few years back. EATR will eat logs and roadkill and shrubs and basically anything that is or was alive – and all in the pursuit of gunning down,[and] blowing up ... humans.
It turns out EATR is real. He has not made it up. It sounds like Philip K Dick's Second Variety but it won't be Russians it'll be fighting.

We probably don't have to worry though. Nothing DARPA ever does escapes from their labs and takes on a life of its own. Remember that "internet" thingy? Fizzle!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

It Might Get Loud, among other things, at Los Angeles Film Festival

Film Independent Announced the Official Film Selections for the 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival. It includes It Might Get Loud, featuring, as I'm sure you all know, Jimmy Page, Jack White and The Edge.

Film Independent Announces Official Film Selections for 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival


3 screencaps from It Might Get Loud



Woohoo! The Los Angeles Film Festival will run from Thursday, June 18 to Sunday, June 28. We get to see it first! (Or about third, in fact.)

Slow Motion Soccer

Match of the day - football played by robots. This is Bowdoin College vs. Carnegie Mellon University from May the third. It has an ethereal, Mogadon quality to it that's simultaneously exciting and calming. But you do want the little bastards to fight and win.



This is just the first half, too.

Sent in by STB.

Monday, May 04, 2009

It doesn't matter who they are...

I have a Google alert set for "Jack White", which means I pick up a lot of news stories about the Von Bondies, because the one and only thing most people know about the Von Bondies is that Jack White beat one of them up once. No, really, this gets mentioned all the time. The guy must be really pissed about it.

Anyway, the "Jack White" Google alert picked another one up the other day. It was in the Galway Advertiser, not exactly a primo rock journal, but all's grist to the rock and roll mill I suppose. As usual, I read it.

In answer to the question "Why are the other members always two females?" the Von Bondies' leader, the beaten-up Jason Stollsteimer, is quoted as saying, "It was never a gimmick. Always when I write, I write with female backing vocals in my head, so when we tour we have to have two female singers. It doesn’t matter who they are as long as they can sing in unison. I grew up listening to Motown and there were always female backing vocals.”

It's a whole new exciting way to objectify women!

Not only does Stollsteimer not see them as individuals or care what their names are, he calls them "females" as though they were part of his breeding herd, rather than human beings. Living in the never-neverland of Southern California, where it's ill-advised to express such sentiments about your employees, I'd almost forgotten what the average man thinks, or rather fails to think, about women. I'm not going to claim any aggrieved status or burn my Von Bondies CDs (I don't have any) over it, but it was a wake-up call of sorts for me.

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