Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween yuks in St. Louis

Did you know that in St. Louis, kids are required to tell a joke on Halloween to get their treats? I never knew! NPR has a story about it and here's a calvacade of kids telling jokes on Halloween in this video.

How did the ghost say good-bye to the vampire? So long sucker!

What did the clown-eating cannibal say? Something tastes funny.

What's a pirate's favorite letter? RRRRRRRRrrrrrr!


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Songs about the 1%

Have you seen the news from the front lines of Occupy Oakland? Jesus H. Christ, it's a war zone downtown. Tear gas, rubber bullets, beat-downs--an eruption of brutal violence on what was essentially a peaceful protest. These are dark times for a very large portion of the U.S. population. Don't add to the total darkness, city police departments!

If nothing else, the Occupy movement may cause the 1% to stop focusing on the Democrats and instead change their refrain to, "Get your hands out of my pockets...everybody." What are the songs the wealthy will sing during their sit-ins? Here's a helpful list. I live to serve!

Motorhead - Eat The Rich. From the 1988 film of the same name. The movie was a low-budget satire on class and cannibalism. Though not a box-office winner (satires rarely are), its caustic tone embedded itself into my brain at an impressionable age. RIP, Lemmy, you rocked.

Hall and Oats (and his mustache) - Rich Girl. I didn't understand where this song was coming from, back in '77. I grew up in a Northern Californian suburb full of soon-to-be middle-class families, where the goal was to be as much alike as possible. Or else. If you were too wealthy, like a doctor or a lawyer, you moved to Danville. If you were struggling, it didn't matter as long as you wore the correct clothing and had the right haircut to fit in. When MTV came along, it helped break up the monotony somewhat. But I didn't know any rich people nor did I deal with rich-people problems. I still don't.

The Beatles - Baby You're a Rich Man. A Lennon/McCartney production, supposedly about their manager Brian Epstein, with two melodies because rich people just want more and more—one melody won't do, my dear, won't do at all!

Baby You're a Rich Man - The Beatles from feliXart on Vimeo.

Cyndi Lauper - Money Changes Everything. Oh hey, speaking of which... Man, Cyndi Lauper is fierce. Watch her rise above the audience in a not-so-deluxe garbage can at 4:40 while never losing her tone. I didn't appreciate her during her pop stardom. There were lots of women to watch in the 80s musical landscape. I just saw her on a "My Life on the D-List" episode and she was a hoot--a true individual.

Kanye West with Jamie Foxx - Gold Digger. See? Money just brings on a whole set of enviable problems that most of us can only fantasize and/or completely care less about. Plus, if you're extra-wealthy, Lemmy wants to EAT you! That can't be good.

Funkadelic - Funky Dollar Bill. The things we do for a dollar bill. Some of my past jobs: baby-, dog- and housesitter, housecleaner, telemarketer for bowling lessons and unaccredited reading-comprehension courses, ice cream scooper for a psychopath, busboy for more psychopaths, sandwich-maker, office temp on an epic scale, nonprofit arts administrator and live/work housing database operator, development assistant for private art school, after-school art teacher, preschool teacher, continuity and editing assistant for film shoots, arts journalist, freelance photographer, cartoonist, film-archivist assistant, childcare library administrator, editor, Web designer and content provider, housewife, Internet toiler, to be continued...

Oh PLEASE let the 1% make The Flying Lizards' version of Money be their official protest song. This is all I ask of the cultural cosmos.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sun Ra, Brother From Another Planet

A fascinating BBC documentary about a fascinating musician and composer. Were you lucky enough to see Sun Ra and his Arkestra? I hope so. Sometimes they played the most dissonant, industrial mad noise. Sometimes they'd endlessly jam and you'd almost see colors. Sometimes they played straight up jazz improv of the most accomplished sort. And they were very, very together. Many individuals playing as one.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Half-ass TV recap: Work of Art Season 2, episode 2

What's this? ANOTHER half-ass TV recap? Two in a ROW? I'm sorry, but here at half-ass TV recap headquarters, there are no rules. There is only television. So the votes are in and this week's episode was a true crap-fest of bad concepts, bad teamwork and ultimately bad art. But no worries, America. The quality of construction is not the focus here. Work of Art is looking for lightning-quick thinkers and creative innovators who are up to ludicrous demands on their sanity and time. So far, this cast is grasping, but I have faith that one or two will get it together at some point in TV seasonal time.

Where was I? Yes. Work of Art, Episode 2 opens with everyone's favorite morning activity, Parkour. The artists are gathered to watch some guys run and bounce off the edifices of New York City and then sit on a wall, breathing heavily afterward. The team (uh-oh) challenge: Movement. Demonstrate movement in art in two group shows. They have a day and a few extra hours to complete this task. I'm thinking: giant mobiles, hanging sculptures, mini-generators powered by hamsters, modern dance (aiee), projectiles, you know: movement. Here's what the teams come up with: Poop. And: Phases of the Moon as Represented by Migration Patterns from the Asian Continent. You know, movement.

So Team Poop, or Digestion, as they redub themselves, get to work on poop-inspired art. The Sucklord is skeptical. "How does this involve movement?" he asks to his oblivious teammates. The answer: it's slow movement. Over at Team Phases of the Moon/Immigration Studies, I don't exactly know what's happening except Kathryn is beavering away at what looks like a bloody stomach, hanging in a box with a camera trained on it, in case it moves. Note that Kathryn has only shown work before and during episode 1 that involves guts, blood and fluids, made from clay, plastic and what-not. This is her thing. Team Moon should have traded her to Team Digestion at this point, but it's not baseball. Always remember that. Art is not baseball--don't try to make it something it's not (talking to myself here).

Mentor Simon de Pury steps in and happily begins studying the ongoing work. His happy-face falls almost immediately and he calls a solemn meeting where he tells one and all in his charming Swiss/British/French accent to scrap everything and start over. And to make sure it's Brrrrilliant! Whoa. The artists handle this two ways: they start over or they just keep going in the same direction. Artists are like that.

Team Digestion switches to Team Playground and starts developing childlike rides, except for last week's winner (and immunity grantee) Michelle, who sculpts a wooden man with wooden balls, sitting near a photographed playground. When you pull his balls, his arms flap up and presumably so does his dowel-like penis. Bravo won't show the penile movement in order to shield our delicate sensibilities. I've never seen a dowel move like an erection, Bravo, but now I'm even MORE intrigued and will try this at home. Your censorship has only piqued my curiosity that much more. Not really.

The Sucklord creates a game that shoots things into funnels that trigger rat-traps with toy rats in them. It looks kind of fun to play actually. Score one for The Sucklord. Sara makes a swinging-girl sculpture with a vagina. Bravo has no qualms about giving us a closeup on the vagina. Double-standard standards, I guess. Dusty makes a teeter-totter with his portrait on one side because he misses his family. Later, host China Chow will attempt to ride this contraption in her floofy designer dress, adding a layer of meaning that has no meaning.

Over at the other team, they've altered their concept to circles. Team Circles sneers at Team Playground, calling their efforts, "childish" and "literal." Kathryn has stuck to her guns (guts) and is now filming splatting innards onto plastic. This will loop into endless splat. It turns out she suffers from Crohn's Disease and can't seem to stop creating this particular vision. This is too bad on a few levels. First of all, anyone who has Crohn's Disease, I am immediately moved to wish them well and to advise them not to join reality-show casts, as they are stressful and stress sets off Crohn's symptoms, which are painful and very difficult to treat. Kathryn realizes this as she is shown swallowing her daily pills while experiencing a flare-up of her disease. She is looking very pale, which is a Crohn's symptom. And she can't stop making internal-organ art, which will hurt her and her team, who are focused on the concept, however ludicrous, of moving circles.

Gallery show time! Team Playground has an interactive thing going on where people are playing with the stuff and watching it mostly move in various ways. Team Circles or Loop, or whatever they try calling themselves, is really sad. Young Sun has made a limply hanging Mylar(?) Japanese flag that's supposed to represent Japan, post-typhoon. What the fuck? Lola glue-gunned a billion doctor-office paper shreds into a big ball that just sits there, attached to some kind of hanging blob that just hangs there. Leon made a tableau with broken window, swinging light bulb and some fallen debris. It's well put-together, I suppose. And the light bulb is a circle shape.

The judges are aghast. Really--they look crestfallen, having to critique this work. Ha ha ha! They pick Michelle with her pervert sculpture and Bayete's video, WEEEE! as top finalists. Bayete's simple video of himself spinning on a rooftop, is the winner. The video has side-by-side images of Bayete, focusing on his face as the city spins behind him. Judge Bill Powers finds it "oddly mesmerizing." Jerry Saltz wonders how it was made. Bayete looks like he's having childlike fun, even though in reality he was dizzy and felt like throwing up the entire time he made the piece. I've spun around for art with my son for this effect for a photo assignment and it is fun and I almost threw up too. I'm not going to tell the judges that this is a simple method to combine sharp-focus with motion-blur. Let them wonder. It does work well for this challenge. Congratulations, Bayete.

Bottom three are Lola and her shredded balls, Kathryn and her looping guts, and Tewz, who made a stagnant modern piece with a cylinder, some tubing and a plastic hand that's supposed to spin around, but just hangs there, sadly. Tewz thinks his sculpture is really good. The judges are all like, WHAT?!??!? Guest judge and last-season regular, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, finds their focus on circles, "Ridiculous." Ya think?

During Kathryn's critique, Jerry calls her on her inability to do anything other than what she does and she bursts into uncontrolled sobbing. It's really bad. The judges and host China Chow look like they'd prefer to go to commercial. We do. And when we return: Kathryn is out. She will focus on getting better and continuing to make her art (taking Jerry's critique into account) while having visceral experiences. Stay well, Kathryn.

And now, artwork coincidentally inspired by this week's Work of Art. A few weeks ago, my son wanted to make a video. He picked the tune and improv'd this. Note that his work contains movement, circles and actual play. Unfortunately, like Kathryn, he has Crohn's Disease. He's a brave and inspiring person and a hell of a hula-hooper.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Half-ass TV recap: Work of Art, ep 1 and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Season 2

Hi everyone! I've been missing in action around here, but not for lack of trying. I was truly blocked this week with lots of real-life adventures and live-in-the-moment situations that did not allow for creative blogging as is my wont. And now, it's time for a truly half-ass TV recap that barely counts as a recap at all. Not because the desire isn't there. It is. Oh, yes. But I just don't have any privacy or time to actually watch television and take notes.

China Chow - Work of ArtSo my diabolical plan was to recap every episode of my favorite reality show, Work of Art, Season 2, since I missed out last season. Didn't we all? Work of Art was kind of snuck into the Bravo line-up last year. I don't really remember much promotion for the show. The network almost seemed a bit embarrassed by a fine-art competition. But it turned out to be one of the greatest experiments in entertainment in the 21st Century. A room full of narcissistic creative types, given impossible-to-accomplish challenges using fine-art media and their whackadoo thinking-caps, all in the name of gallery-industry fame and fortune.

Plus New York Magazine's art critic/Work of Art judge Jerry Saltz added even more layers of entertainment with his often self-lacerating blog and its legion of mega-commenters (myself included). Saltz' recaps quoted Goethe and seriously questioned the concept of the show, the commerce of art, and his own role on both counts. How could you not love this show? I ask you. Because Bravo is very stingy with image-sharing from the show (art copyright laws are a bitch), I will provide half-ass line drawings for your visual pleasure.

Michelle - Work of Art
So episode one of season 2 introduces all the contestant artists, who are looking even prettier than last year. There's no old people (like me), and I can't tell the women apart yet because they're all around the same height, weight, and have straight, longish hair. Not a criticism, but sheesh--last year there was an old person and different body types at least. The guys shuffle in as well. There's a gorgeous French guy named Ugo whose blue eyes during his face-time interviews have me saying, "Hummina, hummina hummina!" There's a guy named The Sucklord, who makes altered action figures. You know he'll be around for a while. There's a performance-artist, Young Sun, who seems to be a prodigy but we'll see. There is nudity and Speedo's when it comes to Young Sun. Leon is from Malaysia and is trying to prove himself as an artist who happens to be deaf. There's more but it's all a blur on the first episode.

The artists are shown a gallery full of crappy, kitschy art pieces and told to pick one and make something high art-ish with the crap as inspiration. It's a glorious beginning! They grab their crap and get cracking. Or some of them do. Lola cannot get it together until the last minute. The judges end up loving her cold, gallery-ready installation of muted paintings and cement structures that represent her longing to settle down in once place. Michelle wins the challenge with an eagle totem and skeletal paper sculpture, evoking a recent near-death experience she had in a hit-and-run car accident. That's about as anti-kitschy a concept as any.

Ugo - Work of Art Ugo (hummina hummina) is deemed dull and Keith-Haring-derivative with his red-on-red pattern thing over more other patterned things, and he is out. No more blue eyes. Truly, Bayeté probably should have gone, with his very bad collage that heaped on the cliches of identity and race, or The Sucklord, who made a piece of kitsch art of Gandalf that was even kitschier than the painting of a wizard he based it upon. Plus he's called The Sucklord. Guest judge Mary Ellen Mark saves Sucklord in the end. His work "speaks to her." This somewhat makes sense when I find an article in the Sunday NY Times about her passion for collecting cute little robots. In the end, handsome guy is dropped. But art marches on.
Simon du Pury - Work of Art

And on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, season 2, Brandi's child peed in some bushes and this became relevant because later at a game party held by Dana, Kim and Kyle called her on that. Camille tried to comfort Kim after Brandi called her a bitch and accused her to doing crystal meth. Kim called Brandi a bitch slut, pig slut, and short-shorts-wearing whore. And Brandi agreed that she was, in all likelihood, a slut. Taylor looked horrified and kept the angry housewives from engaging in fisticuffs and the game party dissolved as a result. I missed the thrilling conclusion because my kid started a pillow fight with me.

Meanwhile at the Vanderpump residence, Lisa's daughter Pandora is finally engaged to her long-time boyfriend, Jason, over formal sit-down family dinner with lots of shiny, mirrored plates and vases. A wedding planner is soon brought on board. He sports a mullet and is like something out of a very late-season, very bad episode of "Will and Grace." Lisa hires him anyway, probably because Bravo will foot some of the bill to keep this obnoxious guy around. There is talk of spending a million dollars for Pandora's wedding, although Lisa would prefer something more "English" in the realm of $150,000. Not gonna happen, even though the wedding planner finds Pandora's wish for a pink-roses-festooned wedding dress to be "tacky." And with air kisses, that's the show. I missed all the earlier episodes. Thank GOD.

Next week I'll do a better job, I promise. In theory.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Buster Keaton is so damn funny

Buster Keaton is my fave movie persona of all time and Kino has seen fit to release two of his shorts, "Battling Butler" and "Go West." So that is grand news. Why Buster? Because he did all his own ridiculously dangerous stunts (and many of his co-stars' as well). Because he was endlessly inventive. Because he was the ultimate poker-faced yet charming screen presence. Here's a bullet-point what-makes-Buster Keaton-great list:

  • Although he did the bulk of his best work throughout the 1920s, his films are still wonderfully strange and somewhat timeless, due to their being extensions of his wonderfully strange and somewhat timeless thought processes.

  • He is playful onscreen, even during deadly situations. Especially during deadly situations.

  • He knew deadly situations are fraught with tension and therefore can result in the biggest laughs, if done correctly.

  • He was a perfectionist who strove to do most everything correctly.

  • When stuck for an idea, he would call a time-out to play some baseball with his film crew. He loved baseball. It helped him think.

  • He was a genius.

  • He was adorable.

  • He wore that little hat.

  • I am in love with him.

See some Keaton films. "Sherlock Jr." has much to say about cinematic storytelling. "Steamboat Bill's" hurricane scene is dream-like yet so physically imposing. "Cops" is the ultimate surreal chase film. "Seven Chances" asks the question. what is more imposing--outrunning multitudes of giant boulders, or multitudes of brides trying to herd you into a church? "The General" explores every possible absurd stunt that can be choreographed on a steam train. In every situation, with every mechanical device, throughout geographical locations, Keaton delved into the potential weirdness and usually came out the other side, somewhat the wiser, though still deadpan.

The weirdness of car/motorcycle chases in "Sherlock Jr."

The weirdness of steam locomotion in "Daydreams."

Steam locomotion is weird (watch the train's arrival in the end).

The weirdness of home ownership in "One Week."

The weirdness of extreme weather conditions in "Steamboat Bill."

City streets in "Go West." San Francisco is starting to feel like this to me.

How not to box in "Battling Butler."

Thanks to diggia81 for many of the Buster uploads.

Roger Ebert's appreciation

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Vintage Fashions from Your Friends at British Pathe

Long ago British Pathé produced these fine fashion films and now they have their own Vintage Fashions YouTube channel. Rejoice!

Mary Quant is synonymous with cool 60s fashion. Check out her convertible booties! She's tops.

It's the 50s. You want to be a model. You would have to attend modeling school and learn to walk and turn, my friend. Note: stick-thinness would not have been required.

Swim season is over but that doesn't mean we can't appreciate the bygone era of swim-cap fashion. This is like an outtake from America's Next Top Model but without the humiliating "pudding-vat pool" that Tyra would no doubt require her contestants to pose in (while smizing).

I should save this for my Christmas holiday posting needs, but I can't resist. And stores are featuring Christmas items now anyway, three weeks before Halloween. It truly is the nightmare before Christmas, everyone.

As noted on Jezebel.