29 August 2011

Holiday for Skins

Short bit of video re-edited, via Echo Nest Remix API apps, to match Keith Moon's drum solo from "Who Are You?" Similar to the Steve Reich/Point Blank re-edit thing I posted a while back, but this time around with Rita Moreno and Animal standing in for Angie Dickinson and Lee Marvin.

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25 August 2011


I'm currently tweaking a new template for this thing. The third-party layout I've had from the beginning has always had its share of slightly annoying formatting bugs; but recently they've been leading to increasing glitches, making the drafting and posting biz an aggravating -- and sometimes abortive -- process. Hopefully this will knock out some of those problems.

Also, I've never been sure of this three-column layout. Too crowded? Can't decide for sure.

So if you check back over the next several days and see things changing, or even see a few things going wonky, that's why. I expect it'll take some time and some adjustments until I have things to my satisfaction (or merely acceptable). It'll also involve rebuilding the various links lists, and I also anticipate that some older posts will probably go a bit askew due to the format shift. So I'll be fixing those, as well.

On: Location (Slight Return)

It all starts with an incident of a double cop-killing -- when a strung-out hooker on a supposed spree of random killings kills a pair of police officers. From there it spirals into full-fledged civic agitation and unrest. The cops are sure the incident is testament to a situation of it being "open season on cops" in the community and accordingly over-react, thus sparking a reciprocal response from the precinct's residents.

The community is named very specifically in the film's title -- Fort Apache: The Bronx. The hooker in question was played by Pam Grier, reduced to a bit (and far from "empowering") role in the years following the decline of "blaxploitation" films. An absurdist x-factor to the film's overall story, she has a few scenes in the film before her character is inconsequentially killed off fairly early in the film. Between the setting and Greer's appearance in the film, one could argue that movie served as a multifold signifier of decline.

The film received, at best, lukewarm reviews on its release in 1981. It's greatest notoriety, however, came about due to the protests it inspired among resident of the maligned neighborhood, and among critics at large who objected to the way the film pandered to ethnic stereotypes. I remember the controversy at the time, and whenever the late '70s-early '80s genre/not-genre of "urban exploitation" comes up, its one of the first films to leap to mind -- right up there with the Hobbesian fantasies of Assault on Precinct 13, The Warriors, and Escape from New York.1 Considering that the film was released at the time that Ronald Reagan had secured the White House after campaigning on anecdotes about "welfare queens" and rhetoric about "making America great again," it wasn't difficult to figure out how the film's premise and portrayal of the South Bronx dovetailed with a certain burgeoning sentiment.2

So Fort Apache: The Bronx fits very squarely into the category I mentioned earlier, and has always been one of the first films that comes to mind whenever the topic of "urban exploitation" films comes up. I only mention now it because yesterday National Public Radio did a short segment on the film, revisiting it thirty years later. There's also this article from the NY TImes archives circa 1993 that deals with the closure of the 41st Precinct House (the "Fort Apache" of the film's title). And then there's this bit from Media Justice History Project chronicling the public protests of the movie.

* * * *

Speaking of which: A friend recently loaned me a copy of Joe Bob Briggs's Profoundly Disturbed: Shocking Movies That Changed History!. It's an uneven affair, but I've been surprised to find that certain chapters are more nuanced and deeply researched than I would've expected. One of these is the chapter about Shaft, in which Briggs situates the film in a number of broader contexts -- about its place in the career of Gordon Parks Sr., about its status in the "blaxploitation" genre, and about the history and inevitable fate of said genre. On this latter count, Briggs dwells on how blaxploitation films were received, from the criticism leveled by NAACP leader in the 1970s to how some of its participants saw it when looking back in hindsight. Among these is an interesting spiel from Isaac Hayes himself, who said:

"There were white writers, and they wrote their interpretation of how they thought it should go. They didn't have a deep understanding. They didn't live there. And they just kept dishin' out the same kind of thing, and it was insulting that they had the audacity to do that. But again, the people in the 'hood were eating it up because they finally had their own people on the screen. So that's what was wrong with it. I had some problems with blaxploitation. You had whitespolitation films, too: Chained Heat, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and all that junk. But they had other choices. We only had one."

To my surprise, I learned a couple of things from Briggs's chapter on The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, too.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

1. Another highly controversial film of the time was the 1980 film Cruising, in which Al Pacino played a police officer going undercover to track a serial killer through the gay subculture on NYC. The film's portrayal of said subculture -- itself a metonym for societal decay -- unsurprisingly incited an outcry from the gay community. As far as the period-specif bankability of the "urban exploitation" cinematic meme, I suppose all signs point back to Taxi Driver.

2. The "welfare queen" anecdote had been in circulation for a while, having been frequently used by Alabama governor George Wallace during his own campaigns for the presidency in the early 1970s. Reagan revived the story and used it repeatedly, despite that fact that some of his campaign advisors recommended that he drop it, since the tale was an urban myth and had no basis in fact.

23 August 2011

Creation vs. Curation

From an op-ep via The Daily titled "Rejecting the re-mix", relayed by Simon Reynolds, Trevor Butterworth offers:

"Whether you agree with Lee and Reynolds or not, these are nothing if not stimulating ideas, and if you are of a particular vintage, it is hard not to find them compelling. To be over 35 is to be a child of a certain kind of revolution, a product of fixed forms and styles. No amount of criticism pointing out how cultural decay was with us in this past is going to stop us from feeling that. Actually, now the decay is qualitatively different – that we have reached the end of cultural history because culture is no longer about creation, it’s just about recreation and repurposing the immediate past.

It is not surprising that the speed of recent history — economic and technological — should leave us feeling uneasy at the disappearance of so many fixed forms even as we enjoy the quantitative pleasures of accessing anything we can think of, anywhere, and at any time. It’s only when we are reminded that a mortgage should be a mortgage and not a traded security that we can think about the importance of book being a book and nothing else."

The piece touches on a number of topics, and frankly I don't know where to begin in terms of addressing them. Yes, there are the issues and debate concerning digital culture and the way it seems to have imposed certain limitations on creativity. And then then there's the matter of "fixed forms" which begs a number of larger theoretical aesthetic concerns (christ, he would have to drag Walter Pater into this, wouldn't he?) that make me wish I hadn't gotten rid of my copy George Kubler's The Shape of Time some years ago.

Worth a read. Incidently, the Stewert (not "Stephen") Lee piece Butterworth mentions can be found here, and the Gabler column in question can be read here.

Drawn Down from the Aether

          "I know about the phones. While our dad was upstairs broadcasting something to the world, and we were listening in, trying to find his frequency for his voice, his name, his call sign across our receiver, we would give up and go out into the snow around the neighborhood with a phone rigged with alligator clips so we could listen in on others' conversations. There's something nearly sexual about this, hearing what other people are saying to their lovers, children, cousins, psychics, pastors, debtors. I would hold the phone for my brother while he listened. He'd whistle when something good was going on, or something nasty.
          The Radio Amateur, However, Is Not A Voyeur. However It Might Seem.
          ...Some stations just broadcast numbers. The key to some code. Something of national importance. They beam streams of digits into the night. No other programing. No anger. No malice. No bereavement. Curiosity. Politics. Love.
          The Radio Amateur Is Sometimes Nosy.
          We would take down messages and numbers. We would write down frequencies and tones we found on the Internet. We would go through trash out back of the Michigan Bell facility for manuals and pages of codes and notes. Diagrams. Schematics. We accumulated quite a stash of operating instructions for phone equipment. We stacked them in the shed with the rotting paper on the floor, with the words hidden below the floor in bags. We surrounded ourselves in them. They were warm when left alone, like compost. They were warm when touched or burned."

-- Ander Monson, Other Electricities

* * * * * * * * * *

Robin Rimbaud, aka Scanner, talking to The Quietus about his former artistic em-oh back in the 1990s...

"I immediately saw the potential and intrigue of being able to access these private spaces and incorporate them into these exploratory soundscapes I was producing at the time. I was especially drawn to the fact that the recordings were so intimate, so clear, yet abstract in nature. One had to imagine who these people were you over overhearing, where they were, what kinds of lives they led, although the nature of their conversations often clearly explained this. [...]

Also at this time the chill out rooms in clubs were growing in capacity and my work was being played out there. This offered a very human aspect to digital techno music by incorporating the voice into the electronic atmosphere. It was partly about humanising something that was very difficult or 'other' to listeners at the time, so to use often difficult abstraction sound experiments alongside more recognisable human voices seem to make perfect sense, and could easily seduce the listener into sonic worlds they might not otherwise have experienced."

All of which proves newly relevant, as Rimbaud is interviewed about eavesdropping and surveillance in relation to the recent phone-hacking scandal in the U.K., and about the time News of the World approached him looking to buy some of his source material from him. Quite amusing and intriguing in parts. Full interview here.

Further Riffing

Another off-handed bit over at the 'Seventies blog. This time, brief unpackings and dispatchings of various science fiction, movie-of-the-week films from my childhood.

And with that, back to working on some serious and substantial things. For both here and there.

(Might be time for a redesign, too...a new template. Been encountering constant bugginess with drafting and posting, lately. Some of it might be due to the general bugginess I've been experiencing with Blagher lately, but some of seems to be specific to this particular blog.)

19 August 2011

Circular Breathing

For those inclined to bother: Me going on an off-the-cuff riff over at the team-effort '70s blog, clearing a few stray thoughts out the attic.

17 August 2011

On malleability

* * * * * * * * *

"Versions 2010" and "The Missile Variation," by Oliver Laric. (Not-entirely-safe-for-work 2009 preface "Versions" can be viewed here.)

More about/by here and here.

15 August 2011

Third Edition

            Table of Contents

            1       Artificial Life
            2       Means of Escape
            3       Eastern Promise
            4       Instead of Flowers
            5       Archetype
            6       The Truth Has Come
            7       Art on 45
            8       King of Sham
            9       Franciable Headcase
           10       Hung Up To Dry Whilst Building An Arch
           11       Untitled
           12       The Dignity of Labour, Pt. 3
           13       Slow
           14       God With Us
           14       Hymen

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Another hodgepodge mix of era-specific sounds -- from the last gasps of the old order and the reputed advent of neoliberalism. This time around with a little more geetar, since some probably feel there was a deficit of such on prior outings, eventually degenerating into a simmering amalgam of DIY lo-fi electronics & percussion. A few additions on this are recent enthusiasms, by some overlooked or forgotten artists that a couple of acquaintances from across the water either recently brought to my attention or reminded me of after many years.

::: download :::

Link is time sensitive, subject to deletion.

11 August 2011

The Fog of War

"Control of space means control of the world. ...From space the masters of infinity would have the power to control the earth's weather, to cause drought and flood, to change the tides and raise the levels of the sea, to divert the Gulf Stream and change temperate climates to frigid. That is the ultimate position: the position of total control over earth that lies somewhere in outer space."
-- Lyndon B. Johnson, 1958

04 August 2011

Lateral Time

Auditorium and Gym, Tbilisi, 2005

Hotel Intourist, 2010

Law Offices, 2009

Misha's Living Room, Tambov, 2005

Birch Trees, Vladimir, 2005

Refrigerator, Tambov, 2005

Probiotics, 2010

Hairdye Girls, Serpuxov, 2005

Pedagogical Institute, 2010

Yellow Palm Tree, 2009

Red Square, 2010

Watermelon Peels, Moscow, 2004

Sasha Rudensky. Images from the series Remains and Novij Mir.

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