Amoeblog

The scene in need of a name

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 14, 2009 06:39pm | Post a Comment
Lamar Dodd Colorado Thomas Hart Benton nude

About ten years ago, my friend Pete Jourdan and I were trying to advance the awareness of what we felt was a scene that was somehow unrecognized both for its existence as a scene and for the Godlike Genius of it all. I described it thusly, "Although there’s never been a name put to it, there’s an ongoing movement in music whose participants mix musical influences like the baritone atmospherics of Lee Hazelwood, the Doors, Scott Walker and Leonard Cohen with Ennio Morricone, Hank Williams, and Southern Gothic and Poetic Realist literary influences to create a sort of rural, post-apocalyptic, midnight cabaret music that, whilst dark and doomy, offers a sepia-tinted alternative to the embarassing cornballisms of Goth. A lot of the bands hail from Australia and their members normally look like a mix of consumptive prospectors and bourbon-drunk undertakers. Their lush, decadent sound is usually built around haunting violins, spaghetti western guitar and old time religion."

Crim + the City Solution The Triffids
Windswept, Australian, Hillbilly Heathcliffs

It was the CD era, pre-blogs, and eventually we, like Israel and Palestine, couldn't come to an agreement either on what to call it or how to characterize it. Pete maintained that Nick Cave was the central figure. Given that Boys Next Door inarguably sucked while the similarly minded Young Charlatans and Crime + the City Solution were already good, I didn't want to overemphasize Nick Cave's importance at the expense of Rowland S. Howard, Simon Bonney, Mick Harvey and others. If everything had to tie directly to Nick Cave, how could we incorporate bands like Wolfgang Press and Tindersticks but through at least three degrees of separation? Nick Cave became our "right of return" and talks broke down. I don't know whether this biography is auto or not, but in order to preserve it:

Peter D. Jourdan, plagued with weak health, was begged by his family physician, Old Man Olafson (who runs Olafson’s General Store in West Lakeland Township), to harden himself and his constitution by way of spending a length of time on in the masculine arts of ranching and trail-riding in our wonderful frontier... but only after his prescription of horehound (oral) failed. Instead, however, it seems he fell in with the notorious Rowena gang and his health and moral reserve were subsequently eroded completely.



And Also the Trees

Aquanauts - heroes of oceanic exploration

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 13, 2009 08:23am | Post a Comment
Lego Aquanaut

Aquanauts - What Are They?

Aquanauts, as the name implies to anyone with even the most basic awareness of Latin and ancient Greek, are the oceanic equivalent of astronauts, cosmonauts, taikonauts and other nauts. However, there's more to being an aquanaut than wearing a blue blazer with gold buttons paired with white trousers. Nor are aquanauts mere scuba divers or snorkelers. Even donning a Breton sailor's shirt and Greek fisherman's cap, puttering around in a pressure-and-climate-controlled sub just makes you a submariner. If you want to be an aquanaut, you've got to get your hands wet. There's also an implication that you have to be indigenous to land because no one ever described a porpoise or a jellyfish as an aquanaut.

SEALAB I  Inside Sealab

Famous, Real-Life Aquanauts

Although every documentary about the Earth's oceans points out how much more interesting the oceans are than space (and how we know less about it), aquanauts are never as famous as their spacegoing rivals. Whereas everyone knows the names of the first astronauts on the moon, who can name any of the crew who first descended the Marianas Trench? See if any of these "famous" aquanauts' names ring any diving bells:

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Vietnamese New Wave - Part II

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 8, 2009 02:01pm | Post a Comment
Due to popular response, here's a follow-up to my initial blog on Vietnamese New Wave. For those of you who may not have read it, Vietnamese New Wave (less often called Asian New Wave) is not Vietnamese music. Think Northern Soul, a British genre of music that didn't come from British artists, but were beloved by 70s speed freaks for their common sound. At least, they didn't make it, but they took it, played it at dances, made bootleg mixes of it on tape and CD. The songs in the genre share easy-to-dance-to/syncopation-avoiding beats (setting it apart from Freestyle), easy-to-learn and obviously ESL lyrics, and are completely devoid of pretense or irony. My love and exposure to this amazing music is owed entirely to an amazing person, the flawless tastemaker, Ngoc Nguyen.


Vietnamese New Wave artists come from a variety of scenes including Italo-Disco, (English, French and Swedish) Synthpop and (German and Spanish) and Eurodisco. Beginning in the some time around the mid-to-late '80s, these bubbly, infectious tunes found an unexpected audience in the Vietnamese diaspora who disseminated these gems through the aforementioned mixtapes, parties and bootleg mix CDs which you can still find in Little Saigons around the globe.

We carry many of these artists at Amoeba. Most are found in the Freestyle section. However, a lot are found in, erm... Rock. So ask at info if you can't find something.

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Scimitars and Sand Dunes - Rethinking the Middle East, Arabs and Islam

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 6, 2009 10:41pm | Post a Comment
With President Obama's recent address at the University of Cairo, there has been a veritable sandstorm of media discussion about the Middle East, the Arab world and the Islamic world; three concepts lazily interchanged in the American mainstream media (including the supposedly smarter public radio). Despite some overlap, the indiscriminate use of the terms, both out of ignorance and deliberately,  minimizes substantial heterogeneity and differences -- to the detriment of our understanding of reality, and as a result contributing to the undermining and hindering of attempts at peace in the region. While I did find the president's speech fairly nuanced, intelligent and inspirational, until substantial actions reflect those attractive words, they offer nothing more than hope.


"Neighbour to the Moon," the legendary Christian Lebanese singer, فيروز.

Today Arabs, Muslims and Middle Easterners remain some of the last people in the west for whom racism is not only extremely common but also widely accepted, even governmentally endorsed. Merely advocating equality and human rights for Arabs and Muslims is often met with charges of racism and embracing hatred, probably the only people likely to ellicit that response besides Germans. Given this reality, centuries of negative stereotypes and repeated military and political actions that reflect undeniable double standards, it's no wonder that many view the frequent proclamations that "Islam is a beautiful religion" and hands extended in friendship with widespread suspicion at best.

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No sound no tell, Gay Cinema in the silent era

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 31, 2009 12:12pm | Post a Comment
Frederic Lord Leighton Flaming June
Frederic Lord Leighton's Flaming June

June, in addition to being Vision Research Month, Fireworks Safety Months, Light the Night for Sight Months, National Candy Month, Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month, Cancer in the Sun Month, Dairy Month, National Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Month, National Iced Tea Month, National Pest Control Month, Safety Month, Scleroderma Awareness Month, and Zoo and Aquarium Month, is also Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, first established by Bill Clinton back in '00. Therefore, I may in the coming weeks blog about iced tea or become aware of Scleroderma, but for now I will focus on Gay Cinema.

One of the first things I noticed about gay people's feelings toward Gay Cinema is that they're almost all negative.  Exceptions are usually foreign films, which are almost invariably downers. The first year Amoeba observed Gay and Lesbian Pride month in the movie department in the form of a display, we all had an uncomfortable chuckle about the unfailingly depressing storylines of the films we featured. Films based on the lives and deaths of famous gays like Joe Orton, Brandon Teena, Oscar Wilde and James Whale all ended tragically. And here I thought gay meant happy!

closet

The history of Gay Cinema is quite unlike most minority driven alternatives to Hollywood. Unlike American Asians, blacks, Latinos and Natives -- whose identities have always been fairly obvious (except in cases of passing) -- gays have always had the option of remaining invisilble. Therefore, gays were never required to sit in the back of the bus, attend special schools or live in segregated neighborhoods. In the silent film industry, most gay actors understandably chose to hide their identitites. Though there are few overt representations of homosexuality in silent films -- mostly in European films -- most are merely hinted at. More importantly, however, the contributions of gays both in front of and behind the camera are many and noteworthy.

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