Amoeblog

On Invention: Frank Zappa vs. Baby Boomer Favorites

Posted by Charles Reece, November 13, 2011 10:16am | Post a Comment
frank zappa mojo classic cover

Mojo's collector's edition dedicated to Frank Zappa is a year old, but I chanced across it the other day at my local newsstand. Having found myself in more than one geeky debate over whether Zappa has tended to receive short shrift in evaluations of pop innovation and importance relative to The Beatles (e.g.: "In June 1968, Newsweek declared him second only to John Lennon as pop's 'leading creative talent.'" -- p. 27) or The Beach Boys (Leonard Bernstein called Brian Wilson one of the 20th century's greatest composers) or even The Grateful Dead (recall the days of coverage of Jerry Garcia's death versus the brief blurb accorded to Zappa's), this bit from British writer Miles' remembrance ("Inside Dr. Zircon's Secret Lab") proved satisfying:  

At the London press launch of Absolutely Free Frank told me he wanted to meet The Beatles to get their permission to parody the Sgt. Pepper ... sleeve on his next album, We're Only In It For The Money. I had been seeing a lot of Paul McCartney who was involved with IT [International Times, a British underground magazine that Miles co-founded] and my bookshop, Indica, so I went to a back room and called him. Paul liked Freak Out! very much, and in fact, just before The Beatles began recording Sgt. Pepper ... he told me, "we're going to do our own Freak Out!, but not like Zappa's of course." -- p. 40-1

Regarding Absolutely Free's sound collages, critic Mark Paytress ("Hungry Freaks") has it right:

Light years ahead of The Beatles' Revolver and The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, only the inscrutable complexity and rich textures of The Beach Boys' autumn hit, Good Vibrations, could compare. But, born of Zappa's gnarly nature and recorded in the immediate aftermath of the teenage riots on Sunset Strip, Absolutely Free was the antithesis of Brian Wilson's sun-kissed bliss. -- p. 25-6

But, just to keep it all in perspective, former Mother keyboardist Don Preston sums up Zappa's musical legacy:

Frank's a strange phenomenon. Some people regard him as one of the new, innovative classical composers, but I think his work suffers in comparison to, say, Xenakis or Takemitsu. -- p. 29

And while the British Invasion was listening to American Blues, here's a shot of Zappa's high school-era band:

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SF at the AFI Fest

Posted by Charles Reece, November 1, 2011 09:37pm | Post a Comment
afi fest 2011 poster

Among the standard schlocky dramas (J. Edgar), this year's AFI Festival has surprisingly quite a few works of speculative fiction. Here are the trailers:


Beyond the Black Rainbow


Melancholia


Carré Blanc


Extraterrestrial


Target

Overall, there's a lot more decent genre material than in years past, and it's free.

It's Halloween, So Here's My Interview with Guillermo del Toro

Posted by Charles Reece, October 31, 2011 07:32pm | Post a Comment

We mostly talk about fantasy.

Having Fun with Stalin: Žižek on Rose

Posted by Charles Reece, October 30, 2011 08:58am | Post a Comment
slavoj zizek charlie rose

When I'm not looking for videos of Danzig or pro-wrestling, watching Slavoj Žižek is how I spend a good deal of my internet time. He recently appeared on The Charlie Rose Show. Turns out, the two share an interest in Josef Stalin. But that discussion gets interrupted with topics like the philosopher's speech at the Occupy Wall Street rally, the Egyptian uprising -- both of which are the focus of his latest LRB essay -- Chinese capitalism and the ideology in Kung Fu Panda and Titanic. The Titanic analysis is a taste of what's to come in his and Sophie Fiennes' sequel to The Pervert's Guide to Cinema:

pervert's guide to ideology

The Marriage Plot: Lucky McKee and Jack Ketchum's The Woman (2011)

Posted by Charles Reece, October 16, 2011 10:29pm | Post a Comment
the woman poster

Having never seen Offspring (Andrew van den Houten and Jack Ketchum's adaptation of the latter's novel about a Northeastern cannibalistic kin, who first appeared in the book Off-Season), I took its sequel's opening pre-credit sequence to be a phantasmagoric continuation of I Spit On Your Grave where the eponymous Woman retreated into nature after having escaped the tyranny of Man and patriarchal culture. Surely, Lucky McKee and Ketcham's The Woman is more than an accidental synecdoche for the original title of Meir Zarchi's classic, Day of the Woman. Their film is, at its core, another rape-revenge film, but with the twist that the victim is feral, so outside of man's law. The misogynistic repression perforce comes from a different place than horror's generic South, since its resident hayseed hordes are uncultured and would likely sympathize with the bestial Woman. Zarchi's victim-protagonist Jennifer HIll, on the other hand, was an urbane writer who had culture stripped from her by barbarous rednecks. The Woman has just as much dirt under her fingernails as those rednecks, her language isn't much more than a growl, plus she's a cannibal (a taboo even greater than the use of the contraction "y'all"). Therefore, her victimization is a form of structural violence, that which is the repressed base of the status quo. The central fear expressed by The Woman isn't in having the Woman's culture dismantled (as it was for Jennifer) -- for she is pure cultural Other and has none -- but that cultural normativity is structured around the primordial violence she represents. Hillbillies can't victimize her any more than animals can victimize other animals, but the nuclear family can in the same way that a suburban adolescent might torture a cat.

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