Amoeblog

Vinyl Confidential, 4.2 – The Damned Odd Order of Oblong Boxes

Posted by Whitmore, June 19, 2010 08:14pm | Post a Comment
“When I got home I mixed a tall stiff one and stood on my balcony, leaned heavy against the railing, looking over and down five stories. Standing, sipping, I listened to the groundswell of cars and trucks and the banshee cry of sirens blasting down Los Feliz Boulevard and beyond. The curve of the hills flushes the boulevard down onto Western, past Hollywood and Sunset Blvds. Twenty four hours a day, eight days a week, most everybody is running, gunning, trying to catch-up with the intangible, the impossible. Hollywood lives live. The traffic’s din drowns out the Ye-ye 45’s dropping and spinning on the turntable inside, that’s Okay, the taste of the Scotch lingers, deliciously with every gulp as I squint down at the glower of a pissed off population begging for a little traffic love, one more time on a Friday night.
 
Rock is dead, I read the other day. After being maimed by massive dog food/fast food/oily crude/pre-chewed corporations, new music has given up the ghost under the obese crassness of money theocracy. What is served up routinely by the big boys is about as gratifying as being beaten, robbed, strangled, drawn and quartered to a soundtrack of “We Built this City on Rock and Roll” as performed by Insane Clown Posse.
 
People are hungry for soul, for adventure, anything that doesn’t leave them sick and bored and desperate. People aren’t lonely; they just feel angry and cruel. In a city no worse than most, a city rich and vital and oddly beautiful, a love affair has been lost and scattered. A city sinks into the void. Well, I guess, it all depends on where you’re standing, and how high your balcony sits above the sidewalk. I claim I no longer care. I finished my drink, went inside and crawled under the covers.”

Aux Catacombes: Documenting Art in the Belly of Paris

Posted by Kells, June 17, 2010 08:20pm | Post a Comment

If it can be said that the freshest of the fresh artistic creations bubble up from "underground," then it should come as no surprise that the vast network of tunnels that comprise the coiled entrails of Paris' infamous catacombs has long served as a place where creative Parisians bent on escaping the trappings of society, hemmed in by signs and signifiers girding the city's surface, retreat to the "freedom" of the damp and hard-cut, cramped lawlessness that thrives beneath the streets, expressing themselves with dim-lit abandon. Veteran graffiti artist Psyckoze has spent more than 25 years traversing, tagging, sculpting and mapping the catacombs beneath Paris, a perilous proclivity that makes the documentary Dead Space infinitely watchable.


The Parisian catacombs have always held a certain fascination, whether it be a fear of the dark-generated late night creepshow vibe (must be because of all those skulls 'n' things down in there) or a more sensationalist ghost-hunters of "reality" television programming feel, the mere mention of the mysterious, bone littered underworld beneath the French capitol always stirs the imagination. In following Psyckoze on several adventures throughout the underground maze, documentary film-makers Marielle Quesney and Jean Labourdette nearly destroy their camera (they claim it was held together by duct tape by the end of shooting) and find themselves lost on more than one occasion while Pyschoze, or Psy, encounters graffiti and scrawls of years (sometimes hundreds of years) gone by, often stopping to update his own tags with the fresh designs of his evolved artistic style, and discovers a myriad of threats and claims laid by various catacomb clans, gangs (like the Rats, who were prominent in the eighties) and wanderers who have at one time or another called the catacombs home. There is even a faction of preservationist catacombers who seek to stop taggers like Psy, arguing that the tunnels should be cleaned and restored to their natural sandstone tones (which is not unreasonable, really, when you consider the quarry origins of the catacombs, which were once used to mine and transport building materials as far back as 1000 years).

Shot on a shoestring budget over the course of two years, Dead Space follows Psy as he conducts a surprisingly cohesive tour of the catacombs below Paris (clad in his habitual rubber boots and mining helmet catacomb gear), stopping here and there to highlight several of the more famous subterranean hang-outs like "the Beach" (a large, sandy chamber with a huge painting of a wave --- styled after Hokusai's famous woodblock print --- where parties often rage underground for days) and revealing Psy's personal secret hideaways, including his "castle" --- a sprawling freehand relief sculpture of breasts, faces, battlements and turrets comprising what has to be Psy's ultimate psychedelic masterpiece, laden with personal significance (example: Psy carved a turret in the castle for every year his good friend and fellow catacomber spent locked up in a Thai jail, nine altogether). However, it is clear that most folks who venture down into the catacombs have something other than artistic creation and personal reflection in mind.
It would seem that those crazy enough to descend to navigate the dank and muddy tunnels of the catacombs have serious partying in mind and, apparently, those who do go down there to indulge in dark and lawless soirees get so completely wrecked that they usually lose track of when and where they are. In one room Psy laughs gleefully when he discovers a block of severely dried hash, speculating, while he makes ready to smoke it, how completely high and disoriented the owner who left it behind must have been. After all, there are but a few maps of the catacombs and it would seem that the ones that exist aren't that reliable. Perhaps that accounts for Psy creating his own map, or Plan des Catacombes. Even still, Psy himself often gets turned around and has, in his longest stint underground, spent over 72 hours in the maze.
It was really lucky for Psy to find a thick, if aged, stash of weed in his underground haunt, because there are so many more unsavory things to be found in the vast blackness of the Parisian catacombs. The makers of Dead Space discovered and captured on film Psy encountering all manner of human elements from lost, sleeping and partying catacombers (and subsequent piles of puke) to tunnels riddled with the tea-stained remains of Parisians of years gone by. The "bone room" sequences of Dead Space are so jaw-dropping that this viewer could barely keep her trap shut. The image of Psy as he crawls carefully, stopping every six feet or so to light a candle and plant it in a skull or fixture of bones, through a tunnel way so stacked with human remains that he can barely fit though the open spaces is burned into my brain forever. This may look like Goonies, kids, but this is the real shit.

 
 

Vinyl Confidential, 4.1 – The Odd Order of Oblong Boxes Returns

Posted by Whitmore, June 8, 2010 04:54pm | Post a Comment
“Because, you know how it is, in this business you can't sleep for trying to imagine all the great records you’re missing out on out there somewhere at a yard sale or a thrift store or at the other end of Amoeba ... And then, you're also the guy behind the turntable, watching the people dancing, getting laid, every night. And then one night, you get to thinking, how do I get laid out there? But to do it smart. That’s the question. You've got those wheels spinning right under your hands, but not necessarily the wheels gyrating in your head.
You may know every groove of every record by heart, but try and figure out the mystery of seduction. And then suddenly last call, closing time. Looking out into the darkness and the whole setup is right there in the room for you. Look, I'm not trying to whitewash anything, paint a pretty picture of decorum or anything. I fought it, only I guess I didn't fight it hard enough. The stakes were too high, and yet not high enough. I’d never done dirt except now; now I’m knee high in mud and muck.”


The Vinyl Confidential, 3.4 – The Odd Order of Oblong Boxes

Posted by Whitmore, April 12, 2010 05:29pm | Post a Comment
"All I saw was the seven inch record lying there on the floor under the vibrating glare of the florescent lights, split in half like a fortune cookie, except this platter’s fortune would read doom and troubled kismet; “you’ve seen better days,” it’d say.
 
Pissed, I flopped around the room like a huge puppet entangled in strings, cursing, spitting guttural yaps till my own ears grew tired of the clamor. I had wheeled my office chair across the small hovel of a room, felt the rear end mysteriously fishtail, looked down and there it was, splattered across the speckled black and blue tile, long gouges furrowed into the vinyl, Ruby Andrews'Just Loving You” sadistically dismembered. A few minutes earlier she had been lapping curves on the turntable, how was I supposed to know she was spinning on stolen time? Her love had been so good to me ...
 
I thought about every other goddamned record I would’ve loved to have snapped in half. This was a pitiful shame. The urge to apologize to all the DJ’s in all the clubs who would crap their knickers for a chance to spin her crept into my brain. How do you explain the mangled demise of such a rare and expensive beautiful thing? The stink of stupidity hung around me like some cheap truckstop aftershave.
 
I let the record lie there for a while as I priced some inexpensive pop vocal records. And just before heading home for the day, as I shut the computer down, the stereo, clicking off the lights, I finally tossed the halves into the bin. Again her melody spun in my head over and over in a dizzying parade of nostalgia. And as I slammed the office door shut, I thought I heard a thin voice say, "Thanks, for listening, mister."

(In which we learn the true story of St. Patrick.)

Posted by Job O Brother, March 14, 2010 06:52pm | Post a Comment

Rad.

I’ve only just returned from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) where I spent the morning with my pal, Señor Danger. I was eager to visit one of their current exhibits, American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765–1915, because it showcases one of my favorite works, Watson and the Shark, by hunky bad boy John Singleton Copley.

I’ll be honest: there was a moment when Señor Danger and I silently tried to work out a plan where we could sneak the painting out under my jacket or something, but my jacket isn’t 35 feet wide, so we opted to just stand there and marvel at it a bit.

The exhibit is fantastic, and anyone who can should check it out. I realize that most people don’t live in Los Angeles, but still, make an effort. As an added incentive, anyone who travels to the LACMA from more than 100 miles away gets a free Colt Model 1873 Single Action Army revolver autographed by Mary Pickford!*

This Wednesday is Saint Patrick’s Day. It’s also the birthday of Nat “King” Cole, John Wayne Gacy, Seneca St. James, Emperor Shijō, and Nalii DeLap. What do all these people have in common? Uh, their birthdays are all on St. Patrick’s Day – are you paying attention or what?


For many of us, St. Patrick’s Day is a mildly amusing 24 hours, most commonly marked by drinking beer the color of anti-freeze and getting to pinch and touch fellow co-workers without being sued for sexual harassment. But this day means more – so much more. So very much more. More. Much.

Much.

The history behind St. Patrick’s Day is rich, and vital to understanding the psyche of the Irish, for whom March 17 is a national holiday. (I don't have anything to substantiate this claim of Irish psychology, but that's okay because... of... um... OH WOW LOOK!!!)


(Taken from his Grindr profile)

Almost nothing factual is known about St. Patrick. Thankfully, this has never stopped the Catholic Church from deifying, believing and creating rules and tradition based upon someone. What we do know is that he was born into a wealthy, Romano-British family whose pottery collection was the envy of every patrician across the Isles.

One day, while dressing up like corned beef & cabbage, he was kidnapped by a gang of hungry Irishmen who shipped him to Mayo, Ireland. While working part-time as a slave, Patrick had a dream in which God told him he should escape his imprisonment. (It’s interesting to note that Patrick didn’t  come up with this idea on his own. I mean, really – you needed Divine Intervention for that? Do you think Jesus also descended from Heaven and advised Patrick to eat food using his mouth and not his elbows? Or to never stick harpoons into his eyes? There’s certain common sense concepts for which we shouldn’t have to rely on mystic visions to comprehend. But I digress…)

Patrick followed God’s suggestion and escaped back to Britain. He eventually got a job being a bishop (which was good – provided full health and dental) and spent his time saving souls from an eternal damnation of hellfire and collecting thimbles.


"God appeared to me and said I should never try to kiss these."

In 432 AD (the same year that saw the death of everyone’s favorite emperor, 赫連定 - boo hoo!) Bishop Patrick returned to Ireland to convert its people to Christianity and maybe grab a tour of the Guinness Brewery. While he wasn’t the most successful of all the early Missionaries, he was the only one that could crack his knuckles two different ways.


Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity, assigning one leaf each to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. (This is the origin of our association with shamrocks and St. Patrick’s.) One day, when teaching this very lesson, he unwittingly used a rare, four-leaf clover, which resulted in their being one leaf extra. When the crowd of pagans listening to him asked what the extra leaf represented, Patrick, on the spot, blurted out that it represented his Aunt Gina.

“How is she an equal to God?” the crowd asked.

“Well,” Patrick fumbled, “She’s sweet and... just... she makes real good scones.”

The crowd was displeased with this answer and insisted that their local baker, Dáirine Cétchathach, made the best scones ever – they even had a bit of jelly in the middle “which ye wouldst find most yummy” – prompting those gathered to begin worshipping at the bakery, where the Eucharist was administered on disposable paper doilies with a sprinkling of powdered sugar meant to symbolize the suffering of Our Lord on the Cross, and cappuccinos were sipped to represent His Blood (sugar cubes Transubstantiated into Jesus’ body were optional).

Patrick flew into a rage and threw the four-leaf clover to the ground.

“This turn of events is most unlucky!” he cried to his secretary, a hearing impaired man who quickly made note of this.

Years later, everything that’s happened so far in history took place and that’s how we came to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day now.


And that's the true history behind St. Patrick's Day (except for the untrue parts). Yippee.


*Offer not valid to children under 4 years of age, the sight impaired, pregnant women, or anyone else at all.
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