Amoeblog

The Art of the LP Cover: Halloween Special - Satan and Co.

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, October 26, 2010 11:00am | Post a Comment


I've included a Pan cover or two since he helped forge our western Devil character.

Horror, The Universal Language 4: Freedom vs. Conformity in Blind Beast (1969) & Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Posted by Charles Reece, October 17, 2010 11:52pm | Post a Comment
    

Halloween's coming, so why not continue with my horror double-feature suggestions? Although based on an early 1930s story by Edogawa RampoBlind Beast can be seen as Yasuzo Masumura's inverted take on John Fowles' abduction classic The Collector (made into a 1965 movie by William Wyler, which might've been recommended here if it were a better adaptation). Fowles' book is about class and the empty exercise of capital, in which an alienated office clerk moves up the economic ladder by winning the lottery, but remains on the outside looking in. His only passions are in the form of commodity fetishism: collecting butterflies and fantasizing about a beautiful young female artist whom he obsessively watches from afar. He uses his newfound wealth to kidnap and imprison her with the hopes that she'll discover who he truly is, you know, on the inside. But what he is is nothing more than a guy who collects things, with no more connection to those things than that they fulfill some mental checklist. His is a life reduced to reification where an emotional bond is seen as two stamps being placed together in a book.

In Blind Beast, the kidnapper, Aki, is a blind sculptor who poses as a masseur in order to get tactile inspiration for his art, surrealistic walls of female body parts. Being a sadist, Aki finds his perfect model, Michio, a woman who begins as his victim, but with the transgressive sexualization of pain (or, perhaps, the Stockholm Syndrome) is transformed into a willing masochist. As Luis Buñuel explained his attraction to surrealism:

For the first time in my life, I'd come into contact with a coherent moral system that, as far as I could tell, had no flaws. It was an aggressive morality based on the complete rejection of all existing values. We had other criteria: we exalted passion, mystification, black humor, the insult, and the call of the abyss. Inside this new territory, all our thoughts and actions seemed justifiable; there was simply no room for doubt. Everything made sense. Our morality may have been more demanding and more dangerous than the prevailing order, but it was also stronger, richer, more coherent. -- quoted here

Whereas The Collector's Frederick never sees his captive as more than an object, thereby reinforcing his own alienation, Michio's abduction is cause for an aesthetic release from objectifying social restrictions. In a spiraling dialectic of slicing and dicing, she and Aki achieve an intersubjective bond through sensuousness (more painful than I'd prefer, but you get the picture).

There are three good variations on Jack Finney's The Body Snatchers, but the best is Don Siegel's from 1956, due in no small part to Kevin McCarthy as Miles Bennell, the doctor who discovers something's amiss with the neighbors. With a Cold War sweat constantly pouring out of him, he's the panicking embodiment of middle America's fear of atomic bombs and communist infiltration. His rapid sideways glances keep the viewer feeling anxious for the film's duration. The alien collectivist consciousness that each stolen body is mentally linked to and controlled by suggests an extreme version of Orwellian totalitarianism (the goal of the ideologically pure language Newspeak was, if you'll recall, to rid the individual of the ability to think outside the mandated system). So, on the one hand, the film is, as oft-noted, a critique of communism. But, on the other, there's the auto-critique implicit in the way the possessed Americans are difficult to distinguish from their unpossessed counterparts. In other words, the real horror is that there might be no difference between what most do with their supposed freedom and living in a totally administered society.

When there's nothing left of moral behavior but habit, the perversity of surrealism and Blind Beast becomes paradoxically a moral act in defiance of the totalizing will. From 1984, consider Winston's reaction to Julia's admission that she'd slept with so many Party members:

His heart lept. Scores of times she had done it; he wished it had been hundreds -- thousands. Anything that hinted at corruption always filled him with a wild hope. Who knew? Perhaps the Party was rotten under the surface, its cult of strenuousness and self-denial simply a sham concealing iniquity. If he could have infected the whole lot of them with leprosy or syphilis, how gladly he would have done so! Anything to rot, to weaken, to undermine! -- p. 127-8

As two dead perverts, Aki and Mishio are libidinal martyrs for Miles and Winston's cause.

Blind Beast is available on a fine DVD from Fantoma. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) is available on a serviceable DVD. Philip Kaufman's 1978 version featuring a man's head on a dog that gave me nightmares as a kid is now out on blu-ray. And Abel Ferrara's Body Snatchers (1993) is out of print, but should be fairly cheap used.

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The Art of the LP Cover: Halloween Special - Cemeteries

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, October 17, 2010 12:30pm | Post a Comment

I've got a solid Halloween themed three parter lined up for this season. 
This first batch starts things off gloomily with various cemetery & coffin covers. 
Check out my 2007 series for some great Halloween related LP ramblings.  

Witch Hunters, Strange Truths & Spooked Out Theremins

Vintage Bats, Exorcismic Funk & Poe

Barbara The Grey Witch, Chubby Checker & Don Shirley

Tricked Out and Fully Treated: Rocktober is over but the Halloween high remains...

Posted by Kells, November 6, 2009 01:31am | Post a Comment

When I was in fifth grade staying up late enough to catch Dave Letterman's Top Ten was a personal goal of mine every weeknight (on Saturday nights it was staying up late enough to make it through Saturday Night Live in its entirety, but I always conked out right about the time Dennis Miller wrapped up his Weekend Update). I like to think that I became a lover of lists and listing things because of that after-hours fixation of mine, but who cares? The fact is that I do love a list and this year's Halloween happenings were so fabulously choice that I've got to work it out herein, Late Night Top Ten style:

10: Students of San Francisco State University protesting budget cuts on Monday by turning the quad into a graveyard for courses felled by a lack of state education funds. The many headstones featured names of "dead" classes and mourners honored them dutifully in Dios de los Muertos style with candles, flowers and gorgeous little treats. A very clever and seasonally satisfying display of discontent!

9: Rammstein's timely release of their new album Liebe Ist Für Alle Da. Now, I count myself as an accidental Rammstein fan (and there's a good lengthy yarn I could spin about the who, what and why-fors about it), but a fan I am nonetheless ---especially as their machismo-soaked yet obviously Depeche Mode influenced electro-opera-industrial rock always seems to find a place on my annual Halloween mixtape! Not to mention that these German rockers consistently crank out quality music videos that remind us that there once was a time when the medium was viewed as an elevated art-form. Their video for the 1995 single Du Riechst So Gut is perhaps their most romantic (despite the fact that the imagery delves into bestiality, transvestitism and baroque dance routines) and very Halloween appropriate (despite the fact that nearly all their videos could be specified as "Halloween appropriate"). Oh Rammstein, why must thy art be so misunderstood? Maybe it's a European thing...


8: Realizing my costume. I'm one of those crafty types who loves to construct a guise from scratch every year and half the fun is coming up with a good idea to roll with. Initially I thought I'd dress up as a Tiki this Halloween, but that eventually morphed into a Hawaiian Tiki cocktail, or a Mai Tai. I would have liked to think I could pass my tiki-mug-with-skewered-fruit-and-purple-paper-parasol ensemble as a Zombie cocktail just to put a little pun in the mix, but I'm just glad that most people "got" what I was. 

7: All those pumpkin-flavored seasonal treats --- yes, please! Three stand-outs this year were the Pumpkin Spice Latte from Peet's Coffee (more spicey and less sugary than the competitors offerings), Hershey's Pumpkin Kisses (which I thought would be gross, but they're more yummy than they should be) and Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pancake mix, which has enjoyed top billing at every Sunday breakfast in my household since discovery. Enjoy them while you still can.

6: The achievement of this fabulous Wayang-esque Jack 'o Lantern. Biggest of big ups to the pumpkin-carving master who created this exquisite piece --- can you even imagine how frustratingly painstaking it must have been to create? It paid off in pure breathtaking Halloween-ness. Eat your craft-biting heart out, Martha!

5: All ten and a half minutes of Tommy heavenly6's "Lollipop Candy Bad Girl" video. You know, I could stop right here and flip-flop into an auxiliary list of the things that I love about pro-alter-ego Jpop artist Tomoko Kawase, but I'll can it for now and say that A: I love that she, or at least one of her alter-egos, adores Sweet Valley High (what self-respecting bookish bitch doesn't have a Sweet Valley High loving alter-ego?) and B: I love that her absolutely absurd Halloween-flavored music video suggests that the way to make Halloween cake is to drop several jack o' lanterns and whole bottles of Jose Cuervo into your oversized witches' cauldron: duh!

4: Gugug's rendition of "Bela Lugosi's Dead." So there are these guys, more specifically two guys and sometimes their friends, in Scotland who call themselves Gugug and play experimental-ish music live on YouTube (and on one of YouTube's most subscribed channels, just so ya know). Besides being super-talented, ukulele playing, melodica-wielding over-achievers, they provide free tutorials and tips for uke enthusiasts to take total artistic control of their medium and whip up genius-grade covers of all manner of beloved tunes with such regularity that if what they do makes you happy, like it does for me, checking in with Gugug can be deemed therapeutic. And this year's "Halloween Special" from Gugug effing hit the spot, seasonally:


3: Trick-Or-Treating on Belvedere Street. There is, in a sleepy residential corner of San Francisco, a quiet avenue that becomes for one night a year a mash-up of every over-produced and unlikely trick-or-treating scenario ever imagined for and depicted on celluloid. The residents of Belvedere Street in Cole Valley are so completely committed to creating the ultimate Halloween wonderland experience en masse that it makes me wonder if they have to make absolutely sure that any potential new-comers to the area are fully capable of "bringing it" before they are permitted to move in. It's pleasantly clear by the gathered crowd that many folks count on this little nook for their annual family-funtime Hallow's Eve fix. It seems one is never too old to trick-or-treat on Belvedere Street and surely one may never tire of listening to children strategize various methods of trick-or-treating while padding about gazing in awe at costumed kids of all ages, not to mention house after over-dressed "haunted" house lining the blocked off corridor. In short: it rules!

2: Amoeba San Francisco's annual costume contest! The one thing above all that I treasure about Halloween is the scope and depth of the looks that come out and play for the day each year. Of course, dressing up at work isn't always about functionality, which always provides some titillating, old-fashioned juxtaposition in an otherwise visually over-stimulating environment. My favorites were Garth (from Wayne's World --- party on, Garth!), Robert Smith, Alice Cooper, the Blue Jay, "Hey!" Kool-Aid himself and one usually chatty employee who took his Chaplin costume so seriously that he said next to nothing all day. Now that was scary indeed!

1: Bob Saggeth live at Amnesia! In terms of the holiday-time continuum, whatever stays the high becomes the most fondly remembered nostalgia nugget in my world. This Halloween I had to pour a little out for my friends (Amoeba mainstay and man of many talents Josh Pollack and Amoeba alum and "best drummer in SF" Warren Heugel) and friends of friends who, no doubt, practiced extensively to bring their heavy hitting, one-off Black Sabbath cover band to Amnesia Bar, thus slaying all in attendance with back to back sets of face-melting stoner jams a-plenty. All my favorites were performed deftly, fog machine a-fogging and all, and I went home Halloween night --- on one of the strangest bus rides of my life --- with an ear to ear goofy grin on my face and ears that rang from Saturday night 'til Tuesday noon. "Allllllllllllright now!" --- thanks Bob Saggeth for properly punctuating one of the best seasonal reasons to peel your ass off the couch and see what all the fuss is about! Happy Halloween, everyone!

This is Halloween, Amoeba SF Style!

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, November 3, 2009 02:13pm | Post a Comment

Another spooky Amoeba San Francisco Halloween has come and gone...thank goodness we have photographs to help us always remember the good, the bad, and the ugly!

We kicked things off with mood-setting DJ sets by DJ Tay and Miz Margo, Taylor in some creepy garb and Margo a dead ringer for Abbey from NCIS!





  Next came our costume contest, with our deliciously disgusting hostess, Miss Snatch Face!



Then came Annie as the cat burgler...



 Emily as Coraline...



Grace as Grace Alice Cooper...



Tena as the Black Dahlia...



Erin as Robert Smith of The Cure...



Billy as Homer Simpson when he got fat to get disability...



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