Keyboard Cat In Hell

It would seem, at first glance, that this is not a thing that should exist in this reality. This is something that should be glimpsed only when gazing into some dark mirror of this world; something seen on the other side of a portal opening into the formless Void. Here, in the emptiness of this Other Place, one might find this scene, a Fellini-esque performance in which a sweaty, rotund gentleman sings an off-key, off-tempo version of “Jesus Loves Me”, to the decidedly mechanical beat of a cat named Midnight on organ and a mouse named Squeaky on the drum, mallets taped to its paws. No, this is something that should not be a part of our world. Alas, however, it is. Specifically, it is an excerpt from the late 50s children’s television program Andy’s Gang, filmed in front of an audience of what I can only assume were budding sociopaths who did not find this horrible in the least and, indeed, seem quite entertained. For the curious, context does little to make this clip any less dismal.

Via The Daily What

Vinicius Quesada’s “Blood Piss Blues” Series


“telemptyness”

Vinicius Quesada is a collage/street artist from São Paulo, Brazil. In 2010, he created a series of dystopian images titled Blood Piss Blues, “with real blood.

The images suggest a world in which the peak oil crisis has occurred, where children play in dismantled subway cars and where dense, polluted cities house homeless refugeessword-wielding geisha and… psychedelic cats. At least that’s one interpretation.

The paintings appear to be large and incredibly detailed; here is one tiny detail of the mega-cityscape, and another photo of one of the images wheat-pasted on Quesada’s wall. More images after the jump, and even more on Flickr. [via Surrogate Self]


“little kids playing on the subway”

The Friday Afternoon Movie: The Last Man On Earth

This week the FAM continues its Vincent Price-a-thon (Did we mention, this is a Vincent Price-a-thon? No? Well, it is.) with 1964′s The Last Man on Earth, directed by Ubaldo Ragona and Sidney Salkow. It is based on Richard Matheson’s classic novella I Am Legend which would later be bastardized into 1971′s The Omega Man with Charlton Heston, the 2007, Will Smith shit-fest I Am Legend as well as I Am Omega, the “Mockbuster” of that same year distributed by straight to video empire The Asylum.

The Last Man On Earth has two distinct advantages over these efforts. The first is that the script was partially written by Matheson himself and, as such, it most closely follows his original story. In the end, though, he was not particularly pleased with the effort and had himself credited as “Logan Swanson” (a combination of the maiden names of his mother and the mother of his wife):

I was disappointed in The Last Man on Earth, even though they more or less followed my story. I think Vincent Price, whom I love in every one of his pictures that I wrote, was miscast. I also felt the direction was kind of poor. I just didn’t care for it.

The second is, of course, Vincent Price, because everything is automatically made a bit better when he’s around. That said, I would agree with Matheson’s take that Price is a bit miscast here. He’s not the hero type, at least not in the way that the story requires Richard Neville (Morgan here) to be. His interactions with the hordes of undead outside the confines of his house, then, are usually pretty laughable, including scenes of Morgan going about his business of staking vampires while they sleep, in which Price halfheartedly waves a hammer around to pantomime the act of driving a stake into a body. I can’t help but wonder if this may have been a part of the reason why Richard was rewritten as a milquetoast scientist from the blue-collar factory worker in the story. That said, I still find his performance to have some great strengths, most obviously his ability to bring Morgan’s internal monologues to life. Price manages to instill these voice-overs with a palpable sense of sadness and desperation which is good because, much as I adore the book, it is mostly a story about a man talking to himself. This may be why Hollywood has shied away from doing a straight adaptation.

The differences here are fairly minimal, with one exception. The vampires here are shuffling, wrecks, whereas in the book they were agile and fast. This change would seem to have little impact, though it did make an impression on one George A. Romero, who would acknowledge the impact of both the film and the novella on his Night of the Living Dead. Other changes include, Richard’s last name and pre-apocalypse occupation (as previously mentioned) as well as the specifics of his interactions with the woman Ruth and the dog. The largest change, of course, is that of the title and, subsequently, its use in the final line of the story. I Am Legend very much elevates itself with that last line and, though The Last Man on Earth makes an effort, it cannot match Matheson’s twist. Regardless of any shortcomings, however, it’s worth giving The Last Man on Earth a look. It’s a solid film, starring one of the great horror masters and a worthy entry in the history of end of the world cinema.

Ready Player One

Earlier this year, Patton Oswalt wrote an essay for Wired entitled “Wake Up, Geek Culture. Time to Die.” In it, Oswalt warns that the world is on the brink of “Etewaf: Everything That Ever Was—Available Forever.” Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a daring young-adult fiction book about what might happen in such a world.

The year is 2044, and the world is ravaged by economic collapse. The peak oil crisis has occurred, unemployment is at an all-time high (with a two-year wait for jobs in the fast food industry), global warming has destroyed the climate, and people live in abject poverty. Our protagonist, 18-year-old Wade Watts, lives with sixteen other people inside a trailer. The trailer is part of “the stacks” – a new type of ghetto on the outskirts of major cities in which trailers, RVs and shipping containers are stacked one on top of another, creating tall, precarious towers.

On the bright side, a nerd “über-deity”/computer genius named James Halliday has crafted the ultimate MMO: a haptic virtual world akin to the Stephenson’s metaverse, Gibson’s cyberspace, and World of Warcraft. The immersive environment, called OASIS, is accessed by everyone with a computer, and most people spend every waking second in it. In this world, education is free, space is nearly infinite, and every type of diversion exists to distract people away from their daily life.

One the day after James Halliday (born: 1979) dies, a recorded invitation gets sent to every player in OASIS. While Oingo Boingo’s “Dead Man’s Party” plays in the background, a recording of Halliday, digitally inserted into a scene of a John Hughes film, informs OASIS users that he has hidden an easter egg somewhere in the game. And that whoever finds it will inherit Halliday’s entire fortune of billions, his assets, his company, and rulership of OASIS.

The hunt is on. Teenagers race against an evil corporation to find the egg. In their search for clues, a new generation discovers the 80s culture that Halliday loved, the culture that inspired him to build his all-encompassing virtual world. From Blade Runner to Ultraman to the Commodore 64 to Dungeons and Dragons to Devo to Adventure and beyond, Halliday’s challenge produces an otaku culture the likes of which the world has never seen. But as the stakes get higher and people begin to die not only in OASIS but also in real life, it becomes clear that it’s not just a game, and that the future of civilization depends on the outcome.

It’s a wonderful book. Everyone should read it. Check out the excerpts on Ernest Cline’s site, where you can also purchase the book or e-book. The audiobook version is narrated by none other than “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Geek” author Wil Wheaton. A perfect match.

[via @nicoles]

HTRK: Work (work, work)

After the tragic death of bassist Sean Stewart last year, the remaining members of Australia’s HTRK –Nigel Yang and Jonnine Standish– have continued to record as a duo. Their latest release, Work (work, work), marks the beginning of a new route.

HTRK’s debut album, Marry Me Tonight (2009), produced by The Birthday Party’s Rowland S. Howard, was a modern take on the familiar musical connection between Berlin and Melbourne, a route frequented before by Howard himself, Nick Cave, Anita Lane, Phil Shöenfelt and other heroes of sultry, sticky new wave. Acute guitar structures and thick, uneasy basslines added an aggressively shuddering, no-wave influenced quality; Standish’s detached, blasé vocals completed the impression of intriguing discomfiture.


HTRK vocalist and co-composer Jonnine Standish, wearing Poltock & Walsh.

Work (work, work) is a different story, devoid of previous aggression, and filled instead with aloof blankness and withering instances of resignation. The music draws from popular retro-futuristic sources, exploring an imaginarium of digital decay, postindustrial wastelands, soulless end-of-days decadence and chemical cures for chronic anhedonia. There are echoes of mid-90s dystopian reverie, in which humans seek respite from their growing boredom and anxiety in cyberscapes or mechanical sex practices or drug delusions… although HTRK paints these millennial fears in more fashionable dress, using a production palette of all the sounds currently en vogue. Work (work, work) presents indifferent vocals, deeply steeped in slowly pouring, liquid-metal synths and distant waves of guitar noise. The songs, languidly spinning, encourage the listener to melt them together into a thick soup. Or paraffin. Or diesel oil.

The downtempo qualities can even evoke an image of post-2000 trip hop: washed out soul, dub influences, marijuana-induced laziness. Work (work, work) maintains  just as suffocatingly stuffy an atmosphere – and becomes equally as decorative as trip hop eventually grew to be. At times, it sounds like a nihilistic version of electronic sentimentalists and mood creators like The XX. The band’s new music has an oddly warm quality, yet it’s a warmth more resembling an engine cooling down than a sentimental smile.


Press photo: Nigel Yang & Jonnine Standish.

Purchase Work (work, work) and other HTRK output at your local indie record shop, or directly through their record label, Ghostly International.

Upcoming HTRK Tour Dates:

  • Sept 06 Portland OR – Mississippi Studios
  • Sept 07 San Francisco CA – Public Works
  • Sept 11 Los Angeles CA – The Echo
  • Sept 14 New York NY – Home Sweet Home
  • Sept 17 Brooklyn NY – Secret Project Robot
  • Oct 12 Krakow PL – Unsound Festival
  • Oct 24 London UK – The Garage
  • Oct 30 Kortrijk BE – Sonic City Festival

On the Occasion of Walter Benjamin’s 119th Birthday

The treasure-dispensing giant in the green forest or the fairy who grants one wish
- they appear to each of us at least once in a lifetime. But only
Sunday’s children remember the wish they made, and so it is
only a few who recognize its fulfillment in their lives. – Walter Benjamin


Benjamin Birthday Cake! Photoshop by Nadya.

There is a Yiddish expression offered on someone’s birthday which is affectionate and contains a subtle blessing: “Bis hundert und zwanzig.” In other words, people are wished a life that extends to their 120th year. So what should we do if someone dear (if not near) somehow turns 120? What are they wished then and each year thereafter? I offer these questions as a point of entry for considering Walter Benjamin, a writer whose life ended in suicide as he contemplated his chances of eluding the Nazi Gestapo some seventy-three years before this question may have become material for those around him.  Today marks the 119th anniversary of Benjamin’s birth – the last time someone could have addressed him with the wish of living to 120.

Walter Benjamin was a literary critic, philosopher, memoirist, and collector during Germany’s ill-fated Weimar Republic. Among his adventures were sojourns from Berlin to Moscow to witness the building of history and to Marseilles to smoke hashish and to Riga to have his love rejected. His last seven years were spent in exile while his works were banned and burned in his native land. Under other conditions, Benjamin’s Francophile desires would have found their easy appeasement in Paris, but the Third Reich cast an increasingly tall shadow and he became, tragically, a prisoner in the country of his dreams. In his forty-eight year life, Benjamin ran with Bertolt Brecht, Rainer Maria Rilke, Asja Lacis, Theodor and Gretel Adorno, Siegfried Kracauer, Ernst Bloch, Hannah Arendt, Georges Bataille, Leo Strauss, Max Brod and Gershom Scholem. And in many ways, Benjamin’s thought is a playful and poetic montage of the ideas of his associates – a “constellation” of Romanticism, Idealism, Marxism, Surrealism, and Jewish mysticism that is more than its unlikely parts: “Satan is a dialectician, and a kind of spurious success…betrays him, just as does the spirit of gravity.”


Einbahnstrasse by Sasha Stone (1928)

Benjamin brought to this heady mix his fascination, at once childish and insightful, for art and artifacts as relics containing clues to history. The scion of an antiquities dealer, Benjamin discerned an impending revolutionary–cum-spiritual cataclysm by contemplating and indexing paintings, books, and the most banal debris of economic life he could find, regarding them as might wily Detective Columbo if he was prodigiously stoned. As Bloch wrote of Benjamin’s book One Way Street, “when the current cabaret passes through a surrealist philosophy, what emerges into the light of day from the debris of meanings…is a kaleidoscope of a different sort.” The spooky thing is that Benjamin’s apocalyptic vision of lawmaking described in 1921 as “bloody power for its own sake” came to pass in many ways a little more than a decade later.

Walter Benjamin lived in a milieu of such vastly assimilated German-Jewish life that he had little formal understanding of Jewish culture, Yiddish, Hebrew, or even the Jewish religion.  He did, however, harbor an abiding interest in Jewish mysticism and mused furtively over those bits of religion and culture he encountered.  And he certainly seemed to have found spiritual sanction for his already-existing fetishization of objects in the Kabbalist’s meditations on words, names, and numbers.  According to this mystical orientation, influenced by neo-Platonism, reality has multiple dimensions – like a faceted diamond – only a few of which are directly accessible to us. We may approach them only indirectly, as they appear to us as abstract notions like numbers, letters, names, and sentiments. In such times as Benjamin playfully, and perhaps also earnestly, speculated on the mystical significance of language and numbers, he may have come to consider 119 alongside its constitutive outside, the number 120, the last year we can legitimately hope for someone else.  If so, it is entirely likely that Benjamin, a thinker who invited the mystical, would have been intrigued by the delimiting function of 120 and may have further speculated on 121 as a possible portal to other dimensions.  Operating, then, as a detective, Benjamin may have investigated the year 120 as a future crime scene – a time-place where this phrase will be eternally transcended. Looking outward, 119 years of life may have been considered the furthermost edge of his generation, a remote vantage from which to contemplate the eternity of space, like a balcony atop “Saturn’s ring.” Upon returning from such reveries, Benjamin would hopefully have finally mentioned that the actual root of this folk expression comes from the biblical datum that Moses lived to be 120. This, then, could have been followed by an analogy that is possibly both specious and interesting, like noting that Moses and Benjamin never completed their exodus from brutality.

The wish that one live beyond the culturally sanctioned, and quite generous, lifespan of 120 is redolent of the posthumous reception of Benjamin’s work throughout the humanities. The fervent interest in his work throughout the humanities since the 1980s is so unlikely as to seem almost a form of Messianic fulfillment on an individual scale. After all, his life was unfulfilled in most respects. He was a failed academic, a divorcee whose affair was an awkward mess, a minor radio personality whose voice was never recorded, and a writer whose masterworks were unfinished or forever lost in history. Years later, his work even achieved “fame” on its own terms when, in 1969, his most significant essay was mistranslated as “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” by Harry Zohn. For Benjamin, a work has achieved “fame” when it its translation transmits information not contained in the original. Two generations of scholars and art critics referenced his most significant essay through a misleading title, when now, as if language shifted its tectonic plates under our feet, the essay is emphatically translated as “Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility.”  In the digital age, articles like this one are re-posted with attention to errata, such as mistaking today for his 121st anniversary, whereas it is only his 119th.  If only Zohn had used WordPress his translation would have been unfinished and arguably better for it.  Perhaps as the author of that essay – however titled – Benjamin would have come to consider fame in the age of American Idol in terms of having a finger puppet refrigerator magnet in one’s visgage. “All that is holy is profaned,” sayeth Marx. What does familiarity breed? So much for the “aura” of the author, eh?

In his essay on “The Metaphysics of Youth” Benjamin contemplates one’s diary as a temporal domain, an inner life expressed in writing which begins in medias res, with life already in motion, and which can never be concluded by an author whose death occludes continued authorship. The project is never finished and the life, as written in the diary, exists in its own sort of time, like the life the mind, an eternal moment delimited by birth and death, and unable to experience either. Benjamin’s life is thus suspended within the pages of his books, essays, memoirs, and personal effects – as in his Paris address book shown below. Something of his life may sometimes seem to flash in our minds as we read him, just as Benjamin once suggested that art and artifacts can communicate something of their creation in flashes. In this sense, Benjamin’s work has escaped the bounds of the moment in which it was written, although it has yet to allow its readers to tear the fabric of time and usher in the Messianic moment of utter destructiveness in which history is fulfilled and completed.

Of course, I cannot literally wish Walter Benjamin 120 years of existence because I have no known way of communicating it to him. I can, however, wish it for him in spirit, and I do. Whether this wish, now communicated in language, effectively gives him happiness, is beyond the scope of this essay to determine, but my wish that it do so has some affinity with Benjamin’s own work. In his essay, “On Language as Such and on the Language of Man,” Benjamin posits language as constitutive of thought and life as we know it – not merely a conduit for them – as, in his example, a divine speech act once set the universe in motion with illumination: “Let there be light.” Likewise, Benjamin may have noted that the wish that someone live to 120 implies a blessing, as in the Yiddish expression: “From your mouth to God’s ear.” As this is the last time I may properly wish Walter a 120th year,  I am ever-more concerned that it take the form of a blessing where numbers and sentiments are tangible – on the other side of language.

This essay is dedicated to Lionel Ziprin, z”l.

Alex Jones And The Clockwork Elves

Every once in a while I like to check in on Alex Jones, just to see how he’s doing. The man lives in a very dangerous world, you understand. Far more dangerous than the sphere that you and I inhabit. Crazy shit goes down on a daily basis in Jones’s ‘hood, so I just stop by every now and then to make sure that his head hasn’t exploded or, at the very least, to witness his head exploding.

There could not have been a better time. Truly, this is some of the man’s finest work. It’s got everything a conspiracy could ask for: government cover-ups, drug use, Philip K. Dick and elves. It’s awe-inspiring stuff. The gist is that powerful old men, who may or may not be ruling the world, are jacked up on the powerful hallucinogen dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Under the effects of the drug, they have come into contact with beings Jones’s claims they refer to as “clockwork elves” who instructed them to enslave humanity and build the Large Hadron Collider.

Now, Jones insists that he does not believe this (probably…maybe) and that this is “pretty David Icke”. He wants you to know that he doesn’t talk about this stuff because it would blow your mind. But he also knows that you need to know these things. You need to be aware because, as mentioned, Alex Jones lives in a pretty dangerous world and, with his help, you can too.

Super Cat World VS High Voltage Prairie Dogs Group Audio Harassment

A little light Rapture music:

Yours truly has NO idea why this video hasn’t gone insanely viral. Then again, yours truly is tripping balls on painkillers at the moment.

Double prairie-dog dare ya to watch the entire thing.

[Edited to add: holy FUCK, THIS ENTIRE CHANNEL IS NUTS.]

The Friday Afternoon (Short) Movie: Connected

A short film for today’s FAM, something to distract you, if only briefly, from your ever overflowing inbox. Seriously, fuck that inbox. Always full; one thing gets done, four things replace it. Goddamn you, inbox. You know what, don’t — just don’t even look. Look away. Look over here, for a couple of minutes.

Have a look at Connected, a short film from Jens Raunkjær Christensen & Jonas Drotner Mouritsen that manages to be even bleaker than that inbox (Editor’s Note: Shut up you ass! Don’tthinkaboutitdon’tthinkaboutitdon’tthinkaboutitdon’tthinkaboutit.) In a post-apocalyptic future, devoid of breathable air, two figures make their way across a deserted and windswept landscape, tethered together by two hoses, when a figure up on a hill spies them.

I had seen images of this quite some time ago, when Christensen and Mouritsen were still trying to finish it and was intrigued, but lost track of it. The finished product is, indeed, quite short, but is vague enough in its details to warrant repeated viewings. In the end, I’m still left wanting to know more; about the world, yes, but more specifically the relationships between these three doomed people, especially the adult and child whose symbiotic existence lends the piece its name. There is a stark decision made in that final act and it begs exposition, though wisely, or perhaps, blessedly, the filmmakers leave it unspoken.

Man vs. Box

As the Japanese continue their misguided forays into the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence, we can, no doubt, expect to see more scenarios like the one played out here, in this video. What chance does a human being stand against the cold, steel mind of the insidious Machine? If a man can’t even flip a switch in peace in the presence of one of these things, what hope is there for our future?

This is what happens when our creations rebel. This will be the end of us.