This Crazy Stuff

Let me be honest with you, clinic dear, patient beloved readers: I have no idea what “Velvo Finish” is, nor do I care. No, this ad, from the nether regions of Popular Science circa 1958, is posted here solely because of the slick-haired, mustachioed gentleman, so prominently featured. It is because of this man, this unctuous huckster from a by-gone era, that I place this ad in full view, perched high on this hallowed home page in all its glory. Stare deep into his lifeless gaze and accept his wordless invitation to inspect his pubic hair collection.

via Vintage Ads

“NERVOUS96” by Bill Domonkos (Original Music by Jill Tracy and Paul Mercer)

Happy Friday the 13th! A lucky day for us, to be sure– in addition to Ross’s regular installment of the FAM, Coilhouse is proud to present NERVOUS96, a new, suspenseful, next-to-silent retro sci-fi short by director Bill Domonkos.

Inspired by original musical seance recordings by longtime ‘Haus favorite Jill Tracy, and the deliciously spooky violin of Paul Mercer, Domonkos has taken vintage footage and repurposed it to present the tale of a frantic, lonely woman, increasingly overwhelmed by debt and uncertainty in a world where technology has become increasingly invasive, even menacing. His “complex chiaroscuro style marks a marriage between silent-era special effects master George Méliès and the digital age.”

“Single white female. Lonely, Seeking soul mate. Humanoid preferred…”

From the NERVOUS96 press release:

Known for his distinctive craft of manipulated archival footage combined with 2D and 3D computer animation, special effects, and photography, Jill Tracy fans best know Bay Area filmmaker Bill Domonkos for the multiple award-winning “The Fine Art of Poisoning,” and his collection of acclaimed videos for legendary masked band The Residents.

The Fine Art of Poisoning,” (set to Jill Tracy’s seminal song) has become a cult favorite, garnering praise from Clive Barker, Guy Maddin, writer Warren Ellis, and well-over 100,000 views on YouTube, and a recent screening at London’s famed National Gallery.

Domonkos was completely inspired by pianist Jill Tracy and violinist Paul Mercer’s “Musical Séance,” a poignant live project that employs the duo’s astonishing channeled improvisations. Domonkos meticulously crafted excerpts from actual séance recordings to create the emotional voice of the “NERVOUS96” character.

Here ’tis:

NERVOUS96 from Bill Domonkos on Vimeo.

(Click those arrows on the right to watch it full screen.) The musical score for NERVOUS96 is also available for download on Bandcamp. Congratulations to Domonkos/Tracy/Mercer on this sharp and toothsome indie triumph.

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.

MK12 Does it Again. (FITC 2011 Title Film)

After more than a decade, ruddily engorged by countless commercial and artistic coups d’états, the Kansas City-based design and filmmaking collective known as MK12 still excels at chewing bubblegum and kicking ass and making the baby Jebus cry. PROOF:

(Via MK12 co-founder, Matt Fraction.)

FITC is a design and technology events company that celebrated their 10th annual flagship event in Toronto just last week. MK12 produced this brief-but-brutal animated title film to mark the occasion. Indelibly. In your shuddering brainmeats. For all eternity. Nnnngh.

Pipe dream of the day: MK12 makes a full-length movie in cahoots with Al Columbia.

The Friday Afternoon Movie: Man Bites Dog

What a week, huh? Yeah, pretty crazy. It’s Friday though, so it’s almost over. And since it is Friday, how about some FAM?

Today we have 1992’s Man Bites Dog (French: C’est Arrivé Près de Chez Vous, It Happened in Your Neighborhood), directed by Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel, Benoît Poelvoorde. A mockumentary, the story follows a crew of filmmakers, including director Rémy (Belvaux) and cameraman André (Bonzel) as they record the day to day adventures of Ben (Poelvoorde), a prolific serial killer. Ben brings them along on his excursions, introduces the crew to his friends and family, and discusses the ins and outs of his “craft”, as well as pontificating on subjects ranging from philosophy to architecture. Soon, however, the crew is drawn in to participating in Ben’s increasingly random and violent crimes.

I recently re-watched this with someone who had not seen it previously and it is definitely a movie of two halves. The first half of Man Bites Dog can be very funny, in a way that only dark comedies can be. There’s even an homage to the running gag in Rob Reiner’s seminal mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, with the crew losing a number of sound men during filming (due to “occupational hazards”), with each receiving the same eulogy from Rémy. It is a cynical humor to be sure. The shift occurs 2/3rds through the film (Editor’s Note: Oh for— You said this was a movie of two halves and now you’re speaking in thirds. What is wrong with you? Must you be terrible at everything?), with a brutal scene that heralds the active participation of the film crew. It’s a powerful moment and it works by both removing the distance the crew afforded themselves from what they were filming, as well as removing the distance the viewer was afforded from what they were watching. In that moment, all the laughter sort of gets sucked out of the room.

Watching it again, over a decade since I first saw it, I was struck by how well it still holds up. The cast is superb, especially Poelvoorde who plays Ben as a man simply making a living, regardless of how monstrous the means may actually be. It is a manic, bizarre movie; violent, cruel, and funny. And yet, despite that last bit, it never feels like it condones what is happening on screen. In the end, all involved are judged guilty, and all pay for it.


There’s something misleading about the title Hambuster. Vaguely obscene, it feels like it should be referring to something far more profane than a film about killer hamburgers. And yet, that is exactly what we’re talking about here: man-eating, sentient fast food. Directed by the quintet of Paul Alexandre, Maxime Cazaux, Dara Cazamea, Romain Delaunay, and Bruno Ortolland, Hambuster tells the story of what happens when our food rebels against us.

The animation here is fantastic, and the directors wear their influences on their sleeves, even going so far as to put some great, B-movie homages in the credits. The story is simple enough, one could almost say well-worn, but the team is talented and well versed enough in the tropes of over-the-top horror/comedy to do it justice. The diner scene, in particular, is a highlight, featuring a wonderful attention to facial expression and an absurd amount of viscous, red fluid. At the very least, it holds the distinction of being one of the few films featuring a protagonist in the possession of multiple, swaying chins.

Chrissy Lee Polis: A Rally for Peace

For many of us who have been following the story of Chrissy Lee Polis, the 22-year-old transgender woman who was brutally attacked in a suburban McDonald’s near Baltimore ten days ago, it’s been a difficult week. Watching the story go viral provided a sobering look at the amount of phobia and ignorance that still surrounds many people’s concepts of both gender and race.

The attack occurred on April 18th, when Polis stopped at the restaurant to use the ladies’ room. Polis told the Baltimore Sun that she heard her assailants saying “that’s a dude, that’s a dude – and he’s in the female bathroom.” Immediately afterwards, she was beaten, dragged across the floor by her hair, and kicked by two teenagers as a McDonald’s employee recorded the attack on his camera phone and other workers stood by idly. The cell phone recording of the attack (TRIGGER WARNING: extremely violent) shows several employees gawking and laughing as the attack progresses. A sole employee makes an attempt to break up the fight, but retreats almost immediately. A grandmotherly woman attempts to come to Polis’ aid; a police report revealed that she was punched in the face by one of the assailants when she tried to intervene. After two minutes, Polis collapses into a seizure on the floor. The McDonald’s worker who is taping the scene warns the attackers that they need to flee because the police are coming.

A crowd rallies outside the McDonald’s where the crime took place

Coverage of the story on the web has been as painful to watch as the footage itself. It was awful to witness the first wave of discussion, which appeared almost exclusively on white supremacist blogs, with transphobia piling on top of racism as details about Polis’ identity emerged. It was painful to watch mainstream, high-traffic blogs use the word “tranny” in their coverage (the best example of this being, if memory serves correctly, Time-Warner-owned blog Smoking Gun, though their posts appear to have now been scrubbed of the slur). And it was painful to watch Polis’ own twin brother continually refer to her as “my brother” and pointedly use male gender pronouns at her support rally (here, at 1:15). All around, a damning look at the country’s state of gender awareness, or lack thereof.

Polis has been released from the hospital, and spoke to the Baltimore Sun about her experience living as a transwoman in her neighborhood. The McDonald’s employee who filmed the attack has been fired. Both attackers have been apprehended and charged with assault. Hate crime charges may or may not be applied to the case; we’ll likely know in about a week.

In the face of the ugly, seething hatred that surrounds this story, the most encouraging element has been the turnout of support. Over 135,000 people have signed a petition demanding that the McDonald’s Corporation holds its employees accountable for the assault. More inspiring than anything have been images of the rally held at the scene of the crime this past Monday. Hundreds of people showed up outside McDonald’s to voice their solidarity with Chrissy Lee Polis. One of the right-wing hate sites covering the assault early on asked the question, “what happens when sanctified leftwing grievance groups collide over black homophobia?” In their small imagination, people can only choose one side: black vs. white, gay vs. straight, trans vs. cis. There are no gradations or complexities in their world.

Except, that’s not what the images and footage of this rally show us. There are people from all across the race, gender and class spectrum standing up for Chrissy Lee Polis. Trans activist Dayna Beyer, who helped organize the rally, recounts the event:

What was initially intended to be a vigil as the victim appeared severely injured… evolved into an upbeat rally of a united community demanding an end to violence and discrimination.

Having been involved in far too many vigils for murdered trans women over the years, and accepting the general apathy in both the trans and LGBT communities, I expected 30 people to ultimately show up. Instead, 300 did.

…when the program ended and the crowd would have normally dispersed, a funny thing happened. No one left.

People mingled for another 75 minutes until the lights were turned out in the parking lot. There had been no trouble, no counter-demonstration, no hate speech – just love and sisterhood and camaraderie. Locals and activists, gay and straight, cis and trans.

Maryland still has a long way to go. Earlier this month, the Maryland Senate voted down a bill that would have provided protection for trans people against discrimination in housing and employment. Before the bill even hit the Senate, language pertaining to use of public accommodations was stripped from it. Blogger Amanda Hess writes, “opposition to the bill largely focused on the toilet issue—a hysterical concern over gender non-conforming people sharing public restrooms.” Perhaps the tragedy of this event will push lawmakers to rethink their position.

Perhaps things will change.

Image by Anne’s Legacy Photography

Choice Cuts from “Night of the Lepus”

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the Arizona desert, it’s… NIGHT OF THE LEPUS.

Bunnies have risen! (Truly, they have risen!)

MGM laid this rotten egg in 1972 to a flurry of bad reviews and barely stifled laughter. Based on the 1964 science fiction novel The Year of the Angry Rabbit by Australian pulp writer Russell Braddon, the film depicts the valiant struggle of Arizona townies who are unexpectedly forced to defend their homes against an onslaught of deadly, gargantuan, carnivorous fwuffy wuffly bunneh wabbits. Daawww:

Shot on location in Bumblefuck, Nowhere, Arizona, the best/worst scenes from Night of the Lepus show soft, cuddly domestic rabbits “rampaging” through miniature model sets with what appears to be ketchup liberally smeared on their muzzles and paws. There are also some golden moments featuring shrieking, ensanguined bunny hand puppets, and several instances of human actors dressed in matted shag-rug rabbit costumes flailing their way through poorly choreographed attack scenes. Plus? Janet Leigh reading off cue cards. And? DeForest Kelley with a sexy porn ‘stache. Yusss.

Happy Ēostre, everybody!

A Whimsical, Alarming Resonance: Sandra Kasturi

In Sandra Kasturi’s first full length poetry collection, The Animal Bridegroom, one finds all manner of fantastical creatures –shapeshifters, changelings goddesses, and monsters– juxtaposed with the quotidian and the mundane.  Myth intersects with reality, resulting in outlandish dream worlds, unexpected bedtime stories, and everyday affairs elevated to the exotic and the surreal.

In his introduction to the collection, Neil Gaiman writes:

“…People forget the joy of story as they grow older.  They forget the joy of poetry, of finding the perfect word, of turning a phrase, like a potter turning a pot on a wheel, and they believe mistakenly that poetry is not pleasure, but work , or worse, something good for you but unpleasant tasting, like cod-liver oil.

Sandra Kasturi has not forgotten any of these things.”

Sandra has three poetry chapbooks published, as well as the well-received SF poetry anthology, The Stars As Seen from this Particular Angle of Night, which she edited. Her poetry has appeared in various magazines and anthologies, and her cultural essay, “Divine Secrets of the Yaga Sisterhood” appeared in the anthology Girls Who Bite Back: Witches, Slayers, Mutants and Freaks. Sandra is a founding member of the Algonquin Square Table poetry workshop and runs her own imprint, Kelp Queen Press.  She has also received several Toronto Arts Council grants, and a Bram Stoker Award for her editorial work at ChiZine: Treatments of Light and Shade in Words.  As an evolution of  ChiZine, ChiZine Publications (CZP) “emerged on the Canadian publishing” scene in 2009. To quote from their philosophy:

“CZP doesn’t want what’s hot now or stuff that’s so weird it’s entirely out in la-la-land—we want the next step forward. Horror that isn’t just gross or going for a cheap scare, but fundamentally disturbing, instilling a sense of true dread. Fantasy that doesn’t need elves or spells or wizards to create a world far removed or different than ours. Just a slight skewing of our world, handled properly, is far more effective at creating that otherworldly sense for which we strive.”

Sandra generously gave of her time  to talk with us about the slightly skewed otherworld she inhabits; very see below the cut for our recent Q&A.

The Friday Afternoon Movie: Grab Bag

Another week has come and gone, dear readers. Where the time went, I cannot say. And yet, here we are, on the cusp of another weekend. This week has been a blur; my ability to retain information seemingly non-existent. I’m not sure why. Maybe I’m getting sick, or maybe Zo has been spiking my water again. Regardless of the cause, in the spirit of my hummingbird-like attention span, the FAM presents a grab bag of short stories on film. Continue, and be entertained!

Thursday by Mathias Hoegg. Sometime in the future there is a family of blackbirds and a young couple living in a vast metropolis. What will happen when their paths cross? CLICK TO FIND OUT.

Blinky™ by Ruairi Robinson, director of Fifty Percent Grey and The Silent City presents a tale that even my dessicated, pea-sized brain can wrap itself around. It’s the story of a robot gone bad, as robots are wont to do. Seriously, they’re evil.

Chernokids by Marion Petegnief, Matthieu Bernadat, Nils Boussuge, Florence Ciuccoli, and Clément Deltour tells the creepy, sad story of four, mutated children living in an un-named industrial zone and their devotion to a being they call Mother. At one point they turn into superheroes, but not really.

Jons and the Spider by Marie-Margaux Tsakiri-Scanatovits and Soyoung Hyun uses cutout animation (computer simulated or not I am unsure) to tell the story of a young boy, left in a cabin deep in the woods to make violins. This one is more about creating an atmosphere, perhaps, than telling an actual story. I think. I could be wrong. Again, tiny brain.

And that’s going to do it for the FAM. Have a good weekend everyone. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to find somewhere quiet and collapse into a quivering heap.