Gold and Grit: David Arnal Does Manuel Albarran

This glorious galleria of gilded gays was created by Spanish photographer David Arnal. The two images here are part of a bigger set of polaroids; see the rest of them here, and some more here (scroll down). I also admire Arnal for this cyberpunk goodness (here is the other one from that series), depicting Spain’s house music legend, Rebeka Brown.

I’m not sure about the identity of the gentleman in these images, but the lady in the center above is most definitely model and musician Polly Fey, #4 from the Coilhouse List of Alien Beauty. The shiny headpieces are the handiwork of metal couture designer Manuel Albarran. What a killer combination of talents! I love the polaroids, how gritty and poorly-scanned they are. What a wonderfully unexpected choice for this kind of shoot, those washed-out cyans and golds. Bravo.

The Real Little Mermaid

Part of what made me weird as a kid was the Hans Christian Andersen‘s Fairy Tales tome I kept bedside, right next to Roadside Picnic and The History of Metals [don’t ask]. My favorite was Rusalochka [The Little Mermaid] – a heartbreaking tale of impossible inter-species love between a human fish and a prince. Failure despite the best of efforts is the concept that makes The Little Mermaid the powerful, unforgettable piece that it is. While most children’s books pollute young brains with happy endings and ever afters, this is a love story made more beautiful by its futility.

Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid is a perfect tragedy – a concept mercilessly extinguished by the bubbly Disney animated film of the same name. Where is the star-crossed romance? Where are the spooky supernatural themes? Sure, here is Ursula the octo-witch, but the mysticism ends there. Instead of heartbreak and doom we get talking lobsters, horny priests and penis castles. Fortunately, there is also Rusalochka, the haunting 1968 Soyuzmultfilm animation. It follows Andersen’s story without too much sugar coating and puts melancholy back in its rightful place. The colors are muted, the characters are elegantly drawn and the music, composed by Aleksandr Lokshin, ranges between ethereal and somber. Watch all three parts below [with subtitles!].

Parts 2 and 3 await under the cut!

Better Than Coffee: Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Bloopers

Awww. Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas. Bless you, Saint Henson. This is one of very few holiday movies I can sit through without wanting to commit Santacide. Sure, it’s as saccharine sweet, maudlin, and sentimental as anything else you’ll see this time of year, but hey, they’re muppets. Somehow that makes it okay. And you just gotta love a Christmas special where the main characters can get that exited about sliding around on a garbage bag stapled to a frozen pile of shit.

You know what might possibly be even better than Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas?

Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas BLOOPERS:

“Hubba WHA” and a big warm fuzzy good morning to you.

(A couple of musical numbers from Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band and the River Bottom Nightmare Band under the cut.)

Amanda Palmer, Her Belly, and More

When the controversy regarding Amanda Palmer’s belly first hit, I was confused. Amanda Palmer’s record label, metal powerhouse Roadrunner, had told her they wanted to cut shots from her new music video that focused on what they deemed to be the singer’s offensively large belly. I watched this video, and I kept waiting for that one shot. I was waiting to see a jiggling closeup, or a spray of sweat flying from a glistening roll of flesh – just something that would make me say, “well, at least I can see where these A&R dudes were coming from, even if I don’t agree with them.” I waited, and waited, and waited, bopping my head to the tune. And then the video was over. There was nothing sinister; just a soft, healthy belly underneath a sexy open shirt that’s mostly obscured by the microphone stand, as can be seen below:

So yeah. Some dude from the label was like, “I’m a guy, Amanda. I understand what people like.” Uh-huh. What’s brilliant about this is the fact that the video and story are now huge, fueling the success of Amanda’s new solo album, which Roadrunner had deemed a commercial failure. The controversy (“Bellygate”) was featured everywhere from Pitchfork to Bitch Magazine to The freakin’ Guardian, and a fan-made Rebellyon rages on.

Mer, left, and Amanda Palmer, right, performing together at “Fuck the Back Row” in Brooklyn

But this post isn’t just about Amanda Palmer and her belly. It’s also to let you guys know that those of you who live in the Bay Area have a unique opportunity to see our dear Mer perform on stage with Amanda Palmer tonight (December 15th) at Bimbo’s. Mer will be playing both violin and theremin, making me want to drop everything and fly to San Francisco right now. For those of you who are going: enjoy the show, you lucky bastards.

Bye Bye Bettie

Bettie Mae Page (April 22, 1923 – December 11, 2008)

In her own gentle, playful way, she was a revolutionary. Maybe she never meant to be when she started modeling, yet there’s no denying Bettie Page’s impact, resonance, or relevance, even half a century later.

In her portraits, we recognize the purity and uncomplicated joy of nudity. We are encouraged by her bearing, her beauty, her humor, her sweetness (yes, even in those Klaw photos… especially in those!) to regard sensuality as one of life’s purest gifts, rather than something immoral or wrong.

It isn’t just her beautiful body or her iconic style that continues to captivate us all these years later. It’s her spirit. When we look into her face, her eyes seem to tell us that it’s going to be all right; we can relinquish our shame.

It is her smile that sets us free.

(Several portraits and quotes from Bettie Page after the jump. Under the circumstances, I really wish I didn’t have to say this, but…NSFW.)

Weekly Ad Uncoiling: Diesel

Diesel has quite a history of pushing the fashion ad boundaries, with mixed results. There was the creepy fat guy ads. The “let’s see how many ads we can get banned” phase (that one was banned). The flower ejaculate ad. And the global warming is fun campaign. They’ve even seriously pissed off dentists. Now, they’ve started a self-described “Dark” effort (here’s 1, 2 recent print examples). This effort includes the below four-minute web video “Pete The Meat Puppet.” The ad agency responsible for this edgy craziness is Sweden’s Farfar, who sport the spiffy tagline “the original in time-bandit advertising.” (How clever! [I don’t get it.]) It’s certainly well-produced, but well, sorry Farfar. It’s not funny, and it’s not weird or dark enough to be interesting. If you’re going get all non-selly with your advertising Diesel, you better leave me with something remarkably memorable. Pete’s stupid story continues here on Diesel’s website, if you’re for some reason intrigued. It features “beat the meat” and “sirloins” of my mother jokes. I didn’t make it through it.

Ada Lovelace: Founder of Scientific Computing

Happy birthday to Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, patron saint of computer programmers. “The Enchantress of Numbers” was born this day in 1815, in London, the only legitimate (tch, what an insulting term that is!) child of Lord Byron. Her mother, Isabelle –a math whiz in her own right nicknamed “The Princess of Parallelograms” by P.M. Benjamin Disraeli– separated from Byron shortly after Ada’s birth, and raised her to be unlike her eccentric poet father, emphasizing tutelage in music and math. (Ada never met Lord Byron, who died in Greece, aged 36.)

Ada Lovelace is best known for her work describing the Analytical Engine, an early mechanical general-purpose computer conceived by mathematician/inventor/philosopher Charles Babbage. Today, she’s recognized as the “first programmer” for her work on the computing machine that Babbage hadn’t even built yet. Unlike Babbage or anyone else, she had the foresight to recognize the potential for computers to evolve past simple calculations and number-crunching. Her voluminous notes included predictions for future developments as far-out as computer-generated music! She accomplished this in an era where, to put it gently, noblewomen were not encouraged to engage in such rigorous intellectual pursuits.

Like her father, Lovelace was headstrong, prone to fits of melodrama, and she died young. Her family buried her next to Lord Byron in the yard of the Church of St Mary Magdalene in 1852.

Related items of interest:

Gild Your Dead, Harlem-style

There is a decent read on MSNBC about the way our society’s ballooning vanity has affected the post-mortem beautification process. Example: “Silicone implants will explode [during cremation]. They’re like little bombs.” What actually gave me pause was the attached video.

“Everyone in Harlem knows I’m the guy that puts a smile on your face. Other places you just look.. dead,” says Isaiah Owens – owner of a Harlem funeral home. The video itself is a series of stills from his practice. He specializes in post-mortem sprucing, but we’re not just talking the usual wax and paint treatment. No, this man genuinely delights in making the deceased look as cheerful as possible. The slides show Owens romancing a cadaver with his magic until she smiles an almost-Giaconda smile.

There are no demure neutrals for the ladies here – hot pink nail polish, generous helpings of subdermal injections and blush are this man’s passion. Isaiah’s reputation is that of making the dead look better than the living. The funeral home’s website refers to his style at “panache” and calls Isaiah a “rare individual”. After listening to the voice over a few times I have to agree – Owens is invested. There is a touching sincerity to his voice as he describes his work, step by step. To him, death is a beautiful release from earthly pain and he’s helping the dead obtain proper presentation for what lies beyond. Also interesting is the broad array of names he gives the bodies: remains, ashes, people. Despite this dichotomy I find myself liking the way he talks about death and admiring his certainty about what it means and what comes next.

When I die, I want a modest ceremony: my brain [or soul, if you like] is to be transplanted into a superior shell and launched into space. For my body I want a shrine of candles and flowers, followed by a few weeks in a crystal coffin somewhere public and a Viking cremation with my ashes let loose over Moscow. For all the young breathers to choke on.

[Thanks, Jerem!]

Benedict Campbell’s Perfect Future

Sometimes, when you’ve had a really long, hard day, all you need is a certain type of image to relax you. Images that take you to your Happy Place. For some people it’s kittens, for some people it’s pr0n, for others still they’re abstract patterns. For me, it’s stuff like the work of Benedict Cambpell, a UK-based photographer whose sleek digital masterpieces make my mind go blank – the best way possible. There’s a lot of Sorayama in them, some Chris Cunningham, some Ridley Scott, and some really fun ’60s and ’70s style. Campbell’s a master technician both behind the lens and in front of the monitor; he can take a clean, textured, razor-sharp photo, then turn around and pull off a hyperdetailed, realistic-looking digital scene. When he combines the two talents, the results are unbelievable. Some of my favorite images (including 1 hot, NSWF number) after the jump.

Also, on a completely unrelated note, I’m in Phoenix, Arizona tomorrow, just for one night. I have no idea what to do there. Coilhouse readers in the area – drop me a line!

All Tomorrows: “Trouble on Triton”

It was a time when society seemed both crumbling and poised for something new. Old barriers fell, including in the very writing invented to consider the future. To the new breed it was now a vehicle to explore endless possible societies, to consider and endless array of tomorrows: weird, wonderful or horrible.

During this period, lasting roughly from the mid-60s to the early ’80s, science fiction went through a sea change like no other. The resulting works tackled issues of culture, society, ethics and sex in ways that make them still fresh today. Some of the writers went on to fame (if rarely fortune), while others remain obscure. However, in this period sci-fi considered tomorrows that involved far more than just bigger machinery. Today, we face some eerily similar questions – and would do well to delve into their possible answers.

Thanks to an unusually well-stocked used bookstore in my hometown, this is the stuff I grew up on. Most of it was contained in dusty volumes, worth seeking out and taking home when you found them. All Tomorrows will be a weekly feature taking a look at one of these works and the possibilities it raises. Everything featured here isn’t just thought provoking, but damn fine reading as well.

This time, we have the legendary Samuel R. Delany’s 1976 “ambiguous heterotopia” Trouble on Triton (just Triton in my ragtag version). Delany and “groundbreaking” go hand in hand, as any perusal of the man’s formidable body of work will reveal. There’s an excerpt from his forthcoming book, Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders, in the first issue of Coilhouse. You should read it.

Now, as for Triton, it struck me upon second glance that it describes a world that for many of us would be close to paradise. There are no such things as alternate cultures on the future society of Triton, ensconced in its domes, because there’s no such thing as a mainstream to begin with. Any lifestyle goes and all basic needs are provided. Dress how you want, live how you want. If you’re unhappy with your flesh, your sex, your body in any way, the technology exists to change it. Hell, it’s not even unusual (more like a surgical oil change). Want to see what attraction to a whole different spectrum of people feels like? There’s a machine for that too. If, after all this, you’re not satisfied with the few laws that do exist, each city has a sector where none of them apply (realizing such places develop anyway). Anything is possible.

Or is it? Look at the title.