The Last Days of Leni Riefenstahl

Edit: oops! Video doesn’t allow embedding. Click here to watch.

This was a student film made by Sundance filmmaker Madeleine Olnek about Leni Riefenstahl’s 100th birthday. If you take it literally, it could be a little mean-spirited towards the old lady. I mean, Leni wasn’t that obviously smug in the interviews that served as reference. There’s a little more depth to her. I mean, she never said that shit about Helen Keller in real life. Poor little Leni. What an unfair portrayal.

But if you take this short film as satirical commentary on artists who contribute to certain regimes and then try to pull that “I didn’t know there were politics going on!” shit later, which is how I think this film is meant to be taken, it’s fucking hilarious. My favorite real-life moment on par with the absurdity in this clip comes from a famous 1979 interview with (utterly homoerotic) Nazi sculptor Arno Breker, whose work was hailed by Hitler as the antithesis to all so-called degenerate art. Journalist Andre Müller, considered one of the hardest interviewers of his generation, described the scene thus:

When he mentioned the tragic consequences of his professional activities under Hitler, his isolation and desperation, his wife trembled with laughter. When I asked her what she found so amusing, she replied that normally her husband spoke in a completely different way. During a stroll around the garden, where several sculptures dating from the National Socialist period were on display, she told me: “I don’t listen when he tries to discuss politics, it bores me.”

A macabre incident occurred when I asked the sculptor about his attitude toward the gassing of the Jews. Precisely at that moment, [Breker’s art dealer] inserted a new tape into his recorder and mistakenly pressed the play button, so that my words were accompanied by a few bars of dance music.

And no. I can’t read the words “Nazi” and “dance music” in such close proximity to each other without bopping my head to this song. It’s funny. It’s not funny.

Better Than Coffee: SPACE WAR!!!

Howdy! How about a lively morning cartoon to go with your fruity pebbles? Zoetica’s recent post on the lamentable declension of MTV’s programming reminded me of this little gem:

Created as a senior project by animator and RISD legend, Christy Karacas, “Space Wars” aired internationally on a charming, offbeat MTV show called Cartoon Sushi back in 1997. The content and mood of Cartoon Sushi was sort of a cross between Liquid Television and Spike & Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation. Sadly, it barely lasted a year on the air. Suprise, surprise.

A couple of years later, Karacas joined forces with Stephen Warbick to unleash BAR FIGHT upon an unsuspecting world. The film “was rejected from every festival it was ever entered in” and it’s a bit… well, let’s just say it’s more a Better Than Beer experience –or possibly Better Than Dimethyltryptamine– than anything else. Still, it’s under the cut if you think you’re feeling up to graphic, color-saturated gore and toilet humor this early in the morning.

Nowadays, we have no shortage of psychedelic, stream-of-consciousness mindbuggery from Karacas/Warbick; their show Superjail! premiered on Adult Swim last year. (Bless you, Cartoon Network, for picking up where Liquid Television left off.)

Saying Goodbye to J. G. Ballard

J. G. Ballard died today. He was 78 years old.

There’s not much I can say about Ballard that hasn’t already been said. He was definitely a Coilhouse patron saint. Because so much has been written about Ballard’s influence on everything from cyberpunk (check out this rich article, which buzzes with the excitement of the genre’s earliest memories of itself) to modern music (as this article asserts, Ballard could be credited for having “inspired the entire genre of industrial music”), I’m going to make this obituary very subjective and leave you with my favorite Ballard memories.

The first one was watching Empire of the Sun with my parents. I didn’t know at the time that this movie, starring a 13-year-old Christian Bale, was actually based on Ballard’s autobiography. But I remember that even then, watching that film, I wondered: how would this kid, with his confused Stockholm Syndrome identification with the Japanese who kept him prisoner, his fetishization of aircraft and explosions, turn out later in life? Later, a friend helped me put 2 & 2 together, and I found out exactly how he turned out. He wrote Crash. And it all made perfect sense. Here’s Young Ballard in Empire of the Sun; haunting to re-watch on this day:

My second favorite Ballard moment is actually a famous quote of his. This was his response to a question in Re/Search 8/9 on October 30, 1982:

I would sum up my fear about the future in one word: boring. And that’s my one fear: that everything has happened; nothing exciting or new or interesting is ever going to happen again… the future is just going to be a vast, conforming suburb of the soul.

Suburb of the soul. It still makes me shudder.

Post your favorite Ballard memories/impressions/quotes in the comments. We honor his influence, and we will miss him.

Feed Their Heads

My last attempt at watching MTV lasted about 3 minutes into a show, I think it was called “Pimp My Band’s Paddy Wagon”, before I felt deeply insulted by the producers and clicked away to another channel. But it hasn’t always been this way! MTV used to actually be cool, as demonstrated below. Aidan Quinn narrates and stars in a stylish 1991 reading advert, featuring everyone’s favorite self-loathing insect, Gregor Samsa.

See, that actually makes me want to read! Now, imagine this commercial airing today. Though I doubt most 14 year-olds would get the reference, I’m willing to bet they’d have the same reaction I did. So why is it that the youth television of today is so incredibly, painfully dumbed down? What kid is benefiting from watching hours of bulldog birthday party-planning? [Really.] What happened to igniting actual passion and curiosity in our chitlins with music and art, instead of turning their impressionable brains into gelatinous lumps? While we wait for MTV’s golden age to return my solution is simple: I don’t have cable.

To end on a high note, a stunning take on The Metamorphosis by Black Moon Theater Company.

Pleasures of the Flesh: Fernando Vicente

1950s Vogue meets Zombie in these inspiring paintings by Fernando Vicente. The textured cyan background works beautifully with the fleshy yellows and reds. I love the Hepburn-like aristocracy of the women in these portraits.

For many more images from this series, go to Fernando Vicente’s website, click NOVEDADES, and then click VANITAS. His website’s in Flash, so I can’t link directly to the images here. Some more favorites, after the jump.

Sail On, Tom Kennedy


Gutted by this news. Artist, activist, teacher, prankster Tom Kennedy drowned at Ocean Beach in San Francisco last Sunday, April 12th. John Law has written him a beautiful memorial over at Laughing Squid, and everyone’s telling tales in the comment thread of the big, strong, tender-hearted man who inspired them to live more fully, more bravely, more creatively.

Photo by Mister W. Burning Man, 2003.

The single most cherished moment of my time at the annual Burning Man festival: one perfect evening in 2003, singing sea shanties at the prow of La Contessa with some of the best friends I’ll ever have in this life. A member of the Extra Action Marching Band leaned halfway out of the crow’s nest, shouting “PORT BOW, THAR SHE BLOWS” and we all looked… Tom’s glowing white whale, her belly full of whooping passengers, her blowhole spouting propane fire, was on a collision course with us.

At the last moment she gave way, and the chase was on! We sped after each other across the playa, weaving and dancing, hollering and cheering and going much too fast –sometimes missing one another by mere yards– until finally the Black Rock Rangers pulled over both vessels and gave everyone a stern talking-to.

It was an exhilarating dream. No one who was there will ever forget that night as long as they live.

Thank you, Tom. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Tom Kennedy (1960-2009). Photographed by Leo Nash.

Joining Chenman’s Mickey Mouse Club

A ruff and a space helmet – two great tastes that taste great together! This is the work of Chenman, a 20-something Beijing photographer. Her work’s been published in fashion magazines around the world, and though she already has campaigns for MAC, Chanel, Sony Ericsson and Canon under her belt, I have a feeling that she’s just beginning to pick up speed. Chenman’s web presence consists of a portfolio website and a blog. The latter’s in Chinese, but there are still plenty of images to enjoy.

90% of Chenman’s portfolio consists of pristine commercial images, but a good look at the personal portfolio on her site her site reveals the weirdo lurking underneath. You can tell just by looking at her picture that this chick’s got spunk and a sense of humor. Any high-end fashion photographer who tells a model to stick a tissue in her nose & hold that pose is OK in my book. I love her ongoing preoccupation with Mickey Mouse ears. One to watch! More favorites after the jump. [Thanks, monk3y!]

Magazine of the Day: Emigre

Top: Issue 01 (1984), Issue 22 (1992).
Bottom: Issue 32 (1994) & the final issue, 69 (2005).

I love any magazine that pulls you into a completely subjective universe through a unified front of design, tone and subject matter. The kind of magazine that shouts, “Hello! Welcome to my world! Get ready to be immersed.” Like a good horror film that forces you suspend your disbelief enough to feel, for two hours, that there really are flesh-eating parasites crawling through the phone lines, a powerful magazine should convince you, if only for the time that you read it, of its world view. Whether the goal of the magazine is to convince you that there are still paranormal mysteries in the world or that you do have someone akin to an older sister out there who understands your growing pains, every great magazine has always had a personality and a viewpoint.

All this week, I’ll be chronicling magazines from the past and the present that I think accomplished just that. We’ve already cited a few of our magazine love affairs – see our posts on Gent, Skin Two, Mad, Die Schönheit and Mondo 2000. Many magazines still deserve a mention. Like… you know that the Sassy blog post is coming. You know it. Cabinet. Merz. I don’t spoil all the surprises, so you’ll just have to wait and see. The magazine of the day, though, is Emigre. I’ve just discovered that there’s a wonderful gallery of Emigre covers and layouts, chronicling the magazine’s 69-issue existence from 1984 to 2005. From Wikipedia, a brief history:

Art-directed by Dutch-born Rudy VanderLans using fonts designed by his wife, Czechoslovakian-born Zuzana Licko, Emigre was one of the first publications to use Macintosh computers and had a large influence on graphic designers moving into desktop publishing (DTP). Its variety of layouts, use of guest designers, and opinionated articles also had an effect on other design publications. The focus of Emigre was both redundant and wandering — both positive qualities as a journal produced by a tight and evolving group of designers and writers with Vanderlans at the center…. The magazine began in 1984 with a focus on the émigré. The first eight issues were concerned with boundaries, international culture, travel accounts and alienation (as the issues’ titles suggest).

I discovered this magazine when researching fonts for the first issue of Coilhouse. I came across a font called Mrs. Eaves, designed by Zuzana Licko, and became fascinated by the font’s story and the designer behind it.  As Ellen Lupton writes in Thinking With Type, “the font, inspired by the eighteenth-century designs by John Baskerville, is named after Sarah Eaves, Baskerville’s mistress, housekeeper and collaborator. The couple lived together for sixteen years before marrying in 1764.” This hidden history fascinated me, prompting me to research women in typography. Through this I arrived at Licko and Emigre. (We never did end up using Mrs. Eaves in Coilhouse… but you may recognize it from the lovely WordPress logo.)

It’s fascinating to see how Emigre both evolved and stayed loyal to its roots during its 20 years of publication. Start at the beginning and enjoy! [Thanks, Joe.]

Better Than Coffee: Raquel Bombshell Bonanza

Raquel Welch (Crucifixion) by Terry O’Neill.

“Raquel Welch is the rudest, most unprofessional actress I’ve ever had the displeasure of working with, and if I could, I would spank her from here to Aswan.”  -James Mason, on working with Welch in the murder mystery flick The Last of Sheila.

Well, good MORNING. James Mason quote, meet Stroke Material tag! Go ahead and take a minute to visualize the sexily sinister three-time Academy Award winner taking Welch, undisputed Bikini Queen of the 20th Century, over his knee… preferably while you watch a few of Welch’s most VA VA VOOM performances available on YouTube. We’ll start things off with this 1970 clip of the astronomically hot Ms. Welch and two swishy spacemen dancing in the Ruta de la Amistad public sculpture project of Mexico City:

Moog-a-licious, no? The clip originally aired in Raquel Welch’s 1970 television special. Added bonus to the Barbarella bikini action: her killer Parisian Red Riding Hood steez in that latter number!

Calling All Designers and Illustrators!

As we work to complete Issue 03, we’re also starting to lay down the groundwork for subsequent issues of Coilhouse Magazine. To that end, we’ve decided it’s time to create a talent database of Coilhouse readers who are interested in working with us to create something new.

Currently, we’re interested in hearing from illustrators and print designers. If you fall into one of these categories and would like to contribute to Coilhouse, please send us an email! In this email, tell us a little bit about yourself and include a link to your portfolio or some examples of your work. That way, we’ll be able to contact you if the right opportunity comes up as we continue publishing future issues.

Ultimately, we want to hear from everyone: photographers, fashion designers, journalists, etc. To avoid getting overwhelmed with too much email, we’ll be asking the different groups to write in at different times over the course of the next month. For now, only illustrators and print designers are invited to write in – mainly because we know fewer of them than we do people in any other group.

We’re excited to expand our creative circle, and we hope to hear from you soon!