Sunday, September 30, 2007

Jim Rose Sideshow

I saw the Jim Rose sideshow in 1994 in a crowded venue in San Diego. At least two people passed out during the performance. But it's good clean freak fun.


The egomaniacal heroin addicts in Spacemen 3 perfected their style of MAXIMALISM thru minimalism by 1988 with the English hit single, Revolution. The entire song is comprised of 2 distorted power chords, dead pan monolog, basic snare/cymbal hits, one awesome bass roll, and a cyclone of pure noise. Political without getting specific, the lyrical content is a call for revolution on the individual level, where "It takes just 5 seconds, of decision, to realize that time is right, to start thinking about, a little...revolution!"
Spacemen 3's controversial promotion of intelligent drug use for personal pleasure and expansion of consciousness is what got the press's attention in 1980's England. But more interesting was their approach to sound. In a decade rife with sonic masturbation and grotesque manipulations the Spacemen stuck to their guns and wrote two chord songs (3 chords max) and let the atmosphere of the piece achieve its natural potential without flailing after virtuosic displays or affected cock waggling for the camera.
Registered methadone addicts, they were never allowed to tour the United States, and broke up before the 90's. The individual members continue to live in baffling good health to this day (considering their purported drug habits) and main guitarist Jason Pierce has risen to international fame with his band Spiritualized, based on the MAXIMAL/minimal principles first established here.

Well look out

Well I’m sick
I’m so sick
Of a lot of people
Tryin’ to tell me
What I can and can’t do
With my life

And I’m tired
I’m so tired
Of a lot of people
In a lot of high places
Don’t want you and me
To enjoy ourselves

Well I’m through with people
Who can’t get off their arse
To help themselves change this government
And better this society
‘Cos it’s shit

But hold on a second
I smell burning
And I see a change
Comin’ ‘round the bend
And I suggest to you
That it takes
Just five seconds
Just five seconds
Of decision
To realise
That the time
Is right
To start thinkin’ about
A little…

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Israelites

Desmond Dekker, 7/16/42--5/25/06.
Rocksteady, Mr. Dekker.

Foggy Road

Burning Spear, in a late '70's performance of the incredibly moving "Foggy Road" from the 1974 LP Rockin' Time (the video ends, inexplicably, short but what is here presented is well worth seeing).

Friday, September 28, 2007


Can from their LP Tago Mago

20th Century Boy

Because we like T.Rex

Outside...was nothing

Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn circa 1984

"Punk," because it indicated such a wide variety of modes of expression, was always an unstable signifier. Certainly, to my mind, it was always easier to explain what punk was not; "that's not punk" being one of the operative clauses of the period.

Moreover, since circa 1990, which marked the period in which punk was appropriated into the official culture as a style stripped of its radical cultural/political implications, "punk" on this level, has ceased to have any intrinsic meaning beyond its historical connotations.

So that, given the above, I'd rather focus on whatever it was that punk meant/means to me as an individual. At this point, it would be customary to demonstrate my credentials on the topic: a long, annotated list of shows attended and records purchased; a demonstrable, detailed insider's knowledge of the key players and major events; an easy familiarity with the appropriate slang and jargon (easy answer: there really isn't any); and a strong, succinct opinion, one way or the other, on Lipstick Traces and the use of "London Calling" in a Jaguar commercial. Here I'm half-mocking the insularity of the punks, as well as the ease with which this sort of "street cred" can be faked (all of which was well-spoofed by The Tubes [of all people] in "I was a punk before you were a punk"). But this phenomena, I'm guessing, is characteristic of any underground, marginalized cultural movement. There was a very real sense in that being a punk was all one had, and so this identification was valued seriously and intensely by those that shared in it.

Which leads to a consideration of punk as an exclusive (but not, of course, in the sense of catering to the wealthy) social grouping. The nature of this exclusivity might certainly be seen, anthropologically, as universally determinant, to varying degrees, in any social grouping. It is interesting to note that Western societies, at least according to their official cant, now privilege inclusiveness and diversity as being among their celebrated "values." But what is proffered in reality is access to a diffuse, transparent, invasive, superficial and banal cultural milieu that at essence can only muster the anonymous consumer as its primary site of subjective identification. This is your reward for blending in with the melting pot: you get to buy stuff at the mall and be infotained. So there is a very real sense in which the socially exclusive nature of punk can be seen as an oppositional strategy in relationship to the bland material enticements and specious ideology of the official culture.

That said, based on my own experiences with the San Diego hardcore punk scene during the 1980's, I can offer the observation that I've never been involved with a more diverse group of people. Not only was the scene itself factionalized; politics, attitudes, aesthetics and behaviors were varied literally beyond belief. Often the only thing anyone seemed to have in common was their shared code of identification.

Paradoxically, the uniqueness and fragility of punk as social identity was reinforced by prevailing market forces. Many among the first wave of punk bands in New York and England in the mid-to late 1970's were signed to major record labels in attempt to cash in on the latest "teenaged" music trend. The majority of these bands had relatively small sales and this, combined with their radical form and content (and the band's own irreverent, indeed venomous attitudes towards the labels themselves), led to them being dropped by the majors. The host of younger bands forming in the wake of the first wave were subsequently ignored by the major American labels. So that, for any punk band forming after this period, there was the very real knowledge that prospects for commercial success (or even a living wage) were slim at best. At that point, any band identifying itself as punk did so out of enthusiasm and commitment (and a strong dose of foolhardiness). What arose in reaction agains these restrictions was the formation of an underground network of independent record labels and promotional tools, often formed and managed by the groups themselves, operating at barely self-sustaining profit levels.

At that point, to be a punk was to be commercially marginalized and culturally untouchable. This led to a very precise and concrete awareness that the identification as a punk was reinforced by real world conditions: it was not simply another prefabricated lifestyle to be donned and then discarded in a leisure class search for self identity. It was instead an existential choice fraught with some personal peril and invested with tremendous meaning generated by the participants themselves. It was, in a word, freedom.

Subjectively, how it all felt, was this: when you became and shared in being a punk, this identity permitted the play of your desires, your politics, your aesthetics and provided a means of locating as a unique individual with in a dynamic, distinct social group. It was a spontaneous, intuitive group exercise in the creation of meaning. And outside of that...was nothing.

So to see the whole thing co-opted in the early 1990's, sold out for a song on the strung out byways of yet another Lollapalooza tour, well, that was pretty fucking hard.

A recent exchange with Trumanwater reminded me of this post I wrote for Michael Filas' punk studies page, which I am recycling here in the general spirit of inquiry into the nature of catagorical distinctions per se.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


One of the strangest stories in rock history, the Monks were formed in the early '60s by American G.I.s stationed in Germany. After their discharge, the group stayed on in Germany as the Torquays, a fairly standard beat band. After changing their name to the Monks in the mid-'60s, they also changed their music, attitude, and appearance radically. Gone were standard oldie covers, replaced by furious, minimalist original material that anticipated the blunt, harsh commentary of the punk era. Their insistent rhythms recalled martial beats and polkas as much as garage rock, and the weirdness quotient was heightened by electric banjo, berserk organ runs, and occasional bursts of feedback guitar. To prove that they meant business, the Monks shaved the top of their heads and performed their songs -- crude diatribes about the Vietnam war, dehumanized society, and love/hate affairs with girls -- in actual monks' clothing.

This was pretty strong stuff for 1966 Germany, and their shocking repertoire and attire were received with more confusion than hostility or warm praise. Well known in Germany as a live act, their sole album and several singles didn't take off in a big way and were never released in the U.S., it was rumored, because the lyrical content was deemed too shocking. They disbanded in confusion around 1967, but their album -- one of the most oddball constructions in all of rock -- gained a cult following among collectors, and has ironically made them much more popular and influential on an international level than they were during their lifetime. Bassist Eddie Shaw's 1994 autobiography, Black Monk Time, is a fascinating narrative of the Monks' stranger-than-fiction story.

by Richie Unterberger

Monday, September 24, 2007

This sea is the world where we live after we die

Chisso Corporation factory at Minamata, today.

During the 1950's and '60's the Yatsushiro Sea was contaminated with methyl mercury pollution from the Chisso Corporation factory complex at Minamata, Japan. Thousands of fish, fowl and humans living in the region were horribly disabled, disfigured (the toxin is also mutagenic) and many died from the resulting mercury poisoning of the marine ecosystem.

Japanese writer Shusaku Endo, in his novel "Deep River," treats these events allegorically, via his character Numada (a writer of children's stories):

Shinkichi's grandfather and grandmother had lived in a village by the Yatsushiro Sea. His grandfather had died eight years before, but in his vigorous days he had been known as a master squid-catcher, and he was famed as a fisherman throughout the village. He had, though, been very fond of his liquor, and Shinkichi's father had grumbled that drinking was what had killed him.

Shinkichi lived in Tokyo, and seldom visited his grandfather's house. Three years before, he had returned to the Ariake Sea for the obon festival of the dead. During the day, an elder cousin taught him how to swim in the glimmering Yatsushiro Sea, and at night they took him out fishing. He could not believe how much fun he had every day. When he looked out from the beach, the torches from the squid catching boats stretched out like a bridge of fire. On the night of the Feast of Lanterns, his grandmother and kinsmen lit lanterns and from their boats set them afloat into the sea.

All around them the candle-lit lanterns floated in the water.

"Your grandpa has become a fish and lives in this sea," his grandmother told Shinkichi with a serious face. "This sea is the world where we live after we die. When your grandma dies one day, I'll have them cast my body into the sea, and I'll become a fish and be able to see your grandpa again."

His grandmother seemed to believe everything she told him. When Shinkichi asked his cousin, "Is that true?" the elder boy with a sober look answered, "Of course it's true. That's what everyone in this village believes. My sister died when she was in elementary school, and swims around at the bottom of this sea."

Numada had written this fable as a tentative study while he was still in college, but it remained one of his favorites. He had gone on to write that a large factory was built near the village, and that waste from the plant had polluted the sea, afflicted the fish, and made the people of the fishing village ill. But he had cut out that part, feeling it was too painful a story for a fable. The villagers had complained about the factory, not because it discharged waste that made them ill, but because it had destroyed the next world where their ancestors and and their dead parents and relatives and siblings were living, and where they too would be reborn. Numada had wanted to include in his fable that journalists, who did not believe in a life to come, had emphasized in their reports of the problem not these ephemeral concerns, but the problems of environmental pollution and sickness.

Yatsushiro Sea at dusk

Friday, September 21, 2007


Could be best evidence yet of the existence of the Tasmanian Tiger.
The last known wild Thylacine to be killed was shot in 1930, by farmer Wilf Batty in Mawbanna, in the North East of the state. The animal (believed to be a male) had been seen round Batty's hen houses for several weeks.
The last Thylacine, later referred to as Benjamin (although its gender has never been confirmed) was captured in 1933 and sent to the Hobart Zoo where it lived for three years. It died on 7 September 1936 (now known as National Threatened Species Day in Australia). It is believed to have died as the result of neglect — locked out of its sheltered sleeping quarters, it was exposed to a rare occurrence of extreme Tasmanian weather: baking heat in the day and freezing temperatures at night. One of the few existing films of a Thylacine, 62 seconds of black-and-white footage of Benjamin pacing backwards and forwards in its enclosure, was taken in 1933.
Although there had been a conservation movement pressing for the Thylacine's protection since 1901, driven in part by the increasing difficulty in obtaining specimens for overseas collections, political difficulties prevented any form of protection coming into force until 1936. Official protection of the species by the Tasmanian government was introduced on 14 July 1936, 59 days before the last known specimen died in captivity.

The results of subsequent searches indicated a strong possibility of the survival of the species in Tasmania into the 1960s. Searches by Dr. Eric Guiler and David Fleay in the north-west of Tasmania found footprints and scats that may have belonged to the animal, heard vocalisations matching the description of those of the Thylacine, and collected anecdotal evidence from people reported to have sighted the animal. Despite the searches, no conclusive evidence was found to point to its continued existence in the wild.

The Thylacine held the status of "endangered species" until 1986. International standards state that any animal for which no specimens have been recorded for 50 years is to be declared extinct. Since no definitive proof of the Thylacine's existence had been found since Benjamin died in 1936, it now met that official criterion and was declared officially extinct by the IUCN. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is more cautious, listing it as "possibly extinct".

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


"SUN CITY GIRLS are not really a 'Band' but more of a factory of ideas; musical, artistic, philosophical and beyond. They are the epitome of DIY, having recorded, toured, traveled, researched, and hustled for over two decades creating an archive of music, film, writing, Art, etc., with their own financial and associate resources. Because of their fearless approach, bizarre performances, and trickster reputation, there are many legends spread about them: some TRUE, some half-true, some false, yet many of their more 'extreme resumé entries' will probably remain, for the most part, unknown. Every mystery revealed about them seems to create even more mystery. There is a strange energy surrounding them and an honesty about their presentation which separates (and isolates) them from the entertainment industry. They are THEIR OWN entertainment industry, entertaining themselves. And, as one of their song titles suggests, Sun City Girls are 'Without Compare'."

— Tom Vague (Vague Magazine)

"To say the Sun City Girls are just a band is like saying William Burroughs is just a writer, or Salvador Dali is just a painter, or Alexandro Jodorowsky is just a director. Of course, all of these classifications are basically valid, but the need to label such polymorphously talented explorers of the Void excludes so much more than simple labels can include.

"In an increasingly moribund society which seeks to regulate, assimilate, and exterminate autonomy, deviance, and dissent, the Sun City Girls offer the possibility of staying true to a revolutionary vision, one that encompasses the depths of Amuck transcendence and the heights of asinine stupidity, rois et imbéciles at the same time. Smearing themselves with the sublime and the absurd, the Sun City Girls stand defiantly idiosynchric yet passionately committed to any and all freedoms no matter how obvious or transgressive. So unexpect the expected. Try it, you'll like it. Just don't expect the world to ever be the same again."

— Bill Burns

"It is VERY difficult to imagine that a group like Sun City Girls actually exists!"

— Marc Penka (University of Minnesota English Professor)

"Sun City Girls were 'the first truly crazy band to emerge from the shards of hardcore' (Byron Coley)...also according to Coley, Sun City Girls laid the foundation for today's new American sub-underground: 'Without these french-fried, grass-skirted motherfuckers it would all sound like Merzbow.'"

— Erik Davis, The Wire (Feb. 2004)

"For over twenty years, the Sun City Girls have used music as both a storehouse and delivery system for outsider information expressed through an aesthetic philosophy that incorporates pan-Asiatic indigenous cultures, conspiracy theories, intuitive harmolodics, aberrant mysticism, historical incongruities, twisted archetypes, fourth world anthropology, global Pop detritus, Arabic indulgence, and scatological politics.

"Refusing to be easily comprehended or consumed, the Girls are trickster mixmasters, Wild Boys, lugubrious gamers, Three Masters collapsing all boundaries, barriers, and official lines of demarcation that make life safe, stable, and coherent. They are the twentieth century's collective psychosis made radiant and divine through their persistence of resistance, an absurdly funny reaction to the demands of stopping all their nonsense and just be good little girls.

"Anonymity allows for tactical spontaneity, following their bliss (both collectively and individually) away from the prying eyes of Control. Like the Hashishin of yore, they lie in wait, patient, under the radar, never pinning down their music, personalities, or ideologies, executing their secret insurrections and bringing us all along to Paradise. Or at least to Alamut's Garden of Delights.

"The SUN CITY GIRLS phenomenon.... how does one explain? its kinda like a cauldron of camel mucus poured over the dentists chair in a seedy Dallas office circa know... the one that started those stories all the little birdies were chirping about for all those years? Its almost like a runaway tuk-tuk driven by 37 trojan horses on a collision course with a bourbon Street funeral marching band. The legend goes that Karloff, Cheney and Lugosi were all dealing jacks or better in some Bangkok pool hall in 1972, when an unidentified man wearing what looked like a yarmulke sprayed the whole place with a clip from a Hustler magazine. The cat they all called 'Flat Evil' was the only one that could be trusted in light of all that has happened. While back at 'Chicken Shango Farm' in Port Au Prince, Bones and the Ketchak noise brigade were hammin' out on the short-wave with the dial set to know, the direct line to the Carlyle Group. Nobody really knew that Appalachia was the center of new wave historical revisionism where you could start all over if you had enough whiskey. Now, back in Vegas fellas, is where all your dreams come true. You just gotta trust your Dutch Uncle on this one. Drive out to Area 69 in the desert to REALLY WIN at the craps table cuz nobody could do it better than a Burmese mambo drag queen...the same one that lived on Sunset Boulevard in 1952. Back then it was all Aces fellas, all aces."

— Frank Sumatra

"The Sun City Girls are America's premier underground band. No qualifiers such as 'arguably' or 'possibly' are necessary."

— Derek Monypeny, Popwatch, 1998

"These guys SUCK....I can't believe they have records out!"

— SNAKEFINGER (3 weeks before his DEATH as he watched SCG live in Phoenix)

Monday, September 17, 2007


David Keith Lynch (born January 20, 1946) is an American filmmaker, painter, video artist, and performance artist. Lynch has received three Academy Award for Best Director nominations for The Elephant Man (1980), Blue Velvet (1986), and Mulholland Drive (2001). He has won awards at the Cannes Film Festival and Venice Film Festival. Lynch is probably best known for Blue Velvet and as the creator of the successful Twin Peaks television series.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Chomsky vs. Foucault

From the Vietnam era: Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault discuss human nature, politics, civil disobedience, art, and who has the best suit.

William Burroughs cut ups

Interview with Burroughs combined with images from some of his experimental short films. This is especially useful for his clear explanation of his method and intentions (well, less on intentions) in his cutup works. When he aligns cutups with collage, and near the end Allen Ginsberg comments on cutups as well.

Thanksgiving Prayer By: William S. Burroughs

There's an autumn bite in the air here in New England, makes me think of this powerful collaboration between William S. Burroughs and Gus Van Sant that aired on VH1, Thanksgiving Day, 1991 (that's the date, although the youtube date is 1986).


Legion of Rock Stars (LRS) pioneered Pure Pleasure, in which the band listens to original recordings of classic rock and pop songs on 30db noise-blocking headsets, and then plays along.

Freed from the shackles of practicing, LRS focuses instead on bringing the excitement of a large stadium rock show to the intimate arenas in which it performs.

Friday, September 14, 2007


1980's New Zealand spawned a new strain of rock music fostered in Edenic isolation by the independent label Flying Nun Records. The bands comprising the label's roster developed their own idiosyncratic styles free from the American and British pop flux which is capable of turning gold into shit through the machinations of a bloated record industry.

The Clean's "Tally Ho" and "Anything Could Happen" are good examples of this sound. It's not abrasively garage/punk, nor is it slick pop. It's some dizzy, freakish hybrid between the two. And it rules.

Monday, September 10, 2007


SUBLIME FREQUENCIES is a collective of explorers dedicated to acquiring and exposing obscure sights and sounds from modern and traditional urban and rural frontiers via film and video, field recordings, radio and short wave transmissions, international folk and pop music, sound anomalies, and other forms of human and natural expression not documented sufficiently through all channels of academic research, the modern recording industry, media, or corporate foundations. SUBLIME FREQUENCIES is focused on an aesthetic of extra-geography and soulful experience inspired by music and culture, world travel, research, and the pioneering recording labels of the past including OCORA, SMITHSONIAN FOLKWAYS, ETHNIC FOLKWAYS, LYRICHORD, NONESUCH EXPLORER, MUSICAPHONE, BARONREITER, UNESCO, PLAYASOUND, MUSICAL ATLAS, CHANT DU MONDE, B.A.M., TANGENT, and TOPIC. SUBLIME FREQUENCIES PO BOX 17971 SEATTLE WA 98127 USA

Sunday, September 9, 2007


Born out of a basement rehearsal space in Baghdad, Acrassicauda (Latin for “Black Scorpion”) is Iraq’s only heavy metal band. Tutored by music instructor and guitar virtuoso Saad “Yngwie” Say and inspired by western bands like Metallica, Slayer and Slipknot, they began writing and playing metal in 2001. They soon learned that their dream of performing live in Iraq was going to be no easy task.

Original members Firas (bass), Tony (lead guitar), Marwan (drums), Faisal (rhythm guitar) and Waleed (lead vocals) were only able to play 3 shows before the war started in 2003. Soon after, Waleed retired from the band and fled the country, leaving Faisal to fill the void of lead singer. Due to increased security precautions throughout Iraq, it became difficult to practice or even get through a show without serious problems. As the situation worsened in Baghdad they began receiving death threats from insurgent groups and religious fundamentalists accusing them of Satan-worship. Eventually, it proved impossible to find any venue that was safe to perform in.

In their six years as a band they have only managed to play 6 concerts in Baghdad. The war has now all but destroyed their dream to live in peace, grow their hair long, bang their heads and play metal as loud as they want. They currently reside as refugees in Damascus, Syria, and all of their visa applications to foreign countries have been denied.

Vice Magazine has made a film about them, watch the trailer

Saturday, September 8, 2007

I got a letter from The Government the other day; picture me giving a damn, I said, "Never."

Public Enemy's anti-conscription classic, "Black Rain," here covered by Tricky from his album Maxinquaye. This song's militant anti-draft stance may soon be more topical than we might think...

Freak this

Captain Beefheart

from the OED:

freak (fri:k), sb. [Not found before 16th c.; possibly introduced from dialects, and cognate with OE. frician (Matt. xi. 17) to dance.]

1. A sudden causeless change or turn of mind; a capricious humour, notion, whim, or vagary.

2. The disposition of a mind subject to such humours; capriciousness.

3. A capricious prank or trick, a caper.

4.a. A product of irregular or sportive fancy.

4.b. (More fully freak of nature, = lusus naturae): A monstrosity, an abnormally developed individual of any species; in recent use (esp U.S.), a living curiosity exhibited in a show.

4.c. One who 'freaks out'; a drug addict.

4.d. With qualifying word or phrase: one who shows great enthusiasm for the activity, person, or thing specified . . . an aficionado.

5. [T]o denote something abnormal or capriciously irregular; freak show, at a fair, etc: a sideshow featuring freaks.

from The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang (vol 1.)

freak. n.

1. a person who is markedly or offensively eccentric in dress or behavior; Weirdo.

2. an ardent or extreme devotee, practitioner, or enthusiast.--usu. in comb. with prec. noun.

3.a. [A] person, esp. a homosexual or a prostitute's customer, who habitually engages in unorthodox sexual practices; (usu. in comb.) a sexual fetishist.--often used with neutral force.

3.b. [A] sexually passionate or sexy young woman; (specif.) a nymphomaniac.

4. a beatnik or hippie. [The usual designation among hippies, used with neutral or positive force]

5. Narc. a person addicted to the use of a drug.

Other interesting variants:

freakazoid. n., 1. Weirdo., freaking adj. & adv. (euphem. for) Fucking; Frigging. freak [off] v. 1. to masturbate; (fig) to obtain sexual gratification. freak [out] v. 1. to induce usu. overpowering astonishment, anger, fear, or confusion in; cause to lose composure, sense, or sanity.

Stelarc - The Body is Obsolete - Contemporary Arts Media

Australian perfomance artist Stelarc uses his body as his medium, hybridizing and extending his corporeal flesh with electronic and mechanical technology. Dismissing the traditional western belief that the body is the seat of the soul, Stelerc relinquishes dominion of his flesh--through suspensions, through wired tranferences of agency over his voluntary muscles, and through insertions of technologies into his body for the sake of art. But not frivolous art, art in the name of post-evolutionary progress--to proceed with our integration with our built environments, we must, according to Stelarc, relieve ourselves of the conceit that our bodies, that nature, are somehow sacrosanct and should not be modified or invaded lightly. Stelarc's latest project is the insertion of a third ear into his forearm, a fabricated tissue culture which he hopes to eventually rig with transmission equipment as a new input/output port for information. Stelerc makes the body "freak" by acting out a possible future for our technologized embodiment. Stelarc is a very deliberate artist. He understands the dissonant effect his performances have on his audiences, who cling, most assuredly, to their bodies in terms that stop far short of his post-evolutionary utilitarian attitude.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Overnight to Distant Cities, Never Closing the Spaces Between Us

September 29, 1912--July 30, 2007

Red Desert (1964). This was Antonioni’s first film in color, and its scenes of belching factory smoke, and overall muted, depressive palette, are unforgettable. These hideous colors are only accented by their contrast with the one fantasy sequence, the story Monica Vitti tells her son about a paradisaical beach: here the lighting and the colors are excessively bright and clear, too much so, with the airbrushed perfection of the most expensive advertising. This is the bourgeois vision of beauty as compensation and escape, as unrealizable ideal: Antonioni shows it to be only the flip side of the industrial pollution that dominates the rest of the film. Antonioni’s own aestheticism resides, rather, in the waste and pollution itself. I think of his use of the color red, as in the scene in the cabin, where Vitti tries (unsuccessfully) to transform herself into orgy mode; and also the scene in the hotel room, her tryst with the engineer, where the wall subtly changes color behind them as they writhe on the bed. Related to that, in turn, though with a different palette, is the scene in the ship yard, at night, where Vitti wandering alone is briefly propositioned by a foreign sailor: not speaking Italian, he tells her, in English, “I’ll love you, I’ll love you,” as she passes by. It’s a scene that could be an epigraph for all of Antonioni’s movies, with their pain and blocked eroticism, and with the force of the disinterest by means of which Antonioni transfigures them.

Read the rest of this very astute analysis of Antonioni's oeuvre, by Steven Shaviro, here .

Press the Eject and Give Me the Tape

The revolutionary act par excellence starts from a sense of nostalgia, the return to a forgotten text, a lost ideal. Behind the ‘re’ of reformation, republic or revolution—of rehearsing, recommencing, rereading—there is a hand flicking through the pages of a book, from the end back to the beginning. Whereas the finger that presses a button, fast-forwarding a tape or disc, will never pose a danger to the establishment.

NLR 46

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Dreams of Animals

Very early this morning, my two young sons and I saw six (!) large raccoons in our yard. Our house abuts a greenbelt. We live less than a mile from the ocean; thus, the area is densely populated, but there is some open space, un-terraced hillsides, etc. There is our greenbelt, and racoons would be able to forage water here, which they like and need. It’s just remarkable that, if they do live here, we’ve never seen these animals before. I called my sons to the patio window; we watched as the racoons gathered by the tall Black Pine acoss the way, conferred briefly, and then hustled in single file across the vast green of the lawn. Spellbound, my sons are young enough to appreciate the racoons in themselves, they haven’t yet lost their inherent fascination with, and love for, animals in their own right.

I read recently that up until age six, 80% of the dreams of children concern in some way animals. After age six these dreams decrease rapidly in frequency. I now dream of animals rarely, and when I do, they often assume a totemic cast, signifying, it seems, some area of experience now denied me.

Sunday, September 2, 2007



It’s hard to believe that Freaks was actually produced at MGM, using the studio’s facilities and craftspeople. This is not only because we associate director Tod Browning as much with Universal, especially after the spectacular success of Dracula (1931), as with MGM, but also because in many ways Freaks seems out of place in MGM’s glamour factory, where even the least expensive movie bore the stamp of the studio’s plush style.

Freaks’ opening disclaimer — "For the love of beauty is a deep-seated urge which dates back to the beginning of civilization" — is clearly ironic in light of what follows. Browning, a circus habitué himself, friendly with "fringe" people from hoboes to sideshow tramps, finds beauty not in the physically whole, powerful, conventionally attractive characters (Olga Baclanova’s Cleopatra, Henry Victor’s Hercules), but in the authentic pinheads, armless women, legless men, Siamese twins, and the others who give the film its title. These physically compromised but spirited characters are the true stars.