The Star Wars Holiday Special

Two hours of pure TV Hell are available for your Holiday viewing enjoyment. You may want to claw your own eyes out, but it's at least a hundred times better than "Revenge of the Sith". Happy Life Day to all.

(a well-researched article from the archives of Vanity Fair can be read here, and unsurprisingly the Star Wars Holiday Special has its own website.)


The Adventures of Pondo Sinatra

I just watched The Party Animal in its entirety (again) after waking up at 3 a.m.


Movie of the Week: Nocturna, Granddaughter of Dracula

Haven't seen this one yet, but have been wanting to for awhile. It just turned up on youtube. Singer/dancer Nai Bonet stars in a film she produced herself, shot on location in New York city in 1978. Gloria Gaynor sings the disco theme song, there's the Munsters' own Yvonne DeCarlo as Jugulia Vein, poor old down-on-his-luck John Carradine as Dracula, and a substantial role by legendary nutcase Brother Theodore.

Truth be told, the only reason I'm selecting this as movie of the week is so I'll have a reason to embed this Nai Bonet Scopitone:


Movie of the Week: Deadly Friend

I saw this for the first time a few days ago, and can't decide if it's great or terrible. Maybe you can help me figure it out.

It's worth a laugh, at least, but this was Wes Craven's followup to Nightmare on Elm Street, a movie that gets under your skin. It seems he's not even trying to suspend disbelief. For example, the Deadly Friend herself, a girl who's died and been re-animated with the brain of a robot, looks like my friends and I did when we acted out Shields and Yarnell at the playground in the third grade. How is this not supposed to not be absurd?

Everyone says, "skip the movie, just watch the 30-second basketball scene on youtube and be done with it". I'm not so sure. The ending is at least as ridiculous as the basketball, for one. To say that just the basketball makes the movie exceptional doesn't give it nearly enough credit; from beginning to end it's one of the dumbest films I've ever seen, but it has a certain appeal.


The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield

Under the working title "Jayne Mansfield Reports Europe", the actual footage following the famous sex symbol around Paris and Rome was shot in the spring and summer of 1964, with additional filming in New York City later the same year. Existing footage from two of Mansfield's previously shot films Loves of Hercules (1960) and Primitive Love (1964) were later inserted into this mondo-doc. Following Mansfield's death in a 1967 auto accident at the age of 34, portions of her narration for this film were recorded by a "sound alike."


Movie of the Week: Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks

This week's feature isn't embeddable, so click the above poster to open the youtube page. It's uninterrupted and presumably unedited (I own the DVD, so I haven't seen this version). This got a PG rating back in '75, but the nudity and necrophilia and general sleaziness make it not safe for work. Otherwise, lots of retarded monster fun. It's the Très Chic Freak of the Week!


High School Recordings: The 25-Year Anniversary

Around the time of my 17th birthday (1986), I'd saved up enough money grilling hamburgers to buy my first E-lectric guitar. It was a beaut: a Black-and-White Zebra-Striped Strat copy, $100 new. Already had my casio keyboard with built-in drum machine that I'd earned waiting tables at the old folks' home the year before, so I was all ready to go. After a couple weeks of teaching myself some chords I started recording.

These recordings span Summer '86 to Summer '87, at which time I graduated high school and left for the army to put life on creative hold for two years. I used the aforementioned casio keyboard and guitar to begin with, then acquired a casio sk-1 and programmable Boss Dr. Rhythm drum machine, and borrowed a friend's casio cz-101 synth (retail price: $500) much of the time.

Not all of these are original melodies. Some are bits I lifted from my punk rock records, or sometimes jingles from TV commercials and saturday morning cartoons (many years of classical piano training helped my sense of perfect pitch). To do multitrack songs, I would record the first part (usually drum machine and bass) through a wired condenser mic onto my Montgomery Ward one-piece Hi-FI (cassette, radio, phonograph AND 8-track tape), then transfer that tape over to my little portable cassette recorder, which had a speaker of about 2" diameter. I'd set that up next to my guitar amp, put the mic in front of them, hit 'record' on the Hi-Fi with the mixdown cassette in it, then hit 'play' on the portable and play along to the backing track. So the sound is total dogshit. But it's ten songs clocking in at a merciful 12 minutes, and I think it's pretty funny. They're all instrumentals. I omitted the ones in which I'm singing in a hormone-addled imitation of Lux Interior, Joey Ramone or John Lydon. I know we're all friends, but I'm not willing to put that part of myself out there yet. Maybe some other time.


The Life of an Agent

We visited Memento Park a few days ago, just outside of Budapest. It's a graveyard for monuments of Hungary's Soviet-occupied era (mid-40's to late 80's). One of my favorites is the one above, all that's left of an enormous likeness of Stalin. The rest of him was sawed down by protesters during the 1956 uprising.

Of no less interest was this interactive exhibit you could climb inside of; a real-life Trabant, a.k.a "The People's Car". This East German product was virtually the only car on the road when I visited Hungary in 1990. Now it's obsolete, presumably because of its shameful emissions; It put out nearly ten times as many hydrocarbons as the average European car, due to its two cylinder, two stroke engine. The shell was made of resin and recycled cotton.

In a small indoor exhibit era they screened this fascinating compilation of films, made between the 40's and the 70's, specifically to train members of Hungary's secret police: : how to interrogate, tap phone lines, photograph suspects, break into their homes to collect supposed evidence... unconscionable actions, treated like an ordinary matter of course.

On a related note, the House of Terror is a fantastic place to visit in Budapest. located in the actual building that housed HQ and prisons / torture chambers for the Nazis (Hungary was an axis country) as well as the Communists, it's an engrossing and terrifying subject, told in some of the best exhibit design I've seen.



Photos I shot last week at the Natural History Museum in Florence, Italy.

Windows 95 with Greta


Lux and Ivy's Favorites

Since Lux Interior's death I've been spending more time listening to the Cramps, my favorite rock n' roll band since I was 16, and appreciating the tributes and memoriams throughout the internet. It's a sad event, but this resurgence of Cramps interest has been a good thing.

A massive find is "Lux and Ivy's Favorites", 11 volumes (321 tracks!) of songs they spent most of their lives hunting down and enjoying, all for free.

Lux Interior and Ivy Rorshach were record collectors first, and a band second. They only started playing music after many years of digging up rare 45's of trashy rockabilly and doo-wop, and even then almost all of their songs were covers. They often freely admitted they were fans, trying to recreate the music they loved.

Listening to this collection is a special insight to Lux's tastes, and seemingly like Lux himself: unique, sincere, and always with a sense of humor. A short playlist is below (I found these tracks a few days ago, so I've barely listened to it all), and you can download the whole thing HERE.

(personal recommendation: combine these songs with those 255 free grindhouse radio ads I linked a few weeks ago into an itunes playlist and hit "shuffle").


17 Species of North American Mammals

Grizzly Bear :0 - :17
Harbor Seal :17 - :33
Dall's Sheep :33 - :44
Timber Wolf :44 - :51
Moose :51 - 1:22
Cougar/Mountain Lion 1:22 - 1:26
Sea Lion 1:26 - 1:51
Porcupine 1:51 - 1:58
Bison 1:58 - 3:26
Ringtail/Rodent 3:26 - 3:41
Musk Ox 3:41 - 4:11
Columbia Black Tail Deer 4:11 - 4:37
Caribou 4:37 - 5:06
Coyote 5:06 - 5:25
Mountain Goat 5:25 - 5:48
Peccary 5:48 - 6:26
Mule Deer 6:26 - 6:58

From Sonic Scenery, an exhibit I worked on at the natural history museum in Los Angeles a couple years ago. Composers were invited to record music specifically to be heard in wings of the museum. The visitor wears a headset, which plays the compositions when triggered by remote signals in the galleries. Experimental duo Matmos took it all the way by making audio environments for each of the seventeen dioramas in the North American Mammals hall. The timechart (above) was intended to cue the visitor to move from one window to the next, but you can read along for a similar effect.

artist statement:
In general, our work starts by taking an object, making sounds with that object, and working outward from those sounds in a free-associative manner, without a preconceived result or specifically targeted genre in mind.
In this case, we have had to reverse this process and have tried to think about the precise specifics of the North American Mammals hall and work to gather sounds that will evoke both the natural locale and the specific behaviors of the animals in the room. We decided to anchor our piece around the sounds of animals eating, breathing, and sniffing their environment, and to locate these noises of animal life against a backdrop of plateaulike drones generated with musical instruments associated with "Americana": pedal steel, acoustic guitar, banjo, harmonica, and autoharp. Feeding peanut butter to a friend's dog, we built up a basic library of mammalian lip-smacking, huffing, barking, whining, sniffling, and breathing noises, and combined this with a percussive battery of antler noises made by smacking deer antlers against each other and some softer rustling textures harvested by stroking and rubbing the pelt of a wolf.
The work is divided into miniature 'cells,' which stand in for the seventeen distinct dioramas/environments and animal species represented in the room, and this is split down the middle by a central section that corresponds to the large bison display at the far end of the room. Our work is intended to be a sound map of a walk through this room and is paced to coincide with a five-to-seven-minute counterclockwise walk through its contents
- Matmos

More about the exhibit here.


The Haunting

A dim memory from my earliest years of reading comic books, "The Haunting" is an amazingly bad, but still surprisingly effective, record from the early 70's, available only through comic book ads by mail order for $1. Brought back to my attention from the excellent but long-inactive Scar Stuff blog, which writes,

the record has a freakishly lame and astoundingly perfect charm all its own. It even manages to scrupulously follow the rules of the mighty Rip-Off Halloween Record genre (those being: a totally half-assed "story telling" side, and a banded "sound effects" side using most of the same audio library just without the narration), while still happily amplifying both their cheapest AND most exploitive qualities! Yeah! I honestly don't want to spoil it for you too much (Threadbare plot! Terrible narrator! One sound effect repeated ad nauseam! Children in peril!), but believe me, as far as I'm concerned it was more than worth the 30+ year wait. And hey, it even works just like the ad said it would!

Invite over some guests, turn out all the lights, and give it a listen:


Futurechimp Theater, Halloween Edition: Living Dolls

Thanks to kindertrauma.com for turning me on to this. It certainly tops Building Sites Bite and Fur Coat Club in creep-factor.

Somewhat related: another short film, linked from the youtube page for this one, which I'd also never seen before. The Dummy, made in the same era as Living Dolls and similarly picked up by the USA network to screen in between movies in the early 80's, is definitely worth seven minutes of your time.


Love in the Age of Circuitry

The following text is excerpted from Analog Days and takes place in the early 70's. For additional context, you might want to first scan the wikipedia pages for the Buchla synthesizer and Suzanne Ciani.

Suzanne's ultimate goal in working for Don Buchla was to acquire her own synthesizer. She slowly built up her $8,500 synth, module by module, acquiring some of the basic ones while at Buchla's workshop. To have the system she wanted, she realized she'd need to earn more than the $3 per hour she was paid for stuffing Don's circuit boards. She got a break from a friend of a friend who filmed commercials, and was hired to make sound signatures. The skill she was developing was in "sound design": "It wasn't so much the note as it was a poetry of sound - you know, what is the sound of a fur coat? What is the sound of perfume? And developing metaphors in sound... the feeling you got listening to it. This poetry of sound is what I brought to the industry."

(samples can be found here)

With the money from these first commercials, Suzanne put together her Buchla 200. As she added modules, she found herself becoming closer and closer to the machine: "Some people have a fear of technology, they look at this thing with all the knobs and holes and dials and go, "Oh my God". Whereas for me, it was like, "I'm going to get to know this. This is a living, breathing, entity. It has desires and abilities, limitations and possibilities... and it was alive, you know, and you build up a relationship."

As a struggling artist trying to make it in New York, Suzanne increasingly turned to sound signature work. She became known for many industry trademarks: The GE dishwasher beep, the Columbia pictures logo, the ABC logo, the Merrill Lynch sound, the Energizer battery sound, the Coca-Cola logo and the Pepsi logo.

Suzanne by now was so enamored with her Buchla that in New York it was about all she had for companionship. Her apartment contained no furniture, just her Buchla with its flashing lights in the middle of the room. It was her partner, co-worker, and courtesan: "It wasn't a static thing. Everything was shifting, everything was breathing. It was on, literally on, for ten years. I had a problem, in a way. I was scared, because I was in love with a machine."

In addition to commercial work, Ciani did the voices and soundtrack for Xenon, the sexiest pinball machine in history (coincidentally, the author of the post you're reading has had a crush on Xenon since he was 11).

Yet another one of those "I can't believe I've been given the opportunity to see this" moments which happens so often while searching youtube; an Omni documentary all about the Xenon project:


Shemp of the Dead

Shemp Howard, a.k.a. Sammy Horowitz, will always be the true third stooge. Not only do I consider him to have the best comic timing, but he formed the original act with Moe and Larry on vaudeville, and was replaced by Curly after he chose to pursue a very lucrative solo career. After Curly's death, Shemp felt obligated to temporarily help out his brother Moe by appearing in a few films. To his chagrin, he ended up keeping the job for the rest of his life. In 1955, he died suddenly and painlessly in the back of a taxicab, while lighting a cigar, on his way home from a boxing match. He was 60. However, the Three Stooges were under contract to deliver four more shorts to the studio. Bring in "Fake Shemp".

Joe Palma, a longtime bit player in Stooges shorts, unconvincingly filled Shemp's shoes, as this video will attest. I can't find a picture of the guy online. This footage doesn't even hint at what he might have looked like; he's only shot from behind. But he sure is tall. That's why he's walking around like a hunchback. In his first two appearances in this collection of clips, he uses his actual voice. In the rest, Shemp's voice is dubbed in post-mortem.

These films were terrible, but it only got worse: when it came time to renew their contract, Moe and Larry braved on with the awful Joe Besser ("Joe") followed by the dreaded, horrible Joe DeRita ("Curly Joe").



Zip The Pinhead, alias William Henry Johnson, was born to impoverished and newly freed African-American slaves in New Jersey. In the late 1850's, when he was a teenager, a traveling circus pulled through town. They noticed his oddly-shaped head and speculated "we could build an act around this". Soon he was in the sideshow wearing a fur suit, acting batshit crazy by throwing himself around a steel cage and speaking only in grunts. Darwin's Origin of the Species had just been published, and the resulting media furor was capitalized upon with Zip's promotion; He was a missing link, discovered in the Congo. Charles Dickens, upon witnessing him, exclaimed "What is it?" This caught on, and Zip was called the What-Is-It for the rest of his long, lucrative career.

His two mainstays were the American Museum (covered in last week's mermaid post) and Coney Island, where he allegedly rescued a girl from drowning while between acts. He performed for 67 years and is estimated to have personally entertained one hundred million people. Amazingly, he also stepped forward at the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925 to present himself as an evolutionary mutation, "proof" of Darwin's theories.

But these days, Zip would not be classified as anything more than an unusual looking guy. He was definitely not a real pinhead (microcephalic), a general term which is manifest by chromosomal aberration and most commonly includes traits like mental retardation and dwarfism ('Beetlejuice', a recurring and cruelly exploited guest on the Howard Stern show, would have to be the most famous contemporary pinhead). He seemed to possess, at the very least, an average intelligence. He was certainly a shrewd businessman; his lifetime income would translate into millions of today's dollars.

He died of bronchitis complications at 83, within days of his last performance. He's buried at the Bound Brook Cemetery in New Jersey under his birthname.



Voder (an acronym for "Voice Operating DEmonstratoR) made its premiere at the 1939 World's Fair, just like Elektro. But unlike Elektro, which used a built-in record player with a pre-recorded voice of a guy imitating a robot, Voder synthesized the human voice with an array of vacuum tubes, operated by a hu-man via an extremely complex interface:

There's one oscillator (which could be raised and lowered in pitch to change between male and female voices) and a hissing sound from a gas discharge tube used to simulate human breath. These were the only two actual audio sources; the rest was filter controls for ten vowels and four consonants, a volume accent button, and a footpedal pitch-bender. Allegedly, it took about a year for an operator to get the hang of it, making voder more musical instrument than robot.

Voder and Elektro totally should've hooked up at the fair.

Wendy Carlos does some email Q&A about the Voder and the Vocoder here.

Barely related, but very cool: a collection of toy robot commercials through the years.


Moments with Ron Ormand

The Trailer for the much-loved classic Mesa of Lost Women (1953):

(this film is public domain, so you can stream the whole feature here)

Innocuous mother-to-daughter chitchat from Please Don't Touch Me (1963):

A representative clip from The Exotic Ones, a.k.a. The Monster and The Stripper (1968):

Shortly after The Exotic Ones, Ron Ormond survived a plane crash. As a result, he turned to Christian morality tales. The most famous, and by a long shot the most entertaining, is If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? (previously plugged on this site). A collaboration with baptist nutjob Reverend Pirkle which has something to do with Jesus and Communists:

And a moment of Lynchian freakery from The Believers Heaven, another Pirkle movie:

editor's note: this is a re-post from years back. I'll be travelling for the next couple weeks and probably unavailable for comments, but selected recyclable posts will appear on a daily basis.


Netflix Stream of the Week: Popcorn

Just saw this for the first time and it was okay. I knew I had to get to it eventually, as the screenplay was by one of my heroes, Alan Ormsby. He also directed, but was replaced by someone else halfway through. The lead was similarly fired and the part was given to Jill Schoelen, which is permissible cause she's a total fox.

Ormsby had his name replaced with a pseudonym for writing and directing credits. Given his pedigree, it's safe to assume it would have been a better film had he been given the opportunity to finish it. Most of the movie looks like a typical 80's USA Network hackjob. The editing is indifferent, and the pace slows to a crawl towards the end. It's also contrived enough that you can turn it off 20 minutes early and not miss much of anything. It could have been so much better, but as is, it's still worthwhile. 

Like Joe Dante's Matinee which came a few years after, Popcorn is set entirely in a cinema which is screening 1950's William Castle-type gimmick movies. These non-existent films within the film are the best part of Popcorn, like "Mosquito", which features a giant light-up remote-controlled bug flying over the audience, "Attack of the Amazing Electrified Man" with random  seats wired to shock theatergoers, and "The Stench", a Japanese Toho-looking production with smells piped in from the projection booth on cue. There are also lots of movie references and cool details like an "Incredible Melting Man" poster in the lobby. And "buy a bag, go home in a box" is an inspired tagline, you must admit.

Filmed inside a real movie theater in Kingston, Jamaica. In many shots, you can clearly see the audience of white people on the main floor and black extras up in the background of the balcony.

Been out-of-print on dvd for awhile, and I can't find it on flash video anywhere, but it's on netflix streaming here.


By the Way, The Name of This Movie Is "The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant"

Count the number of times you hear the title in this one-minute radio ad.


Movie of the Week: Fire and Ice

This 1983 Ralph Bakshi / Frank Frazetta collaboration is a mixed bag, with some inspired sequences and long stretches of drudgery. Even at 81 minutes it wears out its welcome after awhile, with the plot consisting of little more than the two principal characters getting captured and escaping repeatedly.

Also, nearly every frame of the movie clearly uses rotoscoping, a cheat which has been employed in animated feature films since the beginning (even Snow White was a rotoscoped actress), but is especially ostentatious in these Ralph Bakshi movies. At no point to you forget that you're watching actors on a soundstage, making it reminiscent of the Adventures of Huck Finn segments on The Banana Splits. So most of the time there's little interest in the animation. But sometimes the more colorful characters, like the subhumans, are rendered with some artistic flair. And the background paintings are really nice.

I just saw this for the first time in 28 years and, despite its flaws, was still impressed. But maybe it's just nostalgia: Fire and Ice was the first movie I liked enough to dub a video copy (which required the borrowing of a second VCR from a neighbor). I saw it many, many times on VHS in those following months, coinciding with my interest in Dungeons and Dragons, Tolkien, Heavy Metal magazine and Black Sabbath records. So it fit into a very mythic, imaginative time for me, before I matured into a disaffected teenager.

But admittedly this movie is dumber than a brick. I can't imagine anyone over 15 being into it, unless you're one of the people who never quite got past the age of 15 in your head. Then it's totally great. Like a fuckin' Molly Hatchet album cover come to life!

The whole movie is below, embedded from youtube, but if you have netflix streaming you should watch it there in HD.

Bonus: a behind-the-scenes documentary from when the film was in production.
Look, you get to see a real ink-and-paint department, staffed by American citizens. Those went extinct by the end of the 80's. And I remember wearing that white cotton glove with the fingers cut off when I was an animation student; it was so you could hold your brushes with your fingers, but still rest your palm on the acetate cel without getting it dirty.


Thing Theatre

I don't recognize this, but I should; it aired Sunday afternoons on channel 44, a Chicago UHF station, in the late 70's, when I was the most obsessed with monster movies.

A youtube commenter named the highly inappropriate theme music; it's from the soundtrack to "Car Wash".


Movie of the Week: The Uncanny

This housecat-themed horror anthology is about average by Amicus standards (it isn't actually an Amicus film, but the cast and era make it seem like one).  It's no Uninvited, that's for sure. But still, there aren't enough killer-cat movies, so take what you can get.

The first of the three stories is best, so at least stick it out for that mini-feature. If you want to skip Peter Cushing's linking segment, jump ahead to 6:30.

Slithis 7


The Case for Flash

"...as a young boy, I didn't recognize the elements of camp, I just thought, 'why isn't Star Wars more like this?'"

In this extra from the DVD that came out a couple years ago, comic artist Alex Ross claims to have seen his favorite movie Flash Gordon more than anyone (possibly excepting the film's editors), and nicely articulates what makes it so wonderful.

part 2


Equinox in Ten Minutes

I wouldn't necessarily recommend sitting through Equinox in its entirety, but the stop-motion work in this homemade production has a unique, phantasmagorical crudity. Dennis Muren directed, and did all the special effects himself, while a student at Pasadena City College, and shot nearby in Big Tujunga Canyon, Bronson Canyon and Arroyo Seco. He went on to helm effects for Star Wars, Jurassic Park and others. And although it's never been confirmed, the movie is a straight-up prototype for The Evil Dead.


Dracula Vs. Frankenstein

I saw this on Son of Svengoolie in the late 70's, but wasn't prepared for its greatness at that age. It's surprisingly watchable, considering the general oeuvre of director Al Adamson.

The lineup consists of three former A-Listers: Russ Tamblyn as Rico the biker, Lon Chaney Jr. as Groton the mute servant and J. Carrol Naish as Dr. Duryea. Angelo Rossitto, of 'Freaks' and hundreds of other films, plays the dwarven carnival barker. Forry Ackerman is Dr. Beaumont. The director's wife plays the female lead, and his accountant or something is "Zandor Vorkov" (phony name) in the role of Dracula. He's mostly famous for being the most inappropriate Dracula in the movies, and he does not disappoint in this regard. And the character named "Strange" (the Judge Reinhold-looking sidekick), is Greydon Clark, who goes on to direct Joysticks. What a cast.

The narrative is a little confusing until you understand the circumstances: Adamson made this as a semi-sequel to "Satan's Sadists", about a biker gang that happens upon a wax museum at the Venice boardwalk. The producer didn't like the finished result, so Adamson added the whole "Dracula vs. Frankenstein" angle. All of the scenes with Dracula and / or Frankenstein were shot in upstate New York with no money, nearly two years after the original film had wrapped. Most of the scenes with the bikers were omitted, and with the extra footage the film still runs a long 90 minutes. It would have been a better film in its original incarnation. But pacing aside, it's a good time, with the late-60's Venice Beach locations looking suitably grimy, and there's lots of gratuitous violence and a couple of titty shots.

Poor J. Carrol Naish has a foot in the grave: confined to a wheelchair, with one glass eye, and senile enough to not remember any lines, requiring cue cards. Lon Jr. is even worse, wrecked from decades of alcohol abuse and genuinely mute from mouth cancer. They're both a sad sight. This would be the last film either of them would appear in.

Also available on Netflix Streaming.


Jac Mac and Rad Boy Go!

I saw this in highschool on "Night Flight" and accredit it, more than anything else, with inspiring me to go to animation school a couple years later (then I dropped out of animation school after three semesters 'cause couldn't draw that well after all).


Flame of the Pacific (1934)

I was searching for unfamiliar 1930's Hawaiian music when I happened across this on youtube. It has some nice songs, and is a fascinating document of Hawaiian culture in the post-colonial, pre-statehood era. It's also pretty funny.


Futurechimp Theater: The Doughnuts

Coax your son or daughter into your vintage 1970's Kiddie Kartoon Theater, nail a sheet of plywood over the doorway, wrap the whole thing in sound insulation, then insert this week's videotronic film cartridge into the projector: "The Doughnuts" from 1963, which I'm watching for the first time since I was seven.

Part 2

Part 3



A Bad Movie for a Bad Year

It was Summer of 1986, between my junior and senior years of high school. I'd just enlisted in the army, on a one-year deferment, because it seemed there was nothing in my future: Reagan was president. Mutual nuclear annihilation with Russia was still on the table, and often discussed as if it were imminent. I'd never had a real girlfriend. I was failing most of my classes. I was bicycling several miles every day to work at a hot dog stand at the zoo. "Highway to the Danger Zone" was always on the radio. And this fucking movie was in theaters:


Movie of the Week: When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970)

This Hammer classic was once available on DVD at the Best Buy electronics chain, but customers complained when they discovered that the G-rated disc contained nudity. It was quickly recalled, and said disc is unavailable for online rental, and sells for over $100 on amazon.

But you can see it here in good enough quality to enjoy the tremendous landscapes, animation, cinematography and cave-babes. Don't worry about the Spanish overdub; that's only the narration in first minute or so. The language the characters are speaking is nonexistent, like in that Ringo Starr movie.


Flash Gordon: The General Kala Edit

Just the scenes with General Kala, every drag queen's dream girl, from the greatest film of all time. So say I.

On a related note… did you know that I made a Flash Gordon tribute symphony? It came out really well. I'm pretty sure it's the best thing I've ever recorded, within my modest abilities. You can hear it and even download it for free. Please do not hesitate to do so, if you wish…



Strange Strings

I’m painting pictures of things I know about, and things I’ve felt, that the world just hasn’t had the chance to feel... I’m painting pictures of another plane of existence, you might say, of something that’s so far away that it seems to be nonexistent. I’m painting pictures of that, but it is a world of happiness which people have been looking for or say they wanted, but they haven’t been able to achieve it.

I picked up Sun Ra's somewhat hard-to-find Strange Strings session on CD, originally recorded in 1966, at Amoeba Records in Hollywood. I'd heard of it, but not any of the music within. I just knew it was legendary among his dozens of records.

Of all the Sun Ra material I've heard, the mid-60's output is best; experimental, but still rooted in some fundamentals of musical structure. I especially recommend The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra Volume One (1965) as a starting point for his music.

Even for Sun Ra, Strange Strings is challenging, and allegedly the most "out" the Arkestra has gone. Cheap third world stringed instruments (Ukuleles, Mandolins, Kotos, Koras, Chinese Lutes) were purchased from a shop in New York and passed out to the band, all inexperienced in playing these sorts of things. Sun Ra orchestrated by doing little more than pointing at performers, requiring them to make something out of almost nothing. He called it "a study in ignorance".

Somehow, it works for me. I played the album from beginning to end while sculpting, and it was quite a thrill. Difficult, yes. It's abrasive and dissonant, but charged with inspiration and urgency.

3.5 Minutes of Baffling Idiocy from "Hercules" (1983)

By the same guy who directed "Starcrash", so you know it's among the best cinema entertainment you can find. Currently on Netflix Streaming.


Blasphemovie of the Week: Alucarda (1978)

Incredibly, Alcucarda is available uncut on youtube. This will not last, so get it while you can. If you're unfamiliar with this surreal Mexi-trocity by Juan Lopez Moctezuma (who collaborated with Alejandro Jodorowsky on his first two films), I'll crib this description from wikipedia:

Alucarda is notorious for its extreme subject matter and themes, which includes that of Satanism, murder, demonic possession, exorcism, orgies, and lesbianism, among other things, within a religious setting. All of these things made the film controversial, especially for the time it was made. Because of its extreme violence, scenes of sacrilege, and perversely defiled religious imagery, it has gained notoriety among fans of the horror genre. Michael Weldon of the Psychotronic Video Guide said the film was "The strongest, most imaginative, and visual witch movie since Ken Russell's The Devils."



Forbidden Planet Art Exhibit in Hollywood Closing This Week

The display will illustrate the complexity of the film's production methods and will include the "id monster" concept art, miniatures used in the movie including the United Planets Cruiser C-57D flying saucer and Krell ventilator shaft miniature, a hand blaster, and one of the film's most memorable characters: Robby the Robot. The exhibit will also include the original recording equipment used by Louis and Bebe Barron in creating the film's all-electronic musical score.

More abut the exhibit here. Related blog post here.


Easily the Best Part of "Howling 2"

Man, that band is cool. And this is the most gratuitous use of Sybil Danning ever witnessed, so it's super-not-appropriate for work.


"The Children" in 19 Minutes

(related post here)

An Excerpt from "Day of the Locust" (1939)

All their lives they had slaved at some kind of dull, heavy labor, behind desks and counters, in the fields and at tedious machines of all sorts, saving their pennies and dreaming of the leisure that would be theirs when they had enough. Finally that day came. They could draw a weekly income of ten or fifteen dollars. Where else should they go but California, the land of sunshine and oranges?

Once there, they discover that sunshine isn’t enough. They get tired of oranges, even of avocado pears and passion fruit. Nothing happens. They don’t know what to do with their time. They haven’t the mental equipment for leisure, the money nor the physical equipment for pleasure. Did they slave so long just to go to an occasional Iowa picnic? What else is there? They watch the waves come in at Venice. There wasn’t any ocean where most of them came form, but after you’ve seen one wave, you’ve seen them all. The same is true of airplanes at Glendale. If only a plane would crash once in a while so that they could watch the passengers being consumed in a “holocaust of flame,” as the newspapers put it. But the planes never crash.

Their boredom becomes more and more terrible. They realize that they’ve been tricked and burn with resentment. Every day of their lives they read the newspapers and went to the movies. Both fed them on lynchings, murder, sex crimes, explosions, wrecks, love nests, fires, miracles, revolutions, war. This daily diet made sophisticates of them. The sun is a joke. Oranges can’t titillate their jaded palates. Nothing can ever be violent enough to make taut their slack minds and bodies. They have been cheated and betrayed. They have slaved and saved for nothing.


Slithis: The Plot Slithins

I daresay this latest round is our best. Visit here for the Slithis archive, selections from the last three years of electronic sensory perception.


Living Stereo

(via dangerousminds.net)


Arcade Klassix

We're on holiday in Portland. Went to check out the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry based on a recommendation. Didn't get much out of it, but we don't have kids. It's passable as an exploratorium for youngsters, but doesn't deliver on the "Industry" part to the level of the museums in Chicago or London, and the Life Sciences galleries, which generally interest me the most, were too dumbed-down for anyone over the age of ten.

But we happened upon the Game On traveling exhibit, which I'd been curious about since it started in 2002. Some highlights:

two models of "Computer Space", the first arcade game. This gorgeous cab was sculpted out of clay by its designer in his kitchen. I've only seen these turned off, but allegedly the game is impossible to figure out. In the center is the computer used to design and program it via punch-card interface.

a low-rider "Space Invaders" cocktail from Japan which requires you to sit on the floor to play it.

Magnavox Odyssey, the first home system. the paddles are out of the case so you can play it on a screen up above, like the hundred other consoles on display.

A whole room of handhelds, most of them playable.

Original Don Bluth animation cels for the "Dragon's Lair" laserdisc arcade game.

A Nintendo "Virtual Boy", the first 3D game system, which I'd never tried before. It's monochromatic, but that just adds to its character.

There's another room of arcade machines circa late 70's-early 80's, all set to free play, but none were rare enough to warrant mention. Also a few pinballs, including an Atari "Space Raiders" widebody, but they're too badly maintained to be enjoyable.

The majority of this enormous exhibit is console games from the 90's to the present. I'm not into that stuff, but most guys younger than myself might be. Also lots of conceptual drawings, so game designers especially should love this show.


Netflix Streaming Rec of the Week: Drum (1976)

This sort-of sequel to "Mandingo" is yet another Dino DeLaurentis high-dollar misfire, starring The Great Warren Oates, Yaphet Kotto and Pam Grier. I saw this on cable with my best friend during a late-night unsupervised sleepover in the seventh grade. It's definitely not for kids. Similar to Caligula in some ways; an Italian-produced, big-budget historical drama, in extremely bad taste, with nudity and depravity in nearly every scene.

But it also tries to latch onto America's mid-70's zeitgeist by putting its foot firmly in the Blaxploitation genre. The slaves are the most humanized characters (there's even a boxing scene early in the film that seems inspired by Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man"), but really, it's just out to exploit everything to its maximum potential. It makes for a morally ambivalent but very entertaining film.

See it HERE.


Punk Rock Week: The Repo Man Soundtrack

In Summer of '85 a friend came back from a few weeks at camp and turned me on to Suicidal Tendencies:

It was something I immediately connected with. Before this, I was listening to songs by Iron Maiden and Dio, with lyrics about knights slaying dragons and whatnot. But this was direct and sincere, with emotions so strong that they could barely be articulated, via lyrics or instruments; the music was on the verge of disintegrating under its own weight. It was enough persuasion for me to buy the song on vinyl, via the Repo Man soundtrack LP at the Coconuts in the Forest Park Mall. The album contains a few duds, but some other tracks were a springboard to finding more music by decent bands, like "Let's Have a War" by Fear:

And "Coup d'Etat" by the Circle Jerks, the first punk band I saw live in concert:

Then there was Black Flag's "TV Party", but I don't like that single. It was definitely a gateway, though, since right after I heard it, I found a used copy of "Damaged". I still listen to it, because, "TV Party" excepted, it rules. So I'll cheat and include this video from the "Damaged" era.

Henry Rollins was definitely not my favorite singer; the band's output quickly went downhill after he signed on. Just a couple years later, he was reciting bad poetry on stage while Greg Ginn just stood there, silently regretting that he ever allowed this clown to join the band. I much preferred Dez Cadena, but he dropped out because the Black Flag concerts were getting to be too violent for him. So check out Rollins in this video. The dude is an asskicker. Few men could have fronted such a band in such a crazy environment. But I digress.

And although I didn't appreciate it as much at the time, Iggy Pop's theme is the best post-Stooges track he's recorded:


Punk Rock Week: The Screamers

The Screamers - a drummer, two keyboardists and one of the greatest frontmen of all time - never recorded an album, but they eclipsed the Germs and X as the biggest draw in LA clubs during the first wave of Punk in the 70's.

This may have been shot for the first commercial release they were intending, to be available only on video tape. A strange idea, considering that VCR's were uncommon and prohibitively expensive at the time, but as you can see, it would have been a shame to have limited the antics of singer Tomata du Plenty to just an audio recording.

Punk Rock Week: The Real-Life Young Ones


Punk Rock Week: I Dig Pain

Take a hunk of concrete
And stick it in my face
I like to play with razor blades
I hate the human race
Kick me when I'm down
Come up and rip my shirt
My dad will buy another one
Especially if I'm hurt
I dig pain

From the Punk Rock episode of CHiPs, of course. The one that ends with Eric Estrada singing Kool and the Gang's "Celebration" on stage at a club to convert all the punks over to feel-good music. You can watch the whole thing starting here.


Punk Rock Week: Flipper

I'm guessing this performance is a Target Video production from sometime in the early 80's.

Consistently one of my favorite bands for over 25 years now. I still listen to them all the time, and my guitar and drumming styles on the Metal Robots tracks are very inspired by them. They reunited in 2005 with three of the original four members (co-bassist / co-singer Will Shatter, the one singing in the above video, fatally overdosed in 1987), and they still sound great.

Related: Flipper Playlist

Punk Rock Week: Magic Makeover!

Thanks to this instructional clip from "The Day my Kid went Punk", a 1987 ABC afterschool special, you too can go from Zero to Hero within minutes:

Sadly, this is the only part of this sociological relic I can find online. But look, here is another fun makeover activity! Try it, won't you?

Here's my entry. Awww, he's so much less angry-looking now:

Draw / Photoshop your own, mail it to coloring_contest@stexe.net, and if your makeover is chosen, you just might win a prize!

(Disclaimer: there will be no prizes.)