Tuesday, January 26, 2010

a gig in need

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Lost Wisdom of the Three Wise Men

Almost by chance I recently happened to witness two similar scenes: a 15-year-old girl who was engrossed in a book of art reproductions, and two 15-year-old boys who were enthralled to be visiting the Louvre.

The parents of all three were nonbelievers and the teens were raised in secular countries; that lack of religious background clearly affected their ability to appreciate the art they were viewing.

The teenagers could understand that the hapless individuals in Theodore Gericault’s “The Raft of the Medusa,” had just escaped a shipwreck. And they could recognize that the characters portrayed by Francesco Hayez in “The Kiss” were lovers.

But it was difficult for them to fathom why Fra Angelico portrayed a girl talking to a man with wings in “The Annunciation” or why in Rembrandt’s “Moses Breaking the Tablets of Law,” a gentleman who looks rather down-at-the-heels but has beams of light shining from horns on his head, is bounding down a mountainside carrying two heavy stone tablets.

Some parts of Nativity scenes were familiar to these young people because they had seen similar icons in the past, but when three men wearing cloaks and crowns were included in a crèche, the teens had no idea who these men were or why they were there.

It’s impossible to understand roughly three-quarters of Western art if you don’t know the events of the Old and the New Testaments and the stories of the saints. Who’s that girl with her eyes on a plate? Is she something out of “Night of the Living Dead”?

In many countries, schoolchildren are taught everything about the death of Hector but nothing about St. Sebastian, and perhaps everything about the marriage of Cadmus and Harmony but nothing about the wedding at Cana. In others, they cram students’ heads with the Stations of the Cross while keeping them in the dark about “the woman clothed with the sun” who appears in the book of Revelations.

The worst cases of befuddlement often occur when Westerners (and not just 15-year-olds) come across religious icons from other cultures — which happens increasingly often today as they travel to distant countries and people from those countries settle in the West.

I’m not talking about Westerners’ puzzled reactions when faced with an African mask or laughter at the sight of an enormously fat Buddha. The fact is that many shake their heads in disbelief when they learn that Hindus worship a deity with the head of an elephant, yet find nothing odd about portraying Christianity’s divine personage as a dove.

Much of the confusion could be avoided if schools would provide students with basic information about the teachings and traditions of the various religions. To say that this isn’t necessary is tantamount to saying that we shouldn’t teach children about Zeus and Athena because they’re just characters from fables meant for little old ladies in “ancient” Greece.

Limiting religious instruction to the point of view of a single creed (for example, as happens here in Italy) is dangerous. Pupils who are nonbelievers (or the children of nonbelievers) will opt out of such lessons and thus miss out on learning even a minimum of fundamental cultural elements. And usually any useful mention of other religious traditions is excluded from the lessons.

In Italian public schools, the weekly hour of optional religious instruction is led by Roman Catholic teachers paid by the state. It could be used to hold ethical debates on respectable subjects such as our duties toward our fellow man or the nature of faith, while still omitting the kind of information that would enable students to tell Raphael’s Fornarina from a repentant Mary Magdalene.

My generation in Italy studied much about Homer and nothing about the Pentateuch (the first books of the Hebrew Bible). In high school the lessons on the history of art were awful, and in lit classes they taught us all about the Florentine poet Burchiello and nothing about Shakespeare. But despite this we got by, because the people and culture enabled some of this information to reach us.

That said, the plight of those 15-year-olds I was talking about, the ones who didn’t recognize the Three Wise Men, suggests to me that our vast information network conveys fewer and fewer facts that are truly helpful and more and more that are totally useless.

Umberto Eco via NYT

Monday, December 14, 2009

Give It A Ponder

James Lipton is a funny man with a magical beard.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Walking the Walk, Talking The Talk

This 45 minute collage of Fugazi stage banter is amazing. Really.

Originally posted by the very cool Henry Owings on Chunklet, it's well worth a listen to anyone interested in live music but especially if you've ever been been a fan of the band or the scene or shit talking.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Truth About Thanksgiving

~ Excepted from Donald Barthelme’s "At Last, It Is Time"
from the collection: The Teachings of Don B.

At last, it is time to speak the truth about Thanksgiving. The truth is this: it is not a really great holiday. Consider the imagery. Dried cornhusks hanging on the door! Terrible wine! Cranberry jelly in little bowls of extremely doubtful provenance which everyone is required to handle with the greatest of care! Consider the participants, the merrymakers. Men and women (also children) who have survived passably well through the years, mainly as a result of living at considerable distances from their dear parents and beloved siblings, who on this feast of feasts must apparently forgather (as if beckoned by an aberrant Fairy Godmother), usually by circuitous routes, through heavy traffic, at a common meeting place, where the very moods, distempers, and obtrusive personal habits that have kept them happily apart since adulthood are then and there encouraged to slowly ferment beneath the cornhusks, and gradually rise with the aid of the terrible wine, and finally burst forth out of control under the stimulus of the cranberry jelly! No, it is a mockery of a holiday. For instance: Thank you, O Lord, for what we are about to receive. This is surely not a gala concept. There are no presents, unless one counts Aunt Bertha’s sweet rolls a present, which no one does. There is precious little in the way of costumery: miniature plastic turkeys and those witless Pilgrim hats. There is no sex. Indeed, Thanksgiving is the one day of the year (a fact known to everybody) when all throughts of sex completely vanish, evaporating from apartments, houses, condominiums, and mobile homes like steam from a bathroom mirror.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How To Beat The Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Blues

So the Islamo-Fascists are coming back to New York and people are actually afraid? Talk about providing comfort to the enemy. I can’t fathom an America where we’ve sent the posse out to catch the bad guy and when they’ve brought him to justice, we’re scared his friends might interrupt our public hanging. John Wayne is surely spinning in his red, white, and blue grave.

On the evening of 9/11, I suggested that if Osama bin Laden was really concerned about the plight of downtrodden Muslims he would surrender to US authorities on 9/12. He could then present his complaint to the world at a trial in NYC. He’d never have a bigger stage, his martyrdom would be assured, and he might effect some positive change for his tribe. But my tune has changed. The endless violence at the hands of this bunch of ignorant, psychotic fiends has negated any and all concern for their side of the story.

(ASIDE: Wasn’t the cowardly car bomb popularized by Colombian drug cartels? Yet another feather in cocaine’s cap.)

How can a public trial judging OBL’s criminal sidekick, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, be seen as anything but a good thing, a necessary finale? True, the interim clusterfuck has armed KSM with an ammo dumps worth of defense and the fear that “water boarding” may offer a get out of jail free card is sadly a trending topic. A topic off radar is that a Texan named Charlie Wilson primed OBL with his first taste of violence while another dipshit Texan armed KSM with the kryptonite that might blow him free of American justice. Maybe we’re overlooking another enemy here: Fucking Texas.

The “unlawful combatant” designation was a bullshit play from the start. We, the people, need these terrorists indicted and tried in US Federal Court. I don’t care what the suddenly skittish chicken hawk crowd says. We deserve to have justice meted out in our presence. No one wants KSM slipping away under the cover of an American flag but I refuse to be one of those conservatives who line litter boxes with the Constitution. Even if Al-Queda is the bearded fox in our legal hen house are we really scared to fight them on our home court? The implication that we’re made strong by acting like Chicken Little is fucking pathetic, if not “Fox News’ traitorous.” So on behalf of Americans proud of our Republic, I say bring it motherfucking on.

KSM is going to be found guilty in NYC, so put that fear out of your pretty little heads. All Americans should know our legal system is the best the world has to offer and perfectly capable of putting anyone it wants to behind bars. US Federal prosecutors don’t lose and I’m looking forward to seeing our book thrown at these twisted shits for a change. I’m sick of their book. And could someone please remind me when Republicans become the party of pussies?

In the fall of 2001, before the invasion of Afghanistan, I approached US Senator Charles Schumer at a party. Head full of Ritalin, I proposed a couple of avant tactics. First, that bombing Afghanistan with nothing more incendiary than canned American hams might provide a satisfying irony as well as a boon to the homegrown cannery industry. Kabul was already a city lying in Stone Age rubble and the “Rods from God” theory allows that any projectile launched from earth’s orbit will detonate at just this side of thermo-nuclear. So these canned hams would fuck shit up and pork seemed a magnificent thematic choice of advance weaponry. Secondly, I suggested locking a red laser beam on the Kaaba at Mecca and saying you guys have a week to give us OBL or we're gonna vaporize your goddamn black rock. Schumer excused himself, but then Jews are a little weird about pork too.

While it might have been outlandish to suggest effectively nuking Mecca at the time, I think as a coercive measure, it’s a viable option today. The threat of obliterating the Muslim world’s #1 tourist attraction would hit these bastards where it hurts. The wallet. And don’t give me that shit about Saudi Arabia as our Arab ally in the “war on terror.” It’s the Al-Saud Wahhabists, not the Muslim Brotherhood nor the Tehran Twelvers nor even the Taliban, who are at the root of all this jihadist/al-Qaeda evil. The House of Al-Saud is a cabal of liars, thieves and cutthroats whose cult of extremism doesn’t revolve around religion but rather around money. So fuck those pigs.

The Hajj begins this week in Saudi Arabia. My suggestion is, as before, to target the Kaaba with an unmistakable red beam from outer space. For the whole week at Mecca, the tribal pilgrims flocking to and orbiting around the most revered touchstone in Islam will be aware of the implied annihilation. That’s how you capture an audience’s attention. My news cycle headline will be “NOT A SINGLE BLACK EYED VIRGIN HARMED, NOT A SINGLE BEARDED BASTARD SPARED.” The whole of extremist Islam will have been forewarned that unless they immediately corral their superstitious & murderous factions we’re going to blow the whole of their shit to kingdom come. No more nation building. No more hand wringing.

The endless bait and switch of fighting these prehistoric warlords in a place called “the Tribal Lands” has gone on long enough. To think Blackwater "snatch and grabs" or secret military drone bombings are going to end this thing is nuts. We the people have to get our kids home and out of this hopelessly deadly and never-ending engagement. Talk - Action = Zero.

As an advance warning, I still can think of nothing more apropos, than a misdirected and plausibly denied, preemptive humanitarian airdrop. < Raining canned hams upon fasting hoards of fundamentalists busily embracing pseudo-science and fairy tales might just give us the psychological impetus needed to snatch victory from the jaws of history. Regardless Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, I’m excited to have you in the Big Apple and as a hedge Wall Street America, I suggest you buy Hormel, sell KSM, and call your fucking Senator.

Related Posts~
Another Reason To Hate The Taliban
UPDATE: Another Reason To Hate The Taliban
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A Drug For Every Age

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Infinity Factory w/ Richard Metzger

From early 1997 to sometime mid-1999 I had a talkshow called The Infinity Factory that was produced at Pseudo.com, the increasingly legendary “Internet TV Network,” creative madhouse and party central of downtown New York during the high-flying Silicon Alley dotcom years.

The Infinity Factory was taped every Sunday evening at 8pm with a few exceptions. It was produced by Vanessa Weinberg who also DJ’d and mixed the show live. Vanessa was extraordinarily in tune with how the conversations were flowing and added an intricate bed of trippy music, samples and sound loops under what were often extremely psychedelic conversations to begin with—like this episode, with Robert Anton Wilson and Genesis P-Orridge.

This show dates, I think, from Fall of 1997. When it was originally netcast it was when most people still had 56k modems and the video quality was fairly awful. Don’t get me wrong, it was pretty cool to be able to do something like this back then and there was a real “pirate radio” aspect to it as well that greatly appealed to me, but in truth it looked more like flickery animation than it did actual video. And it was the size of a postage stamp. There were probably well over 100 shows, each of them around 50 minutes, but I really can’t say for sure how many there were. Most of them are probably lost.

Ondi TImoner’s new Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning documentary, We Live in Public chronicles the rise and fall of Pseudo founder Josh Harris and it’s a fascinating film, a movie well worth going out of your way to catch. Watch my interview with Ondi here. MUST WATCH!

More via Dangerous Minds

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Clash: 16 Tons Tour 1980

A great example of the Clash at work. Here they're dominating a Saturday night in New Jersey as only they could. Funny to hear Strummer prepping the crowd with the first lines of London Calling, which they've obviously never heard. This makes me smile at the thought of turning rebellion into money. Not much money perhaps but fuck it. Recorded at the Capitol Theater in Passaic on March 8, 1980. The embed should play the whole concert continuously and its worth letting it roll all 23 songs straight through. You can also tweak the tabs at sides of the video player to advance through the songs.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Reach For The Lasers!

The brilliant Jeremy Factsman exploring the
inner workings of a Welsh clubs ecstasy traffic.
Absolutely hilarious by my measure.

What's your name? What have you had?
Reach for the lasers. Safe as fuck!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Great Moments in Drugs!

This amazing story needs nothing from me.

Related Posts~

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Freddie King at the Travis County Jail

Freddie and his brother Bennie to play for the inmates at the Travis Co. Jail. The prisoners loved it. So did the musicians. It is funky old video but a record of a terrific performance and selfless act by the late great artist, Freddie King.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I Hate LA

I love Suzi Barret

the running mule

the running mule