The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'kitsch'
From an article by Nick Cohen about the current Frieze art fair in London, an observation on the function that huge, tacky-looking artworks fulfil in validating their wealthy purchasers' status; Cohen's argument is that monumental kitsch is a peacock-tail-like mechanism for (expensively and unforgeably) demonstrating that one has status putting one beyond the criticism of one's inferiors:
The justifications from the critics whom galleries always seem able to find to dignify the shallow add to the melancholy spectacle. They talk of challenging our notions of what is art as Duchamp did with his urinal. They forget that Duchamp offered his "fountain" to a New York show in 1917 – almost a century ago, and his once radical ideas are now so established they will soon deserve a telegram from the Queen. "Everything changes except the avant garde," said Paul Valéry. Yet Frieze shows one change, although not a change for the better.
Collectors do not buy Koons because he challenges their definitions of art. The ever-popular explanation that the nouveau riche have no taste strikes me as equally false – there's no reason why the nouveau riche should have better or worse taste than anyone else.
What a buyer of a giant kitten or a gargantuan fried egg says to those who view his purchase is this: "I know you think that I am a stupid rich man who has wasted a fortune on trash. But because I am rich you won't say so and your silence is the best sign I have of my status. I can be wasteful and crass and ridiculous and you dare not confront me, whatever I do."
Some takeaways from Eurovision 2012:
- Azerbaijan's Eurovision budget seems to have run out some time after the building of the stadium; hence the reused footage in the interstitial tourism ads they show between songs. But, as they are proud to inform us, they have electric light. And tea. And horses and horsemen. And, judging from the clips, Baku looks like quite a livable metropolis, as long as you're heterosexual and not inclined to take an unwelcome interest in the way you are governed. They're very proud of those flame towers, it would seem.
- This time, the UK seemed to have taken it seriously; rather than sending a few talent-show contestants to demonstrate what a joke they think the whole thing is, they sent veteran crooner Engelbert Humperdinck. As was pointed out, Humperdinck was older not only than most if not all of the other contestants, but than 22 of the countries competing as well. His song was actually not bad, and he performed well. He came second-last; some said it had to do with Britain drawing the shortest straw and getting the first slot, and consequently being forgotten by the audiences, though it could just as well be residual antipathy to Britain in Eurovision.
- Last place went to Norway, who had a fairly average club-pop number sung by a buff young man of Iranian heritage. Its main value was probably in annoying the Iranian theocracy, which is Azerbaijan's southern neighbour and has issued statements condemning Azerbaijan for hosting a “gay parade”. Of course, the odds of there being an actual gay parade in Azerbaijan are next to non-existent, though compared with its neighbour, it may well be edgily cosmopolitan.
- Norway's humiliation is compounded by the fact that the crown was taken by its neighbour and rival, Sweden. The Swedes entered a slick piece of dance-pop which had already topped the charts in half a dozen countries, though, which strikes me as a bit dodgy, at least in spirit, suggesting that, just as the Olympics has become a marketing exercise backed with SWAT teams and missile batteries, Eurovision is well on its way from being an endearingly amateurish exercise in peaceful cultural exchange to being a trade fair for the commercial pop music industries.
- If not the Swedes, who should have won? Well, Albania's entry (fronted by a female “experimental jazz singer” with a powerful voice) was good. Malta's entry deserved to end up somewhere higher than the arse-end of the rankings where it landed. And the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's entry combined melodramatic balladeering with chunky metal guitar riffs in the finest eastern-European Eurovision-contestant tradition.
- Ireland once again entered Jedward, who can be best described as if 1980s boy band Bros were played by toy trolls. This time, they were dressed in silver space/robot suits, which (perhaps in an appropriately regional touch) looked like something from one of those low-budget Turkish knock-offs of Star Wars or Star Trek. Though this didn't change the fact that both their song and performance were mediocre.
Cleaning up the last of the Christmas links: Hyperbole And A Half's Allie writes/draws about how, when she was six years old, her attempt to stage a Christmas pageant was ruined by Kenny Loggins:
Me: "Jesus doesn't want those things."
Grandma: "Sure he does. Jesus loves Kenny Loggins."
Me: "No. He hates him."
My dire seriousness only served to fuel their desire to toy with me.
Aunt: "No, no, no. Jesus was a huge Kenny Loggins fan."
Grandma: "It's true. I saw it in the Bible once."
Me: "Grandma, Kenny Loggins wasn't even alive back then."
Grandma: "Oh yes he was. Kenny Loggins is immortal."
They both burst into raucous laughter. They thought they were being awfully clever. Apparently my mom and dad thought so too, because they joined in.
The latest nightspot in the old Sloane heartland of Chelsea is Maggie's Nightclub, a club inspired by Margaret Thatcher's decade in office. Maggie's includes photos of Thatcher and Ronald Reagan (I wonder whether there are any of her close friend General Augusto Pinochet), and speakers in the bathroom play a loop of the audiobook of the Iron Lady's diaries. The club has a £15 entry price and £250 fee for a table, and may or may not be ironic:
So, I ask the club's co-owner, Charlie Gilkes, is this the nocturnal equivalent of a neo-liberal manifesto? No, no, no, argues the Old Etonian, who opened Maggie's with his business partner Duncan Stirling earlier this year. "It's not a Tory club," he says carefully, but rather a tribute to the 80s – a bit of "childhood nostalgia for the decade of our birth". The reference to Britain's most divisive politician, he says, is tongue-in-cheek. "I know she's divisive, but I do admire her. She's a leader."
In this 80s, Thatcher-era themed club, bottles of champagne signed by the Iron Lady go for £5,000, but I make do with a Ferris Bueller Fizz, priced £10.50. A Super Mario mural adorns another facade and every table in sight has been made to look like a giant Rubik's cube, while a Neil Kinnock figurine takes pride of place next to Gilkes's own childhood collection of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.Regular attendees apparently include Adam Ant and Tony Hadley, frontman of Spandau Ballet, who soundtracked part of the Iron Lady's reign. It's not clear what the playlist is: I'm guessing it'd be heavy on the 1980s yuppie wine-bar sophistisoul, include a bit of Bryan Ferry, perhaps some Stock/Aitken/Waterman chart pop to get people dancing, and the odd piece by Lord Lloyd-Webber in the chill-out room, with perhaps a Billy Bragg tune thrown in for irony. (Momus' Don't Stop The Night would also be a good ironic fit, though might be a bit obscure.)
Perhaps in ten years' time, someone will open a place in Islington named Tony's, which will play only Britpop, D:Ream and the Spice Girls, and have an ironic map of Iraq on one wall.
The Guardian's Dorian Lynskey on popular music artists with autoparodically distinctive styles of titling songs:
Ten years ago, my colleague on the soon-to-be-defunct Select magazine, Steve Lowe, had a good line in inventing fake song titles, spoofing the faux-profound contradictions of Oasis (Money Makes You Poor), the twee archaisms of Belle and Sebastian (Take Your Coat Off or You Won't Feel the Benefit) and the parenthesis-loving rock cliches of Richard Ashcroft (Standing Out from Everyone Else (Sure Is Hard)).The article was prompted by a new Richard Ashcroft album with a track listing packed with clunky banalities, but soon explores further afield, mentioning fake track listings for unreleased albums and commercially successful artists' unintentionally comic lapses in self-awareness:
I'd like to think Primal Scream were sending themselves up on 2006's Riot City Blues with titles such as Suicide Sally and Johnny Guitar or We're Gonna Boogie, but I fear not. Equally, Christina Aguilera's Sex for Breakfast was probably conceived in the spirit of Sex and the City 2 rather than Flight of the Conchords. And Oasis's Don't Believe the Truth is every bit as stupid-clever as Money Makes You Poor.And, as one might expect, the discussion turns to Morrissey, whose later material serves as a perfect horrible example:
I once made the mistake of telling Morrissey how much I liked the witty self-parody of How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel and was rewarded with a withering glare. "It's amusing when you say it," he said unsmilingly. "I don't know why. Isn't it something we all feel at some stage?" The shrivelling of Morrissey's spirit since the Smiths can be measured by the fact that Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now is funny and How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel is not.And in the comment, Guardianistas inveigh with their own suggestions, one positing that the entire heavy-metal genre should be disqualified from contention because it has a monumental unfair advantage.
As parts of its Why We Fight column, exploring the cultural flashpoints of (for want of a less loaded word) hipsterdom, Pitchfork has a piece charting the rise and metamorphosis of irony, and exploring the significance of knowingness. The timeline it posits looks like this:
Or, in other words, if this theory holds, Gen Y aren't only the first generation of digital natives, but also the first generation of ironic natives (or perhaps post-ironic natives, though that title might apply more to GenXers who came out the other end and made an accommodation with sincerity via their McSweeney's subscriptions). That is, for values of "first" meaning "since the mid-20th-century".
- Americans born from the late 50s to mid-70s grew up in a world where a lot of old certainties about society, work, family, and life had been eroded-- by big social changes in the 60s, by economic decline, by lots of things. And yet these people were still raised on culture full of old "certainties" that suddenly looked really, really false and corny. Elvis-impersonator corny, After-School Special corny. So they developed a kind of irony and skepticism, floating around smirking but rarely committing to anything. Some of them were good enough at it that, by the late 80s, it'd become an actual cultural aesthetic, a sort of slacker knowingness that could get as mainstream as, say, "The Simpsons".
- Those were Gen Xers, mostly. But even as people slightly younger than them grew up, through the 90s, on a steady diet of that attitude, some folks started to notice a kind of futility in the whole thing, a defensiveness, an emptiness, an inability to embrace anything-- at which point you could suddenly read thousands of words of David Foster Wallace on how damaging it might be, how much we needed to tap back into the kinds of "basic human verities" that actually helped us lead meaningful lives. Some people even started predicting the rise of some "New Sincerity."
- In fact, some of the people who spent the 90s trading in exactly that knowing, snarky sensibility recanted, and started going around bug-eyed, warning everyone about leaving it behind-- raving about climbing out of the hole they'd fallen into, somewhat oblivious to the fact that younger people weren't in the hole with them. Younger people knew how to be ironic and sincere both, and were digging themselves entirely new holes to deal with.
(Other Why We Fight essays on Pitchfork include: why Joanna Newsom is seen as pretentious and Lady Gaga isn't, and the aspirational qualities of shifting musical taste as a sort of hipster arms race.)
In an entirely different negotiation between irony and sincerity, Czechs trying to balance nostalgia with unease for the Communist regime that was imposed on them can now holiday in authentically preserved Communist-era holiday resorts, albeit with better service and a measure of ironic detachment (in the form of singing, dancing Lenin impersonators):
She is upset because I've asked if she was bothered by the bust of Stalin in the hotel lobby. "It's our history and it's inside us," she continues, still brandishing the sausage.
In another bid for hard currency, North Korea has opened a chain of restaurants abroad. Named Pyongyang, the restaurants serve Korean specialties like kimchi, cold noodle and dog soup, feature harshly bright lighting and monumental landscape paintings (though no overt propaganda), and are staffed by waitresses chosen for their prettiness and loyalty, who live in captivity on the premises and perform synchronised dances for the patrons. Photography is forbidden in the restaurants, presumably for the sake of authenticity.
"The restaurants are used to earn additional money for the government in Pyongyang—at the same time as they were suspected of laundering proceeds from North Korea's more unsavory commercial activities," he says. "Restaurants and other cash-intensive enterprises are commonly used as conduits for wads of bills, which banks otherwise would not accept as deposits."
In 2006 and 2007, Daily NK reported several incidents in which waitresses from North Korean restaurants in China's Shandong and Jilin provinces tried to defect, forcing the closure of the operations. Kim Myung Ho added that two or three DPRK security agents live onsite at each restaurant to "regulate" the workers and that any attempts at flight result in the immediate repatriation of the entire staff.Pyongyang restaurants have operated along the southern border of China for years, though have now expanded to the tourist trails of Thailand and Cambodia.
(via Boing Boing)
Weren't the 1950s awesome? Exhibit (a): an American high-school marriage-education textbook (from 1962, though culturally part of the conservative 1950s, before the Communists successfully fluoridated the water supply and brought about what is commonly known as The Nineteen-Sixties):
Exhibit (b): a letter written in 1956 to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover by the editor of a Catholic newspaper, concerning the moral threat posed to America's youth by a young singer named Elvis Presley:
But eyewitnesses have told me that Presley's actions and motions were such as to rouse the sexual passions of teenaged youth. One eye-witness described his actions as “sexual self-gratification on the stage," — another as “a striptease with clothes on." Although police and auxiliaries were there, the show went on. Perhaps the hardened police did not get the import of his motions and gestures, like those of masturbation or riding a microphone.
I do not report idly to the FBI. My last official report to an FBI agent in New York before I entered the U.S. Army resulted in arrest of a saboteur (who committed suicide before his trial). I believe the Presley matter is as serious to U.S. security. I am convinced that juvenile crimes of lust and perversion will follow his show here in La Crosse.
A guy named Paul Scheer went to the exhibition of Michael Jackson's possessions, which were due to be auctioned, with a camera and took some photos. These have been posted here. It is a grotesquely unique collection, and one betraying the peculiar obsessions of one such as Jackson. There are plenty of portraits of Jackson in fantasy mediæval finery and heroic poses, or presented as various historical figures:life-sized little ginger girl dolls, just far enough inside Mori's Uncanny Valley to give you nightmares.
(via Boing Boing)
Looking for some unique artefacts to decorate your home? Some of the possessions of the world's only living fairytale prince, Michael Jackson, are being auctioned, and they're a peculiar lot:
Jackson surrounded himself with regal finery. There were suits of armour, display cases of custom-made crowns and an ornately carved throne with red velvet upholstering in his bedroom. "King Michael" even had a royal cape, a Father's Day present inscribed inside with a message from his children "Princess Paris" and "Prince Michael". In the lobby of the house was a commissioned portrait of Jackson as a young man in Elizabethan dress, holding a crown on a velvet pillow.
In a nondescript warehouse on the outskirts of Los Angeles, the famed gates of the Neverland ranch now sit against a wall. The interior of the warehouse is littered with the ornaments that once decorated the grounds. There are bronze statues of frolicking cherubs, replica marble busts of Roman emperors, a huge statue of Prometheus that used to sit on a skull near the entrance. On shelves there are child-size diesel-powered race cars that used to zoom around the grounds. There is a Pope-mobile-style electric buggy fitted with tinted windows and stereo system. Another buggy has the King of Pop's face painted on its bonnet.The collection will be toured as an exhibition before it is actually auctioned.
I'm no fan of Hollywood action flick director Roland Emmerich and his mindlessly bombastic work, though his house sounds all kinds of awesome:
Mao and Lenin fill the length of the 25ft living room wall; an old master-style painting of the Crucifixion shows Jesus sporting a Wham T-shirt; in the guest bathroom is a portrait of Saddam Hussein; and under the stairs, Pope John Paul II pores over his own obituaries. Welcome to the London home of Roland Emmerich, director of epic blockbusters, including Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow. It's an overtly political home: glass coffee tables dot the house, containing 3D architectural models of politically significant places, including Abu Ghraib prison, Tiananmen Square, the Dallas road where JFK was assassinated, and - a nice Hollywood touch - the LA neighbourhood where Hugh Grant had his infamous encounter with a prostitute. There's even a giant White House-shaped birdcage in the top-floor hallway, with stuffed white doves.
Teall's starting point was a suitcase full of Mao statues that Emmerich picked up in Shanghai. He then approached film set designers and artists to realise his own designs, employing scenic artist Jim Gemmill to draw the murals that pepper the house, and a posse of prop and model makers to fabricate everything from the life-size papal waxwork to the coffee table dioramas. "The joy of working with film people is their can-do attitude," Teall says. "I had approached high-end furniture makers who gave me outrageous estimates and didn't grasp the humour in the pieces. An architectural model-making firm refused to build the Iraq prison camp."
Emmerich is currently in Vancouver filming, but family and friends visit regularly, sleeping in the guest suites. "It's a choice of English camp or American butch," says Teall, who designed the former with Princess Diana paraphernalia: hand-painted rose wallpaper, a gold bedspread with velvet maroon crown canopy from Harrison Gill in Chelsea ("It was so hideous, but it totally worked"); Charles and Di wedding dolls found on eBay that now languish in the fireplace, and Alison Jackson's photographs of a fake royal family in various compromising situations. The American room is kitted out with army-issue gear, including a bed throw neatly sewn from 70 pairs of vintage army underwear bought from a bemused army surplus store owner. The headboard is adapted from a second world war aeroplane wing. Resting on a bedside table is a photograph of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, wearing an open dressing gown revealing a hairy six-pack, Photoshopped from a gay website.There are photos here.
Animal-liberationist group PETA have launched a new campaign to fight for the rights of fish to not be caught or eaten: rebranding them as "Sea Kittens":
Given the drastic situation for this country's sea kittens—who are often the victims of many major threats to their welfare and ways of life—it's high time that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) stop allowing our little sea kitten friends to be tortured and killed. Who'd want to hurt a sea kitten anyway?!
Sea kittens are just as intelligent (not to mention adorable) as dogs and cats, and they feel pain just as all animals do.
Please take just a few moments to send an e-mail to H. Dale Hall, the director of the FWS, asking him to stop promoting the hunting of sea kittens (otherwise known as "fishing"). The promotion of sea kitten hunting is a glaring contradiction of FWS' mission to "conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats."
There is now an Asiavision Song Contest. A company named Asiavision Pte. Ltd. (which sounds like they're based in Singapore) has licenced the Eurovision format, and the inaugural Asiavision Song Contest is expected in mid-2009.
"The format is highly suited to the Asia region and its people who love popular music and have a strong national pride", says Andreas Gerlach, CEO of Asiavision Pte. Ltd. "Asia today is all about competition, economically and politically. The Song Contest is a friendly competition between cultures. Like in Europe, the universal language of music will help to bring people closer together and nurture mutual understanding in the region," Gerlach believes.
The annual song contest is planned to be a six-month regional and national tournament culminating in the Grand Final. The song contest will be distributed in the following countries: China, Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Macao, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. Targeting the most populous region in the world with more than three billion people the show has a potential audience of over 500 million viewers. A number of broadcasters have indicated their desire to be the Host Broadcaster for the first ever Asiavision Song Contest.Australia is notable by its absence from this list, and presumably won't be sending competitors there. I imagine that Australians will continue to watch Eurovision (broadcast on the Sunday after, due to time differences), often having parties to do so. Whether Asiavision will get broadcast there (i.e., whether SBS will pick it up or it'll be confined to some ethnic-interest cable channel) remains to be seen.
So that was Eurovision 2007. A bit of a surprise; the Serbian entry which won it seemed rather lacklustre compared to some of the others, but romped home in the voting, presumably due to Serbia being located in a geographical/demographical sweet spot. Interestingly enough, Eastern Europe dominated the voting, with the highest-scoring western-European nation being well in the bottom half of the rankings.
There were a few highlights: Georgia's entry started off as a traditional torch song by a woman in a red dress, but then morphed into eurodance, and then the dancers whipped out swords and started dancing about, Cossack-fashion, with a wild glint in their eyes. France eschewed the usual white-gowned piano balladeer in favour of a troupe of Dadaist mimes in Jean-Paul Gaultier costumes, highlighting the ridiculous side of Gallic culture. (Fat lot of good it did them, they ended up something like third-last. I guess it's back to the chanteuse and pianist next year.) Romania's entry was a bit like France's on a budget; five blokes dressed like the habitués of a slightly unsavoury tavern, singing "I love you" in every language on earth. The music was vaguely gypsyish, and sped up dramatically towards the end. Neighbouring Bulgaria's started off like Dead Can Dance with extra percussion, and then went electro. And, of course, there was Ukraine's entry, with its sequined, uniformed drag queen, looking like Elton John crossed with Austin Powers. It had camp and kitsch in spades, and raised a few questions. What, for example, was the significance of them counting in German, and did they really sing "I want to see Russia goodbye", and if so, how did that make it past the vetting process?
The lowlight was probably Ireland's entry, which was pure, unadulterated Celtic kitsch of the most obvious variety, and quite deserving of its final position at the bottom of the board. This year, though, nobody got a nul points, and they limped home with 3 points or somesuch. Britain did a bit better, largely thanks to Malta giving them 12, though their song was stuck firmly in the mid-1990s. And the teeth on that stewardess were frightening; granted, Scooch, as uninspired as they may be, were a lot less cringeworthy than last year's entrant (a middle-aged bloke pretending to be a teenage hip-hop street thug, surrounded by dancing "schoolgirls" who, apparently, were borrowed by Turkey this year). And I'd have to give a dishonourable mention to Russia, whose entry was a piece of soullessly machine-extruded commercial pop, trading on sex appeal (sample lyric from the three immaculately coifed girls doing the singing: "put a cherry on my cake and taste my cherry pie"; ooh-err!) lacking any of the madness or wrongness that makes for an interesting Eurovision entry.
The other competitors: Belarus (incidentally, the last remaining state with a KGB) had black-clad female dancers scaling walls like assassins and John Barry-esque strings over its power ballad. The full might of the Swedish culture industry was unleashed in the form of 1970s glam rock attired in monochromatic retro cool. Latvia's entry was in Italian, and like a low-rent version of The Divs. Germany had a bloke named Roger Cicero (son of Herr und Frau Cicero, I presume) doing a Sinatra-lite swing number, in German. Armenia's entrant seemed to follow, stylistically, in the footsteps of that other great Armenian singer, Charles Aznavour, only with an overwroughtly woeful and somewhat strained ballad. And Turkey's entrant was a short, hirsute man wearing a red jacket and a broad grin, surrounded by belly dancers Terry Wogan persisted in pointing out were British. Presumably giving the United Kingdom something to be proud of even should they have ended up with nul points.
While some speculated that Lordi's astounding triumph last year (reprised in the Lord-of-the-Rings-esque opening video) would have opened the door for a flood of hard-rock/heavy-metal bands, this did not entirely come to pass. Finland followed up their win with a new genre, which could be dubbed, Tolkienesquely, MOR-Goth, consisting of torch songs with emo-esque lyrics and plenty of black clothing and gothic makeup. The other main Lordi-influenced act was Moldova, whose song sounded like the sort of alternative-rock song that ended up on Hollywood action-film soundtracks in the late 1990s; all minor-key strings, crunchy metal power chords and drum loops.
The promotional videos played before the musical numbers were done quite well, executed as whimsical stories featuring elements of Finnish culture. Some of the odder ones featured a goth riding a rollercoaster, hackers coding computer demos at the Assembly festival, a heavy-metal festival full of corpsepainted teenagers, a troupe of clowns giving an athlete an instant makeover so he could enter a restaurant, a twattish-looking bloke in DJ headphones playing the pipes at the Sibelius monument, and Santa Claus playing chess with one of the Moomins. Oh, and lots of mobile phones (Nokia, of course); the Finns, it seems, use them at the dinner table, and even propose marriage with the help of their cameraphones. Other than mobile phones, heavy metal appears to be a big part of the Finnish national identity; other than the promos, there was the entertainment during the vote-counting break, which featured the heavy-metal string quartet Apocalyptica, as well as acrobats.
Last but not least, one has to mention the astonishing phenomenon that is Krisse, the somewhat frightening-looking young woman with the pink puffer jacket and big ponytails plucked from the audience to interview competitors, stumbling through questions and going on about herself (sample question: "on a scale of 9 to 10, how beautiful am I?"). For some reason, she reminded me of Leoncie.
The shortlist of potential UK Eurovision entrants has been announced. The UK could be represented by ironic cock-rocker Justin Hawkins, hip-hop group Big Brovaz, one of two former manufactured pop band members, or one of two newcomers. It is confirmed, though, that the British champion in the contest will not be Morrissey, Ace Of Base, nor anyone named Goth Opera. Nor, for that matter, last year's #19, middle-aged hoody Daz Sampson, about whom the semifinal presenter had this to say:
"I can't wait to see what tricks the acts have up their sleeves this time. Can anyone top DJ Daz's troupe of school girls?Actually, yes; it's quite likely that anyone can.
The Wikipedia page on this year's Eurovision Song Contest has some details about the UK's possible representatives:
Swedish act Ace Of Base have expressed an interest in representing the UK in Helsinki, however this has been denied on their official website, along with a denial that they were even asked by SVT (Sweden) or the BBC (UK).. Also the Norwegian drag act Queentastic  and the 2006 UK Representative Daz Sampson (who will be dueting with Carol Decker) have also expressed an interest in participation. A group from Devon, Goth Opera want to enter a song this year with a song in protest to its move from a Devon country estate. None of these artists are confirmed by the broadcaster. The BBC have confirmed however, that Morrissey is in talks with the BBC about writing a song for the national final.Nice to see that Britain is maintaining the standards its entrants have become synonymous with over the years.
Product Music, a collection of tracks from American "industrial musicals" of the mid-20th century. Despite the name, these do not consist of Einsturzende Neubauten-style metal percussion and propane-powered death-juggernaut organs, but rather of songs, varying from cheesy showtunes to cheesy faux-country numbers to lounge grooves, with lyrics (of varying degrees of clunkiness) about whatever product, brand or company it is that is changing our lives and/or leading us into a bright future. In other words, like Leave-It-To-Beaver-era America's equivalent of Popshopping.
(via Boing Boing)
America may soon have its own Eurovision-style song contest. Of course, with America being, in its own eyes, the extent of the world, the contest will be between the 50 states. And since the states don't have their own national broadcasters, it will be run by commercial TV network NBC. In other words, it will probably turn out like American Idol or something, with little of the cross-cultural weirdness that makes Eurovision the kitschfest it is; expect to see big-haired Christians from down south, the odd multiply-pierced freak from San Francisco and a lot of standard saccharine ballads/MTV-style R&B-pop with perhaps a bit of local colour thrown in (that'd be banjo picking or tex-mex or perhaps the odd Celtic Mood, and not Balkan folk melodies or anything quite so leftfield), not to mention an excess of the sort of cloying earnestness America leads the world in.
Is anybody else reminded of this Onion article by the idea?
Could this be the greatest piece of religious tat ever?
Sadly, it is also a fire hazard and has been withdrawn. Expect to find the few remaining ones on eBay and/or in the religious-kitsch collections of lucky hipsters.
Novelty cake seen in Tesco supermarket in London:
Heartwarming patriotic link of the day: America We Stand As One; a power-ballad with angels, children, flags waving and some red hot mullet action. Not to mention that awesome General MIDI brass in the middle. And, if that wasn't enough, here is a version recut with audio from Team America: World Police.
Salon has an interesting piece on H.P. Lovecraft, cosmic horror writer and abuser of adjectives:
Lovecraft's narrators routinely rave about the "hideous," "monstrous" and "blasphemous" nature of their revelations. Wilson went on, again quite reasonably, to observe, "Surely one of the primary rules for writing an effective tale of horror is never to use any of these words -- especially if you are going, at the end, to produce an invisible whistling octopus." That octopus crack is a particularly low blow, since the most celebrated of Lovecraft's stories and novels partake of what has been dubbed the Cthulhu Mythos, an alternative mythology involving an enormous and malevolent being whose tentacled head resembles a cephalopod.
The truth, however, is that hardly any reader finds Cthulhu frightening. In fact, by all indications, the public is very fond of the creature. You can check in regularly at the Cthulhu for President site ("Home Page for Evil"), purchase a cuddly plush Cthulhu or behold the adventures of Hello Cthulhu, a cross between Lovecraft's "gelatinous green immensity" and the adorable, big-eyed Sanrio cartoon character. Sauron never inspired this kind of affection.
At root, all of Lovecraft's phobias seemed to come down to an elemental dread of the human body: the tentacles and gaping abysses with their obvious genital associations (hence Stephen King's comment), reproduction's disorderly tendency toward mutation and of course the horror writer's primal muse -- the death and decay that lie in store for every living thing. If not all of us share the specific racial and sexual manifestations of that dread, we all feel some version of it. Lovecraft, in his fiction at least, abandoned himself to it with a kind of warped gallantry.
Could this be the worst album ever recorded? A Star Wars Christmas album from 1980, forever debunking any claims that the Star Wars franchise once had a pre-Jar-Jar Golden Age. This album has everything; C3PO and R2D2 singing duets, lots of jingling sleigh-bells and sugary strings interspersed with Star Wars sound effects, corny comedy routines from "droids" and wookies, inane dialogue, the obligatory extra-large helpings of schmaltz, and if that wasn't enough, a young Jon Bon Jovi leading a high-school choir. (via bOING bOING)
The bizarre story, with album covers and low-bitrate MP3s, of Yu-Mex, one of the most unlikely musical genres in the history of thrift-shop records. Yu-Mex is what happened when Tito's Yugoslavia broke off relations with the USSR, turned against Russian culture and looked for other ideologically-sound exotic influences, finding them, of all places, in Mexico. And so, sombrero-clad, mustachioed hombres from Slovenia to Serbia put out record after record on the state-run record label Jugoton, with songs with titles like "I Am A True Mexican". (via bOING bOING)
The 365 Days Project, Otis Fodder's downloadable collection of audio bulldada, kitsch, outsider music and found sound, has put up the remainder of its MP3s on its archive page. You have just under a fortnight to download them before they go offline forever, disappearing into the twilight zone of file-sharing networks. The last batch of MP3s includes, among other gems, Swing A Little, Kim A Little, a 1970s-vintage German advertising record for a brand of cigarettes (as heard on the excellent Popshopping compilation), and a somewhat disturbing Christian children's record by a big-haired woman named "Baby Lu-Lu" (after whom there's a Stereolab song named).
Satirical Christian webzine (yes, there is such a thing) Ship of Fools has a feature titled the 12 Days of Kitschmas, bringing a choice selection of tacky Christian-themed consumer goods; from unrealistically fair-skinned holy figurines of several varieties to flashing cross mobile-phone covers (I bet everyone in the cool cliques in Bible-belt high schools has one of these) to this artfully deceptive Lord of the Kings jigsaw puzzle, seemingly designed to nudge its young recipient into permature teenage Satanism; and who can go past a nail in a cardboard box:
COMING SOON! A 7-inch screw in a cardboard box, to remind you of what George Bush and Tony Blair are doing to the Middle East! Meanwhile, get your nail in a cardboard box for just $8.99
(via bOING bOING)
Talking Ann Coulter Action Figure; push the button and it rants about treasonous Liberals. Also available: two George W. Bush figures (regular and Top Gun), Donald Rumsfeld and a villainous Bill Clinton. And it looks like they're serious. (via Die Puny Humans)
The Free Pauline Hanson campaign rolls on with vigils outside her prison, and her son releasing a song proclaiming her innocence. It makes one wonder what's next: a commemorative plate edition perhaps?
A US toy company has released a George W. Bush action figure. The Elite Force Aviator George W. Bush figure depicts the Leader of the Free World in naval aviator uniform, modelled exactly on the one he wore on his heroic landing on an aircraft carrier off the Californian coast. (via jwz)
Only in Los Angeles would you expect to find something like this: Blessing of the Cars:
The all-day and into-the-night annual affair, held at Hansen Dam (this year's on July 26), begins with a mass morning blessing by a Catholic priest, who then goes car to car, blessing each individually. Some people also ask him put holy water in their radiators.
With the Shag title art and copious numbers of scantily-clad vixens in photos, I suspect it's not an official Catholic Church-sponsored event. I wonder where exactly it falls in the ironic/sincere spectrum. (via MeFi)
Eurovision explained, by a blogger/sociologist type. You know, I may have to watch/tape the replay next weekend.
The songs themselves have evolved in interesting ways. Diggi-loo Diggi-ley represents the high-point of the nonsense-chorus Eurovision song, designed to appeal to the multi-lingual audience. This lowest common denominator approach produced successes throughout the first thirty years of the contest, including such classics as Boom-Bang-a-Bang (UK), Ding Dinge Dong (Netherlands), A-ba-ni-bi (Israel) and of course Diggey-loo Diggi-ley. (I promise I am not making these up.)
The breakup of the Eastern Bloc and the Soviet Union in the 1990s caused all kinds of problems for the contest (too many countries) but also injected a fresh dose of bad taste. Countries like Slovenia, Estonia and Romania can use odd native instruments to produce Euro-Heritage songs, and also have the advantage of being 10 or 20 years behind the rest of the world in terms of popular music genres.
Atari 2600 retro fan site Stick It In The Slot has a list of the best games you never heard of, with the stories and full-colour screenshots of rarities like Peabo Bryson's Cow Tipper, Kramer vs. Kramer, Mrs. Paul's Fish Stick Hunter and not one but two games named Space Cobbler.
I've been unusually disciplined so far this year, with regards to CD buying. I'm trying to keep my habit under some measure of control (for reasons which will become apparent later), and not to grow my collection too rapidly. So far, the total number of CDs I have has only increased by two.
Over the past two weeks I picked up Flunk's For Sleepyheads Only, an OK piece of chill-out electronica from Norway. It hasn't really grabbed me; the version of Blue Monday there, incidentally, is a bit irritating IMHO. (Aside: why is it that every cover of that song ends up sounding disappointing; we had Orgy's whiny mall-goth take on it, Pee Wee Ferris' cheesy commercial-dance cover (don't ask), and Flunk's, while not dire in the way that they were, is still disappointing.)
Last night, I picked up local spoken-word artist Klare Lanson's Every Third Breath; which is mostly ambiguous cyberbabble over glitchy, vaguely Björkish electronic beats and bleeps (proviced by Cornel Wilczek, aka Qua), replete with lyrics written in cod-XML. It's technically quite good, though whether it'll have lasting appeal remains to be determined.
Today I went to Dixon's Recycled and picked up three more CDs, though sold three which I wasn't likely to listen to anymore. One of my new acquisitions were plunderphonic art piece Deconstructing Beck (on a classy unprinted CD that just screams "copyright violation"). Another was an equally (if not more) choice find; one of the Least Essential Albums Of The '90s. That's right, dear readers; I'm now the proud (but only in an ironic sense) owner of The Adventures Of MC Skat Kat & The Stray Mob. It'll sit proudly in the bulldada section of my record collection, next to Acid Brass, my Wesley Willis CDs and Spaced Out: The Very Best of Nimoy/Shatner.
Nothing shows patriotism like having a photomosaic of Shrub made of Jesus images in your house, right next to the gun rack. Yeee-ha!
Now someone should make one of John Howard, Our Christian Prime Minister. (via bOING bOING, The Fix)
Tonight at the Film Festival, I saw a documentary titled Love and Anarchy: The Wild Wild World of Jamie Leonarder. The subject of the documentary is a rather unusual person, who has lived the life of the outsider in every way. He worked in psychiatric hospitals, started a noise-rock band named The Mu-Mesons, most of whose members suffer from schizophrenia, associated with outsider artists, and more recently, ran a retro/lounge/exotica night named Sounds of Seduction in Sydney, and became a renowned collector and exhibitor of "psychotronic" cinema (i.e., all the indescribably weird stuff from prior decades, from low-budget monster movies to films from Christian groups on the evils of teenage dating to vintage sex-education films). Anyway, the documentary had some interesting thoughts on outsider art, including the assertion that outsider art is more original than art by trained or mentally normal artists (which makes sense).
Site of the day: Theo's wunderbare Welt der Bandfotographie. Band photos like they only made in Europe. Check out the matching jumpsuits and soft-focus photography. Not to mention the very serious-looking costumed metalheads on page 2 and the Santa Clauses with the MIDI keyboard on page 5, and classy names like "Golden Showband". Replete with (what look like) sarky comments in German. (via Reenhead)
Ironic-Kitsch-Appreciation Subculture Excited About New Britney Spears Novel (new Onion)
The former Soviet republic of Lithuania has a unique tourist attraction a Stalinist theme park. Called Stalinworld, the park consists of towering Communist statues, machine gun nests and a recreated gulag. Concealed speakers broadcast the screams of torture victims. Stalinworld's creator, wrestler turned mushroom tycoon Viliumas Malinauskas, plans to have guides in Red Army uniforms and a railway to transport visitors in cattle cars. (via Rebecca's Pocket)
Lava lamps revert from Passé Retro Kitsch back to Novel Retro Camp.
"It all depends whether you're talking about straight, unironic, revivalist retro or one of the numerous strains of pre-X and Gen-X irony," said Seth Burks, 29, author of the award-winning Athens, GA-based 'zine Burning Asshole. "I've identified 22 distinct varieties of irony-informed retro and non-retro aesthetics, including camp, kitsch, trash, schmaltz, post-schmaltz, and post-post-schmaltz. It's time we addressed the woeful inadequacies of the government's current retro-classification system."
Who could possibly identify with some of the bland, insipid "love ballads" that end up on supermarket piped music systems? My guess would be that the only person such songs could hold deep meaning for would be a retarded teenager with a crush on the lady who takes care of him. Either that or they were written and recorded specifically for supermarkets, as part of some psychological manipulation technique.