Table of Contents: Culture


Outwit Grand Moff Tarkin — Again!

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My last flareup of Star Wars fever — These illustrations were featured on the playing cards included with Escape from Death Star board game. Playing it again out of sheer nostalgia confirmed my vague memory of the game itself as pretty janky. I was struck, however, by these quick, scratchy, pen & ink sketches of iconic scenes from the movie. More than anything they reminded me of Jim Holdaway’s classic Modesty Blaise newspaper strip that ran throughout the 1960s. In any case, just hanging this small bit of ephemera here on the Internet in case anybody needs it.

Also while we’re the closing subject I’ll leave you with the smartest pop cultural assessment I’ve read of the new flick, the essence of the original, the folly of the prequels (of which I’m finally mostly persuaded, although I’m still with Kevin Smith on Sith) — Our Star Wars Holiday Special by Aaron Bady in The New Iquiry:

[The prequels] were marred by horrific writing and joyless characters, of course, but those superficial failings pale in comparison (or resulted buy vicodin los angeles from) the more fundamental underlying problem: they tried so hard to explain that they killed the joy of the thing itself… How did Anakin Skywalker become Darth Vader? How did the republic fall? Where did the emperor come from? How did Luke and Leia end up separated, who is Obi Wan Kenobi, and where are all the mothers in this universe? These are not plot holes; these are the dark matter that holds the galaxy together… Instead of placing their faith in the force—the way an open-mouthed child lets the storyteller carry them off—the prequels tried to explain what the force really was and worked so hard at it that they made the entire thing tedious and boring. They turned their targeting computer back on.

It also has perceptive & compact assessments of Star Trek vs Star Wars and why JJ Abrams’ approach arguably disfigured the former while revitalizing the latter (again persuasive personally, but my imaginative stake in Trek is much looser so I think the reboots are mostly a gas) With this, then — nerd. Out.

For Your Pleasure 2015

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Live, before every song John Lydon gargles a mouthful of Bushmills then flamboyantly spits it into a large black trashcan. Male Gaze skronks out of the gate like Flipper doing disco. “Disco Flipper” is a pick-to-click shortcut for a win ’round here. Well played, gents. 45rpm LP, 28 minutes total. Brian Eno said his earliest musical inspration came from hearing the Supremes & Ronettes records broadcasting from US Navy bases. I like to think those scratchy transmissions sounded like U.S. Girls. Welcome Back to Milk by Du Blonde began as a nervous breakdown, explodes like an estrogen fuled roman candle every time it’s played and is the best record of the year. So, then this Sparks/Franz Ferdinand record drops out of the sky like some glamtastic piñata. Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks. Dream Lover, I know — Oh shit, here comes the sun. A tame impala is medium-sized African antelope. They are diurnal, most active shortly after dawn & before dusk. They use various kinds of unique visual, olfactory and auditory communication, most notably laying scent-trails and giving loud roars. Did you miss the announcement that Helen Marnie of Ladytron self-released a solo album 2 years ago. Me too. She did. It’s aces. Sugar & spice & everything. The emergence – at last – of a new Chills record should be cause for celebration throughout the galaxy. Girls Names win this year’s Martin Hannett Pennant for Reconstituted Post Punk. It’s like french onion soup with me, this stuff — I have barely any critical distance & each spoonful is fucking delicious. Aparrtly the 16 yer old goth girl is still using my noggin as a hostel given my besotted affection for this years darkwave discovery Xmal Deutschland. Recommended to those who think Siouxie sounds better in the original German. I haven’t sown a rock patch onto a jean jacket in over 30 years. 20 small impalements later — Christian Mistress. Hella! Zombi? Zombi.

14 songs, total time 53 minutes. As ever, download the mix here

Portraits by Don Bachardy

DonBachardy_NatalieWood MarleneDietrich (1)MichaelYork AngelaLansbury JaneFonda Vija-Clemins-1978 EdRuscha Richard-Diebenkorn-1972 TeriGarr

A selection of exquisite portraits by Don Bachardy — the longtime partner of author Christopher Isherwood. He’s often featured in appraisals of of Isherwood as a somewhat benighted boy toy, more made of their age difference & his feathered California handsomeness than his formidable gifts & sensitivities as a portrait artist. I came to find this work in the context of an an article that made a passing mention of a Bachardy buy vicodin with credit card portrait of Terry Garr. As my fasination with Garr runs deep, down the well I dove, looking for the portrait. I found it among the rest of these delightfully rendered portraits. Enjoy. Great interview with Bachardy, now 80, here. A another, along with a review of the compendium of these portraits, Hollywood, here.

(above Natalie Wood, Marlene Dietrich, Michael York, Angela Lansbury, Jane Fonda, artists Vija Clemins, Ed Ruscha, Richard Diebenkorn, her awesomeness Terri Garr)

Lives of Others

MoranbongMembers of the State Merited Chorus and the Moranbong Band from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea arrive at a railway station in Beijing. More thoughts on the unsettling ratio of beauty & the dead weight of the state in an earlier post, here, regarding photographs of North Korea by documentary photographer Tomas Van Houtryve. Photo by Jin Liangkuai / CORBIS

Hello. Hello.

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Shepelavy.com — Part IV, if I might be metal-grand & prog-rock-y about it. Untie the latch, part the canvas, pop your head out from the tent, let’s fire up the old transmitter. Is this thing on? Can you hear me now…

In 2009 I pitched camp on this modest little lagoon online. What began as a portfolio with occasional annotations tumbled into pretty steady blogging for a fat 3 years or so. More & more, however, severe advertising gales would knock out the transmitter for weeks on end. Sundry commitments were pressing. The blog contracted a virulent SQL database corruption. After a few stalled re-ignitions, things round here finally sputtered into silence around the winter of 2014.

Then Spring came, like it does, being Spring. I missed tapping these signals out into the ether, tending & fussing over my little plot of enthusiasms…So, I dusted off the redesign, gathered passels of uncollected old & new work. The code spooled out over the summer & fall.

& this so current salvo of transmissions begins… from this tiny lagoon on the clotted coastline of the interwebs, that I share with beached beatniks, old salts, venerable preps, society matrons, homespun cuties, movie stars & scientists… an endless three-hour cruise. Come aboard —

 Welcome back.

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Dedication

We take, for this salvo, for Part IV, as our patron Eve Babitz — the besotted bardess of Los Angeles. She began her 1974 debut “Eve’s Hollywood” with a heavy lidded, tipsy & heartfelt bear hug to the city of Angels with the mother of all dedications. A manic roll call stretching accross 8 pages, a waterfall of indiscretions, influences, friends & relations. It begins as a parade of enthusasums and over 8 pages sinkins in with the weight of poetry. Let it stand in for mine then, perhaps smaller beer by the standards of art, but equal proof by weight of enthusiasm.

Right?  Born and raised in Hollywood, Babitz developed a particularly acute appreciation for the essential radness of LA – the American city, sui generis –

L.A. has always been a humid jungle alive with seething L.A. projects that I guess people from other places just can’t see. It takes a certain kind of innocence to like L.A., anyway. It requires a certain plain happiness inside to be happy in L.A., to choose it and be happy buy vicodin italy here. When people are not happy, they fight against L.A. and say it’s a ‘wasteland’ and other helpful descriptions.

Most dedications sound a few notes note that hover over the first few pages . This is, rather, a motley parade – a blaring celebration that echos across the entire book – Her parents, a cat to whom she owes “Everything,” Ahmet Erteugn, the girl with the coke, the Eggs Benedict at the Beverly Wilshire, Milo Minderbider, Kim Fowley, Orson Wells and Proust, freeways, and Margret (which I hope is a deft and subtle play on Ann Margret, because, well, – Ann Margret. right?)

Her fragment on her ex- boyfriend, Ed Ruscha, is worth lingering over. It plays footsie with poetry and lies contentedly with philosophy – “Ruscha [is] a man of simple tastes – but no one makes those kind of wings, so he’s stuck with a white Rolls and no wings.”

And, as an aside, the Eggs Benedict at the Beverly Wilshire are delicious.

An Epic Burlesque: Kotlyarevsky’s Eneida

These plates are from an edition of Ivan Kotlyarevsky’s 1798 poem Eneida, a ribald retelling of Virgil’s Aeneid. Kotlyarevsky transposed Aeneas, the Trojans, and Greek mythology into the folklore of Ukrainian Cossacks. It is among the first major works written in Ukrainian, and is a cornerstone of Ukraine’s national literature. Wonderfully, it also defines the very notion of a burlesque – vulgarizing lofty notions like love, family, faith and battle, feigning seriousness in the face of absurdity, and is packed to the gills with slapstick humor, comic skits, bawdy songs, and, natch, healthy portions of friskiness…

This particular version, printed in 1969, in Kiev, Ukraine, is, simply stated, one of the most beautifully designed, illustrated, typeset and produced books I’ve ever seen. Sturdy and stout, clad in a satisfyingly course gray canvas, it opens onto a corker of a title page. From the swashbuckling script of the authors name, the elemental block-y-ness of the title, and the illustration of a muscular and languid Cossack/Trojan, it’s a bravura opening gesture. From there, graphically, the book never flags – block after block of typeset verse on heavy cream paper. But the heart of the book lies in the illustrations, by A. Bazylevych, whose style is a deft hybrid of wood block engravings, thick-lined expressive cartooning, and abstract color blocks.

My recollection of the book from childhood is profoundly visceral. I can recall my father reading vignettes that swirled thrillingly in a noggin already stuffed with mythological adventures. But it’s the illustrations that left an indelible impression. It’s a phantasmagoria of soldiers and sieges, gods and devils, maidens and crones, battles and scraps, feasts and revelries, a cosmos of melodrama. Looking at them again after a span of decades, my recollection is immediate and electric – what’s vital in art, in fiction, and in life seems to spring forth in an exuberant, lusty, unruly parade.

Herman Miller Picnic, Textiles & Objects


Some Herman Miller curios… Came across a few of these posters last weekend hanging in a excellent restaurant in Cincinnati. They were from a celebrated series of posters created by Herman Miller designer Steve Frykhom from 1970 to 1989 to announce the company’s yearly staff picnic. It began as an offhand assignment from an executive and Frykhom’s desire to satisfy a screen printing jones. The first salvo won that years AGIA award. In 1980 the Museum of Modern Art added seven posters to its permanent collection. Very few images abound online, the best are these can i buy vicodin in the uk tiny guys from the Herman Miller blog.

Below these are invitations to the 1961 opening of Herman Miller’s short-lived and Textiles & Objects Shop. It was overseen by celebrated designer Alexander Girard. It was a notion well ahead of it’s time – a rigidly curated mix of found objects as well as products and textiles he designed for Herman Miller. Both announcements feature remarkably original design styles that have come to be profoundly influential these days. Again, very little by way of imagery or further history about the shop sloshing around online.

For Your Pleasure 2014

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The first thing I ever really used Napster for was to hunt down and assemble Brian Eno’s legendary lost vocal album My Squelchy Life, finally given official release this year.

Imagine a crinkled & warped VHS of 80’s 1-900 chat line commercials, porny aerobic videos, low-budget soft core, late night cable talk shows, with crackle on the tape, bad tracking, fuzzy scan lines & brutally oversaturated color and you have the feel of TOBACCO’s broken, cracked electronica. Unremittingly sleezy but yet so gorgeous & sexy I’ve spent the whole year fiddling with the tracking dial and not being able to look away.

All the usual camp trappings of oh-so-Morrissey-ness around the release of World Peace is None of Your Business — cancelled tours, bitter press sniping, a humdinger of a snit with new label Harvest that resulted in the album being withdrawn — obscured what a tremendous record it really was. If you told me this was a late period Smiths record from an alternate universe I’d believe you. If that sounds like heresy I don’t care — make mine Moz.

If you are predisposed, like me, to thinking ELO could use a little ABBA & ABBA use a little Van Der Graf Generator then I give you, again, after five long years — Music Go Music.

Perhaps six people total in the audience, battling a temperamental glitched out key-tar and yet for 30 minutes Scale Model inspired me to forget that I missed Berlin live this year on account of Hurricane Arthur.

Built from a lego box of identikit parts, every element & reference of the Bad Doctors’ synthed punk is obvious. And yet the ingredients never are the dish. I have yet to tire of a single song on this record.

I’ve been searching for the Fashion B-side Sodium Pentathol Negative since high school. How ace to find that the A side is also the nuts.

It never occurred to me that Goth deserved it’s own version of the legendary garage comp Nuggets. It does now. Killed By Deathrock Vol. 1 is a Rubic’s cube of bat-cave sounds — Let Kitchen & The Plastic Spoons charmingly spooky obscurity stand in for a record packed full of them.

Stumbled across Essential Logic at long last and the only word I can think of to describe them is fearless – tunes that owe nothing to anything other than their own self-willed need to exist. Punk not as a received sound & attitude but as a response to a challenge & a dare.

There is a permanent psychedelic transmitter on Mount Davidson in San Francisco. You can see it if you squint through two kaleidoscopes. So say the hippies anyway. I can hear it though, now & then and this year they spun a lot of White Fence.

Jim Roll is an old pal from my rekkid biz days. Over the past decade his restless avant-garde flecked Americana has widened & matured. Big heart, big brains, big star.

Every now and then I find myself thinking about RIOR cassettes, these little nostalgia bombs with those flat flood colors, multi-fold j-cards, and stubborn & doomed allegiance to the cassette format. One of the most coveted was the The Great New York Singles Scene compilation, showcasing debuts by Patti Smith, Television, Richard Hell along with period salvos like US Ape, Theoretical Girls & the Mumps. Came across a digitized copy this year and for all the heavy history it was the ace single by Nervus Rex that rang my bell. Like a fling with an old flame, it reminded me of all the reasons I went gonzo for power pop to begin with.

I treasure Mary Timony’s every mood, cause every mood begets a tune. Her latest, Ex Hex, is, as she put it “…what your babysitters listened to, rumbling from the Kenwood in the basement.” Perfect. Think then, of each song on her new record, Rips, as darts thrown in that very same basement — short, sharp & feathered.

Arriving at last at the intersection of Xanadu & Gerry Rafferty the New Pornographers demonstrate that all you need for a spectacular return to form is an arpeggiator.

The years best show, hand down, was Hawkwind, fronted by 74 year old psychedelic warlord Nik Turner. Flanked by Barbarellas playing vintage synths & violins, with Nicky Garratt from U.K. Subs on guitar, the band didn’t play so much as channel transmissions from beyond the fringe; waves of sax & flute, pyramids & atlantis, sonic attacks & deep space, orgon accumulations & high zonk. I got to sing the chorus of Silver Machine with Turner. I grabbed the set list and when I got home I discovered it had Roky Erickson’s phone number written on the back.

(Front cover photo by Katch Silva, back cover Hawkwind at the Boot & Saddle, September 9, 2014 Etc: This year I kept the running time under the LP limit. It just seems a decent serving size. As a result, some other notables not represented — still in deep dub, lost in Record Store Day’s re-release of Lee Perry’s Super Ape, late this year started really digging Colin Newman’s first post-wire solo record A-ZShellac’s Dude Incredible was a barrel-full of monkeys; Ian Anderson’s Homo Erraticus tour was a highlight, as were shows by Damned & TSOL; More Chrome & Helios CreedThe Chills BBC SessionsSleaford Mods, Cleaners From Venus, Fingerprintz, Palmyra Delran, and when it’s time to clean the fishtank, Exploited.)

DOWNLOAD THE COMP, HERE.

Golden Years

Every time I look at these photos they light up my noggin like a pinball machine. I linger over them, careening from detail to detail, setting off little bright explosions of nostalgia, recognition, longing and sheer delight.

Some context… They’re snaps taken at a Sam Goody’s record store in mighty Paramus, New Jersey from about 1976 until 1980. They were taken by a friend of an old acquaintance of mine, and I spotted them one day out on the more distant orbits of the Facebook. The photographer, one of the employees of the shop, kindly gave me permission to post them.

I was transfixed the instant I saw them. Aesthetically they’re amazing – the pale yellow cast of the film encasing the era as if in amber. A wistful melancholy sets in when you start to weigh what we lost as a culture when we lost places like this. But it’s the people, finally – this wonderful, quirky, ramshackle cast –  that really bring these photos to life.

I’ve tried many times to describe their effect on me – jury-rigging metaphors that do justice to their peculiar spell. It’s weird. I’m just old enough to recall when the texture of life felt like this. So sometimes they trigger deeply felt, familiar, yet sketchy, memories. Other times they read like fiction – especially vivid stills from a movie that one the one hand I desperately wished existed and on the other I feel like I’ve already seen. Like I said, weird.

Soviet girl manual

Diagrams and fashion spreads from a book called For you! Girls! published in the Soviet Union in 1965. I found it in a profoundly random box of discarded books and cassettes in the “free trade” corner of a U-Haul self storage warehouse in Philadelphia. It was published by something like the Committee for the Literature for Popular Sciences & Medicine (My Ukrainian provides an imperfect guide to the Russian) It’s a comprehensive guide to the Soviet can i buy vicodin in tijuana Girl, with a strange mix of propaganda, health and fitness tips, fashion spreads, and aspirational portraits of female astronauts, seamstresses, soldiers, and miners. Odd, fascinating, unsettling in the soullessness of the sloganeering and the gap between the lightheaded lifestyle spreads and the grey reality of Soviet life… but as often is with this stuff, aesthetically compelling – a mix of constructivist graphics, great type, and high key black and white photography.

Wonder Woman Costume Sketch

This, I covet. It’s the original costume sketch for the Wonder Woman TV series. It was designed and drawn by Donfeld, – Hollywood bon vivant, four time Academy Award nominee for costume design – who’s heyday spanned the 60’s to the 80’s. Besides the costume for Wonder Woman, his other lasting contribution to Western culture was designing Jill St. John’s costumes in Diamonds Are Forever. All this while dedicating himself tirelessly to keeping Jacqueline Bisset looking foxy – a great, great man. Anyway, in 2005 this treasure sold for $2,390 at auction (It was originally inscribed and given by Donfeld to his good friend, actor Richard Chamberlain.) I vow to you, if I ever make my pile, someday this will hang proudly on my wall.

Standards

Robert_McGuire_Aphrodite
Aphrodite by Robert McGuire, Berkley Books

By now we have been thoroughly disabused of the notion, so heavily advocated by Clement Greenberg, that abstraction was, at last, a pure art “inflated by illegitimate content,” as he claimed in the November 1949 issue of the Partisan Review. Abstraction would therefore be able to cleanse the world of the intellect of any contamination by low-level kitsch. But most of us have since come to understand that kitsch inevitably contaminates every form of human creativity. There is so much heartless and mindless abstract kitsch found on the walls of mansions owned by the rulers of the universe that it is no longer possible to privilege abstraction over any other form of artistic expression. It is therefore meaningless to brand as kitsch only illustration – or comicbook art, or pulp magazine covers. Most of it is, but so is most of contemporary “high” art: the popular arts still have at least certain technical standards that can help us separate the kitsch from the corn.
– Bram Dijkstra

Hold it right there, Emma Peel!

The opening credits of the Avengers in color are deservedly beloved. What struck me recently was how sharp the compositions of the main frames are, though. They make a wonderful sequence – the dirty buy vicodin 750 mg floods of color, the stark contrast, the precision staging of it all. Amazing thing is, even when frozen, they retain a jaunty swagger, the lightly hammy sophistication, and flair.