Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Popular wisdom

Inscriptions found today on the radiator inside a fourth-floor carrel in the University of Michigan's graduate library:

Thousands found dead in AREA CEMETERY!!

Don't date 15 year-olds.

This is not symbolic.

Carrier pigeons make the best pets.

Men and women can't be friends.

Obama time!

And, my personal favorite, penciled next to the door,

The bottom of this door handle is very sexy like Pamela.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Bad neologism alert

From the April '08 issue of Wired:

Reporting from opposite sides of the Pond, The Daily Show's John Oliver and fellow Brit Andy Zaitzman host this absolutely hysatirical weekly "audio newspaper for a visual world" from The Times Online.

Pushing at the corners of the English language is one thing, but the neo-gonzo DIY slang trend seems to be getting out of hand. Maybe it's Wired's way of proving it's keeping up with the collective vernacular inventiveness encouraged by Web 2.0. That's my hypotothesisnuse, anyway.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Tjenare kungen

One of my very favorite films, Tjenare Kungen (that's God Save the King in Swedish) now has several clips up on YouTube. I happened to write a kind of capsule summary of it last year for a zine that never ran (though it still might), so see what you think. If you don't know Swedish, don't worry, it's pretty easy to figure out what's going on in the clips regardless. I continue to nurse a massive crush on Abra that shows no signs of shrinking. It may look slick, but this is no Josie and the Pussycats--Malmros gets it right, and if it's not exactly Show Me Love with guitars, either, it's still got plenty of girl punk grit and authenticity.

Tjenare Kungen (English title: ‘God Save the King,’ Ulf Malmros, 2005)

Place: Gothenburg, Sweden
Heroines: Abra and Millan

It’s 1984. Punk is over—hell, postpunk is pretty much over—but teenage Abra keeps the ’77 spirit alive in the face of new wave poseurs, dino-rock misogynists and disapproving family members. When she meets the like-minded Millan after a show the two become best friends, roommates and bandmates, working together at a sausage factory by day and searching for a drummer and bassist by night.

Music content:
Abra and Millan’s band, which they call Tjenare Kungen, is ferociously punk and thrilling to watch. Roxy Music, the Vapors, the Pretenders, Blondie and Swede faves Ebba Gron round out the soundtrack.

Queer quotient: 3/10
An early scene in which strangers beat up a mohawked, not-skinny, boyish Abra reads like a queer bashing as much as a punk bashing. Millan humors a dopey boyfriend and Abra eventually sleeps with a pretty-boy student, but the real love story belongs to the two women and the thrill they find making music together.

Overall Rating: 10/10

P.S. This film also contains a still that visually summarizes my entire adolescence.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Ich bin nicht verrücht

This is practically begging to have a subaltern/queer studies thesis written about it. He's going to be reenacting Ali: Fear Eats the Soul this summer, so it sounds like there's only going to be more material for comparison as time goes on.

This is a video installation by ming wong [sic] developed as part of a personal, self-designed German language and cultural immersion programme, as he was preparing to relocate to Berlin in August 2007.

Believing that one of the best ways to get insight into a foreign culture is through the films of that country, the artist has adopted one of his favourite German films as his guide, "The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant" (1972) by Fassbinder, about a successful but arrogant fashion designer in her mid-thirties, who falls into despair when she loses the woman she loves.

Putting himself in the mould of German actress Margit Carstensen in the role of Petra Von Kant - for which she won several awards - the artist attempts to articulate himself through as wide a range of emotions as displayed by the actress in the climactic scene from the film, where our tragic lovesick anti-heroine goes through a hysterical disintegration.

With this work the artist rehearses going through the motions and emotions and articulating the words for situations that he believes he may encounter when he moves to Berlin as a post-35-year-old, single, gay, ethnic-minority mid-career artist - i.e. feeling bitter, desperate, or washed up. ("Ich bin im Arsch")

With these tools, he will be armed with the right words and modes of expressions to communicate his feelings effectively to his potential German compatriots.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Ripped up and blissed out

Jon and Pants and I went to see Simon Reynolds speak at the Spark Festival yesterday. It was kind of stunning--he laid out the progression from jungle to drum and bass to speed garage to grime to dubstep, with musical examples of each and lots of London social history in between, over the course of about two hours. I started fantasizing about what it might be like if he did a lecture for different popular music scenes and genres from the late nineteenth century to the present. It would be like Kenneth Clark's Civilisation, only without quite as much faith in linear narrative and humanism, and much less Eurocentrism. Instead of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment he would do ragtime, blues, rockabilly, house, baile funk, J-Pop, bhangra, hyphy--you name it. If anybody's up to the task, it's him. His brain is like an organic music encylopedia.