Thursday, April 24, 2014

The incredible ‘POWDERED TOAST MAN,’ 1992


from Dangerous Minds

Powdered Toast Man!

Early in the second season of Ren & Stimpy, there appeared a rollicking and utterly disrespectful segment called “Powdered Toast Man.” 1992. The character of Powdered Toast Man unified the clueless and self-important silliness of The Tick with the tendency to wreak havoc of, say, Inspector Clouseau or Maxwell Smart. Voiced by the incomparable Gary Owens—and you might not know the name, but if you’ve ever seen Laugh-In or Space Ghost, you sure as hell know his voice—Powdered Toast Man was the spokesman for, obviously, a product called Powdered Toast, which was billed as tasting “just like sawdust!” According to Wikipedia, he was based on the character of Studebacher Hoch, from the epic song “Billy The Mountain” of off the Mothers of Invention’s 1972 album Just Another Band from L.A. I frankly don’t quite see the connection, but anything’s possible.
Powdered Toast Man!
It’s kind of amazing just how dark and subversive the Powdered Toast bit is. The anti-advertising message is just the start of it. Tasked with saving a kitten from being run over by a truck, Powdered Toast Man causes a passing jetliner to crash into the truck, thus saving the kitten at the expense of who knows how many lives (the injured survivors cheer him on anyway). A few moments later, Powdered Toast Man thoughtlessly tosses the kitten out of frame, where he is apparently run over by a truck, to judge from the sound effects. Later on, he uses the Bill of Rights for kindling. He induces projectiles to emerge from his armpits by doing that “fart noise” maneuver, he uses his own tongue as a telephone…....... actually, you really need to see the video to believe it. The satire of the prevailing superhero ethos really couldn’t be more savage—or more entertaining.
Powdered Toast Man!
The Pope, “clinging tenaciously” to Powdered Toast Man’s buttocks
Appropriately enough, the role of the Pope was voiced by Frank Zappa. According to IMDB.com, it was the last time he would ever portray a fictional character (granted, he didn’t do this all that often). How did this come to pass? As often happens in showbiz, Zappa had expressed some admiration for the early Ren & Stimpy episodes, and ... one thing led to another. John Kricfalusi tells the story on the commentary track for the episode:

Yeah, Frank Zappa was a fan of the show, and I was a huge Frank Zappa fan growing up. I had all his records. and when I found out he was a fan, our mixer, one of the sound engineers, was also mixing some Frank Zappa records, and he ... handed the phone to me one day and it was Frank on the line. So Frank invited me to his house that weekend. ... and I went with Elinor Blake and Frank and his family and I, Moon Unit and Dweezil. We all sat around watching Ren & Stimpy cartoons all afternoon. He was laughing all through them, and after it was over I asked: “Hey Frank, you want to BE in a cartoon?” and he said: “Yeah, that’d be great” and I said: “You want to be the pope?” and he said: “Yeah, I always wanted to be the pope.”

(Note: Elinor Blake has had a successful musical career in her own right: After working as an animator on Ren & Stimpy, she released several albums under the name April March.) As it happens, Zappa has hardly any lines, but that’s all right.

Another interesting link between Zappa and the show: There was a recurring Ren & Stimpy segment called “Ask Dr. Stupid” in which Stimpy would respond to letters in an incredibly stupid way. Turns out, Zappa recorded a track called “Ask Dr. Stupid” all the way back in 1979.

The episode is available in full on The Ren & Stimpy Show: The First and Second Season (Uncut)



via Showbiz Imagery and Chicanery

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Illness, Madness and Death The world of Edvard Munch
and The Scream

from Dangerous Minds
maercsmunch.jpg

Edvard Munch described his paintings as his children, and like children he believed they should go off into the world and have their own adventures. He therefore showed little interest in a painting once it was finished. It could be discarded in an outhouse, abandoned to the elements, damaged in its handling, and even on one occasion, a dog jumped through a canvas. Munch felt that these marks and mishaps added to the work.

I wonder what Munch’s would have thought of the exacting restoration of his paintings “The Scream” and “The Madonna”, after they had been damaged by robbers in 2004. The paintings had “humidity stains” and were badly ripped after removal from their frames. The restorers spent long, tiring hours ensuring the paintings were returned to their “original” state prior to the theft.

“The Scream” is Munch’s most famous painting, and it is the one which has taken on a life beyond the original pictures. Today you can buy “The Scream” printed on clocks, socks, t-shirts, key-rings, notebooks, mugs, dresses, inflatable punching bags and Internet memes.

Munch had been inspired to paint the picture after an evening stroll, as he noted in his journal 22 January 1892:

“One evening I was walking along a path, the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord—the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The color shrieked. This became “The Scream’.”
He later wrote a more poetic version of his inspiration on the pastel version of “The Scream” (1895):
“I was walking along the road with two Friends / the Sun was setting – The Sky turned a bloody red / And I felt a whiff of Melancholy – I stood / Still, deathly tired – over the blue-black / Fjord and City hung Blood and Tongues of Fire / My Friends walked on – I remained behind / – shivering with Anxiety – I felt the great Scream in Nature – EM.”
But the inspiration for “The Scream” probably went further back than just one evening in Norway, it likely stemmed from his strange and oppressive childhood. Born into a middle class family in 1863, Munch was brought up in a household of strict religious observance, illness and death. When he was five his mother died of consumption. His sister suffered the same fate when Munch was fourteen. His father then went insane with grief, spending days praying, oblivious to the world. Another sister was schizophrenic and died in an institution. His childhood traumas were to bruise all of Munch’s life, as he later wrote:
“Illness, madness, and death were the black angels that kept watch over my cradle and accompanied me all my life.”


The first documentary gives fascinating examination of Edvard Munch’s life and work, while the second focuses on the story of his most famous painting, “an icon of modern art, a Mona Lisa for our time.”





Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Rick Rubin: Music and Spirituality


This reminds me a little bit of what Rick and I discussed for his words in my upcoming book.

from NOWNESS: Let the Grammy-Winning Guru of Record Production Guide You Toward New Year Nirvana

Recording artist whisperer and all-around wizened sage Rick Rubin contemplates life and art on the stunning cliffs outside his Malibu residence in this short film by Alison Chernick. The mogul ruminates on living in harmony with nature, the importance of recreating its perfection in art, and the transcendental power of sound before leading us into a guided meditation, a practice he has followed since becoming fascinated with yogis as a teenager. His trademark beard, untouched since he was 23 years old, pays clear homage to their spiritual influence. The story of Rubin’s beginnings at Def Jam Records with Russell Simmons in 1984 from his New York University dorm room has become the stuff of legend. He has since become one of the most influential producers in the history of pop music, producing seminal hip-hop albums by artists such as LL Cool J, Run-D.M.C., and The Beastie Boys, with an unparalleled knack for genre-bending and critically acclaimed covers. He has also masterminded the late-career resurrection of a number of artists via American Recordings, exemplified by Johnny Cash’s victorious comeback. Add to that eight Grammy awards, being named one of Time’s most influential people in the world, and a co-presidency of Columbia Records, and Rubin has more than earned his magic reputation. “He is on a journey through the spiritual and creative wilderness,” says Chernick. “It’s transformative to witness.”

Monday, April 21, 2014

Noam Chomsky:
The Dimming Prospects for Human Survival


From nuclear war to the destruction of the environment, humanity is steering the wrong course.
from AlterNet
A previous article I wrote explored [3] how security is a high priority for government planners: security, that is, for state power and its primary constituency, concentrated private power - all of which entails that official policy must be protected from public scrutiny.
In these terms, government actions fall in place as quite rational, including the rationality of collective suicide. Even instant destruction by nuclear weapons has never ranked high among the concerns of state authorities.
To cite an example from the late Cold War: In November 1983 the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization launched a military exercise designed to probe Russian air defenses, simulating air and naval attacks and even a nuclear alert.
These actions were undertaken at a very tense moment. Pershing II strategic missiles were being deployed in Europe. President Reagan, fresh from the "Evil Empire" speech, had announced the Strategic Defense Initiative, dubbed "Star Wars," which the Russians understood to be effectively a first-strike weapon - a standard interpretation of missile defense on all sides. 
Naturally these actions caused great alarm in Russia, which, unlike the U.S., was quite vulnerable and had repeatedly been invaded.
Newly released archives reveal that the danger was even more severe than historians had previously assumed. The NATO exercise "almost became a prelude to a preventative (Russian) nuclear strike," according to an account last year by Dmitry Adamsky in the Journal of Strategic Studies .
Nor was this the only close call. In September 1983, Russia's early-warning systems registered an incoming missile strike from the United States and sent the highest-level alert. The Soviet military protocol was to retaliate with a nuclear attack of its own.
The Soviet officer on duty, Stanislav Petrov, intuiting a false alarm, decided not to report the warnings to his superiors. Thanks to his dereliction of duty, we're alive to talk about the incident. 
Security of the population was no more a high priority for Reagan planners than for their predecessors. Such heedlessness continues to the present, even putting aside the numerous near-catastrophic accidents, reviewed in a chilling new book, "Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety," by Eric Schlosser.
It's hard to contest the conclusion of the last commander of the Strategic Air Command, Gen . Lee Butler, that humanity has so far survived the nuclear age "by some combination of skill, luck and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion."
The government's regular, easy acceptance of threats to survival is almost too extraordinary to capture in words.
In 1995, well after the Soviet Union had collapsed, the U.S. Strategic Command, or Stratcom, which is in charge of nuclear weapons, published a study, "Essentials of Post-Cold War Deterrence." 
A central conclusion is that the U.S. must maintain the right of a nuclear first strike, even against non-nuclear states. Furthermore, nuclear weapons must always be available, because they "cast a shadow over any crisis or conflict."
Thus nuclear weapons are always used, just as you use a gun if you aim it but don't fire when robbing a store - a point that Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, has repeatedly stressed.
Stratcom goes on to advise that "planners should not be too rational about determining ... what an adversary values," all of which must be targeted. "[I]t hurts to portray ourselves as too fully rational and cool-headed. . That the U.S. may become irrational and vindictive if its vital interests are attacked should be a part of the national persona we project to all adversaries." 
It is "beneficial [for ...our strategic posture] that some elements may appear to be potentially'out of control'" - and thus posing a constant threat of nuclear attack.
Not much in this document pertains to the obligation under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to make "good faith" efforts to eliminate the nuclear-weapon scourge from the earth. What resounds, rather, is an adaptation of Hilaire Belloc's famous 1898 couplet about the Maxim gun:
Whatever happens we have got,
The Atom Bomb and they have not.
Plans for the future are hardly promising. In December the Congressional Budget Office reported that the U.S. nuclear arsenal will cost $355 billion over the next decade. In January the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies estimated that the U.S. would spend $1 trillion on the nuclear arsenal in the next 30 years.
And of course the United States is not alone in the arms race. As Butler observed, it is a near miracle that we have escaped destruction so far. The longer we tempt fate, the less likely it is that we can hope for divine intervention to perpetuate the miracle. 
In the case of nuclear weapons, at least we know in principle how to overcome the threat of apocalypse: Eliminate them.
But another dire peril casts its shadow over any contemplation of the future - environmental disaster. It's not clear that there even is an escape, though the longer we delay, the more severe the threat becomes - and not in the distant future. The commitment of governments to the security of their populations is therefore clearly exhibited by how they address this issue. 
Today the United States is crowing about "100 years of energy independence" as the country becomes "the Saudi Arabia of the next century" - very likely the final century of human civilization if current policies persist.
One might even take a speech of President Obama's two years ago in the oil town of Cushing, Okla., to be an eloquent death-knell for the species.
He proclaimed with pride, to ample applause, that "Now, under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years. That's important to know. Over the last three years, I've directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states. We're opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore. We've quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We've added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some."
The applause also reveals something about government commitment to security. Industry profits are sure to be secured as "producing more oil and gas here at home" will continue to be "a critical part" of energy strategy, as the president promised.
The corporate sector is carrying out major propaganda campaigns to convince the public that climate change, if happening at all, does not result from human activity. These efforts are aimed at overcoming the excessive rationality of the public, which continues to be concerned about the threats that scientists overwhelmingly regard as near-certain and ominous.
To put it bluntly, in the moral calculus of today's capitalism, a bigger bonus tomorrow outweighs the fate of one's grandchildren.
What are the prospects for survival then? They are not bright. But the achievements of those who have struggled for centuries for greater freedom and justice leave a legacy that can be taken up and carried forward - and must be, and soon, if hopes for decent survival are to be sustained. And nothing can tell us more eloquently what kind of creatures we are. 
This is Part II of an article adapted from a lecture by Noam Chomsky on Feb. 28, sponsored by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation in Santa Barbara, Calif (Read part 1 here [3]).
© 2014 Noam Chomsky


[5] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Eyes on the Prize
The Keys to the Kindgdom, 1974-1980


Episode 13


This show examines the relationship between law and popular struggle as it chronicles efforts to inject substance into promises of equality. The movement's focus is on the keys to the kingdom: jobs and education. In Boston, black parents organize to improve their children's education through court-ordered integration; the response of the white community was swift and often violent. In Atlanta, Mayor Maynard Jackson, the city's first black mayor, used the legal remedy of an affirmative action program to guarantee black involvement in the construction of Atlanta's airport. Affirmative action programs did not go unchallenged, however, as Allan Bakke took his suit against the University of California all the way to the Supreme Court.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Dirty Old New York aka Fun City
part 3

Dirty Old New York aka Fun City continues with the third, but not final, installment. As it turns out there will be a Part IV, which is already about halfway done. Perhaps that will be a good place to stop. I will continue to augment previous pieces, if I come across footage that fits too well to exclude. Footage is connected by film, actor, character, location, signage, motif, theme, or some combination thereof.


Friday, April 18, 2014

more Things You Probably Didn’t Know About NYC


10. According to New York City’s Office of Emergency Management, the last hurricane to pass directly over the city was in 1821. The storm surge was so high that the city was flooded up to Canal Street.  
11. Hog Island, a one-mile-long island south of Rockaway Beach, was never seen again after the hurricane of 1893. 
12. New York City’s leading hurricane historian, Nicholas Coch, a professor of coastal geology at Queens College, believes that this is the only reported incidence ever of the removal of an entire island by a hurricane. 

Via en.wikipedia.org 

13. Up until 1957, there was a pneumatic mail tube system that was used to connect 23 post offices across 27 miles. At one point, it moved 97,000 letters a day.

Via untappedcities.com 
14. Albert Einstein’s eyeballs are stored in a safe deposit box in the city. 
15. There are tiny shrimp called copepods in NYC’s drinking water. 
16. On Nov. 28, 2012, not a single murder, shooting, stabbing, or other incident of violent crime in NYC was reported for an entire day. The first time in basically ever.

17. About 1 in every 38 people living in the United States resides in New York City. 
18. New York City has more people than 39 of the 50 states in the U.S. 
19. There is a birth in New York City every 4.4 minutes. 
20. There is a death in New York City every 9.1 minutes.

from BUZZFEED

Thursday, April 17, 2014

New Video from "OFF!" with cool cameos


“Red White and Black” directed by The Admiral, starring Dave Foley (Kids in the Hall) and Brian Posehn (Mr. Show) with cameos by Dale Crover (Melvins), David Yow (Jesus Lizard), Jack Grisham (TSOL), and Danny Carey (Tool)

Dave Foley and Brian Posehn, play fascists who get what they deserve in the new OFFicial video from OFF!, "Red White and Black."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Los Angeles Philharmonic plays through an earthquake

From Amy Seidenwurm at Boing Boing:
Here's a video (well, real audio with some graphics) of the Los Angeles Philharmonic performing Ravel's "Daphnis and ChloƩ during a 5.1 magnitude earthquake. It's pretty interesting to hear the gasps and murmurs of the audience followed by the lovely music continuing without a hitch.

A couple of things to note here:
-Walt Disney Concert Hall was built only 10 years ago and is made to withstand seismic activity.
-I work for the LA Phil and had a hand in making this video.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Invoking blackface, conservative idiot whines that Stephen Colbert is racist towards conservatives!

from our friend Richard Metzger over at Dangerous Minds



 

I seldom write about political matters anymore on DM because there’s an assumption that if you hate Republicans then you must automatically be a Democrat and I got tired of offering the disclaimer that the only reason I would ever vote for a Democrat is to keep the Republican out of office. Not only that, once-reliable traffic-generators like “Glenn Beck says something OFF THE WALL (again)” or “Sarah Palin says something IDIOTIC (again)” don’t really bring in that much traffic anymore. Republicans are fucking idiots. If they weren’t, then they wouldn’t be Republicans. Most people who read this blog probably don’t need anyone, including me, explaining that to them. I prefer to ignore them.


Today, though, I’m making an exception for the #1 dumbest rightwing reaction to Stephen Colbert taking over for David Letterman. This is just too good.


Young Ben Shapiro was once the wimpy “boy wonder” to Andrew Breitbart’s blob-shaped crusader and he usually makes about as much sense as his blustery late mentor, except that no one takes him nearly as seriously. Lil’ Ben is now the editor of a silly blog called Truth Revolt that no one reads except for lefty bloggers who want to mock him. He’s written a new book called How to Debate Leftists and Destroy Them and he’s proud of the fact that he was still a virgin on his wedding day.


Shapiro possesses pretty much the most punchable face I think I’ve ever seen. He fills me with visceral hatred. Which is kind of funny because in his latest Truth Revolt “think piece” Shapiro makes an inadvertently hilarious argument for the comedic genius, not to mention vital cultural importance of Stephen Colbert by complaining that:


“It is nearly impossible to watch an episode of The Colbert Report without coming away with a viscerally negative response to conservatives.”


Sharply observed, fuckwit! Give that man a Kewpie Doll…


But in the wake of all the conservative hand-wringing about Colbert replacing Letterman (Rush Limbaugh said that CBS was declaring “war” on the heartland with this pick) Babyface Ben sees something far more sinister going on:  Colbert IS a racist! He’s a racist against conservatives!


Blackface, which has an ugly history dating back to at least the fifteenth century according to historian John Strausbaugh, was used to portray demeaning and horrifying stereotypes of blacks. Such stereotypical imitation has not been limited to blacks, of course; actors tasked with playing stereotypical Jew Shylock often donned a fake nose and red wig, as did actors who were supposed to play Barabas in The Jew of Malta. Such stereotypical potrayals [sic] create a false sense of blacks, or Jews, or whomever becomes the target of such nastiness.


And this is precisely what Colbert does with regard to politics: he engages in Conservativeface. He needs no makeup or bulbous appendage to play a conservative – after all, conservatives come in every shape and size. Instead, he acts as though he is a conservative – an idiotic, racist, sexist, bigoted, brutal conservative. He out-Archie Bunkers Archie Bunker. His audience laughs and scoffs at brutal religious “Colbert” who wishes to persecute gays; they chortle at evil sexist “Colbert” who thinks men are victims of sexism. This is the purpose of Colbert’s routine. His show is about pure hatred for conservatives in the same way that blackface was about pure hatred of blacks. In order to justify their racism, racists had to create a false perception of blacks; in the same way, Colbert and his audience can justify their racism only by creating a false perception of conservatives.


No, no Ben, you’re confused. Colbert gives a very, very, very accurate portrayal of conservatives. Didn’t you just write:


“It is nearly impossible to watch an episode of The Colbert Report without coming away with a viscerally negative response to conservatives.”


It’s because conservatives are assholes, Ben. Like you. Someone who doesn’t get the fucking joke..


The comments below Shapiro’s logic-addled rant are as delicious as you might expect:


The only thing this article accomplished is making me think that I might not be too sad if society as a whole started systematically disenfranchising and dehumanizing conservatives. After all, if this guy is that attached to the blackface metaphor he should at least get to experience it for real firsthand.


Here’s another:


Is this an article or a rationalization? Sounds like more right wing sour grapes to me. Colbert’s character is successful because it is such a dead-on satire. You can listen to Rush and Fox News and conclude that Colbert is misrepresenting them as somehow worse, or more extreme than they really are? Laughable. Go re-examine your life. You’re on the wrong side.


Tee-hee. Expecting self-awareness from the likes of lil’ Ben seems a tad far-fetched, though.


Oh, brother. There’s this thing called satire and it always exagerrates its subject. That’s how it works. Minstrel shows weren’t satire. They were mockery and cultural appropriation. Is Mr Shapiro claiming that people are born conservative and Mr Colbert is stereotyping the entire conservative “race?”


Or…


BUT WHOOOOO WILL THINK OF THE BILLIONAIRE INDUSTRIALISTS AND UNEDUCATED SOUTHERN WHITE BIGOTS??


What about?


it’s almost as if you’re providing the source material for him to be successful…oh wait, you have


Here’s another good one:


You just compared the schtick of a comedian on a comedy network to the institutional and societal approved degradation of a entire race of people. Which in addition to being monumentally stupid is also precisely why folks like Colbert mock conservatives, your feigned attempts at equivocating always shines a light on the underbelly of your magnificent ignorance.


Not sure if Ben Shapiro and Truth Revolt are important enough targets for Colbert and his writers to take notice of—some attention from him is what Shapiro seems to be aiming for with this insipid drivel—but it would be amusing to hear their take on how the author of How to Debate Leftists and Destroy Them scored such a humiliating own goal.


Meanwhile, Colbert did what he does best on last night’s program, totally pwning “Papa Bear”:

 

 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Eyes on the Prize
A Nation of Law?, 1967-1968


Episode 12



By the late 1960s, the anger in poorer urban areas over charges of police brutality was smoldering. In Chicago, Fred Hampton formed a Black Panther Party chapter. As the chapter grew, so did police surveillance. In a pre-dawn assault by the police, Panthers Hampton and Mark Clark were killed. The deaths came at a time when movement activists were increasingly becoming targets of police harassment at both the local and federal levels through COUNTELPRO, the FBI's Counter Intelligence Program. During this same period, inmates at New York's Attica prison took over the prison in an effort to publicize intolerable conditions. During the police assault which ended the takeover, several inmates and guards were killed. For some, Attica came to symbolize the brutality of a hardened political regime.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Dirty Old New York aka Fun City
part 2


The second installment of a multi-part series devoted to the Fun City years. Again, shots are connected by actor, location, character, film, recurring object or motif.

Friday, April 11, 2014

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About New York City


1. Pinball was banned in the city until 1978. The NYPD even held “Prohibition-style” busts.

2. It is a misdemeanor to fart in NYC churches.
3. It costs $1 million to get a license (medallion) to operate a taxicab.

4. The first pizzeria in the United States was opened in NYC in 1895.

5. In 1857, toilet paper was invented by Joseph C. Gayetty in NYC.
6. The Jewish population in NYC is the largest in the world outside of Israel.

7. Up until World War II, everyone in the entire city who was moving apartments had to move on May 1.


en.wikipedia.org 
8. The city of New York will pay for a one-way plane ticket for any homeless person if they have a guaranteed place to stay. 
9. There’s a man who mines sidewalk cracks for gold. He can make over $600 a week. 
10. According to New York City’s Office of Emergency Management, the last hurricane to pass directly over the city was in 1821. The storm surge was so high that the city was flooded up to Canal Street.
from BUZZFEED 

We will post more from this list every friday for the next 5 weeks ;-)