Thursday, 30 April 2009

FW Alden!

Frederick William Alden (1873-1955) was a Christian cartoonist known for illustrations appearing in the pamphlets of Rev. B.H. Shadduck - most notably Jocko-Homo Heavenbound, which was later to inspire Devo.

Alden's drawings are rich with a sense of the macabre, his disgust at evolution evident in bizarre hybrids of man and animal, modern day devils of scientific progress. Alden's use of symbolism is fascinating, and I love the metaphorical landscapes in particular.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Fire Hydrants of Tweed!

I spent the weekend visiting friends in Tweed, Ontario & was surprised to see that all the fire hydrants there have been painted over with funny designs, everything from animals to robots to rockets to cartoon characters.

Apparently the local fire chief is less than pleased, as the fire department likes their hydrants looking uniform and easy to spot. A good point I suppose but, speaking as a tourist to the town, I think they look great.

Bonus late addition! The Elvis Hydrant!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

The Led Zeppelin-ABBA Sex Club Story!

I don't know how I missed this three years ago, but tonight I read about a situation that has to go down as one of the stranger evenings in all of rock'n'roll.

To back up a tad, none other than Led Zeppelin recorded their In Through The Out Door record in 1978 at a studio ABBA had recently built, Polar Studios in Stockholm, Sweden. Apparently, while this was going on, it was not unusual to spend evenings out in each other's company.

But I'll let Robert Plant explain:

"I knew Benny and Bjorn very well. Jimmy and I were hanging around with them most nights.

"There were some really good clubs. People would go to bed on circle-shaped mattresses in front of us.

"Men and women would start having sex while we were having a drink."

Imagine that:

Stockholm, Sweden. 1978. A live sex club. And who is sitting around talking and having drinks while the bodies are getting all sweaty and the fluids are exchanging?

Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson. Hot dog.

That may have actually happened. In fact, that probably did happen.

I'm going to imagine that, after one too many of these sex-club-fueled benders, the quartet caught a limo back to Polar, found Bonzo and John Paul Jones still there jamming out, and recorded a sex jam so filthy - so sleazy and nasty - that the very same night the master tapes were smuggled out under Stig Anderson's orders, and now lie forgotten in some filing cabinet somewhere, waiting to be rediscovered and set the world on fire.

Monday, 20 April 2009

JG Ballard!

Like so many, I first became aware of J.G. Ballard through the Re/Search edition of his Atrocity Exhibition, as well as their other coverage of his ideas. To say he was an influence is understating it - indeed, I was obsessed with the whole car crash thing for a long time.

From Re/Search:

R/S: We're interested in the problem of image thresholds building up in ourselves, because we have been exposing ourselves to more and more images of a horrific kind. I wouldn't call it a morality problem, yet—

JGB: There is an element of that, isn't there? You could end up in that sort of affect-less realm where you suspend judgment on everything. One's got to be very wary of denting one's own feelings, which is what happens to people who, say, work in labs where experiments are done using animals.

There was a girl on TV the other night—there's been some antivivisection activity going on at present, with members of animal liberation movements breaking into labs and releasing animals, many of them locked into electrodes and drips . . . She was saying that in working with lab animals, the thing that frightened her was the fact that she noticed she was becoming calloused or indifferent to the animals' feelings. And, that this was inevitable. If you're a man handling monkeys on a table to prepare them for some sort of operation, after awhile you just give them a goddamn thump! That's what happens, and after awhile you don't even notice it—the situation brutalizes you, numbs you, to any sort of response.

That's the problem with all this stuff—unless you're using it in some sort of informed way, out of some sort of imaginative commitment (I know that sounds like an easy get out, but it's still true), you are in danger of being numbed to the very powerful stimuli that attracted you in the first place. I mean, you end up with the worst of both worlds!

Now he has died and become past, particularly strange because he seemed always to be speaking from the future.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Video Overdose!

This collection of VHS covers is too good not to share.

Found via Metafilter.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Sleazy Meanz!

Announcing a MySpace page for my home-recording alias of the last few years, Sleazy Meanz.

Some of these songs you may recognize as No No Zero demos, others were recorded for one of a growing list of "Sleazy Meanz records" (which, in real life, are CDRs given to maybe two or three of my friends each at best).

I'm not practising with any band or playing any shows nowadays (boo hoo) so this is a way for me to feel like I still have my big toe in the water or something, I guess.

For the record, I've had a no MySpace bias until now (hence no No No Zero MySpace page) so I feel a bit sheepish here in starting one. I've been using the site more recently to hear new bands & (thus far) successfully managing to ignore all the other crap I hate about it.

This, and the rank despair over my own non-band-in state, tipped me over the edge to the dark side.

I'll see how it goes.

Thursday, 16 April 2009


This is post #100 for Penetrating Insights & I figured that marks a good time to have a moment of honest self-appraisal here.

The simple truth is that No No Zero, the band (obstentiously the reason for the blog in the first place) hasn't done anything in the past year & doesn't look likely to be doing anything anytime too soon.

We have recording plans for this summer but, as to when that stuff (assuming it happens) might actually see the light of day, your guess is as good as mine. It's a bummer, but that's the way it is right now.

I plan to continue this blog, but the No No Zero aspect of it will likely continue to diminish. As far as what the guys in the band are doing, last May's post on that topic remains up to date AFAIK as to who is in what band.

I'll keep posting what No No Zero updates I do have here, including news from Signed By Force, who of course are selling our (strangely expensive when used) debut record Rough Stuff (now available in Europe and the U.S.).

So what can you expect to see here? Sleaze, disturb & stupid crap, as before; probably lots of scans of paperback covers & whatever else I lay my hands on, the odd essay on this or that, Uschi Digard, porn.

If you've been reading the blog already, it shouldn't be changing much. I'm just clearing the air about this as it's been on my mind.

And now, without further delay, here's some live GFE for you, Youtube style --

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The Road To Success!

From the great Space Ghetto. Original artist unknown.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

On The Offence!

I'm not convinced that watching excerpts of feature length films on a tiny computer screen is any better than a crime - and by crime I refer not to illegal copying of flicks, but rather the heinous disrespect for cinema, aspect ratios, and the sheer size at which a movie should ideally be viewed that is inherent in your average monitor-viewing experience.

Having said all that, I can't deny I do regularly visit sites like Asian Horror Movies to watch stuff I would otherwise never see (in the same way I watched bootleg ninth generation videotapes ordered from zines like Gore Gazette in the 80s). It's safe to say then that I am somewhat divided on the subject.

Today I found a sequence on Youtube from one of my favourite films, the seldom seen The Offence (sometimes The Offense). This five-minute sequence is pretty key to the film, and the possibility that it might intrigue someone enough to check out the whole thing... well, I just can't resist.

Released in 1972, The Offence (working title: Something Like The Truth) was based on the 1968 stage play This Story of Yours by John Hopkins (who also adapted it for the screen), and stars Sean Connery - in what I would regard as the best performance of his career.

Directed by U.S. great Sidney Lumet, and shot mostly in Berkshire, England, the film may be regarded as police drama/character study with somewhat experimental touches, particularly its innovative use of sound (the sole film score of composer Harrison Birtwistle), lighting (superb work by cinematographer Gerry Fisher), and editing (by John Victor-Smith).

The story of The Offence is a very bleak one, admittedly short on action and looking a lot like the theatre adaptation that it is, about Detective Sergeant Johnson (played by Connery), haunted by the horror of all he has seen in his decades of police service, driven to the brink of madness by pervasive thoughts of sickening violence and sadism. At the risk of providing spoilers, it's interesting how differently people read what happens next.

The film tackles a brief period in Johnson's life, an investigation into a series of child molestation cases targeting young girls in the community. A suspicious character is arrested, Johnson uses excessive force in his interrogation of same, and this brings to the fore issues the detective has long suppressed. For, as the poster's tagline puts it, "After 20 years, what Detective-Sergeant Johnson has seen and done is destroying him."

The Offence features three central conversations: that between Johnson and his superior, Detective Superintendent Lieutenant Cartwright (played by Trevor Howard); between Johnson and his wife*, Maureen Johnson (played by Vivien Merchant); and 'finally' between Johnson and the suspect, one Kenneth Baxter (played by Ian Bannen) during the interrogation. In each case, the acting is first-rate, and the cumulative effect of these encounters is fairly devastating.

The first time I saw it was the ol' late at night, half-asleep, flipping through the channels situation. I had no idea what I was watching but quickly got sucked in and, by the end of the film, I was really shaken up, unusually affected. The Offence is nothing if not uncompromising and, in my wide-open late night mind, that intensity left scars. I just could not believe this film had been made. I became obsessed with finding a copy of it and ultimately had to wait another couple of months until it ran on TV again.

But back to the Youtube clip -

This dialogue-free sequence gives the audience some insight into Johnson's obsessive thoughts, the images flashing through his mind while he goes about his day. Such a visual montage was of course unavailable in the original theatre production, and it is a tribute to Lumet's gifts that he is able to suggest so much ugliness and pain with so little actually shown onscreen. Here, less really is more.

From The Unknown Movies:

Several times in the movie we get a taste of what Johnson has gone through. Driving home...we are shown what is going on in Johnson's mind - an almost endless string of crime scenes and accidents he has seen in his career as a policeman, each more ghastly than the next. Lumet emphasizes the horror by showing these scenes in near silence, so our attention is held on the carnage that's displayed. In a way, we are seeing these sights just like Johnson - without any distractions, or hopeful signs. You then start to understand the deep psychological damage he has suffered, and any critical viewpoint you had of him starts to soften.

Bonus discussion of the film in other languages! Deux en francais and dos en Español!

*quoted in an earlier post on this same blog.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009