Friday, December 28, 2012

Playback 2012: 12 Great Music Videos

English rapper Plan B, aka Ben Drew.
His video for "ill Manors" made my list of 2012's greatest videos. 

Lots of people are proud of the fact that they can name the first music video to air on MTV back in 1981 -- "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles. What few people know is that the song went to number one in 16 countries, excluding the United States, in 1979. And airing on the network still couldn't rescue The Buggles from one-hit-wonder status.

Conceived primarily as a marketing device to promote sales, the music video has been around in some form or another since the 1960s. MTV, and later VH1, provided the outlet for the medium to flourish and suddenly every artist and band needed a video. When those networks abandoned music videos for reality-based programming, the Internet proved to be an even more perfect fit. Launched in 2005, YouTube has made viewing music videos fast and easy. Proof? Justin Bieber's "Baby" video has been viewed over 800 million times! (Feel free to weep for humanity). Can't find the video you're looking for on YouTube? It's probably on VEVO or Dailymotion.

So, what makes a great music video? We could debate this for an entire lost weekend. For me, it starts with a good song. Sometimes the artist/band is mesmerizing enough to hold my attention without a lot of bells and whistles. Then again, I love it when they come up with an unexpectedly clever or witty concept. But I can really appreciate a superbly choreographed and edited performance, too.  And finally, there are those rare music videos that transcend whatever's fashionable at the moment and introduces or advances a new aesthetic. Here are 12 of the videos I watched repeatedly in 2012. It's a diverse collection, selected for many different reasons, and I believe they're all truly great. Your reactions may vary, of course. Comments welcome.

"Gangnam Style" - PSY. Let's get things started with the video that finally surpassed Justin Bieber's "Baby" as the most-watched of all time on YouTube. Yes, "Gangnam Style" has over a billion views as I write this.  Psy is a South Korean songwriter/rapper/dancer/producer whose international hit refers to the affluent Gangnam district of Seoul. The video -- a satire of the lifestyle there -- is bursting with energy, comically brilliant ideas and zany dancing.

"Call Me Maybe" - The U.S. Marines Lip-dub Version. Carly Rae Jepsen's ubiquitous sugar-rush pop hit had a sweet little video that depicted her swooning over the boy next door, who looks like an Abercrombie & Fitch model and turns out to be -- spoiler alert! -- gay. The song inspired literally hundreds of spoofs, parodies and feel-good lip dub videos that you can find all over YouTube. The best, to me, is this one put together by a bunch of U.S. Marines stationed in Afghanistan. Confession: I'm a sucker for this kind of video. Some folks can't seem to appreciate watching military personnel cutting up and having fun, but I wholeheartedly approve of something this harmless, especially if it keeps them sane over there.

"Express Yourself" - Diplo (featuring Nicky Da B). Diplo is a Philadelphia-based DJ, producer and songwriter. Nicky Da B comes from the world of bounce rappers, a cultural creation emerging from New Orleans. Their musical collaboration is hyperactive, edgy and funky. The video is an intoxicating mash-up of rapping and ass-shaking on the streets of New Orleans. I'm serious about the ass-shaking.

"Losing You" - Solange. Solange Knowles is the younger sister of Beyonce. Feel free to make your comparisons. I believe she successfully emerges from her big sister's shadow with "Losing You," a terrific mixed-mood dance dirge. The video was shot in a section of Cape Town, South Africa, and features locals as well as Les Sapeurs (Society of Tastemakers and Elegant People), a group of men from the Congo who make and model colorful handmade suits. The captivating mixture of splendid fashion, unusual location and Solange's impossibly long legs is a fascinating juxtaposition to the lyrics.

"My Country" - tUne-yArDs. Tune-Yards (stylized as tUnE-yArDs) is the brainchild of New Englander Merrill Garbus, a woman with an extraordinarily versatile voice, described by the New York Times as "somewhere between Aretha Franklin and Yoko Ono. At times it's a roar, and at times it's coy, but her ability to modulate it shows off a rhythmic and artistic intelligence that echoes Bjork, and even to a degree M.I.A." The video for "My Country" features the kids of Brightworks School and San Francisco Rock Project, a non-profit dedicated to providing musical education for young musicians 7-18 in California's Bay Area. About the only thing that could upstage Garbus' show-stopping vocals are a mob of dancing, face-painted kids making goofy faces.

"The Full Retard" - El-P. If the title alone doesn't offend you, something in the clip probably will. Here we have Brooklyn rapper El-P teaming up with a demented, murderous, drug-addicted squirrel puppet. There's a crime spree. And debauchery. Yeah, the puppet goes to some dark, fucked up places. It's a bangin' song and a hilarious video (once you accept it as a parody of a million bad rap videos and terrible badass movies). It's totally NSFW (not safe for work). Seriously.

"How Deep is Your Love" - The Rapture. They're a New York-based post-punk revival indie band
that mixes a lot of genres. "How Deep is Your Love" is NOT a cover of the old Bee Gees hit, but rather a terrific gospel-disco number that really finds its groove about forty seconds in. The video is a loving ode to African-American church ladies. Vocalist Luke Jenner has been miniaturized and inserted into their Sunday rituals. It's sublime and ridiculous.

"Want it Back" - Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra. Alternative rockers Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra have a dark, but energetic sound. Palmer's voice is distinctive and memorable. So's this video, a beautiful stop-motion animation piece that features the song's lyrics written on a variety of surfaces, including Palmer's naked body. Taking three days to shoot and featuring the skills of tattoo-graffiti artist Curran James, this is one of the most visually arresting videos of the year. (So let's be clear: This is uncensored and NSFW.)

"Borrow and Bomb" / "I Got News For You" - OFF! Formed in 2009, OFF! is a hardcore punk band featuring members of other bands like Circle Jerks, Black Flag and Burning Brides. They specialize in aggressive songs that kick ass even if they only last about a minute. This video is a clever, lampoon of those local TV shows that were so prevalent back in the day. Divided into two parts, the first features Kids in the Hall alumni Dave Foley as the befuddled host of Teen Talk with special guests OFF! Then the whole thing switches to a workout program called Electracize that's hosted by a sweaty bear in a tank top and leg warmers. Even if you don't like punk, the video's aesthetic is genuinely hilarious. (And Canadian Dave Foley is one of that country's national treasures.)

"National Anthem" - Lana Del Rey. Singer/songwriter (and fashion model) Lana Del Rey uploaded some of her music to a YouTube channel in 2011, got discovered, and signed a recording contract. Her first album hit big, got positive reviews and led to a January 2012 appearance as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live. Her music is chilly, torchy and a little hip hoppy. She can get away with this line: Money is the anthem of success, so put on mascara and your party dress. This seven minute video for "National Anthem," is undeniably brazen and self-indulgent, featuring Del Rey as some kind of Marilyn Monroe/Jackie Kennedy hybrid married to a "president" played by rapper ASAP Rocky. A spin on the romantic myth of the Kennedy presidency unfolds in stunningly hypnotic Super-8 photography. And you'll know from the first minute where it's all headed -- a can't-look-away re-enactment of the JFK assassination that either embodies bad taste or transcends it, depending on who you are.

"iLL Manors" - Plan B. At 28, British rapper Ben Drew, AKA Plan B, wrote and directed the film ill Manors, then produced a soundtrack album for it as well. NPR said Plan B's burning scorn for society on the title track "is a bitterly articulate howl of underclass rage." It's one of the best songs of the year -- that no one in America seems to have heard. But then, it's protest music, a fairly elusive genre in the U.S. The video is a riveting, dizzying, seamlessly edited combination of scenes from the 2011 London riots and staged carnage. It's immersive, feeling more like a documentary than a music video.


"Let's Have a Kiki" - Scissor Sisters. First they recorded the best novelty dance track of 2012, then they put together an inspired, gloriously low-budget "instructional" video treatment to bring us all up to speed.

And if you'd like to see any of my 13 honorable mentions below, click on a title to take you to the video.

"Wut" - Le1f. The openly gay rapper recorded dance floor gold, then infused the video with his wicked sense of humor, hilarious fashion sense and moves. 

"Time to Dance" - The Shoes. This French dance/pop duo released a smashing remix of their 2011 hit and made it the soundtrack for a jarring eight-minute video that answers the question, "What if Jake Gyllenhaal was a deeply disturbed, chain-smoking gym rat with a propensity for killing hipsters?" Beware. You may never look at his earnest, puppy dog face the same way again. 

"Wandering Sailor" - Kingship. The song is a pretty solid retro-rocker with a great vocal. For the video, this Brooklyn-based duo (Paul Leschen and Chris Hall) delivered a highly-stylized, kitschy-sexy homage to the little-seen 1982 foreign film Querelle. You might have problems with the ending; I didn't. 

"Tightrope" - Walk the Moon.  These Ohio indie pop-rockers know how to write an infectious tune that makes you want to sing along. The video is jubilant, goofy and insanely cute. It's simply impossible to hate a video that represents fire with red-painted spirit fingers.

"Wildest Moments - Jessie Ware. One of my favorite discoveries in 2012, this lovely English singer/songwriter makes evocative electro-soul. The video keeps things minimal. It's just Ware, impeccably styled and placed against a blank background, slowly rotating in a circle for the camera as she sings. Not every video  -- or artist -- needs explosions, choreography, lasers or an impenetrable plot to sell a song. 

"Just Breathe" - Willie Nelson. Nelson, with his nasal voice and relaxed, jazzy singing style, can't simply be categorized as a country artist. He transcends the genre. Married four times, Nelson has fathered seven children, including Lukas, who duets with him on this Pearl jam cover. Lukas sounds eerily like his father and their collaboration is remarkably tender and raw. Their performance is served extraordinarily well by the no-frills video treatment.

"Her Fantasy" - Matthew Dear. Let me state my bias up front: I think Matthew Dear is brilliant. (And kinda quietly sexy.) I defy you not to move to his music. "Her Fantasy" is luscious synth-pop-dance perfection. The trippy video features a quirky cast of characters from a dance floor in an alternate universe -- where no one dances.

"Hold Me Back" - Rick Ross. Controversial rapper Rick Ross usually makes videos filled with bling, booty and badass posturing. You'll still find some of that in the stripped-down black and white clip for "Hold Me Back," but what sets this one apart is location - it was shot in the decaying Calliope Housing Projects of New Orleans.  Ross is sweaty, bare chested, angry and surrounded by real people - the kind that generally make mainstream white audiences very nervous. It feels a lot more genuine than his other videos. And Ross uses the word nigga about 45 times. I didn't count how many times he used the slang term for vagina. So you've been warned.

"The Descent" -  Bob Mould. The video for alternative rocker Bob Mould's song depicts the topical tale of an aging man who gets laid off from his corporate job. He leaves that world and the city behind, embracing a different kind of life altogether. I think most of us have had fleeting moments where we considered doing exactly what he does here. Even better, that's Bob Mould himself playing the corporate cast off. He's utterly convincing (and one pretty hot daddy.) The song is great, too - a chunky, powerful slab of guitar rock.

"Somebody" - Jukebox the Ghost. Shiny, happy indie pop. Clever video with swell choreography. Resistance is futile.

"Candy" - Robbie Williams. English singer/songwriter Robbie Williams has been around since the early '90s, first as part of the the boy band Take That, then emerging as a solo artist in the 2000s. He's the best-selling British solo artist of all time in the United Kingdom, but inexplicably ignored in the U.S. Here, he's some kind of sexy guardian angel-boyfriend having a particularly crazy day that includes getting set on fire and run over by cars. The song? Pure, unapologetic pop.

"How" - Regina Spektor. Born in the Soviet Union, singer-songwriter Regina Spektor came to America at the age of 9 -- during the period of Perestroika, when Soviet citizens were permitted to emigrate. As an adult, she eventually wound up in New York City and became involved in what's been called the anti-folk scene. Anti-folk has been described as a musical genre that takes the earnestness of politically-charged 1960s folk music and subverts it. It sounds a little more raw or experimental, and even mocks the seriousness and pretension of the established mainstream music scene. You get all that in Spektor's piano-driven break-up balled "How." The quirky video shifts between serious and loopy imagery that feels deliberately designed to keep you from settling into the sadness of the lyrics.

"The Diplomat" - Pig Destroyer. They're a grindcore band from Richmond, Virginia. "The Diplomat" is a better-than-average example of the genre, and the video is colorful, garish, cartoonish, violent and, most interestingly, brilliant social commentary. 

This is my last post of 2012. I'd like to thank the people who followed this blog faithfully and gave me lots of positive feedback. I'll be back in 2013, but I'm flirting with ideas for changing the format. Stay tuned.


Friday, October 26, 2012

My Halloween Special 2012

Welcome to the Halloween edition of my blog...

Well, it's a gay blog... what were you expecting? Casper?

History. Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1st. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest as well as the beginning of the dark, cold winter. Celts believed that on the night before the new year (October 31st), the boundary between the worlds of the living and dead became blurred and the spirits of the dead returned to Earth.

During the Samhain celebration, costumed Celts built huge sacred bonfires and burned crops and animals as sacrifices to Celtic deities. When the celebrations were over, they returned home and lit their hearths with logs from the sacred bonfires. They believed this would help protect them during the coming winter.

By 43 A.D., the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of Celtic territory and co-opted their festivals and celebrations. As centuries passed, the influence of Christianity spread into Celtic lands, gradually blending with or supplanting older Celtic rites and rituals to create church-sanctioned holidays. Exit spirits of the dead, enter saints and martyrs. Goodbye Samhain, hello All Saints Day and All Hallows Eve, which would eventually be called Halloween. The origin of hallow is the Middle English word halowen; hallow is defined by Merriam-Webster as meaning "to make holy or set aside for holy use."

Halloween was not widely celebrated in the U.S. until the second half of the 19th century when European immigrants flooded America and revived the holiday. It started with costumes, ghost stories and going house to house asking for money or food. By the late 1800's, there was an attempt to scrub away the supernatural or religious overtones and turn Halloween into a holiday about celebrating the season with wholesome parties for adults and kids. Ultimately, the 1950s baby boom redirected Halloween into a holiday for the young -- and the supernatural trappings made a comeback. Going door to door for money or food evolved into the "new" American tradition of trick-or-treating.

Monster Tutorial.

This is a vampire...

A still from the 1922 German Expressionist silent horror classic Nosferatu.
Max Schreck starred as the nosferatu, a Romanian word synonymous with vampire.
Not a vampire...

Robert Pattinson as vampire Edward Cullen in the Twilight film franchise.
Great hair, killer jawline and freakishly pale. But not scary; just bad boyfriend material. 
This is a zombie...

A photo from AMC's wildly popular zombie apocalypse saga The Walking Dead.  

Arguably the original zombie...

According to the New Testament, Jesus Christ rose from the dead three days after crucifixion.
He hung out with lots of people for forty days before his ascension to Heaven.

If you believe that scenario, it sort of makes him the best and most benign zombie ever.

Not a zombie, but...

Gay porn star Francois Sagat in makeup for his starring role in 2009's gay porn epic L.A. Zombie.
What happens when gay porn and the zombie horror genre collide? You get L.A. Zombie, the creation of Canadian filmmaker Bruce LaBruce, an artist who specializes in art porn features. Here's the flick's synopsis, according to Wikipedia: A homeless schizophrenic (Francois Sagat) thinks he's an alien zombie sent to Earth. Roaming the streets of Los angeles, he tries to bring the dead back to life by engaging in homosexual sex. Did I mention it's hardcore? L.A. Zombie played a lot of international film festivals in 2010, where is was typically deemed too controversial for second screenings, but was sometimes shown illegally anyway. Subsequently, an uncut DVD version with 40 additional minutes of footage was released for sale. Here's the trailer...

A real monster... 

Ann Coulter. She wants us to believe she's merely a conservative political pundit who tells it like it is. No. Uh uh. At best, she's the most obnoxious drag queen in history. At worst, she's a modern-day Medusa, the hideous Greek monster with venomous snakes for hair. I'm going with the latter. Obviously, she's had a semi-successful, hair-taming makeover that eliminated her one special ability -- the power to turn onlookers into stone with her gaze. Today, she's simply an insane troll, making a living as a professional outrageous remark-maker. For instance, she recently called the President of the United States a retard on Twitter. For more of her, um, wisdom, go here.

It takes an extraordinary shampoo and conditioner to make her snake-hair do that.
Not coming to a theater near you, thankfully.

My First Halloween Costume. Casper the Friendly Ghost. I remember it well. The mask had "wide-vision eye-holes" and the costume was "flame retarded." See for yourself.

Okay, I'm calling it. Casper is gay. Really, it couldn't be more obvious.

The First Movie That Ever Scared Me. Black Sunday (1960). As a little kid. I turned on the television and found this gem of Italian horror cinema from celebrated director Mario Bava. Today, viewers will likely be distracted by the overacting and dubbing, but this story of a witch accidentally resurrected from death was brilliantly photographed and quite a shocker for 1960s audiences. Check out the original theatrical trailer.

Candy Corn Oreo. Yes, for a limited time, this product exists. It's sold exclusively at Target.

There's a strange amount of excitement about this on the Internet, with all kinds of people doing taste tests. These things are artificially flavored, naturally. It says so right there on the bag. Can you describe the flavor of candy corn? No, "sweet" is not a flavor. The only way to describe the taste of candy corn is sugary. But the Internet has spoken: Oreo Candy Corn cookie filling tastes like vanilla cake frosting.

The folks at mega-snack manufacturer Nabisco know a winning formula:
sugar + holiday theme = success

My Horror Movie Recommendations. We all know that the term "scary movie" is wildly subjective. Some of us like vampires and zombies; others prefer haunted houses, demonic kids or supernatural mutants. For the purposes of this list, I've divided things up into five categories of horror: comedy, camp, cult, chillers and classics. So, if you're planning a movie night to celebrate Halloween, consider one of these...

Comedy. For those who like to see familiar horror movie tropes played for laughs...

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966). The late, great Don Knotts stars as a newspaper typesetter in a small Kansas town. He wants to be a reporter, so the editor gives him an assignment:  spend the night in a creepy -- and allegedly haunted -- old mansion on the 20th anniversary of its former occupants' murder and suicide. Knotts was in top form here, gently tweaking the beloved Barney Fife character he'd played on The Andy Griffith Show for five seasons before this film was made. He's surrounded by a crackling cast of pros, too. It's essentially a big-screen sitcom, but it still makes me chuckle today.

Shaun of the Dead (2004). If any horror genre is ripe for satire, it's zombie movies. With Shaun of the Dead, mission accomplished.  Actor/writer Simon Pegg stars as Shaun, "a man who decides to turn his moribund life around by winning back his ex-girlfriend, reconciling his relationship with his mother, and dealing with an entire community that has returned from the dead to eat the living." It's a bit like watching your favorite sitcom characters having their lives interrupted by persistent flesh-eaters. Very British, quite brilliant.

A comedy/horror alternative... for something scary with a wicked satirical edge, check out The Howling (1981), a werewolf movie with fun creature effects (state-of-the-art for its time), a surprisingly good script and a nice performance by Dee Wallace (the mom in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial).

Camp. The filmmakers thought they'd made a serious movie. Audiences, not so much. Examples:

The Swarm (1978). After the phenomenal successes of The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, Warner Bros. let producer/director Irwin "Master of Disaster" Allen make a movie about African killer bees attacking Texas. The result? Embarrassing special effects, unintentionally hilarious dialogue and abominable performances from an all-star cast boasting literally no fewer than six Oscar winners, including Henry Fonda and Michael Caine. Seriously, it's like no one ever got a second take for any scene. The whole thing transcends awful to become utterly fabulous camp. It's hard to believe this got made fifteen years after Hitchcock's The Birds and three years after Spielberg's Jaws, two films with the genuine cinematic panache to convince you that nature has a mean streak. 

The Sentinel (1977). After the successes of Warner Bros.' The Exorcist and 20th Century Fox's The Omen, the powers-that-be at Universal Pictures decided it was time to make their own shocker with religious overtones. So they chose the story of a neurotic, suicidal fashion model who moves into a Brooklyn apartment building that is literally the gateway to hell, guarded by a blind priest. The star, Cristina Raines, gives one of the worst performances you'll ever see, and that's saying something, given that the rest of the cast is either hammy or arch. After 70 minutes, you get one of the most unpleasant movie climaxes in history, controversial in its day because the director chose to use real people with disfiguring diseases to represent the denizens of hell. Rather than being horrifying, as the director intended, you just kind of feel sorry for them... because they've quite obviously been cast in a really bad horror movie based on their appearance.

A camp/horror alternative... 1972's Blacula, about an 18th century African prince named Mamuwalde who is turned into a vampire by Count Dracula, locked in a coffin for two hundred years, then unwittingly released by two gay interior decorators. This was one of the more successful entries in a film genre that came to be known as blaxploitation. It's too absurd to be offensive.

Cult. These movies may not have connected with mainstream audiences upon initial release, but they've developed a devoted fan base over time.

Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (1987). Although it was marketed as a sequel to 1981's The Evil Dead, it's essentially a reboot of the same story. The original was an effectively gory, darkly humorous low-budget nightmare; this one is hyper-kinetic, surreal and gory good fun. The set-up: a couple's romantic getaway to a remote cabin in the woods is ruined after they play a tape recording left by the previous occupant, an archeology professor. Unfortunately, the tape recording contains an incantation that awakens, you guessed it, a bunch of evil-dead-demon-spirit things. It's directed by Sam Raimi, the guy who would eventually helm the Spider-Man trilogy starring Tobey Maguire.

Hellraiser (1987). Based on a book by celebrated fantasy/horror author Clive Barker, this is the story of a globe-trotting pervert who buys an antique puzzle box, fools around with it and ends up opening the door to a hellish alternate universe. He's hideously killed, accidentally (and grotesquely) resurrected, then chased by a trio of godawful sado-masochistic demons. I found this movie so unsettling, I've never been able to watch it again. Seriously. I skipped all the sequels, too.

A cult/horror alternative... Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971). Psychologically fragile Jessica has just been released from a mental hospital. Her husband thinks it would be a good idea to relocate her to an isolated Victorian farmhouse in rural Connecticut and start a quiet new life. Weird stuff happens... but how much of it is in Jessica's head? Quirky movie with a terrific idiosyncratic performance from the lead; the supernatural elements will leave you scratching your head.

Chillers. Sometimes all you need is a creepy old dwelling, a foreboding atmosphere and a good story.

The Orphanage (2007). Director Guillermo Del Toro is widely known for films like Hellboy and the Oscar-winning Pan's Labyrinth, but in 2007 he produced The Orphanage, one of my favorite horror films of the last decade. The story: twenty-five years after leaving an orphanage on the Spanish coast, a woman returns there with her family and a plan to turn the dilapidated institution into a home for disabled children. One problem: it's haunted. This is a Spanish-language film with English subtitles, but don't let that discourage you from seeing it. This is the rare horror movie that's beautifully conceived, well-acted, gripping, eerie, frightening and even poignant.

The Changeling (1980). Celebrated, if not particularly successful when it was first released, this is a compelling ghost story that delivers subtle chills. A widowed composer moves into a dreary old mansion that appears to be haunted by the ghost of a child. Bringing considerable gravitas to the situation is legendary actor George C. Scott, who becomes obsessed with finding out what the ghost is trying to tell him.

A chiller/horror alternative... okay, this one doesn't involve a haunted building with a devastating secret, but it does have the next best thing: a creepy, evil kid. Orphan (2009) is a thriller about a couple who decide to adopt after the wife's miscarriage. They get a little girl named Esther, whose angelic persona turns nasty and brutal very quickly. It's wickedly entertaining (for those not easily offended or upset) and it has a genuinely twisted plot twist.

Classics. Let's be honest, many old horror movies just aren't scary anymore -- tastes change, techniques improve and audiences move on. But some films, when put in context and viewed with an open mind, still have the power to frighten you in the moment, leave you with a lingering dread, or even disrupt your sleep for a night or two. Here's a list of ten American films, in no particular order that I'd encourage you to see. They've earned their space on any list of classics.

The Haunting (1963). Incredibly, this is the movie director Robert Wise made between West Side Story and The Sound of Music. A paranormal investigator recruits an eclectic little group to experience the spirit life of an old mansion.  (Skip the terrible 1999 remake.)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978). This remake of the excellent 1956 film of the same name is a terrific sci-fi/horror mash-up about aliens duplicating humans in San Francisco.

Night of the Living Dead (1968). The original low-budget, black and white zombie apocalypse movie that started it all. The recently dead are coming back to life and eating everybody; radiation may be involved, though writer/director George Romero is rather indifferent about that. Controversial in its day, it remains gruesome and shocking; even some of the stinging social commentary survives.

Carrie (1976). A very satisfying adaptation of Stephen King's novel about relentlessly taunted high-school outcast Carrie -- who discovers her telekinetic powers just in time for prom night. Director Brian DePalma embraces the lurid material, applies a mesmerizing visual style and takes it right over the top where it belongs. Sissy Spacek (as Carrie) and Piper Laurie (as her demented fundamentalist Christian mom) are splendid in their Oscar-nominated roles. (Be afraid: there's a new version coming in 2013.)

The Omen (1976). To truly appreciate this switched-at-birth movie about a couple that brings home the infant antichrist, you just need to go with the preposterous premise and enjoy what the stellar cast and ingenious filmmakers have to offer. The 2006 remake failed, probably because it was unable to improve on the original's inspired setpieces, unforgettable musical score or sheer verve.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). Five kids in a van run out of gas in the wrong part of Texas. The rest is right there in the title. It's grisly and brutal and more of an endurance test than a film. Still, you can't deny the craft involved here or the fact that this is one of the most influential movies ever made.

The Exorcist (1973). If you weren't alive when this first hit theaters, it's nearly impossible to describe the frenzy surrounding this controversial blockbuster. It's the story of a little girl possessed by a demon, or demons. And whether you believe in that sort of thing or not, here's a movie that takes the possibility of it happening very seriously. What makes it so successful, beyond the extraordinary sound design and effects, is that it has the power to make you review/question your own beliefs.

Alien (1979). The idea here is brilliant. Take the most horrific creature imaginable and introduce it as shockingly as possible on board a spaceship with a small crew. Then let the games begin. Sure, it has a sci-fi feel since it takes place centuries in the future and in outer space, but the spaceship is more like a dark, cold and scary old haunted house.

Psycho (1960). The grandfather of all slasher movies still happens to be the best. A restless secretary (Janet Leigh, in one of her very finest performances) embarks on an impromptu road trip, takes the wrong exit and ends up at the Bates Motel, the worst (and most iconic) lodging in America. This is director Alfred Hitchcock at his best, working in black and white and determined to freak you the hell out forever.

Rosemary's Baby (1968). This brilliant adaptation of Ira Levin's novel still feels fresh almost 45 years later, and it just might be my all-time favorite horror film. Mia Farrow is naive, optimistic Rosemary; John Cassavetes is her hungry-for-success actor husband. They move into a Gothic Revival New York City apartment building with eccentric, meddlesome neighbors who appear to be harmless -- at first. Rosemary's desire for a child becomes part of a satanic conspiracy. Simultaneously celebrated and reviled director Roman Polanski draws out terrific performances (especially from Ruth Gordon, in an Oscar-winning role) and creates a vivid, macabre film that expertly mixes paranoia, absurdity and dread.

Puking Pumpkins. They're all the rage. I don't know why.

Tunes. Can a music video be scary? Take a look at "Dead Film Star" from Team Ghost and decide for yourself.

Peace out,

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Tired Old Queen & Another Dead Gay Porn Star, Among Other Things

The Inevitable Demise of a Porn Star. This is Erik Rhodes, gay porn star. No, really, a genuine star. He appeared in or directed over thirty films (including Super Soaked, The Farmer's Son, He's Got a Big Package, L.A. Zombie and It Gets Bigger) for some of the biggest porn companies in the business, like Falcon, Raging Stallion and Mustang. At the 2008 Grabby Awards (honoring work in the gay pornographic industry) he won in the categories of Best Actor and Best Versatile Performer. The muscular, 6'3" Long Island native died on June 14, 2012. He was 30 years old.

James Elliott Naughtin, AKA "Erik Rhodes." 1982-2012
According to Falcon's blog, "Erik died of a heart attack in his sleep." To be honest, I'd never even heard of the guy before this story scrolled through my Facebook news feed. Sure, I watch gay porn; I just never watched any of his. So I decided to look him up and discovered that he was somewhat of a celebrity in New York social circles. He counted Scissor Sisters' Jake Shears among his friends and had been romantically connected to fashion designer Marc Jacobs at one time. But Rhodes was also the author of a candid, sometimes clever and often harrowing confessional blog that pulled no punches about his porn work, prostitution, crystal meth binges and steroid abuse. Yeah, one of the ways you get a body like that is from steroids. According to a New York Times article, Rhodes waning porn career floundered when a company that requires HIV testing of its models informed him he was positive. Judging from blog entries, things took a dark turn for Rhodes in 2009. Eventually he went from using steroids to dealing them. Days before his death, he blogged this response to a question about his "roid cycle."
My cycle right now...
3000 mg of Test Enanthate a week, 2500 mg of Nandrolone Decaonate and 300 mg of Trenbolone acetate. With 5iu of Human Growth Hormone everyday.
I'm waiting until i pop. Or my liver to fails... which every comes first.
I've been reading stories about dead porn stars for decades. AIDS. Overdoses. Suicides. Now Erik Rhodes. How do we even classify this death? It simply cannot be summed up as "died of a heart attack in his sleep." People will ask, why do we care if a porn star dies? Some will literally mourn. Others will say he deserved it, even brought it on himself. And he'll probably be judged for his excesses by a lot of the same gay men who envied his muscles, his big dick, his masculine beauty and his career. I'll never make sense out of things like this.

Here's the thing... years from now some hormonal gay kid will find a photo of Erik Rhodes or one of his videos and beat off vigorously, probably never knowing, or even wanting to know, anything about the real James Elliott Naughtin or his demons. It's only a cautionary tale if someone's listening.
Tired Old Queen at the Movies. One of my favorite YouTube channels is Steve Hayes: Tired Old Queen. Mr. Hayes, a gay comedian, actor and classic film buff, entertains viewers with dishy, funny and very informative commentaries on everything from screwball comedies and camp classics to Technicolor spectacles and film noir. He doesn't just describe the films and show clips -- he uses his vast knowledge of film and Hollywood history to serve up fascinating details about the plots, the stars, the studios, the directors, the controversies and the scandals. It's nostalgic, insightful analysis, all recorded (with the help of fellow actor John Bixler) at his memorabilia-filled studio apartment in New York. The addictive segments are called Tired Old Queen at the Movies, and his latest -- a gay pride special -- is an enthusiastic tribute to 1959's Some Like It Hot, starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe.

Joe the Plumber, Revised.  Remember this guy? Sure you do. He gained national attention during the 2008 presidential election when he confronted candidate Barrack Obama about his small business tax policy plan during a campaign stop in Ohio. His real name is Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, but he was dubbed "Joe the Plumber" by conservative pundits, hailed as some kind of everyman, and turned into a fishy metaphor for middle class Americans. The McCain-Palin campaign invited him to appear at several campaign events in Ohio, too. Wurzelbacher has milked this Joe the Plumber business ever since, ad nauseam, even writing a book about the experience, becoming a self-described motivational speaker as well a TV commentator, although he never has anything to say about plumbing. (And for the record, he was as an employee of a plumbing contractor at the time of his interaction with Obama and has never owned his own business, thus the president's small business plan would not have affected him personally anyway.)

So guess what? He's running for the House of Representatives as a Republican in Ohio's 9th congressional district. Yes, he's a politician now, even though he recently told CBN (The Christian Broadcasting Network), "I see the word politician as being one of the worst things you can call me. You know, I'm not a politician, nor will I ever be one." He says that while sitting in front of a bunch of signs that say "Wurzelbacher for Congress." In his campaign headquarters. For further proof that he is NOT a politician, you can visit his website,

Full disclosure here. I think Wurzelbacher is hot as hell (when he's not speaking). I'd totally fuck the living daylights out of him (in a truck stop in a parallel universe). But he's dumber than a cinder block. For evidence of this, here he is telling CBN that the Bible, unlike science, has never been revised.

The mere fact that a "King James Version" of the Bible exists is simple proof of revision. There isn't even one common version of the Bible, as the contents and the order of the individual books vary among denominations. Joe the Plumber is either breathtakingly ignorant or just pandering to Christians who ARE ignorant. I suspect it's some combination of both.

So Joe's a Bible-loving Christian. But what does he love about America? That would be the 2nd Amendment. To prove it, he's going to shoot a bunch of fruit in a political ad while declaring, "In 1939, Germany established gun control. From 1939 to 1945, six million Jews and seven million others, unable to defend themselves, were exterminated... I love America." Um, yeah, Joe, the problem with what you're saying (beyond its mind-blowing insensitivity) is that the German gun control you're talking about was the 1938 German Weapons Act which forbade only Jews from the manufacturing or ownership of firearms and ammunition. Everyone else could get one at 18. So again, he's either ignorant or pandering to gun owners. I've decided it's both. Here's a plumbing metaphor even Joe can understand: This guy has all the charm of a toilet that won't quit running. Someone, please jiggle the hell out of his handle and make it stop.

My Favorite Music Video(s) of the Week. These...

In 2011, rapper/singer/lyricist Azealia Banks made every kind of year-end hot list on the strength of her debut single "212." Hailing from Harlem, New York, Banks is gorgeous, profane, publicly bisexual and 21 years old. She's not interested in defending her explicit lyrics either, saying she just uses "everyday speech," like it or not. The video for her latest rap/dance single, "Liquorice," is a glossy whirlwind of American iconography, Old West movie cliches and overtly sexual imagery (made to look deliberately ridiculous).

SSION (it's pronounced "shun") has been around since 1996. You could describe them as dance/pop performance art freaks, and they would probably be just fine with that. "Earthquake" sounds like an awesome '80s song that someone inexplicably forgot to release in the '80s. Music channel Noisey described the clip like this: "SSION's new video is a coming of age love story between an enigmatic instigator and an alien-brother-lover resulting in the purest form of magik with a bit of feminism and Las Vegas showmanship thrown in for good measure, all shot in Kansas City." I love it.

Peace out,

Friday, June 1, 2012

Ain't No Homo Gonna Make it to Heaven, Among Other Things

Eurovision Song Contest 2012 Winner. Forty-two countries participated in the competition this year, held in Baku, Azerbaijan. I'll spare you the complexities of the positional voting system and just tell you that Loreen, representing Sweden, received the most votes for her interpretation of "Euphoria." A 2004 runner-up from Sweden's version of American Idol (called simply Idol), Loreen had released only a handful of singles prior to her participation in the competition, including "My Heart Is Refusing Me" -- unreleased in the U.S.

The exotically gorgeous Loreen is a Stockholm, Sweden native of Moroccan-Berber descent. She's got a terrific voice, bringing an unexpected gravitas to "Euphoria," an infectious dance tune that's destined to be a huge club hit. Here's her Eurovision Grand Final performance, in which she successfully overcomes a number of obstacles, including murky lighting, a wind machine and her own hair, all while dancing like a robot ballerina. In other words, I love her.

I became aware of the 57-year-old Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 when ABBA came out on top with "Waterloo." Now viewed by over 100 million people each year, the competition has been hailed as a captivating mix of youthful exuberance, questionable taste and kitsch that allows Europeans to forget their differences (and economic worries) for a while. The winner is selected by juries and television viewers across the European continent. Incidentally, this year's runner up was Buranovskiye Babushki, a sextet of Russian grandmothers who scored with a folksy dance number called "Party for Everybody." If that doesn't melt your Cold War heart, nothing will.

For a recap of all the songs performed at the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final, go here. I promise it's worth 6:47 of your time. My favorites are #3, 6, 8, 14, 18, 21 and 23, though not necessarily because of the song or the singing.

Ain't No Homos Gonna Make It To Heaven. Someone at the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle in Greensburg, Indiana thought it would be a delightful idea to teach a 4-year-old a little song to sing for the congregation. It goes like this...

I know the Bible's right, somebody's wrong
I know the Bible's right, somebody's wrong
Romans 1 and 27
Ain't no homo gonna make it to heaven

See for yourself...

I guess it never occurred to them to teach the kid "Jesus Loves Me." This little boy doesn't even know what he's singing. I doubt he could find Romans in the Bible, let alone read it and make sense of it. A parent taught him this, maybe even the one you hear whooping "That's my boy!" in the video. You know how religious people are always saying that homosexuals recruit and indoctrinate children? It's not only a myth, it's projection. All you have to do is look at this video for conclusive evidence of who's doing the recruiting and the indoctrinating.

After this video went viral, church members claimed publicly that Pastor Jeff Sangl received death threats. Sangl put the church on "lockdown" and fled to an undisclosed location with his wife. I do not condone threats of any kind against this pastor or his congregation. But the problem with the story is that multiple sources -- including Fox News! -- are reporting that the sheriff of the county where the church is located has not seen or heard any evidence of death threats.

My Favorite Music Video(s) of the Week. That "Ain't No Homo" business aside, it was an outstanding week for music videos. Here are the ones that made the biggest impression on me.

First up, Scissor Sisters and "Baby Come Home." Their latest album is the adventurous Magic Hour. Videos for two songs have already been released, but this one features the band at its sexy, puckish best. Fetish alert: Babydaddy in a sailor suit. Yum.

I like Aussie singer Kylie Minogue. She's makes smashing dance/pop singles. Gay singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright once said of her, "She is the gay shorthand for joy." Agreed. Here's the video for "Timebomb," which has been released in commemoration of her 25th year in pop music. She just turned 44, though you might not guess that from this clip of her strutting along the busy streets of London's SoHo neighborhood in a pair of hot pants.

Now for something completely different... here's Brooklyn rapper El-P with "The Full Retard." If the title alone doesn't offend you, I guarantee something in the clip will. Here we have El-P teaming up with a squirrel puppet. There's a crime spree. And debauchery. Yeah, the puppet goes to some dark, fucked up places. It's a bangin' song and a hilarious video (once you accept it as a parody of a million bad rap videos and terrible badass movies), but it's totally NSFW (not safe for work). Seriously.

Okay, one more. Here's three minutes of sensational Swedish electro-dance-pop that will make you forget all about the demented, murderous, heroin addicted squirrel puppet in the video above. This is Icona Pop, a female duo from Sweden, with their bouncy clip for the bratty, bombastic single "I Love It." I loved it.

Peace out,

Friday, May 25, 2012

Robin Gibb is Dead, Jim Parsons is Gay & The Real Sin of Sodom, Among Other Things

Bazinga! He's Gay! James Joseph "Jim" Parsons is the scene-stealing, two-time Emmy-winning actor who plays theoretical physicist Sheldon Cooper on CBS's The Big Bang Theory. Reviewers and fans of the show have long speculated that the quirky character has Asperger syndrome and/or obsessive-compulsive disorder, and though technically straight, is so repressed that it doesn't matter. Now a New York Times profile matter-of-factly describes Parsons as "gay and in a 10-year relationship," a bit of information that probably does not surprise fans with sensitive gaydar. More interesting news, for me at least, is that Parsons has been cast in Ryan Murphy's screen adaptation of The Normal Heart, Larry Kramer's fierce (and largely autobiographical) play about HIV/AIDS activism in the early1980s.    

For at least a couple of years now, I already assumed Jim Parsons was gay. When comments and links to various articles starting coming through my Facebook news feed about it, I was only surprised by the number of tacky, cynical responses I kept reading. Like, "In other news, water was revealed to be wet today," or "Was this supposed to be shocking?"

Here's what I think. There are certainly people all across America who did not know Jim Parsons is gay; they will be surprised. And there are certainly gay and lesbian kids who will take some comfort in this revelation. It's a big deal when a star from the highest-rated sitcom on television comes out. But I feel like LGBT celebrities can never really please our community, no matter what they do. There's always going to be someone screaming "Why didn't he do this five years ago!" 

As far as I'm concerned, celebrities get to come out when it feels right to them, just like the rest of us. Lily Tomlin was 30 years into her career before she ever made it official. Sean Hayes from Will & Grace did not publicly discuss his sexual orientation until 2010, after the show had been off the air for four years. No matter how or when a celebrity comes out, their timing is never going to make everybody happy. And I'm genuinely weary of this idea that all gay celebrities have to spill their guts to People or The Advocate or Entertainment Tonight or Oprah or any publication or news program in order to make their sexual orientation real for everyone else.

For instance, here's actor Victor Garber with his partner, model and artist Rainer Andreesen. Garber never speaks of his personal life, ever, but is occasionally photographed with Andreesen and has been openly supportive of marriage equality. Does his failure to have ever graced the cover of People magazine with the words "I'm Gay!" next to his face make him any less gay? And if he did show up on  Ellen next week and tell the country's most famous lesbian that he's gay, wouldn't there be all kinds of people screaming, "Why didn't he say that when he starred in Titanic?"

The Real Sin of Sodom. A few years ago I invited theatrical performance activist Peterson Toscano to appear at a gay men's conference I was coordinating. Peterson has a fascinating backstory. He spent 17 years and over $30,000 in reparative therapy attempting to change and suppress his homosexuality and gender differences. In January of 1999 he finally came out and accepted himself as a gay man. Since then he's traveled the world as a survivor of the ex-gay movement, using comedy, storytelling and one-man plays to explore LGBTQ issues, sexism, racism, violence and gender. He also takes a radically realistic look at Bible stories, too. In this recent video from his YouTube channel, Peterson re-examines the Genesis story of Sodom, a part of the Bible that I've always found creepy and disturbing. Peterson says the story isn't about homosexuality at all. I agree.

Here's Your Religious Fruitcake of the Week. That would be Pastor Charles L. Morely of Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, North Carolina. President Obama's recent announcement that he supports same-sex marriage made the pastor "pukin' sick," so he got up in the pulpit and delivered a sermon that included a plan for killing off gays and lesbians. It goes like this:
"Build a great big, large fence -- 150 or 100 mile long -- put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals. And have that fence electrified 'til they can't get out. Feed 'em, and you know what?  In a few years they'll die out. You know why? They can't reproduce."
Even Hitler himself would have rolled his eyes at this "Final Solution." Apparently it has not occurred to Pastor Morely that heterosexual couples outside the fence are going to keep having gay and lesbian babies. But wasn't that food drop business a compassionate twist?

You know, I can't even be outraged by this kind of language anymore. I pity him and his entire congregation, especially the ones condoning this plan with a hearty "Amen!" I don't even care that he said it, or that he won't take it back. I'll even defend his right to say it. What deeply offends me is that repugnant religious terrorists like Pastor Morely have tax-exempt status while preaching this bullshit. And that's not right. He and his ilk have abandoned Christianity.

R.I.P. Robin Gibb. First we lost Donna Summer to cancer, and now Robin Gibb succumbs after a long battle himself. If that name doesn't quite ring a bell, think Bee Gees. Robin, an extraordinarily gifted singer/songwriter, was the brother of Barry and Maurice Gibb. Sure, most people think of the Bee Gees as the '70s disco group whose music was omnipresent during the latter half of that decade, but I remember their pre-disco work in the 1960s and early '70s. That's when Robin's tender vibrato was featured on a number of Bee Gee's hits, including "I've Gotta Get a Message to You," "I Started a Joke" and "New York Mining Disaster 1941." The group disbanded in 1969, primarily because Robin wanted to fly solo. But people wanted the brothers Gibb together, so Barry, Maurice and Robin regrouped in 1970, scoring more hits like "Lonely Days" and "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart." 

Fearing they had become mired in a creative rut, the brothers relocated from London to Miami and reinvented themselves, eventually releasing 1975's Main Course, a breakthrough album that was divided between romantic balladry and tunes with an aggressive beat. And although brother Barry's falsetto emerged as the dominate voice, Robin continued to co-write the songs and make those three-part harmonies soar. Then came Saturday Night Fever, the movie soundtrack that sold 15 million copies and stayed at the top of the Billboard album chart for 24 consecutive weeks. Robin co-wrote eight of the 17 songs on the soundtrack.

Robin's fraternal twin brother Maurice died in 2003; brother Andy died in 1988. He's survived by his wife Dwina; mother, Barbara; daughter Melissa, sons Spencer and RJ, and brother Barry. 

Robin's solo efforts are largely forgotten, but he managed to crack the Billboard Hot 100 in 1984 with a skippy new wave synthpop number called "Boys Do Fall in Love." Back in those pre-Internet days when we didn't have access to every detail of a celebrity's life, I wondered if Robin Gibb was gay. He wasn't, even though this is exactly the kind of song that feels like it could only have been written by a gay dude. If Donna Summer is an obvious gay muse, Robin Gibb is a sly one.

And we try to be cool as we dance in a crowded room
At the end of the day, makin' love to a paper moon

Peace out,

Friday, May 18, 2012

Donna Summer is Dead and Dubstep Lives, Among Other Things

R.I.P. Donna Summer. Yes, I'm old enough to remember the assassinations of a president and a civil rights leader, the scandal of Watergate, the tragedy of Vietnam and the surreal exclamation point that followed it all: disco. Seriously, after all that, who can blame people for just wanting to tune out and dance? But has there ever been a musical genre more maligned than disco? Donna Summer, dubbed the Queen of Disco since the late '70s, has died of cancer at the age of 63. Even if disco is not your thing, it's impossible to dismiss the splendor of her mezzo-soprano vocal range or her accomplishments as an artist.

Born Ladonna Adrian Gaines, Summer's first success came in European stage productions of Hair and Godspell in the early '70s. Then she met legendary producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte who convinced her to record 1975's star-making, erotically-charged whisper-and-moan ballad "Love to Love You Baby," a song with one-hit wonder written all over it. But Summer emerged as a bonafide force to be reckoned with, recording 32 singles that charted on the Billboard Hot 100; fourteen of them made it into the top ten. She was the first artist to have three double-albums reach No. 1 on Billboard's album chart, won five Grammys, and experimented with a variety of styles when disco faded, like pop-rock, new jack swing and gospel/inspirational. Of her hits, I like "Dim All the Lights" (which contains the longest sustained note sung by a female artist in a top 40 song in both the US and UK, at about sixteen seconds), and "MacArthur Park," a stunning, peerless rendition of song that was covered by everyone from actors Richard Harris and Howard Keel to country stars Waylon Jennings and Glen Campbell (yes!). But you can't beat "Hot Stuff," a perfect disco-rock fusion with scorching electric guitars and a classic keyboard riff.

No one this famous ever avoids controversy. In the early '80s, following a divorce and depression, Donna Summer became a born-again Christian and attempted to shed her sultry, sex kitten image, wishing to be taken more seriously and reinvent herself as an artist. Speaking casually to a group of fans after a 1983 concert, she shared some details about her faith. A man in the group identified himself as having AIDS and asked Summer to pray for him. She said she would, hugged him and then encouraged him to turn his life over to Jesus (which, you know, is something Christians tend to do). Afterwards, a rumor started that she claimed AIDS, only recently discovered but already killing a lot of people, was divine punishment from God against gays for an immoral lifestyle. Summer vehemently denied ever saying anything like that for the rest of her career, and in fact, eyewitnesses have since come forward to say that the story is simply a myth. Some context... in the early '80s, plenty of preachers and so-called Christian groups and organizations were demonizing gay men and characterizing AIDS as retribution from God. When Summer became a born-again Christian, some gay men were all too willing to believe Donna Summer had become the enemy. Not me. I'm going to remember Ms. Summer as one of those artists who contributed significantly to the soundtrack of my life.

Summer is survived by her husband Bruce Sudano, their daughters Brooklyn and Amanda, as well as her daughter Mimi from a previous marriage.

It's A Viral Thing. The Internet makes it possible for anything to go viral, like this video, simply entitled "Teachers Dancing Behind Students." Massachusetts high school history teacher Mike Penney pulled out a camera and asked students to reflect on the ups and downs of the school year that's drawing to a close -- all while his fellow teachers secretly danced in the background. Then he replaced the audio with Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" and posted it to YouTube. The clip amassed over 800,000 views in a week; the students are reportedly amused by the prank. Two observations: Abby Kelley High School appears to have a disproportionate number of sexy bear teachers, and the adorable cub in the black sweater that shows up at :50 has got some sweet moves.

Homophobic Moment of the Week. In Lincoln, Nebraska, recently, the city council listened to public comments about their proposed "Fairness Ordinance," a measure that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city's non-discrimination law. A woman identified as Jane Svoboda shows up to oppose the ordinance, offering up a series of bizarre observations on gay sex, HIV/AIDS, and Hillary Clinton's sexual orientation, among other things, before finally proclaiming that, "Jesus was kissed by Judas, a homo, who tried to sabotage Jesus' kind ideas. Do you choose Jesus, a celibate, or Judas, a homo? You have to choose!"

This would all be too painful to watch if it weren't for the comical reaction of the guy sitting behind her. Now here's the twist. After this video went viral, Jane Svoboda's brother came forward to let everyone know that she's a diagnosed schizophrenic who lives in an assisted living home and he's her conservator because she's incompetent. He figured it was only a matter of time before she got into trouble. According to brother Patrick Svoboda, "She does have a very tender heart... but anything she says is certifiably schizophrenic... she's not some crazy conservative." But, see, the thing is... she doesn't sound terribly different from a lot of conservatives I hear railing against gay rights ... the ones who haven't actually been diagnosed as certifiably schizophrenic... yet.

My Favorite Music Video(s) of the Week. There's a dubstep artist named Skrillex whose music sounds like his name. He's achieved trans-continental fame and won three Grammys earlier this year. His video for "Bangarang" has been out several months now, accumulating a staggering 33 million views on YouTube. He's hot. But what is dubstep? It's a genre of electronic dance music that originated in South London, England. It's characterized by killer bass lines and reverberant drum patterns, clipped samples and occasional vocals. And since I hear people constantly maligning it, dubstep may very well be the new disco. But I digress. Watch the video for Skrillex's "Bangarang" and decide for yourself.

I showed you that so that I could show you this. If you want an honest opinion about dubstep and "Bangarang," ask a kid. The folks at music channel Noisey did just that.

Peace out,

Friday, May 4, 2012

Munch's Scream and The 3-Second Rule, Among Other Things

Among other things I found online this week...

The Scream. One of the most recognizable paintings in the world has been sold at auction through Sotheby's. The Scream, Norwegian artist Edvard Munch's vivid expressionist depiction of psychological anxiety (or angst, depending on who you ask), sold for the record-breaking sum of nearly $120 million dollars. Considered priceless by many, the pastel on board work was expected to fetch around $80 million, but it easily surpassed the previous record for an artwork sold at auction --  $106 million for Picasso's Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust in 2010.

There are four versions of the painting -- three hang in Norwegian museums and this was the last one privately owned. So who bought The Scream?  Sotheby's is not disclosing that information, but Chinese billionaires are dominating the art world these days. So what does a Sotheby's auction look like? This short clip provides a glimpse of the process.

The artist, Edvard Munch (1863-1944), never married but is alleged to have had a number of heterosexual affairs. There's been some speculation but no confirmation that he was gay, very likely because his nude works feature women and men. He painted The Scream in 1893 and this is his explanation for creating the iconic painting.
"I was walking down the road with two friends when the sun set; suddenly, the sky turned red as blood. I stopped and leaned against the fence, feeling unspeakably tired. Tongues of fire and blood stretched over the bluish black fjord. My friends went on walking, while I lagged behind, shivering with fear. Then I heard the enormous, infinite scream of nature."
 Yeah, I can relate. Incidentally, here's what he looked like...

3 Second Rule, 15 Minutes of Fame. Now for something completely different to get the bitter taste of Bryan Fischer out of our mouths. Here's singer/songwriter Lisa Gail Allred, a Texas native who's been singing since she was a child. In the last two weeks, the homemade video for her country/pop song "3 Second Rule" has gone viral, because it's unintentionally hilarious and she sings like those people who get roundly rejected during the auditions portion of American Idol. It's got hot cowboys, camel toe (at 1:26) and vocal nirvana (at 2:34). Haters gonna mock, but it's maddeningly catchy as shit. And who can blame her for pursuing a dream? I just hope she makes some money from all the fun covers already turning up on YouTube.

My Favorite Music Video(s) of the Week. First up is the clip for "Wandering Sailor" by Brooklyn-based duo Kingship (Paul Leschen and Chris Hall). For their first ever video they've delivered a dreamy, sexy homage to the little-seen 1982 foreign film Querelle. The song is a pretty solid retro-rocker with great vocals (okay, his voice may be an acquired taste), and the video is just the right mix of tongue-in-cheek camp -- though you may have problems with the ending; I didn't.

And this is B.A.P.,  a South Korean hip hop boy band (yup, that's a thing). Their name stands for Best Absolute Perfect. The song is called "Power" and the video is a giddy, expensive, elaborately choreographed spectacle featuring a crashed spaceship and aerosol spray cans. It's all kinds of wonderful terrible.

Peace out,