Monday, December 31, 2007
Click the titles below for the full stories:
700 club: "I-35 can stop homosexuality"
The War on the Walls
A Bouncer Tells Jurors Assassins Framed Him
'Green Hannuka' Campaign Sparks Ire
Police Academy Class Slogan: Cause PTSD
UN Joins Forces with Marvel Comics
Real Life Laughing Policemen
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Monday, December 24, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
To look for our generation's Lawrence Welk and Jimi Hendrix is to inquire into the state, location, and acknowledgment of the human soul in contemporary Western culture.
I'm not speaking of soul in the religious sense, but in the basic sense of the "anima", that force of being which may or may not animate us beyond the energy generated by basic human metabolism.
When Welk refers to the Beatles and the Monkees (we'll forgive him the association of a band-turned-media-phenomenon with a media-constructed-band) and says he's "thrown open the gates of the zoo," implying that not only were the popular bands of the day named after animals but comprised of them, and lampoons the fashions of the "counter-culture" while demonstrating that his band could play "that music" too, he was valiantly sticking up for himself and his audience, who surely felt ridiculed, lampooned, and threatened by the younger generation's open spirituality.
A cynic might argue that Welk was a couple of years ahead of the music industry in stripping off the trappings of sixties cool to reveal the safe, clean, well-pressed suit underneath, and I would probably agree with them.
It's significant that Welk made Polka his milieu. In its pure form, Polka is ecstatic and cathartic dance music in which the collective energy of a large group of humans is channeled through wind and reed instruments into elaborate scales and rhythms intended to drive complicated and demanding dance moves designed for couples.
And although Welk made his name by rendering Polka tepid, sexless, mid-tempo and to my mind boring, I would never go so far as to speculate that he and his cohorts didn't have a soul under their frilly costumes and well-coifed hair. I didn't know them personally.
What I will speculate on is that they believed in handling the soul in a particular way.
For Welk and his ilk, popular culture was a common ground, free of excitement, arousal, and emotions which might be unpleasant, unsettling, or unseemly. He was a warm and engaging host who, perhaps, took the signature highly structured Western approach to spirituality a bit too far.
And then there's Jimi.
In much the same way that a Polka band channels energy and tones through trombones and accordions, Jimi Hendrix channels it through electricity and magnets.
He is the Nikolai Tesla to Lawrence Welk's Thomas Edison.
And while Hendrix's feedback and dissonance puts off some audiences, few would write his music off as "just noise." Hendrix's music often subjugates structure to sound, and he freely bends the constraints of the songs he plays to inspiration, but even when he's on his knees or slamming his guitar into his stack, the guy is there. His self is present and he's in control. He manages to single-handedly wield and conduct an amount of energy equal to or greater than a dancehall full of Vodka-fueled Slavs blasting away on trumpets.
And what happens?
In the clip from Royal Albert Hall, the audience, coming from a repressive Western background, goes nuts and decide they have to smash themselves against his stack.
Possibly the most culturally compelling image in the video (even more so than the crotch-shot), is the moment at the end, when Jimi's seen in the wings, shaking his head in disappointment. These people can't control themselves, he seems to be saying, and I'm gonna get blamed.
Which is exactly what the Welk crowd feared.
Which, perhaps, is why ecstatic ritual evolved from individual channeling of spirit into carefully choreographed group pageantry.
Does Hendrix represent a de-evolution or an evolution of ecstatic ritual?
Ultimately, I believe the latter, but I'm neither a theologian nor a sociologist.
So where does that leave us today?
Interestingly, Balkan brass bands have fallen into vogue over the last several years, inspired by the popularity among young cognoscenti of the films of Emir Kusturica, and embodied at its most dangerous and ecstatic by Eugene Hutz and his band Gogol Bordello, and at its most scrubbed and safe by the kid from the band Beirut.
While I don't doubt the authenticity of Eugene's energy or talent as a performer, and the kid from Beirut writes good pop songs, the "Gypsy Punk" movement is neither Lawrence Welk nor Jimi Hendrix but somewhere in-between. Modern, white consumers of media are looking for the 'soul' in 'their' music.
It is here worth mentioning that this musical genre has gained an audience and a popularity (possibly fleeting if not already fled) with a minimum of traditional media exposure.
Which brings me to my opinion that our Lawrence Welk is both culturally pervasive and invisible. He is in the standards and practices office at Viacom/Paramount. He haunts the offices of Clear Channel. He books bands for the Vans Warped Tour.
He is in the hearts of fashionistas who snap cell-phone pictures of the coolest kids on their way to high school and have their looks in Old Navy before the end of first period.
He is on the head of every douchebag with a faux-hawk wearing a polo shirt.
He has entered the mainframe of our cultural consciousness in a way that Tim Leary could only trip about.
And where is our Jimi Hendrix?
If he hadn't died, would he still be on the radio?
Will the ghost of Lawrence Welk ever allow him back into the mainstream? Is the mainstream any more equipped to handle him?
I'm convinced he's still around, in the heart of everyone who still has the guts to do something new rather than embody some branded lifestyle they've been culturally programmed to aspire to.
And the Sly and Stevie clips you picked represent perhaps the best examples this culture has to offer of the marriage of virtuosity, cultural accessibility, and soul.
What the fuck happened?
copyright, © 2007 Andy Biscontini
Andy Biscontini's film EVERY DOG'S DAY is available here. It's even on sale for the holidays, so what are you waiting for?
Thursday, December 13, 2007
WARNING: RUDE LANGUAGE FOLLOWS.
Today I had to kill my phone’s text messaging functionality (not a huge loss) after Cingular (now AT&T) informed me they simply did not have the technology to block specific phone numbers. Seems like something they should be able to handle, being not just a phone company but AT and fucking T, after all, but hey, they assured me they’re working on it. All in good time, I’m sure.
The problem is, ever since I started with Cingular (about a year and a half ago?), I've intermittently been on the receiving end of Spanish-language text messages from a telephone number in Mexico—directed, I’m presuming, at whoever it was who had my number before me. I'd never responded to them before now, thinking whoever was sending them would eventually realize they weren’t reaching their party. But they never did figure it out, and yesterday I got another one:
Perhaps feeling a bit of the holiday spirit, this time I replied. After all, who knows? Maybe it’s someone trying to contact a long lost friend or loved one all this time; perhaps my lack of response was sending an inaccurate message. What’s more, every time I send or receive a text, AT&T charges me 15 cents for the privilege, and I’ve been keeping a tally: the mystery Mexican’s communiqués were on track to reach the $3 mark by the first quarter of ’08! So after a year and a half of radio silence, I clicked “reply” and sent the simple message,
Figuring that was the end of it, I was surprised to feel the phone hum in my pocket a few minutes later. They had texted me again, saying cryptically,
"Graciela aguilar rodrigues (sic)"
Was that who’s been writing me all this time? Or was that who they were trying to contact? Did it really matter? I wrote back,
"No. Wrong number."
To which they replied,
"Preguntale a tu mama" ("Ask your mama")
Ask my…! Son of a bitch. How does one respond to such a thing, particularly after already extending what, 30 cents worth of courtesy to the party in question? And that’s just today!
I guess I could have fallen back on some of my out-of-practice Spanish; it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that I can still remember most of the insults and swear words, even as I continue to mangle transactions as simple as a taco order.
Besides, I began to entertain the fantasy that my correspondent didn’t speak English, and I decided to give them something they’d have to ask a bilingual friend to translate for them, compounding their humiliation. I took the lowest road I could:
As that seemed a particularly stinging phrase to be left unable to respond to, I decided it was time to take an abrupt leave of the discussion.
I called AT&T, and when they couldn’t block the number, I told them to just cancel my text messaging capability completely, rendering my phone incapable of either giving or receiving—just in time for the season renowned for both!
In conclusion, don’t bother text messaging me any time soon; I won’t get it. And if any of you care to make the acquaintance of my new friend in Mexico, they can be reached at 011 52 962 125 7364.
Oh, and ask for Graciela; I’m pretty sure their mom is busy.
* For the record, I don't have a dog.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
Friday, December 7, 2007
Are we "all one" or are we "many?"
+ + +
Here are the two other videos that were in the running for anti-Welk.
And this chestnut:
(I'm sorry, did you see the child at :40 and again at 4:10? Do they roll that way on Bob The Builder? Does Square Pants swing this hard? Does Barney provide a similar vehicle encouraging the children to feel and celebrate their life, their prana, their orgone?)
+ + +
So really now, who is OUR Lawrence Welk? Certainly we must have one, musn't we?
Who can deny Lawrence Welk provided an essential function in our 'culture?'
What was Lawrence Welk's function? What was Lawrence Welk doing by invoking hippy imagery? How did that make his guests feel? Were they annoyed? Were they relieved? Were they validated? Were they misled?
Who was that audience? Do they 'matter?' Do they 'count?'
Certainly someone or some group is performing that function in our culture, to "us."
Certainly someone or some group is diluting and diffusing highly idiosyncratic cultural sentiments and statements through the magic of caricature, pasteurization and/or 'tribute.'
Can someone or some group concentrate, deepen and/or elaborate highly idiosyncratic cultural sentiments and statements through the magic of caricature, pasteurization and/or 'tribute'?
Does it work that way?
Can a caricature, pasteurization or 'tribute' to an original be "better" than the original?
Can it be more "original" than the "original?"
Can it have more of the "original essence" than the "original?" Can it have any the "original essence" at all?
Can it annunciate the "original" message more clearly than the "original" annunciator?
I'm not entirely sure the answer to all those questions are no. Sad, ain't it. Just the same, even if all the answer to all those questions is no, that doesn't mean that Lawrence Welk (and Lawrence Welk 2.0, 2.1, 3.0, etc) doesn't have an essential function in our culture and/or economy. A lot of people really really loved them some Lawrence Welk and a lot of people really really still do.
Which (for me) beggs the question Is music really a temporal art?
Does music ever end?
Is that good or bad?
copyright © 2008 Stanley Jason Zappa
from the press release:
Jason Lee &
In addition to his career as a popular actor, Jason Lee is an established patron of the art scene in
Undertaken in the Spring of ’06, “Morocco, Asymmetrically” charts a voyage from Marrakech, over the Atlas mountains, out to the Sahara desert and up into the more cosmopolitan yet equally ancient cities of Fez and Tangier.
Currently at work on SCAR, a collection of celebrity photographs, Meeno says of
The exhibition will be held December 8th at 7:00 p.m. at
Refreshments to be provided by The Margarita King.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Who is our Laurence Welk?
Who is our Jimi Hendrix?
Is there still that much distance between our Lawrence and our Jimi, or has that distance shrunk over the last 40 years? I'm asking. I don't listen to enough music to know.
If 'that distance' has shrunk, Why is that? How does that work? What or who activates the shrinking part?
Who would you have rather seen? Lawrence Welk gone hippy or Jimi Hendrix in 1969? I pick Jimi Hendrix in 1969. (I like the feed back parts the best.)
Mind you, there were and still are many many people who would choose Lawrence Welk over Jimi Hendrix and there were and still are many many people who actively don't like Jimi Hendrix (especially the feedback parts.) What is that all about?
That is a constant source of amazement and wonder. Why do some people choose Jimi and other people choose Lawrence?
Does it have anything to biology? Is culture connected to biology? Is culture the enemy of biology?
copyright © 2008 Stanley Jason Zappa
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
By the time this is over, the rug will be ruined and Ron will be dead. I will eventually own another home, but I will never throw another dinner party.
My name is Amanda Andersen. I am thirty-seven years old and my previous dinner parties have contributed to two divorces (one of them mine), the dissolution of eight friendships (four of them mine), and two career-ending humiliations (not counting tonight, neither of them mine).
One could say I should have learned a lesson. One could also kiss my ass.
I owe these people something, don’t I? After all, I hired them into a company that’s never been anything more than a saleable asset that’s about to sell. These people have spent two years of their life as pawns in a game that I, as a partner, stand to make a lot of money off of, and their severance packages are like nothing.
The least I can give them is a nice dinner.
I mean what the hell? Right?
I’m hiding in the backyard behind the shed smoking a joint with Bobby Fuller under the trees and the moonlight. Bobby is nineteen but I like to think of him as seventeen. He is an intern. I traded the entire marketing department a day at the spa for him. I enjoy giving him jobs that involve him picking up file boxes and putting them on high shelves. I like to stand close to him when showing him how to use the copy machine or fax machine and I like to think that he’s only pretending to still not know how to do it. I wear short skirts on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays because I like it when he checks out my legs. I have very nice legs.
And I like to see his blue eyes go starry as he passes me the joint. I brush his fingers when I take it. I haven’t smoked weed in years but I take a deep hit. My lungs burn and my loins tingle and my head starts to unfold. Oh, Bobby.
He’s saying something but I don’t care. He’s been talking since we came out here, going on and on about something.
I stroke his thigh and run my hand over his teenage boner. He doesn’t stop talking. I run my hand around his ass and pull him towards me. I clamp his lower torso between my legs and I pull his face into my cleavage. He doesn’t stop talking. What’s wrong with this boy? I’ve seen him looking at my legs. And he’s just talking. Where are his hands? Where’s his tongue? Why else would a seventeen-year-old boy schlep out to the suburbs on a Friday night for a dinner party at his former boss’s house if not for a piece of her, right? When I was seventeen, a boy knew how to bust a move.
Christ. I have guests. I don’t have time for this crap.
I leave Bobby mumbling away in the grass, brush myself off, and cross the yard to the warm lights of kitchen.
Ron is at the sink doing the dishes.
“There you are,” he says.
“Don’t do the dishes,” I tell him.
Bobby comes in the door behind me with his shirt untucked and his fly down.
“XYZ champ,” Ron says.
Bobby smiles dumbly and zips up, giving me a daffy grin. The kid’s an idiot. I can no longer pretend he isn’t. He goes into the other room.
Ron gives me a look.
“What?” I don’t say it, I just give him a look.
“Are you stoned?” he asks me.
“No.” I had an obvious affair with Ron last year to help facilitate the breakup of my marriage. He has had a difficult time accepting the fact that that’s all it was and my fucking him was not an invitation into my life.
“Things can’t go on like this,” he says, drying his hands with the dishcloth. Is he fucking serious?
“Ron,” I say, then I can’t think of what to say next, so I just say, “…fuck.”
He doesn’t know what it means, but he thinks it means something because that’s the kind of guy he is and that’s why he and I will never have a relationship.
The Ghost does me a favor and smashes a lamp in the other room.
“What was that?” Ron asks.
“I’ll take care of it. Just do the dishes.” I tell him, and head back into the living room, where my blue Adler lamp is smashed on the floor and Pam is trembling.
“It just flew off the table…” she says, “All by itself!”
I had known the house was haunted when I moved in. The Realtor had warned me that it had driven the previous owners out. But I figured what the hell? How bad could it be, right?
And it really wasn’t so bad.
The Ghost opened and closed doors, but didn’t slam them. When it turned the T.V. on in the middle of the night, it kept the volume low. It took the cap off the toothpaste, but I didn’t care about that. And when it rearranged the kitchen it always did so according to an easily decipherable logic.
The Adler lamp is the first thing it’s broken. Which is cool because it got me away from Ron and not cool cause that lamp cost a lot of money and now Pam is totally freaked out.
Pam is my age. She wears soft pastel-colored sweaters and beige rayon skirts and considers herself open-minded because she describes things she doesn’t understand as “funky.” Pam once said she likes me because I’m “funky.” I don’t like that because I associate the word ‘funky’ with the smell of athletic undergarments.
My little brother puts his arm around her to comfort her. He’s trying to get laid. I can tell. It’s slim pickings at this party, but my little bro’s unstoppable. In high school he had sex with every one of my friends, which made me jealous. I have always wanted to have sex with my little brother.
Creepy William is standing over the lamp, stroking his stringy beard. William wears bad brown shirts, has joggers’ man-breasts, smells like a health-food store, and spends all his time in the office composing ranting internal emails about new ways to approve office efficiency and minimize environmental impact. He once told me he considered me his intellectual equal. He found out about this party by accident.
“It seemed to lift off the table before it fell,” he says.
Bobby Fuller sips a glass of wine and sits on the window sill. He stares at my legs as I bend down to pick up the pieces of the lamp, pie-eyed and smiling softly. I have no respect for his generation.
It’s taken this long for Ryan to spring into action. “Is there anything I can do?” he asks, “Can I get some sort of dustpan or a broom or something?” Ryan is from somewhere in the Midwest, one of the states that begins with ‘I’. He is thick and earnest and serious to the point of being a little spooky. I have visions of Ryan showing up for work everyday long after the office is gone, sitting patiently among the empty cubicles as newspapers and tumbleweeds blow past him, then going home and punching a hole in his refrigerator door out of frustration. His mousy pear-shaped bug-eyed girlfriend whose name I’m not going to remember is sitting in the corner eating a wedge of brie with a fork as if it were a piece of pie.
Todd and Amy aren’t paying any attention at all. Todd is the only other partner who came to the party. Amy was hired as his secretary and he promptly seduced her on a bet, after which they settled quickly into an impressive cycle of misery with which they both seem very happy. When apart, they bitch incessantly about each other. When together, they drag some poor third party into a conversation in which they lay out each other’s shortcomings and compete for the listener’s sympathies.
Tonight their victim is Mokimbe.
Mokimbe is African and I’m proud of myself for hiring him because I’m intimidated by black people. His accent makes me feel very international. He watches Todd and Amy go back and forth, genuinely entertained. He catches my eye and smiles.
For a moment I feel like I see the party through his eyes. The bunch of us, hanging in this haunted room like wayward atoms in a dysfunctional molecule that will never find a bond.
Then Ron comes out of the kitchen.
Everything begins to move slowly.
The ten-inch knife comes flying out of the kitchen in a straight line after him.
It enters his back and pokes through his shirt.
He doesn’t know what hit him.
Nobody knows what hit him.
He tries to talk and chokes up blood.
He craps himself loudly.
Pam screams and clings to my little brother, whose hand closes over her left tit.
Ron pitches forward onto his face. The knife pushes up through his back.
His blood soaks into the carpet.
I’m lying on my back in the grass behind the shed, under the stars and the trees smoking Bobby Fuller’s joint.
I wonder if the homeowner is liable for the actions of the home.
I think I hear a roller coaster.
I feel a free-fall in the pit of me.
It feels alright.
copyright, © 2006, 2007 Andy Biscontini
Monday, December 3, 2007
Saturday, December 1, 2007
Paper. Oh how we love us some paper. I love paper, don't get me wrong--paper is way better than this invisible virtual phenomena housed in a plastic box with a constantly whirring fan.
If it isn't on paper, it doesn't mean shit. Right or wrong? Sure, anyone can get a "web review" because those don't count. It's the ones that are committed to paper that count.
It's the same with music. At least it was at a certain all girl's drama academy in Southern Vermont. Somehow, those musicians who read dots and/or letters like G7b9 from a sheet of paper were more evolved than those who didn't. Similarly, music that was written on paper was somehow more significant that music that was "just intuitively" played--regardless of how it sounded.
So while Africans have, in a practical way, incorporated fractals into their every day life, using them (fractals) to building villages, fences, etcetera, it wasn't until someone dressed like Little Lord Fauntleroy put it down on paper (hundreds if not thousands of years later) that fractals became "a thing." Somehow, Africans incorporating fractals into every day life without the aid of a book simply doesn't count as being "advanced." And yet somehow, the non African need for a book in order to conceptualize fractals doesn't count as being "retarded."
Speaking of retarded
It isn't until one reads actual words long the bottom of the screen that we realize not only is this woman not retarded, but that in fact she is more eloquent and thoughtful than, well, take your pick.
Isn't that a thing? If you saw her on a bus, who wouldn't think this woman was retarded? Who among us would guess in a million years that she could string together complex thoughts and was convinced of her normality and ability to navigate the world?
Going a little further, having been exposed to that woman-as-text, does she seem more or less retarded than this woman-as-text?
copyright © 2008 Stanley Jason Zappa