Monday, December 17, 2012

Brooklyn Gang, 1959

Photos of the Jokers by Bruce Davidson.

Friday, December 7, 2012


Just built this paper-straw model of a fearsome rocknroll creature (and his apprentice). Currently proud of myself. More creatures here:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lee Ving, Frankie Fix, and musicals about delinquents.

absolute beginners

I watched 4 mid-eighties flix in the past month, way above my recommended dosage: Ladies and Gentleman, the Fabulous Stains (1982), Streets of Fire (1984), Clue (1985), and Absolute Beginners (1986).  I am now having something like a sugar crash. Two of them star Diane Lane as a rocknroll singer, two of them star punk icon Lee Ving not as a rocknroll singer, three of them are set in the 1950s, and three of them are musicals. 

I was surprised how good "Absolute Beginners" is. I had been led to believe it was just an ambitious fashion musical with David Bowie. I would call it an aggressive pop musical about the commercialism of adolescence, gentrification, racism, classism, and Teds vs. Mods. The fashion is no more obtrusive than in Streets of Fire, and is much less ridiculous. Plus it really hums with creative, adrenaline-fueled camera sequences.  And David Bowie.

I liked Fabulous Stains a lot too, though it's much grittier, substituting gray rust-belt wastelands for neon-lit soundstages. The chasm between the music Lane sang in Fabulous Stains and Streets of Fire was dizzying. From '77-style punk and proto-Beat Happening in the former, to Bonnie Tyler-style power ballads just 2 years later. 

Strangely, neither Clue nor Streets of Fire makes any attempt to hide their '80s music or fashion, even though they are both supposedly set in the '50s. Both could have been trashy fun if they weren't smothered by so much rote, soulless dialogue. There were a few good moments, like Madeline Kahn's great improv at the end of Clue ("I hated her so...much...Flames! Out the side of my face!!"), though the director/editor cut away from her in the middle of it, leaving us to hear her still talking in the  background! And Willem Dafoe was certainly awesome as a glam delinquent in Streets of Fire, looking very much like Frankie Fix from '70s SF punk legends Crime.  Otherwise, both were good examples of that distinctive '80s shallowness that often oddly depresses me. 

I do have a soft spot for '80s dumbness when used brilliantly, whatever that means - see "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" or "Big Trouble in Little China" for example...but I think I'll hold off on re-watching those for awhile.

(image sources: Diane, Madeline, Lee, Willem, Frankie.)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Astonishing Richard Sala.

Richard Sala has been one of my favorite artists in any medium for many years running. My first exposure to Sala's art was the creepy and elusive "Invisible Hands" noir serial on MTV's Liquid Television in the early 1990s. Each 2-minute wisp of an episode somehow created a palpable atmosphere that was edgy and subtle at the same time, a novel experience for my blunt sensibilities at the time.

Ten years later I stumbled upon Sala's "Evil Eye" comic book series (later compiled as "Mad Night"). I did not immediately recognize the the same Invisible Hand at work, for Sala's  stories, characters, and anatomical attentions had become more vividly fleshed out in the interim. The overall effect was no less mysterious, though, and the addition of a bit of warmth to the pulpy, moody, psychological horror just made it more compelling. I quickly became obsessed with his previous comic series, "The Chuckling Whatsit," followed by most everything Sala has written before and after. 

These playful portraits and sinister town-scapes from Sala's work can stand alone, though I definitely recommend reading his books. The intricacies of Sala's storytelling skills are astonishing above and beyond all the gorgeous art he makes. Sala recently announced on his blog that his haunting "Delphine" series should be released in book form soon - good news! More info at links below.

(click to enlarge)


art sources:

Friday, October 5, 2012

"What may seem like a lull has in actuality been an intricate cover for intense machinations. The vivid reality of these plans will be fully revealed to you in due time."

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Our true need.

"We ought not to demand to be pleased and flattered [by art], for our true need is to be touched by love or fear."

-Ananda Coomaraswamy, 1913 (found in "The Wisdom of Ananda Coomaraswamy," World Wisdom Library of Perennial Philosophy)
(image: Helmut Newton)

Beautiful and Useful.

"Possessions are a necessity to the extent that we can use them: it is altogether legitimate to enjoy what we do use, but equally inordinate to enjoy what we cannot use or to use what cannot be enjoyed. All possessions not at the same time beautiful and useful are an affront to human dignity. Ours is perhaps the first society to find it natural that some things should be beautiful and others useful."

-Ananda Coomaraswamy, 1956 (found in "The Wisdom of Ananda Coomaraswamy," World Wisdom Library of Perennial Philosophy)