7/27/2010 4:29:45 PM
Christopher Nolan’s dream-within-a-dream-within-a-whatever thriller Inception has been hurtling through U.S. moviegoers’ wallets for a couple of weeks now. The film stars an earnest and mournful Leonardo DiCaprio (handsome and a good actor—he’s a dreamboat-within-a-dreamboat!), and is perhaps one of the more poker-faced affairs I’ve seen in the theaters for a long while. But I think even its most hardcore fans can recognize that the film’s melancholic mood and dread-inducing soundtrack are ripe for spoofing, as demonstrated by the four recent parodies explained below.
Mashing up kid-favorite Dora the Explorer with Inception turned out to be a great idea—the movie is a high-flown action film about breaking into the sleeping minds of other people for the sake of corporate espionage, and Dora is a curious little girl who just wants things to make sense.
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Inception. The overdubbing here is a little suspect, but Bill and Ted’s stoner incomprehension dovetails nicely with the pay-attention-because-something-amazing-is-about-to-happen tone of Inception’s soundtrack, dialogue, and hype. Actually, it’s virtually the same concept as the Dora the Explorer riff. Pretending you’re a bit dim and child-like is, I guess, inherently funny. Sidenote: when set to the Inception theme, Bill’s “Why would we lie to ourselves?” becomes almost touching. (Thanks, The Rumpus.)
I think this man-celebrates-dog joke misses the mark, except for the alteration of Inception’s title at the end, and the concluding creepy-hilarious shot.
Toy Story 3 plus Inception. We should all be officially disgusted with this joke now. That was, after all, the point of this exercise. It’s worth noting, however, that Leonardo DiCaprio actually looks a little like Toy Story 3’s Ken doll.
7/26/2010 11:44:06 AM
The harvesting machine whirs to life. Mechanical arms extend and retract, rusty cogs knuckle past each other and greasy chains creak on an endless loop. Despite a flurry of clockwork motion, the machinery is immobile. That’s because these spare combine parts have been repurposed as contemporary art, reassembled as interactive music makers, and relocated to the gallery floor. The “Combine Project” is the brainchild of Steven White, an Ontario-based visual artist profiled by Musicworks. White got the idea to convert an obsolete artifact of our agricultural past into a collection of fanciful kinetic sculptures when he and his wife moved to some property in rural Ontario. There they found the farm equipment—specifically a hulking, abandoned 1964 Allis-Chalmers All-Corp combine harvester. Sprockets, gears and valves on many of the pieces are interactive, and when you crank them, the sculptures produce an eerie, mechanical kind of music. Here are a few of White's creations and a clip featuring “Molecular Roulette,” a sculpture that looks and works like a bizarre, 6-foot-long music box. (Right-click the link and select "Save Link As" to download an MP3 of White’s machines in motion.)
"Happy Apple Tree" is a kinetic sculpture made from the odd parts of abandoned farm equipment by Canadian visual artist Steven White.
Made from a segmented drive-shaft cover, "Brian's Arc" is modeled after a human spine in a resting position.
A monstrous piece called "Spider Bark."
"Insect Variation," named for its structural likeness to a grasshopper, conveys the tension between technology and the natural world.
White wrote in Musicworks that "Tooth Organ," pictured above, "reuses a crank, two chains, several gears, and graduated metal tines from the combine to produce a sonic mashup that sounds like a blend of a home radiator pinging and a tin cup being rattled on metal jail-cell bars."
Photos courtesy of Steven White. Audio courtesy of Musicworks.
7/22/2010 12:18:31 PM
Paste magazine has put together a list of eight literary works that are ripe for graphic novel adaptation. What would you add?
(Thanks, The Millions.)
Image by LordFerguson, licensed under Creative Commons.
7/21/2010 2:42:11 PM
Many American Indian tribes across the nation hold powwows that are basically megaconcerts, with tickets sold to the nontribal general public. Visitors often come away from these events thinking that they’ve gotten an authentic glimpse into Indian traditions and spirituality, a perception fueled by some tribes’ marketing. “It is truly an honor to attend a powwow,” states the web page of the Northern Colorado Intertribal Pow-wow Association Inc.—an honor, incidentally, that’s available to anyone with ticket money.
But what exactly is a powwow, and what are its ties to Indian tradition? Ojibwe historian Anton Treuer sets the record straight in the book Ojibwe in Minnesota, which was recently published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press:
Powwow itself is new. It did not exist seventy years ago. It is a pan-Indian combination of Omaha grass dance ceremonies, Dakota war dances, Ojibwe dreams about the jingle dress, and rodeo customs, where dancers who used to parade into army forts in tribal war regalia now parade into the powwow arena in dance regalia for grand entry. There are many types of powwows. But [many powwows] involve singers and dancers competing for money. Participants’ abilities to sing and dance are highly valued, supplanting older cultural ideals of community cohesion, inclusiveness, and respectful generosity. The modern powwow is a welcome, healthy gathering of people from many communities. It is a joyous social event and source of community pride. But it is not a substitute for traditional Ojibwe religion or ways of life.
Treuer points out that powwows have become big business. Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota spends more than $100,000 for prize money on its Labor Day powwow alone, not to mention the many smaller powwows it presents:
The powwow budget for Leech Lake completely eclipses tribal expenditures on traditional culture and Ojibwe language revitalization. Tribes and tribal people are agents of their own cultural change.
So remember that if you attend a large commercial powwow, you are more likely watching a sort of American Indian Idol than a sacred and ancient ceremony. It may be fun, and entertaining, and spectacular, but it’s probably no more traditional than the fry bread they’re selling at the food stands.
Because Minnesota has been at the epicenter of many Indian sovereignty, treaty rights, and social justice issues, Treuer’s book is essential reading for anyone interested in Indian history. From the fur trade and Ojibwe-Dakota relations right up through ugly public skirmishes over spearfishing and casinos, Ojibwe in Minnesota is a clear, candid, and authoritative overview of a people whose epic history is still unfolding.
Source: Ojibwe in Minnesota
Image by Nic's events, licensed under Creative Commons.
7/21/2010 2:12:11 PM
If you’re looking for some derring-do on your vacation, you have two choices. You can do something extremely lame, like rock climbing, or you can fight in the World Gravy Wrestling Championships. The Stew, the Chicago Tribune’s food, wine, and dining blog,has some other options as well, on their list of ten “wacky food festivals” happening around the world this summer. Aside from those gravy gladiators in the U.K., there’s also a pierogi tossing contest in Indiana—or a tomato tossing party in Spain. For my money, though, nothing is more valiant than dousing yourself in chicken stock and tussling with another full-grown adult.
(Thanks, The Consumerist.)
Source: The Stew
Image by davitydave, licensed under Creative Commons.
7/14/2010 11:56:55 AM
Aspiring literary pilgrims take note: Writers’ Houses is a new online clearinghouse that aims “to be a field guide to deceased writers’ homes, searchable by author, city, state, and country.” You should grab a few destinations for your summer road trip.
Source: Writers’ Houses
Image by That Canadian Grrl, licensed under Creative Commons.
7/12/2010 11:25:06 AM
For the past four years, Dutch artists Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn have been splashing paint on Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, transforming the hillside slums into clustered monuments of urban art.
The neighborhoods aren’t just changing aesthetically. "About one-third of Rio de Janeiro’s population lives in favelas," reports mental_floss. "To prevent kids from getting caught up in the drug trade, the Favela Painting project pays Brazil’s youth to create murals for their communities. As a result, armies of teenage artists are giving their neighborhoods new faces—ones covered in bright, cheerful colors. The hope is that within the next few years, the entire landscape of favelas will become a massive work of art, drawing attention to the needs of the poor and filling the community with pride.”
Their most recent project in the Santa Marta favela covered more than 30 densely packed buildings with a kaleidoscopic, multicolored sunburst.
One building in Santa Marta, a samba school and neighborhood hangout, was even painted on the inside.
Art can get a little messy.
profiled the Dutchmen’s previous work in the favelas
, which includes this three-story tall mural of a boy flying a kite.
Sources: Juxtapoz, mental_floss
Images courtesy of Haas&Hahn/Favelapainting.com.
7/8/2010 4:02:52 PM
If you’ve never stumbled across the beautiful custom-built coffins made by Ghanaians, you should take a peek at the latest issue of Colors magazine. The story goes that more than sixty years ago a fisherman wanted a fish-shaped coffin as his final resting place, and a tradition was born:
Today, each coffin is built to represent the occupation, status, and identity of its respective dweller. In some cases, the coffins are built to represent the dream those who passed away could never achieve. Someone who has never flown, for example, is sometimes buried in a wooden jumbo jet.
The specialty boxes are so popular that local coffin-makers now get orders from around the world.
Image by laura padgett, licensed under Creative Commons.
7/8/2010 3:10:14 PM
Devo is often seen as either a synth band or a novelty band, both understandable perceptions for a bunch of robotic space-dorks bearing electronic keyboards and a brain-imprinting hit called “Whip It.” (You can hear it now, can’t you?) But in a concert at the Minnesota Zoo on the eve of Independence Day 2010, Devo reminded me that Bob Mothersbaugh’s punkish, crisp guitar lines were a key reason why I initially latched onto the band back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and why much of its music retains its punch a full 30 years later.
Taking the stage at dusk on a steamy Minnesota night, the men of Devo probably felt they had something to prove: They were playing their first headline concert on a tour celebrating the release of their first album in 20 years. So prove it they did, delivering a 75-minute set that cemented their status as the finest new wave art-school band ever to emerge from Ohio—or the universe, for that matter.
Devo is all about the stage presence, of course, and accordingly they took the stage walking ramrod-straight, wearing reflective gray suits and creepily dehumanizing gray masks, as if they’d just landed on the shores of the zoo pond in a spacecraft. The giant video screen behind them showed images of the heroic spud-men in industrial settings, then they launched into “Don’t Shoot (I’m a Man),” a song from their new album, Something for Everybody.
Like much of the material on the album, the song sounds perfectly of a piece with early-day Devo, yet for many longtime fans, the concert wouldn’t really pick up musically until the band dug into the good old stuff—and that doesn’t, for me, include “Peek-a-Boo” or “Going Under,” older B-list songs that also figured early in the set. Not that we weren’t perfectly amused and entertained by singer Mark Mothersbaugh’s stiffly grandiose gestures or the nonstop video projections. During “What We Do,” ape and human silhouettes did hip thrusts, and during “Fresh,” a go-go girl’s gyrating pelvis was intercut with images of succulent produce.
The crowd started to get more excited with “That’s Good,” one of Devo’s best stabs at dance-floor synth-pop, and the band capitalized on the momentum by peeling through three solid back-catalog numbers: “Girl U Want,” “Whip It,” and “Planet Earth.” They then disappeared backstage during a short Carl Sagan video—that’s right, a Carl Sagan video—and emerged in their classic yellow paper suits and their “energy dome” hats, now blue instead of red by popular demand. That’s when things really got good.
The band’s off-kilter rendition of “Satisfaction” was as delightful a response to the Rolling Stones as it was in 1978—lurching art-pop taking the piss out of Mick’s strut. Bob Mothersbaugh then picked out the opening notes to “Secret Agent Man,” and he would own many of the next few songs with his guitar, notably “Uncontrollable Urge,” “Mongoloid,” and “Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA,” which contains several guitar lines that shred in a way that many mall-rat punk bands can only dream of. For a band whose oft-stated intent was to “de-emphasize” guitars, it’s ironic that Devo’s judicious use of the instrument actually elevated its prominence in their music.
After a triumphant “Gates of Steel,” with its surging guitar chords and synths, the band members disappeared again as the “Devo Corporate Anthem” played over the PA and the screen showed a young, fresh-faced Devo standing in formation, hair blowing in the breeze as they gazed skyward through large wraparound shades.
Then it was encore time, with the band in black gym shorts, T-shirts, and kneepads. First came a rock-solid rendition of their free-will manifesto “Freedom of Choice,” then an extended take on the anthemic “Beautiful World” with an appearance (of course) by Mark Mothersbaugh’s alter ego Booji Boy.
Typically, “Beautiful World” contains another one of those great Devo guitar moments—a brief, reverb-laden country-and-western-style solo that somehow makes perfect sense amid its bombastic synth-pop setting. But when Bob Mothersbaugh stepped up onto a riser to deliver it, he broke some strings and had to abandon the enterprise, shaking his head. In its own unscripted way it was a perfect Devo moment, a literal deconstruction of the guitar-hero myth after all.
. See Cohen’s
slideshow of Devo’s Minnesota Zoo concert
on the website of the Minneapolis alternative weekly City Pages.
7/7/2010 5:02:13 PM
For English philosopher and soccer fan Simon Critchley, the World Cup presented an opportunity to meld his love of the physical and the metaphysical. Critchley has curated a New York art exhibition and sports viewing space—how often do those worlds collide?—called Men With Balls: The Art of the 2010 World Cup.
When visitors to apexart in Lower Manhattan are not watching the real-time clash of nations on giant screens, they can take in high-minded reflections on the game, such as a cut-and-paste fantasy match in which Mexico defeats Brazil 17-0 or a 90-minute meditation on the play of Frenchman Zinedine Zidane that the New York Times called “beautiful and hypnotic.”
But even if you can’t make it to the gallery any easier than you can make it to Johannesburg, be sure to read Critchley’s wonderful essay on the apexart site. Here is a taste:
The World Cup … is about ever-shifting floors of memory and the complexity of personal and national identity. But most of all it is about grace. A truly great player, like Pelé, like Johan Cruyff, like Maradonna, like Zidane, has grace: an unforced bodily containment and elegance of movement, a kind of discipline where long periods of inactivity can suddenly accelerate and time takes on a different dimension in bursts of controlled power. When someone like Zidane does this alone, the effect is beautiful; when four or five players do this in concert, it is breathtaking (this collective grace has been taken to a new level by the F.C. Barcelona team in the last few years). But grace is also a gift. It is the cultivation of a certain disposition, some call it faith, in the hope that grace will be dispensed.
Sources: Apexart, New York Times
Image courtesy of apexart.
7/7/2010 12:37:34 PM
Take a peek at downtown Chicago’s newest street sculpture nestled in the socket of State and Van Buren streets. "Eye" is a 30-foot-tall fiberglass eyeball on display through the end of October. Sculptor Tony Tasset modeled the piece after his own eye—only it's 1,000 times bigger and infinitely creepier. He spent six months constructing its various parts in Sparta, Wisconsin. Of the building process, Tasset told the Chicago Tribune that “the final step [was] the glossy coat, which makes it really wet and gross and nasty.”
Source: Chicago Tribune
7/6/2010 11:29:30 AM
The British Film Institute has announced a search for the 75 “most wanted” films it would like to have in its archives. Included among them is an early Alfred Hitchcock production, The Mountain Eagle, which was his second effort as a director. The BFI’s full list (with annotations) provides a unique glimpse into a few dusty corners of cinema history. As the The Guardian reports:
The Mountain Eagle is the only missing Hitchcock, but the BFI launches a hunt today for scores more British movies that have also vanished without trace. The list includes Sherlock Holmes's first screen appearance in 1914's A Study in Scarlet; the first H.G. Wells science fiction film, The First Men in the Moon (1919); and The Last Post, made by Dinah Shurey, a rare woman film-maker in the early history of British film, who sued Film Weekly over a column suggesting the movie made it "pathetically obvious" that women could not direct (she was awarded £500 damages).
Source: The Guardian
Image by Kevitivity, licensed under Creative Commons.
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