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by Bill Gibron

13 Aug 2009

It is still the quest of many a young naïve dreamer - take your talent (no matter how major or marginal), pack up a bag, leave your wholesome hometown in the dust, and head out to Hollywood. There, set yourself up in some fleabag rat trap, spend your days pounding the pavement and your nights waiting tables, resolute in your desire to “make it big”. Sure, there are pitfalls along the way - conmen and casting couches, phony film insiders and experts in exploitation (personal or otherwise) - but you believe you have the goods. You’re convinced you’ll make it. Of course, when you don’t, it’s the end of the world and a true sense of desperation takes over. And as the incredible new comedy Attack of the Slime People proves, when you’re needy, you’ll do anything - including a few things that aren’t quite legal.

Former filmmaking hotshot Buddy Flavinoid is having a bad day. Actually, it’s been a horrible couple of years. Believing himself to be the best director in Tinseltown (and he has the homemade shrine to prove it) his last production, The Attack of the Atomic Reptiles, tanked. The reason? Buddy hated the original actor hired to play the lead, so he bludgeoned him to death and recast the part. Though he got away with it, the crime has haunted him ever since. Now a mysterious backer wants to finance his latest film - Attack of the Slime People - and Buddy is having the same problem. He wants the Elvis-like Tadd Bentley to star. But producer Dick Goldberg and his saucy assistant Shelia think that stalker/obsessive Sydney Point would be a much better choice. Up against the wall once again, Buddy has no choice but to break out the old Louisville slugger and start solving his problems.

Imagine David Lynch’s demented sitcom On the Air retrofitted for the ‘50s b-movie biz mixed with a hilariously healthy dose of baseball bat wielding spree killing and you have some idea of the unsane madness that is Attack of the Slime People. It is safe to say that there has probably been no greater illustration of Hollywood’s dehumanizing effect on talent than this clever, quirky bit of burlesque. With a terrific tour de force performance by co-writer/co-producer Robert Tiffi and spot on era-appropriate direction from Martin King, what could have been artificial and phony becomes arch and very, very funny. This is the kind of quirky exercise where character traits are amplified to running gag perfection, where our leads ever-present smile turns from inviting to insidious at the drop of a dime novel. When combined with a terrific set of side personalities, a viscous Chihuahua, and a snarky sense of satire, the results are truly memorable.

King conceives this entire project as a clever bit of space age bachelor padding. The retro feel is so ripe you can almost smell the sour gin sweat of Flavinoid’s favorite local dive bar. In the lead, Tiffi is terrific, never once playing the role as realistic. Instead, this is one flailing filmmaker who comes across as a combination of Tex Avery’s cartoon and a walking insurance ad. Flavinoid is so clueless, and Tiffi is so brilliant at portraying this disconnect, that we’re amazed when he manages to do anything other than walk aimlessly in circles. This over-the-top tool has his drawbacks, meaning we never really sympathize with his production plight, but King keeps things in check. This is even true of ancillary characters like the slyly psycho Sydney Point or Flavinoid’s elephantine assistant Marge.

Indeed, while Tiffi gets all the close-ups and the cast gets to play period piece dress up, our director handles it all expertly, keeping things light and breezy. This is the kind of mannered material that could get easily bogged down in its desire to be purposefully kitschy and/or camp (read: the lame Lost Skeleton of Cadavera). But thanks to some excellent restraint on King’s part and the exceptional casting overall, what could be tedious instead comes across as electric. Even better, Attack of the Slime People has a subtle statement to make about selling out for the sake of proposed stardom - the title even gives it away. In the irritated ingénue Allison Hayes, a wistful young thing who just can’t believe she has to sleep her way into schlock cinema irrelevance, we get all kinds of well-honed warnings. She often sounds like the voice of the filmmakers speaking directly to an audience of wannabe indie actors and auteurs.

What’s really great about Attack of the Slime People, outside of the expert way it handles its hilarity, is that King and Tiffi are fearless in their desire to entertain. They inject all kinds of mayhem into this movie, from goofy fake names (just try and pronounce police detective Bacon’s moniker - I dare you) to Flavinoid’s issue with dogs. The insider jabs, like namedropping and referencing, also work well, as do the times when King just holds the camera on his star and lets those slightly smoke-stained pearly whites do the talking. From his frequent hooker show/slap downs to the spastic way he carries himself, Buddy Flavinoid is a crazy cult creation - and a surefire cinema superstar. Even if Ed Wood truly could direct rings around this stilted human statue, he’d never have our hero’s flair for flopsweat.

In a realm which regularly congratulates itself for being better and more artistically in touch with its source inspiration than the audience it caters to, it’s nice to see a clever collaboration like Attack of the Slime People. While budgetary reasons keep us from ever witnessing a frame of Flavinoid’s failed oeuvre (it would be super sweet to check out some Atomic Reptile sequences, though), we really don’t need the added illustration. It’s clear from their approach and attention to detail that King and Tiffi totally understand this filmic failure. If he isn’t Hollywood hope perverted, he’s definitely the dream deferred. It’s easy to see why so many Tinseltown types move from a night of 1000 stars to a day with the locusts. Attack of the Slime People may sound like another typical bit of Bert I. Gordon ‘50s falderal. Instead, it’s an outsider send-up that’s as cheeky as it is clever. 

by Rob Horning

13 Aug 2009

Sharing once seemed to me a simple, straightforward thing, but the way tech and social media companies have co-opted it recently have made me increasingly suspicious of it. In the usage that is starting to become prevalent, sharing isn’t a matter of giving over a portion of a desirable thing to others. Instead it is a code word for what is in fact a mode of online production, for labor that we perform ostensibly for the benefit of friends we explicitly connect ourselves with in networks but ultimately for the benefit of the companies who hold the fruits of our effort on their servers. When we “share” via upload, we aren’t sharing at all, we are working to move information and data into digital space where it can be manipulated and harvested for profit.

Facebook’s recent acquisition of FriendFeed, a service that turns everything you upload to various sites into a single RSS stream, threatens to make the cant about sharing even worse. In this piece for The Big Money, Chadwick Matlin argues that the acquisition is Facebook’s effort to corner the market in “social aggregation”—that is, to evolve into a kind of Google Reader in which instead of subscribing to blogs, you subscribe to people. Matlin likens the effort to the Huffington Post, which aggregates and filters content to make it all managable, only with FreindFeed and Facebook, your friends will filter what you read, not strangers.

by Sarah Zupko

13 Aug 2009

Guy Clark
Somedays the Song Writes You
Releasing: 22 September (US)

Guy Clark has long been one of those artists greatly beloved by other respected artists. Bob Dylan recently told the Huffington Post that Clark is one of his favorite songwriters. He’s not alone. Clark has been a pillar in the Nashville songwriting community for more than 30 years, penning classic songs, many of which have become hits for other artists including George Strait and Rodney Crowell. Clark brings a new set of modern classics Somedays the Song Writes You on September 22.

CONTEST: Dualtone is running a contest to win a co-writing session with Guy Clark. The winner will get flown to Nashville to work with Clark on a song in his home writing workshop. You have until 15 September to enter.

01 Somedays You Write the Song
02 The Guitar
03 Hemingway’s Whiskey
04 The Coat
05 All She Wants Is You
06 If I Needed You
07 Hollywood
08 Eamon
09 Wrong Side of the Tracks
10 One Way Ticket Down
11 Maybe I Can Paint Over That

Guy Clark
“The Guitar” [Stream]

by Sean Murphy

13 Aug 2009

Guess what? Rashanim has recently released what will undoubtedly stand as one of the best albums of 2009 in The Gathering.

Guess what else? Rashanim has been making incredible music for the better part of this decade.

One more thing: you are not the only person who has, unfortunately, not heard (or heard of) this band. For all the right reasons, changing that should become a priority in your life. Trust me. I hope and expect to hear many more noteworthy new albums in 2009, but I sincerely doubt I will come across another effort as profoundly effective and moving as this one.

So, who is Rashanim? They are a jazz trio operating out of New York City who describe themselves on their website as a “Jewish power trio: Rashanim (’noisemakers’ in Hebrew) combines the power of rock with the spontaneity of improvisation, deep Middle Eastern grooves and mystical Jewish melodies.” Led by guitarist Jon Madof, the band also includes bassist Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz and drummer Mathias Kunzli. They record for John Zorn’s label Tzadik (http://tzadik.com/) and are categorized in its “Radical Jewish Culture” series. (Being neither Jewish nor radical, I still find this concept rather rad, and to be certain, some of the very best music in the world is being created on Zorn’s middle-finger-to-the-industry label.)

by Colin McGuire

13 Aug 2009

I currently work at the night desk of a small-town newspaper. Various arguments regarding journalism these days center around the notion that small-town newspapers aren’t as affected by the many budget cuts, firings and all-around sea-change most bigger-marketed newspapers seemingly have to take on each day.

Many argue that, because of the small-town flare that can showcase in depth local coverage better than a bigger paper that is based far away from these particular small towns, the smaller-market newspapers have a better chance of surviving, or, at the very least, not having to shoulder the burden of job loss that most major dailys have been forced to deal with for what has turned into a long time.

Part of that snuggly, warm feeling small-town newspapers can give a reader has always been the comfort of one Pauline Phillips, or, these days, her daughter, Jeanne Phillips. Those two women have been responsible for writing the daily “Dear Abby” columns that have become an absolute staple in most every newspaper across the nation, and, in fact, nearly 1,500 papers worldwide.

That said, as part of cutbacks at the particular newspaper I work at, we have been told that in order to save money, we will publish our final “Dear Abby” column Friday, making way for a less-expensive, dumbed-down version of an advice column from a different outlet, set to be published in Saturday’s edition.


“Do you know what this is going to do?” I asked my publisher when she broke the news a couple weeks ago. “People are going to go mad. This is the one thing almost everyone turns to when they pick up a newspaper. It’s been that way forever. You might not read the sports. You might not even read the council stories. But you always read Abby.”

“I know,” she said. “But I’d rather have to cut columns than people. And really, we have no choice.”

She’s right. I certainly can’t complain about having the ability to live another day in the world of newspapers while many other, much more talented journalists ponder what it is they are now going to try and do with their lives. But that doesn’t mean this news comes easy. Aside from the crossword puzzle, I can’t imagine anything else that has been as much of a staple in newspapers for such a long amount of time.

I mean, come on. Where else can you get tales about a 15-year-old girl who is afraid to ask her crush to the upcoming dance? Or about how awkward it was at dinner when a mother-in-law burped so loud, it awoke a sleeping cat? Or how about the times when those bastardly cheating husbands slip up and get caught by their wives, forcing the women to make that awful decision of weather or not to stick around for the kids?

It’s going to be sad to see Abby go. In fact, I, myself, may even turn to other newspapers simply to check in on whose life Ms. Phillips is saving now. As for the rest of our readers? Here’s hoping this move doesn’t drive too many of them away. Many of our customers tend to be older, so now that the comfort of that long-lasting advice column won’t be there, one has to think our phones will be flooded. And here’s hoping most other newspapers don’t have to resort to this. It’s a move that is bold, yet understandably necessary, and, with that said, a little bit unsettling as well.

Yes, it is better to cut columns than people, but now that changes such as this have worked their way into smaller markets, one has to wonder how much longer it will be before the columns run out.

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