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Thursday, Feb 22, 2007
by PopMatters Staff


“GusGus once again throw into the flames a track by Daniel Agust “Moss”, a superb addition to the magnificent vocal landscape of Earth. Pall Oskar, the discodiva # 1, lends his smooth voice on “Need In Me”, as well as on “Hold You” with the Detroit fire Aaron-Carl. Omar Gudjonsson lays his calloused fingers over “You’ll never Change” and inspires both President Bongo and Veiran to do handle their own guitar necks in “Forever”. Also our very own “Professor” Ottarr Proppe pukes out the welcome words to “Forever”. Mr. The President himself graces golden larynx through the track “If you don’t jump, you’re English” flashing rusted guitar samples from the everlasting Icelandic 80’s punk band Purrkur Pillnikk and hammered power hi-hats by Helgi “HitHat” Helgason. The rest is history… Well… except for the remixing. That’s part history and part future. These recombinitations and malnourished destructures were and are gonna be manhandled by Moonbootica, Diringer, Mark Bell, Thor, DMS, Patrick Chardronnet, Tim Deluxe, Jack Schidt, Greg Churchill and of course the in-house crew, Biggi Veira and the albino President Bongo.”—Pineapple Records (Iceland)

“Moss” Remixes [Streaming]
GusGus interview [MP3]

GusGus - Moss

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Wednesday, Feb 21, 2007

As part of a new feature here at SE&L, we will be looking at the classic exploitation films of the ‘40s - ‘70s. Many film fans don’t recognize the importance of the genre, and often miss the connection between the post-modern movements like French New Wave and Italian Neo-Realism and the nudist/roughie/softcore efforts of the era. Without the work of directors like Herschell Gordon Lewis, Joe Sarno and Doris Wishman, along with producers such as David F. Friedman and Harry Novak, many of the subjects that set the benchmark for cinema’s startling transformation in the Me Decade would have been impossible to broach. Sure, there are a few dull, derivative drive-in labors to be waded through, movies that barely deserve to stand alongside the mangled masterworks by the format’s addled artists. But they too represent an important element in the overall development of the medium. So grab your trusty raincoat, pull up a chair, and discover what the grindhouse was really all about as we introduce The Beginner’s Guide to Exploitation.

This week: Godfather of Gore Herschell Gordon Lewis delivers his slasher swansong.

The Gore-Gore Girls

When a young stripper is found horribly mutilated, a local yellow journalist hires the incredibly fey Fire Island resident in transit Abraham Gentry - a kind of ambiguously asexual private eye - to solve the case. He purses his lips and hits the clue trail. As Abey Baby travels from one seedy strip club to another (all owned by the human goiter Marzdone Mobilie) he meets several suspects in training, some irate ERA feminists, and several liquid-lunching businessmen. He also sees a lot libido-deflating hooters. Nancy Weston, ace space case reporter, tags along to prove the age-old adage wrong: not every member of the fourth estate is a college graduate who can hold his or her liquor.

Several more droopy drawered dancers are hacked into little smokies by the butchering bad guy, while ulcerous Gentry battles the incompetence of the local camera-shy police, and the incontinence of the “can’t take a hint” journalist. In a last gasp effort to lure the killer to the quinine, or as a flimsy excuse to mildly entertain the almost asleep viewing audience, Mobilie and Gentry have an amateur strip night competition. After momentarily sniffing the bar’s cork coasters, a now completely inebriated Nancy takes the stage to shake her shorthand scribbler. Naturally, the killer screams “8th Amendment” and exposes his or her self (not literally).

The Gore-Gore Girls has got to be the most eccentric, bizarre gore film Herschel Gordon Lewis ever conceived or created. Looking at the insane, inspired list of actors, characters, and idiosyncrasies used to pad the storyline with comic confections, one becomes airplane glue goofy with unintentional delight. Would you believe Henny Youngman as a one-liner dropping flesh peddler? A fussy Nero Wolfe wannabe who is an ascot short of being straight? A fruit mashing ex-marine named Grout who pulverizes produce as a peacekeeping pastime? A snorting bartender who’s every word is accented with a sniffle? Or a daffy cocktail waitress who keeps Eva Gabor in wig merchandizing heaven? Together, they combine to make The Gore-Gore Girls Lewis’ funniest film. It is also one of his most brutal. In the long line of mutilations and murders Lewis has lensed, these are the bloodiest, most violent and visceral slices of carnage ever depicted.

Sure, many of the elements look faked, but Lewis lingers over them lovingly and pushes the maiming to such new disturbing heights that they evolve, becoming eerie and disgusting. Eyes are gouged out of sockets and skewered with carving forks, and then for good measure, the empty head holes are probed and pierced repeatedly with the same device. Faces are boiled in hot oil until they melt, and brains are splattered on city streets. Like many a typical slasher film, the mystery is merely the skeleton upon which the oozing hunks of human flesh are fitted, accented by Lewis’ weird wackiness. In many ways, The Gore-Gore Girls is the precursor to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn. There is the same use of irreverent humor, odd camera tricks, gruesome effects, and broad characterization to produce a hilarious, hallucinatory, and horrific cinematic experience.

It’s too bad that Lewis dropped out of filmmaking after Girls (unless you count the paltry porn of his 1972 movie Black Love). He then went on to become one of the most highly sought after direct-mail consultants and a respected teacher of advertising copywriting. Still, this movie shows he was headed for another career renaissance, after The Blood Trilogy‘s success and his varying forays into numerous genre types during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. The Gore-Gore Girls is an irreverent slap in the face of all the copycat filmmakers who thought they could out-massacre the master. Lewis proves once and for all that while some may have done it better, or cheaper, or more realistically, no one did it with more passion or perverse pleasure.

You can sense the smile on his broad face as a victim has her nipples clipped, only to have them produce regular and chocolate milk from the wounds. You can hear his devilish laughter as the killer salts and peppers a freshly pounded female rump…roast, filled to the fiendishness with fleshy goodness. Throw in a little nudity (this is a film about a killer who targets strippers, remember), some blatantly bad jokes, some marvelous under- and over-acting by the cast, and you have a truly original, disgusting diversion. Alongside Blood Feast and Two Thousand Maniacs, this is one of the best movies Lewis ever made. It’s a shame that, over the years, it’s been forgotten like a great deal of this madcap genius’ works.


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Wednesday, Feb 21, 2007
by tjm Holden

Source: Oldmind

Have you ever had this experience? . . .

You are waiting in your car to enter a full-up parking lot and the guard at the gate has held you back from the opening about a healthy car length to afford passage along the pedestrian by-way, and suddenly . . . into the enticing gap swoops a souped up automobile which, once it comes to a complete stop, is now not only blocking foot traffic, but has magically managed to crown itself head of the line!

As in, occupying


rightful spot.

Yeah, me either. Well, until today. Imagine me, your beloved, beleaguered, (now bewildered) socio-cultural tourista-blogger:  having dashed cross-town (and in a prickly mood, for it) trying to make it into an administrative office before closing time, feeling the beads of sweat percolating above my brow, mentally working through the mechanics of getting that essential form found, filled out, and filed before deadline, and suddenly, my calculations becoming multiplied by a factor of two.

What would you do?

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Wednesday, Feb 21, 2007

Blogs reveal how much we are unwitting stenographers of hip talk and marketing speak.

In the new n+1 is an editorial about blog that, judging by the excerpt here, has an interesting point to make about the way our consciousness is saturated with marketing language.

The accident waiting to happen to blog was most visible when they turned their attention to literature and ideas. The hope had been to democratize the intellectual sphere. Freedom of the press is for those who own one. But now all you needed was a laptop and some time on your hands. The idea was especially attractive in light of the consolidation of media holdings and the destruction of intellectual life in the ‘80s and ‘90s, when people began to work longer and harder for less, available public spaces and quiet cafes dried up, and argument in the academies gave way to ‘respect’.

The blog salved this ennui and created nourishing microcommunities. Yet criticism as an art didn’t survive. People might have used their blog to post the best they could think and say. The could have posted 5,000-word critiques of their favorite books and records. Some polymath might even have shown, on-line, how an acute and well-stocked sensibility responds to the streaming world in real time. But those things didn’t happen, at least not often enough. In practice, blog reveal how much we are unwitting stenographers of hip talk and marketing speak, and how secondhand and often ugly our unconscious impulses still are. The need for speed encourages, as a willed style, the intemperate, the unconsidered, the undigested.

Encouraged by the “need for speed” and the way it privileges spontaneity, blog reveals that our spontaneous thoughts are often not windows into our soul but regurgitations of convenient prefab word chunks we have assimilated from our culture, in which marketing hype and the pseudoreasoning and posturing of advertising is ubiquitous. But that’s not blog as a medium’s fault and not characteristic of the many, many highly interesting blog out there providing articulate amateur art criticism, free expert news analysis, opinion, advice, reading suggestions and primers in virtually any subject. The extent of blog is far too vast to be surveyed and dismissed as glibly as this editorial appears to (“Criticism as an art didn’t survive”?!?!), which leaves the writer seeming a bit reactionary. The writer seems affronted by the mass of limp and unoriginal opinion-mongering out there as though it were sullying the public sphere and stifling the true voices of genius we should all be listening to. The writer condemns the fact that blog is “not often enough” up to her high standards—well, how much would be enough to vindicate the medium? (Also, how many fewer crappy pseudoacademic journals would have to exist for the generally excellent n+1 not to be tarred with their mediocrity?) It seems to me that the second-hand jargon of lit crit in academic writing is often more stultifying, “unconsidered” and prohibitive than blog shorthand. Often blog are able to take theoretical ideas an apply them to pressing issues in a lang general-interest readers can understand, thus giving them wider currency and efficacy. Isn’t this preferable to the most likely self-indulgent 5,000 word critique of one’s favorite book?

Perhaps the objection is that the “microcommunities” online have disintegrated the public sphere altogether. But is a public sphere that depends on the market to constrain it to a manageable shape worth having in a putative democracy, or does such a public sphere (e.g., one dictated from the top down by mass media controlled by a few players, as things were in the early days of TV and social critics fretted about enforced conformity) nullify more localized discourse communities (e.g. a MySpace page) that many people would find more personally rewarding (if not uniformly mind-expanding)?

Implicit in the n+1 writer’s argument is a belief that only writers who undergo the rigors of print publication deserve recognition, should be allowed in the public sphere. Lurking behind that also is a rote championing of originality, which is not all that different from the marketing world’s ceaseless celebration of novelty for its own sake. Would n+1 want would-be blog to have to pass some sort of licensing test that would permit them to speak in public and share their opinions? Would they want, say, their editors to be responsible for everything the public is allowed to see, so our brains won’t be damaged by unwitting stenography? The upshot of n+1‘s complaint seems to be this: “This sucks. All these damn blog are out there spewing so many of their trivial, second-rate opinions that no one is paying attention to our own.”

Blogs remove the filtering mechanisms of the market, which allow all that sort of junk the n+1 writer mentions to freely circulate, but that doesn’t mean anyone needs to waste their time reading it. It’s pretty easy to avoid bad blog (you could click away right now, for instance). But free of the market, a new form of writing is free to evolve, as CR at Long Sunday notes in the comments of this post:

One thing that’s interesting about blogging, in this day and age especially, is the relative absence of need to satisfy market demand, and the effect of this fact upon the form of the writing. I don’t blog under my own name. Unlike my “real work,” I don’t expect any financial compensation (direct or indirect) from this work. And that is one of the leading causes, I think, of the differences between the shape of my writing here and over there in the real world.

Absent market pressures, blogging seems sensitive instead to different kinds of pressure—that of attracting and keeping an audience in a market with infinitely elastic supply. One approach is to adopt au courant superficialities that the n+1 writer deplores. This slangy slackness is often a product of an another audience-attracting gambit, which is to post often (with a not fully reasoned reaction to the chosen topic and in whatever language is already at hand)—this is where the “need for speed” derives from, a desire on the blogger’s part to feel an exchange going on with an audience, to procure recognition on a steady basis. The more you post, the more you have a chance of seeing how readers are responding (if they respond at all) and that exchange is at the heart of the form, once the money aspect is removed. (It may be that the money one can earn by writing is a flawed proxy for this kind of recognition; those who write for money become hacks when they confuse the two.) What may be bothering n+1 so much is that attention can be secured by adopting the language and approach of advertising and not necessarily by having smart and interesting things to share. This may have an incantatory effect, making ad gibberish seem even more powerful and oppressive, making intellectual conversation seem even more beside the point culturally. What’s left, then, if you accept that logic? A Baudrillardian fatal strategy of silence?

Incidentally, a search for “Baudrillardian fatal strategy of silence” yields this quote from his In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities

The mass absorbs all the social energy, but no longer refracts it. It absorbs every sign and every meaning, but no longer reflects them… it never participates. It is a good conductor of information, but of any information. It is without truth and without reason. It is without conscience and without unconscious. Everybody questions it, but never as silence, always to make it speak. This silence is unbearable. It is the simulation chamber of the social.

Is this an apt description of the blogosphere as a totality?

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Wednesday, Feb 21, 2007

Why is anyone surprised that substantial portions of America’s sub-prime lending market are starting to default now that interests rates have risen and the housing market has stalled? Skeptical economists who had been warning of a housing bubble had been predicting this scenario for a long time, but you don’t have to read Econometrica to know that when you give complicated loans (ARMs, Interest-onlys, etc.) to people basically on faith and allow them to pay little up front and a lot later on, many of them won’t be able to do it. As Justin Lahart put it in his WSJ column yeasterday: “Nobody seemed to realize the risks inherent in extending mortgages with loose standards that left borrowers with little skin in the game. The question worth asking now: Where else has lax lending been going on?”

This chart, from Mike Shedlock’s blog suggests that in mortgage lending lax lending was almost everywhere.

A commenter on Dean Baker’s blog explains how we reached this point:

Buying a house used to require coming up with a down payment or going to war and qualifying for a Veterans Administration loan guarantee. You had to have a certain amount of skin in the game, literally or figuratively. And in return you would get a loan with some relation to the Prime Rate. But it has always been possible to get loans with credit that is sub-Prime, in worse case scenarios you go to Tony Soprano and your collateral is your knee-caps. Now over the last decade or so the housing market has appreciated in such a way that lending to schlumps who may or may not pay off still makes you money. You get your interest money and at the end of the day can take the house back and still get your principal out. When this action was limited to the hard money guys (a technical term in my biz) this was a rough and tumble thing usually understood by both sides. But when Wells Fargo and some other big institutional players jumped in, well, Katy Bar the Door. Anybody could get a loan. You could simply state your income, you could simply state your assets. We call this stated-stated. As opposed to Full Doc where you actually have to prove that you have income. Well this is a two-edged sword. Lenders can use these programs to get good people with reasonable jobs but shaky credit into houses, and given any reasonable rate of housing appreciation have that appreciation gradually save the day. Or you can use that same lending instrument to put somebody in a house you know they can’t afford long term. It’s tough to know where to draw the line, and when it comes down to it lots of people in my industry don’t care: we collect the commission and sell off the loan. The foreclosures down the road aren’t our problem.

Naturally, lenders will tighten their standards in response to the default rate, removing prospective buyers from the market at a time when the vacancy rate is at an unprecedented high. This would seem to suggest further depreciation in housing prices, kicking off more problems.

Who you blame for all of this probably depends most of your political persuasion (perhaps since there is so much blame to go around): Greedy banks? Bubble-fueling speculators? Ignorant and overreaching borrowers? An ostrich-like Fed? A tax system skewed toward home-buying? Picking up with my middle-class hating from yesterday, I wonder if the bias toward home ownership (as a symbol of arriving in the middle class and becoming a stakeholder in society’s stability) makes us collectively tolerant of bad loans—in the grand scheme of things in America, bankruptcy seems more dignified than being a renter, even though spending more than you’ve earned seems to me a way of stealing from posterity.  We’re willing to underwrite this fantasy that everyone’s middle class with more and more exotic financial instruments, making the real extent of risk more and more obscure, as Gretchen Morgenson explains here. What happens when we can fantasize no longer?

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