Theoretically, if a work of art is bad, we will view or listen to it only once and never return to it again; after all, if it is truly bad, why would anyone want to spend additional time with it? Yet dozens of films fall under the umbrella of “so-bad-it’s-good”, where a film’s badness becomes the very reason why we enjoy it. From the terrible direction, performances, and editing of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room to the apocalyptic nonsense of Southland Tales, so-bad-it’s-good cinema offers moviegoers the chance to have fun at the expense of itself.
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Excerpted from “Hubble’s Greatest Hits”, by Timothy Ferris. Full article in National Geographic, April 2015, on newsstands now. Copyright © 2015. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Photos courtesy of Zoltan Levay, the imaging team leader at Space Telescope Science Institute and National Geographic. See more photos for this article here on National Geographic.
It didn’t amount to much at first.
Credit: National Geographic
Launched into orbit aboard the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990, amid flurries of hope and hype, the Hubble Space Telescope promptly faltered. Rather than remaining locked on its celestial targets, it trembled and shook, quaking like a photophobic vampire whenever sunlight struck its solar panels. Opening its protective front door to let starlight in perturbed the telescope so badly that it fell into an electronic coma. Worst of all, Hubble turned out to be myopic. Its primary light-gathering mirror, eight feet in diameter and said to be the smoothest large object ever fashioned by humans, had been figured perfectly wrong.
Everyone has their favorites. That general rule holds true even for critics, with all their high-minded ideas about what art can be and their five-dollar words. Over time, it’s natural that some artists become Great Artists, those who never fail to get critics riled up every time they announce a new release. In the present day, artists such as Kanye West and David Lynch have culled rabidly devoted fanbases that will seemingly praise whatever they put out for the world to see or hear.
When Kanye West almost grabbed the microphone from Beck at the 2015 Grammys, the audience—to say nothing of the large international audience watching the show—held its breath. Although West didn’t say anything at that time, he did later go on to lambast the Grammys for giving the (ostensibly) coveted Album of the Year award to Beck for Morning Phase over Beyoncé, whose self-titled LP was one of the juggernaut releases of the previous year. West claimed that the Grammys didn’t respect “true artistry”. This leads to the obvious question: have the Grammys, or for that matter any other major awards ceremony, ever used “true artistry” as their main metric? Would it even be possible for them to do so?
The Chicago-based label Air Balloon Tapes has only two compilations to its name, but proceeds for each go to a venue in need. While Compilation #1 supported a Chicago locale, Young Camelot, Compilation #2 is throwing full support behind NYC’s Nola, Darling, the latest in many DIY ventures from scene creator and curator Winston Scarlett. Scarlett, who learned of Air Balloon through a mutual friend, is using this opportunity to also draw attention to some of Brooklyn’s most promising acts and the resulting scene, known as Slackgaze. Contrary to its name, Slackgaze encompasses some of the hardest working bands in the city, and much of it—like the bare bones anti-capitalist garage of Bodega Bay—isn’t exactly shoe gaze. What it is, however, is a good reminder that New York still has bands deserving of spots to play in, Nola, Darling of course being one of them.
Compilation #2 is released on 1 December 2014. A release show, featuring Chimes, Veda Rays, and other artists on the compilation, will be held 14 December at 3pm, at Nola, Darling.