Dive into the archives.
- VERY FEEL feel good clip of the week: Screamin’
This week’s installment features the legendary performative stylings of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. Screamin’ Jay is one of those artists who was simply too freaky for his era. He never experienced much commercial success but his darkside flair and general don’t give a fuckness paved the way for Kiss and Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson and all that stuff. This song is probably his most famous. The version in the clip above is different from the studio single, which is famously sampled and fucking classic. So I’ll put that up too…
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – I put a spell on you
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- Domus Interview 09: Mark Wigley
Here’s the latest in the interview series I’ve been doing for the Domus China. (I’ve put up a couple of the others here and here). It’s with Mark Wigley, author, curator, and Dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture. The conversation focuses mostly on education and how he approaches things at Columbia.
At present, Mark is battling it out with Jemaine Clement for the title of Greatest Living Kiwi, and I like his chances, because the man knows his way around a soundbite. Here’s a few favorite quotes: “Architects’ gift is to produce a hesitation in the rhythms of everyday life”, “Massive incompetence is a kind of normative lifestyle”, “We have a kind of stupidity… and the mission is reduce the level of stupidity.”
BM: In this interview series we’re trying to get a sense of who the architect is by talking to the people closest to them. The hope that by filling in the area around the subject in great detail we can create something like a silhouette of a profession. I’ve been anxious to speak with you, because education is such an important part of understanding where architects come from.
MW: It’s a very interesting concept, and it immediately begs the question: what is an architect? For me, it’s quite simple: an architect is someone who doesn’t know what a building is. That is to say, someone for whom a building is a set of questions, rather than a set of answers. Almost everybody knows what a building is, but the architect is someone for whom the building is filled with mystery.
What’s interesting then about the school is that you’re training a group of people and what holds them in common is that they don’t know what a building is. So, actually, in a school you can’t simply deliver a set of information about what architecture is and a set of professional procedures for accomplishing that. I like your concept of the silhouette: in a way, what you can do is deliver the silhouette of the big questions, the big doubts. Interestingly, architects are not allowed to share that doubt in public. In fact, architects are called on to do quite the opposite, to produce images of certainty and security, stability, and so on. So that an odd assignment – you take the one group in society who sees objects as full of mystery and you ask them to invest those objects with the symbolism of certainty.
What that means is that there is a big difference between the public and the private in architecture. If you look inside an architect’s head, I think it’s pretty messy and yet the work they do is very clear. If you look inside an architect’s studio, it’s a mess, but when they present to the client it’s very clear. When you look inside an architectural school it’s pretty messy, but then you look at the publications and the website, and everything seems very clear. Publicly, architects are certain, sure, confident, precise; privately they really don’t know what they’re doing, how they’re doing, why, and so on. This is not to say that they’re ignorant. On the contrary, architects have been talking amongst themselves about what a building is for 3000 years in the west, 10,000 years in the non-west and so on.
- Habitus 05: Moscow
The next edition of my friend Josh’s journal Habitus is dropping soon. I’ve written about this wonderful project before (Issue 03: Buenos Aires, Issue 04: New Orleans) and I haven’t received the issue yet, so I’ll keep this post brief. Buy it.
Table of contents and a video interview with one of the issue’s contributors, the photographer Jason Eskenazi after the break.
- VERY FEEL feel good clip of the week: Project Grizzly
Man, I just discovered that one of my favorite films of all time, Peter Lynch’s seminal documentary Project Grizzly is available in its entirety via the straight up amazing National Film Board of Canada website. I cannot tell you how much I loved this film when I first saw it way back in the ’90s or how much it bonds me to some of my friends. In short, it is the story of a man, Troy Hurtubise of Ontario, who, after a life-changing confrontation with a grizzly, made it his life’s mission to design the world’s first bear-proof suit. The clip’s over an hour, but so worth it.
- Coca Cola Shapes
My friend Lauren, an ATL native who as a child played in the shadow of the Coca-Cola bottling plant and as a consequence developed an attachment to their products that borders on the psycho, just sent me this image of the evolution of Coke’s distinctive bottle. Apparently the sequence is (left to right): 1899 – 1900 – 1915 – 1916 – 1957 – 1986.
I actually don’t like Coke, but I like this image a lot, partly because it reminds me of one of my favorite dancehall songs from back in the day, Simpleton’s ‘Coca Cola Bottle Shape’ which was the shit my freshman year of high school. I hadn’t listened to this song in years, but when I played it earlier this afternoon I found that it gave me an instantaneous, involuntary case of blue balls, which I assume is caused by the sense memory of the many fruitless grinding sessions of my youth.
Simpleton – Coca Cola Bottle Shape
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Thanks Lauren, just playing!
- Guess who’s not coming to dinner.
Well, Pres O is in Beijing now, and I have confirmation that he will not be attending the dinner party that I had planned in his honor and about which I email and facebook messaged him several times. I guess he’s busy or something. Anyway, amongst the dozen or so articles that China Daily has published in relation to Obama’s first PRC visit, I found this image of a Barack egg etching. It’s done by Kang Yongguo, a craftsman from Liaoning Province and is pretty goddamn amazing imo.
- Launch Sequence
Shameless plug time again…
This Sunday my friend Jiang Jun and I are presenting the book we made earlier this year. It’s called Urban China: Work in Progress, and it is making it rain on you hoes. Check out some more info on it in this post here. Better yet buy it from the publisher here. If you’re in the Beijing area, come through, it’ll be fun.
Date: Sunday, November 15, 2009
Venue: Timezone 8 (798), No 4 Jiu Xian Qiao Rd
Meanwhile, my friends at JDS are releasing a book of their own in the next few weeks.
From the press release:
AGENDA is an architecture book that occupies the territory between a monograph, a diary, and a collection of essays, interviews, and conversations. At its most harmless AGENDA is a catalog of 365 days, like a diary or journal: a collective narrative, personal and subjective. It documents the work and thinking of JDS Architects over a specific year marked by crisis, beginning on September 15th, 2008, the day that Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy. The form of the book exploits the double meaning of its title, presenting the absurdities of day-to-day architectural practice while also staking our intent.
I contributed a couple things to the book and, although I haven’t seen it completed yet, I know it’s an ambitious project and I’m sure it’s worth picking up.
There will be book launch parties in the following cities:
ROTTERDAM | Friday, 20 November 2009 from 17.00-22.00 / invite only
OSLO | Saturday, 28 November 2009 from 14.00-16.00
@ Holmenkollen Ski Jump – Visitor’s Centre [map] / RSVP
BRUSSELS | Thursday, 3 December 2009 – TBA / check back soon…
NEW YORK CITY | Thursday, 10 December 2009 from 18.00 – 21.00
@ Storefront for Art and Architecture [map] / open to public
Launches in Copenhagen, Paris, Barcelona, and London will follow in early 2010.
For more info, click here.
- STRICTLY 4 MY E.D.I.T.A.Z.
Man, this is gonna be my most narrowcasted post ever, but I have to do it….
As I mentioned in some previous posts, I have invested a large part of my professional life in ‘editing’ – a poorly understood, rapidly degrading craft that can mean anything from ghost authorship to napkin note transcription. The vast majority of people have no opinion of editing or editors, with the possible exception of those magical moments when some sort of amusing fuck up makes it way into a newspaper headline or 24 hour news station crawl, and we can all enjoy a brief flicker of schadenfreude as we knowingly declare that “Somebody’s getting fired for that!”
Those people who do know something about editing and who occasionally work with editors generally take them for granted, viewing them as either (at best?) spell checkers or (at worst?) a lower class of collaborator whose contributions, because they are invisible, they have no obligation whatsoever to acknowledge.
Editors allow these indignities because we see the bigger picture. Our interest is in protecting quality and maximizing potential. We didn’t get into this to be stars. We’re like the dude in Prodigy who sits and the back and quietly provides the music while that crown looking guy runs around stage screaming and pointing at himself. But that is not to say that we’re humble or that we believe for one second that our contribution is as insignificant as our low profile (and earnings) would imply.
We let a lot of shit slide, but everyone has a breaking point and from personal experience, both as observer and participant, I advise you to never be on the wrong side of an editor. Because if provoked, if degraded or publicly shamed, we will break your weak, poorly thought out, insufficiently proof read shit DOWN. As exemplified by the following story that my man hard editing Tom just sent to me…
It comes from a post on a site called The Torontoist entitled “Disgruntled Star Editor Takes Revenge”
Earlier this week the Toronto Star announced, among other changes, that it was planning to outsource some one hundred in-house, union editing jobs. In the press release issued by the union in the wake of the announcement, union chief Maureen Dawson explained that “Journalism is a collaborative effort, the product of a team of reporters, photographers and editors working in concert to produce the kind of activist agenda that has served Star readers and our community so well for so long…To remove a critical element of that work is to shortchange everyone who depends on it.”
Now, one (apparent) editor at the Star has decided to show us all the benefits of collaboration. An extensively marked-up copy of Publisher John Cruickshank’s internal memo announcing the changes was sent to Torontoist by a self-described “intermediary who was asked to send this for a friend who works at the Star” this morning; it’s, allegedly, “the work of a Star editor.”
Clear here to see a larger version of the image. (If you care, it’s worth it.)
- VERY FEEL feel good clip of the week: Robooty Shake
If a video has ever needed no explanation this is it, but in the interest of prop giving, I will say only that, from what I have pieced together, this little masterpiece of robo-line-dancing was created by students at Seoul National University of Technology. The song they rock to is “Nobody” by the Wondergirls. I owe my friend Grace sending this day making to me.
- Adventures in Globalization: Chiney Vibes
A while ago I posted an interview I did with Robin Liao, proprietor of Together Bar, Beijing’s #1 (and only) reggae spot. That conversation focused mainly on the influence of reggae on China, but it’s a little known fact that Chinese people have played a central role as recorders, players, producers, and distributors of reggae music from its earliest days. Here’s some background, swiped from an interesting little piece in China Daily called “Reggae’s Chinese Progenitors” :
The first Chinese reached Jamaica in 1854, when 472 laborers who had been working in appalling conditions on the Panama Canal petitioned the British government to be returned to China, only to find a selected coterie shipped to Jamaica, the closest British colony, where they were contracted to construct a railway line.
In the 20th century, the Chinese Jamaican community was sizeable, but at its peak still made up less than 1 percent of the island’s population.
Nevertheless, Chinese Jamaicans soon formed a mercantile class of shopkeepers, becoming a well-established facet of Jamaican commercial life in the years following World War II, the same period in which a handful of pioneering entrepreneurs changed Jamaica’s musical landscape through sound systems.
These sets of heavily-powered sound equipment would blast American rhythm and blues, Latin tunes and local forms, such as calypso and mento at open-air dance events; one of the first and most popular to emerge in the late 1940s was Tom the Great Sebastian, run by a hardware store proprietor named Tom Wong, whose father was of Chinese origin.
Then, in the mid-1950s, other forward-thinking entrepreneurs, such as Stanley Chin, owner of a radio repair service, kick-started a proper Jamaican music industry by beginning to record local mento and calypso performers.
Among the most important to begin producing then was Vincent “Randy” Chin, a record shop owner whose carpenter father had left Chinese mainland in the 1920s to settle in Jamaica.
Assisted by his wife Patricia, a woman of mixed Chinese and Indian origin, Chin enjoyed spectacular success during the early 1960s with artists such as Lord Creator.
Following from Vincent Chin’s early lead, several other Chinese Jamaicans became prominent figures on the music scene.
During the early 1960s, Leslie Kong and his three brothers operated an ice cream parlor and record shop called Beverley’s, which also had real estate offices attached, but after being approached by singer Jimmy Cliff, Leslie decided to enter record production, scoring instantly with hit recordings by Cliff and Desmond Dekker, though Bob Marley’s debut effort made little impact.
During the late 1960s, Kong enjoyed more hits than any other producer on the island, and after recording an album by Bob Marley and the Wailers was poised to achieve greater glory in 1971 when he unfortunately suffered a fatal heart attack.
Meanwhile, producer and bass player Byron Lee was making waves with a rival recording studio, Dynamic Sounds.
During the early 1970s, Dynamics was the best-equipped recording facility in the Caribbean, leading Paul Simon and the Rolling Stones to record there; like Tom Wong, Lee’s mother was a black Jamaican, but his father came to Jamaica from Hong Kong.
Although many Chinese Jamaicans are only vaguely aware of their cultural roots, session musicians Geoffrey and Mikey Chung, whose Now Generation band were one of the most popular 1970s outfits, managed to maintain direct links with their Chinese heritage, thanks largely to the efforts of their father.
“My father came to Jamaica in the 1930s and took over his brother’s shop; then, in 1959, I went to Hong Kong for a year and a half with my father and brothers, as it was a Chinese custom that the father bring the children back to the homeland to pick up the Chinese heritage,” Mikey Chung says.
As reggae gained international acclaim during the late 1970s, Herman Chin-Loy’s Aquarius became one of Jamaica’s top studios, but this politically turbulent era had drastic repercussions for the music industry: the 1976 and 1980 general elections involved shocking levels of politically motivated violence, as the socialist-leaning People’s National Party fought pitched battles against the right-wing Jamaica Labor Party.
The result was an exodus of Jamaican businessmen, which saw a gradual curtailment of Chinese Jamaican influence in the island’s music industry. However, the Chinese link to reggae remained strong.
The photo above features Patricia and Randy Chin, owners of VP, a dancehall record label started in Jamaica but now located in the US. The importance of that label of popularizing dancehall is almost impossible to overstate. Luckily, I don’t have to bother, because I found a documentary about it:
The aforementioned, super rockin Leslie Kong makes an unexpected little cameo in this clip of a Toots and the Maytals recording session from The Harder They Come:
It wasn’t all love though down there though. For a while, Kong was at the center of a feud between Prince Buster and Derrick Morgan over Morgan’s decision to leave Buster’s studio for Leslie’s. One artifact of that conflict is this ignorant little song, recorded by Buster in 1963 and ripped from the original 7 inch by Dave of the glorious Dave’s Jukebox blog.
Prince Buster – Black Head Chinee Man
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Hate to end this positive post on that sour note though, so here’s a small piece of Leslie Kong’s more important legacy:
The Melodians – By the Rivers of Babylon (produced by Leslie Kong)
- Hold on… Ying Yang coming
I need to post up this amazing oldie but goodie that I just re-discovered. It features the legendary Sam & Dave performing with the Stax Revue during their tour of Europe in 1967.
This clip speaks for itself, obviously, but I particularly love the way it shows the radical nature of soul music when it was originally unleashed on the world. There are so many aspects of this performance that I love. Sam & Dave’s melodramatic combination of workman-like professionalism and maniacal emotion, Al Jackson’s super-human regularity on the drums + his towel, Booker T’s quiet sophistication, Duck Dunn’s sloppy-tightness on bass, guitarist Steve Cropper’s incredibly tight pants, the Mar-Keys laying down one of the greatest horn lines in the history of music all the while looking like some extras from Mad Men… and all this in front of a sea of arty Norwegians who are restrained physically (and culturally?) from joining the party.
At this point, most of what America has to offer culturally has been fully dispersed, worshipped, mimicked, and mocked. We’ll keep inventing new things for a while and our entertainment-industrial complex will continue to promote them with reckless abandon, but I doubt we will ever be able to recapture the raw power of the cultural confrontation above. The world is too small now and there’s not enough secrets. I mention all this because yesterday I found out that the Ying Yang Twins are going to be performing in Beijing in a couple weeks, and I’ll be there praying for just of taste of that Stax in Oslo vibe.
Thanks to my man JHE for originally turning me on to this performance all those years ago and Crooks & Liars for putting it online.
Sam & Dave – Hold on, I’m coming
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Ying Yang Twins – Wait (the whisper song)
- United New
My friend Rem just opened the flagship store for his shoe brand United Nude. His work is amazing and the store looks wicked and although I couldn’t make it I heard the opening party was great. Here’s a little something from the press release:
United Nude, a brand founded by architect Rem D Koolhaas and Galahad JD Clark opens a flagship store in Amsterdam on October 22, 2009. Located in the prestigious city center address of Spuistraat 125, United Nude presents their concept, the Wall of Light™. United Nude is distributed in over 300 points of sale worldwide in over 30 territories. Up next for the brand in early 2010, are flagship stores in Shanghai and New York.
But better yet get your ass down to the store and buy some shoes. It’s located at Spuistraat 125A, adjacent to Dam Square in Amsterdam. Open 7 days a week.