Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Javanese Gamelan Cover of a Gang of Four Tune

I can't believe I'm typing it, but here is a gamelan version of a 1979 Gang of four tune "Not Great Men," which is basically a tune about how the powerful have hegemony over the telling of history.

Here's a version of that tune, a remake GOF did:

or you can check out the lyrics:
Not Great Men

No weak men in the books at home
The strong men who have made the world
History lives on the books at home
The books at home

It's not made by great men
It's not made by great men
It's not made by great men
It's not made by great men

The past lives on in your front room
The poor still weak the rich still rule
History lives in the books at home
The books at home

It's not made by great men
It's not made by great men
It's not made by great men
It's not made by great men

The past lives in the books at home
No weak men in the books at home
History lives in the books at home
The books at home

It's not made by great men
It's not made by great men
It's not made by great men
It's not made by great men

Now here's the gamelan version. How the heck did they choose this to cover?

Gang of Four Videos

Gang of Four was the best British neo-marxist funk rock band in the world. They came out of the wave of UK bands after the initial punk explosion and thus often got pegged as new wave, but they were really quite unique, powered by Andy Gill's ridiculously huge sounding guitar and Jon King's anguished vocals. The group's bleak lyrics seemed appropriate for the bleakness of the UK and then global recession, the beginning of the Thatcher years, soon to be followed the next year by the Reagan years. I saw them live a couple of times, probably in 81 and 82, and they were fantastic. King and Gill had such total conviction and the band had a tight massive sound. I love the way they played "Paralyzed" in near darkness before roipping into more uptempo tunes. One tour I saw them after they had replaced their original bassist and had Busta Jones playing bass, and when King and Gill started flying around the stage with this huge angry distorted guitar sound, Jones looked like he didn't know what the hell was happening. No problem, he just stayed in his groove and the band killed. I remember at one point near the end Gill was playing his spastic whack distorted guitar and he started doing it with a beer bottle. The sliding distortion sounded even more intense and strange, but I was up close and could see that he was doing it with his stage beer and it was rather full and the top was off, so while he was tearing off his clippy distorted stuff the beer started foaming out of the top of the bottle. This seemed to inspired Gill, who never broke a smile the whole concert, to jab at his guitar with the bottle even harder, which produced even more foam! Those were great shows that I can remember the feel of thirty years later.

GOF have reformed a couple of times, and very recently Gill and King were out with a new rhythm section. Their old music still sounds fresh; what high praise that is after 31 years.

Check out a rolling Stone review of them playing in 2011:
Early in the set, singer Jon King recalled being there when the venue was called the Ritz – three decades ago. There was also the eerily identical resonance of the rallying choruses and aggro-dance relief in the band's reignitions of the 1979 single "At Home He's a Tourist" and the metallic '81 goosestep "To Hell With Poverty": howling broadsides against unchecked greed, suffocating conservatism and narcotic pop culture. In King's chanted provocations – from the blunt helplessness of "Not Great Men" on Gang of Four's master argument, 1979's Entertainment!, to the furious entrapment in "Do as I Say" from the group's new album, Content (Yep Roc) – little had changed, except for the worse.

In the music, little has changed, because it is unnecessary." read the rest HERE.

So I've been trying to find as much video from their heyday, and there isn't a lot easily available, but enough to remind me of what I saw.
I love Gill and King on this clip from British TV's Old Grey Whistle Test (1981, I'd love to see more of this). Sadly, the drummer and bassist screw up the break (the bastards!).

At Home He's a Tourist (1980)

Damaged Goods (low quality) 1980

Anthrax (1980)

Not Great Men from Atlanta, 1980:

He'd Send In His Army (1981) Badass intro:

What We All Want (1982)

I love a Man in a Uniform (1982)

At Home He Feels Like a Tourist (1983)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Former North Korean Propaganda Artist Turns to Pop Art


After escape from North Korea, artist turns from propaganda to pop art
By Paul Ferguson, CNN
updated 12:26 AM EDT, Sun March 25, 2012

Atlanta (CNN) -- Song Byeok had every reason to be pleased with his success. A gift for drawing led to a prestigious career as a propaganda artist and full membership in North Korea's communist party.

Then the food shortages started.

Like tens of thousands of other North Koreans in the mid-1990s, Song made forays across the Tumen River to find food in China. Despite witnessing a better material life across the border, he says, he never doubted that North Korea was culturally superior. He never considered leaving his homeland for anything more than food.

"I was a believer. I saw North Koreans as pure," Song said. "And we needed the Great Leader to protect us from outsiders."

Today, Song paints in Seoul, South Korea, his art haunted by his former whole-hearted belief in the North Korean regime. Song's paintings chronicle a personal, often agonizing journey from child-like allegiance to the country's founder and "Great Leader," Kim Il Sung, and his son, "Dear Leader" Kim Jong Il, to Song's life today as a contemporary artist.

In his former life, he would paint boyish-looking soldiers with heroic features across an entire side of a factory to inspire workers with the same patriotism he believed in.

His current paintings explore themes of freedom while skewering his former devotion to North Korea's leaders. He paints children in military uniforms, their heads bowed and eyes closed. His trademark work shows Kim Jong Il's face atop Marilyn Monroe's famous film pose on a sidewalk grate, holding down her skirt as it billows around her hips.

The painting created a stir in South Korea, where American Greg Pence saw it and raised funds on Kickstarter to exhibit Song's work this winter in Washington and Atlanta.

Song is passionate and sometimes brooding when discussing North Korea but gracious and open about his deeply personal passage from propaganda artist to painter who anguishes over oppression in North Korea.

Song's journey to disbelief began the moment he watched, helpless, as his father was caught in a current during a river crossing to China and drowned. Song was halfway across when his father was swept away; he swam back but was unable to rescue him. Despondent, Song searched for his father's body along the riverbank but was captured by North Korean border guards.

Despite his rank as a party member, getting caught meant questioning and torture by North Korean guards to confirm that he was not working for the South Koreans or the foreign missionaries based in China who proselytize among defectors.

"There were no exceptions," he said. "All who are caught are investigated."

In North Korea, a brutal choice

The torment of not recovering his father's remains was much greater than the broken teeth and beatings, Song said. The beatings were so harsh, he said, he was close to death, and he believes that he was released so he would not die in custody.

More than bones, the guards' treatment broke Song's belief in the regime. He describes the moment he left jail as if a veil had been lifted: He saw the world with a new clarity. As he hobbled through the streets, wondering how he'd get home, he decided he wanted a different life. He decided to defect.

In a country of 25 million, only about 20,000 have defected and settled in South Korea, according to the South Korean government. There are no precise figures for how many defectors live in hiding in China; estimates from governments, researchers and non-governmental organizations vary from 25,000 to more than 400,000.

"When people are picked up in China and repatriated, they face prosecution back in North Korea if they are believed to have met with South Koreans or missionaries," said Marcus Noland, a North Korea specialist at the Peterson Institute.

China labels North Korean escapees "economic migrants" and forcibly returns them despite accounts of torture and execution. So those hoping to defect must make their way across China to a third country.

Of those North Koreans interviewed in China, only about one in 10 say they left because of a longing for freedom, according to W. Courtland Robinson, a public health expert at Johns Hopkins University who has studied the issue for more than a decade.

The vast majority who leave give the same explanation Song did for his pre-defector forays into China during the famine: the search for work or food.

"The (North Korean) system is so integral to who you are," Robinson said. "People generally don't say 'I am frustrated, and I want out.' "

Song's paintings explore that theme: a devotion to serving North Korea's leaders so strong that citizens view it as part of their identity.

"Flower Children" shows a gaggle of smiling, uniformed schoolgirls waving and holding North Korea's standard reading primers, "The Story of Kim Jong Il's Childhood" and "History of Kim Il Sung."

The girls exude childish charm, but some faces show a weariness that only comes with age, and their eyes are all closed. Their shoes have holes.

"They believe they are happy," Song said. "They believe they are so much better off than the rest of the world because of their two leaders, who are like two suns."

Read the full story and view images HERE.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pulp Shakespeare

Pulp Fiction Scene in Elizabethan English:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Excellent History of Hip-Hop Cartoon

A great and pretty accurate cartoon by Ed Piskor detailing the birth of hip-hop can be found here at Boing Boing published in weekly installments.

Music Festivals Cartoon

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Robot Drones Play James bond Theme

These miniature flying drones move with incredible precision. I think my memories of The Terminator's Skynet would have me take a baseball bat to these things. The future seems wondrous and terrifying, as always, I suppose.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Ralph McQuarrie

[click to enlarge illustrations]
Artist/visual designer Ralph McQuarrie recently passed away. He is best known as an artist who gave vision to George Lucas' Star Wars stories, though he also worked on design for other sci-fi productions as well. Check out this gallery of his Star Wars conceptual design work, which George Lucas has praised as critical to realizing his vision. It's interesting to see the differences between the original imagining and the final product. In the painting above, the jedi (Luke?) wearing a breathing apparatus above makes for a colder, less hospitable, more dangerous sense of place than the version realized in the film. I find many f McQuarrie's painting striking and evocative, much in the way great sci-fi fantasy artwork can totally captivate the imagination.

A brilliant thing about the original film was its design that made the world of Star Wars seem futuristic but also well worn. McQuarrie produced detailed, dramatic work that seemed to bridge the fantasy world of sci-fi Heavy Metal comics and cinematic dreams of Lucas.

"George Lucas said he was saddened by McQuarrie's passing, calling him a visionary artist and a humble man.

"Ralph McQuarrie was the first person I hired to help me envision Star Wars," Lucas said. "His genial contribution, in the form of unequaled production paintings, propelled and inspired all of the cast and crew of the original Star Wars trilogy.

"When words could not convey my ideas, I could always point to one of Ralph's fabulous illustrations and say, 'Do it like this.'"

From the Washington Post:

“Ralph McQuarrie was the first person I hired to help me envision ‘Star Wars,’ ” Lucas said in a statement posted online. “When words could not convey my ideas, I could always point to one of Ralph’s fabulous illustrations and say, ‘Do it like this.’ ”

Mr. McQuarrie, for instance, designed the Samurai-inspired helmet and black caped-outfit worn by arch nemesis Darth Vader. (It was Mr. McQuarrie’s idea to put a breathing apparatus on Vader’s mask, so that he could survive in the vacuum of space, which led to the villain’s raspy voice in the films.)

Mr. McQuarrie’s pens, pencils and brushes brought lush color, dramatic scenery and lifelike characters to stunning vibrancy in film classics such as “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Cocoon,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “E.T.”

He was part of a team that won the 1985 Academy Award for best visual effects for his work on “Cocoon,” about aliens who can pass on the gift of immortality.

As an artist for all three episodes of the original “Star Wars” films, Mr. McQuarrie was widely credited with shaping Lucas’s far, far away galaxy.

Mr. McQuarrie had been fascinated with flight and outer space exploration since his days building model airplanes as a youngster.

As a technical artist for Boeing in the 1960s, he drew diagrams for a manual on constructing the 747 jumbo jet and later worked as an illustrator animating sequences of the Apollo space missions for NASA and CBS News.

Through two artist friends, Mr. McQuarrie was introduced to Lucas in the mid 1970s.

At the time, Lucas’ tale of a interplanetary civil war between a loose band of rebels and a Naziesque empire, had been rejected by United Artists and Universal.

Lucas enlisted Mr. McQuarrie’s help to show movie executives his story. Using Lucas’ script for inspiration, Mr. McQuarrie drew scenes of a space battle between laser-shooting fighter planes and lightsaber-wielding warriors.

Lucas, armed with the images, quickly won funding from 20th Century Fox and “Star Wars” was born, beginning with “Episode IV: A New Hope,” in 1977.

Artist Iain McCaig, who worked on the “Star Wars” prequels, Episodes I, II, and III, called Mr. McQuarrie a pioneer of film conceptual art. Before him, McCaig said, few directors called on artists to help visualize their projects.

“He didn’t just draw a picture of Darth standing in a neutral pose,” McCaig said in an interview, “he did a scene of Darth lashing out at Luke Skywalker. You could feel the power and the pathos going on in that moment. He did more than just design costumes. . . . He helped capture the the story-telling moments in really dazzling pictures.”

Doug Chiang, who worked with McCaig as an artist on Episode I, said that Mr. McQuarrie’s artwork was “cinematic.”

“He painted and designed with a camera’s point of view,” Chiang said in an interview. “Most science fiction art at the time were for posters and book covers. But his looked like images you could see on the big screen.”

He designed the porcelain armor of the Imperial storm troopers, the shiny gilt frame of the humanoid robot C-3PO and the droid R2D2, which resembled a motorized trashcan.

Anthony Daniels, the British actor who portrayed C-3PO, initially turned down the part, unimpressed by his proposed character’s lack of depth.

Then he saw an expressive drawing of the robot painted by Mr. McQuarrie.

“He had painted a face and a figure that had a very wistful, rather yearning, rather bereft quality, which I found very appealing,” Mr. Daniels said in 2010. He took the job.

Ralph Angus McQuarrie was born June 13, 1929, in Gary, Ind., and grew up on a farm outside Billings, Mont.

He saw combat with the Army during the Korean War and survived a bullet to the head. The round punctured his helmet, bloodying his skull. After the war he attended what is now known as the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

He worked as an illustrator for a dental business drawing teeth and dentist’s tools before his work in films. His art for “Star Wars” led director Steven Spielberg to tap Mr. McQuarrie to draw space ships for his movies “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977) and “E.T.” (1982). Survivors include his wife of 29 years, Joan, of Berkeley.

In “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” (1980), Mr. McQuarrie makes a cameo appearance in a scene inside a hanger on the icy planet Hoth.

On the 30th anniversary of “Star Wars,” a collectible action figure was released of his character, rebel Gen. Pharl (a play on Ralph) McQuarrie, complete with blaster pistol.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Badgermin (Stuffed Badger Theramin)

I don't even know what to say; someone took a dead badger and put a theramin in it.

and video...

Oliver Wang on the Lin-Sanity of Jeremy Lin

A great guest post by scholar and DJ Oliver Wang at T.N. Coates' blog at the Atlantic. Coates' page is also recommended for its great commentary. check it out.

Fung Brothers: Stuff Peple Say About Jeremy Lin