Musician Jarvis Cocker (most famous as the frontman for the British band Pulp) conducted some mightily enjoyable road trips through some major sites of self-taught so-called "outsider art" for UK television in 1998. The three-part series was originally broadcast on Channel 4 (where I originally saw it), but then it wasn't subsequently widely distributed. It's filled with tons of magical mosaic gardens and roadside religious propaganda as you might expect but it's very charming to see Cocker attempt to befriend and discover more about all manner of eccentric and visionary folk, whose works defy most generally accepted aesthetic norms and get down to the business of being totally weird.
Here's a vintage, and utterly wonderful interview from the 1990s with Lux Interior and Ivy Rorschach of The Cramps. Dig Lux's beautiful outfit and pearl necklace! The lovely rock and roll duo charm their way through some typical chat show questions, riddled with a bit of Letterman-esque irony. You figure this was buried in local late night tv (Lux mentions fans masturbating in the front row in Europe, while in the US critics scribble away--entirely different modes of response!) Lux and Ivy seemed always gracious and calm in interview settings, leaving all the pathos and angst for the proscenium. Thanks so much for bringing this one to light, Conrad Holt!
I've only watched the first few episodes of the HBO-produced crime series True Detective, being often too bleary eyed to begin to stream video in the wee hours, but from what I've seen it's definitely got interesting performances, production design, and a certain creepy stylishness about it. And typically with series of this type there's a lot of criticism being batted around, one review by the New Yorker magazine's Emily Nussbaum comments: "To state the obvious: while the male detectives of "True Detective" are avenging women and children, and bro-bonding over "crazy pussy," every live woman they meet is paper-thin. Wives and sluts and daughters—none with any interior life...." You can read the rest of her interesting critique here and for more on the critical discussions around the show, there's a good overview by Ian Rogers called "On the shallowness of True Detective." Meanwhile (neo-)film noir and crime show addict that I am, I believe I'll make some strong coffee soon, and watch the rest of the series....verdict yet to come...
To me, this 1968 clip from The Monkees television show encapsulates “the Sixties” in a few minutes better than almost any other. Here you have a skit featuring Monkee Mike Nesmith clowning it up with the formidable musician Frank Zappa. Or maybe I should also say the formidable Mike Nesmith, as he contributed much to developing both the country rock of the 1970s and the music video in the 1980s—of course these could be read as dubious accomplishments! But remember this clip was shot for mainstream US TV during a really insane period of popular culture (even leaving aside broader cultural factors and a little thing called the Vietnam War). Now why would musician Frank Zappa widely acknowledged as a very avant-garde figure of rock and roll be playing along with the Monkees, often derided as the pre-fab four? Well, lots of proper musicians of the time thought the Monkees were cool; and definitely Nesmith and fellow member Peter Tork were proper musicians also, and Davy Jones was a Broadway-skilled entertainer, and Mickey Dolenz could manage a charismatic and infectious lead vocal, as in I’m a Believer, (I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone, Last Train to Clarksville, and Pleasant Valley Sunday. All of these were among the more memorable Karaoke-bound tunes of that era, and beloved also by the punk bands who consistently covered and praised the Monkees also. But back to the clip, Nesmith and Zappa poke fun at each other (“You’re a popular musician I’m dirty, gross, and ugly!”) but more importantly at a culture that valorizes simplicity and easy-to-read pop imagery, amidst a period of increasing, even nightmarish, complexity. Zappa, a composer and aficionado of modern music, then “plays a car,” thus turning the eroticized sixties automobile culture towards dysfunction, chaos, and Dada-like pranksterism. Have a look!
Supposedly everyone is "binge watching" the so-called new golden age of television thanks to DVDs and internet streaming, and that's probably true. Lately, I have also been "binge-reading" to catch up on some of the more interesting blogs and online publications, including many linked on this site. Although like countless folks I gnawed my way through the entirety of Breaking Bad, I kept feeling that it was a much less satisfying feast in the last season or two. I've read many articles and reviews of the acclaimed series, but just finally caught up with this brilliant piece by the Wellington writer and editor Tim Wong entitled Breaking Bad's bad habits. Posted on the terrific site The Lumière Reader back in October, I thought now dust had settled a bit on Breaking Bad-mania, I would re-post this as (a) it is the best critical writing I've yet read on the show, and (b) it also analyzes some other programs, such as the comparatively underrated Treme and Rectify.
I would imagine I'm probably not the only person who feels that the comedian Louis CK has done a fantastic job of ripping out the basic content dancing around my own head and making it into gloriously well-crafted sketches. Well of course not me per se, but a specific generational demographic of middle aged geezers with lots of kids and lots of self-doubt. The show Louie is an unusual thing, incorporating a manic surreal sensibility with many aspects that seem very grounded in the mundane shared business of getting along in the world.