July 20, 1969 or, One Small Step for Man’s Mind

MOON-2

Listen: there are people who actually believe that the moon landing never happened. Lots of people. Not that it didn’t happen, necessarily, but that it was an elaborate, carefully staged scam; that it happened out in the desert, secret film crews capturing the entire thing. Unfortunately, most of the people who agreed to be interviewed all happen to live in trailer parks, which tends to undermine their credibility.

But I’ll be damned if, fifteen minutes in, I’m on board, buying just about every argument. After twenty minutes I’m talking in increasingly agitated tones to my TV. A half hour later I’m ready to make a down payment on a used trailer.

Listen to them: these people might not be crazy, but they are playing the part to perfection. Wide eyes working to wash away the one-two punch of alarm and indignation, creased foreheads wet with the weight of their weird worlds, the insistent outlook of the converted Christian or polished politician, the unburdened body language of a puppet who has finally plucked the wires from its back.

And, I think: Please!

Please let this be true. Imagine: all the churchgoing, flag-waving, right wing radio listening, free market following, see-no-evil simpletons (and that’s just Whitey) if they found out?

And then, this: No!

Nothing, it eventually occurs to me, could conceivably be worse than if those astronauts actually landed on Earth. Because it is marginally acceptable, or at least comprehensible, that in a time when millions of people are starving and dying of decades-old diseases, we’d have the effrontery to float billion dollar babies in space—that is enough, that confirms all we need to know about priorities and good and evil and the fact that there is, of course, at the end of the night, no chance whatsoever that God is watching over all this. But to think that the suits who call the shots arrived at the decision that it was ultimately to their advantage to take the time and imagination to choreograph a made-for-TV miracle to propagate compliance, or boost morale, or whatever mendacious busywork those men who don’t work for a living get up to when they are hard at work behind those fortified doors.

If that is even a possibility, then all bets are off. Then suddenly even the cynics are shit out of luck, and things like fake wars and flying planes into buildings begin to seem like a rather ingenuous part of the program. See: it is conceivable that money gets spent every day on scientific charades that serve no practical purpose. Or conceding that God obviously does not exist, so it can’t be His fault (because He never existed). But finding out that we are capable—and worse, willing—to pull off that kind of crap? It is almost enough to make you join a militia. It’s almost enough to cause you to cash it all in and start looking for the alien transmissions in your fillings. Or hunker down in a trailer park on the outskirts of Area 51.

*Excerpt from the novel Not To Mention a Nice Life.

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One Small Step for Man’s Mind

Check it out: there are people who actually believe that the moon landing never happened. Lots of people. Not that it didn’t happen, necessarily, but that it was an elaborate, carefully staged scam; that it happened out in the desert, secret film crews capturing the entire thing. Unfortunately, most of the people who agreed to be interviewed all happen to live in trailer parks, and that tends to undermine their credibility.

Every now and then you encounter one of those documentaries on TV and it’s impossible not to scoff. Look: these people are not merely skeptical, they are insistent. It’s not a matter of which parts of the official record are dubious, all the parts are dubious. These are the folks positive that 9/11 was an inside job, and that the creation of the universe was, in a matter of speaking, an inside job (God being the ultimate insider). These folks are as invested in government’s omnipotent mendacity as the faithful are in God’s benevolence: all that is required is utter abdication of personal volition and the concept of chaos: it’s all preordained and executed according to plan. A run of the mill cynic, sane by comparison, has no alternative but to shake his head in exasperation—or amusement. And yet, the ones immune to uncertainty are enviable in their own weird way: if ignorance is bliss there is a discernible upside to being half-baked.

But I’ll be damned if, fifteen minutes in, I’m on board, buying just about every argument. After twenty minutes I’m talking in increasingly agitated tones to my TV. A half hour later I’m ready to make a down payment on a used trailer.

Listen to them: these people might not be crazy, but they are playing the part to perfection. Wide eyes working to wash away the one-two punch of alarm and indignation; creased foreheads wet with the weight of their weird worlds; the insistent outlook of the converted Christian or polished politician; the unburdened body language of a puppet who has finally plucked the wires from its back.

MOON 2

And, I think: Please!

Please let this be true. Imagine: all the churchgoing, flag-waving, right wing radio listening, free market following, see-no-evil simpletons if they found out?

And then, this: No!

Nothing, it eventually occurs to me, could conceivably be worse than if those astronauts actually landed on earth. Because it is marginally acceptable, or at least comprehensible, that in a time when millions of people are starving and dying of decades-old diseases, we’d have the effrontery to float billion dollar babies in space—that is enough, that confirms all we need to know about priorities and good and evil and the fact that there is, of course, at the end of the night, no chance whatsoever that God is watching over all this (Would you be able to watch and not do anything, even if you were The One who made it all happen in the first place?). But to think that the suits who call the shots arrived at the decision that it was ultimately to their advantage to take the time and imagination to choreograph a made-for-TV miracle to propagate compliance, or boost morale, or whatever mendacious busywork those men who don’t work for a living get up to when they are hard at work behind those fortified doors.

If that is even a possibility, then all bets are off. Then suddenly even the cynics are shit out of luck, and things like fake wars and flying planes into buildings begin to seem like a rather ingenuous part of the program. See: it is conceivable that money gets spent every day on scientific charades that serve no practical purpose. Or conceding that God obviously does not exist, so it can’t be His fault (because He never existed). But finding out that we are capable—and worse, willing—to pull off that kind of crap? It is almost enough to make you join a militia. It’s almost enough to cause you to cash it all in and start looking for the alien transmissions in your fillings. Or hunker down in a trailer park on the outskirts of Area 51.

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In Praise of Porn…Music: A Primer on Obscure Italian (and German) Soundtrack Bliss (Revisited)

This story begins, as so many of them do, with porn.

Sort of.

Back in 2004, my boy Serf came back from a trip to Thailand with a treasure trove of (then) impossible-to-procure “import” CDs, including a handful of Italian and German soundtracks and compilations. The first one we spun was the “incidental” music for the film Vampyros Lesbos. A picture can often tell a story better, so without further ado:

I would be less than honest if I did not confess that this one had me at the title; Vampyros y Lesbos being two of my favorite things. The cover shot (above) is not too shabby either, featuring the gorgeous Soledad Miranda. Who could have guessed the music would be so good? (The film? I can’t tell you because I have not seen it. Yet.)

Suffice it to say, floodgates got opened that have not even begun to close. And this would classify as one of the many stories I tell, when people ask me “How or where in the hell did you find this music?” Usually it’s from reading (reviews, liner notes, acknowledgments), sometimes it’s from hearing a particular tune in a movie (ironically, one of the tracks from Vampyros Lesbos was featured in Tarantino’s ’98 flick Jackie Brown, which was on the screen so quickly it never really registered and I never picked up that soundtrack; if I had I probably would have been on the V&L trail a half-decade sooner…in any event, props to QT for inserting killer tracks into his movies), sometimes it’s the old fashioned way: hearing a song in a restaurant or a car or on the radio (!), and occasionally it’s because a good friend drops a love bomb on me and I quickly make it a point to get more of what I just heard.

It’s daunting, because even a music freak like myself is ceaselessly reminded that no matter how much one accumulates, there are oceans and galaxies of amazing sounds out there. And that’s just the stuff that is still in print or available. You get the picture. For now, let it simply be confirmed that there is a lot more music like this out there, and it’s difficult and expensive (if fun and enlightening) to plow through it. (Be careful: all of a sudden you may find yourself obsessed with Bollywood, or Iranian music, and that might take you in through the out door to Afro-Pop and Nigerian funk and then it’s between you and the man behind the curtain…see you back there.)

But getting back to the vampyros and the lesbos: if you were inclined (or able) to have a “sexadelic dance party”, which is another way of partying like it’s 1969, wouldn’t you want to kick off the proceedings with a song like this?

Maybe once things started getting groovy, it might sound something like this?

Or maybe this is more your speed (if you can combine German austerity, chic smut and psychedelic decadence):

Trust me, the hits keep coming (pun, pretty much not intended).

So, it is enough work for one day to send a shout out to this great soundtrack and the unheralded work of German maestros Manfred Hubler and Siegfried Schwab (could you even create two better names?). But one of the other discs Serf introduced me to is very much a gift that keeps giving: Ambiente Elegante. This one is not a soundtrack so much as a collection of songs from a variety of ’60s (and early ’70s) Italian films.

Aside from being incredible, ranging from bizarro big band numbers, psychedelia, surreal surf music, early electronica, and sexy, if dark jazz-y ballads (trust me), this joint opened my ears up to a cat called Piero Umiliani. An Italian composer who had his hands all over soundtrack work for films ranging from action/adventure to semi (or soft) porn. The range of sounds is not unlike our collective sexual obsessions: slightly inexplicable and all over the place. Needless to say, I mean this in a good way.

Hilariously, Umiliani’s biggest hit may be familiar to Gen-X kids (and/or their parents), as it was featured on Sesame Street and, later, The Muppets.

Below are a trio of selections illustrating the not-quite-believable range of depictions I mention above, in this order: bizarro big band numbers, surreal surf music, and sexy, if (very) dark jazz-y ballads. And this is just the ones I could find on YouTube; there are at least a handful of other cuts that I would happily share (pimp, if you will), were they available. Unfortunately, you’ll have to track them down. Fortunately, pristine copies are available online for just under $50; used copies are going on Amazon for about thirty bucks. Or you can hope one of your good friends has good taste, an eagle eye and is traveling overseas sometime soon.

Piero Umiliani: “Gassman Blues”:

Piero Umiliani: “White Sand” (from Gems of Italian Cinema Vol. 1):

Helen Merill (with Piero Umiliani): “My Only Man”:

And bonus, the EPIC jazz version of “Smog” (featuring Chet Baker):

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One Small Step for Man’s Mind

Check it out: there are people who actually believe that the moon landing never happened. Lots of people. Not that it didn’t happen, necessarily, but that it was an elaborate, carefully staged scam; that it happened out in the desert, secret film crews capturing the entire thing. Unfortunately, most of the people who agreed to be interviewed all happen to live in trailer parks, and that tends to undermine their credibility.

Every now and then you encounter one of those documentaries on TV and it’s impossible not to scoff. Look: these people are not merely skeptical, they are insistent. It’s not a matter of which parts of the official record are dubious, all the parts are dubious. These are the folks positive that 9/11 was an inside job, and that the creation of the universe was, in a matter of speaking, an inside job (God being the ultimate insider). These folks are as invested in government’s omnipotent mendacity as the faithful are in God’s benevolence: all that is required is utter abdication of personal volition and the concept of chaos: it’s all preordained and executed according to plan. A run of the mill cynic, sane by comparison, has no alternative but to shake his head in exasperation—or amusement. And yet, the ones immune to uncertainty are enviable in their own weird way: if ignorance is bliss there is a discernible upside to being half-baked.

But I’ll be damned if, fifteen minutes in, I’m on board, buying just about every argument. After twenty minutes I’m talking in increasingly agitated tones to my TV. A half hour later I’m ready to make a down payment on a used trailer.

Listen to them: these people might not be crazy, but they are playing the part to perfection. Wide eyes working to wash away the one-two punch of alarm and indignation; creased foreheads wet with the weight of their weird worlds; the insistent outlook of the converted Christian or polished politician; the unburdened body language of a puppet who has finally plucked the wires from its back.

MOON 2

And, I think: Please!

Please let this be true. Imagine: all the churchgoing, flag-waving, right wing radio listening, free market following, see-no-evil simpletons if they found out?

And then, this: No!

Nothing, it eventually occurs to me, could conceivably be worse than if those astronauts actually landed on earth. Because it is marginally acceptable, or at least comprehensible, that in a time when millions of people are starving and dying of decades-old diseases, we’d have the effrontery to float billion dollar babies in space—that is enough, that confirms all we need to know about priorities and good and evil and the fact that there is, of course, at the end of the night, no chance whatsoever that God is watching over all this (Would you be able to watch and not do anything, even if you were The One who made it all happen in the first place?). But to think that the suits who call the shots arrived at the decision that it was ultimately to their advantage to take the time and imagination to choreograph a made-for-TV miracle to propagate compliance, or boost morale, or whatever mendacious busywork those men who don’t work for a living get up to when they are hard at work behind those fortified doors.

If that is even a possibility, then all bets are off. Then suddenly even the cynics are shit out of luck, and things like fake wars and flying planes into buildings begin to seem like a rather ingenuous part of the program. See: it is conceivable that money gets spent every day on scientific charades that serve no practical purpose. Or conceding that God obviously does not exist, so it can’t be His fault (because He never existed). But finding out that we are capable—and worse, willing—to pull off that kind of crap? It is almost enough to make you join a militia. It’s almost enough to cause you to cash it all in and start looking for the alien transmissions in your fillings. Or hunker down in a trailer park on the outskirts of Area 51.

Share

In Praise of Porn…Music: A Primer on Obscure Italian (and German) Soundtrack Bliss

This story begins, as so many of them do, with porn.

Sort of.

Back in 2004, my boy Serf came back from a trip to Thailand with a treasure trove of (then) impossible-to-procure “import” CDs, including a handful of Italian and German soundtracks and compilations. The first one we spun was the “incidental” music for the film Vampyros Lesbos. A picture can often tell a story better, so without further ado:

I would be less than honest if I did not confess that this one had me at the title; Vampyros y Lesbos being two of my favorite things. The cover shot (above) is not too shabby either, featuring the gorgeous Soledad Miranda. Who could have guessed the music would be so good? (The film? I can’t tell you because I have not seen it. Yet.)

Suffice it to say, floodgates got opened that have not even begun to close. And this would classify as one of the many stories I tell, when people ask me “How or where in the hell did you find this music?” Usually it’s from reading (reviews, liner notes, acknowledgments), sometimes it’s from hearing a particular tune in a movie (ironically, one of the tracks from Vampyros Lesbos was featured in Tarantino’s ’98 flick Jackie Brown, which was on the screen so quickly it never really registered and I never picked up that soundtrack; if I had I probably would have been on the V&L trail a half-decade sooner…in any event, props to QT for inserting killer tracks into his movies), sometimes it’s the old fashioned way: hearing a song in a restaurant or a car or on the radio (!), and occasionally it’s because a good friend drops a love bomb on me and I quickly make it a point to get more of what I just heard.

It’s daunting, because even a music freak like myself is ceaselessly reminded that no matter how much one accumulates, there are oceans and galaxies of amazing sounds out there. And that’s just the stuff that is still in print or available. You get the picture. For now, let it simply be confirmed that there is a lot more music like this out there, and it’s difficult and expensive (if fun and enlightening) to plow through it. (Be careful: all of a sudden you may find yourself obsessed with Bollywood, or Iranian music, and that might take you in through the out door to Afro-Pop and Nigerian funk and then it’s between you and the man behind the curtain…see you back there.)

But getting back to the vampyros and the lesbos: if you were inclined (or able) to have a “sexadelic dance party”, which is another way of partying like it’s 1969, wouldn’t you want to kick off the proceedings with a song like this?

Maybe once things started getting groovy, it might sound something like this?

 

Or maybe this is more your speed (if you can combine German austerity, chic smut and psychedelic decadence):

Trust me, the hits keep coming (pun, pretty much not intended).

So, it is enough work for one day to send a shout out to this great soundtrack and the unheralded work of German maestros Manfred Hubler and Siegfried Schwab (could you even create two better names?). But one of the other discs Serf introduced me to is very much a gift that keeps giving: Ambiente Elegante. This one is not a soundtrack so much as a collection of songs from a variety of ’60s (and early ’70s) Italian films.

Aside from being incredible, ranging from bizarro big band numbers, psychedelia, surreal surf music, early electronica, and sexy, if dark jazz-y ballads (trust me), this joint opened my ears up to a cat called Piero Umiliani. An Italian composer who had his hands all over soundtrack work for films ranging from action/adventure to semi (or soft) porn. The range of sounds is not unlike our collective sexual obsessions: slightly inexplicable and all over the place. Needless to say, I mean this in a good way.

Hilariously, Umiliani’s biggest hit may be familiar to Gen-X kids (and/or their parents), as it was featured on Sesame Street and, later, The Muppets.

Below are a trio of selections illustrating the not-quite-believable range of depictions I mention above, in this order: bizarro big band numbers, surreal surf music, and sexy, if (very) dark jazz-y ballads. And this is just the ones I could find on YouTube; there are at least a handful of other cuts that I would happily share (pimp, if you will), were they available. Unfortunately, you’ll have to track them down. Fortunately, pristine copies are available online for just under $50; used copies are going on Amazon for about thirty bucks. Or you can hope one of your good friends has good taste, an eagle eye and is traveling overseas sometime soon.

Piero Umiliani: “Gassman Blues”:

Piero Umiliani: “White Sand” (from Gems of Italian Cinema Vol. 1):

Helen Merill (with Piero Umiliani): “My Only Man”:

Share

One Small Step for Man’s Mind

moon3

Listen: there are people who actually believe that the moon landing never happened. Lots of people. Not that it didn’t happen, necessarily, but that it was an elaborate, carefully staged scam; that it happened out in the desert, secret film crews capturing the entire thing. Unfortunately, most of the people who agreed to be interviewed all happen to live in trailer parks, and that tends to undermine their credibility.

Every now and then you encounter one of those documentaries on TV and it’s impossible not to scoff. Look: these people are not merely skeptical, they are insistent. It’s not a matter of which parts of the official record are dubious, all the parts are dubious. These are the folks positive that 9/11 was an inside job, and that the creation of the universe was, in a matter of speaking, an inside job (God being the ultimate insider). These folks are as invested in government’s omnipotent mendacity as the fundamentally retarded faithful are in God’s benevolence: all that is required is utter abdication of personal volition and the concept of chaos: it’s all preordained and executed according to plan. A run of the mill cynic, sane by comparison, has no alternative but to shake his head in exasperation—or amusement. And yet, the ones immune to uncertainty are enviable in their own weird way: if ignorance is bliss there is a discernible upside to being half-baked.

But I’ll be damned if, fifteen minutes in, I’m on board, buying just about every argument. After twenty minutes I’m talking in increasingly agitated tones to my TV. A half hour later I’m ready to make a down payment on a used trailer.

Listen to them: these people might not be crazy, but they are playing the part to perfection. Wide eyes working to wash away the one-two punch of alarm and indignation; creased foreheads wet with the weight of their weird worlds; the insistent outlook of the converted Christian or polished politician; the unburdened body language of a puppet who has finally plucked the wires from its back.

MOON 2

And, I think: Please!

Please let this be true. Imagine: all the churchgoing, flag-waving, right wing radio listening, free market following, see-no-evil simpletons if they found out?

And then, this: No!

Nothing, it eventually occurs to me, could conceivably be worse than if those astronauts actually landed on earth. Because it is marginally acceptable, or at least comprehensible, that in a time when millions of people are starving and dying of decades-old diseases, we’d have the effrontery to float billion dollar babies in space—that is enough, that confirms all we need to know about priorities and good and evil and the fact that there is, of course, at the end of the night, no chance whatsoever that God is watching over all this. But to think that the suits who call the shots arrived at the decision that it was ultimately to their advantage to take the time and imagination to choreograph a made-for-TV miracle to propagate compliance, or boost morale, or whatever mendacious busywork those men who don’t work for a living get up to when they are hard at work behind those fortified doors.

If that is even a possibility, then all bets are off. Then suddenly even the cynics are shit out of luck, and things like fake wars and flying planes into buildings begin to seem like a rather ingenuous part of the program. See: it is conceivable that money gets spent every day on scientific charades that serve no practical purpose. Or conceding that God obviously does not exist, so it can’t be His fault (because He never existed). But finding out that we are capable—and worse, willing—to pull off that kind of crap? It is almost enough to make you join a militia. It’s almost enough to cause you to cash it all in and start looking for the alien transmissions in your fillings. Or hunker down in a trailer park on the outskirts of Area 51.

Share