30 May 2009

The Ministry of Silly Walks

A bonus post featuring John Cleese of the Monty Python Flying Circus in the Ministry of Silly Walks sketch. John Cleese, of course, is the number two Comedians' Comedian.

29 May 2009


Peter Sellers’ two takes on She Loves You by the Beatles.
“There is no me. I do not exist. There used to be a me, but I had it surgically removed… I feel ghostly unreal until I become somebody else again on the screen… Finally, in conclusion, let me say just this.”

28 May 2009

The comedians’ comedian

Peter Cook and Dudley Moore were paired together in the show Not Only... But Also. The show gained a cult following. Nevertheless, the BBC erased most of the tapes in order to reuse them and wouldn't even let Cook buy them (or buy replacement tapes).
Only the best of what’s left is now available, like the Psychiatrist sketch posted above.
Stephen Fry held Peter Cook in the highest regards and named him “the funniest man who ever drew breath”. In 2005, Peter Cook was voted by comedy fellows and insiders as the number one Comedians’ Comedian (Channel 4).
John Cleese came second. Woody Allen came third.
Peter Cook used no props. He was no teller of jokes. He developed no signature character to perform against your laughter. “You fill me with inertia,” he communicated to Moore and the audience with his (lack of) facial expression.
When he saw the prime minister in the audience, he abandoned the script and attacked him directly. And when he felt particularly blasphemous, he asked the audience not to send him any pamphlets.
An unapologetic, brilliant, brilliant comedian.

27 May 2009

42, Mr Nippl-e and Stephen Fry

Apparently, 6 times 9 equals 42 and 42 equals the answer to life, the universe, and everything. “A completely ordinary number,” explained Douglas Adams, “a number not just divisible by two, but also six and seven. In fact it’s the sort of number that you could, without any fear, introduce to your parents.”
Should you ever need to find out for yourself the answer to life, the universe and everything, type it as such in Google.
Adams himself never revealed the origins of 42. His sole confidant was Stephen Fry, and so it came to be that Stephen Fry stood as the sole bearer of 42. A one man guild, who finds 42 “fascinating, extraordinary and, when you think hard about it, completely obvious.” Just as Mr Nippl-e dance’n’slap is fascinating, extraordinary and, when you think hard about it, completely obvious.

26 May 2009

And narrated by: The Book

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy began as a short radio play. It was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1978 and it originally ended at 6:20 (of the second recording).
The lead character in the play is the Guide, "The Book". A narrator in the absence of God.

25 May 2009

Charlie Chaplin nevermore, nevermore

A second (bonus) post today, for today is also a commemoration day for the late state that once stretched from Vardar to Triglav. The commemoration day itself is no more. Gone also is the man whose birthday was meant to be commemorated on this day.
There will come a time when we will be the last men standing. The last to have borne witness. Once even we are gone, that land will finally become a matter of dust and books.
So please send in whatever of that time you think should not ever, ever be forgotten. Or send that which comes to you as the very first association. I will collect and return it to you.
Myself, I bear witness to Šarlo Akrobata (in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in the 1930s Šarlo Akrobata was the Serbian name for Charlie Chaplin). Because the members of the band were Milan Mladenović, Ivica Vdović Vd and Dušan Kojić Koja, who each went on to become what is now three times a legend. Because these legends continue to stretch and linger in the entire space that was once the land from Vardar to Triglav. But Koja is the last man standing.

So long, Douglas, and thanks for all the wit

What Did You Do For Towel Day 2008?

Today is Towel Day. The commemoration day for the late Douglas Adams who authored The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. So carry your towel the whole day with you, wherever you go.
After all, "a towel is about the most massively useful thing an inerstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough."
Alternatively, make a list of everybody you know and then insult them methodically. Insult me and give it your best and your worst. Recite your Vogon poetry. Hitchhike wearing a bathrobe and a towel.
Whatever you do, record it and send it in.
The posted photograph is taken in Reykjavik and belongs to Karl Gunnarsson's photostream.

22 May 2009

Dance me to the end of me

Sal Mineo and Juliet Prowse perform a captivating, albeit disturbing erratic dance in the cult film Who Killed Teddy Bear? (1965). They dance to It Could Have Been Me.
The sequence begins at 1:39. It is a little tale within a tale, told only in movement to, and fighting against, the music. It is a story of Sal Mineo's character's final and finite disintegration.
Unfortunately, there is no soundtrack of this film, and It Could Have Been Me has never been recorded independently. It seems to be credited to Al Kasha. Singer? It could have been Sal Mineo.

21 May 2009

Toe tapping in Everington

This dance sequence is from a British film Billy Elliot (2000). The dance is performed to A Town Called Malice by The Jam. The town called malice is Everington, a fictional mining town in Northern England. The boy is »a boy apart«. His vice is ballet dancing.
Billy's dancing, even at it's most angry and desperate like in this sequence, is neither a rebellion nor an escape. For Billy, dancing is as inevitable as breathing. It is two steps beyond walking, one step from running and two little red shoes short of dancing on to the end of time.
And when he wanted to go to the right, the shoes danced to the left, and when he wanted to dance up the room, the shoes danced down the room, down the stairs through the street, and out through the gates of the town… (Hans Christian Andersen, The Red Shoes, 1845).

20 May 2009

Dancing apart

This is a dancing sequence from an iconic New Wave French film Bande à part, directed by Jean-Luc Godard (1964). The music is a composition by Michel Legrand.

19 May 2009

Tap dance on drums

What you are watching is Jumpin' Jive, the finest piece of tap dancing ever filmed (the dance sequence begins at 1:32). Fred Astaire and Mikhail Baryshnikov both thought this the greatest dance scene and the Nicholas Brothers the greatest dancers.
Nobody that came after the Nicholas Brothers dared to have this scene redone. The scene is taken from the Stormy Weather (1943), one of the two major Hollywood musicals that chose to cast an all-African-American cast. The other one was Cabin in the Sky (1943).
Make no mistake. These two gems are an art form away from what we have learned to expect from a musical.

18 May 2009

Let's face the music and…

Russian Dance by Tom Waits (from the album The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets)

15 May 2009

It's been a long time coming

A Change Is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke (the Black Elvis) has been a long time coming. Cooke recorded it in 1963 and died shortly before it was released in 1964. It was his farewell address to the living. This beautiful recording was then made unavailable for most of the period between 1964 and 2003 (in connection with a dispute between a music publisher and a recording company).
Despite all that, the song early on became an anthem of the civil rights movement. This was the song Rosa Parks played when Martin Luther King died.
I was born by the river
In a little tent and o
Just like that river
I've been running ever since

It has been black (African-American) music (no less than Martin Luther King and Malcolm X) that kept bringing about those beautiful changes that have always been a long time coming.
Did you notice that most innovations in popular music in this and the past century – jazz, rock'n'roll, rap, hip hop – originated from black musicians?
Elvis Presley or Jerry Lee Lewis cannot be fathomed without them. Music as we know it today cannot be fathomed without them. You and me and everybody we know cannot be fathomed without them.

14 May 2009

It's witchcraft

From a Timex special broadcast of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley in 1960, Sinatra covering Love Me Tender and Presley covering Witchcraft.
Love Me Tender is a reincarnation of Aura Lea, a 1861 song of the American Civil War. Witchcraft is from the Sinatra's songbook, though it seems more Elvis' as he gives the audience that sly come hither stare that strips its conscience bare...
»His kind of music is deplorable, a rancid smelling aphrodisiac… It fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people,« Sinatra taught the audience about Elvis in the mid 50s.
No, Frank. It's witchcraft.

13 May 2009

Soul brothers

James Brown, covering Love Me Tender (1978).
“I wasn’t just a fan, I was his brother. He said I was good and I said he was good; we never argued about that. Elvis was a hard worker, dedicated, and God loved him. Last time I saw him was at Graceland. We sang Old Blind Barnabus together, a gospel song. I love him and hope to see him in heaven. There’ll never be another like that soul brother."
Elvis had died in 1977.

12 May 2009

What a lovely way to burn

Fever is a smoldering bluesy song written by Otis Blackwell and Eddie Cooley and first performed in 1956 by William Edgar John (Little Willie John). In 1958, Peggy Lee turned Fever into a velvety and sleek pop song, to wide acclaim of white Americans. Follow-up covers of the song have been based on Peggy Lee's arrangement (even by the likes of Elvis Presley and Ray Charles).
The cover by James Brown, however, went back to black. Brown included it in his Little Willie John tribute album in 1968, for it was then that Little Willie John, merely 30 years old, died in a state penitentiary. Little Willie John's other songs are also well worth a longer attention span than they received so far.

11 May 2009

Tales behind songs

Fever, feverishly performed by Elvis Presley (1973)

08 May 2009

Movie of tomorrow: Brando and Clift

Switch off the sound and watch this little gem as a silent movie.
The movie of tomorrow will be more personal than an individual and autobiographical novel; like a confession, or a diary. This is a quote by François Truffaut. I came across it on Video Pancakes, where Mary C. Matthews posts her intimate journal films.
Truffaut actually went on to describe the movie of tomorrow, claiming it would resemble the person who made it, while the number of spectators would be proportional to the number of friends the director has.
I will exit this week on a simple note: it is so beautiful that Brando and Clift, as they were, goofing around and laughing, were caught on film. I bet Brando was returning to this little recording of his life more than to his films. Because… all those… moments will be lost… in time… like tears… in the rain… Remember?

07 May 2009

The Ze World

The Show With Ze Frank was an independent online video blog that ran for one year. The program was unique, with Ze’s Marx Brothers-style running commentary and actively contributing viewers (the Sports Racers). Then there were Ze's songs and invented phrases... Especially with the latter, the never blinking Ze created an intimate world, where he shared with Sports Racers a common history, code language, inside jokes... and emotions.
The Show was an honest and spontaneous performance by the inhabitants of the Ze World. The Sports Racers even co-wrote the episodes and took equal risks of embarrassment.
“My most popular pieces were the ones I was afraid of releasing. How To Dance Properly I only released to 17 people. My stomach churned before I released it…” Imagine how Ze felt upon learning five days later that his invitation was read by millions.
This process was strangely mirrored in one of his most successful projects: remixing Ray’s song I’m about to whip somebody’s ass. Ray posted it online anonymously. Ze aired it and challenged the Sports Racers to make remixes. Upon a further challenge from Ze, the Sports Racers tracked Ray down – in a mere two days! Enter a puzzled Reverend Ray, suddenly an internet icon.
Among the most popular episodes by Ze are hindsight, work this and austrian arrows. The photographs posted here are from Ze’s recent project Color Wars.

The last Show aired on 17 March 2007. Exit Ze Frank, blinking and very, very sad. Not even realizing yet that the Sports Racers would remain in the auditorium, applauding the empty stage to this day. Encore...

06 May 2009

Come to my buduar, jump to my Jaguar

This Russian amateur video is another little gem that only YouTube could bring to us. Pjotr Nalitch (Пётр Налич) has filmed Gitar with his friends on the spur of the moment at his dacha, driving around in his old Soviet car (ВАЗ-2101) with his friends. I have never been clever, because need it never, baby you have a possibility, play it with me... The video with its endearing special effects, broken English, and Russian pathos became an instant success with the internet audience. Users began making their own covers of the song, while Nalitch appeared on YouTube to announce the arrival of YouTube.ru to Russia.
Underneath all the humor Gitar is certainly a good enough song to have made it. Although a fusion of many styles, it strangely works. The recent work of Nalitch is also worth checking up.

05 May 2009

Learningtoloveyoumore (LTLYM)

New media tools such as YouTube, Vimeo and Blogger opened the stage to regular joes and sues. This created unparallelled possibilities of interaction between artists and their audiences. As interactive internet art projects emerged, it became increasingly difficult to tell artists and their audience apart. This is evidently the case with the LTLYM project, where artists Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher commissioned the general public to, for example, make and locally post 100 fliers of their typical day (#10), or draw Raymond Carver’s Cathedral (#46). The outcome was then presented en masse back to the audience. How thin the line between the artists and their audience became, is shown best by assignment #44: “make a LTLYM assignment”. It received the highest response and the resulting assignments topped the original ones. Read your parents' favourite book. Take a photo of someone's clothesline. Make a message in fresh snow.
My assignment for the lion-hearted: catch up with a stranger of random gender in the street and reenact Miranda July’s lines and silences, as in the video posted above (from Miranda July's film Me and You and Everyone We Know).

04 May 2009

Beginning with a video again

Top Ranking by Blonde Redhead from their album 23 (2007), featuring Miranda July