Archive for February, 2008

13
Feb
08

What’s In Devo’s Basement?

General Boy’s Boy, Mark Mothersbaugh

Once, I produced music technology video and stuff for Gearwire.com, but nothing as cool as this piece wherein GW producers Bill Holland and Gretchen Hasse are invited into the basement of Mutato Muzika, the Los Angeles studio home of Devo. Gretchen turns on the nightvision and Bill leads us through the Mines of Mutato.

Artifacts spanning Devo’s career as well as Mutato’s business of soundtrack composition for the likes of feature film director Wes Anderson are casually piled hither and yon in the ghostly Baghdad-esque nightvision light. We stub our toe on the Wasp bass synth, almost knock over the Acoustic Reverbrato used on the keyboards on Devo’s “Gut Feeling” (!!), spot Devo’s Roland D-50 leaned up against the wall with “Gates Of Steel” patch numbers helpfully written thereupon and get an earful of guidance from Mutato composer / curator John Enroth.

Just when it couldn’t get any cooler, we find Raymond Scott‘s (broken) Electronium – the world’s first sequencer – complete with “Doo Wah” knob. It goes to prove what I always guessed: Mark Mothersbaugh + major-league film budgets + Ebay = The Coolest Basement In The Western World.

Gear porn doesn’t get any better than this. Nice work Gearwire!

11
Feb
08

Nixon Speechwriter: I Didn’t Come From No Monkey

Ben Stein, Paragon Of Credibility

In the trailer for his creationist film Expelled:No Intelligence Allowed , actor, former Nixon speech writer and game show host Ben Stein stands before a blackboard in an empty college classroom and writes, Bart Simpson-like: I Will Not Challenge Darwin.

See, he’s being punished, Ben is, as are all of us who dare to question the Unassailable Conclusions of Science. In the convenient binary world of this film, Mr. Stein hopes to do to confused viewers what he did to dry eyes: offer soothing relief along with blurry vision.

Doing nothing to dispel the impression about Stein, first given in the Nixon era, that he is least trustworthy when he’s writing, he goes on to explain in the trailer that something with Nazi overtones called “Big Science” is silencing scientists who “challenge Darwin”.   Even more hilariously it asserts we now live in an “era of Darwin where challenge of the status quo is rarely unpunished” – this nugget accompanied by footage of a cheetah killing a wildebeest.

Setting aside the most obvious problem with the above premise – the small fact that science is challenge, an all-day-every-day challenge to root out the false – even and especially those falsehoods inadvertently produced by science itself – the trailer Stein hosts not only grossly misrepresents science, fascism and cheetahs, the producers also misrepresented their own film to the scientists who appear in it.

According to Cornelia Dean’s piece in the 9/27/07 New York Times “Scientists Feel Miscast By Film On Life’s Origin“, Stein’s producers approached leaders of the science community with a more middle-of-the-road film. For people who don’t accept evolution, they sure had no problem with their own film’s title and theme changing slightly over time.

A few months ago, the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins received an e-mail message from a producer at Rampant Films inviting him to be interviewed for a documentary called “Crossroads.”

The film, with Ben Stein, the actor, economist and freelance columnist, as its host, is described on Rampant’s Web site as an examination of the intersection of science and religion. Dr. Dawkins was an obvious choice. An eminent scientist who teaches at Oxford University in England, he is also an outspoken atheist who has repeatedly likened religious faith to a mental defect.

But now, Dr. Dawkins and other scientists who agreed to be interviewed say they are surprised — and in some cases, angered — to find themselves not in “Crossroads” but in a film with a new name and one that makes the case for intelligent design, an ideological cousin of creationism. The film, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” also has a different producer, Premise Media.

The film is described in its online trailer as “a startling revelation that freedom of thought and freedom of inquiry have been expelled from publicly-funded high schools, universities and research institutions.” According to its Web site, the film asserts that people in academia who see evidence of a supernatural intelligence in biological processes have unfairly lost their jobs, been denied tenure or suffered other penalties as part of a scientific conspiracy to keep God out of the nation’s laboratories and classrooms.

Mr. Stein appears in the film’s trailer, backed by the rock anthem “Bad to the Bone,” declaring that he wants to unmask “people out there who want to keep science in a little box where it can’t possibly touch God.”

If he had known the film’s premise, Dr. Dawkins said in an e-mail message, he would never have appeared in it. “At no time was I given the slightest clue that these people were a creationist front,” he said.

Eugenie C. Scott, a physical anthropologist who heads the National Center for Science Education, said she agreed to be filmed after receiving what she described as a deceptive invitation.

“I have certainly been taped by people and appeared in productions where people’s views are different than mine, and that’s fine,” Dr. Scott said, adding that she would have appeared in the film anyway. “I just expect people to be honest with me, and they weren’t.”

The growing furor over the movie, visible in blogs, on Web sites and in conversations among scientists, is the latest episode in the long-running conflict between science and advocates of intelligent design, who assert that the theory of evolution has obvious scientific flaws and that students should learn that intelligent design, a creationist idea, is an alternative approach.

There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the complexity and diversity of life on earth. And while individual scientists may embrace religious faith, the scientific enterprise looks to nature to answer questions about nature. As scientists at Iowa State University put it last year, supernatural explanations are “not within the scope or abilities of science.”

06
Feb
08

The Abiding Appeal Of Comedy Underpants

I love the National Lampoon from the 1970s. And I also love the defunct DeKalb, IL rock band named Shorty (who more or less went on to become U.S. Maple). But what I didn’t know was that these two cultural forces, separated by generations, had common ground when it came to comedy undergarments.

First: the ad clipped from the back pages of the February ’77 issue of NatLamp:

Comes With Informative Booklet

Informative booklet!

Fast-forward 17 years and see these underpants in action in the jaw-droppingly brilliant ’94 Shorty video “Coopie n’ Me”

04
Feb
08

Void Drummer Sean Finnegan 1965-2008

According to Dischord Records, Sean Finnegan, drummer with the band Void has passed away. (Link from Can’t Stop The Bleeding.)


Sean’s drumming in Void was always a standout in the crowded field of DC hardcore. Most drummers channeled their intensity into a straight, linear increase in regular tempo, but Sean’s style was way beyond that athletic exercise. His drums swell and contract with the guitar changes without ever giving up any focus or energy. Nobody in or out of the genre matched his elastic anarchic fury behind the kit.

We are sad to announce that Sean Finnegan, the drummer from Void and an original member of the Dischord family, passed away on Wednesday January 30th of an apparent heart attack, he was 43. Sean’s family will receive friends Monday 2 to 5 and 7 to 9 P.M. at HARRY H. WITZKE’S FAMILY FUNERAL HOME, INC., 4112 Old Columbia Pike, Ellicott City, Maryland. Sean played in Void while they we’re active from 1980-1983 and was recently working on the set of the HBO production, “The Wire”. An obituary and guest book can be found in the Baltimore Sun. Our thoughts and best wishes go out to Sean’s many friends and family members.

In lieu of flowers Sean’s family ask that donations may be made to the Fisher House, Walter Reed Hospital , Washington, D.C

So long, Sean.




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1984-89: Defoliants
1991-94: Buzzmuscle
2001-05: San Andreas Fault
2008- : Sirs
2008- : Allende
February 2008
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