Pinball’s Golden Decade?

Oh man, you better believe I want this book. These are the machines I grew up playing. Here’s a description from the Amazon site.

The Pinball Compendium: 1970-1981: “Exciting and challenging, pinball games have been enthusiastically played since their inception in the 1930s and are treasured by countless collectors worldwide. This lavishly illustrated book chronicles pinball games from 1970 through 1981, one of the industry’s most prolific eras. Hundreds of machines from Gottlieb, Williams, Bally, Chicago Coin, and other manufacturers are showcased — including many never before published. The extensive text provides descriptions of the games, their special features, historical significance, release dates, and designers. Collectors will love the exclusive interviews with some of pinball’s greatest designers and artists. Current values are listed for each machine shown in the book. Along with its companion volume (covering the 1930s to the 1960s), this is a wonderful reference and a tribute to all who were part of pinball’s fascinating history. 8 1/2′ x 11′ 800 color & 30 b/w photos Price Guide/Index “

A bit pricey, though.
Thank goodnes that in the mean time there’s this.

David Woodard’s Dreammachine

Interview with David Woodard, collaborator with William S. Burroughs and builder (though not inventor) of the Dreammachine.

DW: In college, I found the Dreamachine would cure my own writer’s block. When I mentioned this to Burroughs, he concurred. That is the extent of what I know about his use of the machine for that purpose. In 1997, when we were both living in Lawrence, Burroughs tended to use his two Dreamachines together as a postprandial ritual along with a marijuana cigarette. He would write the following morning.
I think the Dreamachine’s most distinctive property is its (potentially insidious) subtlety. The machine is similar to absinthe, in that both create a residual language-oriented delirium of which the user tends not to be aware. Fortunately light pulses do not yield the additional effect of Syphilis-like rotted brain stem.

Before I go rushing out to buy one, a handmade Dreammachine will set me back $500. Damn.

Los Angeles Plays Itself

Dir: Thom Anderson
On Thursday night I rushed down to L.A. after work to meet Jon for the one-time screening of Thom Anderson’s three-hour opus, “Los Angeles Plays Itself.”
This film, made entirely out of shots from other movies, took something like ten years to make, and, like Fahrenheit 9-11, is so densely packed with information and ideas that it feels like a book. (Moore’s film has one central idea, Anderson’s has several).
Anderson’s main thesis–and as a professor of film at CalArts for decades (Jon took some of his classes) he thinks academically–is that Los Angeles has failed to receive the sort of representational respect that is reserved for cities like New York and Paris.
You wouldn’t shoot Grand Central Station in New York and then call it “Grand Central Station, Phoenix,” would you? But that’s what often happened through the years to many Los Angeles landmarks, as Hollywood seemed to use the city as one big backlot, cultural importance be damned.
In the first half, Anderson explores how architectural landmarks and modernist architecture in general are misused in the movies, and sometimes celebrated. Modern homes that were once examples of a bright future always seem to wind up cast as the lairs of villains and drug lords. To illustrate his points, Anderson has at his hands all of Hollywood’s output, copyright be damned (this may explain its small release, its succes as a film, and a case for ‘fair use’). It’s fascinating to watch the same interior pop up over the decades, sometimes as a hotel, sometimes as an apartment, set in the past, set in the future–like watching an actor’s reel.
Anderson also talks about “high tourist” and “low tourist” directors, the high ones being someone like Hitchcock, who, for example, created such a portrait of San Francisco for “Vertigo” that the city is a character in the film. A “low tourist” director avoids landmarks but tries to get the city right, and of these there are very few. Billy Wilder is one–Anderson lauds “Double Idemnity” and “Sunset Blvd” as being very faithful to the geography and feel of Los Angeles. He also praises the original “Gone in 60 Seconds” and “Kiss Me Deadly.”
The second half devotes itself to more indepth discussions, including the similar “secret histories” on show in “Chinatown” and “L.A. Confidential”. Not so secret, is what Anderson says of these histories, the issues were front page news, but Polanski and Towne’s film coincides with Los Angeles developing a self-awareness, and creating a “secret history” to please that which wants cynicism to rule is the order of the day. Finally, Anderson looks at the true “secret histories” of Los Angeles–representations of its Black and Hispanic populations, which are usually invisible.
Anderson admits in interviews to coming to favor a traditional Bazinian realism in his films, and it parallels his leftist leanings (the sardonic voice over–by Anderson’s friend standing in for the director–makes this clear almost from the beginning.) The film will make you appreciate architecture in film and have you glancing more at the backgrounds of films next time you go to the cinema. It will also be a must-own film when it comes out on DVD, for it can act as a reference work on top of a statement about representation. There’s even talk of an accompanying book to contain all the material the director couldn’t include.
Film fans will also want to debate Anderson’s omissions (no David Lynch? no Kenneth Anger? Only a glimpse of Tarantino?) and also hunt down some of the more obscure but intriguing films he shows (on the intelligent side, “Killer of Sheep” by Charles Burnett; on the dumb side, “Death Wish 5” and Stallone’s “Cobra”).
Made for peanuts, it’s no small irony that this is one of the most thoughtful and straight out beste films of the year.
Also: Interviews with Anderson here (with Steve Erickson)here and here (with Andrew Tracey).

An open letter to all my favorite bloggers

Can we talk a little bit about RSS feeds? As a devoted blog reader (and writer) I use an RSS reader to keep up with all my blogs. My request, my wish, is that all blogs be turned on to “full post” in the preferences of whatever service you are using. If I have to continually click through to your site to read a post, what is the point of an RSS feed to start with?
My recent sojourn into the working world of the cubicle has also brought another negative regarding less-than-full posts in the feed: While I can access all my blogs through my RSS reader, the “evil-corporation-that-shall-remain-nameless” web blocker will not let me continue through to read posts on certain sites, those marked “personal” and “political” equally.
So please, switch on “full post” in your prefs. It doesn’t hurt. Do it for your readers.

The slow death of punk

A slightly whiny essay in the Guardian by Jonathan Harris tells us that British rock is doomed! Doomed! I tell ye. For evidence he holds up Franz Ferdinand: “well-adjusted, polite, and politically inert.” They won the Mercury Prize the other day, and gave a thankful, modest acceptance speech, instead of, I guess, hurling the award at somebody. Harris’ main points seem to be that life under Blair and New Labour hasn’t been sufficiently horrible enough to produce the proper rage-filled conditions condusive to punk. You could ask that question of America too, as we’ve been far worse off under Bush, but where’s the music? Perhaps music as an outlet of outrage isn’t working anymore in a world of street protests, Internet, flash mobs, and MoveOn. Young musicians are more apt to blame their parents than society for their ills (hence the awful whinge-punk of Blink 182 and others).
Now, an artist like Elvis Costello always wrote about both, the external society and the internal hell of relationships, but he, like others, were able to understand that both were the same thing, essentially. “Emotional Fascism,” as Costello originally titled Armed Forces in 1979. So possibly one reason this isn’t happening anymore is that we can’t make the connection. The machine of society runs quietly in the background…

The Moviegoer – Walker Percy

Noonday Press, 1961
Man, I really wanted to get this book, to get into this book, but it just did nothing for me.
Walker Percy’s novel of existential crisis set in New Orleans is often talked about in glowing terms by its fans. It seems to have the ability to put voice to a early-30s malaise, and many readers identify with this strongly. I would have thought I was prime material for this, but apparently not. So much of the writing struck me a unnecessarily and deliberately vague, though taken in small does, Percy’s prose is quite lucid. Yet there was nothing drawing me from page to page. Maybe I’m just an idjit, but I kept losing track of what was being talked about.
The plot is minimal–a few days in the life of Binx Bolling, a 30-year-old manager of a brokerage firm. He spends his days either visiting movie theaters, where he feel he can connect with the reality on screen more than real life, or taking one of his secretaries out in his MG for a bit o’ rumpy-pumpy down near the shoreline. There’s also his aunt who is ready with advice and comes from a distinguished family, and his cousin Kate, who suffers from some mental illness that is not entirely spelled out.
Along the way there are numerous diversions with a small cast of characters in an around New Orleans. I’m sorry to say, I’ve forgotten most of them.
Bolling has a brief revelation early on in the book–he sees through the dull surface of reality and tries to comprehend the true timeless state of the universe, and this is what sets him off on “the search”–the lifelong struggle to achieve that state again, to know that he’s onto “something.” I should have been fascinated by all this, or amused, but I was just unaffected. Better luck next time.

XTC – Big Express

Virgin CDVX2325
1984 reissued 2001

Big Express was XTC’s second album after Partridge gave up touring, decamping to become studio band.
This has always been one of my “second favorite” XTC albums, in that it never finds its way to the top spot. Highlights are the underrated “Wake Up”-a Moulding song that actually found itself released as a single to complete indifference. But I love the way the duelling stereo guitar intro fools my ear everytime, sounding like four-four, but turning out to be backbeat when the drums come in. It also has a great “Walrus”-like ending. Big Express also contains a suite of songs that look at life in England: “Red Brick Dream” “Washaway” and “The Everyday Story of Smalltown” which celebrate as much as they criticize village life. The remaster is sparkling, although the album has always sounded good, even on the cassette copy I had 10 years ago. My only complaint is that sticking so close to rendering the original album art has resulted in the lyric sheet being unreadable.
Pros: Terrific production, great playing, wonderful pop melodies
Cons: “Train Running Low on Soul Coal” goes on and on.

Roger Eno – The Flatlands

Thirsty Ear THI66036.2

Found this Roger Eno album down at Pennywise Records in Pasadena.
I’d never heard of it, but any Eno is okay with me, usually. Flatlands is Eno’s attempt to turn a string quartet into a sort of ambient synthesizer. Avoiding the sunny romanticism of “Between Tides” from some years back, the album is a sort of no-man’s land between synth-wash background music and chamber music that threatens to become melodic. It’s not a bad album, neither it is a good album. It just sort of exists and then it ends. I’ve put it on several times and tried to pay attention to it, but that feeling never lasts.
Pros: Pleasant, a nice melding of strings and ambient thought.
Cons: Too long without much variety.