Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Total Bozo Premieres: REDREDRED's "Concrete/Sand

Well, here it is. We're doing video premieres now. I guess people think we're a real thing or something. People aside from "that one guy" who tried to sue us for writing "that one (several) thing(s)."

We were reached out to about premiering the video for REDREDRED's "Concrete/Sand," which is a pretty cool thing to happen. REDREDRED puts out music on the Dark Entries label, which is a label that we enjoy very much. The director of the video is San Francisco's M.J. Bernier and we asked her a few questions about the video, and life in general. Don't be a dummy. Read what she has to say before you just scroll down and play the video.

When is the last time you felt what could only be described as "unbridled wildness?"
I feel wild when I am either dancing, fucking, or making new work. When I shot my last video "Bind" (for local artist Sutures) it was a combination of all three. These instances are some of the only where I feel completely free regardless of any outside pressure.

When working on your creative pursuits, does the fulfillment and satisfaction you get from making cool stuff and being in "the zone" make it all the more difficult to suffer through the mundaneness of everyday life? For instance: You work on a video, complete it, and then have to go to work at a normal job somewhere and rub elbows with morons and the unwashed masses. Is it very painful?
I'm very particular about the work I take on. I get what I like to call "post-project depression" when I finish a new music video or film. It's always hard to say goodbye. Every void has to be filled by the next project and until that happens, there is a longing.

Describe the last time you were "as annoyed as you could possibly be."
I am fed up with sexism, inequality and misogyny, to name a few. I have no tolerance.

If you had to describe this video using a lyric from a song (not the song from the video) what would it be?
I don't think of other music when I think of this video. Michael created such a strong world around this album, it's hard to imagine anything penetrating that vision.

How did it come to be that you were chosen to make the video for this song? 
Michael and I were creative partners in many ways for a long time, even before REDREDRED. I always appreciated and admired his genuine approach to making work. I wanted to continue to be a part of that. We had worked together on the video for "Enforcer" and it was a natural progression at the time.

If you could be hired to make a video for any song, old or new, what would it be and what kind of video would you make for it?
I could answer this question 700 times. All I want to do is make films and music videos. I dream of having partnered with a young David Bowie, or Kate Bush. To have collaborated with Nina Simone or Einst├╝rzende Neubauten, it's overwhelming to even imagine. Right now I am loving everything that FKA Twigs puts out.

How's San Francisco?
San Francisco is a strange place. I have grown a lot here. My neighborhood smells like piss and there is hardship juxtapose riches on every corner. Yet It's beauty is shocking at times and it's hold on me is strong. I have met some of the most outstanding friends and driven artists here. In some ways, it's like a setting sun.

Cool! Here's the video:

How it Feels to Get a Sports Prediction Tattoo That Doesn't Come True

By: Pete Johnson

My foot is currently lying to you.


It feels fine.

I mean, I didn't get this tattoo because I thought it would be a particularly good idea. I got it because laughing at my own dumb whims is a big part of my life. I'm not going to cut my foot off because the Nats are now officially ineligible to win the 2015 World Series. I'm going to keep my foot the way it is (although maybe I'll finally get that bunion checked out), because the tattoo still makes me smile. It is also a handy reminder that caring too much about things like sporting events or how people will judge you for doing things that make you happy is dumb.

I really wanted to get a tattoo of my childhood dog's face after he died when I was 16. R.I.P. Sarge, I hope you're farting loud enough to wake up Mom who then wakes up Dad because she thinks it was him snoring in heaven. I didn't because I wasn't 18 yet and wasn't into the idea enough to go get a fake ID or whatever. Since then I've thought about getting several tattoos, but could never really decide on one I thought I would like forever. Turns out you don't have to know you'll love it forever, you just have to enjoy the experience.

Up next I'm thinking about getting a tattoo about the time my three-year-old niece, who calls me Uncle Bubby, was heard talking in her sleep saying "Pass the marshmallows, Bubby." This is the best thing that has ever happened and I for sure would love that tattoo forever.


Monday, September 14, 2015

David Ortiz’s 500 And The Quantity of Joy

By: Ben Johnson

BCNU Photo Courtesy: AP

The Baseball Hall of Fame is not a necessary thing. This goes without saying, probably, but it’s unsaid more often than many other obvious statements because the people most validated by the institution’s existence are the baseball writers who make up its voting constituency. These people will come up with all manner of acrobatic ways to say that Mike Trout is good at baseball. They will tell you that the Dodgers sure do spend a lot of money on baseball players. But they do not often say, out loud, “who cares?” when confronted with the Hall of Fame question, because their business is entertainingly heaping a florid mix of hosannas and scorn on a mind-numbingly repetitive series of activities, and not the business of having the proper perspective on things.

David Ortiz just hit his 500th career home run in the majors, which is an arbitrary but very high number of very difficult things to do, and an accomplishment shared by only 27 people who have ever lived. We don’t need to have a Baseball Hall of Fame, but since we have one, both an actual one and a conceptual one, it seems fair to say that David Ortiz belongs in it. Probably he did before hitting his 500th home run, but definitely now.

One of the challenges of contextualizing sports, especially a numerically heavy game like baseball, is this sense that joy can and must somehow be quantified, that there be a knowable greatest and second greatest and third greatest of all time at this or that subcategory. These assertions come down to who created the most joy. 500 home runs is a lot of joy, and it’s joy of a measurable sort. That’s 500 times doing something sufficiently impressive as to cause strangers to high five each other.

David Ortiz in particular is responsible for an outsized amount of joy. He’s batted .455 with 14 walks in 59 total World Series plate appearances. He’s the first hitter to ever have two walk-off home runs in the same postseason. A good number of David Ortiz’s measurable joy-creating events have been of the hug a stranger variety. And also, crucially, the man himself is a joy. He seems, invariably, gracious and genuine, and gives off an overwhelming and soothing sense that here is a man who is comfortable in his own skin.

Ortiz is also a designated hitter, and failed a supposedly confidential test for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003, before such drugs were outlawed by Major League policy. These things of course do not matter to anyone anywhere, but they are the exact kind of not-mattering things that members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who vote on Hall of Fame inductees have traditionally ranted about from whatever grandstand they can find. They may or may not be enough to keep David Ortiz’s likeness out of the Hall of Fame, but in the case of a figure as beloved as Big Papi, whose career Raw Joy and Joy Per Joy numbers are as high as anybody who has ever played the game, they seem especially beside the point.

Of the 27 men who have hit 500 or more home runs, five eligible guys aren’t in the Hall of Fame, and all of them, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Raphael Palmeiro, and Gary Sheffield, have been linked to steroids. But that’s not all they have in common. These five also can be said to have caused, by the arbitrary and unquantifiable measures ascribed to them (liar, cheat, phony, prima donna, jerk, Jose Canseco with better PR: take your pick) as much bitterness and resentment as they’ve caused joy. This cannot, and likely will not, be said of David Ortiz, steroid suspicions or not, designated hitter or not. And his 500th home run is as good an occasion as any to question the mechanisms by which joy is qualified and quantified and compared to its opposite.

You know which way the ball is coming from, right?

We tend to discount the kind of “joy” which came from seeing Gary Sheffield instantly transmogrify his exaggerated and lazy-looking bat waggle into that ridiculously fast and powerful swing, a feat which seemed as impossible as it actually is every time it worked. That particular brand of joy, the astonishment of just how good these men actually are at playing baseball, is on evident display for even the worst player on a major league roster. It’s there every time anybody steps into a major league batter’s box or fields a major league ground ball without soiling themselves. That Gary Sheffield can, and did, immediately turn his bat from a silly Chinese yo-yo into a baseball-destroying weapon 509 times somehow doesn’t seem like that monumental of an achievement when stacked up against whatever prejudices might lead one to conclude that Gary Sheffield is also an asshole.

The kind of joy we tend to demand is a joy of goodness, as subject to ingrained Machiavellian morality and unfair hierarchy as any socially-defined good/bad value binary. In baseball, the joy we love most is the kind where a favorite player, one we actually like and care for because of his perceived goodness, pounds off the batter’s donut and steps to the plate in a big moment, and the people in the stands mutter to each other about his imminent success, even while knowing that baseball, like life itself, can be brutally difficult, and then when he does come through, everybody is especially happy because their love for what they know of the man allows the joy he creates to extend boundlessly in all directions; it is in fact a sort of self-reinforcing righteous joy, not just joy at a big hit for the home team or a public success for an admired figure, but a simultaneous confirmation of our own correctness and of joy’s utility and necessity in our own lives. David Ortiz has supplied us with a greater amount of this varietal, by far, than whatever nagging sour-graped “well actually” might serve to denigrate his essential goodness.

But let’s not kid ourselves: this kind of joy is a very tall order. It’s rare and precious, and we shouldn’t treat it like some default setting we are entitled to. Regular how’d-they-do-that joy is still joy. Barry Bonds on steroids being better at baseball than is actually humanly possible, breaking the baseball meter and showing us what that would look like and even why it might be bad; “bad” as in “bad motherfucker” joy is still joy. Joy is good. Joy itself is righteous. You are allowed to feel as much of it as you want, and you don’t have to listen to anybody who would tell you not to feel it just because Sammy Sosa is some slick, cheating, corny weirdo trying to look like Perry Como, or Livan Hernandez is technically, in a baseball sense, not worthy of the Hall of Fame. Joy need not be quantified. You’re allowed as much of it as you can get. You don’t need an association of baseball writers or a building with plaques in it to help you with that.

I wouldn’t know this, but I’d assume it is very difficult, even loaded to the gills on steroids, to hit 500 home runs. It is an accomplishment that means something similar in degree if not in kind for both David Ortiz and Raphael Palmeiro. That Ortiz has along the way provided us with a joy that seems markedly different from the “less” or “less purely” joyous men who have also hit 500 homers and also been linked to PEDs shouldn’t make Ortiz any greater or those others any less. It should only make us question ourselves, and our demands, and the needless ways we qualify and quantify that small but vitally important amount of joy which we are all allotted. At the very least, we should chafe at the sort of pettiness that would throw up traffic cones and charts in order to profitably claim responsibility for joy’s proper apportionment. Enjoying David Ortiz, which we all should, means an examination of how and why we routinely exclude other people from our enjoyment. That’s one of the best and most good things about him. That and all the home runs.

And if we absolutely positively have to have a Hall of Fame and have to take it seriously and have to give a shit about every little steroid hint, then let’s put Fred McGriff and Tim Raines in there. I mean, Holy Crap, guys. Let’s do one thing right.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Worst Best Elevator Ride


Act One, Scene One: An elevator-sized box descends slowly from above the stage, inside are two men. One is wearing a backpack and holding a cooler, the other is dressed in a suit. Just before it reaches the stage, it halts jerkily, and a loud fire alarm sounds. Pete immediately presses an imaginary call button, before David has the chance to react to the alarm. There is the sound of a phone ringing once, which is interrupted by someone picking up.

Scratchy voice of fire alarm attendant: Hello, emergency response system. What seems to be the problem?

Pete: (Yelling over alarm) Hello?

Attendant: Hello sir, I can hear you. What is your situation?

Pete: Hi! Sorry to bother you, but I'm in an elevator with another gentleman, and it just stopped for no reason. It seems like we're stuck. We're at 1883 Vermont street, and I think this might be the only elevator.

Attendant: OK sir, please remain calm. Is everyone OK? How many people are in the elevator?

Pete: It's just me and one other guy. We're fine, we just wanna get outta here. Can you send help?

Attendant: Well I'm glad there are no medical emergencies. I can see your location on my screen, and I have dispatched the local fire department to your location. 

Pete: Ok great! Can you-

David: (Also yelling, interrupting) How long do you think it will be?

Attendant: I can't say for sure sir, but according to my read outs there is not another emergency in the area, and we should have this taken care of shortly. Is there anyone you would like us to contact on your behalf?

Pete: Can you turn this fucking alarm off? Shit, I'm sorry for swearing, but fuck is this annoying.

Alarm immediately turns off

Pete: Thanks! I don't need you to contact anyone for me just yet, how about you sir?

David: Umm, I think I'm OK. Just please get here soon, sir.

Attendant: Sure thing boss, we'll have you outta there in no time. Hit the call button again if you need anything. 

Audible bong hit

Attendant: Have fun dudes!

We hear the Attendant hang up. David and Pete look at each other, then around, then back at each other.

Pete: Well, looks like we're gonna be stuck here for a little bit.

David: Did that guy just rip a bong?

Pete: Hey listen, I'm not gonna get weird here or anything, but aren't you David Byrne from The Talking Heads?

David: Fucking Christ.

Lights down

Act One, Scene Two: Pete is seated on his cooler, David is sitting on the floor in the opposite corner of the elevator, his tie loosened.

Pete: This is nuts. I can't believe this is actually happening.

David Byrne: What's happening, Pete?

Pete gets up and reaches into the cooler, fishes out two cans of beer and hands one to David Byrne. Pete opens his and takes a healthy swig.

Pete: Well, this is weird, and again I don't want to freak you out or anything, but I just recently stumbled upon Stop Making Sense. I fucking love it. I love you, man.

David Byrne: Still holding his unopened beer, looking at Pete. Thanks, Pete. For the beer. I'm glad you liked the show. He opens his beer. Heh, I'm sure glad you happened to have this cooler.

Pete: And now I'm stuck in an elevator, having a beer with David fucking Byrne! I seriously must have watched that concert like 50 times over the last month alone. I love it so much. Every song is such a banger.

David Byrne: Thanks man. 

David Byrne stands up and presses the call button. It rings 4 times before the attendant picks up

Attendant: Hello, Tom Jacobso- oh shit, um, emergency response, how can I help you?

David Byrne: Hello? I was just wondering if you know how long we'll be stuck in here. I was actually on my way to see-

Pete: Interrupting Yeah! How long until we're outta here, SIR?

Attendant: Coughs Oh yeah there was like, another emergency in the area. Some babies died. Gonna be a while.

The attendant hangs up.

David Byrne: What the fuck?

Pete: Guess we better get comfortable. 

Pete opens another beer

David Byrne: What the fuck is happening right now?

Lights out

Act One, Scene Three: David is now seated on Pete's cooler, and Pete is sitting where David was, in the corner. There are 3 empty beer cans at each man's feet. Both are holding beers. As the lights come up, David Byrne is handing Pete a lit joint. There is smoke collecting at the top of the elevator. 

Pete takes two hits from the joint, then hands it back to David Byrne. He unzips his backpack, and while he is talking, takes out a bag of tortilla chips, 3 avocados, a cutting board, a knife, a bowl, a tomato, a lime, and an onion.

Pete: So I gotta ask man, was your keyboard player high on something? He looked totally dazed, but of course he nailed every note. God, that show was so good. I would seriously give my left nut to have been there. And why did you have the camera on him when the drums kick in on Burning Down the House? The best dance break of the whole movie, and the camera is on this guy who looks like he barely knows where he is. So funny.

By the time he is done talking, all of the items from the backpack are sitting, ready, on the floor.

David Byrne: Dude, who ARE you?

Lights out

Act One, Scene Four: There are now 5 empty beer cans in each corner of the elevator. The smoke is thick. David Byrne is pacing back and forth in front of Pete. Pete is calmly eating guacamole.

David Byrne: Where the fuck did he go? Do they really just let the 9-1-1 people smoke weed at work now? Fucking Obama.

David Byrne hits the call button again. It rings and rings. It is still ringing.


Pete: Hey man, wanna shotgun? He takes a beer can and bites a hole into the bottom of it, spilling foam on the floor.

David Byrne: You absolute dipshit. Pause. Of COURSE I want to shotgun a beer.

Pete bites into another can, and they both shotgun beers. While they are finishing, the attendant finally picks up.

Attendant: Giggling Aw hey, what's good, homies?

David Byrne: Where is the fire department?! We've been stuck in here forever!

Attendant: Still giggling Ah man, they're like, probably getting close. You guys good?

David Byrne: No! What the hell is going on, where are they?

Pete: Hey Tommy- I mean sir, yeah, we're not so good. He's freaking out, you should probably get us out of here.

David Byrne: Tommy? Wait, do you know this guy?

Attendant: Ok Petey man, you sure?

David Byrne: You. Have. Got. To be shitting me.

Pete: Shit, uh, yeah Tommy. We're good. Send us out.

Alarm rings for a second, and then cuts out

Attendant: Giggling Shit, my B. Wrong button. Big fan David!

The elevator kicks into motion, and descends toward the stage, and then through it and below it. Before they go out of vision, Pete tries to hug David Byrne. David Byrne pushes him off, and then kicks him in the nuts. The elevator disappears through the stage.

Pete: From off stage, in pain Worth it.

Lights down.

Act Two: David Byrne and full lineup of The Talking Heads perform an exact remake of their hit 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense. Pete plays bongos on Burning Down the House. He looks like he does not know where he is, but he is having so much fun.