Filler By Proxy LXVII: Rejoice

Saturday 14 February 2009

Muzak has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

After a failed merger with one of its major creditors, the “sensory branding” company DMX last year, the firm which began life as Wired Radio Inc in the 1930s has been teetering on the brink of financial collapse.

There’s a history of the company at The Independent as well:

Visit the headquarters of Muzak Holdings LLC, the spiritual home of Muzak, and you will hear its eponymous product in every room, pumped in from the giant Well database containing 2.6 million tracks. Every room, that is, except for the elevator…. Employees of Muzak say the absence of sound in the company’s own lifts is maintained for “deeply felt symbolic reasons”.

(Via Jessica Duchen)

Filler By Proxy LXVI: Ist das Leben nicht schön?

Tuesday 23 December 2008

Right after Die Hard, A Christmas Story and Lethal Weapon, It’s A Wonderful Life is my fourth-favourite christmas movie. Last year I linked to Gilbert Sorrentino’s remarkable interpretation of Capra’s movie as an essay in digust with modern American life. This year’s heartwarming message of cheer comes from Soho the Dog: Strauss and Mahler re-enact It’s A Wonderful Life.

Filler By Proxy LXV: Pianomania! (Get a handle,.nous,Charlie, chanterons sans l’été chaud)

Thursday 23 October 2008

Are you crazy about pianos? If you aren’t crazy about pianos, are you crazy about classic cars? You should meet raymanboy: he sells pianos and the occasional car on eBay, and he certainly seems pretty crazy.
Firstly, his listed prices for items change at random intervals, either up or down, by as much as £10,000. Then there’s his notoriety amongst piano and car afficionados. The listings themselves are typically illustrated with multiple photographs of what is presumably the object for sale rotated at various angles, inexplicably collaged in with pictures of airplanes, drawings of Mata Hari, and blurry photographs taken of a TV showing wedding videos and Gwyneth Paltrow.
The real giveaway, however, are his product descriptions. If you hurry, you can still make an offer for his VIDO. RED ROSENDORFER WHITE BARON RICHTOFEN GRAND PIANO. If you’re not a musician, don’t worry: that description doesn’t make sense to anyone, except maybe raymanboy himself.
Perhaps the detailed description will clarify things:
The offers can be discussed before you place them – there is no reserve – treat the £20,000 as a joke if it bothers you – I do, two failed marriages one near miss and a funeral and if I ever catch up with him I won’t marry him for a third time the funeral was the Steinway the Serenade in G on the guitar – it only explains the giref glue and research that went into it although but for posterity and your future offspring like my cat it won’t bother either one of you..
£20,000 The doll was a temptation but you knew the true American would always wait for the end of the pier show or lose the chance.
And it goes on, for another 8,000 words of quotations, word association football and meandering streams of semi-consciousness, all in a variety of fonts that arbitrarily change colour, size, and style. He obviously puts a lot of effort into these things; this particular item has been revised 13 times in six days. Towards the end he sounds like the love-child of Gertrude Stein and Christopher Knowles:

Otherwise strutted like the wings of an aeroplane that all rhymes curiosly previous reaons fly out and away and sound and symphony be one together. Hers or his more is more the confusion. This may grow like the piano into a form of anything born of a love and any construction. The greatest of these I find hard to contain; that which on pne hand you at the time deny or hide and detain by “etiquette” for those around. That it may be by this piano you may have experience. A future I only dream but do not have. The premise as heavenly I knew from just one meeting. And in another place than this piano that was the same to those sounds and attitudes which she displayed upon that. Attitude as it changed in one meeting is like a Flying Circus by force of surprise. That to have been at that greater stage of life wherefore I would wish to be again – as one viewer stated to experience beneath the mountain to stand with her alone. It is now as if I I have recoil I was as if I am still there. And there you to find I know to look upon this piano his and hers be there and their kingdon shine. Most time for the buyers of commodity there are two accounts for one crash. His account the real angel of whom we speak you are told is “The Red Baron” was not but he was bar-ren.

Et cetera. They seem to always end up being about the Red Baron. It’s a mystery that he manages to sell anything, let alone have a high customer rating.

Filler By Proxy LXIV: Baby Hitler Found!

Monday 19 May 2008

The Irish Independent (original PDF) cleverly covers up Wee Baby Schickelgruber’s most telltale facial feature in a slightly misguided attempt to preserve his anonymity. Found at Photoshop Disasters.

Filler By Proxy LXIII: Twelve Going On Sixty

Monday 14 April 2008

Have you noticed I’m busy with Other Things lately? Soon, some of these things will be revealed, but in the meantime you’ll have to put up with me linking to stuff like The Guardian, which is publishing daily extracts from The Fall frontman Mark E. Smith‘s autobiography Renegade. The opening sentence suggests Smith has a pretty good handle on himself:

Twelve going on 60 – that’s what people used to say about me: a 12-year-old wanting to be a 60-year-old man. I couldn’t stand music when I was that age. I hated it, thought it was vaguely effeminate. Music to me was something your sisters did. And I couldn’t stand my sisters.

The links at the end of the page are worth a bit of a look too. Hey up! Second extract’s online now; although in this one he’s reverting more to a standard grumpy old bloke. With fashion advice.

Filler By Proxy LXII: Take the L…

Thursday 10 April 2008

I never cared much for Norman Mailer, and so didn’t bother noting his passing here until I saw this photo of him at home:

What on earth is that thing behind him?
Greg.org has the answer, along with a photograph of the object itself: a seven-foot high model of a utopian vertical city, designed by Mailer and constructed by him and a few friends with thousands of blocks of Lego.
It looks like a Lego version of one of Constant’s New Babylon models or similar Unitary Urbanist schemes, and seems to have been built in the same spirit.

“It was very much opposed to Le Corbusier. I kept thinking of Mont-Saint-Michel,” he explains. “Each Lego brick represents an apartment. There’d be something like twelve thousand apartments. The philosophers would live at the top. The call girls would live in the white bricks, and the corporate executives would live in the black.” The cloud-level towers, apparently, would be linked by looping wires. “Once it was cabled up, those who were adventurous could slide down. It would be great fun to start the day off. Put Starbucks out of business.”

It was built in 1965 and stayed in Mailer’s living room for the rest of his life. The Museum of Modern Art was interested in displaying it, but found that it was too big to get out of Mailer’s apartment without dismantling it, an idea which Mailer rejected.

It’s times like this I wish I hadn’t agreed to donate my Lego to needy kids when I moved out of my parents’ place. I’d started to soften my stance against Mailer, thinking he was a serious Lego nerd until I read:

Norman acted as the brains behind the project, soon discovering that he didn’t like the sound of the plastic Lego pieces snapping together; it struck him as vaguely obscene.

Filler By Proxy LXI: New directions in music appreciation

Sunday 30 March 2008

The curious and the adventurous are surprised by the pleasures that await them in Penetrating Wagner’s Ring.

(Found via Why, That’s Delightful!)

Filler By Proxy LX: So it’s come to this again (brought to you by Roomba)

Saturday 9 February 2008

I’m moving house again, so when I get a rare chance to go online I’m less inclined to write a new post than just quietly surf around and think deep thoughts.

Filler By Proxy LIX: Pli Selon Pli

Saturday 2 February 2008

Boulez, according to all known biographies, did not have a childhood. Not in the Michael Jackson sense of “He never got a chance to play with little boys because he was recording ‘Ben'”, but quite literally: Boulez actually materialized one day in Messiaen’s class at the Paris Conservatoire. Some say that he walked out of a forest in the Rhône one day wearing white dress shirt and black tie. (I believe Peyser’s book adds that he was trailed by a pack of wolves over whom he had a sort of psychic power.) …
Needless to say, he was already balding.
For peace of mind, I will assume that I’m not alone in being willing to overlook the most egregious failings in my heroes. Let’s see, there’s Ezra Pound’s anti-semitism, John Cage’s flirtation with Maoism, Cornelius Cardew’s wholehearted embrace of same, William Burroughs shooting his wife in the head (accidentally! so that’s not so bad, is it?). And then, of course, there’s Pierre Boulez’s combover, which I like to pretend simply isn’t there whenever I see a photograph of him. I wonder how easy it is to ignore if you meet him in person?
Tears of a Clownsilly has shaken up my consciousness by offering a history thus far of the great conductor and composer’s relationship with his fast-receding hair, how it has influenced his music, and the strain it has placed on his dealings with fellow musicians.

Filler By Proxy LVIII: Bobby Fischer for the last time

Saturday 19 January 2008

This blog has a small, unfortunate reputation for giving anti-semitic nutbags an easy ride, so I should mention the death of Bobby Fischer, who was the subject of the first ever Filler by Proxy way back when I was desperately scratching around for subject matter.
There are plenty of detailed obituaries to choose from. Andy McSmith in The Independent manages a concise survey of his madness and his brilliance:
It looked like a petulant blunder by the challenger, who had become more fussy and prone to complain about the conditions under which he was forced to play chess which each passing year. He had repeatedly accused the Russians of cheating, and lying. Now he had thrown a match.
In retrospect, it looks much more like a clever ploy in a psychological war against Spassky and the Soviet apparatus. From then on, Spassky never knew what Fischer would do next, but he hung on gamely as the American repeatedly beat him.

Filler by Proxy LVII: Things Ain’t What They Seem

Thursday 27 December 2007

Because it’s that time of year, I’m working up a short list of best-ofs for 2007. It’s the fashion. Last December Georgina Hibberd posted at Sarsaparilla her list of books for the year, with the twist that the books did not necessarily have to be published in the past 12 months. In fact, it was preferable for them to be older. It’s such a good idea I’m going to steal revive it for a follow-up article posted on Sarsaparilla in the next day or two. Gilbert Sorrentino will be mentioned.
Because it’s that time of year, It’s A Wonderful Life has probably been on a telly somewhere near you. It’s the tradition. While it’s fresh in your head, you might enjoy Sorrentino’s brief, but thorough, demolition of the illusion that movie strives to portray.
Capra’s greatest film, It’s a Wonderful Life, is a curious example of a work that means precisely the opposite of what it seems to say. Its true message is, in the context of Capra’s oeuvre, a surprising one: Money is everything. Although the film is usually read as the pinnacle of the Capraesque ideal of grassroots optimism, I would argue that its subtext calls this optimism into serious question. In effect, the film encapsulates a disgust and anger with modern American life that are barely hidden, and often glaringly foregrounded.
The final scene of the film is ambiguously eerie, and its strangeness is emblematized in George Bailey’s near-maniacal grin, one that is equally composed of shame, fear, gratitude, and self-loathing. It is a grin that, once seen, can never be forgotten. Money is everything is what that grin says, what the scene says, and what the film says. In this final moment, the truth of the film strikes at us with metonymic power through the stilted images of celebration and victory and joy….

Filler by Proxy LVI: Carlos Santana Shreds!

Friday 14 December 2007

Also, Paco de Lucia plays Eugene Chadbourne.
Found via Why, That’s Delightful!

Filler by Proxy LV: All together now! “If they can send one Eurodisco group to a war zone, why can’t they send all of them?”

Saturday 13 October 2007

From The St. Petersburg Times, 9 October:
“Ra-Ra-Rasputin! Russia’s greatest love machine!” These are not exactly the kind of lyrics you might expect the Georgian government to consider appropriate as part of its struggle to win back control of the tiny pro-Russian separatist region of South Ossetia. Nevertheless, informed sources insist that those flamboyant disco-era swingers, Boney M, are on their way to the Georgian-controlled sector of the conflict zone this month.
Boney M will perform in a rural village in volatile South Ossetia. Not a sentence I thought I would ever write, even amid the everyday surrealism of life in the Caucasus. But maybe someone here thought that a sweet blast of “Sunny,” not to mention the deathless “Daddy Cool,” would help convince the separatists that Georgia has the best tunes.
The BBC confirmed today that, as suggested above, Boney M were big in the USSR, and are still popular in the former Soviet nations, and that “Marcia Barrett played a concert in a small frontline village not far from the rebel capital Tskhinvali.”

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili told the BBC he hoped the music would persuade people to lay down their arms.

The other band members didn’t come because they’re all touring the world in separate groups, each one claiming to be the real Boney M. Presumably, the other Boney M bands are not in Iraq and Darfur right now.

Hopefully, the success of this concert will lead to a touring production of the stage musical visiting rebel-held regions of Georgia.

Filler by Proxy LIV: Actually James, you’d be surprised how often it works if you just tell it to them straight.

Tuesday 25 September 2007

The Guardian is a newspaper which occasionally lapses into worryingly consistent periods of self-parody (like in the opinion pages over the past month or two) but how can you not love a widely circulated, national morning paper which publishes items like this review of James Blunt’s new album:

Elsewhere, songs ruminate about celebrity, among them the deeply peculiar Annie, on which the titular heroine’s failure to achieve fame is bemoaned -“Did it all come tumbling down?” – and Blunt, gallant to the last, offers her the opportunity to fellate him as a kind of consolation prize: “Will you go down on me?” More bizarre still, he offers her the opportunity to fellate him in the kind of voice normally associated with the terminally ill asking a doctor how long they’ve got left: tremulous, replete with pregnant pauses, suggestive of brimming eyes, etc. The overall effect is so bizarre that it overshadows anything Blunt may have to say about the fickle nature of fame. You come away convinced that the song’s underlying message is: give me a blow job or I’ll cry.

Filler By Proxy LIII: New Noise Makers (and more goddamn nostalgia)

Monday 16 July 2007

Of Sound Mind has been making musical instruments: customising toy music boxes, jacking old ferrite bars from radios, and building “self-prepared” electric guitars from a plank of wood. There are audio samples of each instrument.

Why should a guitar be anything but a couple of pickups and some resonating metal, if it is to be used in this form of abstract improvisation? These questions began to form in my mind a “guitar” whose only purpose was to suspend metal “string objects” and amplify them.

Combined, the plank guitar and ferrite bar reminded me of an instrument I played many years ago. The sculptor Andrew Gangoiti also built electric guitars. Once, as an exercise in speed and simplicity, he made a four-string guitar from a plank, no real way of tuning the strings, pickups made from some found magnets wound with however much copper wire he had lying around, connected to a 0.5 watt speaker built into the hollowed-out end of the plank, powered by a 9 volt battery. The moment you turned it on it started to feed back. Pressing your finger against the circuit board for the speaker would short out connections and alter the pitch and tone of the feedback. It was impossible. It was magnificent.

Thanks to a mutual friend, I had a loan of this guitar for several months and gave a few performances with it. There’s a cassette lying around somewhere of this guitar recorded on a cheap plastic mike. At the end of the tape you can hear the circuit board finally go on the fritz. Andrew took the guitar away for repair and I never saw it again.