Dedicated to classics and hits.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Show Review: Tim Heidecker, JP Inc., Optiganally Yours

Tim Heidecker: Comedian.

Show Review
Tim Heidecker
JP Inc.
Optiganally Yours
Antartic, HUH? viewing
@ The Casbah
Part of the 3 nights at the CON presented by Impose and Art Fag Recordings

   Last night was the first night of the three night "THREE NIGHTS AT THE CON" taking place at the Casbah, and brought to you by the Impose bros and Art Fag Recordings.  Tonight, THREE NIGHTS AT THE CON continues with an excellent bill featuring headliners Vivian Girls, hot-selling Grass Widow supporting their new record, Dunes, supporting their new record, "Vivian Girls side project" The Babies and local up-and-comers Teenage Burrito.  Hotly tipped locals Teenage Burrito?

 SATURDAY Night features John Maus, hot young band Tropic of Cancer from Los Angeles and local support Divers.  Divers have an upcoming release on sponsoring entity DREAM, a record label run by Art Fag Recordings head honcho Mario Orduno, who is also DJing along with Wes Eisold of the now re-united American Nightmare and Cold Cave.

   Last night though, the first night of Three Nights at The Con was given over to comedy.  The headliner was Tim Heidecker, of televisions Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job, and also of last years comedy smash hit Bridesmaids, where he had a non-speaking part.  From my perspective, Tim Heidecker is the brains of the Tim & Eric outfit.  I like Eric Wareheim, but I believe Heidecker to be the idea man, as they say.

   Tim Heidecker's most notable recent achievement in a career that should secure him first ballot Hall of Fame  of Alternative Comedy is his direct involvement in the triumphant release of Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie.  I say "triumphant release" because it is a triumph that this movie was made and released to the public, much in the same way the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie is also a triumph merely because it exists.

   Tim Heidecker is a clear heir and peer to Comedians like Andy Kaufman and Neil Hamburger who use stand-up comedy to confront and engage the Audience.  At the same time, it is also fair to say that Tim Heideckers success has literally nothing to do with his stand-up comedy routine, which was on the menu last night.

      This was the second time I'd seen a live performance by Tim Heidecker.  The first time was the appearance in the guise of a live version of Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job during the 2009 Comic Con.  I thought that show was pretty bad, and I was dismayed that one of the "directions" of the Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job since that time was the emergence of the minor players as touring musical/comedy Artists.   I mean it was great to see and I loved every minute, but it wasn't an amazing comedy/art experience.  I def. didn't review it on this blog back in 2009, which probably meant I didn't have anything to say.

      I'm interested enough in Tim & Eric to read negative criticism of them and their work, and one common criticism is that they hate or disrespect their Audience. I think critics who say that are wrong, and it's more accurate to say that Tim Heidecker, in all his works, confronts his Audience and engages his Audience, but does not dislike or disrespect them.   A confrontational quality is something that Artists may have or not have, but it is certainly deployed in many Artistic fields.

    Part of the confrontation is the manipulation of taboo or outre materials in what can accurately be perceived as a broad attempt to "get a laugh."  It is clear to me from the Audience that assembled last night that some percentage of Tim & Eric's fan base, and the Audience last night, that there are Audience members who like the taboo or outre materials, for themselves, and are not "challenged" by the material because they just think it's fucking hilarious in the same way they think Family Guy is  hilarious or the way Something About Mary was hilarious.  The difference between Tim Heidecker and Seth McFarland is that Seth McFarland has totally harnessed his Artistic vision to serving the market, while Tim Heidecker is interested in investigating that market.

      I think it's clear that a significant portion of the Audience for comedy does not want to be challenged or confronted by their comedy.  They want the yucks.  I think the best way to get a sense of where the Audience for comedy in the United States is "coming from" is to watch The Bellhop by Jerry Lewis or another Jerry Lewis film.
  So then it was interesting to watch Tim Heidecker's "bad on pupose" stand-up comedy a la Neil Hamburger (who, though not performing at the show, had a poster made for the event and was selling a comic book at the event.) and try to decide

  1) How many people knew about Tim Heidecker's stand up act before buying tickets.
   2) How many people bought tickets because they like the gross-out humor of the Tim & Eric show and were honestly disappointed by the "bad on purpose" stand-up act of Tim Heidecker.

   I think it is that tension that makes his performances so interesting. I would suggest that Heidecker himself is interested by that combination of Audience members, and that he's developed his Act to function both as a suprise to ill-informed Audience members and as a virtuoso performance of Alternative Comedy by a restless master comic.

  One think I'll say about the Art of stand up comedy is that the infrastructure of the cable tv show/sitcom/movie environment of the successful comic lets the Audience know who's boss (the comic.)  There is a huge amount of money that sits behind the comics who get to the point where they have a tv special/show/album and tour to support it, in the same way that major label Artists in the music business are supported by a huge amount of money.

  There aren't a lot of comics out there who would keep it as low profile as Tim Heidecker keeps his stand up routine.  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Goner Fest Hates This Blog

The classy gentlemen that run Goner Records- SHOP AND LABEL are throwing their annual Fest or GONERFEST 9 with many bands:

Golden Boys (Austin, TX) Bits Of Shit (Melbourne, Australia) Slug Guts (Brisbane, Australia) Moving Finger (Memphis, TN) Nobunny (Rabbithole, USA) River City Tanlines (Memphis, TN) Heavy Times (Chicago, IL) Gary Wrong Group (Mobile, AL) Bad Sports (Denton, TX) Nots (Memphis, TN) The Hussy (Madison, WI) No Bails (Kalamazoo, MI) Toxie (Memphis, TN) Detonations (AZ) Johnny Lowebow (Memphis, TN) Legs (TN / TX) White Mystery (Chicago, IL) Ryan Rousseau (Tempe, AZ) Cecilia & Sauerkrauts (Portland, OR) Lenguas Largas (Tuscon, AZ) Native Cats (Hobart, Australia) Chemicals (Portland, OR) Jack Of Heart (Perpignan, France) Chicken Snake (Staunton, VA) Anomalys (Amsterdam, Holland) Spits (Outer Space) Ex Cult (Memphis, TN) Konks (Boston, MA) Mad Macka (Brisbane, Australia) Personal & The Pizzas (Pepperoni, NJ) Persuaders(New Orleans, LA)Rev John Wilkins (Memphis, TN)


Marina Abramovic & Francesca Woodsman Documentaries: Artists and Audiences


Marina Abramovich: The Artist is Present
available on HBO/HBO in Demand/HBO to GO

The Woodmans (Francesca Woodman documentary)
available on  streaming Netflix

   I'm very interested in the biographies of "serious" Artists to learn about their relationship to their Audience. Even if I'm not a huge fan of the work of the Artist in question, it's interesting whenever someone muses on the relationship between a successful Artist and their relationship, how that relationship is understood by the Artist, etc.

  Two recent,  easily available documentary films that address the Artist/Audience relationship in interesting detail are Marina Abramovich: The Artist is Present and The Woodmans, about Francesca Woodman, the young photographer/Artist who committed suicide in 1981 in her mid-20s.  Both films are excellent and well worth watching for anyone who actually reads this post.

    Prior to watching  Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present (HBO In Demand) the only fact I knew about her is that she had recently had a career retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, and the retrospective shared a title with the film, "The Artist is Present,"  and that she is a performance artist.

    I was eager enough about the prospect of learning more that I actually went into the On Demand section of my Cable Provider and watched it after missing the initial showing.  Marina Abramovic is a celebrated performance Artist, a pioneer in her field of Artistic endeavor and she's notable for several reasons within the realm of contemporary art.

   As The Artist is Present discusses in some detail, Marina Abramovic was active in the field when performance art was beginning to exist, one interviewee describes it as "a reaction to painting."  Given the time of her early performances, the early 1970s, this would place her initial efforts roughly after the Warholian factory epoch.

   Watching footage of Abramovic's early performances, where she did things like cut herself with a razor and allowed audience members to assault her, I was reminded of California performance artist Chris Burden, who was doing the same kind of activities in the very early 1970s in the Los Angeles area.   She is obviously highly influential on contemporary Artist/Celebrity Matthew Barney.

   The details of Abramovic's career are fascinating, the critical moment being a split with her long time partner/husband in 1988.  After that, it basically sounds like she decided to get paid- she hooked up with Parisian fashion houses, moved to New York, got a business manager (who provides several key interviews in the film.)  From a Art/Market perspective the film claims that Abramovic was the first performance Artist to sell still photographs from her pieces.   The fact that this film was made, and it centers around a career retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art- is a testament to her status as a successful Artist.

 Of course, the most interesting part of The Artist is Present is the documentation of the piece that Abramovic performed FOR the exhibit, her sitting in a room for eight hours a day, for six weeks, and making eye contact with all comers.  It is totally fascinating to watch this artistic activity unfold over a six week period, and you come away from the film with a deep respect for the Artist in question.
Francesca Woodman photograph: This should be the cover of the Yohuna LP

    Any appreciation of the photography of Francesca Woodman, a young photographer who committed suicide in her mid 20s after compiling an impressive "ahead of its time" body of work, is complicated by the fact of her suicide.   This film deals with this difficult subject in a matter-of-fact way, exploding myths about the romantic Artist and not shying away from asking tough questions while maintaining a respectful tone.

   Again, I didn't know anything about Francesca Woodman other then a vague idea of her existence, and the existence of this film, but I was interested in knowing why a young Artist would do something like that.  Certainly, the young Artist committing suicide is literally the most classically "Romantic" thing that an Artist CAN do.

    Although the film suggests that the post-death appreciation of her work was an example of the general Audience "catching up" with an avant garde Artist,  it also made clear that Francesca Woodman, herself, was

(1)   A savvy, ambitious, calculated young Artist who sought the acceptance of critics and a wide Audience 
(2)   who failed to obtain that goal at the time of her death,
(3)  and whose failure to obtain that goal played some role in the decision to kill herself.

   I think one of the most cinematic scenes in a film that recalls a Sorrows of Young Werther-esque lead character is the description of Francesca Woodman, post RISD-y, living in New York City, working as "third photographers" assistant at a fashion shoot captained by an Italian fashion photographer.  That is as pure an instance of "unrecognized genius" as you can get outside of a Vincent Van Gogh biography.

   Francesca Woodman's parents were/are both Artists of some note and both have thoughtful and trenchant observations to make about the death of a child.  The father, in particular, notes that the reasons she killed herself are some of the same reasons he loved her so much, and if she didn't have those traits, he wouldn't have cared as much when she died.

  The father also observes that in the years immediately prior to her suicide- a time when he was also in New York City trying to jump start his career as a painter, he had lunch with her and she sternly told him "You have to make one career related phone call" every day- which sounds like something out of a "get rich/positive thinking" book- and certainly indicates that Francesca Woodman was anything but the model of a non-commercially motivated Romantic Artist with a capital A.

 The documentary points out that Woodman had an interest in being regarded as a "Capital A Artist."  This observation is made by one of her college friends, and considering the early date of her suicide it's fair to say that her thought did not evolve significantly from that point on the subject.

 She obviously was not considered so by the New York City Art community.  It sounds like she didn't even merit a show at a gallery during her life time.

  What I took away from the film is that Francesca Woodman was a talented young photographer who began to manifest depression in her early 20s and for whatever reason, she quickly succumbed to that depression in a way similar to many people, Artists and non-Artist alike.  However, the fact of her suicide has perversely upped the value of her work in terms of both critical and general audience response, and today she is a highly influential female Artist on current Artists working in and out of photography.

  Where is the Sofia Coppola directed biopic of Francesca Woodman?

Monday, July 09, 2012

Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens

Book Review
Martin Chuzzlewit
by Charles Dickens
published serially from 1843-1844
published in one volume in 1844, with illustrations
read on an Amazon Kindle Ereader

   Martin Chuzzlewit is typically considered a transitional work between Dicken's early phase and the novels of his maturity. (1)

    From an Artist/Audience/Market relationship perspective, Martin Chuzzlewit is interesting because it happened after he had the break-out early career hits of Oliver Twist and The Life and Adventures of Nicolas Nickelby  but before his mid and late career masterpieces like David Copperfield and Bleak House.  Martin Chuzzlewit was published serially in 20 monthly portions, written in the month or so before publication.  Sales of Martin Chuzzlewit were not good, 20,000 per issue vs. 50,000 for The Life and Adventures of Nicolas Nickelby and 100,000 an issue for The Old Curiosity Shop. (2)

   Charles Dickens was already in debt to his publisher for prior advanced payments, but nonetheless negotiated a substantial advance that was subject to what we call a "claw back" provision in the event that sales didn't match prior levels.   This situation colors the drastic, mid novel decision to send the younger Martin Chuzzlewit to America for a spell in the dystopic American colony of Eden.

  Martin Chuzzlewit had a poor initial showing in the market place, and received mixed reviews from the initial critical audience.  Due to the sarcastic treatment of American society, Martin Chuzzlewit was poorly received by the American critical Audience but the generally low sales are thought to be more of a reaction to a low point on the economic cycle then a specific dislike or apathy to Martin Chuzzlewit. (3)

   As a reader, I probably appreciated the treatment of America a great deal more then critics who read Martin Chuzzlewit after the initial publication.  The plot of Martin Chuzzlewit is more complex then that of his earlier works, and there is an early development of the moral tones that would come to the fore in his later masterpieces.  The increase in complexity is suggested by the title, Martin Chuzzlewit referring to two different Martin Chuzzlewits: an older and a younger. Chuzzlewits populate the character list making Martin Chuzzlewit a novel "about" the Chuzzlewit family.

  Many of the events and characters that Charles Dickens develops in the plot to Martin Chuzzlewit are thoroughly grounded in contemporary "current events." (4)  Knowledge of the manner in which Charles Dickens wrote Martin Chuzzlewit certainly helps to explain the extraordinary length- the man had pages to fill- but I think Martin Chuzzlewit rather vindicates the serial method of publication. Charles Dickens represents the model of a "prolific artist" mode of artistic production that was well suited to a rapidly growing Audience for serially published novels.

  It's also important that beginning in the 1840s there were more "hits" that failed to make it to "classic" status.   This is especially true of serial publication, where sufficient sales essentially guaranteed further installments.  There were million selling serial novels in the 1840s that aren't even in print today.

 But there is no denying that Martin Chuzzlewit takes time from the reader- 700 pages plus on smaller font in the Amazon Kindle, it took about 8-10 hours to read it all.

Other Posts About Charles Dickens On This Blog

Book Review:  Great Expectations by Charles Dickens11/20/14
Book Review: Dickens and His Readers: Aspects of Novel Criticism Since 1836 by George H. Ford. 3/25/13
Book Review: Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens, 3/17/13.
Book Review:  Dickens Worlds by Humphrey House, 3/8/13
Book Review: Bleak House by Charles Dickens, 9/21/12
Book Review: David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, 8/23/12
Book Review: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, 7/17/12.
Book Review: The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickelby by Charles Dickens, 6/19/12.
Book Review: Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, 6/7/12.


(1) Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens, 2000 paperback edition, edited by Paul Schilke.
(2)  Id.
(3) Id.
(4)  [The character] of Pecksniff is modeled led upon the art critic Samuel Carter Hall... Tigg's fraudulent Anglo-Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life Assurance Company is a refraction of the West Middlesex General Annuity Company, whose self-made directors absconded with its funds in 1840.

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