tom moody

Patreon and the perpetual hemorrhage model of e-commerce

Left commentator David Sirota is launching a new webcast ("Podcast" is an Apple-centric term that people still use, long after "pods" became "phones" -- appcast, maybe? no, please).
Unfortunately he's using Patreon to pay for it. That's a new-ish e-commerce platform that several indie content providers, such as James Howard Kunstler and Radio War Nerd, have embraced.
The Patreon model isn't based on subscription -- they call it "fundraising." That is, fundraising in perpetuity.
You can't make a one-time payment for x months of listening, in the manner of say, a magazine subscription. You "pledge" one of several tiers of support and Patreon bleeds this chosen increment out of your credit card or Paypal account each month. You don't have a credit card? Someone call law enforcement.
This puts the onus on you to cancel. If you die or become disabled the charges accrue to infinity. Also you can't buy single webcasts.
Would love to "support" certain authors but not if they're going to use Patreon's "shady porn website" model of commerce (repackaged as a "hip startup" model of commerce). It's rent-seeking, it's Silicon Valley, it's bad.

- tom moody

May 11th, 2017 at 7:51 am

Posted in computers-R-stupid

notes on cockfighter

I made this fake DVD cover as a thought experiment. Like Magritte's non-pipe, this object could not, and will not exist. This is one Monte Hellman film that will never get the "Criterion treatment." Some reviews of the film from internet sources (below) suggest why. A "real" DVD cover (or poster, or something, also found on the internet) is at the bottom of the post.



Frank Mansfield (Warren Oates) is one of the most respected "handlers" on the cockfighting circuit. He loses an impromptu match against his rival Burke (Harry Dean Stanton) and thus puts himself out of the running for the coveted "Cockfighter of the Year" award. He rightfully blames the incident on his big mouth and vows not to say a word until he's won the prize. Not to his family, his partner, or even his girl.

As in the earlier Two-Lane Blacktop, Monte Hellman takes a long look at people competing at the fringes of society, misfit drifters trying to prove themselves -- and make a buck -- in an edgy niche. Frank and his associates are participating in a cowardly, brutal, sadistic "sport" where their only concerns are the odds and the payoff. Frank gets by quite well without his voice because he has little to say that doesn't involve negotiating the terms of a fight. He's an unusual subject for a character study, as he seems to lack much character. And yet, Oates turns in an excellent facial and physical performance that conveys Frank's thoughts, and manages to imbue him with a shred (just a shred, mind you) of something resembling humanity.

The fights are pretty visceral and the film doesn't flinch. I was prepared to be disturbed and offended, but hell, I had chicken strips for dinner last night. I couldn't work up enough hypocrisy to get too worked up by it. [Nestor] Almendros also films them with a hypnotic beauty, abstract flurries of beaks and feathers and blood.

On the whole I prefer Two-Lane Blacktop, but as a single performance, this is the best I've seen from Oates. Although you occasionally get to hear him in voiceover or flashback, for the most part he plays it silent, and does so very effectively. His gestures communicate to the other characters, and his eyes communicate to the audience. I also really enjoyed Richard Shull as Frank's partner, a fun and glib character who provides some of the film's lighter moments. As I've said before, Stanton doesn't do much for me but he's okay here.

This was a tricky movie for me. For a large part of it I had kind of a blasé "so what?" attitude about it, and then it dawned on me that I was actually enjoying it. It gradually grew on me to the point where I was really invested in seeing what this offbeat -- and largely unsympathetic -- character would get into.

Cult Reviews:

Cockfighter is an extraordinary film from more than just one viewpoint. Charles Willeford‘s authentic script and Hellman‘s carefully researched preparations catapult you straight back to the gloomiest regions of the contemporary America’s deep south, where sleazy Georgia locals gather around, cheering and money-waiving, to witness two animals fight to the death. It’s basically a repulsive topic, and also one of the main reasons why the film was a tremendous box office flop at the time, but only through actually making the effort of watching Cockfighter, you will notice the film does not primarily thrive on animal cruelty and clandestine sports. Cockfighter depicts the story of one man’s obsession and how he will stop at nothing to accomplish a pre-determined goal. Frank Mansfield is a natural born cock-fighter. Throughout all of his life, he trained cocks and was considered the best in business. A couple of years earlier, he became overly haughty and lost his biggest prize fighter over a stupid and meaningless bet. Since then, Frank took a vow of complete silence and dedicates his entire existence to the training of new cocks so that he will eventually regain the medal of best cock-fighter. His obsession slowly costs him everything, including the house where his brother lives, his old friends and even the love and respect of the one woman he cares about.


- tom moody

May 9th, 2017 at 1:03 pm

Posted in art as criticism, films

monte hellman quest

Monte Hellman teaches film at Cal Arts when he's not making movies, which is often, through no fault of his own. Or perhaps it is his fault, if sticking to safe subjects is considered a virtue. From a 1988 interview:

Kris Gilpin: After Easy Rider, the industry was selling Two-Lane [Blacktop] as the second coming, what with the screenplay publication in Esquire and all. Do you think it was a case of over-hype which caused its initial “failure” at the box office?

Monte Hellman: No, it was a case of a different philosophy. I think Easy Rider was a film which was not offensive to the status quo because what it put down was a part of the status quo that everybody condemned. It wasn’t critical of the way studio executives live their lives; it was critical of Southern bigots, so everybody could get behind that. Two-Lane Blacktop was critical of middle-class morality – for want of a better term – it was critical of the way the average person lived his life, and the studio executives were offended by it, and they killed the film. It didn’t die a natural death, it was murder.

Anti-bourgeois themes, socially unacceptable subject matter (e.g., cockfighting), willingness to sign onto crap projects to "keep working" (while at the same time struggling for authorial control), inspires a corpus that's both intriguing and tragic, a de facto avant garde variation of a "directorial career" in a hugely dysfunctional system.

Hellman is known principally for Two Lane Blacktop and, even after it was "murdered" by the suits, it was slow to be recognized in the VHS/DVD era because the copyrights to certain songs kept it out of circulation. Other projects have bubbled to the fore from various rights and production hells (hmm, "Hell-man"), so that a picture emerges of an auteur who didn't deserve his fate, regardless of whatever "attitude" he may have had, especially when a total hack such as Steven Spielberg gets to indulge every crappy cinematic whim. Below is the Wikipedians' raggedy compilation of Hellman's work, with one consumer's viewings (mine) being updated in bold.

Beast from Haunted Cave (1959)
Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961) [uncredited post-production footage; for some reason the Wikipedians omitted this film while including other second-unit-type work by Hellman --tm]
The Terror (1963) (uncredited; with Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Hill, and Jack Nicholson) [Hellman says: "I made the last version of the movie; there’d been several versions before but I made the one that finally got released." --tm]
Back Door to Hell (1964)
Flight to Fury (1964)
The Shooting (1966)
Ride in the Whirlwind (1966) [some thoughts on Shooting and Ride are here --tm]
Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)
Cockfighter (1974)
The Greatest (1977) [uncredited; post-production "doctoring" after director Tom Gries died --tm]
China 9, Liberty 37 (1978)
Inside the Coppola Personality (1981) (short)
RoboCop (1987) (uncredited second unit director) He directed several action scenes.
Iguana (1988)
Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! (1989)
Reservoir Dogs (1992) (executive producer only)
Trapped Ashes (2006) (segment "Stanley's Girlfriend")
Road to Nowhere (2010)

Road to Nowhere joins the films-about-films canon that includes Irma Vep, Mulholland Drive, Living in Oblivion, and Shadow of the Vampire, with its own brand of angst stemming from Hellman's fifty years' personal experience with snafus, compromises, and unfinished projects. The somewhat lame actor who plays the "inner" film's director is of a piece with Hellman's checkered career; in fact, almost any flaw could be said to be intentional, feeding back into the continuum of low budget reality that Hellman massages into fine art. Shot when Hellman was 78 years of age, Road makes an excellent career bookend to his first film, Beast from Haunted Cave, a horror cheapie where the characters wax philosophical on themes of compromise and life-accomodation (the costs and benefits of gangster molldom, urban rapacity vs. the self-employed life in a South Dakota cabin) while being stalked across the Badlands by a giant hairy cobweb creature.

Update: Am*zon has a terrible print of Cockfighter that appears to have been rendered from an old VHS tape. This fits the subject matter, a Southern almost-mockumentary depicting an activity that is currently a felony in 33 states. Hellman names it the least favorite of his films, not because of the bloodsport but because Roger Corman didn't give him enough time to rework the script completely.

Update 2: More bookends: The Terror and Stanley's Girlfriend each feature a supernatural femme fatale and a pair of men attracted to her against their better judgment.

Update 3: Another sexual triangle occurs in China 9, Liberty 37. The numbers refer to mileages on a directional road sign in the old (Spaghetti) west, not a sports score. Handsome gunfighter Fabio Testi vies with grizzled homesteader Warren Oates for the affections of Jenny (Logan's Run) Agutter. Very engaging story and moving (pun intended) ending. Music by frequent de Palma collaborator Pino Donaggio. Seeing a good print is a crapshoot but for some reason Am*zon streaming has one at the moment. As noted by commenter M. Britton:

Its UNCUT and anamorphic widescreen!!! Been looking for this version for years!!!! Great film from Monte Hellman.

NOTE: THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE AMAZON INSTANT VIDEO STREAMED VERSION (there are a few so make sure you choose the correct one). This is the uncut longer version (not the shortened 93 minute version) us fans have been looking for!! It is anamorphic widescreen 2.35 and looks pretty good (compared to copies and dupes of the pan and scan version) but could look better with a proper restoration from the likes of Criterion (who love Monte Hellman films). This is a cult classic starring the wonderful Warren Oates, Fabio Testi and Jenny Agutter (her scenes are back in!) and has some great cinematography. Just wished Amazon offered this version to purchase instead of renting. I have been waiting a LONG time to finally see the uncut version of this great western and would kill to have this in my video library! This is the only version you should seek out and not the others (since there seems to be no legit widescreen DVD of this cut).

- tom moody

May 4th, 2017 at 6:24 pm

Posted in films

Discogs ownership and future

Discogs censorship thread

Sombunya I believe that after Discogs was purchased by "Zink Media" the policy discussed here, as well as other things, came into play.

musiclraider When I read your post it intrigued me. But upon investigation it seems that Zink Media is a private company owned by Kevin Lewandowski, who started Discogs. Are you sure Discogs was bought? Even so, being bought by the person who started it is hardly likely to result in a great change in policies.

Sombunya When I started here 13 years ago it seemed like it was just all teo and nik. I also naively assumed that teo may have sold this place when it grew large and profitable (which is what I would have done) but I may very well be wrong. It also seemed much looser and more liberal back then than it is now.

musiclraider Yep, I've been a member since 2005 and agree it has changed dramatically.
Inevitable really, but I am still amazed that they continue to allow the sale of bootlegs, great stuff.
I wonder if/when 'Zink' will sell out to a big multinational, as the site must be worth millions if not billions now.
If it does, you will see much more dramatic changes happen very fast.

Sombunya I can hardly wait (sarcasm intended)

Discogs Careers page

Joseph Hartnett CUNY librarian research paper

Discogs is an electronic dance music database that gradually expanded into a music collecting database, where old vinyl and CDs are bought and sold.
After spending some time in the "member" sections, where the sausage-making of release submission and editing takes place, one might start wondering about the economics of the site. Anyone with a login can submit and edit releases. "Staff" has very little interaction with users and mostly allows a small group of hall proctor/Wikipedian/nerd types to run the show. In the forums they complain about "rogue" (i.e., ordinary) users. These nerds are all unpaid, and work out of zeal for vinyl details such as the color of the label and what pressing plant was used in 1974. Yet, their decisions about a release can instantly impact the value of a disc, as reflected in the buy and sell statistics of the Discogs marketplace area.
Let's say you own a Pink Floyd LP from the '60s. The marketplace shows 40 sales of the record have occurred, with low/median/high prices ranging from $15 to $150. One day, a hall monitor notices that your copy was pressed at a different plant and moves your release to a "new submission" that has zero market value. Tough for you, if you're thinking about selling it, until actual sales start to occur for this "new" submission.
At the moment, Discogs makes its money from charging fees to sellers of records, and advertising. It is not a non-profit, but it's also not a user-data harvester for one of the big Silicon Valley monopolies. There is an uncomfortable connection to Google, in that releases have links to "videos" (that is, songs with a still photo) with a search feature that's hard-coded to search only YouTube.
From its careers page (linked to above) Discogs resembles the standard VC-funded startup, gradually building its brand and expanding to other countries, such as Japan. It seems likely it will eventually sell to Amazon (a la IMDb) or Google (a la YouTube), in which case the owner will be paid handsomely and those hall monitors will be thanked for their years of valuable service. (Schadenfreude if they messed with your submissions.)

- tom moody

April 30th, 2017 at 8:10 am

Posted in computers-R-stupid

cling cling the ring

Some alert YouTubers noted the similarity between

Super Mario World 2 - Yoshi's Island (SNES) Music - "Star Theme" [YouTube]


Bonzo Dog Band - "Keynsham" (words, music and vocals by Neil Innes) [YouTube]

Probably not worth going to court over, especially without Innes' immortal lyrics:

Lipstick gleam
Cling cling the ring
Clang clang she sang
It's tragic magic
There are no coincidences
But sometimes the pattern is more obvious

- tom moody

April 29th, 2017 at 8:18 pm

Posted in music - others

adolf loos' bedroom


Photo from the New York Times, in an article describing the above room, designed by Viennese modernist architect Adolf Loos (as recreated in 2014):

The [room] was devised as a dreamy spectacle by... Loos, in 1903 for himself and his wife, Lina. The bed, draped with a white silk sheet, appears to float over an opulent white fur rug, and white linen curtains mask the walls. The only color that is not white is the azure blue of the carpet.

The I Like & Like blog found an interpretation that's even more colorful:

The white room that Loos designed for Lina, his blonde, blue-eyed, nineteen-year-old wife, was the most intimate place in the house. The white walls, the white draperies and the white angora sheepskins created a sensual and delicate fluidity; every object in the room was white. Even the closets were concealed behind pale linen drapes. This was an architecture of silence, of a sentimental and erotic approach. Its contrast with the more public living spaces attests to a method of composition that was strictly governed by the psychological status of each room. – Panayotis Tournikiotis, Adolf Loos, Princeton Architectural Press, 2002, p. 36.

Yet, it resembles a hospital room done up for Ed Wood -- the clinical vibe is distinctly un-erotic. It also anticipates the hotel room as improvised sterile space in Stephen Frears' 2002 movie Dirty Pretty Things:


(image via the Internet)

Imagine being Loos's child bride and having to live in this environment. No red wine, please! Modernists, you can't live with them, you can't kill them. And lest anyone get carried away with the "beauty" of the room, here's a photo of the genuine article, from the early 1900s (image via I Like & Like):


Tales from the Crypt.

(hat tip Deborah Mesa-Pelly, who has a show up invoking this bedroom and other oddities)

- tom moody

April 29th, 2017 at 12:32 pm

Space Is The Place (Quadraphonic version)


Label (Side A) for Sun Ra's Space Is The Place LP (1973)
photo via Discogs

current prices for the Quad version:
Lowest: $40.00
Median: $72.47
Highest: $147.78

Does anyone even own a Quad system anymore? Don't answer, of course they do.

- tom moody

April 26th, 2017 at 11:37 am

Posted in music - others

Ligeti's Poème symphonique

Poème symphonique (for 100 metronomes) (Wikipedia)
Slick French TV (?) reenactment [YouTube]
Not-so-slick German performance from last year [YouTube]
Vinyl recording (1989) (Discogs) -- current asking price $191.57 (minimum price sold $77.02)

- tom moody

April 26th, 2017 at 11:25 am

Posted in music - others

vintage Varèse


Photo of label of the shellac pressing (1937) of
Edgar Varèse's "Ionisation (For Percussion Ensemble)"
via Discogs

2 collectors report owning this on Discogs. No copy is offered for sale (yet).

- tom moody

April 26th, 2017 at 11:25 am

Posted in music - others



The NYT posted a GIF of a noted Silicon Valley "disruptor" -- this is a low res version via OIE (hat tip MBM for spotting the original).
The Times artist made him wa-a-a-ay too sensitive-looking.

- tom moody

April 23rd, 2017 at 9:05 pm

Posted in animation - others