It’s 2013, my computer is over five years old and that means the hard drive is full of crap. During a recent attempt to clean up and rationalise I’ve found a number of things that interested me at some point, or were research materials for writing, art or film projects that never came to anything (i.e. most of them), or that I otherwise downloaded for reasons now lost to posterity. Sometimes I had the foresight to rename them so I could tell what they were, sometimes not. All posts involving this material will be filed under HD detritus; if anyone knows what any of these things are, where they come from or to whom they should be credited, please let me know in the comments.
Let’s start the recycling with this interesting/inexplicable collection of Chinese Communist LP covers, because I think we all need more of those in 2013. I last interacted with them in December of 2007; I lived in China at that time, but I definitely didn’t do these scans. Some of this stuff– and its modern equivalent– is still available on CD in Chinese shops and let me assure you there’s nothing good about any of it, not even kitsch value. If anybody owns up to having these LPs then we’ll all know what to say when she or he asks us if we’d like to hear a few records.
In this lady’s house, simple requests for a cup of tea often end with a trip to the Accident & Emergency department.
Is she balancing tea on her arm? Good trick, maybe a bit dangerous, but they’re not big on health and safety regulations in China. The woman on the right seems to agree with me, if her expression is anything to judge by. I think this one is attempting to suck up to Hua Guofeng, who briefly took the place of Mao after the latter’s death. Despite remaining a hardline Maoist, Hua deserves some credit for curbing the worst excesses of the Cultural Revolution and for ousting Jiang Qing and the Gang of Four, who were far worse than him. Despite this looking like something from the 1960s or even the 1950s, this record can only be from late 1976 to mid 1981– disco era in the West!– because Hua was ousted in his turn by Deng Xiaoping in 1981. Continue Reading
“When I get out of this thing, you’d better sleep with one eye open. You’re dead, you hear me? DEAD.”
Vicious, volatile lap dog with no impulse control whatsoever? No I don’t mean you, dear reader, although if the shoe fits you can certainly wear it. What I meant is: does your precious fur baby need a muzzle sometimes, but every time you put it on him you can’t help thinking about that BDSM website you “accidentally” clicked on at work last month? Japan has the answer to many problems, including a great many problems that aren’t really problems. Thus, behold the OPPO Quack. Muzzle your dog while also humiliating them by making it appear they’re wearing a duck’s bill: Bobu’s your weird Japanese uncle and his duck-billed dachshund.
It also comes in a chocolate colour which is fine because some dog’s faces are roughly this colour, and in a disturbing fleshy pink that’s actually a bit too much like a dog’s erect penis, always a nightmarish sight. Definitely not something anybody wants to be reminded of at all, let alone colour-coordinating accessories with them.
“As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods. They make us wear duck faces for their sport.”
While we’re in this psychosexual territory, we could also speculate that the apparent Japanese propensity to cartoonise, minimise and kawaii-ify the mouth (along with its obsessive shadow siblings in Japanese anime, manga and porn: the gag and the tentacle or tube in the mouth) perhaps erupts from the national subconscious in some way that’s related to the prevailing cultural norm of honne (本音, true feelings or wishes) being firmly subordinate to tatemae (建前, the façade enforced for the sake of society’s harmony); that one should only open one’s mouth to say something nice– or at least, say something non-confrontational– or metaphorically gag oneself and say nothing at all.
Or you could just look at more pictures of little dogs looking ridiculous at the gallery on OPPO’s site and here, below. Continue Reading
Have you ever watched a film or TV show and thought “that’s a really terrible imitation of [brand we’re meant to recognise without it being the actual brand, which they can’t or won’t use for legal and/or commercial reasons]”, for example when a character gets a vague-looking beer out of their fridge or has Fakey-Flakes breakfast cereal on their kitchen table? I definitely have. Sometimes they’re atrocious, not much better than the deliberately generic Acme products in an old cartoon. Some of them are actually not terrible at all; occasionally they’re even quite witty. Real world discount supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl also specialise in these Brand X near-clones. One of the best ones I’ve seen recently was Lidl’s “Neos” (i.e. fake Oreos), whose name and packaging is so brazen I had to laugh at their audacity.
Of course it’s also remarkable and somewhat depressing to realise just how attuned, trained and indoctrinated most of us are to logos, branding and corporate identities. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be disconcerted or find it funny when somebody does an imitation of these brands, alludes to them, puns with or satirises them.
It stands to reason that it’s somebody’s job to design and make these TV perfect simulacra of consumer goods. One of those somebodies is Independent Studio Services, who have a long list of film and television credits as background and practical prop suppliers. I’ve picked out just a few of their products. There are loads more of these on their site. If like me you’re a bit autistic about things like this, I warn you that following the link may lead to inexplicable episodes of missing time.
A write-up on this subject has been on my site that deals with my work as an artist and writer, because I’ve been sporadically researching it as a potential new film project. I’m repeating and expanding it here because I think the subject is interesting in its own right. It’s another in my series of Suffolk weirdnesses; see also Ipswich smells like space and my visit to the weapons research facility at Orford Ness.
Part of a Staffordshire pottery set exploiting the Red Barn mania: here Corder is enticing Maria into a ridiculously romanticised version of the agricultural barn where he will shortly afterwards murder her and bury her body.
In May 1827, Maria Marten was shot to death by the father of her child, William Corder, at a farm near Polstead in Suffolk. This was and is a bucolic location whose appearance can be judged from the many paintings done of the area by the Suffolk painter John Constable, he of ‘The Hay Wain’, who focused his attention only a few miles east at Dedham and East Bergholt. The illegitimate child had already been disposed of secretly by Marten and Corder. William buried Maria in a shallow grave in a barn on his tenant farm, where she was found accidentally nearly a year later by her own father after he ”put down a mole spike into the floor… and brought up something black, which I smelt and thought it smelt like decayed flesh.” Corder had fled to London, but was eventually caught and hanged.
“W.CORDER BEFORE THE JUDGE.” (Judge sold separately.)
What makes this typically sordid and revolting murder different from others committed before it is that “The Murder in the Red Barn“ was one of the first whose details were promulgated and elaborated by sensational media reporting of the kind that subsequently became the norm throughout the 19th and 20th centuries and into the 21st, leading to public hysteria and wild overestimations of how widespread murder and violent crime actually are in Britain.* Continue Reading
Or: The horror of Japanese beauty products
Japan is not alone and not a latecomer in being beset by vast and wasteful industries dedicated to manufacturing, marketing and selling pure products, i.e. things that serve no practical purpose other than to separate customers from their money, things meant only be bought, disposed of and then replaced with other equally pointless knick-knacks. Japan is relatively unusual, though, in the sense that it makes virtually no distinction between the matter-of-fact way it markets blow up sex dolls and the matter-of-fact way it markets consumer products that inadvertently make people look exactly like blow up sex dolls.
Say hajime mashite to the Pupeko Anti-Aging Mouthpiece (as seen on TV!), which was apparently invented by “ordinary housewife” [sic] Chikako Hirama. You’re meant to suck and blow through the mouthpiece, and this supposedly firms up your cheeks. Um… yeah. The mind boggles and frankly I don’t even want to know how she invented this in the course of her ordinary housewifery. Ordinary for where, the red light district in Bangkok? Check out the great graphics that go along with it, though: Continue Reading