Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Why Must They All Move On?

When William Hartnell landed the role of Doctor Who Number One in 1962, he was experienced enough to have learned that when you get a good, steady well-paying gig in an otherwise shaky industry, an industry where more people fail than succeed, you don’t trade that Good Thing in on the vague promise of doing “something different.” It was for this reason that he was so disappointed in his co-star, Carole Anne Ford, when she decided to leave the show at the beginning of its second season. Why throw away a good thing? And he was right. To this day, Carole Anne Ford is remembered for being Susan on Doctor Who, not for anything she did later. Fifty Years down the road, the youngest Doctor ever — Matt Smith — pitched his high-profile, steady, well-paying gig so that he could go off and play bit parts in bad movies that nobody will remember. Young people never seem to learn.

The same thing is true, and perhaps even more true, in the music business: and so I was dismayed, upset, and even hurt earlier this year when musician Marianne Sveen announced that she would be leaving my favorite band, the Nordic all-gal group Katzenjammer, in order to pursue her solo career.

Previous to this, she had already taken time off to work as a producer and as the solo act Dandylion; I bought a few of her solo EPs myself. But did she ever reflect that maybe people were only interested in her solo career because of her association with Katzenjammer? 

I ask the question because it's evident now now that her selfish decision has killed the group. In the wake of Sveen's announcement, fellow band-member Anne Marit Bergheim yesterday posted on Facebook that she is moving on as well: leaving no doubt that my favorite band was an “all for one and one for all” outfit: rather than replace Sveen on tours with a new musician, Katzenjammer has decided to fold the tents for good.

Does Sveen know that her decision to kill Katzenjammer could make her the most reviled woman in rock history outside of Yoko Ono? Does she know that the polite interest in her solo career will probably evaporate now that she’s burned down the only reason that anyone outside of Norway ever even heard of her?

And so the history of Katzenjammer seems now to be written: just another really talented almost was. They never became a household name in the USA, but they could have done. They could have done so much more, together. Ten years, three genius albums that grew in accomplishment from release to release (last year’s Rockland seemed to make the specific statement that the women of Katzenjammer had the substance, the experience, the raw power and the songwriting skills to go toe-to-toe with the best in the business) … all now dissolved, gone the way of that other Fab Four, The Beatles. 

All because Marianne Sveen doesn’t know a god-damn good thing when she sees it, and wants to chuck it all so that she can do “other things.” Specifically, “other things” that will never amount to half of what she has already accomplished working with Anne Marit Bergheim, Turid Jorgensen and Solveig Heilo as part of Katzenjammer.

We didn’t know when David Bowie released his last album that it would be his last album, and the same is true about Katzenjammer and Rockland. It turns out that the lovely title ballad, penned by Anne Marit, didn’t just close out the album: it was the swan song for the band’s entire history. You can listen to it in the video above this post. I don’t suppose that any other group ever said goodbye more beautifully.

— Frede.

Monday, February 1, 2016

One Way Out

I truly Madly Deeply don't

often get political on this blog.

I believe that a person has to pick and choose their fights.
That's why I'm right now getting All Political on you.

As long as we keep electing moderate liberals,
we will keep on moving inevitably to destruction.

Ever since Ronald Reagan sold the Republican party downriver to the bible-thumping, chest-beating right wing, the Republican party has been headed farther and farther into the lunatic fringe, closer and closer to the brink of destruction. Moderate "liberals" have only had the effect of holding the ground we are standing on, or of getting us to the edge of disaster a little bit slower.

Republican candidates get louder and crazier and more insane by the moment -- and somehow we are supposed to fight this by being moderate? Republicans are dragging the whole country in the wrong direction, and Hillary is PART OF THE PROBLEM.

How can we counter Republican extremism by being moderate?

Given the options that we have (and yes of course I wish that there were more real, substantive options... but in the America of today, almost completely 100 percent controlled by the Ruling Class), there is only ONE option. This guy:

This is why I will be caucusing for Bernie Sanders, and this is why I will not vote in the general election if he loses the nomination. If the American people are DETERMINED to throw themselves off a cliff, there's not one goddamned thing I can do about it. Electing Hillary will only delay the inevitable. A vote for her is a vote in favor of the one percent continuing to rape and fuck our country right over.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Here and Now

This morning with itchy bleach on my head (because I hate my hair's natural mousy brown color , and so dye it as close to white as I can get it ... fer crine out loud, here I am in my late fifties, when is it just going to turn already?) I went back to the earliest days of this blog and read a few of the posts surrounding the experience of moving into my current house, all on my own.

I'm so glad that I wrote it all down five years ago, as it happened. Memory is beyond imperfect, and time does dull the pain. But here I am, five years and twelve days exactly after the move was finally completed.

So much has happened and changed in that time.  The architecture of my family has mostly evaporated: Pooky, Pandy Bear and Patches have all died, my friend Howard is gone, my Dad has moved away (yet we have somehow grown closer), my evil sister saw the deaths of her son and husband in rapid succession, only to replace them almost immediately with a New Family that she is welcome to (my sister's soul is nothing more than a black hole that sucks up anything that gets too close, in order to give itself the illusion of substance).

 The Saga and Process of Moving On has more or less completed, insofar as it's ever complete; after all, we are always moving on from something.  But five years after the fact, there's no denying that I'm in a better place now than I was then, having divested myself of a job and a boss that were helping to drive me to drink, among other things. The past couple of years have been loaded with blessings, not the least of which are the numbers of people who have let me know that they like the work I am doing: something that hadn't happened in such a long time that I'd forgotten what it felt like.

Of course change is the order of life and it can all go belly-up from where it is if one is not careful. And I'm not, nor will I ever be, without sadness: it's a part of my biological make-up. But I look at those entries from five years ago and remember what a bad place it mostly all was, and see how far I've come from those times; and I'm so grateful to have, with your help, and for now, reached a place where there is a lot less pain to write about, but still much to remember, and much to do on the road ahead.

-- Frede.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Lady Grinning Soul

David Bowie released an album and then he died. 

In an act of transformation that is nothing if not pure alchemy, an interesting album coalesced into a profoundly moving work of art. In the video of “Lazarus,” Bowie is seen writhing and levitating in the most austere of hospital beds, while his Inner Self struggles to get all the words down on paper before his time expires. This is powerful, emotionally shaking stuff, but also cold: in the same way that Bowie made all of his best work, he has objectified himself and become the part that he was playing and writing about. 

In another decade, the work would be hailed as the artistic achievement of an admittedly young year. Instead, I fear it is doomed to become a reflection that fades rapidly in the collective rear-view mirror of our non-culture. Now, in the middle of the twenty-teens, Bowie is becoming the victim of what he himself warned us about: the transitory nature of an aging culture, the strange changes that cannot even be faced because the world has already moved on. 

With Bowie gone, it’s left to folk singer Slaid Cleaves to warn of what’s happening and what will happen: throughout his album Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away, he laments:

All you see
every love and every dream
as morning dew will turn to steam

Bowie is dead, long live Bowie, blink and you missed him, he was barely here. So much has changed since David Bowie warned us about change. The Pop Culture that nourished his growth no longer even exists: because culture implies something shared, and the element of sharing is now simply another casualty in the endless quest for Novelty that has become the driving force behind everything we see, hear and do. We live in a rarified “Do-It-Yourself” culture that’s different for every individual, because it exists only in the experience and choices of that individual. 

It’s all in your personal Pop-Culture Mixmaster, streaming in the wifi-ed air around us, down into your iPod and out through the earbuds. There is no job in this world more obsolete than “disk jockey” or “programming director.” 

From here on in, we’re all going it alone. 


Alan Rickman quickly followed Bowie down the rabbit-hole, same age, same cause of death. Although it boggles my mind to learn that there are actually people out there who liked Robin Hood (a movie that plays rape for laughs, and which boils down to — as I wrote at the time — “the Sheriff of Over The Top fighting Robin Bland to see who has the most annoying acting style”), that was just one execrable movie in an otherwise exemplary career. You’d listen to Rickman read the telephone book, wouldn’t you? I would.

The thing that’s concerning about this is that Mister Death seems to be focusing overmuch on The Good Folks. Why is Pat Robertson still alive? Why is Dick Cheney still alive? Why haven’t Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Donald Trump had their fatal coronaries yet? Why are evil-minded men gleefully lopping off the heads of people who never them did any harm, and still managing to keep their own heads attached to their shoulders?

It seems to me that Mister Death has a legitimate Job of Work to do, and that he’s been shirking. In the novels of Terry Pratchett, Death is always anxious to present himself as just another working stiff, really your pal, “it’s a bad job but someone has to do it.” And yet he takes Terry Pratchett and leaves us with the likes of Tom Clancy and James Patterson (neither of whom even write their own books anymore). 

There must be MILLIONS of people out there who deserve to be dead, and yet Mister Death passes them by, waving a bony hand in passing, “That’s okay, buddy, you’re good for now, I’m on my way to take out that person who made millions of people happy.”

It’s not the same, it doesn’t hurt as much, it isn’t as personal as losing your grandparents, your mom, the beloved members of your family. I miss my poor pussyquat Patches more than I will ever miss David Bowie or Alan Rickman. But deaths out of the world we live in re-open those wounds, because they cast a stark light on the timeframe of your life. Everything, even the sadness of knowing that your world is passing on, is “Temporary as the morning dew turning to steam.”

— Frede.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Alien Regurgitation

"For the whitest whites, the brightest brights, use only CRELM toothpaste!"
This evening I subjected myself to Alien Resurrection (1997) … not because I had any crashing desire to see another Alien movie, but because it was directed ny Jean-Pierre Jeunet, one of the few remaining active directors whose work I admire enough to actively seek out. It was his only Hollywood movie, and I believe the experience was bad enough to sour him on ever doing it again. Can’t blame him for taking the offer; gotta admire him for cutting the cord and going back to doing what he does best: his own thing.

Jeunet struggles manfully to make something out of the material; but it’s an effort that’s doomed from the start, hobbled as it is by a script excreted from The High No-Talent Supreme, Joss Whedon. Whedon, James Cameron, J.J. Abrams — these three clowns taken together are among the worst things ever to happen to Hollywood, discounting only the corporate numbskulls who keep on hiring them. If I’m ever unlucky enough to meet Whedon, I want to ask him what it feels like to fuck The Avengers.

When he’s not busily engaged in finding ever more extreme ways to gross out an audience (the one thing that the Alien movies seem to thrive on), he’s dutifully hitting the mark of every standard Hollywood Plot Point, every cliched theme or line of dialogue that he can possibly lay his typing fingers on. Alien Resurrection is one of those movies that the audience could have written just as well, by rote: all 114 minutes are telegraphed and predicated (and predictable) from the movie’s opening seconds. This is probably its great failing as a horror movie: it’s hard to be scared by a movie when we already know what’s coming, down to the split second.

Still, Jeunet’s visual trademarks somehow manage to shine through: and the opening sequence is pure Jeunet, leading one to expect a far more inventive picture than what follows. And it does have Sigourney Weaver and Winona Ryder, thank goodness for that. I’d watch those two in practically anything, and Jeunet knows how to photograph them: you can’t turn your eyes away when they are onscreen, much as the content of the picture makes looking away almost mandatory. 

It’s worth watching — once — because of Weaver and Ryder and Jeunet; but you can almost feel the man’s frustration running through the movie’s frames like the slimy alien goop that saturates it throughout. No man who is capable of works like Delicatessen, City of Lost Children, Amelie, A Very Long Engagement, or his other films, is going to be happy applying his talents to lifeless crap like this. The business of making sequels to other people's work in Hollywood must be akin to working inside a gigantic Kill Jar. Perhaps this is why he opens the movie with an insect about to be smushed.

Really, I wanted to watch this tonight because I’ve finally managed to snag a copy of Juenet’s most recent picture, The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivot. This has barely been seen in America thanks to its distributor, Harvey Weinstein: basically, an ego on legs. In Jeunet’s own words: “Gaumont sold the film to Harvey Weinstein, and he fucked me... because I refused to re-edit the film. He kept the film for two years and he released the film without advertising, nothing, it was a disaster.”

So at last, sometime this weekend, I’ll get a crack the man’s latest work. It’s had mixed reviews, but this is not surprising: if you don’t “get” Jeunet, then you may feel lost wandering the landscape of his cluttered mind and razor-sharp eye. For me, the only thing that doesn’t bode well for the viewing is that I’m looking forward to it so much.

We’ll see. I’ll let you know.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Movie that Changed Hollywood, Regurgitated.

Yes, Sir Alec; that's how I feel about it, too.
From the time of its announcement, I had a hard time understanding why a new Disney-certified and rebooted Star Wars would be of interest to anyone. The original Star Wars was a confection made by one man, a kind of humble homage to the great Sci-Fi movie serials of the past: Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, The Phantom Empire et al. The worst thing that George Lucas could ever have done was to start taking it seriously — and yet that is exactly what happened. You might say that Joseph Campbell killed Star Wars by convincing George Lucas that he was making “Mythology” with a capital letter — instead of the confection it really was.

Both as a series and as an idea, Star Wars had run its course by the time its mostly wretched second sequel, The Return of the Jedi, was released in 1983. 

So why did, does, the prospect of a totally corporate-owned, cookie-cutter processed remake of Star Wars excite everyone so much?

… especially given the no-talent corporate hack they hired to make the thing. J.J. Abrams has proved time and again that he’s nothing but a cog churning out one piece of processed, corporate-owned crap after another, spraying polystyrene and pixels onto the bones of long-dead work created by his betters. He’s never created anything of his own that was worth a damn. Like Twin Peaks before it, Lost was nothing more or less than an elaborate practical joke perpetrated on its audience. When a creator shows that much contempt for the people who ultimately pay his salary, he deserves nothing but contempt in return.

And here’s the biggest insult of all: Star Wars fans were promised a sequel and a continuation of the series. By definition, this calls for original ideas to be present.


The fans were duped: Star Wars: The Force Awakens is in no way a sequel. It is a remake. A flat-out, straightforward remake in exactly the same sense that Disney remade its own 101 Dalmatians and Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast

Ho-hum: here we have yet another Death Star, yet another Darth Vader, yet another Disaffected Youth from a desert planet (Abrams couldn’t even be bothered to change that detail) to the Rescue. It is exactly the same story as the original Star Wars — and that settles that.

In the manner of all modern remakes, there has been some fiddling with the most minor of details to satisfy the mores of a changed world: Luke Skywalker is now a girl, and to insure that the supporting cast isn’t as lily-white as it was in the original, the part of Han Solo has been split across a racially diverse duo.

Meanwhile, Mark Hamill has assumed the mantle of Sir Alec Guinness’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, even down to the beard (which doesn’t bode well for his continued participation in the series), while Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford are on hand for exactly the same reasons that Kirk Alyn and Noel Neill turned up in Superman: The Movie — to make the fanboys coo and hug themselves. Their cameos may be larger and longer, but the purpose they serve is the same.

In the end, Star Wars: The Force Awakens proves only the things that never needed proof: that it really is all about the money, that the moviegoing public will always settle for more of the same, and that J.J. Abrams’ is a hack whose talent (if he has any at all) lies in getting large numbers of people to eat regurgitated, processed human remains (we really are living in the world of Soylent Green now).

And so, as Spike Jones once twisted it, the sun pulls away from the shore and our boat sinks slowly in the west. The Disney Conglomerate Machine rides off into the distance, ecstatic over their acquisition: they now own and have successfully re-booted the biggest cash cow in Hollywood history. 

Meanwhile, my generation has to deal with the terrifying fact that Hollywood is still thriving on remakes — it’s just that the clock has kept on ticking and ticking and ticking, that it is later than we thought, and that they have moved on: no longer are they re-making stuff from our parent’s youth; they are remaking stuff from our youth. After all, it’s just about the same stretch of time between the original 1933 King Kong and Dino De Laurentiis’s 1976 remake, which was itself remade by Peter Jackson thirty years later. Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford can’t be much younger (if they are younger) than Fay Wray was in the 70’s… 

They times, they are deranging.

— Freder.

Friday, December 4, 2015

"Product Extension" -- It's a Good Thing! ... or So They Tell Me.

Salon Art Cards are 54-card packs featuring some of our most popular images on jumbo-sized (3.5" x 5.75") cards with manifold applications. Use them as Post Cards (they are regulation USPS-sized), Invitations, Note Cards -- or as the most impressive calling cards any of your contacts have ever seen. 

Currently available in three packs of 54 cards each:
"The Seer" from Tarot of the Zirkus Mägi • "Zeitgeist" from Tinker's Damn Tarot • Zircus 4-design pack featuring "Strength," "The Seer," "Art," and "The Whole Show" from Tarot of the Zirkus Mägi.

Choose from any one of our standard backs (currently 3: more are on the way) or get completely customized backs any way you want them for a nominal extra charge. 

(Click to enlarge)

Approximately half the price of normal Post Cards when bought singly. 

Cards are printed on 310 gsm linen playing card stock from France. Packaged and shipped in a white windowed tuck box. More designs Coming Soon!
Tarot of the Zirkus Mägi and Tinker's Damn Tarot are ™ and © 2015 Duck Soup Productions.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Next Big Thing


A whole new concept designed to take Tarot to the next level.
Inspired by the classic Minchiatte decks, but journeying considerably further,
THE MIDWAY ARCANA is both a supplement and an expansion for
The Tarot of the Zirkus Mägi.


It's all here in THE MIDWAY ARCANA!
Coming in two versions: the simply ginormous


containing all Major, Minor and Midway Arcana cards
-- and as a stand-alone deck so that owners of the existing ROADSHOW
edition can turn the deck they already have into a "Baraboo."

--> WATCH THIS PAGE!!! <--

...  to see the AMAZING cards unveiled as they are created -- and prepare yourself for


The Zirkus Mägi and all original content ™and © 2015 Duck Soup Productions, all rights reserved.
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