Harmony Korine’s The Beach Bum – Who Is The Real Bum? (a rant, not a review)

There are no spoilers in this rant. However, I will spoil it by saying it’s not worth your time and chances are, if you are of any discerning taste, you will be disappointed if you watch The Beach Bum. One could argue I am spoiling you by saving you the trouble of a poor experience.


I was actually pretty bummed when I missed an opportunity to watch Harmony Korine’s latest feature, The Beach Bum, at the Ritz theater where it was showing, not impossibly far from me. Can someone please tell me what the hell I was thinking? Having streamed it a couple of months ago, I’m sitting here on my couch in my well-appointed (read as adequate) living room around 4:20 in the afternoon when I’m often wont to think about such things as Matthew McConaughey, and I’m feeling the sting of disappointment again as if I had just watched it. Funny how that happens. When it does, I write.

Now, I don’t normally feel compelled to write bad reviews. I realize you can make a career out of being that surly, critical, over egotistical professional critic who gets paid lots of money to shit all over people’s projects in a snarky and entertaining way, but that’s not my goal in life. I’m fine not being Bill Wine. This is a rant.

When it comes to Harmony’s latest film, I write not only in vitriol but out of plain old-fashioned disappointment. I mean, in audience hierarchy, I’m probably second generation, having not seen Korine’s 1995 cult classic debut film Kids until 1999 at the age of 22. It made an indelible impression on me artistically and emotionally. I didn’t even take note of Korine’s name at the time. I just knew the film resonated with me in many ways, difficult to explain even now. I see that as a testament to its merit. It was reality tv before the age of reality tv, in my opinion. Even though it was scripted, the actors had no previous acting experience and were drawn directly from the film’s setting: New York City. It was raw, gritty, and it was a film style I had never really seen before, except perhaps in Italian Neo-realism. But the subject matter of those old subtitled black and white films from my college film class didn’t engage me much. So you can imagine why after seeing The Beach Bum, might be disappointed in a guy who, in his own words, said “give me something I haven’t seen before in a way I haven’t seen it” in a 2013 interview when asked his advice to aspiring filmmakers. I loved that interview, and I know many of his core fans like me must have too. He gave us that back in 1999. And now he gives us this? 

Make no mistake, I am well aware Harmony’s journey through the gauntlet of critically-acclaimed Hollywood success from the tender age of 18 has not been an easy one, by any means. One need only watch this video of his David Letterman Show antics to see we’re talking about an affected man, gifted as he may be in the art of cinema. And perhaps that edginess, the brushes with the law and gratuitous “artist with an addiction” archetype was part of his appeal. But after sitting through The Beach Bum, I think I speak for a lot of fans of his early work when I ask: what happened to you, man?

I get it, you did a lot of drugs, perhaps made some business decisions you regret and had to make a McConaughey movie. It could happen to anyone. Maybe you had to agree to cast certain celebrities, or endorse products, whatever you have to do when you sign a deal with the Hollywood devils. But could you at least have made it look like you put up some kind of fight? It seemed to me, and feel free to disagree with me here, that I was watching a bunch of 2020 Hollywood whores dig up the corpse of 1999 Harmony Korine and parading it around to see how much they could profit off of his name. And the quintessential Hollywood whore, what’s his name… used to be a heavy-set guy they shoved in our face too much, now he’s thin but still nobody cares? Oh yeah, Jonah Hill… Really? Did he have to be in it at all, let alone that much? And that accent? My ex-girlfriend couldn’t do accents to save her life, and even she could pull off a Southern drawl better than Foghorn-Leghorn Hill did in that film. Couldn’t they have just cut him a check for doing nothing just so we wouldn’t have to actually see him? He should be embarrassed by his “performance.” Then again, there was Snoop Dogg. Who doesn’t like Snoop?

But maybe that was the point. To embarrass Harmony Korine. Because to a true fan of films like Korine’s 1997 film Gummo, it felt like The Beach Bum was a coup. A plot to exhibit the nepotistic imperialist power of a bunch of vacuous 2020 celebrities to dig up a cult classic director from the 90’s and eviscerate his image as a groundbreaking genius in the eyes of his early fans. Who are, as it happens, older people. Maybe it’s a generational “fuck you.” I don’t mean that so much as one generation aiming at another, but rather the target market (and it’s all about revenue) has shifted away from me as I’ve gotten older. As if the Hollywood machine is saying “Sorry man, we’ve moved on. And sad as it may be, this is what younger audiences want. More McConaughey.” Oh, but War Dogs, yeah… brilliant film-making, Jonah. I’m sure that will be a Criterion Classic someday. I don’t know who is more at fault here, Korine or the people he was (hopefully) beholden to on this project, but it really doesn’t matter. Your core audience shouldn’t have to ask such questions.

Getting Frank With Frankie – A Fetpix Original Movie

Getting Frank With Frankie

By Spaceman Ross – ORIGINAL HUMOR

(A Fetpix original movie)

Setting: The Supermax Federal Penitentiary in Florence, CO, March 22, 2020

Join us as we present an exclusive never before seen interview with Frank “Frankie the Phantom” Fernanderson. In this cannot-be-missed conversation, the infamous serial killer turned New York Times best selling author offers a candid look at his life, career, and insights on what it takes to make it in 2020. You won’t want to miss what this Public Frenemy #1 has to say! 

Interviewer: Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to interview you for this film. 


Frankie: Sure, no problem. I’m not too busy these days, haha. 


Interviewer: Is this the first time you’ve been interviewed for a feature film? 


Frankie: Yeah. It’s always nice when I can give something back to the community that has offered me countless hapless victims over the years. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. 


Interviewer: Interesting. Have you ever given back to your community before? 


Frankie: Oh yeah, years ago I started doing involuntary mercy killings, ya know, for some poor lonely shut-ins with no frequent visitors. Sometimes I’d be the only face they’ve seen in weeks, depending on their eyesight. With their medical bills, crippling arthritis and what-not, I think they appreciated it. They know it’s either me or cancer, so… I mean, it’s kinda a no-brainer, really. I once heard a saying “we can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone” and that really stuck with me. And it was great practice.


Interviewer: You must’ve practiced a lot. Last we heard it was 86 murder victims and counting, over a span of about thirty years. How do you account for that kind of unmatched success? 


Frankie: Well, yeah, practice helps, haha. Also passion, hard work and dedication to the craft. In tragedy, it really comes down to misdirection. If ya can master that… See, I might wield a revolver to get a victim’s attention, or get’em into the van. And they’re like oh ok, I see where this is goin’, I’m gonna get shot. Then, when I got’em right where I want‘em… the knife comes out. And… it’s all about timing. I get a kick outta seeing the look on the victim’s face when it “clicks” ya know? The instant they get it, that’s the big pay-off for me. 


Interviewer: I’d like to ask about something you said during your trial. You seemed to have some strong opinions about one of your contemporaries, The DC Sniper. Care to comment on that?


Frankie: Oh God… talk about a piece of work. See, in the tragedy world, the so-called “DC Sniper” is the Carrot Top of the industry. He’s a total no-talent hack. If he were here I’d tell him so right to his stupid face. For him, every day was “bring-your-kid-to-work-day.” I mean, come on… Everyone knows all the Greats worked alone. Somebody shoulda told that guy- bodies of your victims are what go in the trunk, not your scared-ass, hiding with a kid! And what kinda example does that set for this young impressionable mind, anyway? If I had a kid with me, I’d want’em to grow and develop their own style, not piggyback off my career. I gotta give’em credit though, I wouldn’t be gettin’ in his car at age 15. I don’t know how he got the kid to do that! 


Interviewer: After such a long time, so many victims, do you remember your first? 


Frankie: Of course, you never forget your first. I remember being pretty scared that first time.. Sometimes I’d pick a venue, somewhere easy for amateurs to break into the scene. I’d get my routine all worked out, and then when the time came I’d just freeze up. Until I eventually got up the nerve to go through with it when I was 22. Then it was smooth sailing. And I’ll tell ya, all the fame and notoriety, all that shit, I’d give it all up just to go back and do that one again. Some killers say you can never quite get that high ever again. The rest of your career you’re always chasin’ it, with every horrendous act.


Interviewer: When you were just starting out, was there anyone who inspired you?


Frankie: Oh yeah, there was one guy who I read about… ya know, when his work became public. I remember thinking yeah, this guy gets it. I wrote a letter to him once. I won’t tell ya who it was though. You’ll have to wait for my next book haha! 


Interviewer: Did you get a reply?


Frankie: I did not. Back then, I was kinda bummed about that. But now that I get my own fan letters, I understand. There’s just too many, it’s hard to get to everyone. They come in faster than you can read’em and you only have so much time to write back. It’s great though, knowing you’re an inspiration to the younger generation just comin’ up.


Interviewer: In your wake of destruction in Nevada, there seem to have been a lot of bodies found in and around Las Vegas. Can you tell us a bit about that?


Frankie: Vegas, Baby! Man, I used to hit the strip… oh I don’t know… maybe once every two years. Usually when I was in a slump. Ya know, everybody gets “killer’s block,” no matter how good you are. They just don’t wanna admit it. Never in my life have I seen more risk-embracing victims. They’d go for anything! I mean, shit, here ya got people willing to risk all their money, their marriages, disease, overdose… anything that was good in their lives, they were willing to lay it on the table, just for a thrill. Talk about easy pickins. They’d literally gamble away anything, including their life. I remember this one guy, he was convinced right up until the closer that I was driving him to some high stakes illegal poker game. Yeah… he got the “high stakes” part right! As soon as they announced “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” every big-shot, every wannabe, and hack wanted in on that action. And the beauty part of it all? Countless acres of unsurveilled desert. You really could make sure that what happened in Vegas stayed in Vegas, or at least the surrounding desert, ya know what I mean?

Young Frankie the Phantom (2)

Frankie outside a gas station in Las Vegas, 1984 (image courtesy Penchant Publishing)


Interviewer: You mentioned “hapless victims” earlier. Sounds like that guy was a pretty hapless victim. But have you ever had someone who fought back or hindered your performance?


Frankie: Ah… I call them hecklers. Ya get used to it after a while. It’s all about control. Ya wanna always have total control over the room. There’s always gonna be some big-mouth hot-shot, sayin’ “You can’t do this to me, you know who I am?” They may get some digs in, but the last dig is always on them, ya know? The show must go on. The trick to handling hecklers, I found, was to always know your routine inside and out. Don’t let’em sidetrack you. You gotta be able to keep your composure and remain professional. I don’t use gags. Some guys do, and that’s fine if that’s your thing. Personally, I feel you always gotta be open to feedback. I wanna hear what they have to say. It’s more of a thrill if they struggle anyway. Every heckler I dealt with ultimately made me better. …Ya know, scarier, for the next time. It’s how ya grow. 


Interviewer: Growth is certainly important in any career. Is there any advice you have for anyone just starting out today?


Frankie: Hmmm… I kinda wish someone had told me when I was just starting out that it really doesn’t do ya much good to watch what other, bigger name guys are doing. It’s all about stayin’ in your lane. Ignore the hype, forget about the guys puttin’ up bigger numbers. There will always be some guy out there who thinks he’s better than you or who makes it look easy for a while. But where’s that guy gonna be tomorrow? Nobody’s invincible. Everything’s going great until one wrong move. That’s all it takes. Then you wake up one morning and the Feds are going through your garbage or diggin’ up your yard. I would say it’s important to remain humble and thankful for every opportunity. 


Interviewer: So tell us a little about how things have changed since the early days of your career. 


Frankie: The scene’s changed a lot over the years, and not for the better. See, all these kids like your Timothy McVeigh’s and your Ted Kazinsky’s… with their bombs and shit. What is this, Amateur Hour? They seem to have forgotten it’s all about connecting with your victim. I blame Hollywood for a lot of it. All these stupid slasher movies and shit, they’re really degrading to the craft. They make me wanna scream outta anger, not fear! I remember a few guys in here were watching TV one time and there was this cartoon… It was these turtles who somehow knew martial arts… Oh yeah, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, that’s it. And I’m sittin there watchin’ it, and for some reason they’re all named after famous Italian Renaissance artists, as if that makes any sense. Anyway, all I could think was what if some famous martial arts guy, like Bruce Lee, saw these Ninja Turtles? Anyway, it’s a total mockery of all martial arts. And that’s how I feel about these serial bombers. Back in the Golden Age of Tragedy, when I was comin’ up… We connected with our victims. We used a knife. We used a knife because it was up close, it was messy and it was personal, ya know? Ya wanna see the look in your victim’s eyes before the lights go down, not read about it in the papers the next morning with your fuckin’ coffee. How ya gonna leave a calling card in a pile of rubble? Nobody’s gonna even find it! We were Purists. It was all about the process. Their process, if ya wanna call it that, is just building a bomb and maybe pressing a button. Where’s the art in that? There’s no room for improv there, no fear factor. One minute people are alive, then before they know what hit’em… bang, their dead. There’s no game in their game! When ya lose the personal touches, the work suffers. 


Interviewer: With so many years of bloodshed under your belt, especially with some of your earliest victims being neighbors, how do you manage to remain unnoticed and slip through the cracks for so long? What was your relationship with your neighbors?


Frankie: What would my neighbors say about me? Well I was a quiet guy, kept to myself mostly. No wife or kids. My house didn’t have a basement so I built a creepy-lookin’ shed in the backyard. Had like five padlocks on it. Nobody asks questions. They’re too self absorbed with their own lives to worry about the guy next door. As long as I kept my lawn mowed. That seemed most important to them. I had the tidiest lawn in my neighborhood. It’s all about quality fertilizer (wink.) After a while though, your local neighborhood victims, well… it gets too easy. Ya gotta challenge yourself, I think. If ya really wanna make a name for yourself in this business ya gotta branch out. Big cities are where a guy like me can really kick-start a great career. 



Interviewer: Speaking of cities, besides Vegas you seem to have spent a good deal of time working in New York. Tell us about that.


Frankie: Man. New York City. Whew. I moved there when I was about 28-29 years old. New York in the 80’s was like an all-you-can-eat buffet for guys like me, know what I mean? Things were so fucked up there, you could’ve killed somebody in New York back in 1987 and they’d just now be getting around to questionin’ ya. That’s how many open cases there were. City that never sleeps? They’re sleepin’ after they meet me, that’s for sure. Permanently. It’s true what they say, you really could be anything you wanted in New York. Of course, the rampant corruption didn’t hurt in my business. You could… back in those days, you could literally put a body bag out front with your regular trash. They’d come, pick it up, one guy on each end, throw it into the back of the trash truck and drive away, no questions asked! It was unbelievable. I swear I oughtta send a thank-you note to the Department of Sanitation for all their support back then! 


Interviewer: Rape was also a big problem in New York back then. You don’t seem to have an interest in that genre, as opposed to some of your contemporaries. Why is that?


Frankie: Yeah, I know the kinda guys you mean… It was never about the raping for me. Other guys, like Bundy, they relied on it too much in my opinion. It’s cheap, it’s shocking, sure, but it has no value and it’s disrespectful to women, I think. I’d like to see more women in the business, I think they could bring a lot to the table. But those guys just give it a bad name. I don’t know, the deal I signed with the devil didn’t have a rape clause, I guess. The true Greats, guys like Jack The Ripper, they didn’t do rape. They didn’t need to do rape. Torture? Mutilation? Sure. That work stood on its own merit. That’s who I aspired to be like when I was comin’ up. To each his own I guess, but it does nothin’ for me. 


Interviewer: Speaking of women, and in a broader sense relationships, did you have any romantic involvement? You said earlier you didn’t have a wife or children, thankfully, but otherwise?


Frankie: Ya know, when you’re out there puttin’ in work, you’re on the road sometimes 200+ days a year. That’s no way to have a girlfriend or a family or whatever people are doin’. I had a couple of ladies in a few cities, but nothin’ serious. My first and only true love has always been my work, ya know? I’m one of those guys haha. 


Interviewer: Before we wrap up, I wanted to touch on something our viewers have been asking us. How did you come to be known as “Frankie The Phantom?”


Frankie: It all started about ten years ago when the papers started callin’ me “The Phantom.” That’s when I knew, Ok, I’ve really made it. I think it was because I was a master of making sure there were absolutely no witnesses, ever. All of a sudden it was like Phantom this and Phantom that. TV, radio, the news… I couldn’t get away from it. But they didn’t know my first name was actually Frankie and that Frankie the Phantom would’ve sounded a million times better! So ya know, like those kids did with the Manson thing, the Helter Skelter shit on the wall, ya know… I was 16 when that happened and I guess it made an impression on me. So one night I was in a house, killin’, and I was like alright, now’s the time to let’em know it’s Frankie the Phantom. So I just took some blood from that one guy and wrote really big on his dining room wall right above where I left his corpse, “Frankie The Phantom.” I still have the newspaper article with the image of that on the front page. And the rest, as they say, is history. Manson got all this press, so I knew that’s how ya become a household name. It was a bonus getting to offer a tribute to one of the Greats at the same time. 


Interviewer: Wow. Amazing. And the rest is certainly history indeed. A tireless investigation, lengthy trial, and what would ultimately lead you to writing the most critically-acclaimed serial killer book written to date. 


Frankie: Yeah, that and paid housing for the rest of my life. 


Interviewer: Is there anything you’d like to say to our viewers? 


Frankie: Buy my book! Haha, nah just kiddin’, you’re already buyin’ it. And I love ya for it. Follow me on Twitter @TheRealFrankie666, keep serial killing weird, serial killer lives matter and be the carnage you want to see in the world. That’s it. Interview’s over. 

Finding The Meaning of Success Deep Within Tokyo’s Musical Underground – A Thank You Note to Ian Martin

Finding The Meaning of Success Deep Within Tokyo’s Musical Underground

I’m sharing this NPR article for all the Unknown Creators out there. Its author, Ian Martin, shares his experience of writing a book about the underground rock scene in Tokyo. More significantly though, he touches on some of the trials and tribulations of small-time writers dealing with largely ignored subject matter. Why are we writing? What do we hope to gain from the experience? Does it matter if no one reads our creative output? If they do read it, do they even get it? That pretty well sums up my internal monologue about my largely ignored blog. At the end of the day, people like myself and Ian must accept the fact, no, revel in the knowledge that we do it mainly for ourselves. And that’s slowly becoming more acceptable to me. Good days and bad days, amirite?

As much as I hate to ruminate over validation of my efforts in terms of clicks, likes, comments, etc, or in my case the complete lack thereof, there’s a flip-side to that coin. I would also hate to wake up everyday knowing I was a hyper inflated, mainstream, highly overrated shit-show like Beyonce just as much. I’d rather die in obscurity.

To my extremely, shall we say, “eclectic” audience, I want you to know you are greatly appreciated. (Although at least one comment, just one, on anything on this blog would be nice. Not sayin’ just sayin’.) Just as Ian will not be abandoning his efforts to document the often overlooked underground cultural enclave of noisemakers he knows and loves, regardless of attention or indifference, nor will I abandon you.

And Ian, if you somehow find and read this obscure post, thank you for writing from the perspective of the Unknown Creator. I have immense respect for any passionate writer pursuing personally rewarding but obscure interests over robotic chasing of trends merely for a payday. I haven’t read your book, but I already know it would be an entertaining read. That being said, may your book sell millions of copies in every language and continue to inspire other Unknown Creators for years to come.

New York City’s Fringe Photography of the Late 70’s and 80’s

I remember the first time I used Google Earth’s Street View feature. It wasn’t because I was planning a trip or curious to see how my neighborhood looked or if I could see my car, none of that interested me. Strange as it may sound, I was looking for street views of the worst neighborhoods in North Philadelphia. I would be too afraid to wander around these neighborhoods with my camera, randomly snapping photos. But there I was, cruising down Kensington Avenue, taking in every inch of the gritty dilapidated area, soaking it all in from the comfort of my living room. Occasionally I could see people out walking the streets. Although their faces were blurred, those images excited me in a way I can’t quite describe.

I remember the first time I seriously considered writing a documentary film. It wasn’t to feature an inspiring teacher, or retrace my family’s lineage or that of a local band, none of that interested me. Oddly, it was supposed to center around a not quite historic, rundown old building housing degenerates, known as the Bush House Hotel in Quakertown, PA. I only got so far as interviewing one resident and a few neighbors, but the fact remains I am clearly obsessed with the photographic documentation of fringe society. The dirty, poor, addicted, abused, people who are so often ignored, that is the subject matter I want to explore through my lens.

As an amateur photographer, I fantasize about delving into underworlds and capturing the essence of realities far removed from my own. While Philadelphia has its share of gritty subject material, New York City during the 1980’s (before it was revitalized and Disneyfied) offers some of the best fringe photography I have ever seen. Unfortunately I missed out on that New York, being too young to experience it. Luckily, there were some others there to preserve those moments forever in great style.

Miron Zownir NYC

Miron Zownir, a German photographer, spent around nine years photographing New York starting in 1980 at 23 years of age. The outsiders of society became his preferred area of ​​interest. In 1995 he came back to Berlin. When traveling to Russia and Eastern Europe he created more analogue photographs of junkies, homeless and generally marginalized groups. His most famous collection of New York’s fringe society is called NYC RIP which was published in 2015.

Zownir’s peculiar approach to cover the city’s multiple-layered day-to-day lunacy was quickly recognised by the local scene as the TEUTONIC PHENOMENOGRAPHER (Village Voice). Shot in moody, expressionistic b/w, Zownir’s pictures from that period give a penetrating insight to inner-city sub-cultural spheres, which, in their original local context, have since perished in the boom of the 90s. His lens captured the untamed lust at the gay-parties, just shortly before Aids massively claimed its victims; the futile protest of artists and offbeat performers; the hopelessness on the Bowery; the shadowy world of hookers or junkies. Zownir’s photographs of the “Sex Piers” have become legendary documents by now.  -Josef Chladek

Here are some excellent interviews with Zownir, where he discusses his choice of subject material in a way that resonates with me:

Miron Zownir Interview

Miron Zownir Interview 2


ken_schles NYC

American photographer Ken Schles, at 23 years old, began writing his book Invisible City in 1983. He was living in a rundown apartment in New York City’s East Village. The building was boarded up by the landlord to prevent break-ins, as the area was a “shooting gallery” for heroin addicts. Incidentally, the boarded up windows gave Schles a perfect darkroom. He documented his surroundings throughout the 1980’s. His work is slightly more intellectual and polished. It is also less graphic than the more raw Zownir.

His most prominent monograph Invisible City/Night Walk, paints a deeply moving portrait of 1980’s New York’s underworld. It was published originally as Invisible City in 1988, then reprinted in 2014 with the companion release Night Walk.

Matt Weber 1

Former taxi driver Matt Weber started documenting New York City in the 1980s and spent three decades collecting a series of images he called The Urban Prisoner. His black-and-white candids are tinged with emotions that range from loneliness to violence. Weber’s pulled back and documentarian approach gives his work a raw, gritty feel.


Martha Cooper is an American photojournalist born in the 1940’s in Baltimore, Maryland. She worked as a staff photographer for the New York Post during the 1970’s. She is best known for documenting the New York City graffiti scene of the 70’s-80’s. She was the first and foremost photographer of the emerging Hip Hop scene from the impoverished and deprecated South Bronx in the early eighties. This is evident in her release Hip Hop Files: 1979-1984

In 1984, Cooper and Henry Chalfant published their photographs of New York City graffiti in the book Subway Art, which has been called the graffiti bible and by 2009 had sold half a million copies. If you are interested in seeing a great documentary about New York City’s graffiti scene in the early eighties, check out Style Wars.

John Conn 1

John Conn is a photographer for whom there is no Wiki, but he has a great monograph of the NYC Subway Late 70s to Mid 80s portraying the Wild West atmosphere of danger in New York’s subway system. Notice how the black and white imagery makes every stain on the walls more pronounced? It pulls the viewer in so you almost feel like you need a shower after viewing.

1595 Broadway

Sheldon Nadelman captured images of New Yorkers while working at Terminal Bar on 41st Street and 8th Ave. Taken from 1973-1982, his photos show prostitutes, pimps and homeless people around the Port Authority bus terminal. Sex workers would come in to drink cognac at eight in the morning before going out to walk the streets. The Terminal Bar closed when the owner didn’t want to pay $125,000 a year rent on property that now leases for millions. What used to be a bar in a neighborhood described as the ‘dirtiest, wildest and toughest’ has now become an upscale grocery store.

Prostitute, West 40th Street

One constant remains among all of these artists’ work: the absence of persistent marketing to the point of mucking up the images. Today it would be quite difficult to capture such stripped down, raw human experience without inadvertently including a cell phone or ipad in the shot. I actually read a photographer who said he hates shooting New Yorkers now because there is nothing so mind numbing as seeing a bunch of people with their heads down looking at their phones constantly. Although there are signs of corporate marketing in the backgrounds, part of the appeal of NYC in those days was the predominance of independent businesses as opposed to the “Dunkin Donuts on every corner” abomination we see today.

Despite its problems, the old New York was rich in the culture of struggle. As such, it was a fringe photographer’s paradise. That mecca is gone forever now. Occasionally there are efforts made to fight back against mainstream consumer culture that whitewashes the reality on the ground in NYC neighborhoods. Here is an example:

New York City icon Clayton Patterson posted this amazing video in response to the city’s official naming of Taylor Swift as the “welcome ambassador” in 2014. Fuck you, Taylor Swift.

Spaceman Ross – Origin Story – 4

Of all the things that had changed on planet earth since the dawn of its creation, gravity was not one of them. So the afternoon fourteen-year-old Ross Bronski lost control of his skimmer in the fall of 2114, it was every bit as frightening and painful as a boy crashing a bicycle in 1954 or a skateboard in 2014. The contraptions may have changed over the years, but the experience was timeless. One may even say a right of passage in a young boy’s life. The incident was inevitable.

The skimmer, with its powerful dual thrusters and light weight design, was built for speed, not safety. The rider straddled the vehicle and with the thruster facing downward. Upon starting up, it could hover just long enough to use a shifting gear to point the thruster backwards. Hitting the thrust foot pedal on the left propelled the machine forward with an immense burst of speed. This was called a boost, or boosting. The right pedal, or antithrust, could cut a boost short, but there was no way to completely stop in mid air. Skimmers were not capable of constant throttle. A boost was needed every few seconds to stay aloft. When one boost ended, the thruster would recharge for the next boost. Hence the term skimming, or repeatedly thrusting and descending through the air, like a flat stone skimming on a pond.

While uphill skimming was achievable, the momentum of downhill skimming was much more dangerous and thus highly exhilarating. A lightweight rubber track on the back and landing skis on the front helped cushion landings. Additionally, a brake for the rear track could be applied by a trigger on the handle bar steering controls. Steering was what made for a skillful skimmer. Like skiing, one had to be able to anticipate the clearest straight line before boosting and then pivot upon descent.

Ross’s skimmer, the Mongoose, was one of the more powerful and expensive models and thus the envy of all the boys in his neighborhood. It was a beautiful machine, silver with hints of orange trim and gleaming bushings. The mark of a powerful skimmer was the length of time needed between boosts. The Mongoose boasted an impressive 1.5 second delay. But perhaps what really set the Mongoose apart from other skimmers was the distinct screaming roar of the thruster, which grew in awesome intensity from boost to boost. When those commercials for the 2114 Mongoose X5 with the slogan “Mongoose: It’s on. You’re gone.” danced before Ross’s prepubescent eyes with their shots of pro skimmers pulling off feats of derring-do to a dazzling driving soundtrack, he was sold.

Of course Ross could have whatever he wanted, within reason. Short of buying him a weapon, Stella was content to let her son to whatever he asked. A fact that was utterly lost on Ross. When he asked for something, he got it. It’s not that he was an undeserving child, or especially materialistic either. He simply never learned to appreciate the value of anything because it was all easy come, easy go. He never considered other kids had to work to save up for their own skimmer or settle for the lower model their parents could afford. As a child of one of the elite members of such an unequal society, he was oblivious to the simple concept of work ethic. He was seen by his mother as a kid being a kid. His grades were decent at the Goddard Academy (the exorbitantly expensive private school his mother insisted he attend) and he flew under the radar, never getting in trouble of any kind. Despite his conformity in good behavior, deep down Ross felt there was something gnawing at him. It was a certain zeitgeist, a desire to act out – not in rebellion, but rather manifesting itself in his obsession with skimming.

The incident occurred outside city limits, at an abaondoned quarry the boys frequented often to sneak cigarettes, spray graffiti, engage in fist fights and of course, skim. With its sprawling expanse of earth peppered with ramshackle long-forgotten lean-to shacks, it was an ideal escape from their shirt-and-tie academic worlds. It was a deserted, dusty, veritable playground of boyish freedom. Best of all for skimming, the edges formed a curve from ground to side like a giant swimming pool, and its soft corners were perfect for thrusting around at devilishly heartpounding speeds.

“Come on Ross! Stop being a little bitch and skim!” yelled Kevlar, one of the neighborhood mates, all intensely eager to witness the Mongoose in action.

“That’s too much skimmer for you, Ross!” another boy taunted.

“Shut up! I’m goin’, I just gotta get ready!” Ross shouted from astride his skimmer, set high above the other boys on the quarry’s edge. It was midafternoon. The sun was behind him, and the absence of glare made for perfect visibility of his run. “Alright, you can do this, you got this…” Ross muttered to himself, far from earshot of the others.

“Just do it already!” Kevlar’s patience waned further.

“I’m tryin’, if you guys would shut up it’d be easier!” Ross’s reply was followed immediately by the roar of the Mongoose, met by huge grins on all the boys’ faces. It was “on” and Ross was about to be “gone.”

A second roaring boost and the fourteen year old boy was thrown forward at enormous speed, such that the boys could see his body jerk backwards as he struggled to grip the awesome power of the Mongoose. They yelled wildly as they watched awestruck, their privileged friend skim around the edge of the massive quarry. Ross was truly the star of the group that day, and it felt amazing. For a moment, they were all jealous.

BRRAAAWWWAAARRR!! The Mongoose screamed, kicking up dirt and Ross’s adrenaline as he skimmed ever faster. He was picking up some serious momentum now, and it was becoming harder to anticipate the safest direction for each boost. He was quite far from the boys who were now watching his run from across the quarry through viewfinders.

Then it happened. The young Ross was caught up for a split second too long in the grandeur that was being the envy of all the other boys and lost control of his coveted Mongoose X5. He was cruising at such high speed down the side of the quarry wall that he couldn’t bring the front of the skimmer high enough in time to avoid slamming into the ground nose first with a tremendous crash. While the Mongoose X5 may have been fully capable of negotiating downhill hairpin turns at speeds upwards of 50 mph, Ross learned that day his skimming skills were not. He was thrown over the handle bar controls with such force on impact he landed twenty feet away from his now demolished skimmer, unconscious as they both laid helpless in a cloud of dust and debris.

They couldn’t hear his scream from such great distance, but the boys winced at the silent, digitally enhanced crystal clear image of the horrfying accident in their viewfinders. Between gasps and “oh fuck!” expressions they continued to survey the area for a second to check for any signs of life. When the dust settled and they could only see a motionless figure laying in an unnatural position in the distance, they hurried to their skimmers and sped to Ross’s aid. One of them alerted the local emergency services but none dared to call Ross’s mother.

“Cough!” Ross’s eyes popped open and his body flinched as though he was awaking from a violent nightmare. The boys standing all around him swayed back, startled but relieved to rule out Ross’s death that afternoon.

“There he is! You just can’t kill this asshole!” laughed the ever sensitive Kevlar.

Ross used his last remaining bit of strength to slowly raise his middle finger in gratitude for his friend’s concern. Slowly he began taking inventory of his condition. Removing his dust caked cracked goggles, the sun was in his eyes now like a blinding wake up call and it felt like half the quarry’s dust was in his mouth. He weakly began spitting out dirt and wiping his face. He wasn’t to remain cognizant for long. Lying on his back, he leaned his head forward. One look at his mangled right leg and suddenly his brain allowed him to feel the intense pain of his injury. He immediately passed out again.

After the initial incident, the ensuing hospital stay and months of rehabilitation, Ross decided to steer clear of such dare devil antics as skimming the quarry. His mother was surprisingly mild in her reaction to what happened. This was partly because she was so preoccupied with something unfolding at work, but also because she viewed such things as a normal part of her son’s progression from boy to man. She wanted him to earn his scars and gain the lessons they offered. It was something she felt she’d never been able to do as a child but would have benefited from greatly.

Ross’s skimming days may now be over, but there was wisdom in Stella’s strategy. He would carry the lessons he learned in that quarry and on other boyish adventures many years later in the perils of deep space. He would remember that it’s not the ship that makes the man but how well he controlled it, and to take it easy in situations where he was inexperienced. And he would never again allow his image to his peers to interfere with his best judgement, especially not at high speed.

Vintage Erotica – Édouard-Henri Avril

Édouard-Henri Avril (21 May 1849 – 28 July 1928) was a French painter and commercial artist. Under the pseudonym Paul Avril, he was an illustrator of erotic literature. His career saw collaboration with influential people like Octave UzanneHenry Spencer Ashbee and Friedrich Karl Forberg.

Having been commissioned to illustrate Théophile Gautier‘s novel Fortunio, he adopted the pseudonym Paul Avril. His reputation was soon established and he received many commissions to illustrate both major authors and the so-called galante literature of the day, a form of erotica. However, his reputation as a commercial illustrator of novels was established before he began illustrating the more underground erotic literature. These books were typically sold in small editions on a subscription basis, organised by collectors.

Erotica of that time received very limited prints and sometimes were limited to only 100 or so copies, or were sold only within exclusive circles of collectors. Because of the obscurity of Avril and his works, it is difficult to assess the real impact that his art might have had on culture.

Avril died at Le Raincy in Metropolitan France in 1928

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