Sunday, May 29, 2005

Film and Food Poisoning

The imitation crab had been in my fridge around 10 days, and had expired on day one; but it looked good, smelled good, and tasted good, and there was nothing else in the fridge that I wanted to eat. That was at lunchtime, Thursday. It's now Sunday afternoon, and tho' I've been able to hold down a little bit of food (I haven't vomited since early Friday morning), I am sick and weak and still very much under the thrall of the bacteria I took in. What else can a man do, in this state? I've been reading and watching films.

Well, DVDs, actually. In lieu of more solid food, I've ingested the following:

Atom Egoyan's Speaking Parts: how disappointing to see this again after so many years! I used to love this film, watched it at least a dozen times in my 20's. Looking at it again after at least five years, it seems to me that it must have been the meanings framed by Egoyan that once moved me, because as a work of art, as a piece of structure -- I can finally see what Egoyan's detractors have often said about him; things felt forced, cold, artificial, and odder still: slow and boring! I don't think in my 20's I would have allowed myself to feel that way about any ambitious work of film art -- I would have taken it as a comment on my own limitations and striven to rise above it -- but the other day there seemed to be a lot of sheer downtime in the film that I simply mustn't have noticed before: unneeded repetitions of motifs, shots that lasted far longer than they needed to to make their point, or which made far too little point to justify their presence, a lot of wasted space -- like he filled out what could have been an hour-long film to give it the length of a feature. Some images still stand out as brilliant and beautiful -- Gabriella Rose and Michael McManus masturbating over the video feed remains a high point of Canadian cinema, for me -- but this film, which used to be the obligatory Canadian film on my top 10 list -- really just did not impress me as much as it used to. I'm rather sad about that! I hope Family Viewing, another favourite, doesn't end up suffering the same fate, when next I see it -- one hates to lose old favourites.

Jim Shedden's Brakhage: odd to watch Brakhage talk so much about his films and his life. One expects him to be both more difficult and purer than he ultimately comes across -- more of an eccentric, a fanatic, or perhaps a holy fool; less clearly a man with an ego investment in his art. In the earlier footage in the film, he almost seems a sort of pop star, with a rakishly styled hairdo and a bit of a swagger, like he's confident of his prestige (contrast this with Andy Goldsworthy in Rivers and Tides -- an artist who gives the impression he would be doing what he does even if no one whatsover noticed). In Brakhage's later years, this seems replaced with a sort of humility, but he still clearly likes to be the center of attention -- there are shots of him holding forth about film and life to large groups of people, and there's just enough of a need for attention revealed that one feels a little protective of him. The shot where he sings -- an ironic turn of "Old Man River" -- is just a tad embarrassing; it kind of reminds me of how I feel sometimes when my father starts to ham it up in front of my friends... Sweet, and by no means bad, but there's something vulnerable there, something that perhaps reminds one of one's own need for attention, for recognition, which makes one step back a bit... The overall affect of viewing the film is that one ends up finding it far easier to like Brakhage, and to accept him as a human being, which is surprising and in a way comforting, but also a bit disappointing. It's like watching Sun Ra clip his toenails or John Cassavetes go to the bathroom. With some artists, you want them to inhabit some otherworldly, "visionary" space; to humanize them is to take something away from them.

Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. With no disrespect intended to this film or to the man himself, I've always suspected that the cult of Kubrick is at least partially fueled by ignorance; the people who seem to most sing his praises are people who haven't seen much else in the way of serious cinema -- people whose ideas of great films include fare like Pink Floyd's The Wall or maybe even a Steven Spielberg film. Certainly the kids I grew up among in the suburbs -- the smart ones, at least -- idolized Kubrick; his stuff was widely available on video there, was notorious, was something people talked about and knew about and that inevitably you watched, and were impressed by, because it wasn't just commercial crap, because it did seem to demand a bit of thinking, and because it had, people knew, a sort of status -- in particular, 2001 for being "heavy," and A Clockwork Orange for being violent. Neither film seems particularly interesting to me, now, but at the time even I watched them more than once, even owned them at different times on video, so I could try to understand them: it seemed an obligation, something you did if you cared about movies. At some point in my mid-20's, I reached a verdict: I'd had enough and began to look down on Kubrick-heads; the man was probably a misogynist (to say nothing of Lolita and The Killing, the rape/murder in A Clockwork Orange and the wife-battering in The Shining seemed just a little too gleeful, a little too vicious, a little too sincere for me to feel clean in their presence) and undoubtedly a misanthrope, and I really just didn't care what he had to say about people. None of his films provided me with anything that seemed sustaining -- at best, they seemed to encourage in me feelings of contempt for people, hatred, mistrust, and who ultimately really needs more of that in life? With the exception of Eyes Wide Shut (which I was surprisingly fond of) and, to a lesser extent, Full Metal Jacket, and maybe Paths of Glory, I never much expected I'd want to look back on Kubrick again.

Somehow I forgot about Dr. Strangelove, tho'. Hard to feel anything but admiration for it as a piece of craft and as a dead-on satire of the military; I wish I could watch it with fresh eyes, not knowing what was going to happen next. Actually, I'm looking forward to showing it someday to a Russian friend of mine, who has never seen it; I have no idea how she'll respond, but given that she grew up viewing the Cold War from the other side -- in a climate where such a film could neither be made nor viewed -- I'm sure she'll find it an interesting experience. Watching the extras on the special edition DVD, I was shocked to discover that the filmmakers had to construct the inside of a B-52 without any help from the military, and that much of what we were seeing was simply imagined; I'd always taken it as the interior of a real plane! Even more surprising, I learned that the War Room was not in fact modelled on a real place! (All my life, I realized, my primary visual image for the interior of the Pentagon has been based on the War Room, without my knowing it; I just assumed that there must be a room that looked much like that). It was also delightful to discover that, even tho' the film was being shot in black and white, Kubrick had the table of the War Room covered in green felt, so the actors sitting around it could feel like they were engaged in a high stakes poker game. Brilliant stuff.

Akira Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai. This is one of those films that seems truly bottomless. Every time I view it, I am moved by different parts, am engaged 100% in the experience, am delighted and thrilled and interested -- it's like a ritual that never loses its meaning, however often one repeats it. (Of course, I only ever come round to it every few years -- it is three hours long, after all). Michael Jeck's commentary on the Criterion edition, to my surprise, contains a whole wealth of stuff I've never thought about in regard to the film; from detailed observations of the way the film is constructed to cultural insights to speculations on meaning -- about, say, how it is one of the last of Kurosawa's films to suggest that groups working together could accomplish anything, that Kurosawa is very much an individualist -- the detail of Jeck's observations made me aware that I've always approached this film without wanting to dissect it in any detail; that I've protected it from my own generally voracious desire to pick films apart, to keep it pure. In fact, I've stopped the film midway through the commentary, but that's partially a matter of recurring nausea...

Anyhow, I've survived to Sunday night mostly on movies, and am now going to try to take in my third meal in three days (I held down some soup on Friday and some pasta, with difficulty, on Saturday). I have cravings for either pancakes or wonton soup, neither of which sound to my rational brain like a great idea, but we'll see what wins once I actually get out the door. I don't expect I'll be able to work tomorrow -- I feel too weak -- but if I can eat, maybe I'll be okay. After that I think I'll have time for one more movie, and I'm thinking of Lina Wertmuller's Swept Away, which I've never seen. (Thanks to the Guy Ritchie debacle, you could find cheapie DVDs of the original on used racks of local video stores awhile back).

I think I'm going to start paying more attention to the expiry dates on food packages.

--

Post-script: yecch. I don't know that I'd be able to get into Swept Away at the best of times -- obnoxious Italians yelling about politics is not my idea of compelling cinema -- but it turns out the DVD release, from Wellspring, is terrible! No menu, no ability to track backwards within chapters, subtitles that sometimes only flash on screen for a second (which you then can't rewind back to read, unless you skip to the start of the chapter), and no subtitling for the songs -- it's a totally indifferent presentation of the film. It's in the right aspect ratio and looks pretty enough, but they don't even bother to translate the full title -- the bit about an obscure destiny... I lasted about fifteen minutes. There must be a better way to see this film.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

"There is no United Nations"

...disturbing video clip of John Bolton, the current US Ambassador to the UN, saying that the UN basically only exists as a tool for American policy and has no value or meaning otherwise. Takes awhile to load -- thanks to Michael Moore for posting this on his site.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Emotional Effects of the War in Iraq

It's long been my opinion that the war in Iraq is generally bad for the mental and emotional health of every decent person in the world. Yeah, it also sucks, sucks far worse, to have your country occupied and your family and/or friends blown up; to be deprived of electricity and clean water and live in fear of violence; and/or to be tortured and indefinitely detained for over three years in a prison far from home, with no rights whatsoever and no end in sight -- so no offense to any Iraqis or Afghans out there! But if I can whine a bit from my infinitely more comfortable, soft-as-pillows life, it's no great shakes to observe all this happening, too, and to be, as most of us critics of the war on terror generally have to admit we are, at this point, completely and utterly powerless to do anything about it. I mean, I've done my homework, I've marched, I've signed petitions, I've argued at frustrating length with those who support Bush, I've learned how to pronounce various rather challenging names, and I've spread awareness to my students wherever I could; but it's been pretty much completely ineffectual. I'm discovering this week that I've started to forget things -- the name of the recently elected president there, for instance; I don't think I could correctly spell it without looking it up. I even had to think a minute on seeing the word "Fallujah" in print to connect it to a meaningful reference. I mean... I'm kind of depressed this week anyhow, and in a way it's comforting to be able to locate at least one cause of it to events that are far removed from my immediate realm; but... damn, it can't be good for the world, knowing what's happened, seeing it, and being completely unable to effect any change.

On that note, here's a PDF on how to shelter your family, here in North America, from the emotional fallout of the war in Iraq. Here's a psychiatric article on said fallout, complete with banner ads for antidepressants. Here's a comforting American dispatch from just before the war in Iraq about how the war was unlikely to effect golf tournaments, which, to my knowledge, it did not do. And here's somebody else's blog -- a blog people actually comment on! -- mulling over the meaning of the death of Andrew Veal. I'm going to kick back and watch the Korean film Silmido and maybe read a bit of Gwynne Dyer's updated edition of War.

Hey, didja know that chimps wage war too? Was reading this interesting little bit of anthropology in a book called Demonic Males -- amply excerpted with added pictures here, including some from Abu Ghraib! Chimps will form raiding parties for the purpose of entering a rival clan's territory and opportunistically murdering any lone chimps they find there (or raping and abducting any fertile women). Chimps and humans -- we're the only two species known to do this. At least we're not alone, eh?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Walking out on Grant Hart

In the spirit of Irreversible and Memento, I'm going to write my review of this evenings festivities with the sequences in reverse order, mostly just for the hell of it.

I have turned for home and am fiddling in my pocket for my keys, walking past St. Andrew's. I am thinking to myself about the differences between walking out of a show and leaving before it is finished. I left the Nomeansno gig last week before it was finished -- it was just too much, I was "full," their performance had exceeded my capacity to consume. Walking out is a different matter; it implies censure, disdain, rejection. I walked out on Jon Spencer, last year -- the only other show I've walked out on since I returned from Japan in 2002. His professionalism, however much energy he devoted to it, was simply not the same as watching a musician who genuinely cared about what he was playing, was genuinely trying to communicate something to his audience. It took me about three songs before I'd had enough. What does it mean about me, I wonder, that I stayed longer for Grant Hart -- who showed no trace of professionalism whatsoever, who seemed indifferent and bored, for the most part, during his set at the Lamplighter tonight? ... I suppose a lack of professionalism can at least seem an authentic expression of something, can be a deliberate artistic choice. And anyhow, this is sort of supposed to be punk rock, isn't it? I mount the steps to my apartment, kind of wishing I'd gone to see the Gossip tonight instead (ironically, the band that opened for said Jon Spencer show), who were at Richards on Richards, opening for some other band I'd never heard of...

Cycling back thru time... There's a whooshing noise and the camera goes funny... Descending from the dark sky to see a street scene. I am walking down Granville Street. I am eating a slice of pepperoni pizza and idly peeking into the noisy clubs that line the road, observing the dressed-to-get-fucked youth as they smoke cigarettes on the sidewalk. I dodge a few homeless en route, formulating ideas to myself about how I will express my reactions to the Grant Hart show on my blog. I imagine a first paragraph that goes something like this: "If I hadn't had a friend who ended up getting into heroin, leading to the eventual dissolution of our friendship, would I have stayed longer for the show tonight? If I hadn't started to feel like maybe just maybe the whole evening was about keeping someone who once belonged to a cool band in drugs, would I have been more accepting?" Then I worry: what if Hart is not in fact a junkie? Perhaps I should keep my prejudices in check. I mean, I gather his falling out with Bob Mould had to do with his heroin use, but that was a long time ago. It's not exactly fair. Maybe he's just lazy and bored and broke and it's better than working at Starbucks. I should begin my "review" somewhere else, I tell myself. Why not on the act of walking out of shows itself, and what it implies?

Spinning, spinning...

There's a skinny homeless junkie on the street as I leave the Lamplighter, and though what he says is an incomprehensible mumble, there's no mistaking the wide open eyes and the outstretched hand. I say "No, man, I can't" and he says "God bless you anyhow" and I carry on; I can vaguely hear "Pink Turns to Blue" in the background. I'm wondering if his going on as a unaccompanied musician, just Grant Hart and his guitar, had something to do with not having to split the take with a drummer and bassist. And yet, how big a take could that take possibly be, with two opening acts and $12 at the door, with a crowd of around 50?

Why would Barry have been so impressed by Hart the other night in Victoria, I wonder? Was it a very different night? Somehow the only thing I could see hooking anyone into the performance I'd just seen was the desire to bask in an icon's aura, which, in me, is fairly low... But Barry seemed genuinely impressed, described it as a sort of conversion experience. I wonder why...?

Rewinding the tape: I am sitting on a barstool at the back, scribbling a few notes in my notebook: about how about three songs in, Hart said, "Got any requests," and in response to a shout of "Hare Krsna," said that that was basically just Bo Diddley, overproduced; to demonstrate, he did the Bo Diddley riff on his guitar, chanted the chorus a bit, and then said, "but that's about all of that that you're going to get out of me tonight" and shrugged. About how he stopped midsong when people started clapping along to "It's Not Funny Anymore," deadpanning "Oh please! You weren't at the rehearsal and you're not in the union," resuming sans clapping, fans silent. About his take on the Pogues "Pair of Brown Eyes," with new lyrics about being "On the Main," which, you guessed it, rhymed with vein. About how at one point some smartass shouted out, "It's not funny anymore," probably a request for the song of the same name, but eliciting from Hart the even more smartassy reply, "Yeah, but I gotta do something to make a living."

Another bit of apparent cynicism: Hart played "Terms of Psychic Warfare," to a somewhat enthusiastic response; someone shouted "Play it again!" -- so Hart did, going through the first verse and chorus before remarking "well, that's about 30 percent of it." I think it was at about this point that I started to make my way to the back of the club.

Speed search in reverse as I walk backwards through the sparse crowd, past the pool tables, to a space up by the stage, where I'm now squatting to scribble notes for lyrics for a more recent Hart song that I think are quite beautiful. He almost seems to feel it, he almost makes me believe him. "You are the reflection of the moon on the water... but you're not the moon. You are the shadow of the light of the fire... but you're not the light..." I wonder which of his post-Du albums that I've ignored this song might be off of? It's a good one. I kind of like the line about being an "admiral of the air" in another song...

...And now we see me watching the evening's featured performer as he takes the stage. Huge, disturbingly milky eyes and a too-direct stare; a bit of a belly; beautiful hair; sandals. Plugging in and beginning with "The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill," his guitar ultra loud, to make up for the absence of a backing band, I suppose -- sounding a bit like those solo Billy Bragg albums with lots of echo or reverb or whatever, but a bit more caustic... Stopping the song midway through to tell a light guy who leapt up that he wanted the lights off -- just a single blue gel on him through the night. Watching someone who looked a bit like Jade Blade from the Dishrags walk by, and watching Randy Rampage (last seen by me singing "No Fun" at the Vancouver Complication reunion gig) giving Hart a high five, before moving out of range of the speakers...

The music sucking back into the speakers, the singer backing off the stage, the crowd in front of the stage thinning out, walking backwards towards the bar... Press play: me standing in anticipation, talking with Barry of the Doers, whose basswork I really liked, about the SST roster, the influence of Mike Watt, and how excited we all are for the Winks, soon to tour Australia. Barry made the point that, near the end of Husker Du's career, he felt he had to choose between Mould and Hart, knowing that they hated each other, and (back then) he'd chosen Mould. I opined that tho' Hart was always the more conventional songwriter, he'd stayed consistent, putting out good songs right to the end, where Bob got kind of tediously sanctimonious and pretentious, I thought... Barry seemed to acknowledge Hart's conventionalism, saying he figured that Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones were his biggest influences, but then told me about how, after seeing Hart play to about 20 people last night in Victoria, he'd decided Mould and Hart were on equal footing... Hart suddenly walking up to us and shouting over the canned music to Barry, "Have you seen the light guy?"

...Drinking my fourth pint of beer for the evening, looking for a place to put the glass...

My third beer just finished, I'm approaching a fellow old punk who I'd met earlier on the bus, Adam, at the front of the stage, as the Doers load out, and we're both clearly excited about the fact that soon Grant Hart will take the stage. Adam tells me he's set to interview him afterwards. He'd told me earlier how much he loved everything Husker Du ever did. For me, it was mostly just Zen Arcade, I tell him, an essential album from my adolescence. How it helped me survive. We're both excited about what's to come, in any event. Tho' I have my worries, which I keep to myself.

A step back from that and I'm in the men's room, pissing, and with apologies to the May Kings, the first band of the evening, I think that's where we'll leave me, since I need to pee again now, as I type, and it provides just enough of a feeling of pattern -- a concert experienced and reviewed in the space between urinations -- that I can tell myself I've come to a fitting end for the night. Really, I'm more concerned for getting up to work in the morning.

At least it was only a $12 show.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Seymour Hersh on Abu Ghraib

Seymour Hersh, in 1969, broke the My Lai massacre story. In 2003, he broke the Abu Ghraib scandal. He's written an angry piece questioning the US government's lack of accountability for torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. It has become difficult to summon much anger over the ongoing situation in Iraq or the actions of the United States -- they've become like a permanent bruise on my consciousness, tender and best left untouched, in the hope that someday it will fade. It doesn't fade, but it no longer seems so vital to arm myself with information or to read the usual litanies of leftist complaints over what's happened -- there is little I haven't heard before, or so it feels, and little to be gained by rubbing the bruise. The Hersh story somehow cuts through that. I'm glad there are people out there who can still focus, who still believe things can be changed...

Battle Royale 2

...by damn, this film is a strange experience. It's one of the most singularly confused works of art I've seen, but confused in such oddly charming (and somehow uniquely Japanese) ways that I feel kind of fond of it. The first film, if you happened to miss it, is set in a dystopian future in which, every year, a select group of junior high school students are taken off to a desert island and forced to play a game in which they murder each other. The last one left alive is the winner; if anyone tries to escape or opt out of the game, or if there is no winner, students are fitted with exploding collars, which kill them in rather garish ways. You play or you die; student is pitted against student, paranoia and mistrust are encouraged, and the system inevitably rewards the most ruthless among the kids. The lack of any sensible explanation for why teachers and adults would want their children to murder each other forces us to read the film as an antiauthoritarian parable, siding with children against corrupted, murderous "adult" values (and who gives a damn why a code of values is screwed up, when it's enough to point out that it is). It's a fun experience; it tries hard, for a work of exploitation cinema, to sympathize with its youthful audience and to encourage them to resist the things they see around them that are wrong. I'd always feel happy to see students of mine reading the book that the film was based on during class, when I taught in Japan.

Battle Royale 2 changes the tale a little bit. (If you're set on seeing the film, you might not want to read what follows, that surprises may be as fresh as possible). The students in the class that are chosen for the contest aren't pitted against each other, but set on a mission to find a survivor from the previous film, who has organized with other survivors and become a terrorist devoted to killing adults and opposing the Battle Royale system. The film resembles a conventional war film in ways -- and in fact lifts scenes and visual effects straight from Saving Private Ryan, particularly when the students land, under heavy fire, on the beach of an island where the terrorists are hiding. After suffering heavy casualities along the way, they finally confront the terrorists (who didn't realize that the people they were defending themselves against were fellow students, fitted with collars, fighting only under the threat of death). As will be obvious to anyone watching the film, so it's not much of a spoiler, the students, with minimal convicing, abandon their mission and, freed of their collars, join the terrorists' ranks.

Sounds like a straightforward follow-up, but where the film becomes a truly weird experience is that the terrorist "heroes" are equated very clearly with Al Qaeda; their initial act of terror which they are being hunted for is decimating two towers in Tokyo; and their hiding place, when not on the island, is, believe it or not, Afghanistan. There is ample speechifying about oppressed people standing together against their common enemy, and a list, cited twice, of all the countries in the world that America has bombed in the last 60 years; and even though the direct enemy in the film is the Japanese government/ educational system/ etc, there is ample reason to think that "killing adults" is a figure for resisting American global domination, which is made the target of a couple of choice tirades. The film is clearly on these kids' side, too; it seems to be meant to appeal to any Japanese kid who rooted for Osama bin Laden during the initial round of the war on terror, who wished they too could take up arms against America.

And some did, too; I have firsthand knowledge, talking to a disaffected, pot-smoking 20something high school drop out and shoplifter named Teru, who I briefly was buddies iwth over there, about how he was so happy Osama wasn't caught, how glad he was that America had been attacked. For all the more highly-advertised emulation of American pop culture that one finds in Japan, for all their overt subordination to American political power, under the surface, resentment of America is extremely strong there, and in Teru's case was coupled with a complete ignorance about the realities of what life is like under fanatical Islamic dictatorships. I mean, Afghanistan under the Taliban is hardly an icon of freedom from oppression (particularly given that half the survivors in the film are women). So what we're witnessing in Battle Royale 2 is pure fantasy of the queerest sort; innocent kids who, knowing very little, but wanting some hero to identify with, are choosing to identify with terrorists resisting America. Well. What could be a cooler fantasy, really? (for an angry 15 year old who is profoundly ignorant of the world, in the special way that, among first world nations, only the Japanese are insular and mis-educated enough to be).

So this is a phenomenally confused film, but like I say, I'm fond of it. There's a desire to believe in something, to have some sort of cause that can be identified with; in that the film goes so far off the mark in finding an acceptible one, it reveals more about the sincerity and naivete of the filmmakers than it does about its alleged subject, and it's hard not to feel just a bit protective of them and of their work, however grotesque it is. It's not unlike the protective feelings I get when I see people praying in church, the odd times I end up in one: I get sentimental about belief, and somehow, the more misguided it is, the better.

What else can I say? The film has ample violence, an excess of Japanese sweetness and a dozen too many declamatory, posture-filled speeches designed to prove the intensity and more-makoto-than-thou sincerity of their speakers. It has cameos by Beat Takeshi and, get this, Sonny-fuckin'-Chiba. There are strangely compelling images of 15 year old Japanese girls, cute as pie, firing machine guns at attacking soldiers. There's a really strange scene involving a teacher who also is fitted with a collar, turning up in the midst of battle wearing a rugby uniform. I don't know how to justify it, but I really quite enjoyed this experience, dizzy as it left me.

In case you're curious, you can read other reviews of it, mostly bad, here.

By the way, you can find bootlegs of the film on DVD, if you know where to look, in Chinatown. They cost under $10 each, are region free, and, as far as I know, are the only way to currently see it in North America. (I also scored the Korean blockbuster Silmido and the late Fukusaku Kinji's Battles Without Honour or Humanity there today; he directed Battle Royale and co-directed Battle Royale 2, which his son Kenta took over after he died. Oh, and I found Miike Takashi's Izo, but alas, there are no subtitles for the wonderful songs by Tomokawa Kazuki, which were my favourite part of the film. Oh, and I found the classic Chinese propaganda/horror film The Men Behind the Sun, I think it is -- there's no English on the case, just Chinese characters and the numbers 731, but it looks right. That's a film I've always been scared of seeing... Hint to videophiles: go spend the day in Chinatown).

Post script: with thanks to Dan, I thought I should point out that the IMDB discussion on the America-bashing in this film is somewhat entertaining to read...

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Winks-related: Tights at Blim

Wow! The Tights show at Blim tonight, as part of the Lamb's Wool uhh revue, was really very exciting! Having seen the Winks about six times in the last year, it was really great to see Todd and Tyr do something quite different, to see how well they interact with each other in a completely other mode. Andy Dixon, aka Secret Mommy, added live electronic manipulations to their improvisations, which ranged from fairly loud and noisy to fairly quiet and textured, with Todd at one point bringing in a theme from "Armagideon Time," by Willie Williams (or so I learned after the gig, having always previously associated it with the Clash -- tho' Todd got detoured into a blind alley briefly and tried to tell me it was by Wesley Willis, which is a very different matter indeed). I liked the set far better than the previous Secret Mommy gig I'd seen, and bought two copies of the limited Tights CDR with hand-drawn art by Tyr (one for me and one for a cello-playing friend). She tells me they have a split Winks/Tights CD coming out in September...

There was much else to the night, but the high points were all Winks-related. Tim Sars, the baritone sax guy, did very cool improvisations over recordings he laid down live, creating lovely layered sounds, his sax playing reminding me of, oh, Albert Ayler playing a really subdued dirge. On a baritone sax. Tyr did some solo cello stuff (Bach with distortion!), too; she's really a very very GOOD musician. Their performances were punctuated by dance bits, my favourite of which was by Patricia Kim, I think -- doing something quite expressive to what sounded like a Tom Waits song I don't know (or the vocals from a Tom Waits song -- something to the effect of "What the hell's he building in there?" -- recontextualized in the context of minimal electronic music). A night like tonight fills me with protective feelings for our Vancouver scene. It seems the way of things that half of the people I saw perform on tonight's showcase will probably be doing straight jobs by the time they're 30 -- with their art under their beds (like me), unrealized writing projects in long-unopened files on their computer (like me), lyrics to songs without music set to them (like me), forced to content themselves with the consumption of art, since work takes up most of their day. The Winks seem like they just might have a chance to make a career for themselves at this, though; they're good enough, passionate enough, unique enough, dedicated enough, nice enough that it just seems like they might have a kick at this particular cat, and I'll do whatever I can to encourage that: fuck dayjobs! (fuck straight jobs! Or as a poster in Vancouver's forgotten anarchist paper, Open Road, used to read:

Fuck Work
Before it Fucks You

It's soooo cool that they're going to be touring Australia, too. It just makes me feel warm and fuzzy all over.

Anyhow, one funny moment I wanted to relate: Todd and Tyr brought glow-in-the-dark goalie-type masks to wear on the dark stage as they performed. Todd put his on, but Tyr was reluctant. I considered starting a chant of "Put It On! Put It On!" (not because I cared about whether she was wearing a mask, which is why I didn't bother, but because it would have been a pleasing reversal of a more usual phrase sometimes directed at women on stage). Such things amuse me, anyhow. They may not translate to the page.

Hey: are you from Vancouver? Do you want to support the local arts scene? If so, have you gone to Blim yet? If not... Well, uh, you should go. Really. It's a nice little venue, way up in the Penthouse of an office building near Tinseltown. There's almost always neat stuff going on. Just take a chance...

PS: Oh: I chatted with Tim, too, and he tells me that he'll be doing big-band kinda stuff at the Commercial Drive Legion on Saturday night, with a project called Sweet Pea. If y'all happen to need something to do. Lee Hutzulak plays Blim, meanwhile. I think I'm stayin' home, myself. Broke again.

Friday, May 13, 2005

When Snakes Fly, plus DOWN BY LAW anecdote

I didn't know that snakes fly, or if I knew, I forgot it.

Also: a wonderful anecdote appears in Jim Jarmusch's reflections on the making of Down by Law, which appear on the Criterion DVD. In the section, "Roberto's English," he explains that, mostly under the instigation of John Lurie, Lurie, Tom Waits, and Jarmusch collaborated on consistently misinforming Roberto Benigni about the meaning of various English words. Benigni, Jarmusch relates, is a very serious, devoted learner, currently apparently in the process of learning The Divine Comedy by heart. Lurie and co. would teach him things like that some item -- a cup, or such -- was called a "wedgebow," so that (and Jarmusch, in relating this, adopts an Italian accent) Roberto would say things to waiters like, "Excuse me, could I have another wedgebow?" They also taught him that that the verb for urinate is "to flame," so that (apparently to this day) Benigni says things like "excuse me, I must go to flame." Benigni did eventually figure out the pranks that were being played upon him, tho', and so, when he was being interviewed with John Lurie for Italian TV, he got him back by volunteering to act as a translator. The TV reporters would ask Lurie things like, "Could you explain your creative process in writing music," and Benigni would translate it as, "They ask what style of underwear you are wear," which Lurie would then respond to, making him look like an utter idiot, we gather.

Lovely DVD -- great extras, including a little-seen Tom Waits video directed by Jarmusch and ample interviews and such. Currently Virgin Music Vancouver have a buy-two-get-one-free Criterion DVD sale on, in case anyone out there is a film buff inclined to shop. By Brakhage is the really essential item they have (well, aside from the Cassavetes box). Apologies to Ray Carney for continuing to buy Criterion (see below).

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Odd Rodents of Laos

For fans of cryptozoology, rodents, or Laos, a minor little news article.

Nomeansno at Mesa Luna

Nomeansno are the only band I've seen who exhaust me. Twice now, of four gigs I've seen, I've left, spent, before they finished playing -- their last show at Richards on Richards, I snuck out while they were grinding out the Ramones' "Beat on the Brat;" tonight, I left just after a cover of the Clash's "I'm So Bored with the U.S.A.," hearing them start up again with "Angel or Devil" as I walked down the stairs to the sidewalk, ears ringing. They played for over two hours, with considerable energy and enthusiasm. Not bad for a bunch of old farts.

...and speaking of farts, I'd like to apologize to the moshers for letting a couple go during "Body Bag." Given the lyrics to the song ("they say the eyes are the windows of the soul/ but I love all of the little dark holes/ in the body bag"), I suppose it's understandable that my own dark holes would want to sing along. Besides, the smell of the skunk that was wafting in from outside seemed to cover most of it (...or was that a different kind of skunk?).

Anyhow, what's to say? John has more hair, and has added a goatee to his controversial moustache, which works a bit better. Rob, over at the merch table before the show, indulged my pestering question about his favourite book by recommending Joyce's Ulysses ("it'll take a coupla or three months , but it's worth it," he said, when he could see the recommendation was a daunting one). Tom sang "Dad" and one or two others and looks like he may have put on five pounds or so. None of their bald spots are any bigger than they were last time. The pit was intense and mostly something I avoided; but some young kid in a brush cut and a Mama t-shirt kept stage diving, and I bore him up for awhile, just like St. Christopher. I was pleased to see girls moshing -- this odd tribal ritual of violent ecstacy and self-annihilation seems to mostly attract men. It's especially nice to have female flesh smashed up against you every now and then, tho'.

Me, I am too old, too fat, too slow, too cerebral to really mosh anymore, to mosh completely, but I managed to participate a bit when the band did "The River," my favourite o' theirs. Rivers as that which flow, but also that which divide ("rive"). A "time destroys all things" kind of song. A song about life, separation, pain. If Nietzsche were alive, "The River" would probably be his favourite Nomeansno song. He'd speak about the need to affirm even the most painful aspects of life and maybe offer a comment or two on the nature of the Dionysian. Mosh pits are very Dionysian. It's a song I need to try to lose myself in from time to time, and moshing is a good way to do that.

I still wish they'd put "Joyful Reunion" and/or "The Tower" in their set. I'd mosh to those, too.

Anyhow, cheers to Nomeansno for continuing to do what they do. I'll look at Ulysses someday, Rob, I really will.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Winks at the Railway

...in which the Winks discover a new sort of professionalism, and, under Tyr's lead (since it was Tyrsday), call slightly short a set of not particularly engaged (but perfectly acceptible, professional) renditions of their songs, since, I'm guessing:

a) there were only 25 people in the audience at the Railway to begin with
b) 10 of them were there for the alcohol and wouldn't notice anyhow
c) of their fans, one of them (guess which) was getting kinda drunk too
d) one of the other drunks (with whom I shared my hickory sticks) was shouting non sequiturs about Phil Spector (and sometimes dancing -- not badly, actually, compared to other Drunk Guys Dancing that I've seen, but still...) (Trivially, he later claimed to be recording with Buddy Miles).
d) ...and, I mean, they're going to Australia anyhow, and really don't NEED to impress 25 people at the Railway tonight. Really. As an ESL teacher, I know. There are some classes where I just don't get that enthusiastic myself, knowing there will be classes in the future. Like on the 13th, at Blim. I plan to be there.

Really, it was a fun set. I listened to their drummer, Paul, more carefully and decided that a buddy of mine who didn't like him at a previous gig was kinda WRONG; I liked what he did, it fit perfectly. (I got into a pee race with him in the men's room later, but that's a whole other story). Plus tonight was good in that I was moved to meditate for awhile on the line "the uniform fits my head like a monarch's tie," which reminded me of the following passages I'd been reading earlier from Jacques Attali's Noise: A Political Economy of Music:

All music, any organization of sounds is then a tool for the creation or
consolidation of a community, of a totality. It is what links a power center to
its subjects, and thus, more generally, it is an attribute of power in all its
forms... Everywhere we look, the monopolization of the broadcast of messages, the
control of noise, and the institutionalization of the silence of others assure
the durability of power... The monologue of standardized, stereotyped music
accompanies and hems in daily life in which in reality no one has the right to
speak anymore. Except those among the exploited who can still use their
music to shout their suffering, their dreams of the absolute and freedom.

(Italics mine). Really, I don't know if that's what the band was thinking of, but that's how it felt at the moment, eating my hickory sticks, drinking my Grasshopper, and nodding my head like a drunk to the music. As the drunk guy beside me danced and felt sorry for Phil Spector, and I drank and felt sorry for myself (it had been a slightly painful day).

Finally got me a Winks T-shirt, tho'! Thanks, Tyr! And black is the perfect colour for me! Have fun in Australia! I'll e-mail my friend there about you...!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Irreversible Meets Rat Pfink A Boo Boo in the Rectum

There's a rather legendary cult film called Rat Pfink A Boo Boo, directed by Ray Dennis Steckler, shown to me once awhile back by my friend Blake, who is hereby invited (he probably won't post but we might as well issue the invitation) to comment on the film at greater length by clicking "Add a Comment," below, since I defer to him in all things Steckler (he can run rings around me about Herschell Gordon Lewis, too, and can truly enhance one's appreciation of Forbidden Planet, particularly the soundtrack, if given the opportunity). The film, as I recall, was initially going to be a sort of sadistic rape-revenge film or such, and begins with really rather nasty (and surprisingly skillfully crafted) sequences in which evil male characters stalk women. We get lots of creepy voyeuristic stalker's-eye-view shots of sexy women and the film builds considerable tension as we wait for a seemingly inevitable rape sequence. Apparently, however, at midpoint, just before the rape was about to occur, Steckler got bored of making this movie, and decided to shift his narrative focus just slightly. Two of his "good" male characters, being menaced by bad guys, leap into a closet to hide, or such; when they emerge -- they've transformed into fully costumed superheroes, Rat Pfink and Boo Boo (this was supposed to be the original title, but an error in the titling had the "and" rendered as "a" and Steckler decided to go with that, too: one senses something of a coherent aesthetic at work). The film takes a lighthearted tone as the two happy-go-lucky superheroes whisk about the city, righting wrongs and having fun. What I added to our viewing of the film, when Blake showed it to a small selected audience out in the suburbs, was the reading that the whole film had something to do with a kind of heterosexual panic, and that the first half of the film and second were more significantly related than one might suppose: clearly the sexual menace and anxiety generated by the first half of the film got too intense, and Steckler decided, perhaps unknowingly, to have his male characters REJECT said heterosexuality and GO GAY. Yes, I'm convinced, folks: Rat Pfink and Boo Boo were gay -- they veritably leap out of the closet, transformed (and dressed in far more feminine/sexy superhero garb, with flowing capes and tights and such); consider their names, even -- what straight superhero would call himself Boo Boo? There is no reason to think Steckler intended this reading, of course, but once it's applied to the film it's very difficult to not see the movie this way. The two men have escaped the uncomfortable tensions and anxieties of straight life, formed a pair, and are thus transformed. (One wonders about homoerotic aspects of Batman's relations to Robin... I'm sure there's been a gay porn take on it by now -- maybe something along the lines of those Star Trek erotic stories that have Kirk and Spock as lovers.) (My link only leads to a small sample of such material, so feel free to suggest more, folks -- searching for "Star Trek" +erotica or +porn leads to a staggering number of sites, many of which are scams. So I'll stick with the sample I've found. I like the one where Kirk and Spock discuss Kirk's masturbation).

Thing is, I'm watching Gaspar Noe's really upsetting but rewarding film Irreversible at the moment, and I'm wondering if there isn't a Rat Pfink a Boo Boo aspect to it that isn't quite as apparent. Part of this is obscured by the film's backwards structure -- we see episodes in reverse order, a la Memento, but I think this is not in fact as thematically significant as some would have it. Some critics have talked about the film as having profound insights into time and experience, taking the structure as thematically relevant. It's certainly an angle worth considering but it doesn't really get at any of the aspects of the film that interest me, which concern the characters relation to each other and the somehow glaring but transparent homophobia of the film (exactly one IMDB reviewer writes about this, seeing the film in light of Leo Bersani's excellent article "Is the Rectum a Grave?," which considers homophobia and cultural construction of the ass as a source of pleasure and desire -- more on this below). It's interesting that a film could be this overtly homophobic without it being one of the first things people would comment on...

I suppose I should recount a bit of the story of the film; I'll try to avoid spoilers, tho' I don't think knowing what the film deals with will interfere all that much in the experience. The "climax" of the movie, which occurs close to the beginning, shows two men entering a gay bar, The Rectum, where, amidst intense, dark, S&M inflected scenes of sex and invitations to suck and fist the male clients, they seek out a character known as La Tenia, for reasons unknown -- clearly revenge is on their mind (La Tenia means "the Tapeworm," by the way -- they're looking for the Tapeworm in the Rectum, dig?). One, Marcus, is more passionate than the other, Pierre, who tries to convince his friend to abandon his quest and leave. Marcus plows on, finally bullying and abusing one of the gays into telling him where La Tenia is. He momentarily loses Pierre in the heat of the hunt. Confronting the men he believes might be La Tenia, Marcus, alone, finds himself overpowered and forced to the ground, where his arm is broken and one of the men he'd been questioning prepares to anally rape him. Just as he gets his fly open, Pierre appears wielding a fire extinguisher, and batters the man's head into a pulp, rescuing Marcus through this act of brutal murder.

There's actually a lot I don't want to say about the film, in case anyone out there hasn't seen it, but what interests me is this: having seen it twice, I am absolutely certain that the actual murder is not entirely as revenge-driven as it appears to be: that Pierre's burst of rage is not about protecting his friend or avenging the crime that they'd entered the Rectum to right, but rather is about both expressing and suppressing his own homosexuality. Seeing Marcus fucked up the ass would be too close to his own inexpressible, repressed desire; he has to subordinate this desire with a burst of violence, which is what, ultimately, the point of Irreversible seems to me to be. I mean: the two men throughout call each other fags and insult each other, and Pierre, the softer-spoken and more civilized of the two, is shown as having a less than fulsome sexual life, unable to give women orgasms, unwilling to surrender to the animal in himself. Both men are also bound in an oddly-framed triangle of sorts (Pierre is the former lover of Marcus' current girlfriend, whose rape is what motivates the drive for revenge). Pierre is sensitive enough to be horrified by the violent, brutalizing aspects of heterosexual intercourse, as symbolized the rape; like Rat Pfink and Boo Boo, he is forced into previously uncharacteristic behaviour, tho' he chooses to murder his newly discovered homosexual self, in the symbol of the would-be rapist he batters, rather than joyously express it. (Too bad; he would have looked cute in a superhero costume). The battering's violence is the violence of homosexual panic, directly confronted, but much obscured by the film, which forbids us from understanding the action in light of what comes before it -- it's like Noe is hiding something in the film he himself is scared to face. But he's consciously hiding it, if so; unlike Steckler, there seems some indication that Noe intends at least some of this reading, as, after the murder (but actually "seen" beforehand, given the backwards structure of the film), two mercenary-types they'd previously encountered (though we don't know this at the time) stand at the door of the Rectum, yelling homophobic insults at the two men (even though said mercenary figures know that Marcus and Pierre are allegedly straight). There would be no reason to call Pierre and Marcus gay, unless it somehow related to the events of the film. The sheer number of homophobic epithets in the film further argues for the centrality of homoeroticism/homophobia to the film's "real" theme; plus there's another scene where Marcus threatens a transsexual, and the rapist himself is depicted as mostly gay, with the the rape being explicitly made anal...

Anyhow, I'm watching the movie yet again -- it's a fascinating thing. I wonder if the disturbing sound design of the movie has anything to do with how unsettled physically I feel these last couple of days, having seen the movie twice? (The movie uses low frequency sounds sometimes employed by riot police to disperse crowds, which have an apparently negative effect on the human body -- I believe that's discussed in the Salon interview with Noe, which you may need to view an ad to be permitted to read).

Need to see I Stand Alone, next, Noe's previous film about a man who has sex with his daughter...

--

Addendum: I can't link to "Is the Rectum a Grave?" because it's not on the internet. It's one of the few works of theory that actually have had a direct impact on my life -- for about a year, I attempted to overcome what I decided, based on Bersani's theories, were enculturated anti-anal attitudes and "claim" my rectum as a source of erotic pleasure (without having gay sex, that is: but why should only gay men get to enjoy their assholes?). Anyhow, I hope that I'm allowed to do this by fair use laws, because I'm going to provide a brief encapsulization of Bersani's article as it appears in a gender studies journal:

The essay begins with angry reflections on the intense homophobic mobilization against gay men that attended the early years of the AIDS epidemic in the United States (it is helpful to remember that people seriously proposed "chemical castration" and quarantine of gay men to protect "the general population" from the virus) and finds both in them and in gay male sexual desire a homophobic and misogynist association of gay male anal receptivity with female sexual subordination. Bersani is interested to show that, in misogyny, in anti-gay-male homophobia, and in gay male erotic longing, the vagina and the anus are figured as sexually insatiable and as animated erotically by a desire for annihilation.

How exactly that relates to Irreversible I can't quite manage at the moment (there's a lot of annihilation of one sort or another that occurs in the film), but I thought it would be useful to offer a quote.

Snakes Got Legs

...and then the workweek starts, and blogging entries thin out. But here's something to keep you folks entertained, in an idle kind of way, of course.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Gang of Four

Solved the problem of leisure this evening by seeing the Gang of Four at the Commodore.

Standard mistrust to begin with: why am I paying money to see this? What am I buying, exactly, and why? (I just don't trust rock music very much these days). I warmed to the show, though, as did the band and the rest of the audience. Highlight of the evening: Jon King demolished a microwave oven during one song, pounding on it with a baseball bat, treating it as a percussion instrument. It made a big, sharp, metallic sound (it was miked) and the experience of beating it into rubble seemed quite cathartic.

I really don't have anything interesting to say about the experience, though... Felt obliged to at least note that it took place.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Assassination of Richard Nixon

Watched Peter Watkins' Punishment Park earlier this week. It's an amazing film, one of the most passionate pieces of political filmmaking I've seen. I actually agree with some of its detractors that it seems somewhat masochistic -- feels rather like jamming a pin into the meat and decay of one's own rotten tooth -- but in its honesty, the vitality of its form, and the force of the director's belief (in something, tho' we'll leave aside the question of what for the moment -- perhaps simply that truth, perception, and engagement matter, that the filmic transaction is worth taking seriously), it manages to inspire no less. Perhaps there's some force to be gained from the pain of the poke it offers, too. Sometimes painful experiences can be motivating, as was the case with Cassavetes Faces... Or maybe I just enjoy certain kinds of pain. (Coincidentally, Watkins, in his director's introduction, reminds one of no one so much as Sade as played by Patrick Magee in Marat/Sade...). In any event: I was going to say that The Assassination of Richard Nixon probably seems as weak and ridiculous as it does to me (at midpoint; I've paused it to vent a bit of bile, so I can actually finish the film) because I can't but compare it to Punishment Park. I realized as I began to write this paragraph, however, that even if I hadn't seen Punishment Park this week, The Assassination of Richard Nixon would still be somewhat embarrassing.

Initially, it seems to have promise. Sean Penn plays a disappointed man, a divorced furniture salesman lost in a life too large for him, betrayed (he comes to feel) by America; in the heart of his failure, he decides to take up arms, to try to do something about the things that are wrong around him (or really, with his life) -- by flying a hijacked plane into the White House and killing the person he feels comes to symbolize most clearly the evils of the time. Given the relevancy of the means of assassination, and the fact that any presidential assassination film, released into this current climate, must on some subconscious level interface with the un-publically-speakable wish some may have to assassinate a more current Republican, I'd probably want to be kind to it on principle alone -- if only it were a little less condescending, the music a little less syrupy; we need works of art that grapple with the current state of political disenfranchisement and choked-down rage that's simmering out there, like Nicholson Baker's Checkpoint, for instance. To even approach this realm of discourse earns one a merit badge for courage. Unfortunately, the sympathy the film has for its main character isn't a matter of politics, doesn't stem from a perception of any actual inequities in American life (let alone any of the horrors of American foreign policy -- Vietnam is barely even mentioned); the filmmakers are clearly comfortable people who lack any rage or political convictions of their own (other than the everyday reactionary sort that watching a lot of TV tends to inculcate in people). They want us to feel compassion for Penn, but not because he's angry at things worth being angry at; rather, because he's a loser, a victim, a failure, whose every pathetic attempt to get by at work or win back the affections of his ex-wife serves to explain why he wants to kill Nixon. He isn't even allowed to deludedly express his fixations in political language at any length -- the film isn't courageous enough even for that, to at least make Penn articulate in his rage; instead, we're offered an ultimately self-serving and self-reassuring opportunity to squeeze out a little condescending sympathy for the little guy, without ever having to really examine power imbalances in American life or to think that there's anything fundamentally wrong going on out there. The film's thesis is not unlike the post 9/11 American supposition that Al Qaida hate the US because they resent their freedoms; the anger of the disenfranchised that the film purports to deal with is ultimately used simply as a tool to congratulate American viewers on how great they are, to reassure them that all is well, really (and that they can even afford to feel a little sorry for the people who hate them!). Bleh. It's tripe. It will look just fine spliced up for TV to make room for commercials.

But then, I'm only forty-five minutes into it. I should at least finish the film. If you need further reading, here's a link to Peter Watkins' current website. Nothing to do with the Nixon film, but his views on the media are quite interesting. It looks like several of his films are going to be distributed in North America on DVD over the next little while. Really, Punishment Park is necessary viewing, and very relevant to the current, uh, state of things -- right up there on the must-watch list with The Battle of Algiers.

Doesn't it suck how the war in Iraq has kind of quietly faded into the background? Become just another part of the way things are, like the homeless people on the street and the job you have to go to in the morning...?

Post-script: actually, the film becomes a little more interesting in the second half, but not so much so that I'm going to substantially revise anything I've said. Nice final shot, though. Best thing about the film.

Mel Goes to Vegas

Female friend Mel went to Vegas last week, and she had rather amusing reactions, so I'm posting them on my blog as a bit of a departure. I keep tellin' her she should read James Ellroy:

vegas...the big fat american money making circus in the middle of the desert. Its everything to make you forget about your regular life....gambling, food, booze, and sex...lots and lots of sex. There's enough strippers and prostitutes in vegas to kill even the most virile horse.The thing i found out about myself and going to american tourist traps...is that i'm always very underwhelmed...yet i still get wrapped up in everyone elses excitement once or twice. I ended up gambling 70 dollars american one night....in the matter of about 2 hours...it was gone. Poof, no more money. When i came down from my gambling high...i realized that 70 dollars american is enough money to buy myself a couple weeks worth of groceries...a cool pair of shoes...or a considerably dangerous night of drinking.....and yet it had flowed from my fingers so quickly...it made me nauseous. Literally. So i gathered myself up from the video slot machine and got myself to the bar next to the casino and had myself a nice stiff drink....choking down my tears ( i was on the verge of getting my period...and losing that much money is enough to make any hormonal woman cry....especially one as broke as i've been lately)anyways...i had fun mostly, when i finally stopped gambling, and just stuck to what i know best. Drinking, lounging and making fun of american tourists. didnt get laid, didnt see tom jones...didnt even see Wayne Newton...

(End of guest blog by Mel).

Ray Carney appreciation week

For the film buffs out there: Ray Carney is a film scholar and writer who is singlehandedly responsible for tracking down rare versions of John Cassavetes' Shadows and Faces, as well as writing some of the best books about Cassavetes that have ever been written, including Cassavetes on Cassavetes, which he edited. (By the way, most of these links will lead you to Carney's writings on these topics, and if you have time to spend, they're quite interesting). He's a passionate guy, as one would expect of a Cassavetes devotee. He also was badly fucked over by Criterion in the preparation of their recent Cassavetes box set, which he laboured on for months, only to have his name removed at the insistence of Gena Rowlands, Cassavetes widow, who has been pissed off at him for screening said rare versions of Cassavetes films and for resisting the attempts to sanitize and canonize the man, now that he's safely dead. I corresponded with Carney briefly, and tried to stir up some help for him in his struggles with Criterion by writing Roger Ebert (who never wrote back) and Jonathan Rosenbaum (the only result of which, aside from an e-mail response by Rosenbaum saying he didn't want to get involved, may have been the following Chicago Reader review, not written by Rosenbaum but mentioning the Criterion debacle; since Rosenbaum is the head critic at the Chicago Reader, it's reasonable to assume he was aware of this piece of writing and perhaps influenced it; Jeff Economy sounds an awful lot like a pseudonym, too, but it ain't) . Anyhow, I'm about to send Professor Carney some unsolicited money to help him in his legal struggles to keep said rare versions of Shadows and Faces out of the hands of those who would suppress them; and I'm encouraging y'all to do the same -- or at least to buy one of Professor Carney's books. (He's also written on Dreyer, Mike Leigh, and Frank Capra, and has at least one damn great title to one of his works, namely What's Wrong with Film Books, Film Courses, and Film Reviewing—And How to Do It Right -- an excerpt of which can be found here). Actually, the money I'm sending won't be enough to buy one of his lawyer's toenail clippings but it might buy a lunch (or two, if he eats cheap). Thanks for your hard work, Ray.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Winks go to Australia

The Winks have been invited to tour Australia! They're trying to put together enough money to pay for expenses. They've set up a Paypal account for donations and there'll be a fundraisin' concert this Saturday, for those of you not going to Gang of Four (or Wolf Eyes, or Frozen Rabbit at Blim, or any o' the other Saturday shows). Godspeed Winks!