Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More on Autofellatio

More on autofellatio can be found here, on a lively little forum for discussing matters sexual, 5% Friction. Long before I started expressing my debt of gratitude to masturbation for its role in my cultural development (see here and here), I was writing about my experiences with self-sucking.

Those concerned should note that I do actually have a sex life involving other people. Really.

Welcome to the Mind of Michael C. Ruppert

I'll leave you to guess which of my friends sent me this link.

I read in awe at how lucid it all seemed til I got to the sentence, typed all in caps, "I AM IN PERSONAL DANGER NOW." This caused a fast and wise motion of stepping back and pausing, during which time I posted this.

I will now resume reading Ruppert's thing. Just don't look at his finger, and everything will be okay.

Monday, September 29, 2008

VIFF high-points, continued: RR, Ballast, and... JCVD?

Wow: three of the most impressive films in this year’s VIFF are actually covered in a single issue (#34) of CinemaScope (edited by the VIFF’s Mark Peranson). There are interviews with Lance Hammer (Ballast), James Benning (RR), and Wakamatsu Koji (United Red Army - see below; it plays again at the Empire Granville theatres tonight at 9PM). Glad I picked this mag up when it came out - since I had no idea that I would be interested in Wakamatsu's latest or in Hammer's film at the time. For the record, Benning's interview with Peranson is online here; Tom Charity's interview with Lance Hammer is here.

RR - Benning jokes that he prefers to render that when speaking as Railroad, since RR “sounds like a pirate movie” - is a film I enthusiastically recommend to anyone involved in either visual or sound art; in particular, the noise musicians and Soundwalkers of Vancouver really should go see it on Thursday, when it plays again. The newest film - and, I gather, likely the last to be shot on 16mm - by American experimental filmmaker James Benning (bio here), whose 13 Lakes I still rave about - it’s basically two hours of looking at and listening to trains (43 of them, in total, shot from fixed cameras) and their environment (often the American landscape - there are no shots of passenger trains in cities, for instance). The sound is largely natural, as recorded on location, though bits of “aural commentary” are added to certain sequences, such as Eisenhower’s famous speech about the dangers of the military industrial complex, which accompanies one train midway through the film. Shots begin when Benning - who would choose his angle and set up his camera with no particular permission or fanfare and wait - hears the train approach, and end when the train is out of sight (alas, sometimes cutting off the last lingering echoes of the sound, which a couple of people I've spoken to found disappointing). There are various surprises in the film - both in terms of sound and image, and even one sequence that prompted several viewers to laugh out loud. (Another sent me, and apparently only me, into near-hysterical paroxysms, which I stifled to the best of my ability - both hands clamped to my face - lest I disturb other viewers who might have been experiencing the film their own way; I won’t tell you what it is, lest I rob you of anything). Though the compositions are lovely and at times rich with meaning, I mean it as the highest compliment to Benning to say that at various points I was compelled to watch RR with my eyes closed, to better appreciate the sound, which is astonishing. Anyone interested in ambient soundscapes and field recordings owes it to him-or-herself to see this film! (People concerned with our imprint on the environment - fans of Burtynsky, say - would likely find it compelling, as well).

Oh: but stay home if you have a cold, and for god’s sake don’t buy popcorn. This is a quiet, trance-inducing experience. Smoking a joint before going in, on the other hand, might just be a great idea.

Hammer’s Ballast (official site here) plays as a quiet, deeply moving meditation on human emotion, telling an at times painful, often suspenseful and harrowing, and quite moving story of three people struggling to find their way in the wake of a suicide. Somewhat surprisingly, given how powerful the human elements are in the film, like Benning, Hammer is also very interested in place; the genesis of the film, he explained to VIFF attendees in a post-screening Q&A, was inspired by the “sadness of the Mississippi Delta,” and a desire to convey the tone of the place in winter - considerations which shaped the narrative itself, he says (I paraphrase, since there’s only so fast a man can scribble during a Q&A). Unlike RR, there is absolutely no extraneous music added to shots, since Hammer didn’t want to “contaminate” the sounds of the Delta. Further, the film is cast with non-professionals that were from the region where it was filmed, and selected over a long casting process (“working with non-professional actors is 100% about choosing,” Hammer told us). Scenes were workshopped with the actors in a rather unique way; they knew their character’s backstory, but not what was to happen to them, since as human beings we don’t know this, either; actors never saw the script. The VIFF guide sites the Dardennes (L’Enfant) and Ken Loach as filmic points of reference; I personally was reminded at times of Lars von Trier, without the snideness or sadism. I was considering asking Hammer about other influences, but he volunteered in answering someone else’s question that “Bresson is the only one that matters,” which should excite some of you. Ballast is a must-see, though its run at the VIFF appears to be over. There may be added screenings, and I have no doubt the film will get a theatrical release, so keep your eyes and ears open.

I’ve tried several other films, including a few less serious. Religulous, soon to begin its theatrical run here, is very smart and a lot of fun, though, I think, not particularly instructive, and morally somewhat suspect; it mostly amounts to Bill Maher inviting us to laugh at stupid people, or in this case, stupid religious people, which, among other things, is not that much of an accomplishment. It’s not surprising that Borat’s Larry Charles was involved, since blindsiding people and making them look very, very bad is part of the film’s MO; even religious figures interviewed who seem surprisingly lucid and self-critical are made to look idiotic through the editing, played for the cheapest chuckles around. I suppose that the ends - calling into question the value of organized religion - may justify the means to the filmmakers, and there is a certain degree of liberation felt in dispensing with the need to be nice and to say that a great deal of what people do, say, think, and believe in the name of religion is utter happy horseshit. It was only towards the end of the film that I realized that there wasn’t much meat to what I’d seen - no serious consideration of why religion so often serves as a destructive force, why it has such a huge place in American political life, or whether there is “another” side to the coin - which might have come if Charles and Maher interviewed people like Daniel Berrigan, say. It’s just as well, given the viciousness with which they mock people, that they didn’t. I enjoyed the experience of watching this film, and laughed aloud several times, but afterwards neither particularly respected it, nor myself, for having played along.

JCVD, on the other hand - which I hope will be a huge international hit - I have nothing but praise for, and nothing to say about, save that you should go see it. I’m not sure how Jean Claude Van Damme fans will feel about the movie, which is a very sophisticated and clever meta-movie (as the VIFF programme says - their description is bang-on); I loved it, and may go to see it again. No, really. It's sort of Killing Zoe meets 8 1/2. Trailer here, hiliarious (meta-meta) teaser here.

And to briefly make clear that I’m not just saying good things about everything - The Fallen: A Silent Collapse, about corruption and criminal negligence in Mexico, is a serious and righteously angry film, and it will probably be of interest to union organisers and such, but as a layman and non-Spanish speaker, I must say that it relentlessly barrages one with so many names of Mexican corporations, politicians, and unions, and does such a piss-poor job of organizing its information for an outsider, that I’d consider it unwatchable outside of the country of Mexico... which is kind of funny, because the director, Rudy Joffroy, does not appear to be a Mexican. I walked out at the halfway mark, head hurting; part of it that it just wasn't the sort of film that I was in the mood for... but I'd stay clear of this film, unless the discription in the VIFF catalogue gets you really excited.

Mock Up on Mu, on the other hand, is just really fucking weird - arguably not a documentary at all, since it is comprised mainly of footage from fictional features and/or scenes shot with actors, and much of its premise is fictional (it begins with L. Ron Hubbard operating on a secret moonbase, trying to orchestrate a scheme involving Jack Parsons - who is not really dead - and Lockheed Martin). If you’re the type who has read bios of Jack Parsons - rocket scientist and ritual magician - and Hubbard, or the sort of viewer who will laugh when Forrest J. Ackerman’s name comes up, just to demonstrate loudly to the rest of the theatre that you know who Forry is and that you are in on the joke, then this film may be for you. Guy Maddin devotees might find it exciting formally, too, since there's something of his insanity present here (which I mean as praise). I considered sticking around for the Q&A so I could ask the first question of the director, Craig Baldwin, which I decided would have to be, “What the fuck was that?” But in the end I decided that I’d be better off going home and going to bed, and I walked out of that one, too... I'm not saying it isn't a great film, it's just... Jesus, I don't know. More on that film here.

Think I may take a break for the next couple of days and do some writing and laundry. Wendy and Lucy is coming soon!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Yes, we have no Subhumans

"Twas as I suspected. Gerry writes, on the Death Was Too Kind thread on the Subhumans website:
Hope y’all enjoy the new (old) stuff. We’re pretty happy with it. Be prepared for another release within the next year or so too. In the meantime, anybody planning on going to see us at Pub 340 tomorrow night (Monday, September 29th), don’t bother cause there ain’t no show. G7’s website somehow screwed up and listed us as playing in Victoria tonight and Vancouver tomorrow night and it automatically listed the shows on our website as well. The dates and venues listed are actually from last year. We don’t currently have any plans to do any shows in the near future. Sorry for any inconvenience. Damn computers!

Fake Jazz Fridays - a Report from the (Western) Front

i/i by Femke van Delft

So last Friday we had another spillover from the Cobalt's Fake Jazz Wednesday series at the Western Front, with a returned DB Boyko presenting Fake Jazz Fridays, featuring i/i, von Bingen, The Sorrow and the Pity, and some guy named Dr. Ultra (Thee Holee See could not be there). Though once again the event demonstrated that Vancouver has a vibrant and strange arts community, the audience was a tad smallish. There must have been competition from the VIFF - but the people who came had a fine time. Or at least I did, and the people sitting with me, who made up around 10% of the attendees, not counting band members.
i/i by Femke van Delft

i/i (pronounced i-slash-i) are apparently disbanding, alas; Anju, if I'm reading my notes right, plans to take up studying ASL for the blind, Peter is leaving to raise sheep in the steppes of Alberta, Dave is going to Europe to follow basketball, while Graham is going to do something with his friend's balls. Or else he has a friend named Balls? No, wait... I shouldn't have smoked that joint before the show... Anyhow, I got a bit more of a grip on their music as a result of seeing them again. I'd thought of 70's improvised instrumental psych rock - with a certain German vibe - bent through the filter of Sonic Youth the first time I saw them; I improved that immensely at the Front by mixing in a generous dollop of post-rock (and not just because they have no vocals or because Anju plays violin), and then got taken for a spin by Dave Chokroun's comment that they reminded him of Neurosis. Which I couldn't initially make sense of, except Peter, later, acknowledged it and mentioned Isis as a further elaboration. He gave even more credit to Femke's observation that they sound like Jesu (who apparently have a Godflesh tie-in, but we're getting into the realm of Music That I Don't Listen To here). And me thinking of Godspeed You! Black Emperor... sigh. Peter's one of those guys whose command of genre and current bands make me feel kind of ill-equipped to write about music, frankly - a sort of Geek Penis Envy sets in. He personally sees i/i as inhabiting the realm of shoegaze. I owned a My Bloody Valentine cassette once, but 99% of so-called shoegaze bands have gazed at their shoes unheard by me, so how can I intelligently engage in this discussion? Adjectives I should have worked into the above paragraph include loud, texturally dense, vaguely monolithic, and semi-transcendent. Certainly your ears feel different after they play. Are Anju and Graham going to play Montreal with Ahna? I think so.

von Bingen by Femke van Delft

News for followers of Hildegard/ von Bingen: Josh Stevenson tells me they have a new album coming up on Amen Abscend, back east. It's good to have some news to report, since I don't think I can do justice to their music (a satisfyingly trippy, dense but lyrical improv/drone, reminding me of a slightly more rock-oriented LaMonte Young or a tranquil spell at the Church of Anthrax). And I can no more detail the gear they brought onstage with them than I can pin down i/i's genre. No, wait, there was a clarinet (fed through things), a bass guitar (fed through things), a drum machine (was it fed through things, or were things fed through it?), a guitar (sometimes fed, sometimes not, and sometimes played with a slide). And then there were some, uh, synthesizers and effects boxes and... fuck, should I have gone around the stage scribbling this shit down? I didn't. That mighta been a Buchla. It was in a suitcase. It had tubes. And while I'm confused, while I do know of the mystical abess for whome they are named, what exactly is the difference between the tripartate bands Hildegard, Hildegard von Bingen, and von Bingen? It's one of those things that everyone knows but me, and at this point it is easier to be embarrassed to ask than it is to actually make the effort of finding out... File it under things I know that I don't know - which is better than things I don't know I don't know, right?

von Bingen by Femke van Delft

The Sorrow and the Pity by Femke van Delft

The Sorrow and the Pity I feel much more qualified to write about, except I've written about them several times and feel like I have to say something new. Uhh, let's see. Every time, in Dave's epic "Eating Shit," about the infliction of humiliation and blame, when he starts ranting as he drums about how we've all been there, thinking, "don't do it to me - do it to someone else," I want to call out, "Do it to Julia!" But I don't feel like enough people will get the joke to make it worth calling attention to myself. It would be a great name for an album: The Sorrow and the Pity Do It to Julia. The thing I like about these guys is that they present as a sort of joke until you actually start to meditate on their lyrics, which probe around your psyche seeking the weak points - your personal elements of complicity and collaboration (hence the name of the band). I myself drink at Starbucks now and then, but am willing to accept the band's subtle fist-up-the-sphincter moralizing because a) they do it with a sense of humour and b) because they don't wear gloves. Hey Darren Williams, the Brotzmann Songlines of which we spoke is here, and I was right, Rashied Ali is on it, and Fred Hopkins, too. I think it can be found cheaper through CD Hut on eBay... Darren informs me that The Sorrow and The Pity did a cover of Nomeansno's "Self-Pity" at the Cobalt not long ago, which I missed; can I humbly request they repeat this sometime I'm in the audience?

The Sorrow and the Pity by Femke van Delft

Oh: and The Sorrow and The Pity have a CD out now, too, which you can buy at their gigs. Have you all read my interview with Dave? And hey, check it out, there's a whole Wikipedia page devoted to Julia!

Dr. Ultra by Feke fan Belt

The final act during the night was a guy called Dr. Ultra. I asked about a dozen people during the course of the evening who Dr. Ultra was, and I'm still not sure. He wore a mask. He made music with a circuit-bent Speak and Spell. He ranted at us through some gear he held close to his chest about how no one liked him and he had nowhere to go, then suddenly, he went somewhere, walking out the front ranting his way down the stairs and leaving his gear in a pile by the exit, several of us following him, chuckling, after it became clear that he wasn't coming back. I raced back up to the venue to get Femke to photograph the pile by the door:

The Pile by the Door by Femke van Delft

Apparently - Dr. Ultra, demasked, told Fake Jazzers as he stood smoking in the parking lot, this was "the shortest Dr. Ultra gig ever," which I will have to take his word for.

Now I need to clean my apartment. As a final note: DB Boyko recommends people with a taste for the odd check out Blarvuster next week - I can't be there. I am far more excited by Pauline Oliveros visit. You should be, too.

Do people even check the links I painstaking insert into these things? Fuck. Go look at the Pauline Oliveros one, anyhow.

The post-Fake-Jazz smoke by Femke van Delft

Subhumans error?

(Photo by me, dammit. Femke's are too good to waste on a mere error correction).


Last year's Subhumans show was at Pub 340 on September 29th. (Footage of me moshing at it here).

The Subhumans webpage makes mention of a Pub 340 show on Monday, but Gerry Hannah called me tonight, and left a message with no such mention of it; this seems odd. There are also no posters anywhere in town and no indication of the gig on the Myspace, and a Monday night show a few weeks after their last one here makes little sense. Is it possible that there is simply a glitch on their website? (They haven't announced their last two gigs on the site, so it would be, in a way, quite fitting for them to now accidentally announce a gig that wasn't planned). Maybe they accidentally programmed the site to announce a September 29th gig on an annual basis?

I will figure this out and report back.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Dating Site Darkly

This is ridiculous.

I have a profile or three on Plenty of Fish at the moment, where I have been struggling to contact a member, whose name includes a reference to Miro, and whose profile makes mention of Philip K. Dick. I write this in hopes she is reading it.

There are three obstacles that I have thus far had to negotiate in my attempts to reach her: censors, filters, and glitches.

1. Censors. This is the least malign. Plenty of Fish has bovine censorbots in place that make it impossible to say certain things. Profiles and messages cannot contain sexual language (unless you spell things creatively - "suck my c0ck, lick your pvssy, do you want to fvck," etc - such words are rendered with four stars - "hey baby I want to **** you"). Such language is not part of the problem, in this case, since these words were not part of my attempt to hail Ms. Miro... tho' I did mention my amusement that Philip K. Dick's name is censored, rendered as Philip K. ****. (It is actually intact in her interests section, but the censors have different standards in different areas. For example, "suck my cock, lick your pussy" etc are all allowable in an IM section, but THERE, words like "transfer" "bank" and "account" are censored, regardless of context; you can ask someone to account for themselves and it comes out as "**** for yourself"). Amusing, but not part of the problem: part of what I intended to send to her in my first message, as a matter of fact - a cute note about the censorship of Phil's name.

2. Filters. PoF has a variety of optional filter levels in place that make it impossible for people to send messages to others, if they are deemed incompatible. If I do not want to meet someone who smokes, for instance, I can set my profile to bar all smokers from being able to say hi - even if they merely say "Prefer not to say" in the "smoking" section of their profile; they have to specify that they do not smoke in order to get through. Personally I find this an odd thing - what if some smoker merely wants to chat with me about some interesting detail in my profile? Why should they be barred from even sending me a message? Routinely, of course, women use these filters to try to prevent The Dreaded Internet Pervert from reaching them - the masturbating man, who, in the heat of his tumescence, will email you photos of his erection and messages both desperate and vulgar, insofar as he can get around the censors ("suck my c0ck, eat your pvssy"). As it happens, this is not my problem either, because - at least from my serious profile, because I have a frivolous, horny one that I sometimes troll the site with - I do PASS her filters. She has many in place - "must not be looking for Intimate Encounter." "Must not smoke." Yadda yadda. I'd presumably have to have a chat with her about the "Must not do drugs" filter, but otherwise, I'm in the clear.

3. But once one gets around the censors and the filters, one encounters That Which Cannot Be Circumvented: THE GLITCH. Sometimes you send a message to someone, and PoF SAYS they have received it, but it is not copied to your "sent messages" folder, and they have not, in fact, heard from you. Try as you might, your profile and theirs simply are starcrossed; you cannot say hi. You THINK you have (unless you check your "sent messages" folder) - but they have no idea you exist. The message has been sent to some Internet Limbo, presumably never to return.
And so this morning, I attempted to say hello to Ms. Miro and jabber about PK Dick (and ask her if she wanted to suck my Theodore Sturgeon, and tell her I wanted to lick her Ursula LeGuin... no, I jest, really). But The Glitch came between my serious profile and hers. Then we come to my frivolous profile: I attempted to hail her from that, directing her to my serious profile with what I hoped was an amusing explanation of my complicated attempts to say hi to her and an apology for the profile I was actually contacting her from... though I had to revise the profile a tad to get around her filters. Once again, I got through the censors and around the filters, to bang my head firmly into The Glitch. She could be reached from neither of my two existing profiles. I created a THIRD PROFILE, just for her eyes - and had to re-send my message about five times, pausing to make sure that all the "prefer not to says" that I'd left blank for the purposes of writing a quick profile were correctly filled in, because the site's filters kept blocking me. Finally, I have a third profile that passes muster with which I can say hello! Double check message, click "send;" get "message sent!" message; check "sent messages folder" - and there's nothing there to her.

Sigh. The Glitch, again, presumably. Doors and windows barred; you can't get there from here, or anywhere else.

I have thus re-written that third profile, directed solely at her, with the directions that she visit my blog, should she see it. I really don't know if we're at all compatible - she's slim, and I'm not, and she's a tad older than the person I ideally seek - but after so complex a process, I cannot give up now.

Good day, Ms. Miro. Are you reading this? There's something wrong with your profile, I think - at least SOME people who are interested in saying hello to you cannot do so. Have you read I AM ALIVE AND YOU ARE DEAD, the PK **** bio? It's quite interesting. I have only read a few of ****'s novels, but I admire him greatly... worse, sometimes he reminds me of myself.

I think **** would be amused by all this, don't you?

Miscellany: VIFF, publications, etc

Some stuff:

I will not be taking the Greyhound to the Holy Modal Rounders reunion. I wish I could be there, but it is just not feasible. I tend to get motion sick, so spending $100 on a loooooong busride, when I'm broke and rundown as it is, just doesn't seem wise.

The current Skinny has VIFF reviews and my Tom Holliston interview.

The new Xtra West has articles by me on the Kathy Acker and Arthur Russell docs in the VIFF.

The new Razorcake (#46) has what will likely be my final piece for that publication, on the New Model Army, a band I have long enjoyed. I greatly enjoyed talking to Justin - mostly about religion!
The films I'm really excited about seeing in the next couple of weeks are James Benning's RR and Kelly Reichardt's Wendy and Lucy (pictured above). Two of my most valued film experiences at the VIFF have been works by Benning (13 Lakes) and Reichardt (Old Joy), and though they're very different filmmakers, anyone who likes quiet, image-rich cinema will likely find both of these films highly rewarding.
On a very different note, as a horror buff, I'm looking forward to [REC], a Spanish film with an upcoming English language remake, Quarantine.
Family issues will keep me from seeing a vast number of films this year, but it's just as well - one tends to get a bit burned out, seeing movies all day. I will have at least one other big article on a VIFF feature here, but otherwise, the reviews in the two issues of The Skinny and the review and interview in Xtra West are about all people can count on seeing from me this year... My holiday is more than half-over and there's lots else I must do...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

VIFF must-see: United Red Army

In the late 1960's and early 1970's, Japan, like many other first world nations, was home to student uprisings and radical movements, the most extreme of which was likely the Red Army Faction (also known, after merging with another student group, as the United Red Army). They participated in hijackings, robberies, explosions and killings, though films about the group tend to focus more on violence done to their own members than to outsiders, since, at a hideway in Gunma, they participated in fanatical purges of those within who were deemed ideologically impure - purges which left several members dead. These purges will be familiar to exploitation film fans as the focal point of the famously extreme Kichiku Dai Enkai (roughly translated, with added alliteration, as The Big Banquet of Beasts).

I admire Kichiku, as it's usually known here, chiefly because it is quite beautiful at times (!) and has a deeply resonant simplicity to it that strikes the viewer in the very bowels. Its sometimes extreme goriness and sense of utter hysteria - for example, in the famous "blow-his-head-off-and-play-with-his-brains" sequence, pictured above - bring us beyond possibly fascist, misanthropic, or (some have suggested) anti-female readings into a confrontation with the capacity of human beings to degenerate utterly; we're forced to experience the madness in our flesh and the horror of the human dynamic when a group spins out of control, and I take its deep resonance as proof that it gets at SOMETHING true - something that each viewer must churn over in his or her own gut - whatever questions it may leave one asking about the filmmaker's intent.

Where Kichiku Dai Enkai fails utterly, however, is in conveying any sense of self-purging extremism as an ideological phenomenon. That's one of the reasons I have a hard time seeing it as a right-wing film, in fact, as some people have suggested it is, because it fails so completely as a representation of the left; or perhaps "fails" isn't really the word, because it doesn't begin to even try. One suspects the young filmmaker, growing up in ideologically "innocent" times, has reconstructed events - taking great liberties - to tell his story in the only way he can understand it, which doesn't leave much room for quoting Mao or talking about solidarity with this oppressed group or that - ideas that simply aren't part of his framework. The gang in the film are motivated not by a desire for an inner purity or by an insanely rigorous need to subordinate all members to the collective will - they're just pissed off at certain members for having narked on them, and could be any outlaw group. Even though I like Kichiku, I acknowledge that this is a problem, since it overwrites real history and replaces actions that were politically motivated (or at least politically rationalized) with personal vendettas and power struggles, erasing a level of discourse that WAS important to the events it is based on, and further contributing to a worldwide impoverishment of political thinking. That most of its audience, especially in North America, won't even be aware of this as an issue is itself an example of why this is problematic; exposed primarily to corporate media or shallow, self-serving demagogues like Michael Moore, people are losing the ability to understand radical action, revolutionary ideals, or any of the thought that motivated them, all of which is especially important when asking questions about how a group of idealistic young students with the best of intentions could end up withdrawing from the world and killing their own weakest members in the name of their cause. Like the Cambodian Killing Fields or the grimness of daily life in the USSR, the questions provoked by such actions are deeply important especially for leftists, prefer as they may to look away; by pretending such things never happened, and refusing to learn from these lessons, the left basically closets itself away in a dreamer's paradise, surrendering the sphere of the real to the powers that be... It's like Christians who simply don't want to consider that people were burned at the stake in the name of their religion...

Koji Wakamatsu's United Red Army - playing again on Monday at the VIFF - does not flinch for a second from these questions, and the end result is troubling indeed. The official site is here (in Japanese), the trailer is here, an article about the film by Mark Schilling - in English - is here; but trust me that those interested in Japanese history, left-wing radicalism, or serious cinema will find it rewarding. It's quite long, but very compelling, and the taxing prelude, which brings us up to speed on the history of student action in Japan and introduces us to the 20-something-year-old revolutionaries at hand - will serve you well once the rather claustrophobic central actions, at the hideout in Gunma, are underway. I don't have much of a critique to offer, with which to leaven my enthusiasm - it seems odd that Wakamatsu on the one hand wants to show "young people today" how much more serious past generations were, while at the same time chronicling the excesses of the group, who seem ultimately about as serviceable as role models as the kids in Battle Royale II - but I wanted to pique people's curiosity; it's well worth your time, and also a necessary corrective to Kichiku. Wakamatsu is an older and wiser man, with a long history in Japanese cinema; it's great that he's gone back here and offered viewers a look into how things were.
Oh, and rest assured: no brains are played with in the course of the film.

By the way: you'll be wondering as United Red Army plays who wrote the score - a subdued but effective and timely psychedelic rock soundtrack. It's not out of perversity that I won't tell you; I want you to be pleasantly surprised when the credits roll. I was. Good work, man!

Parking, also seen today, is a good film, too, but so much gentler and less overwhelming than United Red Army that I can think of nothing to say about it. More reports from the front will follow.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Holy Modal Rounders by Greyhound?

Hm. It's only $97 return for the bus ticket...

Odd Experience

...watched Woody Allen's Interiors on Turner Classic Movies tonight, letterboxed without commercials, as I lay on my parents' couch in Maple Ridge. It remains one of my favourite films of his; I don't like Woody much, but Marybeth Hurt, Geraldine Page and Richard Vernon give great performances in this film, and much of it rings truer than any of Allen's other attempts to create "serious cinema," however stilted the dialogue is at times and however unlikeable many of his characters are. What was strange, though - and what I wanted to remark on - was the experience of watching a movie on television. Because of the format, it looked and felt like watching a DVD, but without my having the luxury of pausing it. Since I lack cable (or an antennae) at my home, I don't often experience movies this way, at least not on a small screen; the only time when I lack a pause button is at a movie theatre.

I wonder if that's a common experience, these days? It seems like few of my friends have cable... When was the last time you watched a film, from start to finish, as broadcast on television?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Holy Modal Rounders reunion!: somebody drive me to Portland

I'm eagerly awaiting the release of the Holy Modal Rounders documentary on DVD (Myspace here, trailer here); astute followers of this blog know that I interviewed Peter Stampfel last winter, and he's passed on news of a series of Holy Modal Rounders reunion gigs (of course, minus Weber) happening in Washington and Oregon this week. Alas, I do not think I can attend, but I would love to. I wonder how much it costs to take a bus?
Check "Stick Your Ass in the Air" out here, on Youtube - from their last reunion, I think - or another great new Stampfel tune, "Hey Oh." And then there's their song from Easy Rider, with lyrics by Antonia Stampfel.
Any Holy Modal Rounders devotees who happen to have peeked in are welcome to invite me to share travel expenses! Stampfel's info - tour dates and a brief press release - follow:
*** Featuring Dave Reisch, Bingo, Robin Remaily and Peter Stampfel ***
7 p.m. Free All ages (unless noted):
Monday, September 22 · Edgefield Winery, Troutdale, OR (21 and over)
Tuesday, September 23 · Olympic Club, Centralia, WA
Wednesday, September 24 · Grand Lodge, Forest Grove, OR
(That's where the last reunion was)
Thursday, September 25 · Sand Trap, Gearhart, OR -- that's on the Coast near Seaside
*** Also featuring Roger North ***
Friday, September 26 · Mission Theater, Portland, OR 9 p.m. $15 21 and over (w/ the Lewi Longmire Band)
Saturday, September 27 · Mission Theater, Portland, OR 9 p.m. $15 21 and over (w/ Freak Mountain Ramblers)
HOLY MODAL ROUNDERS With roots in early-'60s Greenwich Village, the Rounders got their early education playing on the streets and in coffee houses with such acts as The Jim Kweskin Jug Band, Bob Dylan, and Peter, Paul and Mary. They were not so much a group as a changing collaboration centered around the two principals, Peter Stampfel and Steve Weber (Alan Ginsberg and Sam Shepard both did tours of duty in the group), and the intention was to update old-time folk music with a contemporary spirit.
Their eccentricities outraged folk purists, however, as they often changed melodies and words to suit their tastes on some of their cover versions of old standards. Peter Stampfel once wrote in the liner notes, "I made up new words to it because it was easier than listening to the tape and writing words down." While their music was too strange, idiosyncratic, and at times downright dissonant for mainstream listeners to abide, they quickly developed a devout, diehard following. Their most famous song, "If You Wanna Be a Bird," was showcased in the classic movie "Easy Rider," and the band even made an appearance on the TV show "Laugh-In."
As the band went through its paces, it called many cities home, with a west coast version finally holing up in Portland, Oregon. While the six-piece band broke up 1979, many members of the band still reside and perform in the Portland area. The Holy Modal Rounders have reunited several times -- at the Crystal Ballroom as well as other McMenamins locations -- events which have drawn in tried-and-true fans from all over the country.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Wrecking Crew Loses Earl Palmer

Earl Palmer has died. Palmer was a New Orleans jazzman turned session musician, who worked on numerous west coast jazz, R&B, and pop albums, drumming for recordings produced by Phil Spector, and for artists like Frank Sinatra, The Mamas and the Papas, The Beach Boys, Tom Waits, and even doing the drums (apparently) on the Flintstones Theme Song (!). Palmer is one of several such musicians who, because of their professionalism and ease in the studio, were routinely called in, behind-the-scenes, to play music on the albums by Hollywood hitmakers; it wasn't just The Monkees who weren't really playing the music on their albums (tho' Palmer worked on their recordings, too). The loose group of hired guns was dubbed The Wrecking Crew, and they're the subject of a new film that will be playing at the VIFF. Even though it's not my usual area of interest, I found the film charming and informative, made with considerable energy; people interested in behind-the-scenes music stories will probably like it, and many of the anecdotes are really engaging to hear (Palmer is among those interviewed). As far as I know, my review of it is in the current issue of The Skinny...

Subhumans again!

Well, folks - I guess to celebrate their newest release (or, really, a re-release of their first EP and singles, on Alternative Tentacles, to be entitled Death Was Too Kind) the Subhumans will play again at Pub 340 on September 29th! That's a lot of Subhumans action in this town in 2008!

Robert Dayton's new post

We all should read this!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bev Davies weighs in on DOA and Rampage

Top: Randy Rampage and Bev Davies, by Susanne Tabata
Bottom: Randy Rampage (July 6, 1979, in Chicago) by Bev Davies

See my previous post, and see my article in the Georgia Straight, for background: original DOA bassist Randy Rampage has been dismissed from DOA for the third time, shortly before the band's 30th anniversary concert. I wanted to talk to Bev Davies for her views on all this, since she has been witness to DOA's growth from the very beginning.

Bev: I know them, I know Randy really quite well, and I know Joe from a long time ago, and I mean, I've followed the band, and I really care about the band and I care about the music, and care about their position in Canadian history, of bands... but what I feel about it is, you don't pull the van over and dump somebody out and expect to ever come back and find them there again. Life is way too fragile, the world is way too big, to ever think that you can just put someone on a shelf for awhile and then come back and they'll be in the same place again. And part of that I know from my photographs. It was actually an awakening, when I did the 144 photographs of punk in the JEM Gallery, because those people in the photographs stayed really simple. Simple photographs of simple people with simple, simple lives, in my mind - because they were these graphics of people. And I met a lot of those people again after a long time of not seeing them, and their lives were not simple. Things had moved on, people had changed. And I just feel like... Randy - yes, he's out of the band, and it's not the first time it's happened - it's sad.

Allan: Joe makes it sound like it's the last time, as well. It is sad. It's been a sad piece to write...

Bev: I mean, it used to be, "Oh shit, now I've got to get pictures of the new people in the band!" That was, like, about as deep as I ever really got into it. "Oh, Chuck's not in the band? Shit! All those pictures are useless now!" And I don't feel that way anymore, so maybe my relationship with the people has changed, or I've changed, I assume. It isn't about - "Oh, God - I've got to get pictures of the band the way it is now." I mean, I haven't thought of that at all. I've thought of it and wondered why I'm not thinking of that, y'know? Because - wow - I watched Chuck go, I watched Dave join the band, I watched Randy go - I saw all of these changes over the years in DOA.

Allan: Personally, you'd be happier if Randy was playing tonight? I mean, that it's the 30th anniversary show is what really gets me.

Bev: I haven't thought of it that way at all. Now that you point that out - whoa, wow. It's just - whether he ever brings the van around again to pick him up doesn't really matter. I just don't think you dump people out at the side of the road, when they're on the trip.

Allan: Yeah.

Bev: And I guess I am gonna have to get pictures of the new lineup!

It's DOA's 30th anniversary (and you're fired!)

“Never get involved in a boy-and-girl fight.”
- Wm. S. Burroughs

I wanted to just air my own views on Randy Rampage being sacked from DOA for the third time, since they didn’t really make it into my Straight article:

a) I file it close to the Butthole Surfers suing Touch and Go Records, or East Bay Ray suing Jello. It’s one of those things that, as a punk, I feel really sad about, though I don’t necessarily leap entirely into one corner. I feel more sympathy for Jello than I do for the Kennedys; but I also wonder if maybe the rest of the guys have cause to be upset with him, you know? And I feel more sympathy with Touch and Go than I do the Butts, because, while I don’t begrudge them having control of their music, some of what the Butts had to say publicly about the lawsuit was just gross, devaluing their work and thus those who admire it (Gibby said something like, “It’s not like we’re making art...”). Maybe knowing the whole story in any of these cases would completely vindicate one side or the other, but mostly you don’t want to look too closely, because you sense that it will depress you; punk values allow for all sorts of messy human behaviour and complicated “grey-area” situations and self-serving agendas, and some of it isn’t pretty to contemplate. All the same, though it doesn’t necessarily come across in the piece - which is fairly neutral - I feel more sympathy for Randy than I do for Joe, here; the values that I associate with punk make it seem like a questionable move. I expect some tribal loyalty among brothers to take precedence over all. Am I harbouring illusions, here?

b) The sense that something wrong is goin’ on is greatly exacerbated by the fact that this is DOA’s 30th anniversary show, and Randy is one of the original guys; as a publicly viewable act, it seems to add insult to injury, and is a bit of a blow, not only to Rampage, but to fans of the old band, who think that Rampage with DOA is 1/3 closer to “the real DOA” of yore. (These same people still mourn the absence of Dave Gregg and Chuck Biscuits, of course). I am pretty sure that there will be calls of “Where’s Randy?” from the floor of the Commodore tonight, from people who have not read the Straight article or heard it on the grapevine and are kind of shocked. If I were Joe, unless he really had cause to fear that Randy was going to completely fuck up (see his anecdote about why Randy got sacked from DOA the first time in I, Shithead), I’d have stuck it out til AFTER this show, at the very least. As business savvy as he may be, Joe has probably made himself look not-so-good to a bunch of people here.

c) Personally, I’ve got nothing against Dan Yaremko - for all I know, he might be a tighter, faster player than Rampage, and he doesn’t seem like someone completely caught up in rock’n’roll/ metal excess, which is good; that quality oozes from Rampage’s self presentation, and its one of the reasons I have had little interest in any of Randy’s metal output (“Pig Farm Willy?” Jesus fucking Christ! ...tho’ I like some of Rampage’s early stuff). However, it must be said: having seen Yaremko with DOA a couple of times, I have absolutely no memory of him as a stage presence, and I cannot say the same about Randy. As a fan who likes going to gigs and likes to see a dynamic stage show, I’d rather see Randy onstage over Yaremko any day.

That’s all I really need to say, here. I wonder what will happen at the Commodore tonight? I won’t be there, personally - family stuff takes precedence - but I’ll be curious to read the reviews...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

White Dog, Black Dog, and the Criterion Collection

When I was a teenager, I remember seeing, on pay TV, what I remember as being a touching, provocative film. It was called White Dog. (That link is to an informative Wikipedia article, btw). Its about a young woman (Kirsty McNichol) who adopts a stray dog, only to discover that it has been trained to attack black people. Paul Winfield plays a black dog trainer who tries to break the dog of its conditioning. It was, I thought, an interesting way of getting at the issue of ingrained racism in a culture; at the time, it meant nothing to me that the director was Samuel Fuller. I forgot about the film for years until, walking through the old location of Black Dog video - the one that would later be badly damaged in fire - I saw a VHS edition of the "uncut version" of the film, which I never knew had been censored for release.

Alas, this VHS tape, like most of Black Dog's VHS stock, was apparently destroyed when the store burned - more by smoke and heat than flames (that was what I was told by someone behind the counter, anyhow). I thought it was a shame - since the film, as Fuller envisioned it, was otherwise unseeable. I always regretted not having rented it.

Anyhow, this is just a note for cinephiles who might care about White Dog: good news! The Criterion Collection has picked it up!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Creem and Masturbation! (I almost forgot)

Oh my God! I almost forgot! (It was a long time ago). Creem, from 1982! I masturbated to the photos of Joan Jett in Creem when I was 14! (Sorry, Joan, but it's true! I actually am quite fond of your music, too, though I don't believe I currently own any. Do you still do "Do You Wanna Touch Me There," or does the story of Gary Glitter's last few years take the fun out of it? I enjoyed watching you do karaoke with Ellen deGeneres! It was very playful and sweet of you to do that! And you were my favourite part of Light of Day!).

That I ever used Creem (Creem!) as a stroke book is deeply amusing to me. (I would like to posthumously thank Yukio Mishima for his candor about arriving at orgasm while looking at pictures of the Martyrdom of St. Sebastian, or I would likely not be exploring this line of thought so enthusiastically and publicly, y'know?).

And GOD what an influential issue of Creem THAT was for me, for I believe - I *BELIEVE* it was in that issue that I first read about Sonic Youth and the Minutemen; and it looks from the cover that it may have also turned me on to X and Fear. All thanks to masturbation! (By the way, this is all a follow up to my "Role of Masturbation" post below should you have missed it). It's true that I sometimes bought rock magazines to read about rock music, even at 14, but MY EVEN OWNING THAT ISSUE OF CREEM had everything to do with the picture of Joan on the cover. And the pictures of Joan therein, one of which showed her walking on the beach in a tight-fitting red top. Yum!

(The leather outfit above is misleading).

For the record, I am still stunned by how sexy Joan Jett is. Doesn't that woman age? Does she bathe in the blood of virgins, or something? (Or, perhaps, the semen of virgin males?). She's only ten years older than I - I guess she turned 50 this year - but I have never seen her not look great. Though I would not NOW jerk off to photos of her, it would be disrespectful, and perhaps, given what I assume is her sexual orientation, distasteful to her. I was 14, Joan! I masturbated to advertisements of women in bras, to, except I didn't get anything out of it!

Thanks to YOU, Joan - I discovered about Sonic Youth! The Minutemen! Fear! X!

Eat your heart out, St. Sebastian!

Saturday, September 13, 2008


...so I agree to go on a camping trip with some friends, but it's really to an abandoned building out of town (though sometimes it's on the bank of a river, because I remember seeing beavers, or some small rodent, slipping into the water upstream, and radio warnings about how it was going to get cold. Actually, they were identified as beavers in the dream, but they looked like squirrels). To my surprise, a group of local hookers comes to join us - the organizer of our trip invited them - and will have sex with us for minimum wage ($8/hr). Unfortunately, I have no cash, and will be getting paid on Monday. People are skeptical, so I decide I will take the lead, since if we all sit around moralizing, the hookers won't get any business, after having gone through some trouble to get here; and the price is right! I stand from the circle and pair off with their leader, and we walk to the door of the building (because at this point it's a building); along the way, I explain to her that I can't pay her the $8 right away, that she'll have to wait until Monday. I assure her that I'm good for it. She very firmly tells me that that won't work, she doesn't give credit. I shrug, and walk back in, to see that - following my lead - the people in my camping party are now pairing off with these hookers, and going into empty offices. Not only do I now have nothing to do, but I feel vaguely humiliated to have been "rejected by a hooker," and disappointed that she didn't understand or care about my gesture in her and her comrade's support. Shrugging, with no one to talk to, I pick up a newspaper and stumble off down the hallway to my own empty office, to sit against the wall and read. There I notice - it's apparently WE (AKA the West Ender), though it now has some odd religious angle - that there is an article on austere Catholic filmmaker Robert Bresson in the piece. Apparently Bresson's life has some connection to whatever point of view the paper is espousing. I glance at it, then hear my buddy Michael playing guitar in the distance. He has also elected not to go with the hookers, apparently. I bring him the article - because I know he's interested in this particular odd religious viewpoint - and show him it. He says he will make a point of reading it. "Okay, but it will have to be later," I say, "because I'd like to look at it right now."

Robert Dayton moves and starts a blog

Just when I was starting to turn into a July Fourth Toilet fan, Robert Dayton ups and moves to Toronto!

...where he has started a Vancouver-bashing blog!

(Actually, I haven't read enough of his postings to know if he is really "bashing" Vancouver. But the blog is named "wehatevancouver.blogspot.com;" whattaya think? For me, the words "we" "hate" and "Vancouver" in close proximity prompt my eyes to attempt to find the word "whatever," but confusing visual cues aside, it's a great blog name. Hell, I may start following it...)

Friday, September 12, 2008

The VIFF approacheth

Okay, folks - it's almost VIFF time. I have a couple of things I hope to do on my blog, but in the meantime, here's my first volley of Skinny reviews on music docs; more are upcoming. The sneak preview guides are out, while the print version of the program is, I gather, still a few days away, but you can explore the films to your heart's content online. Are you excited yet?

Why Are We So Fat?

Caloric overcompensation for intellectual work: fit THAT into your song, David M.!

By the way, David M. and No Fun fans should note that his next free concert at Chapters is scheduled for September 20th (1 to 3PM, as usual)... unless, that is, he's given up. I somehow don't think he will have. I've had three very fun afternoons going out and being the audience for David M. shows. I won't be able to be there for the 20th, but anyone who loves music is advised to check it out; it makes for a very entertaining morning (say, after a West End brunch...).

Strange Days Indeed

I barely slept last night - a short nap from 7:30 to 10:30, and then I was awake, hard at work procrastinating on a writing project. I finally got to it at 4:30 AM, finished by 8, and got a couple of hours slight sleep; then I was up for the rest of the day, mostly working on other writing. (I had planned to take a nap and catch Old Time Relijun at the Biltmore, but it just wasn't to be). There's a bizarre burned out feeling that settles in sometimes, when you're so far beyond needing to go to bed that you don't imagine you could sleep if you tried... I'm there now - the land beyond beyond - and have been sitting here puttering at my computer, checking my email every five minutes, for the last hour. I need to just make myself lie down.

The next couple of weeks will be busy as heck getting writing projects done, visiting family, and preparing for the film festival, so don't expect much from me on this blog. Sorry, folks. I'm going to have sufficient eyestrain as it is.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Gregory McDonald is dead at 71

I had a great fondness for Fletch novels - and even Flynn novels - at one point, so I thought I'd note that their author had passed on. The resemblance between McDonald's novels and anything Chevy Chase has had a hand in is extremely slight, by the way.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Disturbia Copied Rear Window? Naah, REALLY?

I have not bothered to watch Disturbia, and suppose I have no right to really dismiss it out of hand - perhaps I would respect it if I gave it the time of day - but I'm still somewhat amused to read about this lawsuit, claiming it plagiarised Rear Window, since, in fact, that was the substance of my dismissing it, back when it played theatrically. I saw the trailers and thought: "Oh, someone is plagiarising Rear Window! How tiresome." But perhaps, like Body Double, it engages with its source text, plays with it?

I somehow really doubt it.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Jeffrey Lewis is Coming!

The Holy Modal Rounders/Bottlecaps' Peter Stampfel - former amphetamine-crazed psychedelic New York folk impurist and oldtimey lover turned respectable (but still musical) family man, editor, and parrotkeep - turned me on to Jeffrey Lewis when I interviewed him for the last ever Nerve Magazine (the complete text appeared in Bixobal #3). Excerpting the Lewis' material and slightly scramblin' it around for greater coherency, like, here's what Peter had to say about the young singer:

(Commence excerpt):

Peter: Do you know Jeffrey Lewis? Besides writing songs, he’s a brilliant cartoonist, and he does a whole bunch of songs that have full-page cartoons, and he’ll sing the songs while turning the pages. Some are funny, some are just whacked, and he has a four-part history of Communism set to music.

Allan: In cartoon form?

Peter: Yeah, in musical and cartoon form. He’s amazing. He’s in his 20’s, and he’s always travelling around Europe - where he’s gotten an audience - and he talked to the Berlin people about having me come over there representing the New York folkie 60’s deal... I met Lewis at Ed Sanders’ birthday party, and there’s two kids onstage, and one of them says, “We’re going to do a history of punk rock on the Lower East Side which is a history of punk rock, 1959 to 1975,” and I thought (skeptically), “Yeah, kid - yeah, right. This is gonna be good.” And he proceeded to do this twelve minute thing starting with Harry Smith, going to the Holy Modal Rounders, and then the Fugs, and basically namechecking every single punkish influence, and then in 1975 the Ramones get to England and people believe that punk rock is invented. And he would sing a little snippet of every single group he was going through, and he nailed it! I mean, he did a brilliant job of exposition - he remembers things that I’d forgotten, you know? And I went up to the guy - “Man, that was fucking great - you nailed it!” And subsequently he asked me to record on an album behind him called City and Eastern Music, that Kramer recorded.

Allan: Called what?

Peter: City and Eastern Music - as opposed to country and western!

(End excerpt).

...Okay. So, with an introduction like that, I'm definitely curious, right? Among other things, as I said in the Nerve article, Stampfel - along with Eugene Chadbourne, Charley Patton, and Chris D. of the Flesheaters - is one of my favourite American singers of all time, so expressive and unique is his voice; and, I mean, he's on the fucking Fugs' first album, right? Plus it's through him that I came to the Harry Smith Anthology and to real American roots music of the 1920's and '30s, and I utterly love many of the Holy Modal Rounders' albums. (I was jes' listening to Alleged in Their Own Time tonight, matter of fact). So his suggestions carry a bit of weight with me. But the Nerve comes out, Christmas follows, the Nerve folds, and my mind turns to other things. I forget completely about Lewis until I'm actually organzing the piece for Bixobal, which involves finishing the transcription - so I get to hear Stampfel talk about Lewis again. "Oh yeah... something about cartoons and songs!" Around the same time, it becomes apparent that this same guy Stampfel had told me about has put out an album of Crass covers: but melodic, pretty, folky Crass covers (!!!), packaging the richness of Crass' lyrics and their songwriting skills in a very pleasant-to-digest little giftwrapped container, which indeed features some brilliant cartoonin' (and indeed, *I* think he got the tigers in). Do you have those moments where you discover an artist and within a few months you own everything of theirs that you can find? From not knowing Jeff Lewis at all in November, I now own four of his CDs: City and Eastern Songs, It's the One's Who've Cracked That the Light Shines Through, The Last Time I Did Acid I Went Insane and Other Favorites, and 12 Crass Songs. (Lewis has far more recordings out there than that, but these are the ones a devoted music geek can FIND in Vancouver... in fact, with CD distribution blowing like it does, I had to order a couple from Amazon).

But maybe I'll be able to pick some up off the merch table next month, because (fanfare, please!) Jeffrey Lewis is playing on October 23rd at the Media Club in Vancouver, and I will be there. With luck, I will be interviewing him beforehand. And thanks to Youtube, I can give you a half-dozen good reasons why you should check him out, too:

The "History of Punk on the Lower East Side" that Peter mentioned.

His video for Crass' "End Result."

Some of his cartoons in action, for his "Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song."

"The Last Time I Did Acid I Went Insane." (Isn't that the point?)

"Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror" - a lot to contemplate, and a clever video.

More Crass: "Systematic Death," with a great video.

And finally: "Anxiety Attack."

Lots else to be seen on Youtube, including some articulate and engaging interviews and several clips featuring Tuli Kupferberg. I'm assuming that after all this, either you don't NEED further convincing, or it will do no good. I find this guy delightful, and am stunned and a little saddened that tickets are only $12; plus the venue's even a step smaller from Richards on Richards, where, I believe, he last played. Why isn't he filling the Commodore by now? What's wrong with people?

Anyhow: note to Jeff: bring merch.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Dear Tom;

Listening to "Second Rate," having puffed a bit, and pondering a question of celebrity etymology that maybe you could help with (having composed so fine a tune): where did the term "second rate" come from? Is it based on a band having the "second listing" (or rating) on a bill after a headliner? Does it refer to the popularity of the band (a "first rate" band reflects the number of people who rate them "first," on a purely statistical level?). Is it a rating of a song's frequency of radio play, or the "advertising rate" that stations playing that song frequently can command? Or does it refer to an economic designation: a "second rate" in the price of a ticket (as opposed to, like, "the Bruce Springsteen Rate" and/or "The Neil Young Rate"); or "second rate" in terms of the scale wage the musician gets paid? What is the history of the term "second rate," as it applies to musicians? Is there any objective criterion of ratings against which an artist can demonstrably show they are first rate, and what does it correlate to?

You are of course First Rate by me, Tom! A mere scholarly question!



Dreams of Japan

Odd: I dreamed last night that, on the spur of the moment, I took a job in Japan. It was a fairly linear, realistic dream - I flew over, found my luggage, met the people who were supposed to pick me up, and was riding in a car towards my new apartment and job, remembering the smells, the humidity, the landscape - and hoping that there would be relatively few cockroaches in the building they'd found for me. (The Leopalace in Saitama I lived in had a constant supply, some quite large; the glue traps were always full when I changed them, every few weeks or so). Would my family be okay? How would I visit them now? What about all these writing projects I had left undone? What about my job, my seniority - had I really walked out on all of that? Was the job - paying the equivalent of $66 an hour - really worth it? Had I done the right thing? ...these thoughts spinning in my mind as the car sped down the freeway towards whatever the future had in store...

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Come Share the Love with Tom Holliston!

Tom and John Chedsey's "Titanic moment." Sweet photo, innit?

By the way, you can hear some of Tom's solo songs here! My favourite on the page is "Ladies Man." As you may notice, the picture is NOT of Tom Holliston; when Tom prepares a face to meet the faces that he meets, he often chooses someone else's.

Oh: and you can read part of my past interview with Monsieur Holliston here. (The Nerve Magazine article based on that transcript is here). More will be upcoming (perhaps in The Skinny) as the second Holliston show approaches (at the Main, later this month).

Once again: the Black Frog Eatery, 4PM, 108 Cambie, Sunday September 7th. See you there!

Tom Holliston tomorrow!

Yes, folks, it's Time for Tom!

4pm Sunday (September 7th)
Black Frog Eatery, 108 Cambie

One of the great Vancouver singer-songwriters and a helluva nice guy!

See you there!

An interesting film review

I do not know the author, but thought this review (negative, of course) for Babylon AD was quite interesting, developing as it does the theme of how reactionary/rightist screeds can be mutated en route to the screen. Plus I had no idea that Atlas Shrugged was being made into a vehicle for Angelina Jolie... I wonder if it'll be as good as the Left Behind series films?

That's a joke, son.

Engrish update

I'm so used to site updates that I like less than the previous version (Rotten Tomatoes, Znet, Fortean Times) that I'm very pleased to see the new Engrish site is even better than the last! And they have a "most popular Engrish" section now, too! Check it out!
(The photo, by the way, is of a postcard I picked up while I was in Japan. My digital camera was dying, so it's a bit dark...).

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Role of Masturbation in my Development as a Writer and Man of Culture

Annie Sprinkle as "Eve," by Richard Sylvarnes

Thanks to masturbation, I got to know who Annie Sprinkle is, back when I was still forming my sexual identity! I saw her in Hustler long before I ever saw Monika Treut's My Father is Coming, in a layout with Les Nichols, her female-to-male transsexual lover (which opened my mind a little bit beyond the institutionalized homophobia of Maple Ridge). And now, years later, you can read my interview with Annie and her partner, Elizabeth Stephens, on this very blog. Hi, Annie! Thanks, masturbation!

Thanks to masturbation, I was introduced to The Plugz when I was still in junior high school (Myspace here)! Yes, folks, because of porn, I knew the music of Tito Larriva before I saw Repo Man (and LONG before I saw From Dusk Til Dawn, where Tito and Tarantula do their epic "Angry Cockroaches"). It was even before I discovered my most beloved LA punk band, the Flesheaters, with whom Tito had a brief tenure. And it was all thanks to the appearance of the Plugz quasi-reggae classic "Electrify Me" in the soundtrack to New Wave Hookers (with a young - too young - Traci Lords!)

Yes, folks, I jerked off to Traci Lords back when it was still legal to do so, never imagining that she was my age at the time. I still remember that cute little devil suit! Yum!)

Thanks to masturbation, I was very likely introduced to the work of Russ Meyer, on Pay TV, in my youth. I don't think I would have invested a lot of time in his cinema were it not for my cravings for sexual stimuli back then - wanking got me off to a good start. And would I have seen Marco Bellochio's Devil in the Flesh without that blowjob scene (um, downloadable here, by the way, minus the introduction about Lenin's hat; hell, the blowjob scene is still my favourite part!) It's even possible that my introduction to David Cronenberg was because I was pursuing a Marilyn Chambers tie-in, via Rabid (tho' I might have come to him because of my love of horror movies; I don't recall). I wonder how many late night movies I channel-surfed through, looking for fuel for my pubescent lust, that would later become really important to me? I even encountered Antonioni's Zabriskie Point that way, since it was in the right time slot for movies with nudity. I didn't jerk off to it, but the sex-in-the-desert segment sure caught my eye, at around age 12... It looked curious, so I filed a mental note to look at it again sometime, and now it's a favourite!

Thanks, masturbation! Where would I be without you?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Holy shit! I remember seeing several songs from this here Iggy concert on City TV's The New Music back in the 1980's... He also did an amazing version of the rare "Winter of My Discontent" (which he introduces as "a song I co-wrote with William Shakespeare;" it appears on the Nuggets compilation) and "Dum Dum Boys." I'm pretty sure Teenage Head were also in the episode. Wish it was out there on DVD...

And yes, folks, instead of working on writing, I spent the evening goofing around on Youtube. Sue me!

The Flesheaters

Don't spend a lot of time on Youtube, but it turns out my favourite LA punk band made a cool little B-movie rock video for "The Wedding Dice," which fills me with fondness...