Thursday, September 30, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
...and I'm sure I'm not alone among those of us who watched it when I remark on how strange it was to watch an hour of TV where I knew almost every single person on the screen. It's somehow weirder on the small screen than it was in the theatre...
Monday, September 27, 2010
Sunday, September 26, 2010
DOA's Joe Keithley with Randy Rampage, circa 2008. Photo by Cindy Metherel, not to be reused without permission.
Allan: So you ultimately decided to leave the issues between Joe and Rampage out of the film.
Allan: How did that falling out affect your film?
Allan: You've received a bit of flak - from me as well - for ending the film on a down note. Care to rebut?
The bureaucrats who fund Canadian culture were none too interested in this film and it must have caught some by surprise when the mainstream writers - in particular every major in Greater Vancouver (Mackie, Harrison, Rowland, Kissinger, Zillich, Usinger - praise them all) - ALL took arms with the greater message that Vancouver punks finally get their due.
Allan: One thing I was really, really impressed by in the film was your ability to get very candid, open interviews with people. Everyone seemed to trust you and feel comfortable baring their souls. Having interviewed a lot of these people before, I was a bit jealous at how GOOD the stuff you got was! ... So: how did you approach interviewing people?
Allan: Who was the most difficult interview?
Allan: What are your plans for a DVD release?
Saturday, September 25, 2010
I like David Byrne, generally speaking. His work with the Talking Heads and his legendary collaboration with Brian Eno, My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, are well-known and kind of speak for themselves, but there's a lot of stuff in his solo career that I really admire, too. In particular, his 1997 album Feelings is a very, very strong, even surprisingly edgy rock album filled with memorable, exciting songs and provocative, less-oblique-than-usual lyrics (check out "Gates Of Paradise" to see what I mean; make sure to wait til the guitars kick in). 2001's Look Into The Eyeball is a pinch less exciting, but still a good listen; I saw Byrne on two consecutive nights in Tokyo, playing a small club, on that tour, and given the title of the album, was delighted to present the Ultraman monster below to him, putting it on the stage at his feet between songs - whereupon he picked it up, smirked at it, and set it on the drum riser, so it stared out at us for the rest of the concert.
I was incrementally less fond of Grown Backwards, Byrne's 2004 solo album. Replacing rock instruments with those normally associated with classical music, it seemed a little too calculated to carve out a respectable niche in the highbrow art world; the songwriting wasn't bad, but it was just a little tame by comparison with his previous two discs. I rather prefer artists - like Iggy Pop or I, Braineater - who find new energy as they age (since the performances by both men that I saw this century kicked exuberant ass on those I saw in the 1980's). And then Byrne and Eno put out their newest collaboration, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, and... I just couldn't convince myself that I should buy it. What I've heard and read about it - from friends who admire My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, or even from critics who mean to praise it by comparing it to the work of Paul Simon and U2, or describing it as "exceedingly pleasant" - lead me to fear that it might just be a lukewarm pop album that will do nothing to sustain my respect for either artist behind it. (I avoid all those bland, unimaginative pop acts Brian Eno sometimes produces, too - I am quite happy to regard him as an adventurer and genius and don't really need to visit him at his dayjob.)
I was still reasonably willing to consider Rise, Ride, Roar for review. A 2010 concert film featuring Byrne onstage with a varied mix of modern dancers - and apparently donning a tutu at one point, though I didn't get that far - it positively oozes a desire to elevate the material, to make an art-spectacle for the mature, moneyed boomer/Yuppie elite, who would likely be the only people able to afford tickets to a stage production this elaborate. It begins - some might say audaciously - with an iconic tune from Byrne's most famous film appearance, Stop Making Sense, "Once In A Lifetime" - a song that I would have preferred left out of the film altogether, not just because it's overplayed; the tune is one of those songs whose original meaning, tied to the context of its creation, has become so vastly altered by time and exposure - I felt this way about pretty much every song John Fogerty sang at Deer Lake Park a couple of years ago - that it is now nothing more than a celebration of its audience, a signifier of status among its fans, and an excuse for nostalgia and audience self-congratulation. I really didn't need to see Byrne proudly perform it again, apparently basking in the greatness of the song as dancers careened about him chaotically. No thanks, Dave; the decision to begin the film with this performance shows that the filmmaker and myself are on very, very different pages as to how to keep a body of work fresh and alive.
I lasted, I think, one more song, a bit of harmless onstage aren't-I-cleverness involving office chairs and a kinda forgettable tune from the recent Eno collaboration, and a sequence explaining the role of the choreographers and dancers. People interested in modern dance might find the dance elements engaging - what I saw seemed too haphazard to really pique my curiosity. There may be performances later in the film that would have engaged me more, granted - but I would rather protect my respect for Bryne's work by not exposing myself to his current trajectory, and if you know what I mean by that, you might want to also do the same.
Granted, the film sounds and looks lovely, so fans of Byrne's recent work will surely enjoy it regardless, and I don't begrudge them that one whit - but I will not be joining them in the audience.
I own a pair of Blundstones, see? ...Those Australian slip-ons. My friend Dan suggested them - he's a devotee, and they're a great boot, but he must waterproof his or such, because mine, after a few years' heavy use in conditions of shitty BC weather and total neglect, have kinda started to rot, according to the boot repair dude I took them to. They've split along one side, where the boot meets the sole. They're still wearable, but not so useful if walking on a very rainy day, because the split will take in water; they can be patched - but, unless boot repair dude was just trying to convince me to buy some new boots, there's not much point; these boots are bound for glory.
Now, it just so happens that Dan and his gal came to my apartment in the suburbs the other week, and we ended up watching a film - Larry Fessenden's Wendigo. (That link is to a Wiki page; see here for Fessenden's website and some of his writings, or here for his page on Wendigo). To digress briefly - there's an article by Adam Nayman in the "Decade In Review" section of Cinema Scope that praises Fessenden as one of the most interesting new cinematic voices of the 2000's, and at least as far as genre cinema goes, I agree; Fessenden makes artful, intelligent horror films that are idea-driven without being didactic, and his four movies are the freshest horror films I've seen, no shit, since the last time I looked at a Val Lewton. No Telling is a horror film for the vegan-and-animal rights crowd, combining "mad scientist" tropes with the very real issues of animal research and genetic engineering. Habit - his masterpiece - is a vampire film about loss, grief, compulsive relationships, fathers and sons, and addiction, either to substances or sex. Global warming informs his most recent movie, The Last Winter - a copy of which I passed on to Dan And of Bison BC (a different Dan) after a gig, since I didn't have a Wendigo to spare, discovering in the process that, though he loves horror films set in frozen wastelands, and has written a series of songs about the Wendigo, reflecting his part-Algonquin heritage, he hadn't seen either film yet (which hopefully he has since remedied). The story involves an oil company team investigating the melting permafrost in Alaska, for the purposes of building a pipeline, not realizing that the thaw has released ancient spirits that are hostile to their presence. Wendigo, however - his previous thriller - looks at loss, fear, anger and violence through the eyes of a young boy, who witnesses his father getting shot during a stay at a snowy cabin in, I guess, upstate New York or such. The film, in its most interesting aspect, deals with how heroes, Gods and monsters help us organize childhood perceptions of life on an archetypal level, though it bends the figure of the Wendigo a bit so it plays on the side of the good guys - an agreeable bit of poetic license, because if you've got a Wendigo on your team, the other side better look out. A very significant image in the film is of the traumatized boy contemplating his father's boots, in the hospital after he is shot.
Back to boots. In the dream, I'm at a work-related union meeting. In reality, with the economic downturn, things haven't been so stable at my workplace, and I've been wondering if there's any way in hell I can give up my dayjob and make a living at writing. The meeting is a very relevant discussion of the situation at work, true to a few such meetings lately; but the location, as usual, has been scrambled. My sleeping brain either has a hard time connecting places with what happens in them, or else relocates things to make a point; in this case, it's quite curious, because the union meeting appears to be taking place in the building where Dan's apartment used to be (Dan my friend, not Dan And). For some reason, prior to going into the room where we're discussing things, we've all taken off our shoes, leaving them in an outer room. I've been wearing my rotting Blundtstones, as I sometimes do to my job; it happens that - again, in the dream, though I've been contemplating doing the same in reality - I have bought a new pair of Blundstones, which are in my bag.
The union meeting in the dream is as unexciting as union meetings tend to be, but where it gets interesting is afterwards, because, as we go to put on our boots, it transpires that someone has apparently mistaken one of my old, worn Blundstones for their nearly-new pair of the same, and - though how they didn't notice is beyond me - put on one of my boots and one of his, and left the meeting. I search everywhere, but after everyone has filed away, there are two boots left, and they very obviously don't match. I try them on briefly, and they look and feel ridiculous; the "wrong" boot - the unsplit, right-foot one, I should note - is perhaps a size smaller than the old one, and pinches my foot a bit. What to do? I run out of the meeting in mismatched boots, searching my coworkers as they walk up Davie Street (one of the clues to the relocation, since my school is not near Davie, but Dan's apartment used to be). None of them seem to have my boot. I go back to the room and search again, then try to see if I can match the "new," wrong boot with the new boots I've bought - but again, they don't look at all the same, and the dream becomes a sort of stress-and-searching dream, as I try to resolve my problem. Nowhere does it occur to me to just put on my new boots and be done with it; all I try to do is match either my old boot or the "wrong" boot with one of the new ones, as if it is somehow a rule that I must wear one of each.
(Note: people who intend to seek out Fessenden's Wendigo should be alerted: spoilers follow). With pregnant film imagery swirling in my mind around boots, relating to the loss of a father, from Fessenden's recently re-watched film; with my attempts to adjust to life since the loss of my own father - to "fill his boots" in taking care of Mom; with the division that has led to between my old life in Vancouver, and my new life back in Maple Ridge (my old hometown); and the burgeoning division between my old life as an ESL teacher and what may or may not be a new life as a writer - one I'm not sure will be workable, mind you, which is why, I suspect, I don't just put on my new boots and be done with it - it is very, very obvious where my dream got the boots from, even if they're a bit overdetermined as a symbol.
I think I'm going to buy some new boots today.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Somewhere in there I wake up. It's approaching 8AM. I sink back into my pillow, relieved that it's all just been a dream, but still feeling tensed-up inside. In reality, I've got time off work and a stack of writing projects lined up, many that I'm quite excited about (and which will pay! me! money!). Why does my mind need to interject dayjob nightmares into my life during these rare periods where I don't have a dayjob to go to? ...It's not like I have writing nightmares....
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
My theory, in reducing caffeine intake as a means of ending my migraines, has been:
1. My increased caffeine consumption in recent weeks may have led to a state of stronger-than-usual dependency on the substance; as of last Wednesday, when I first noticed symptoms, I was drinking as many as four cups of coffee a day, regularly - two with breakfast and two others spaced throughout the afternoon, maybe with a shift to chai or black tea in the late afternoon and evening. It was, in fact, quite a lot of caffeine to be taking on a daily basis, especially for someone who periodically quits the substance altogether and considers himself highly sensitive to addictive chemicals and behaviours...
2. My headaches are entirely thus perhaps caused by the withdrawal of the substance; I've now developed a strong enough dependency on caffeine that if I don't take it every few hours, migraine will result - even if I'm fast asleep.
3. However, if I completely quit using caffeine, cold turkey, so to speak, the headaches will become much worse, whereas now, drinking the occasional cup of chai or tea keeps them manageable. (I eliminated coffee almost instantly from my diet last Thursday, the day after the first flickering symtoms, but I've had lesser sources of caffeine through the week, spaced through my day, and have had relatively mild pain, compared to the experience of quitting caffeine cold turkey, which I've done in the past). There is also the possibility, of course, that continuing to have any caffeine in my life at present is simply prolonging this bout of migraines, and that if I had just opted to have a weekend of severe pain, I'd be over the worst of it now, but... for obvious reasons contained within the phrase "a weekend of severe pain," I have elected not to follow that route.
4. But if I can eventually taper down my caffeine use - perhaps to the point of quitting altogether - the withdrawal symptoms may dissipate. Past experience shows this - after my last round of migraines, a few years ago, I completely cut out caffeine, suspecting its role, and was migraine free for quite some time. Back then, I gradually reintroduced caffeine - a substance I enjoy and value, despite its occasional ill effects - in the form of green tea, and then black tea, with no problem, and kept up their use for years without headache, only occasionally drinking coffee during this time. I did not return to regular coffee consumption until the early spring of 2010, when my new work schedule made the use of a strong morning stimulant seem appealing. I found myself enjoying a regular coffee on the West Coast Express; and it seemed quite natural to decide to buy a coffee maker at a thrift store and make my own, to cut down expenses. But caffeine is addictive, so my morning coffee on the train, since buying the coffee maker, has turned into two or three coffees in the morning, with more consumed at work... I'm rather embarrassed that I didn't see this coming.
What's most interesting to note is that since I last experimented with kicking caffeine as a possible remedy for these headaches, a website has sprung up - Caffeine and Migraine, written by one Barry Spencer - postulating exactly the thesis I'm operating under - that migraine, and indeed primary headaches, are caused by caffeine. The introductory passage is not the best-written section; I recommend starting with the conclusion, and then going back and looking at the Caffeine and Migraine sections, respectively, for his evidence. From his conclusion:
Pharmaceutical corporations sell billions of dollars worth of headache and migraine medicines each year, including tons of caffeine sold in the form of headache remedies. The companies that manufacture and market caffeine-containing headache remedies don't want any discussion of the possibility their wares may cause more headaches than they relieve. Those companies blame their customers for chronic headaches caused by addiction to their caffeine-containing headache medicines, claiming it's their customers' fault for failing to follow the instructions on the label and taking the medicines too often. But if a company sells an addictive drug that many of its customers become addicted to, whose fault is that? Pharmaceutical companies would prefer migraine remain a chronic, incurable, but manageable condition—managed by steady use of their increasingly sophisticated and expensive proprietary migraine drugs. If research determined caffeine withdrawal was the major or sole cause of primary headaches including migraine, and that most or all migraine patients can, therefore, eliminate their migraines without resorting to expensive drug therapies, companies that make and market migraine medicines stand to lose a lot of money.
Food companies that market caffeine [also] don't want consumers making connections between dietary caffeine and headaches...
...There may be very good reasons why the causal role of caffeine in headache and migraine would go undetected, in such a climate. I admit that this rather conspiratorial take on migraine appeals to me for political reasons, but Spencer's arguments also mesh with my own experiences with migraines. I'm sure if I were to eliminate all caffeine from my diet for a period - a difficult propositon, but one I've been able to do before - my headaches would stop altogether. It's a bit of an annoyance that I like caffeinated drinks so much, considering...
Monday, September 13, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Thursday, September 09, 2010
Monday, September 06, 2010
I'm doin' okay, just worn out. Teaching an extra class, added to my daily commute and my various stresses and responsibilities, has stolen from me whatever energy I might have otherwise used for writing. Money is an issue these days, too - there are some unresolved issues at my workplace that make my income seem not so stable - so what writing I do, I kinda need to get paid for.
Those interested in the John Lurie story mentioned below can find it online here - someone has scanned it, and posted two comments of Lurie's taken from another website. I posted a reaction to the article awhile back, got a nasty reaction from an unidentified party, altered my article, had some other reactions to it, and on reflection decided to simply remove the whole thing, since what I'd left online wasn't really saying much anyhow. Hoping the situation resolves itself, but I can't do it justice just now, so am going to step aside.
Meantime, there's not a lot I feel merits saying. My Mom's giant stand-alone freezer crapped out this weekend and I had to spend today, ostensibly a holiday, hauling thawed, dripping groceries - much of it stored from when my father was still alive, quite possibly untouched for years - down to the dumpster and mopping up the bloodied water pooled at the bottom of the thing. Mom fought me - she didn't want to lose the groceries - but they'd been thawed and sitting at near room temperature for maybe as long as 24 hours, and it really didn't seem worth the risk of refreezing them, particularly given her not-so-robust constitution. Plus they were dripping from the watery blood of the thawed meat, which saturated packaging and thoroughly soaked into the corrugated cardboard boxes that a lot of it was stored in, which also had to be torn up and thrown away, pink liquid spattering my shirt and oozing down my arms. Somehow on top of that, I managed to get my laundry done and haul down my recycling, but I didn't even touch the mass of student papers and tests calling out to be marked. Guess I can wake up at 5AM and take a run at them before I have to catch my train... Who can write in such conditions?