Friday, January 27, 2006

Early L.A. Comedy

The first shows [at the Lincoln Theater] had a beautiful line of chorus girls, and a guy that was actually the funniest comedian I've ever seen in my life. He was part of the team of Bilo and Ashes. Ashes was the straight man, and Bilo was the real, real funny one. The funniest dudes you ever saw in your life. The offshoot from them were people like Moms Mabley and Redd Foxx, and all those people. They were cracking the same types of jokes that Bilo was doing in 1926.

There was another cat by the name of Rooster. He would have this rooster in his act. And the man that raised my wife, Noodles Smith, owned three night clubs in Seattle, and wanted a comedian. I was in San Francisco and Rooster was working there at The Apex. Noodles sent a wire and told him he had an opening in Seattle. Rooster sent a message back: "I'm sorry, cannot accept engagement. Have eaten my act."

-Marshall Royal
from Central Avenue Sounds

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Oh yes, he's much more powerful than The Batman!

Funky Batman! This is the best song since the last song I said was the best song ever!

On a related note, follow the links to a few dozen cool attempts at drawing batgirl. A mixed bag, some of them are awful, but some are oh-so-cute. (Thanks to Bedazzled for the link)

And this has nothing to do with batfolk, but Molly Ivins is making a lot of sense.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Can't Stop Won't Stop: The History of the Hip-Hop Generation - Jeff Chang

When Jeff Chang examines the history of the Hip-Hop Generation, he goes deep. How deep? He starts the story in 1953, with the building of the Cross-Bronx Expressway by Robert Moses (who "led the white exodus out of The Bronx"). There are three lengthy chapters, one setting up the landscape of the post-civil rights Bronx and detailing the history of how it got there, one tracing a parallel history in Jamaica, and documenting the rise of dub reggae, and one chronicling the history of gang culture in The Bronx, before we even begin with the life story of Jamaican-born Bronx immigrant DJ Kool Herc, the man who started it all. This rich building of backstory is repeated throughout the book. When it's time to discuss Public Enemy, we get a history of the "blackening" of Long Island, and a lengthy study of the anti-apartheid movment. A chapter on NWA takes us back to the 1930's for a history of Los Angeles race relations, immigration patterns and police brutality. This book is clearly not some lightweight social history.

Chang is not just a thorough historian, but also a gifted writer, with a talent for threading images through his lengthy narrative. The cipher turns up again and again in different forms, from the circle in the crowd where b-boys compete to the ring of baton-weilding cops surrounding Rodney King. The insurance fires that spread through The Bronx in the 70's provide a thematic image throughout the book, echoed in Jamaica and Los Angeles, and when b-boys begin referring to their competitive dancing as "burning" Chang labels it a "hard-won irony."

The book is a thorough examination of the development of DJing, rapping, b-boying ("breakdancing" in white guy parlance--I'd always been confused on this point, and thought b-boying just meant something like "being part of the hip hop scene") and grafitti writing, and the culture that developed around these artforms, but it's also as powerful a critique of right-wing, racist policy in America as I've ever read. Chang paints American history as a cycle of oppression and neglect, in which the results of racist policy are always used as justification for even worse policies. This reaches a climax in the apocalyptic chapters leading up to and including the '92 L.A. uprising.

I remember getting into an argument with my conservative boss after the riots. He blamed the media for showing the images of the beatings over and over without showing the lead-up to it (so people could see what King had done to convince police he was dangerous enough to be subdued with billy clubs), and I argued that it wasn't about the 5 minutes leading up to the beating, but the 50 years leading up to the beating. But I was basically talking shit. I "knew" Daryl Gates' LAPD had a reputation for being violent, racist and corrupt, but I only really knew that from listening to Black Flag and NWA. The reality, as documented here, is much worse than I even imagined. After reading this book, there is no question--the LAPD was conducting a war on black people.

There is also a fascinating examination of the much trickier issue of Black-Korean relationships in South Central. During the riots, Ice T notes, Korean businesses were targeted by blacks who felt "Koreans were one step above them, so that's the closest step to the system. They didn't know the Koreans are just as broke as them." In reality, as laid out by Chang, Koreans were actually a step down the economic ladder from blacks, running the liquor stores that black owners had sold because they were a shitty investment in the first place. Blacks were unable to see it, but they had taken the place of white folks in this battle, trying to keep the newcomers out of their neighborhoods.

If there is a fault to the book, it can be read in the subtitle. This is a history of the hip-hop generation, not of hip-hop music. It offers a comprehensive history of the development of the music, but it's primary focus remains on the social history surrounding that music. If you're looking for a definitive examination of the careers and signifigances of Kurtis Blow, Busy Bee, Kool Moe Dee, Doug E. Fresh, Slick Rick, 2Live Crew, KRS-1, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, The Notorious B.I.G., or Outkast, keep looking. Nowhere is this more evident than in the treatment of Run DMC, generally identified as the single most important group in the development of hip-hop. They get about 6 pages, which they share on a less-than-equal basis with the rise of Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin's Def Jam label, and are treated mostly as a John the Baptist prelude to the coming of Public Enemy. Compare that to the 22 pages dedicated to Ice Cube's second solo album. Dr. Dre's classic The Chronic barely gets two pages.

In writing the history of an artistic movement, the challenges become greater as one advances through time, and the different permutations of the movement spread further from the center (see the later chapters of Ken Burns' Jazz documentary). And it is in the last 60 pages of the book, following the climactic chapters on the L.A. Riots and the Million Man March, that this sociological approach proves the most rewarding. If this were merely a history of hip-hop as music, these final chapters could have been a banal cataloguing of the different permutations of the music at the turn of the millenium: mainstream commercial rap and the empires built by Puffy and Master P, underground hip-hop, turntablism, progressive producers like DJ Shadow, hip hop-influenced techno from the Chemical Bros. to 4Hero, a survey of hip-hop as it exists throughout Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, the hip-hop-influenced metal of Korn, Rage Against the Machine, and Limp Bizkit, the use of hip-hop production techniques by pop groups like Garbage, and on and on and on, along with a long chapter on the Biggie and Tupac murders (a subject that Chang, thankfully, avoids almost entirely, only hinting at it with an aside about Shug's calling out of Puffy and Bad Boy at the 1995 Source Awards).
Instead, Chang first demonstrates faith (perhaps too much) in his readers attention span by devoting an entire chapter to the rise of The Source and Vibe, complete with behind-the-scenes drama. This sets up a discussion of the economics of hip-hop marketing, and it's co-opting by the mainstream, a subject summed up nicely in this quote:

What materialy seperated Jay-Z from a rapper like Talib Kweli? The answer was in the marketing. Media monopolies saw Jay-Z as an artist with universal appeal, Kweli as a "conscious rapper." A matter of taste, perhaps, except that the niche of "conscious rap" might be industry shorthand for reaching a certain kind of market-say, college-educated, iPod-rocking, Northface backpacking, vegan hip hop fans. In this late-capitalist logic, it was not the rappers message that brought the audience together, it was the things that the audience bought that brought the rappers together.

A somewhat cynical view, but only if you naively (perhaps dangerously) subscribe to the idea that you can be defined by the media objects you choose to fetishize.

Finally, Chang sidesteps the potential chaos of defining hip hop music (or even culture) of the early 00's by focusing in the final pages on "hip hop activism," contrasting the activist youth of the hip-hop generation with those of the civil rights generation. It's a fascinating portrait of a culture that embraces contradiction, one where "feminists chant sexist rhymes, reformers boogie to money lust," as journalist Danyel Smith is quoted. "White people sing along to songs that curse their existsnce on the planet. Black people memorize joints that exist only to extol self-destruction. Are we close to hip-hop? Yes. Where else to be but close to the truth?"

Monday, January 23, 2006

Spittin' Wicked Randomness Vol. 6

Jesus, The Boondocks cartoon on Adult Swim is fucking great. The Martin Luther King episode is an early frontrunner for Best Thing On TV This Year, and then they follow it with this amazing episode about The Itis. Over the past week, I've gone from being kind of on the fence about this show to flat-out endorsing it.

Hot Blogs:
Greenbriar Picture Shows (classic Hollywood. Via Cartoonbrew)
Humu Kon Tiki (all Tiki stuff)
Arcane Radio Trivia and Apples Americana (exactly what they say)

Osama sounds a lot like Pat Robertson.

Most anticipated documentary of 2006.

Larry Mantle interviews some guy about HP Lovecraft (scroll down)

Four Word Film Reviews. Some (admittedly corny) samples:
Best in Show: "This is Spaniel Tap"
Amadeus: "Salieri has pianist envy"
Titanic: "Icy dead people."

I had to drove out to Sun Valley yesterday morning to rid myself of a bunch of old, broken TV's, computers, stereos, printers, scanners, monitors, and such. It's such a pain to get rid of electronic shit when it breaks down.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Myra Breckenridge (1970) and other good things

Let's get caught up on the good things in my life. First of all, let me again point out this great NPR report on the history of "Misirlou," since I buried it at the bottom of a post and probably nobody saw it. What else? Well, I've been reading Jeff Chang's book Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation, an excellent book which I will most assuredly post a review of when I finish it (and I'll most likely get through it this weekend).

At our friend Derick's house for a New Year's Eve party, Bobbie and I were admiring his Coffy poster, and he said "wait here," then disappeared for a minute. When he returned, he presented us with a Foxy Brown poster as a Christmas gift! Very nice. Now I just need to get a nice frame for it.

I'm also incredibly happy to have found the Fox Monie Channel on our cable lineup (at channel 158). It's not as good as TCM, they tend to show a bunch of junk, especially in prime time, but in the off hours they sometimes show some off-beat stuff like Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry and Pickup on South Street. A few weeks ago I taped Beyond the Vally of the Dolls (aka The Greatest Movie Ever Made!) in the small hours of the morning. Hopefully, I'll never have to watch it--word on the street is that a DVD will be out sometime soon, but as far as I know there's no solid release date yet. So at least I have a good copy to replace my third-generation bootleg VHS (I'm not sure whether they showed it completely uncensored, but it was in letterbox, at least).

The next week, I managed to get Myra Breckenridge off of them. I had heard a little bit about this movie, but only had a vague idea that it was a campy movie about a sex change (and at one point, I may have even had it confused in my mind with Mildred Pierce, for whatever reason). In fact, this movie is absolutely fucking insane. I mean, like, Raquel Welch dressed in a Wonder Woman-like costume with a big strap-on fucking a guy up the butt insane! I am not...I repeat NOT...making that up.

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"You’re the salvation of this studio. Everyone out there is making their EASY RIDER, and what does Fox have coming out this year? Two war films and a western.”

That quote, allegedly adressed from a Fox executive to Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert, is in reference to Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (the war films and western referenced turned out to be MASH, Patton and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), but it was likely the same mentality that led to Myra Breckenridge getting made at Fox the same year (the two films share quite a few similarities: both enlisted the talents of a prominent film critic [Rex Reed co-starring in Breckenridge and Roger Ebert writing Beyond the Valley], both deal with issues of amibiguous gender and sexuality, and both begin with an impossibly voluptuous woman arriving in Hollywood to collect half a million dollars from a rich relative). The story revolves around Myron Breckenridge, who gets a sex change to become Myra and promptly pays a visit to her uncle, Buck Loner (John Huston), a washed-up cowboy actor who now runs an acting school from which nobody ever graduates. Myra is ostensibly there to rip him off, but seems more interested in the teaching job he gives her, a chance to lecture her grandiose film theories. "Between the years 1935 and 1945, no insignifigant film was made in America," she tells her students. "Every aspect of human--which is to say, American--mythology was examined." When one student questions her for praising Tarzan and the Amazons, arguing that it doesn't contain "one moment of truth," she responds by asking whether the real Jesus Christ could have possibly been as impressive as his portrayal in King of Kings. If this had been made a few years later, it might have seemed like a rebuking of the realism of 70's cinema. This point of view is echoed in the clever use of old film clips inserted into the film to comment on the action, similar to the old HBO series Dream On. These clips invariably come from the Low Hollywood of Shirley Temple, Carmen Miranda and Laurel & Hardy.

It's a confusing film. For one thing, Myron is played by Rex Reed, and Myra by Raquel Welch, yet they often flip back and forth during a single scene, or have a dialogue with each other. As the film goes on, they seem to become more and more two distinct persons. And there's the question of whether Myron is actually gay in the first place. He is consistently referred to as a "fag," but he seems attracted to a female student, while Myra lusts after a male hunk. Perhaps Myron is bi, but has split himself like Jekyll and Hyde into a male and female half. For that matter, it's often difficult to figure out what exactly is happening. The ending in particular seems to move in some sort of dream logic. Is the whole adventure a dream that Myron has on the operating table? Or a fantasy he weaves while looking out over the balcony of Chateau Marmont? I imagine that Gore Vidal's novel makes all this much clearer, but I think the confusion works in the film's favor. Myra Breckenridge seems to have evolved from some of the more experimental "mod" films of the 60's, like The Magic Christian or Lord Love a Duck, but unlike those films there seems to be more than unintentional sloppiness or artistic overreaching at work here. The film deals so explicitly with gender confusion that it only makes sense for the audience to experience their own disorientation.

I also need to mention Mae West. Well into her 70's (and looking great, all things considered), she delivers her classic schtick as well as she did in the 30's. Certainly a better career-capper than Groucho in Skidoo, she has plenty of great lines, knocks them all out of the park, then takes the stage to belt out Otis Redding's "Hard to Handle!" What more do you want from a movie?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Movie Quiz

Can't resist. Taken from Paul, originating from Harry Knowles, and passed on to whomever wants it. I got bored of putting in all the imdb links halfway through, so just ignore the sloppiness.

1) First Movie you saw in a theater? The Song of the South

2) First R-Rated Film You Bought A Ticket For By Yourself? You'd think I would know this, wouldn't you?

3) Favorite Movie Snack? Raisinettes.*

4) Favorite film going experience? When my friend Dan worked at the theater, and for a whole week we'd get stoned and go see PeeWee's Big Adventure, then, when it ended, run to the screen next door and watch Rambo, starting at the exact moment when he breaks out of the POW camp.**

5) Stupidest thing you did that you saw in a Movie? Generally, believe that if you act really obnoxious like Bill Murray and Burt Reynolds, chicks will dig you.

6) First film to inspire carnal thoughts for the opposite sex? Hmmm....possibly Star Crash, or the 80's Flash Gordon.

7) Have you ever paid for one movie and snuck into another? Hell yeah.

8) Have you ever seen a movie in Drive-In? Yes – the aforementioned Song of the South, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks, both at the Drive-In that once stood at the north end of North River Shores in Jensen Beach, FL. Later, an all-night Women's Prison festival at the Ft. Pierce Drive-In (I swear to God!)

9) Have you ever had sex in a car while watching a movie in a Drive-In? No

10) If so, what film? N/A

11) Ever had sex in a movie theater? No, but did have sex in a theater theater (not during a play).

12) If so, what film? N/A

13) Favorite John Hughes Film? Breakfast Club, or maybe Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

14) Favorite Quentin Tarantino film? KILL BILL Vol. 1 & 2 (how could anyone pick anything else?)

15) Favorite Hitchcock Film? Vertigo

16) Favorite Spielberg Film? Jaws

17) Favorite Zombie Film? The first Evil Dead

18) Favorite Actor (dead)? Peter Sellers

19) Favorite Actor (living)? Crispin Glover or Harry Dean Stanton (if the question is "favorite movie star," then Jackie Chan, no question)

20) Favorite Character Actor Ever? Peter Lorre

21) Favorite Actress (dead)? Barbara Stanwyck

22) Favorite Actress (living)? Janeane Garrofalo or Allyson Hannigan. No, wait, scrath that...Pam Grier.

23) Favorite Character Actress Ever? Ruth Gordon

24) Favorite Theatrical Animated Character? Betty Boop, and Tex Avery's Wolf***

25) Favorite Film Score? PeeWee's Big Adventure - Danny Elfman

26) Favorite piece of Film Music? "The Hamurger Pimp's Theme" from Dolemite

27) Favorite Film Song? "Science Fiction Double Feature" from Rocky Horror Picture Show

28) Favorite Christmas Movie? The Nightmare Before Christmas

29) Favorite Film Genre? Kung Fu/Kaiju/Zombies/All-Girl Rock Bands****

30) Favorite Porn Film? Zazel

31) First Porn Film You Saw? Female Factory

32) Favorite Disney Film? FANTASIA (1940)

33) Favorite Western? The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

34) Favorite Musical? Rock Musical: Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Old School Musical: 42nd Street.

35) Favorite Horror Film? Evil Dead

36) Favorite Comedy? Tie: Monty Python’s THE LIFE OF BRIAN (1979) and DUCK SOUP (1933)

37) Favorite Science Fiction Film? 12 Monkeys

38) Favorite Suspense Film? Let me think...oh, Blue Velvet!

39) Favorite Romantic Film? Harold and Maude

40) Favorite Epic? Lame answer, but the Lord of the Rings Trilogy*****

41) Least Favorite Thing About Seeing Films in A Theater? Can't smoke pot.

42) Favorite Thing about Seeing Films in a Theater? Experiencing the movie communally with a crowd.

43) If you could be any film character, who? Z-Man Barzell

44) If you could have sex with any film character, who? Coffy. Vixen. Ming's daughter from Flash Gordon. The entire female cast of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

45) If you could live happily ever after with a film character, who? OK, after much consideration: Frida Kahlo...but only if she's played by Salma Hayek!

46) If you could be any movie monster, who? GODZILLA!!!!

47) Favorite Film Critic? FX Feeney

48) Favorite Screen Writer? Quentin Tarantino

49) Favorite Director? Terry Gilliam

50) Chaplin or Keaton? Buster Keaton

*I don't really snack at the movies much. I love the smell of popcorn, but don't really care that much about the taste.

**Close runners-up include seeing Pulp Fiction with a packed house on opening weekend, The Blair Witch Project (which totally scared the shit out of me), and Giant Monsters All-Out Attack at the Egyptian, packed with people who were totally into it.

***I'm not sure what "theatrical" is supposed to mean--all those old shorts were originally played before features in theaters, so I'm counting them.

****Yes, all-girl rock band is a genre: Beyond the Vally of the Dolls, Ladies and Gentlemen the Fabulous Stains, Desperate Teenage Lovedolls (and the sequel, Lovedoll Superstar), Josie and the Pussycats, Prey for Rock n Roll...

*****Unless I can count Kill Bill. I'm not that into epics.

Friday, January 13, 2006

RIP Jim's Burgers

It seems that Jim's Burgers in Eagle Rock has closed. On the one hand, this shouldn't be too surprising, since there are three old-school drive-thru burger joints along that strip of Colorado Blvd. There's the famous Tommy's, which serves an awful chili burger that people drive from all over town for (it's a chain, but I think there's only maybe three around), and then there's Pete's Blue Chip right next door to Tommy's.

On the other hand, Jim's always seemed to be doing good business. There was some Classic Car Club that used to meet there, so if you drove by on a Saturday night, the parking lot would be full of vintage hotrods. Any way, I went down there to take some photos before the place disapears. I like this picture: "yeah, no shit."

It's especially sad to see this place go, since it was used in one of my favorite movies, Jack Hill's Switchblade Sisters.

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Then again, I'm not really positive that it's actually closing. Maybe they're just doing a massive renovation? At any rate, it looks like they're not demolishing the cool A-Frame building and that classic sign. At least not yet.

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Occidental Makes The List!

UPDATE: Those crazy liberals at Occidental got it wrong! Barbie is not the result of Scientific Racism--she is, in fact, a part of the Radical Transgendaist Agender. Wait...scratch that...reverse it.

Oxy distinguishes itself by, for the first time, making The Young America Foundation's list of America’s Most Bizarre and Politically Correct College Courses! Not only that, we're on there twice! The goods:

HERNDON, VA – As tuition rates climb to an average of over $21,000 per year, today’s college students study prostitution, teeth whitening, and Beavis and Butthead. The following Dirty Dozen highlights the most bizarre and troubling instances of leftist activism supplanting traditional scholarship in our nation’s colleges and universities.

Two points to make early on. First of all, many of these are probably part of some sort of Cultural Studies major, in which context they make plenty of sense. It's not like these are required core classes, or English majors are being forced to take classes in "teeth whitening" rather than Shakespeare. And yeah, tuition is pretty high these days, but if a student thinks their college is too liberal, they can always go to a more conservative college. If you don't like the liberal bias at Oxy, go to Pepperdine! For being conservatives, the compilers of this list don't seem to have much faith in the free market.

Princeton University’s The Cultural Production of Early Modern Women examines “prostitutes,” “cross-dressing,” and “same-sex eroticism” in 16th - and 17th - century England, France, Italy and Spain (emphasis added).

The Unbearable Whiteness of Barbie: Race and Popular Culture in the United States at Occidental College in California explores ways “which scientific racism has been put to use in the making of Barbie [and] to an interpretation of the film The Matrix as a Marxist critique of capitalism.”

Go Tigers! #2! And just wait 'til next year!

At The Johns Hopkins University, students in the Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ancient Egypt class view slideshows of women in ancient Egypt “vomiting on each other,” “having intercourse,” and “fixing their hair.”

Like something out of a Hugh Hefner film, Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania offers the class Lesbian Novels Since World War II.

What the fuck is "a Hugh Hefner film?"

Alfred University’s Nip, Tuck, Perm, Pierce, and Tattoo: Adventures with Embodied Culture, mostly made up of women, encourages students to think about the meaning behind “teeth whitening, tanning, shaving, and hair dyeing.” Special projects include visiting a tattoo-and-piercing studio and watching Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bodybuilding film, Pumping Iron.

This is obviously a sociology course, and seems like a perfectly valid subject to explore.

Harvard University’s Marxist Concepts of Racism examines “the role of capitalist development and expansion in creating racial inequality” (emphasis added). Although Karl Marx didn’t say much on race, leftist professors in this course extrapolate information on “racial oppression” and “racial antagonism."

This is my favorite, for that little "emphasis added." How can those horrible liberals imply that capitalism might create racial inequality? Just look at America!

Occidental College—making the Dirty Dozen list twice—offers a course in Stupidity, which compares the American presidency to Beavis and Butthead.

OK, this I agree is pretty awful. In the case of the current president, it's an insult to Beavis and Butthead.

Students at the University of California—Los Angeles need not wonder what it means to be a lesbian. The Psychology of the Lesbian Experience reviews “various aspects of lesbian experience” including the “impact of heterosexism/stigma, gender role socialization, minority status of women and lesbians, identity development within a multicultural society, changes in psychological theories about lesbians in sociohistorical context.”

Those terrible liberals! Admitting that lesbians exist!

Duke University’s American Dreams/American Realities course supposedly unearths “such myths as ‘rags to riches,’ ‘beacon to the world,’ and the ‘frontier,’ in defining the American character” (emphasis added).

Amherst College in Massachusetts offers the class Taking Marx Seriously: “Should Marx be given another chance?” Students in this course are asked to question if Marxism still has any “credibility” remaining, while also inquiring if societies can gain new insights by “returning to [Marx’s] texts.” Coming to Marx’s rescue, this course also states that Lenin, Stalin, and Pol Pot misapplied the concepts of Marxism.

Don't they know that Marx endorsed mass murder and police state?

Brown University’s Black Lavender: A Study of Black Gay & Lesbian Plays “address[es] the identities and issues of Black gay men and lesbians, and offer[s] various points of view from within and without the Black gay and lesbian artistic communities.”

Students enrolled in the University of Michigan’s Topics in Literary Studies: Ancient Greek/Modern Gay Sexuality have the pleasure of reading a “wide selection of ancient Greek (and a few Roman) texts that deal with same-sex love, desire, gender dissidence, and sexual behavior.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Resolutions and Goals, 2006

1. Get a part-time teaching job, like, soon. Be teaching full-time by year's end. I need to get out of this boring-ass job and get some income rolling in.

2. Sell 8-track and use the money to buy the software I need to create music on my computer (Acid and Sound Forge) (Seriously, anyone interested in buying a TEAC 8-track reel-to-reel recorder in working condition? I paid $1,000 for it in '96, and I'm looking for about $800 for it now). I seriously need to get back into the musicing game. Have 4 songs completed by...let's say by my birthday (May 27) (which is really a modest goal). I also want to participate in National Solo Album Month in November.

3. Bike to work whenever possible, bike on every day off (weather and schedule permitting).

4. Play guitar every day.

5. 3-5 pages of Finnegan's Wake per week. Finish at least 12 books this year (comics don't count).

6. Eat more Chinese food in the San Gabriel Valley. I'm 15 minutes (at most) away from the highest concentration of serious Chinese food this side of China, and I never take advantage of it. This must end.

7. Post in the blog at least 2-3 times a week (this is great for working my writing muscle. I've tried to keep journals before, but I've never been able to keep at it. Having it online motivates me to write more). Possibly figure out a way to make the blog more entertaining. And maybe put a cool graphic up top.

8. Smoke less pot.

9. Appointment TV only (as opposed to "let's see what's on").

10. Watch all of the History of Britain video series from Glendale Library.

11. Spend more time looking forward, less time looking back (you always have to have one abstract, esoteric one on there, right?).

12. 8 movies to force myself to watch in 2006: 8 1/2, Tokyo Story, Belle du Jour, Pather Panchali, Wild Strawberries (and rewatch The Seventh Seal), Children of Paradise, Rio Bravo, On the Waterfront, L'Aventura.

13. 5 things to do in L.A. in 2006: Drinks at Tiki Ti; Dinner at Renu Nakorn; Lunch at Clifton's Cafeteria; Mini Golf at the big course on Sepulveda in Sherman Oaks; a movie at The Orpheum. I also need to give Gualaguetza a second try.

14. Records to acquire on vinyl: v/a - Posh Hits (original cover); Nip Drivers - Destroy Whitey EP; Geza X - You Goddamn Kids; Blight - The Dream is Dead 7".

I also want to say that I'll start working on a movie script, but the idea I have is so vague that I'm not sure I can really conjure it into reality. So I'm just going to leave the list where it is.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Self-Evaluation 2005

Man, I hope nobody is depending on this blog for their entertainment needs. Year-end is the busy time for me at work, and I haven't had time to wipe my ass for the last couple weeks (which has seriously fucked up my game with the ladies, lemme tell ya). Unfortunately, entertainment will continue to be in short supply for the next two posts, as these are going to be the sort of personal shit that's of interest to no one who isn't...well, me.

Before I start in on my overdue New Year Resolutions, I'm going to evaluate how I did on last year's resolutions. Clearly, I think I do much better making a clear set of goals at the beginning of the year, as I did this past year. This is basic stuff for many people, but new territory for a fuckup like me. So, my goals last year, and how I did:

1. Acquire credentials to teach ESL and get a job doing so by the end of the year.
Result: Well, I did get the credentials, but I didn't get them until the last weeks of the year--the process took longer than I realized. So I don't have a teaching job yet.

2. Bike to work whenever possible, bike at least 30 minutes every day off.
Result: I did pretty well on the first half, although I've slacked off over the last couple months as the weather got cold. I have not done well on the weekends, however. Need to improve.

3. Play guitar 30 minutes per day (or, failing that, at least pick up the guitar and play it every day).
Result: Not often hitting the 30 minute mark, but I've been playing pretty often--maybe half the days?

4. Read 5 pages of Finnegan's Wake per week. Finish the last section of Ullysses before May. Beyond that, finish 12 books in 2005 (comics don't count).
Result: Ullysses, done. 12 books, done and then some (see below). Finnegan's Wake, well, I finished the year on page 150, so 5 pages a week may have been somewhat unrealistic, but it's foolish to approach that book with a racing mentality anyway.

5. Begin saving money for a computer.
Result: I actually went to Best Buy on January 1 (of '05) and bought one on a Best Buy card. Has resulted in a dramatic improvement both in my personal quality of life and my ability to run the family business.

6. I also made a list of 12 movies to watch in 2005. These were movies I was interested in seeing, but never actually felt like watching at any particular time, mostly foreign art films and classic Hollywood stuff--"eat your vegetables" movies. The list: 8 1/2; La Dolce Vita; Rules of the Game; Belle du Joure; Pather Panchalli; Tokyo Story; The Deer Hunter; Nashville; All About Eve; On The Waterfront; In The Mood For Love; Andrei Rubleiv. I did pretty well with this until July, then I fell off. I ended up seeing 7 of the films on the list (although I substituted A Streetcar Named Desire for On the Waterfront), mostly the English language ones (lame!). Although I actually started on the 1-a-month schedule in October of '05, watching The Bicycle Thief, Belle et la Bete, and La Strada in '04, so a fairly good run. Seen: La Dolce Vita, Rules of the Game, Deerhunter, Nashville, All About Eve, Streetcar, In the Mood.

7. Smoke less pot, spend less money on pot.
Result: on and off. Right now, I'm not smoking at all, but no promises.

Then I had a list of 5 things I wanted to do in L.A., and 5 places I wanted to eat. To do: Watts Tower, Museum of Jurassic Technology, drinks at Tiki Ti, miniature golf at the big course in Sherman Oaks, a weekend at The Madonna Inn (the last, I soon realized, was simply a logistical impossiblity this year). I did the first two, then ran out of steam. Of the eateries, the only one I ended up hitting was Phillip's BBQ. So I get an F on that count, but that's not really a self-improvement goal.

Finally, a list of books read in 2005. In addition to the last 3 chapters (the Ithaca section) of Ullysses, and reading up to page 150 of Finnegan's Wake, I read the following books in their entirity:

Prometheus Rising - Robert Anton Wilson
Kovacsland: A Biography of Ernie Kovacs - Diana Rico
The Underground History of American Education - John Taylor Gatto (Fantastic book, even when I don't agree with it)
A Whore Just Like The Rest: The Music Writings of Richard Meltzer (reviewed here, quick quotes here and here)
The Invisibles - Bernhardt J. Hurwood (discussed here)
Nightmare in Pink - John R. MacDonald
Pop. 1280 - Jim Thompson
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling
Absalom, Absalom - William Faulkner
Louie Louie: The History & Mythology of the World's Most Famous Rock 'n' Roll Song; Including the Full Details of its Torture & Persecution at the Hands of the Kingsmen, J. Edgar Hoover's F.B.I., & a Cast of Millions; & Introducing for the First Time Anywhere, the Actual Dirty Lyrics - Dave Marsh (I'm going to write a long review of this on the blog soon)
Foucalt's Pendulum - Umberto Eco
Checkpoint - Nicholson Baker (Great book that can be read in about a day. The whole thing takes place in a hotel room, and consists of a guy trying to talk an old friend out of assassinating Bush)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass - Lewis Carroll

Not finished:
Last Call - Tim Powers

Non-fiction books I read enough of to get the idea:
Ledgends of Texas BBQ - Robb Walsh
How to Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie (for class)
The Godless Constitution: A Moral Defense of the Secular State - Isaac Kramnits and R. Laurence Moore
The Hero With A Thousand Faces - Joseph Campbell


The Wake (Sandman, Vol. X) - Neil Gaiman
The Plot - Will Eisner
The Bradleys - Peter Bagge
Ice Haven - Dan Clowes (not as good as David Boring, Ghost World, or the Death Ray issue of Eightball, but still pretty great)

I tried to get into Grant Morrison's 7 Soldiers saga, but I just can't seem to get into the habit of going to the comic shop. I read the first 4, then dropped out. Also read the first issue of the new, quarterly Flaming Carrot. Embarassingly, it will probably take Joss Whedon writing post-Chosen Buffy to get me to show up regularly at the comic shop again (or a new run of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen).