Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Monday, October 30, 2006
The Call of Cthulu (2005)
So where can you get this DVD? Well, if you're in L.A., you can rent it from Jerry's Video Reruns (corner of Franklin and Hillhurst in Los Feliz), or you can order it through the official website, which also offers the CD soundtrack to the musical A Shoggoth on the Roof, Miskatonic University sweatshirts, and CD's of Cthulu-inspired solstice carols).
Friday, October 27, 2006
Signing Off For The Weekend
NSFW: The fine folks at noticiasdot have posted every Playboy centerfold from 1954-1969! Hilights include the legendary Betty Page, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls stars Cynthia Myers and Dolly Read, Faster Pussycat! victim Susan Bernard, and my birth playmate (May 1968). I don't know her name, but she's a cigarette-smoking cowgirl--how much cooler can you get? If you dig boufant hairdos and torpedo boobs, get 'em quick before Playboy's lawyers send the cease and desist noticias! (Thanks to Bedazzled for the link)
[EDIT: I guess those links don't really work. They take just take you to the appropriate year, so you'll have to figure out for yourself which girl the "torpedo boobs" reference was directed towards (hint: she's wearing glasses)]
Elsewhere, Funky 16 Corners has some Rudy Ray Moore up, and The Delicious Life looks at the doomed Trader Vic's in Beverly Hills.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
The World According To Sesame Street
And if you can watch a group of muppets learn that they can't catch AIDS from being friends with Kami, or watch a segment where Kami shows a little girl the box of scarves and jewelry that her mother left her before she died from AIDS, and realize that that reflects the reality of life for kids across the entire continent, and not cry, then feel free to call me a pussy. This program is repeating this Sunday on KCET, and you can check the website to find out if and when it's going to be shown in your area, and there's probably a DVD coming. This is one of the most moving hours of TV I've ever seen, and I strongly recomend watching it.
It's also pretty infuriating when you watch the conservative pundits who spent a news cycle or two complaining about Kami (without putting her in any context). And it's always irritating to me to hear conservatives talk about ending public funding for PBS. One of the arguments they always bring up is that Sesame Street is good enough to survive in the commercial market without public funding. I'm sure some incarnation of Sesame Street could indeed survive, but it would not be the show that we grew up with, the show that American kids have watched since 1969. Once it got under the control of network micromanagers and commercial interests, it would be rendered just another mindless kids' show. Look at what passes for kids shows on the networks if you don't believe me.
They also bring up that there's no longer a need for the documentaries PBS airs, because of the proliferation of chanels like Discovery, TLC, National Geographic and The History Channel. Have you ever watched the shallow documentary programs on those channels? Have you ever watched the excellent documentary shows on PBS? There's no comparison. Hell, there's more hard news in the 30 minutes of BBC World News that PBS stations run than in an entire day of CNN or MSNBC (I won't even mention Fox News). I hope PBS never loses it's federal funding, but there's always a danger of it. In that spirit, enjoy this clip of the late Fred Rogers advocating for PBS funding in a Senate hearing (I tried to embed the clip, but GoogleVideo doesn't seem to be as easy to embed as YouTube). Yeah, that one made me cry too. Maybe I am a pussy.
Friday, October 20, 2006
Lucha Va Voom, October 24-26!
Olberman continues to speak the truth! Watch his commentaries from Wednesday and Tuesday, because I think what he's saying might be vaguely important!
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
CBGB is now closed. Which I guess means I ought to write something about what this mythical club (that I've never set foot in, although I did insist that we at least walk past it the last time I was in NYC) means to me and all that, but I used up all my material last week.
It's sad, not in the "end of an era" sense, because that era ended long ago and didn't really have anything to do with the physical space anyway, but sad in a historical preservationist way. You'd like to think that places like CBGB or Trader Vic's or your favorite Drive-In Theater would always be there if you decided to drop by.
I also noticed, while reading the Rolling Stone piece, that in last week's post I kept referring to CBGB as "CBGB's," adding that posessive "s" that I always assumed was there. Maybe I had the heebee geebees.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Spittin' Wicked Randomness, Vol. 14
I saw American Hardcore last week. If I was starting to have a more positive outlook on the early 80's hardcore scene, this doc definitely cured me of it. Reminded me just how much the assholes dominated that scene. I do still think that hardcore in Southern California and across America from about 1980-84 produced some of the greatest records ever made. But it's an interesting contrast to the CBGB's scene, where you had maybe 10 bands, and at least half of them made one of the greatest rock n roll records of all time. In hardcore, there might have been 20 or 50 bands that made an incredible record (even if it was just a 7"), but they were almost drowned by 1,000 shitty bands that should never have been let into a recording studio. It was also weird that the documentary spends a lot of time focusing on bands that I wouldn't consider very signifigant. I mean, in an underground scene, everyone has their own idea of who's important, since there are no consensus "hits," and there are bands that were among my favorites (say, White Flag or The Nip Drivers) that weren't very big, but I've never thought of SS Decontrol, Gangreen or The Cro-Mags as being very important (if they were gonna spend that much time on the Boston scene, I would have preferred them to talk to The Freeze, who were certainly more popular among the people I hung out with). At one point it's even posited that The Cro-Mags were the quintessential hardcore group. Huh???
At any rate, I felt like it failed to connect hardcore with earlier or later punk, as if it just existed in this vaccum, and also failed in representing zines, collage art, and some of the other aspects of the scene. And Mike Watt is funny-lookin'.
Dangerhouse singles at 7"Punk. I think The Avengers are my new favorite obscure U.S. punk band. Here's some more cool tunes. Hmm, the melody to that first song sounds familiar...
NPR: former Lovedolls bassist Abby Travis has a new "Cabaret Pop" album out!
Never heard of this movie before, but I NEED to see it! This one looks good, too.
"I started out with one premise: The Surrealists have already won!" (my new motto)
Anyway, watch this, because I think it might be vaguely important...
Monday, October 16, 2006
Spike Jones and Ernie Kovacs
And here's a couple I loaded up to YouTube this weekend that have nothing to do with me. Spike Jones, from The Best of Spike Jones, Vol. 2 VHS, which I believe I bought at a flea market. This doesn't seem to be available on DVD, which is a real shame. Then, The Kitchen Symphony, one of many, many great bits from The Best of Ernie Kovacks DVD.
The Monster Song
Another embarrassing nugget from my youth. The Psychedelicatessen performing "Monster Song" at our final show, in Stuart, Fla., summer of 1990. That's me on vocals, Jason Emmett on guitar, Zane Hurley on bass, and Marty (don't know his last name) on drums.
After finishing my third year of college, I moved out of the dorms and into a duplex with my friend Bran, and got a job at Pizza Inn, instead of going home to my parent's house for the summer, as I had done each year up to that point. Then I get a call from Zane saying there's this club in Stuart called The Studio that has "punk night," and invites live bands to play there, so they want me to come down and get a set together to play a show there. "Well," I says, "if you had called me a week ago, I'd probably do it, but I have a place here, I have a job, I can't just decide to move down there for the summer." That Monday, I call up to Pizza Inn to get my schedule, and the guy tells me that the schedule is posted on Sundays, and that I was scheduled to work last night and didn't show up, so I'm fired. Did I purposely sabotage myself so I could go play this last show?
At any rate, this wasn't necessarily my favorite of our songs at the time, but it's the one that I think holds up best. Like, if the band got back together now, this is the one old song I'd still want us to play. Plus, it has sort of appropriate lyrics for Hallowe'en season. The first line is from one of those Escape From Witch Mountain movies, or from the trailer, anyway, which probably played during every commercial break of cartoons for a month when it came out, so it stuck in my head.
Zane saw that they had a video screen behind the stage, so he spent the summer making this video mixtape to play behind us. I think that thing with the punks on go-carts is from Joysticks. You can't see it on the video, but Marty is wearing this really silly rubber monster mask and lurking behind the drums.
And yeah, I can't sing.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Kung Fu Double Feature
I saw Snake in Monkey's Shadow in Blockbuster a while back, and thought the title sounded familiar. Looked it up, and found that Quentin Tarantino had shown it at one of his film festivals in Austin, and it had been written up on AICN (and written up again when he brought it back for an encore a few years later). If you read AICN, you know they're prone to hyperbole, and this is probably no exception, but it is a pretty great movie. Anyway, when Blockbuster started selling off tons of old DVD's, I thought "oh, I bet they'll get rid of Snake in Monkey's Shadow." Looked for it, and sure enough, there it was, so I snatched that fucker up.
Snake in Monkey's Shadow is old school 70's kung fu, and a good example of the "animal style" genre. Everyone in it fights in a different animal style. The hero is a fishmonger who wants to learn kung fu, and he trains with two different masters. One teaches him drunken style ("The most important thing about kung fu is to always appear to be drunk"), the other teaches him monkey style. The villains are two guys who fight in cobra style, and the way they move together looks really awesome. After they kill both his masters, our hero trains himself to combine drunken style and monkey style to defeat the cobra style. The fights are great in this, and there's some really astounding acrobatics that appear to be done without wires.
8 Diagram Pole Fighter is a more recent film, probably from the 90's. It stars Gordon Liu, best known to American audiences for playing Pei Mei in Kill Bill 2 and the general of the Crazy 88 in Kill Bil 1. I saw this at Amoeba Music for $10, and I had heard it was good, so I picked it up. This movie is insane. The final battle is totally balls-out, with Liu armed with a pole and beating the shit out of a huge gang of enemies, and just when you think it's as crazy as it could possibly get, he unleashes his Dentist Style: shoves the pole sideways into his opponents mouth, digs it in, and yanks it out, bringing the teeth with it! I'm very happy that some charitable soul put this fight on YouTube:
Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk
This is both refreshing and a bit frustrating. I'm a music geek, so I want dates. I want connections drawn. I want insight on how one band influenced another. I want to know the exact date that Television played their first gig at CBGB's or recorded "Little Johnny Jewel." This book doesn't give me that, but it does give something otherwise unavailable: an idea of what it must have been like to be there at CBGB's, and a chance to hear what the music meant to the people who were actually there, rather than what it means to other music geeks like me. And apparantly, what it meant to people who were there was gay sex, heroin and swastikas.
The book begins with a chapter (too short, I thought) on The Velvet Underground and the Warhol Factory scene, with a brief digression into Jim Morrison at the end, then progresses through The MC5, The Stooges, Ridiculous Theater (a gay, underground NYC theater movement that may have been the precursor to glitter rock), Patti Smith (and to a lesser extent Jim Carroll) in her early career as a poet, and The New York Dolls, with David Bowie as a background character, before ending up at CBGB's. From there, Patti Smith, Television, The Ramones, The Heartbreakers, Richard Hell and the Voi Oids, Punk magazine, The Dead Boys, and eventually The Sex Pistols (in as much as they interracted with the New York bands) are all covered. Blondie is in the background, Suicide and The Talking Heads are barely mentioned (one of the few references to the T-Heads is a derogatory complaint about them attracting "yuppies" to the scene).
Reading this actually cemented many of my ideas about the hardcore punk of the early 80's. I've always said that hardcore was the point at which punk completely broke away from mainstream rock. I mean, The Sex Pistols and The Ramones were out of step with the mainstream, but if you listen to their music, it was recognizably rock, in contrast to Bad Brains or Black Flag, who sound much more removed from, say, AC/DC. But I'm realizing how much of the attitudes associated with punk actually emerged in the 80's.
For instance, 70's punk always espoused a DIY ethic, but it was hardcore that really put that ethic into practice (out of necessity). If you read that list of bands covered in the book, every single one of them had a major label contract. But by 1980, when all those bands had proven themselves not to be profitable, punk became invisible to the majors. Hardcore bands had to do it themselves--independent labels, self-promotion, booking shows in American Legion halls. I'm not saying hardcore invented this stuff, but the 70's bands didn't have to do it to nearly the same extent.
This is also reflected in the attitudes toward fame. The 70's bands were certainly setting out to be a different kind of rock star, but none of them ever expressed any discomfort with the idea of being a rock star. They wanted all the trappings: fame, adoring fans, groupies, drugs. The anti-rockstar attitude that we associate with punk really starts in the 80's.
It's kind of funny. I've always been into 70's punk, and I went through a period in my late teens, around 85-87, where I was totally obsessed with the CBGB's scene. Part of it, of course, was the incredible music. I mean, in just 3 years (1975-77) this small, insular group of musicians centered around a shitty dive bar in an obscure neighborhood of lower Manhattan produced Patti Smith's Horses and Radio Ethiopia, Television's Marquee Moon, Richard Hell's Blank Generation, Talking Heads '77 (to be followed by 3 more increasingly great albums), the first 3 Ramones albums (to be followed by at least 2 more classics), and the Suicide album, not to mention the first couple Blondie albums (not quite on the same level, but a great pop band) and The Heartbreakers' L.A.M.F. (which I think sucks, but whatever), and if you include some of the fringe bands, The Dictators' Go Girl Crazy, the first Modern Lovers album, The Dead Boys' Young, Loud and Snotty and Pere Ubu's early singles on the Harpin Label. That's just mind-boggling. But part of it was also that I hated the hardcore scene so much, and CBGB's just seemed like a much better place and time. I hated the purity and homogenity of the hardcore scene, the way people constantly judged whether a band was "punk" or not, the way they narrowly defined punk as this very boring music with no room for innovation. I hated the seriousness, all the political shit, and the violent, testosterone-driven nature of the scene.
By contrast, none of the CBGB's bands sounded alike. Every band was practically a genre unto themselves. None of the bands were political, and bands like The Ramones, The Cramps, The Dictators and The Dead Boys were a hell of a lot more fun and less serious than most of the stiff hardcore bands. And there was a strong woman right at the head of the scene. It just seemed like a more fun time.
My feelings about punk at the time actually lined up pretty well with Legs McNeil talking about the idea for Punk magazine and being a fan of The Dictators:
Holmstrom wanted the magazine to be a combination of everything we were into - television reruns, drinking beer, getting laid, cheeseburgers, comics, grade-B movies, and this weird rock & roll that nobody but us seemed to like: the Velvets, the Stooges, the New York Dolls and now the Dictators.
I saw the magazine Holmstrom wanted to start as a Dictators album come to life. On the inside sleeve of the record was a picture of the Dictators hanging out in a White Castle hamburger stand and they were dressed in black leather jackets. Even though we didn't have black leather jackets, the picture seemed to describe us perfectly - wise guys. So I thought the magazine should be for other fuck-ups like us. Kids who grew up believing only in the Three Stooges. Kids that had parties when their parents were away and destroyed the house. You know, kids that stole cars and had fun.
So I said, "Why don't we call it Punk?"
It's funny, because that's in no way "what punk means to me" now, but that's pretty much where I was coming from in my teens.
The other thing I hated about the hardcore scene was that whole "straightedge" bullshit, kids thinking it was cool to not do drugs (can you imagine?). But reading this book even gives me some perspective on that. I mean, my idea of being not straightedge was smoking pot, drinking a few beers, maybe getting rip-roaring drunk once a week, and taking an acid trip every couple months. But you read these accounts...man, everyone, EVERYONE in this book was on heroin. How the fuck Bill Burroughs and Charlie Parker ever managed to convince people that doing that shit would make you cool, I have no idea. It's the same story again and again. I actually doubt the punk scene would have survived if that straight edge shit hadn't taken hold. (I'm trying to find this one passage, but I can't find it, where this girl talks about going to get heroin, and there would be junkies lined up in the morning, and a guy going through the line saying "we open in 5 minutes, have your money ready, 5's, 10's and 20's, no 1's. On the menu today we have white junk, brown junk and coke.")
My favorite chapter of the book involves two of the more obscure, fringe bands of the scene, Wayne County and the Electric Chairs and The Dictators. First of all, because they're pretty much the most likeable people in the book. When Wayne County (now Jayne County) talks about being a drag queen in rural Georgia in the early 70's, when it could literally get you killed, and how he hated going to drag shows and hearing prissy drag queens do The Supremes, so he started rocking out as Janis Joplin, that's just some awesome shit. And The Dictators are basically rowdy, good ol' boys, frat boy types. It might seem weird to use that as a compliment, but compared to the rest of these junkie assholes, they seem like alright guys (to be fair, The Stooges' Ron Asheton, MC5's Wayne Kramer, and especially the Dead Boys' bassist Jeff Magnum, all come off as pretty down-to-earth guys). Then Dictators singer Handsome Dick Manitoba starts heckling at a Wayne County show, and gets his shoulder bashed by a mic stand. What follows is a fascinating soap opera and culture clash that takes over the whole scene. I should also mention that the episode ends with the guys from Punk magazine completely mischaracterizing Lester Bangs' piece "The White Noise Supremecists," which they take to be calling them out as racists, but to me reads more like Lester trying to come to grips with his own racism, and hoping others will follow (it's collected in Psychotic Reactions and Carbeurator Dung). There's also a hilarious, short episode wherein Duncan Hannah recounts his experience being in shitty movies directed by Amos Poe.
I am a little disapointed that The Cramps weren't in the book. I know they weren't quite of the same vintage, but they were around in the later part of that scene (their recent box set includes live recordings from Max's in 77 and CBGB's in 78). And Jonathan Richman must have been around somewhere. I wish he would have shown up in the book.
Since this has long ceased to be any kind of serious review, I'll just list a couple interesting facts:
The girl dancing with a whip with the Velvet Underground and Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable lightshow (I think there's a picture of her on the back of Velvet Underground and Nico) is Mary Woronov.
Most of the people that knew Sid Vicious at the time don't believe he killed Nancy, and have a plausible explanation that involves her being killed by a drug dealer. I think I believe them.
And now I'm reading This Band Could Be Your Life. I really should have read England's Dreaming and We Got The Neutron Bomb (and maybe Rip It Up And Start Again) in between, but there you are.
Saturday, October 07, 2006
RIP Tamara Dobson
Raise a glass to Tamara Dobson, star of Cleopatra Jones, who died on Monday from complications arising from MS and pneumonia. Although CJ is a slicker, Hollywoodized version of Pam Grier's action movies, it's nonetheless entertaining as hell, and Dobson is a stone fox in it. I always thought she should be a big drag queen icon, with her dazzling array of costumes.
Also, an excellent interview with Terry Gilliam at CHUD.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Speaking of gay, are you reading Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule? (OK, I jumped ahead a little, but bear with me) You should be. It's a great blog. Just look at what this guy articulated about The Black Dahlia compared to my lame review. Anyway, in responding to one of the movie quizes he occasionally posts, I made a comment about the homoerotic nature of Jackass (which is way past subtext, man...that film is GAY!GAY!GAY!), which he ran with in his disection of Jackass Number Two. And you know me, I just love attention of any kind, so I'm giving him a shoutout.
Check this out! Starting next Friday (the 13th! Of October no less!) TCM has a new program called TCM Underground, showing late-night double features of cult films hosted by Rob Zombie! Kicks off with Plan 9 from Outer Space and Bride of the Monster! I've never seen Bride of the Monster. Even though I'm not that big on Ed Wood these days, I'll tune in just to hear what Zombie has to say about it. He's a lame musician, a pretty good director, but a hell of a lot of fun to listen to ranting about movies. Better yet, next week it's Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Mudhoney! I guess I'd be more excited a few months ago, when I still hadn't seen Mudhoney, but still, that's pretty cool. And the next week, Night of the Living Dead and The Crazies. According to the Now Playing guide I picked up last night, future installments will include DePalma's Sisters, The Honeymoon Killers and The Conqueror Worm.
Also note that next Thursday, they'll be running the Dick Cavett Show with Groucho as a guest. I've been loving these old Cavett interviews they've been running (Bette Davis was great last night). And if you've never seen The Loved One, they're showing it Tuesday at 1 in the morning. Great movie.
I'd list some more stuff, but since Scott Roche is doing a TV horror guide every day through October on The Fake Life, you could just check that out.
I'm trying to get out of posting all the boring political stuff, but here's one I can't let go by: Germany is now looking to prosecute CIA officers for performing renditions on their soil, and other European countries are looking into the same option. Bob Baer (the ex-CIA agent whose books Syriana is based on) says agents are now quitting the CIA en masse because this shit isn't worth it anymore. Feeling secure?
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
More Political Junk
For one thing, Foley is not a pedophile or a child molester. We're talking about 16-year-olds here. It's maybe illegal, it's definitely creepy, and I have a very low opinion of any adult who wants to have relations with 16-year-olds, but it's not the same thing as wanting to have sex with children. The biggest issue is the power imbalance, which puts it (for me, anyway) about on level with the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal. It is a big deal, but not in comparison with a bill that codifies the government's right to torture and does away with Habeas Corpus (a bill that TWELVE Democratic senators voted for). This isn't just dismantling the constitution, it's reversing the fucking Magna Carta! Go for the source, I guess.
Or this bill, which is getting entirely ignored. I'll cut and paste because, as George Carlin says, I think this is vaguely important:
With little public attention or even notice, the House of Representatives has passed a bill that undermines enforcement of the First Amendment's separation of church and state. The Public Expression of Religion Act - H.R. 2679 - provides that attorneys who successfully challenge government actions as violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment shall not be entitled to recover attorneys fees. The bill has only one purpose: to prevent suits challenging unconstitutional government actions advancing religion. [...]
Despite the effectiveness of this statute, conservatives in the House of Representatives have now passed an insidious bill to try and limit enforcement of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, by denying attorneys fees to lawyers who successfully challenge government actions as violating this key constitutional provision. For instance, a lawyer who successfully challenged unconstitutional prayers in schools or unconstitutional symbols on religious property or impermissible aid to religious groups would -- under the bill -- not be entitled to recover attorneys' fees. The bill, if enacted, would treat suits to enforce the Establishment Clause different from litigation to enforce all of the other provisions of the Constitution and federal civil rights statutes.
Their is no justification for this law. It exists only to empower those who want to turn America into a Taliban-style theocracy. TWENTY-NINE Democrats voted for this one.
So you'll excuse me if I don't give a fuck about the dirty old man in congress. And frankly, if that's the only issue Democrats can find to win an election on, that's not a cause for celebration.