Friday, September 29, 2006

The Torture Never Stops

I don't really have time to do another verbose, eloquent post on the subject. It's sad to see this sort of cowardice on such a basic subject. And yes, if fear of terrorists is enough to make you give up the most basic principles of what America (or Christianity, for that matter) stands for, you are a coward. September 11, 2001 was a dark day for this country, but September 29, 2006 is much, much darker.

Negativeland - The Bottom Line (mp3)
Dead Kennedys - Bleed For Me (mp3)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

It's A Celebration, Bitches!

DVD reviews: Jigoku and Ultraman! And, of course, The Big Screen.


NPR story on Toynbee Tiles.

Alfie Kohn has written a book called The Homework Myth, making the case that children are assigned too much homework in school, and that most homework is bullshit anyway. Larry Mantle has an excellent interview up with Kohn. Also check Larry's interview with Arthur Frank Wertheim, author of The Vaudeville Wars.

TACO checks out my favorite restaurant, La Parilla (I go to the more-convenient-to-me Silverlake location). Also, a new food blog: Colorado Chow, which focuses on food along Colorado Blvd., the main strip that runs through Glendale, Pasadena and Eagle Rock (ie, my "hood").

Another great L.A. anthem: Trip City USA!

Christianist Propaganda Posters (give it a minute to load).

Hey, it's National Banned Books Week. Apparantly, a Where's Waldo? book has been challenged due to a beach picture that shows a woman in a bikini (so said the AOL quiz yesterday). Here's the list of this year's most challenged books, including the ever-controversial Captain Underpants (for "anti-family content").

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Relevant Quotes

Ironically, this scene is central to the reason my enthusiasm for Phantom (of the Paradise) has dimished, because amazingly, Beef, who seemed so outrageous by 1974 standards, looks tame today. We've gone far beyond him. But how could De Palma or anyone else have imagined the depraved acts that would emerge with Punk and New Wave music--take a look at the fascinating documentary on punk music The Decline of Western Civilization (1981)--which insist on taking their weird, sado-masochistic fans with them on their death trips?

-Danny Peary,
Cult Movies 2

I always thought a punk was someone who took it up the ass.

-William S. Burroughs,
quoted in Please Kill Me

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Chlorinator

Here's another gem from the archives. This is, let's see, I'd estimate this is summer of 1989. Dan was working as a lifeguard at a second-rate waterslide park called The Rapids ("Ride the rapids, have some fun/Ride the rapids everyone!"). This time it was a party at Tercio's house. Tercio's mom had all kinds of decorative seashells and whatnot around the house, and the last time we had partied at his house, something got broken, so this time we had to come up with a strategy: hide everything fragile. But when you're talking about a coffee table covered with seashells arranged in patterns, you run into the problem of remembering how they were arranged. So we took Zane's by now obligatory camcorder and filmed how everything was around the house before hiding it. Then we would tape all the hijinx at the party, and in the morning we would put the tape on, replace all the fragile items according to their positions, and then watch the rest of the tape. When we got to the end of the tape, there was The Chlorinator.

Apparantly, after all the drunks had passed out, Dan and Tercio made this entire film (probably in close proximity to the sleeping bodies), drove out to the beach in time to film the sunrise, came back and dubbed the audio at the end using a classical record from Tercio's father's collection, all before anyone woke up.

I have to say, I really like the way the shots are set up in this, and the way the environment around the pool, with the tropical plants they had growing there, and the strange architecture of that house around the stairway, are used. It's a really good-looking film.


I heard this story on NPR yesterday while taking my cat to the vet. I came home and went looking for more information. I figured this has to be the biggest news story going right now, right? Nowhere to be seen on the front page of Not on the BBC News front page. It's not even on the NPR front page--I had to do a search to find the story! I even went back through three pages of Dailykos. The only place this story is getting any play is on Marc Cooper's blog.

Maher Arar is a Syrian-born Canadian citizen. For reasons that nobody knows, his name ended up on a terrorist watch list (along with his wife, six-year-old daughter and six-month-old son). He was arrested for no reason beyond being on that list while on a layover in New York, extradited to one of our secret prisons in Syria, tortured until he made false confessions (and I mean serious torture--not "stress positions" or "exposure to cold," but beaten with cables), and thrown into a tiny cell where he was held for 10 months.

We've known that cases like Maher Arar's existed for a long time, just by simple mathematical probability. As we get new revelations about how many prisoners we have in this war on terror, I've started to wonder if the majority of them weren't cases like Arar's. But this is the smoking gun. This is the proof of how, fuck that, how flat-out EVIL the course this administration is pursuing is. This story is breaking in the middle of a congressional battle to codify this administration's strategy into law (a battle which the spineless Democrats are distancing themselves from...wha?). THIS IS A HUGE STORY. Instead, the story of the day seems to be that some looney South American politician called Bush "the devil."

This also sheds light on the debate over racial profiling at airports. I hear so many people say things like "I don't care if we hurt the Arabs' feelings. Our security is more important than being sensitive and politically correct." This illustrates that we're not just talking about people being "offended" or "having their feelings hurt." And no, I don't think my security or safety are more important. Even if I felt that these strategies could eventually result in a world where I would be 100% safe from a terrorist attack (an absurd premise, anyway), it is more important to me that the U.S. government not commit these acts of inhuman torture in the name of keeping me safe.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Drunken Hero (Dan Catalano, 1987)

A short film starring me when I was...let's see, I guess just turned 19. In fact, this was probably just a week or two before I went off to college, after dropping out of high school and doing a year at Indian River Community College, so this is sort of the end of my unnaturally extended childhood.

Our friend, Jen Ball, had a party at her house Saturday night (her parents were out of town). Zane had a camcorder there, and filmed a bunch of silliness at the party. Zane crashed at the house, and the next morning I came over to help them all clean up. Then he got this idea that he wanted to make a movie called The Drunken Hero, about a superhero whose power is that anything he touch turns into a beer. He had a gag where he was off-camera, playing a little kid, and he'd come up to me and say "Drunken Hero, can you fix my teddy bear?" He hands me the bear, I turn it into a beer, say "Thanks, kid," and walk away with a snearing laugh.

So we filmed a few variations on this routine, and then some more friends showed up, and...I really don't remember there being any discussion about what we were doing, we just started making a movie, as if that was what we had planned to do that day. And for some reason, Dan took the whole project over, and never even included Zane's bit about the teddy bear.

We ended up filming the whole movie at and around Jen's house (and a nearby convenience store) over the course of that day and into the night--you can see the light failing in the scenes near the end. Dan went home to edit the footage together, then decided that the ending was a mess, so he made us all get together to reshoot the climax (beginning with The Mayor getting the morning paper) and end credits at his house the next day. The denoument, which rips off A Boy and His Dog, is part of the original footage from Jen's house.

For reference, Zane is the one playing the assassin sent after me and Dan plays his boss. And Jen is the only female seen in the movie, so she's pretty easy to pick out. There is some racially insensitive stuff about the convenience store clerk, my only defense of which is that it was 20 years ago.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


My review of The Black Dahlia. It's pretty negative, but I seem to have liked it more than anyone else. As for the review, I dunno...I made all the points I wanted to make, but I feel like the writing doesn't flow well. But then, I can't stand reading my own writing. The Big Screen is also up.

A couple nights ago, as I was going to sleep, I tried to visualize every inch of my elementary school. I went there for six years (kindergarten through fifth grade), and then there was a year when I had Sunday school classes there because it was next door to our church, so it shouldn't be surprising that it's so imprinted in my mind (or that I still find myself there in dreams sometimes), but I was amazed how clearly I could picture every inch of it. I even knew the back parts of the administrative offices, where the Principal and Vice Principal and the school nurse all had their offices, and there was a conference room.

Let's see, what else...I watched the Scorsese and Kubrick shorts on TCM Friday night. The Big Shave was very hard to watch. I had to force myself to watch it. Weird that you can watch all kinds of intense violence on film and not be bothered by it, but someone cutting their face while shaving is torture to watch. Come to think of it, the most unwatchable scene to me is in Pink Floyd: The Wall, when Pink shaves his nipples.

The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman is the best TV show you're not watching. Laura Kightlinger is hilarious on HBO's Lucky Louie, but she's even funnier here. It's somewhat similar in tone to Curb Your Enthusiasm, but I think much funnier than that show has been lately. And apparantly, Lucky Louie is over. Which is too bad. I probably shouldn't admit this in public, but I can relate in many ways to that show. The arguments between Louie and his wife sometimes sound like transcriptions of my fights with Bobbie.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Fine Home Furnishings

As usual, The Big Screen, plus a little something on the Black Dahlia Bus Tour.

This Sunday, Angel City Derby Girls are rolling at the NoHo YMCA. Support local roller derby!

Bought this for $1 in San Pedro. Such a strange cover. I keep thinking that it reminds me of something from when I was a very small child, but can't quite put my finger on it.

Also, at the Labor Day Weekend sale at Brand Books, I bought a copy of Cult Movies 2 (to go with my copy of the first volume), Please Kill Me! and Our Band Could Be Your Life. I'm trying to read I Am Legend now, which I got from the library, but I really want to start on my new punk books!

And I finally got some cheap frames to hang these two swanky one-sheets in our living room. Check 'em out:

This one we've had for a while (it was a wedding present, in fact):

Thursday, September 07, 2006

In Brief

Bobbie on Laff It Off With Grace (public access show--see episodes 15 and 16).

The 1947 Project presents "The Real Black Dahlia, a five hour guided luxury coach tour to the real and imagined scenes from the life, death and myth of Beth Short and the lost L.A. of 1947." Saturday and Sunday, September 16 and 17 (to coincide with the release of Brian DePalma's hotly anticipated adaptation of James Ellroy's novel). $47 a head is kinda steap, but you do get free Black Dahlia Gelato from Scoops in Silverlake.

Edit: Scoops is not in Silverlake, but on Heliotrope off of Melrose in east Hollywood. I was confusing it with Zanzabelle, as a result of confusing Heliotrope with Hyperion.

Speaking of good eats, after my previous trip to Oakland I mentioned having the Best Breakfast Ever, but couldn't remember the name of the place. Well, it was Rockridge Cafe, and I stand by my assessment. Maybe even more, since on this last trip I had the riccotta pancakes. Riccotta in the batter doesn't really make them taste like cheese, but it does give them a light, creamy texture that's just unbelievable.

One other note, just because now seems like as good a time as any: Locust St. is the best mp3 blog on the web, for both the great music posted (slowly working year-by-year through the history of American pop...I think it started with 1940, and it's up to 1957 now) and for the excellent, in-depth writing accompanying it. The blog has just started up 1957 after a summer break. Do yourself a favor and bookmark it.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I'm Back

I'm officially back from vacation. I've been back in L.A. for a week, but since I was off from work, I've been pretty much out of contact with the online world. God, it was good having a REAL vacation.

Got a review of This Film Is Not Yet Rated up at TFL. It was kind of hard to get down, because there are just so many ways you could take the conversation about this film. One thing that struck me was the fact that the people on the ratings board don't have any real credentials (ie, no degrees in child development or anything), which Jack Vallente tried to spin as a good thing--no "self-appointed experts," just "real parents" of children between 5 and 17 (which turns out not to even be true). As if nobody could possibly be both? As if having knowledge in a subject automatically makes you LESS qualified than someone with no knowledge? I'm not saying that having a degree in developmental psychology necessarily makes your judgement of these things better, but the idea that it would make your judgement WORSE is...well, actually, it's a very typical expression of these anti-intellectual times, unfortunately.

By tonight every hack comedian will have perfected their Steve Irwin joke, which will remain in their act for at least five years. It's kind of a shame that the whole celebrity-gawking culture is so omnipresent that when something like Steve Irwin being killed by a stingray happens, something that really is interesting to talk about, I feel too ashamed to want to talk about it.

Elsewhere: Bubblegumfink has Dazed and Confused and Dawn of the Dead (197whatever) trading cards, and Something I Learned Today has Man...Or Astroman? mp3's.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

September DVD's

Two DVD's I want this Tuesday:

First, The original 1954 Godzilla (Gojira)--both the familiar, American cut with Raymond Burr added in, and the original Japanese cut, reported to be more horrific. Even if you're not specifically a fan of Godzilla movies, this one is pretty great.

Then, Criterion rereleases Jacques Tati's comic ballet Playtime. I saw this in the theater a year or so ago, and it immediately became one of my all-time favorite movies. Criterion has a lot of great stuff coming out this month, including Spirit of the Beehive, Hell, and a new, 3-disc edition of Seven Samurai, but this is the one that I covet.

One other thing: on September 15, TCM is doing 24 hours of short films, including shorts by David Lynch, Scorsese, Kubrick, Chaplin, Keaton and more (but alas, not John Waters' The Diane Linkletter Story).