Tuesday, April 24, 2007

10 Years

That's how long I've been living in L.A. Well, the actual anniversary was probably a week or two ago. I'm not sure. It was about the same time that crazy cult committed mass suicide, the ones that all had Nikes on.

We actually started the whole process in March, maybe even late February. The first time we drove out, our friend Sandra went with us as far as Santa Fe, then went her own way. We took the scenic route, stopping in New Orleans, Austin, the UFO Museum in Roswell, The Grand Canyon, and we were gonna hit Vegas, but we were running low on money, so we decided to skip it. I recall that that was when Tiger Woods played his perfect game, or won his first masters, or whatever it was that he did that was a really big deal. I just remember seeing it in the paper in New Mexico. It was one of the best weeks of my life, just being out on the open road, seeing the country, the incredible wide-open desert landscape in New Mexico, the amazing painted rock formations in Arizona, the Rocky Mountains and the Continental Divide. Finally, we pulled into Pasadena and checked into a Days Inn, where we stayed for several weeks, trying to find a place to live that seemed affordable without being too far out in the sticks.

Again, I remember a few time markers. I'm pretty sure we were in the motel on St. Patrick's Day, and I know we watched the Oscars there (they were later in the year back then), the year that Cuba Gooding Jr. won best supporting actor (I think that was the year The English Patient won). And Cronenberg's Crash opened while we were there.

We couldn't find anything for a decent price, so we finally went to an agent who was advertised in the Pasadena Star News. We went to her office in Burbank, very close to the Bob's Big Boy, in a building that reminded me of the Brady Bunch house (exact same staircase, stone wall). I wish I could remember her name--it was a funny name, like Suzy Sparkle or something. She was an old lady with painted on eyebrows chain-smoking menthol slim cigarettes, with a voice like Tom Waits. But she did manage to find us the incredible bargain rental that we live in to this day, so I gotta give her props.

After signing with the landlady, we left our car there and flew back, took about a week to pack and make all the final arrangements, loaded up a huge U-Haul truck and the other car with stuff, and headed out again, Bobbie in the car with one dog and I in the truck with the other. We tried to go quickly this time, but the truck was difficult to get any good speed up in. It was a rough trip. I remember that Comet Halle-Bop was passing the earth (the sign that the crazy cult had taken that it was time to kill themselves), and after the sun went down (we were driving 12-hour days), I could see it faintly on the horizon, pulling me onward.

There were some things that took adjusting to in L.A. The first day we were here, a friend from back east came over, and Bobbie told her "I would offer you some sweet tea, but I just finished making a batch, and it has some kind of gross film floating on top." Which prompted the question, "You didn't use tap water, did you?" See, in Georgia, you can actually drink the water that comes out of the faucet. Imagine that!

So what followed was a few months of unemployment, working for a maid service, shitty telemarketing jobs, and general soul-destroying. But hey, we stuck it out, we're still here, and we're still rockin' in the free world!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Speaking of Vonnegut...

Wednesday, Oxy is honoring him with a marathon reading of Slaughterhouse Five on the campus, from 10 am to...well, however long it takes to read it. For some serious hilarity, check out the Fox News obituary of Vonnegut, where they call him a writer of "leftist screeds," and end by saying he died an unhappy man, as all writers of leftist screeds must. I'm surprised they didn't have all-day coverage of his arrival in Hell!

Bobbie reviews Tom Simmons' DVD on The Fake Life!

Yet another great piece of Batmusic! And here's The O.G. shit!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

My Opinion On A Variety Of Important Topics

1. Congratulations to this year's Pulitzer Prize winners, including free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman. "Coleman's music was not among the 140 music nominees. Pulitzer panelists used their prerogative to skirt traditional rules by purchasing the CD and nominating the 77-year-old jazz master. This is the first time a recording has won the music Pulitzer, and a first for purely improvised music." And, L.A. Weekly's excellent food critic Jonathan Gold became the first food critic to win a pulitzer! What's so cool about this is that Gold doesn't just write about fancy, high-end restaurants. Most of his reviews are of taco trucks, noodle stands, burger joints and generally cheap street food, which is the stuff that makes L.A. such a great place to live. And hey, today he's got a review of Eagle Rock's own hipster burger joint, Oinkster.

2. The Death of Kurt Vonnegut. Like everyone else, I got into his stuff in high school, along with Tom Robbins and Joseph Heller. I remember the first time I did shrooms, I had been reading Cat's Cradle, so I thought I'd try reading a little of it. The sentence I read said something like, "You can't go around acting like that and expect Uncle Sam to be your father chicken." That kept me busy for about 15 minutes.

Prior to that time, I hadn't really been a big reader, but I had a little pile of scifi and fantasy books I had read in middle school. I was looking through them one day and was surprised to find that The Sirens of Titans, which I'd read years before I got into Vonnegut, was a Vonnegut book! Even later, I bought a pile of Vonnegut books at a flea market (as one does--I still have some I haven't even read yet, like Jailbird) and picked up the short story collection Welcome to the Monkeyhouse. As I read one of the stories, I realized that I had read it in a textbook in 6th grade.

My favorites: Breakfast of Champions, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater and Slaughterhouse Five, although I've liked pretty much all of his stuff I've read.

3. Thinking a little more about Death Proof. I really like what he was trying to do with this, and it does feel spontaneous and loose, and really captures the feeling of girls on a night out (it feels a lot like Dazed and Confused, actually), but the dialogue doesn't really stick with you like most of his previous work has, and I don't really feel like the characters came to life. They seemed real, but like real people I don't know. I'm talking about the first half here. The second half really felt alive for me through the whole episode. I felt like I knew those girls. My only possible complaint regarding the second half where there's these long bits of dialogue that you know from the beginning where it's going, but you have to go through the whole formality of the conversation to get there, you know? Like when Zoe and Kim are arguing over whether to do the ship's mast or whatever it was. That kind of thing's always been in Tarantino movies, but I'm getting less patient with it. Still a great movie, though. If it's a disapointment, it's on the level of Let It Be. The Beatles album, not the Replacements album.

4. Hot Fuzz!!!! Tomorrow!!!!!!!!!!!

5. Brute Force. This showed on TCM last night. Totally kick ass prison break film noir starring Burt Lancaster. But the real star is Hume Cronyn as the evil fucking warden. I just couldn't believe how much ass this movie kicked.

And Flix has been showing Riot on the Sunset Strip lately. It's basically a two-hour Dragnet episode. Definitely no Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, but it's got The Standells, and they're way cooler than The Strawberry Alarm Clock. There is an amazing scene of a girl on acid breaking into an interpretive go-go dance, that I swear goes on for 20 minutes.

6. The reason I haven't written much about the trip is because Bobbie's mother is sick and...it's just kind of emotional and all. But I will say that Buster Bluth was our fellow passenger on the plane ride out there, with his very cute baby. That bears mentioning, right? Saturday was the best day, because we ate breakfast at Ma Gooch's in Cleveland, GA (seriously, if you ever find yourself in Cleveland, which I doubt most people who read this ever will, but if you do, go to Ma Gooch and get you some country ham and eggs and biscuits and gravy. The biscuits are friggin' HUGE!) and a nostalgic lunch at The Grill in Athens. The bathrooms at the grill brought back a lot of memories, few of them pleasent.

7. Been listening to a lot of Drive-By Truckers, especially during the trip. I had gotten The Dirty South off of emusic in March, and it's just such a kick-ass rock album. It's just amazing. Then I got A Blessing and a Curse just before leaving on the trip, and that's a great companion to Dirty South. It's mellower and sadder, and the songs are more personal and introspective, and in some cases the lyrics fit uncomfortably well with what was going on out there, but still rocks like a mutha. And while I was in Athens, I picked up Southern Rock Opera from Wuxtry, which I don't like as much as the last two, but it's still pretty great.

8. Also downloaded Party Music by The Coup. Man, that is good shit.

9. Caught The Muthers at The New Beverly--another installment of Tarantino's grindhouse festival. A very entertaining flick about 4 black chicks breaking out of a prison farm in The Philipines. And two of them are pirates. Possibly the best women's prison kung fu blaxploitation pirate movie I've ever seen. They showed trailers for four Mad Max/Road Warrior rip-offs in a row. I mean, all four of these movies had copied the Mad Max aesthetic down to the last detail. They all looked identical, and they all looked awful. It was fun watching their trailers, though. Let me see if I can remember all the titles: Dune Warriors, Desert Warrior, Equalizer 3000 and Stryker! The last title drew huge laughs from the portion of the audience fluent in gay porn.

10. Dave Chappelle did six hours and seven minutes at The Laugh Factory! And apparantly had the audience with him the whole time. That's just astounding. That's some fuckin' Allman Bros. shit.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich

"See, at one time Pete Townsend was gonna quit The Who, and if he had, he'd have joined Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, in which case they would have become Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick, Tich and Pete, which, if you ask me, he should have done."

-Jungle Julia

Thanks for the mp3, Ben! I was a bit off about these guys. I figured they were early-70's glitter rock contemporaries of Sweet, Slade, and The Bay City Rollers. Turns out they're vintage is Late British Invasion, and this song is from 1966, but either way, it's some great high-energy bubblegum with a little Link Wray guitar. I bet Joey Ramone owned this record.

Some of their other stuff has a weird pop-meets-exotica sound, like "Zabadak" and their only #1 hit, "Legend of Xanadu." But I like the rockin' tunes. Check this one out!

According to their Wikipedia page, "between 1965 and 1969, the group spent more weeks in the UK Singles Chart than The Beatles." And apparantly, they still tour!

Their best-of CD is available on Amazon.

GA Pics

A meditative moment by the riverside:
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Bobbie on the steps of my parents' cabin up on Mount Yonah:
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To give you some idea of the view from the cabin:
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

More here, if you're interested. Mostly just pics of our families.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


Let's start with this: I really, really love Quentin Tarantino. Unabashedly. I don't let any abash get in my Tarantino love. I love every movie he's ever directed, right down to his segment in Four Rooms. I like all three movies that other people directed from his scripts (True Romance, From Dusk 'Til Dawn and the amazing Natural Born Killers, even if there's probably very little of his script in that one). I totally don't get people who don't like his stuff, who consider him a rip-off artist, or who keep saying he took a step backward since Jackie Brown. Take this typical debate between pro-QT Kim Morgan and anti-QT Dave Fear. Fear says "For him to go from something as emotionally naked as "Brown" to the jukebox cinema of Kill Bill (Wow, you've seen a lot of cool Asian movies. Um, congratulations?) felt like a serious step backward." What this argument misses is that Kill Bill, regardless of what else you may say about it, is incredibly entertaining and just fucking GOOD. I'd go so far as to say that Kill Bill is just about the most perfectly entertaining movie I've ever seen. When somebody tells me they don't like Kill Bill, I have the same reaction as I would if someone were to tell me they don't like Fishbone (or at least their 80's output): what's not to like? Seriously, what fault could anyone possibly find in something as perfect as Kill Bill or Truth and Soul? I just don't get it.

Rodriguez, on the other hand, I have no great love for. I thought El Mariachi was impressive for it's budget, and I was interested in seeing what he would do next, but the truth is, he hasn't done much. Movies like Desperado strike me as being as stupid and dull as anything Michael Bay ever made. I like From Dusk 'Til Dawn, the first Spy Kids, his Four Rooms segment, and to some extent Sin City (my only real problem with Sin City is that I think Frank Miller's stories are just retarded, and that's hardly Rodriguez's fault). For the most part, I think he'd be better off letting someone else write his scripts.

Writing seems to be RR's central problem. He doesn't seem to have any stories to tell, just lists of things that he thinks would look cool in a movie. The same could be said of his half of Grindhouse, Planet Terror, except that by pure monkey-typing-Hamlet coincidence, Planet Terror turned out to be a pretty good movie. Possibly the best thing he's ever done, almost certainly the best thing he's ever made from his own script (I'm not sure how to compare something like this to Spy Kids). It has most of the same faults that the later Mariachi movies have, but somehow it makes them work. Maybe it's the low-budget aesthetic that takes some of the gloss off. This is a director famous for making low-budget movies that look like big-budget movies, now making a low budget movie that purposely looks like a low-budget movie (a few effects shots notwithstanding). I'm thinking this is achieved not so much through the sets and the fake-grainy film, but through using actors that somehow seem to not quite fit their parts. Freddy Rodriguez doesn't quite look like the badass he's supposed to, and Josh Brolin...I don't know, there's just something about him that makes him look like he's in a B-movie. And by the way, I think Brolin is the coolest performance in this movie, as an evil doctor trying to kill his wife in the middle of a zombie holocaust.

Planet Terror takes place in a purely cinematic universe, unhampered by logic, physics or veresimilitude. Whatever looks the coolest on screen is how it is. The machine gun leg looked pretty dumb in the trailers and promotional material, but by the time you get to that, it makes perfect sense in the universe of Planet Terror, alongside the castration tools and multicolored hypodermics. Of course, this is true of just about all RR's movies, so I'm not sure why it works for me here. Maybe it's because in Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico, RR seems to take this shit totally seriously.

Planet Terror doesn't really emulate 70's movies. It's vintage seems to be more early 80's, if you ask me. I believe RR described it as "the zombie film John Carpenter would have made between Escape From New York and The Thing," and LA Weekly described it as Romero's The Crazies meets Assault on Precint 13, so basically, a Romero-Carpenter fusion. Zombie flicks (and even good zombie flicks) are a dime a dozen these days, but if Planet Terror had come out in the 80's, it would probably be a classic. The gore is genuinely disgusting, and there are indeed some nice, Carpenter-like widescreen shots. I love the way the whole movie opens, with the word GRINDHOUSE scrolling across the screen, taking up every inch from top to bottom, Rodriguez's guitar theme playing loudly, and then Rose McGowan bumping and grinding onstage at a strip club. The way she's shot almost looks like David Lynch.

It's no surprise to me that, although Planet Terror is probably my favorite Rodriguez, and Death Proof might possibly be my least-favorite Tarantino, I still liked Death Proof exponentially more. When I first heard the concepts, I assumed Planet Terror would be at the top of the bill. Zombie films are "bigger" than slasher films, and RR is certainly the flashier director. But having seen them, that would not have worked at all. Death Proof is a switch-up, a sucker-punch after Planet Terror, not to mention a much better movie, one that you find yourself thinking about after you leave the theater. It's also probably the artsiest thing Tarantino has done since Pulp Fiction.

There's not much to give away (or to talk about, for that matter) in Planet Terror, but Death Proof is a little trickier. I was kind of annoyed when I bought the new issue of Creative Screenwriting to read on the plane, and Jeremy Smith's interview with QT kinda gave away the central twist in Death Proof. It's not a Shyalaman-type thing, and I don't think I enjoyed the movie any less for knowing it, but maybe if you haven't seen it, you don't want to know, so you shouldn't read the rest. Up to you.

Most of Death Proof is a bunch of chicks sitting around talking. The dialogue is very Tarantino, but it also feels looser than his previous dialogue, more natural. There's a very real feel of just hanging out in a bar listening to conversations. And listening to the coolest jukebox in the world, pumping out a steady stream of obscure rockabilly, garage, blues and glitter rock tunes, which I'm sure was one of the most fun aspects of filming this for QT. He smartly saves the best song, a forgotten glitter rock song that rocks harder than anything Sweet or Slade ever did, for the climactic moment. Damn, I need to own that song.

And Kurt Russell is totally great. He just gives off this air of being wrong somehow, both dangerous and pathetic, which I imagine is what real stalkers, serial killers and rapists are probably like.

When the shit finally does go down, there's nothing disapointing about it. It's scary as fuck, and exciting, and Zoe Bell is really quite awesome. And Rosario Dawson gives what may be the sexiest high-kick I've ever seen.

It's such an odd movie that I'll probably have more to write about it over the next couple weeks. I'm looking forward to seeing it again at some point, although I'd prefer not to sit through Planet Terror to do so. In the meantime, check this out: Quentin, Robert and Scott Foundas sit down for a roundtable summit with a gang of classic exploitation directors from the old days, including Bob Clark, who died four days after the interview took place. This is a really, really great read.

Monday, April 02, 2007

See You Next Wednesday!

Leaving for Georgia in the morning. I'll be gone for a week, so don't expect any updates. See ya then.