Friday, January 27, 2006

Noise Night Update

Apparently Sistrenatus (pictured below) will not be playing at the 1067 gig on Saturday. The correct lineup is:

Goatsblood (feat. 1067 veteran masa anzai)
Meat of Mankind (back from w. coast tour)
G42 (rare live performance)
The Rita
Broken Sleep

Doors at 8pm, music starts at 8:30

Alexander Varty, Terry Riley, and Me

Damn that Alex Varty! I haven't gotten around to sorting out my feelings about the Terry Riley/Michael McClure show last week, and I certainly haven't had time to write a piece about it, and now here he is in the Straight giving it a review that pretty much makes most of what I was going to say redundant and forces me, since I foolishly went ahead and read the thing, to grapple with his perceptions of the show as well as my own. Out of my head, Varty! Where the hell is that notebook...

The audience for the show at the Chan Centre was mostly moneyed boomer types of a kind I find singularly disagreeable to be around. They're the type that turn up in droves for high profile avant garde shows and then leave at midway, because they expect to be "entertained" and often reject things that are too difficult or noisy. I generally find the manners of such audiences lacking -- they rustle their programs, whisper to each other during performances, get up and go to the washroom midway through a piece, and generally act like their perceptions and enjoyment are more important than a) the art being made and b) the perceptions and enjoyment of their fellow audience members. None of this would probably annoy me so much if it weren't for the fact that these people have more money, better clothes, and more access to the arts than I do; lacking the sense of entitlement that their social status affords them, seeing people like Terry Riley perform fills me with a sense of respect and humility that requires I be on my best behaviour, and so I sit there resenting their more casual attitudes as they distract me from the show and force me to notice them. I was relieved to see a few kids with dreadlocks and shorts and such, current counterculture types, at the Chan, too, since, even tho' I don't feel one with them, either, I at least don't feel quite so alienated. Plus generally such kids behave better than the boomers. (It was fun to count the men in my row and see how many of them had less hair than I do, though. 6 out of 10. I have more hair than Alexander Varty, too. The nearly bald must console themselves with such things while they can.)

After a somewhat effusive introduction, Riley, whom I'd interviewed the previous month for Nerve Magazine, came onstage and bowed, with his hands pressed together. He was well-dressed in a dark suit cut in an Asian fashion I lack the vocabulary to describe, and sat at his Steinway to begin with an Indian raga he'd adapted. He seemed gentle and happy, a peaceful man who smiles easily, and introduced the piece in his rather soft, soothing voice. As Varty says, this was one of the high points of the night; I'd been worried a bit after Atlantis Nath, which I find a little simple at times, that Riley, now in his 70s, was losing some of his ability to play, but his opening raga had all the complexity and richness as any of the material of Harp of New Albion (my current favourite of his recordings). I didn't notice, contra Varty, that Riley's voice "creaked" at any point, when he accompanied himself with droning, Indian-inflected vocals; his voice, when he sings, has a foggy, diffuse, but open and embracing quality, that seems simultaneously colourless and ecstatic, carrying the sound of wind over water -- a marked counterpoint to the voice of McClure, which is silver, liquid, smooth, calm, languid, and simultaneously controlled and relaxed. McClure took the stage after Riley's opening piece and also gave a Buddhistic bow and began to recite as Riley played. Occasionally Riley picked up themes from McClure and sang them himself. Not all of what either men did worked, but the overall effect, for me, was positive.

Here's where I need to simply play off Varty. He writes of McClure:

"This contemporary of Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti looks extremely youthful for his 73 years but appeared distracted nonetheless, losing his place more than once and eventually walking off in what appeared to be a bemused state. Even McClure’s selections from his Ghost Tantras—one of the sacred texts of sound poetry—failed to connect, with Riley adding cocktail-piano tinklings to the poet’s world-weary patter."

Well, hm. I didn't think McClure looked particularly distracted; reading Varty, you'd think the man was senile. Why he walked off, I don't know -- a trip to the washroom? A glass of water? It didn't seem out of keeping with things, though, and actually, I enjoyed Riley's playing while he was away; he returned soon enough. McClure's readings weren't particularly intrusive -- his voice managed to slide easily into the overall texture of Riley's playing and provide a sort of anchor for the spirals Riley traced. His readings weren't particularly interesting, either, mind you -- and I didn't notice any of the "beast language poetry" Riley had promised, setting me up to expect something along the lines of Phil Minton or Paul Dutton -- but they didn't really negatively impact the evening. Perhaps I was better prepared for the off-the-cuff qualities of the night, since Riley had described both the recording (I Like Your Eyes Liberty) and the concert in such terms: "We just did it very spontaneously. It was done together in real time but I didn’t want to be following any kind of script with it so I told him, don’t tell me what you’re going to do, I’ll just play. Every time we get together I’m sure it’s going to be different, though he’ll probably read some of the same poems we have on the album. I really don’t even know what he’s going to do. We haven’t talked about it yet. "

All the same, it seemed to me that -- though McClure did repeat certain motifs several times -- speaking of "illusions like ice cream or sleeping bags," for instance -- he gave exactly the performance he intended to, offhanded as some of it may have been. I never had a sense that there was a "place" for him to lose... Perhaps because I was worried from the outset that he'd ruin everything -- I'm far more interested in Riley's music than McClure's poetry -- I ended up feeling that the first half of the night came off rather well. I must agree, though, about the "cocktail tinklings." Riley has moments which do not work in his recent playing, where he approaches on the one end a sort of lounge act -- there were a few too many "Beatniks go to Vegas" moments during the night -- and at the other end an entirely inapporpriate sort of boogie-woogie that jars one out of the rather contemplative state his playing usually inspires. These were the weaker moments of the night, as were (I agree, Alex) the "Uncle Jare" piece that Riley opened the second set with (silly lyrics, Terry) and the rather embarrassing beats that Riley tried to interject into the Dante piece. (Riley actually seems more at home on a piano than on an electronic keyboard these days; odd, since he's considered a pioneer of electronic music). The Dante piece was McClure's strongest moment, and though the Kerouac material (about the "wheel of the quivering meat conception" and all that California Buddhist mishegas) does seem dated, it didn't seem inappropriate, given who the men onstage were.

Here's where my notes run out -- or, more accurately, where the drugs kicked in and my notes stop being particularly useful or legible (though I like my comparison of the microphone stands bending into the piano to birds feeding from a stream under a rock overhang). Would, as Varty suggests, a more formal presentation of the material been more pleasing? Undoubtedly. Even though I think I enjoyed myself a bit more than Mr. Varty did, the night had its weak points that perhaps would have been ironed out of a more rehearsed performance. All the same, given that I was worried that I wouldn't much enjoy the show at all, I'm prepared to be forgiving on this point: it's fair enough for both Riley and McClure to feel they've paid their dues and relax a bit. At the end of the evening, both men seemed pleased, and smiled and bowed and hugged each other; they were clearly satisfied with what they'd done, and a few people stood up to applaud them (though not everyone). For much of the audience in the front rows, too, the evening seemed to work fairly well; after the break many of them were rustling with the plastic on their CDs and whispering about how impressed they were, as I tried to concentrate on the music...

My main disappointment with the night was that the artists didn't take me up on my standing offer to share a pot cookie with them. If you guys are ever back in town...

Thursday, January 26, 2006

New Shinya Tsukamoto, plus ramblings on Miike and Park ChanWook

...or new Tsukamoto Shinya, if you prefer: Vital is his newest feature, out as part of the Asian Exteme series (presumably) on Tartan. Tsukamoto is interested in ripping off the polite surfaces of Japanese society and seeing what chaos and violence lurk beneath; he's routinely compared to David Cronenberg, and does share areas of affinity -- the bodies erupting into machinery of war in the Tetsuo films have direct echoes in Videodrome -- but morally he has an ally in Miike Takashi, too (he appears in Ichi the Killer, the director's most notorious film); both filmmakers are intolerant of the hypocrisies and falsehoods of their society and go to extremes not to be polite in addressing them.

Anyone looking for intense and intelligent Asian cinema to rent might also productively take a peek at Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, also being widely distributed, directed by Korean auteur Park ChanWook. It's not quite as relentlessly grim or depressing as Oldboy -- its dark humour and sense of the absurd make it seem just a tad more forgiving -- and it's not the light-footed tour-de-force of the recent Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (which people in the know can find in Chinatown on DVD -- thus far the only way to see it in the city); but it's fascinating and satisfying and very original cinema no less.

I dreamed I had sex with a sheep the other night. Why? Weirder still: the sheep was on top.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Winks Play January 29th!

One month to the day of the last Winks gig I tried to stir up excitement for, here comes another Winks gig, this time at Video In. The performers on the bill are described thus on the Winks mailing list, the latest missive from which I have quoted below. I am unsure if "rapped" is a pun on rapping (I doubt it) or a misspelling of "wrapped" so I have left it intact (y'all know my dayjob is as an English teacher, right?):

This Sunday (jan 29th) we're playing a show at Video In w/ w/ Thanksgiving,
Ghost To Falco & Yukon.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful folk singer from
Portland. As for street cred, he's on Phil Elvrum (Mictrophones/Mount Errie)'s
label and Vice gave his new CD a "9".

Yukon sing sweetly, strum
classical guitars, hum along to harmoniums and tap on resonate woods. They also
just finished recording their new CD with Todd of the winks.

Ghost to
Falco are also from Portland and they will be rapped in a cozy blanket.

The poster is attached. Marek drew it.

Then on February 4th we
play at Pub 340 w/ Transylvanian Polka & Mistress Jen. We play at 12:30

In Other Winks News:

Todd is opening a little recording studio
called Castle in The Clouds. Grand opening special price is $10 per hour.

Tyr just finished making tour outfits for the local band Hot Loins!!

We're releasing a limited edition live CD, and making new T shirts
just in time for our…

Western Canadian tour! Victoria to Saskatoon
and maybe further if we're brave. See our shows page for details.

That's all for now,

--- The Winks ---

Godspeed Winks, but I have plans for Sunday...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006 T-Shirt sale

I want this one.

Video In Event, Noise Gig, Nerve Magazine

Stuff to check out in Vancouver: Video In will be hosting Cue Up, a monthly showing of video work by local artists, on Thursday, and 1067 will be hosting a noise event, featuring G42, Flat Grey (do they have a website?), Sistrenatus (pictured above, during a collaboration with G42's Dan at the Zombiewalk afterparty), and more, on Saturday. Should be intense.

Avid readers are advised to see the next issue of The Nerve Magazine for feature/interview thingies by me on Jarboe (playing February 4th at Richards on Richards, we think, on the same bill as Blixa Bargeld) and Gremlins director Joe Dante (in regard to his recent Homecoming, which has attracted some attention). The Nerve, of course, ran my Terry Riley feature last month...

It's been a pretty intense few weeks and writing the above-mentioned articles has kept me busy, so sorry that the blog has been a bit slack lately... I'll try to put up a review of the Terry Riley/Michael McClure concert later in the week.

My Father Made Jack Layton Smile (he might need it now)

I feel like I'm living among strangers. Not even Svend gets in?

Here's a story. My father is going to the racetrack, see? Gets on a bus full of NDP campaigners. He's studying the racetrack program and takes awhile to realize that the guy sitting next to him with the laptop is Jack Layton. He offers the following to Layton and one of his campaign workers: that he's been a lifelong Tory (Layton and worker frown), but this election he asked his son who to vote for, because his son represents the future of Canada; and his son said Jack Layton, so that's who he's going to vote for. Layton gave a big grin and had the moment videotaped, shaking my father's hand.

Good thing my father didn't say the bit about how "Layton smiles too much and looks like a professional politician, but anything's better than Harper."

Interestingly, he lost more at the track yesterday than he has in months.

Mantra for the new year: they only got a minority... they only got a minority...

Saturday, January 21, 2006

William Blum gets plugged by Osama bin Laden

Hah! William Blum, a somewhat lesser-known (compared to Chomsky, Herman, Parenti and Zinn, say) left-leaning writer and critic of US foreign policy, has received a useful promotional plug from Osama bin Laden, whose latest tape mentions Blum's book, Rogue State. (I personally prefer the title of another book of his, Freeing the World to Death). The book has jumped in sales on to the number 30 place! (Update: the Independent, reporting a couple of days later, says that the book has made it to number 21). I wonder if Osama gets royalties...

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Stampeding Muslims, New New Creation

I'm curious: does anyone recall seeing the word "stampede" associated with groups other than Muslims? ...because I've seen it before, in regard to the annual pilgrimage to Mecca; the devout tend to get a little out-of-control there. I can't think of sufficient analagous situations in the west -- though that Who concert in Cincinatti comes to mind -- so I'm not quite sure about this, but it seems to me that it is very uncommon to speak of human beings "stampeding." It seems like a word usually reserved for cattle. What does it mean, then, that Muslims are the only humans we speak of as stampeding? Does this indicate a weird twist on the anti-Muslim tendancies in American media... or is it in fact somehow appropriate? Though the dictionary does include the possibility of people stampeding, I somehow don't think that if a group of overzealous Christians did something like this, the word "stampede" would be used...

Speaking of Christians, keep it a secret, but the New Creation (see article below) apparently have recorded a new album -- or so I'm told by Will at Companion Records. I'm intrigued...

ADDENDUM (January 27): a Los Angeles radio station is in hot water for this insensitive skit making fun of the "stampede deaths."

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Death of the Hello Kitty Vibrator

I first saw the Hello Kitty vibrator in a shop in Ueno, Tokyo. It was a big, wall-less area with several stalls, selling everything from samurai swords to wristwatches to porn; my then-girlfriend (also from Canada) and I spent some time exploring the shop one afternoon, showing each other porno boxes and giggling, until the going got strange, for instance when we discovered several tapes of bestiality porn, with only partial censorship, wherever penetration or exposed genitalia occured -- the idea of only partially censoring bestiality porn being pretty odd to both of us. The Hello Kitty vibrators (along with My Melody vibrators and a couple of other cartoon characters I didn't recognize -- though there were no Doraemon ones, to my disappointment) were lined up in a display case and cost only 1000 Yen -- about $12 Canadian. They became my omiyage of choice for any of my female friends -- I believe I bought at least five of them for people. Sadly, I didn't stock up, because I discovered today, reading this article, that the Hello Kitty vibrator is no more. As their value to collectors mounts, I'm sure my female friends will be sad that they didn't keep them in the package...! (I gather that the ears are too pointy for comfort, anyhow).

Thursday, January 05, 2006

King Kong Cameo: It wasn't Forrest J. Ackerman

When Kong bursts out of the theatre, a man looks up aghast who looks an awful lot (I thought) like Forrest J. Ackerman, the uber-fan and collector whose magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland (linked here, but I'm not sure Forrest is involved in the new version, tho' it seems to be keeping to his spirit; cool, but small, scans of original covers here) did more than any other to fire my imagination and stoke my love for horror and science fiction cinema back when I was a child. Forry often does do cameos in horror cinema (and appeared in Peter Jackson's much earlier horror/comedy, Dead Alive, also known as Braindead; there are photos of him online with Peter Jackson during the time of Lord of the Rings). Given his fondness for Kong, it's just the sort of thing he'd likely love to do. I wanted it to be him! After a fruitless week on IMDB, bumping a message on the boards asking anyone who could to confirm or deny it, at the prompting of IMDB member Yojimboy, I simply wrote Forry and asked him. Bad news: it wasn't him. He replies:

Sadly, while Peter Jackson intended me to be in a cameo in his new Kong, I had an injury that prevented me from flying during the shooting. I'm all better now. The fellow that looks like me is great collector, fan and dear friend Bob Burns.

Beast Witches,

A Forrest J. Ackerman bio appears here, with a current photo; he just turned 89 and intends to make it to 100 and be the "George Burns of science fiction." Note that he is fluent in Esperanto, too! Cheers, Mr. Ackerman, and have a happy New Year!

Monday, January 02, 2006

NEWS FLASH: Vancity Theatre runs Masters of Horror

The Vancity Theatre will be running the Masters of Horror series, previously written about on this blog in the context of Joe Dante's essential-viewing-soundin' episode, Homecoming, in which dead soldiers shipped home from Iraq rise from their coffins to eat Republicans and so forth. There'll also be installments from Larry Cohen, Don Coscarelli, John Landis, Miike Takashi, and many more -- the Saturday marathon sounds like a must-see. Everyone take notice!

Neglected Direct-to-Video Gem: HIT ME

Fans of noir and the hard-boiled crime novels of Jim Thompson (who also wrote the novels upon which The Grifters, Coup de Torchon, The Getaway and After Dark, My Sweet were based) are highly advised to check out Hit Me, a shamefully neglected, direct-to-video 1996 release that, I think, is more effective and moving than any of the previously mentioned Thompson adaptations and is a damned effective noir to boot, truly capturing the desparation, humiliation, and fragility of its main male character. He's brilliantly realized by Canadian-born actor Elias Koteas (the fellow who plays Vaughn, and makes out with James Spader, in Cronenberg's Crash -- as well as the DJ in Exotica and the "decent" officer who refuses Nick Nolte's orders in The Thin Red Line). I've long been a fan of Koteas but one seldom gets to see him really run with a performance as he does here; he shamelessly steals a bit from de Niro, and there's a hammy edge to his excesses, but one suspects that that has a bit to do with director Steven Shainberg's somewhat ironic approach to the material -- he may well have coached Koteas to act broadly, as a nod to the audience's savviness about the role and the genre. It's great fun to watch Koteas work, in any case (for me, anyhow -- some reviewers on IMDB describe his performance as "a pointless exercise in scenery-chewing"); his energy and confidence really pull the film along, and one hopes that some of the quirkier moments -- his initial "dance" at the hotel room door, for instance -- were his own inventions. I disliked Shainberg's subsequent film, Secretary, which received far more attention, but think this film (tho' it does suffer from a couple of clunky moments and problems of construction) is really worth seeing; bizarre that it only has five reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and six "user comments" on IMDB -- people really just didn't pay attention to it, and unless I'm off my mark, I don't think it even got distributed on video until after Secretary was a minor hit. Well, people are idiots; this is a great little film. By the way, the screenplay (which has some wonderful turns of language at times) was written by novelist Denis Johnson, who also wrote the stories on which the film Jesus' Son were based.

Great Vancouver Outsider Music: Long Live the New Creation

The story of the New Creation is fascinating and worth reading, and you can do that at greater length here. Briefly, they were a Vancouver-based Christian garage rock band who had a very short career and pressed one album, back in 1970, called Troubled. It was paid for out of their own pockets in a run of 100 copies, and sank into permanent obscurity faster than you could say "the Shaggs." It's a brilliant album, with a moody, dark, and somewhat apocalyptic take on Christianity and some really neat lyrical turns and riffs; outsider-music writer Irwin Chusid notes in the liner notes for the disc that if you don't like it, "you're a barnacle beneath the yacht of aesthetic perception" (tho' personally I'm prepared to forgive those friends of mine who don't immediately groove to its brilliance). My draw to the story, tho', has to do with HOW the disc was rescued: Ty Scammel, Ty of the Vancouver Flea Market, Ty the elfin old hippie with an extensive knowledge of obscure psychedelic rock and a great enthusiasm for sharing cool music with his customers -- Ty who turned me on to Fred Frith and a lot of great free jazz, as I mentioned in my appreciation of the Nihilist Spasm Band a few months ago -- found a copy of the album in a thrift store, recognized its potential, and played bits of it for various friends and customers, one of whom, an obsessive quester after new discoveries in the realm of outsider music, got really enthusiastic and continued the project of delivering the New Creation from the murk of time. Being a book and sometimes record scout myself, I delight in the role they played in salvaging this album, and that's why I went ahead and bought it -- since Ty apparently died a couple of years ago, this album is, to me, his legacy. It was googling his name that brought it to my attention in the first place. Anyhow, the album is available now through the Companion Records label -- who have MP3s of the band online here . You should buy it before it sinks into obscurity yet again!!! Who knows how long the window will be open...

Note: the pic above shows the original album cover, as Ty found it in some Salvation Army or such, and not the current CD cover...!