Monday, July 31, 2006

Vulgar Engrish Week, Dead Eel

Above: a somewhat dark photograph of a ridiculously obscene Dr. Pepper can, acquired from a vending machine in Saitama-ken. One cannot look at it without imagining a teenaged Japanese boy masturbating to the image. I mean, if I were a teenaged Japanese boy, I would...

And on that note: this is a great week to visit, for snaps of vulgar and obscene English errors.

In other news, a strange event in Dorset involving a dead eel has been cancelled after someone complained it was disrespectful to the eel. Or to eels in general.

...and now I must get ready for work.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

A Man and his Mouse

I wake up at 7 AM, hearing a strange sound. Curiosity gets the better of me and I go inspect my traps (one non-harmful and baited, one gluey). No mice. Shit.

Dan came over yesterday and we moved my fridge, the last place of a definite sighting. I checked my kitchen and did what I could to seal up one suspicious crevice with steel wool and duct tape. There were no mice. I had to enjoy a fair number of Jerry Fabin jokes (Charles Freck jokes to fans of the movie), but, again using duct tape and a big sheet of particle board, I created a "door" to my kitchen that mice can't get through, so I'll know -- if I see another mouse in there, it has some way of access I haven't discovered.

The unfortunate effect of this is that I have, it seems, sealed the mouse in here with me. I saw it about 20 minutes ago, running along the threshold of the kitchen entranceway, TOWARDS ME. I jumped, I admit. It responded to my jump: it turned around and ran back behind the TV.

A few seconds later, I saw it scurry behind the radiator. Hoping to drive it into the nearby trap, I threw a DVD case at the radiator, but nothing happened; the mouse appeared to be gone.

Before going over to inspect the area, I put shoes on my bare feet. And so do I sit here, jumpy, wondering where the little fella is.

Upcoming Events in August: Antonioni, Winks, Minimalist Jug Band...

(stills from Michelangelo Antonioni's Zabriskie Point; stars Mark Frechette and Daria Halprin)

Thought I'd mention some things I'm excited about around the city this August.

Of course, the Antonioni retrospective at the Cinematheque is a pretty important event -- note that the dates for screenings of The Passenger and Blow Up have changed from what was in their printed calendar. Of the films of Antonioni I'd seen, I'd recommend L'Avventura as his best early film, looking at alienation, ennui and the troubles of the rich through a somewhat cold eye; L'Eclisse is worth a look, too. Both are formally adventurous and visually powerful, though you tend not to like the characters too much, which is part of the point. The last time I saw Blow Up, it seemed like a somewhat shallow put down of the pop scene in Britain. It has various likable bits -- David Hemming's figuring out the "murder" is a brilliant and very influential bit of filmmaking, played off of most notably in Brian de Palma's Blow Out -- but I didn't really get the sense Antonioni understood very well what the youth culture of England was about, and the Yardbirds sequence seems one of the most ridiculous misunderstandings of rock music (and its audience) committed to film. Much richer and more engaging, I find, is Zabriskie Point; thought I blush not at all to admit that it's a favourite film of mine, it was universally hated at the time, accused of triteness, oversimplification, and heart-on-its-sleeve sentiment. It shows both student rebellion and "free love" in America in the 1960's, set to a soundtrack of Pink Floyd, the Grateful Dead, Roscoe Holcomb, and John Fahey (tho' he got in a fight with Antonioni over the film's anti-Americanism and doesn't contribute as much as he might have - scroll down to 1969 on the linked page for the story). There's also a very beautiful Jerry Garcia-scored acid trip of sorts in it (watch for the scene where Daria and Mark drop; it's difficult to spot but it's near her musings about the "SoAnyway River"); the imagery, of dozens of hippies making love in the desert, is the sort of thing that would have made Wilhelm Reich weep for joy, if he'd seen it, and sentimental and idealizing as it may be, I can't but love Antonioni for having filmed this. I'd recommend reading this fascinating piece on Mark Frechette, the star, for some very interesting/unusual background; note that he said at his trial that he could think of no more honest act than pointing a gun at a bank teller. The story plays a bizarre but fascinating role in the French-Canadian novel, The First Person, by Pierre Turgeon. By the way, if you're not sure who Mel Lyman was, and are interested in the 1960's, "cults," gurus, and so forth, I'd explore the articles at that last link -- especially this one, from the rare book Mindfuckers: A Source Book on the Rise of Acid Fascism in America.

Coming back to Antonioni... I'm also fond of The Passenger and I think Red Desert is quite interesting for its industrial landscapes and early electronic score, though again, its characters are so lost and alienated that I find it hard to establish an emotional connection with them -- early Antonioni seems to be like that, leading you gliding over the surfaces of life, estranged, anxious, lost... I tend to get much more involved in his post-Blow Up films, so I'm really looking forward to the later films the Cinematheque will be playing, most of which I've never seen, and his controversial documentary on China...

What else should I strive to call your attention to? Hm. August 4th, Bruce Sweeney's Dirty -- the best film ever made about being alienated in
Vancouver -- will be playing at the Vancouver International Film Centre, alongside Lynne Stopkewich's lovingly-made film about necrophilia, Kissed... On August 7th, the Minimalist Jug Band will be doing a jugless performance at Café Deux Soliex, as part of a poetry slam. On August 12th, the Winks will be masturbating at Castle in the Clouds (really! -- read their site). On August 16th, the best and the brightest of our youth culture will indubitably be at the Carla Bozulich/Silver Mount Zion show at Richards on Richards (Efrim and Carla both made fascinating interviews -- see next month's Discorder for more). On August 17th, the Winks will wipe their hands and perform at Pats Pub. The very next night, I'll be playing Battle Royale I and II at Blim. And then August 19th, it's the next Zombiewalk...

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Blog Format Problem

For some reason, links to all past articles, the archived months, and my profile, no longer appear at the head of the page, but rather, at the bottom. You have so scroll WAY down to access this stuff. Sorry about that! I've contacted Blogger Support but they've yet to get back to me, so there's really not much I can do -- I don't want to lose writing by re-selecting the blog template, so... You may have to just get used to it.

Alternately, if you click on the time of posting of any one article, it brings up my profile and so forth... If you want a shortcut.

Melvins Play Vancouver September 12th

Yeehah. I used to see the Melvins all the time at the Cruel Elephant, years ago, but I fell out of the habit, and moved to Japan for awhile, so it had been some time... I was very pleasantly surprised to see them with Jello Biafra at the Croatian Cultural Centre last year. They started the show with a few of their own songs, and they were heavy and fierce indeed. Delighted to see that they'll be playing the Commodore September 12th. Not many rock bands I'd go out of my way to see these days -- Nomeansno, the Ex, and the New Model Army are the other big three. Never actually been that keen on the Melvins recorded output, but seeing them live... Yes!

Summer of the Mouse

I somehow imagine it's related to the heat. I've lived here two years; other tenants I've spoken to have lived here seven. Suddenly this summer -- mice. I've caught and killed one and seen two others so far -- one just a few minutes ago, zooming around the kitchen, evading the glue traps I'd set. (Said other tenant says they're similarly dodging the conventional traps). I decided I'd try my hand at building a better moustrap -- something non-fatal, since my killing of that last mouse still disturbs me. I took a simple (lidded) cardboard box with a ramp leading up to it; cut a flap in one lid, to use as a ramp by which the mouse could climb inside; put some bread into the box; and left it in the kitchen. The theory is, the mouse climbs the ramp, smells the bread, climbs inside, and can't get out again. It might work. I would much rather catch a mouse that way than in the glue.

Meantime, I have involuntary pets. It's a somewhat discomfiting feeling...

Friday, July 28, 2006

Police Beat at Vancouver International Film Centre

For those looking for a distraction from all the horrible news from the Middle East this week, I highly recommend Robinson Devor's film Police Beat, at the Vancouver International Film Centre until August 3rd. Co-written by Stranger writer Charles Mudede (who wrote that marvelous piece last year on the Enumclaw horse fuckers -- "outtakes" from which can be found here, in which he compares Enumclaw to an anus), the film looks at cultural and social disorder in Seattle through the eyes of a confused and very much alienated African immigrant, working on the police force. The episodes in the film are drawn from actual cases to cross Mudede's desk; they're linked by a stream-of-consciousness narrative in Wolof, the language of Senegal, detailing the main character, Z's, interior stresses about his relationship problems, which threaten to draw him into the disorder he perceives... The film is funny, disturbing, and hypnotic in the same way at the same time: funny in that we recognize the disorder around us and inside us, seeing it through Z's eyes; disturbing for exactly the same reason; and hypnotic insofar as its rhythms are entirely linked to Z's interior monologue, which, for all its foreignness, is disarmingly familiar... Plus the whole thing is constructed with a unique, dreamlike quality and shot in gorgeous blue hues. It's particularly interesting seeing the film as a man; there are very few intelligent and sympathetic representations of the world as seen through a man's eyes out there (I'm dead serious); but there's much more to the film than that... I can't do it justice at the moment. It's quite remarkable, and appears to get richer each viewing. I urge you to see it.

...Oh, and smoking a bowl before you go in really helps you adjust to its rhythms, too. The more intimacy you can achieve with Z, the more rewarding the film... Seeing it a second time tonight has convinced me to see it a third time, and maybe a fourth.

There were less than half a dozen people in the theatre tonight, folks. You can do better than that.

Postscript -- think I'll go see this again on Sunday. Those interested in reading more about the film are directed to this interview with Devor and Mudede, which also contains hints at what The Minotaur, their next feature, will be like. Interestingly, it appears to have at least a slight structural similarity with Bruce Sweeney's next film, American Venus, which also has action taking place along the US/Canada border, set partially in Vancouver...

Eugene Chadbourne on Youtube

Hey -- there's a cool 19-minute documentary on Eugene Chadbourne on Youtube! Neat!

(Photo of Dr. Chad when he was last in Vancouver, sellin' homemade CDs from his guitar case -- which can also be found at his official site...).

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Great Nomeansno timeline

I'm working on some really cool Nomeansno stuff (and have a mini-interview with the band in next month's Discorder). Their new album, All Roads Lead to Ausfahrt, is to be released on August 22nd, and is the most fun thing they've done -- it promises to be the next Wrong. In the meantime, while you wait for further writing from me and the release of the disc, here's an excellent timeline prepared by Exclaim magazine, giving the backstory of the band up to 2000. Image courtesy of John Chedsey and the Nomeanswhatever website.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Three of Wands; A Scanner Darkly

Glimpses of a night: without being stoned, would we ever have decided to draw Tarot cards (one apiece) and meditate on their meanings? Mine was the Three of Wands. It fits perfectly, especially in its invocation of the idea that there is much to be done, and that successes thus far have only been partial.

On other notes, I've been thinking about Richard Linklater's filmed version of A Scanner Darkly. It seems grimmer, more nihilistic than the novel, and somehow this deadens its emotional impact; it should be more powerful, leave you devastated rather than hopeless. Having seen it twice, I think I do like it, but I don't really care about it very much -- it's not part of the problem, but it's never going to be a favourite film of mine, and I can't see myself buying it on DVD. Perhaps it's because there was more hope and creativity and innocence to the stoners of the 60s and 70's, of whom Dick is so fond, compared to the contemporary slackers that bepeople this film, whose drug-taking seems a gesture of complete and utter despair, foolishness, and an absence of options; an innocence gets lost in the translation to the modern day...

...Or perhaps it's that somehow Dick's love for these people simply doesn't translate so well onto screen, isn't being adequately conveyed? Linklater is more concerned with the grim, anti-corporate, anti-surveillance, anti-hypocrisy worldview of the text than what for Dick was probably far more primary. Without said love and sympathy for these characters we don't really feel as much as we could; we observe the film, and perhaps think about it's paranoid message, and maybe even laugh at its episodes, which are more or less faithful to those in the novel -- but the emotional impact is deadened (though the last images DID get to me a little on the second viewing). The grimness of Linklater's vision fairly beats you into numbness, such that when Dick's dedication to the fallen (from the same afterword I quoted below -- ) graces the screen before the credits roll, it seems oddly inappropriate, like it's meant to be attached to some other movie. Oh, does Linklater love these characters, too? Were we meant to? Oh.

And Jerry Fabin, here merged with Charles Freck, never saves the kid when the car falls -- the whole episode is missing. It SHOULD have been in there, but doesn't fit with the Freck we get, who is more or less played for laughs... I dunno. It's not a bad film, but...

I'll need to see it a third time but I think that's my take on it...

Monday, July 24, 2006

Next Month's Discorder, plus watch this space

Next month I'll have three pieces in Discorder, a brief Nomeansno interview, a meaty Efrim (GY!BE/A Silver Mount Zion) Menuck and Carla Bozulich interview, and my usual film column, this time on Japanese cult/action filmmaker, Kinji Fukasaku (Battle Royale, Battles without Honor and Humanity - and note that I will be playing Battle Royale at Blim on August 18th). It's the single most writing I've had in one paper. Also working on other stuff on the Nomeansno front, but nothing is official as of yet. (All Roads Lead to Ausfahrt is the most musically tight, commercially viable, and all-round satisfying Nomeansno disc since Wrong, though the band are starting to get well-adjusted enough that they're losing a bit of their precious negativity -- it's truly bizarre how much they seem to be enjoying themselves on this disc. Anyhow, I figger if I can promote it in enough places I might get credit for some of it's success, and then the band will feel like they owe me one and give me special perks at gigs and rare memorabilia. Right?)

Upcoming here, there will be lengthy outtakes from the Efrim/Carla interviews, prior to their August 16th show at Richards on Richards. If that doesn't turn out to be the show of the summer, I will be amazed. Tickets are a mere $14 at the usual venues -- check out either Carla Bozulich's Evangelista or The Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-La-La Band with Choir's Horses in the Sky to be quickly convinced that you need to attend.

And like I say, grab the August Discorder for some fine writing by yours truly.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Weapons of Mouse Destruction

I almost want the trap to be empty when I get home. If not, it means that I will have to finish off the mouse inside; and worse, it will mean that the mouse probably suffered a fairly long time. I’ve been at Blim for the last three hours, playing Bela Tarr’s Werckmeister Harmonies for a crowd of three, not counting Yuriko and the one volunteer. Werckmeister Harmonies is a long time to struggle in a glue trap; it’s not a fate I would wish on any creature – and yet perhaps, I worried on the skytrain home – it was exactly the fate I’d inflicted.

I first saw it this morning. It scooted along the wall in my kitchen and caused me quite a shock. A friend, also with a mouse problem, has recently given up on trying to use humane traps – they’re expensive and they don’t work, and she still has a mouse problem. Things are a little simpler for me: it’s in my kitchen, and the aisles where it can run are fairly narrow and easy to put traps in – folding sheets of intensely sticky glue. Once you’re stuck, your attempts to free yourself only serve to ensnare you further. Cockroach traps in Japan work on the same principle – I still remember peering inside to see how many cockroaches I’d gotten at a given time, and what the biggest and smallest of them looked like.

A mouse is not a cockroach. There was one at work awhile back. It scurried along the floorboards in my classroom. I closed the door, startled it, set a garbage bin on its side, and the mouse ran in. It was very cute, leaping up at the bottom of the bin, squeaking indignantly. I showed it around to a few fellow teachers and then took it aways down an alley and released it behind a garbage bin. It was a sweet moment.

I caught some shit for that. The handyman and our chilly resource person wanted me to kill it. But in a wide open space like my classroom, catching it was easy enough.

It was my second special encounter with a mouse. My first is even more special: I was walking down the street in Maple Ridge one night, at the start of an acid trip, back in my 20’s, when a mouse ran down the street toward me, bopping along in the middle of the road, which, really, you don’t see mice do. At first I jumped: "holy cow, that’s an animal;" then I relaxed and decided it was probably a leaf blowing, some trick of the light making it look like it was living. By the time I realized it really was a mouse I was standing transfixed. It ran up to me, seeming to look up. It climbed onto my shoe. It stood and sniffed. I looked down at the mouse, it looked up at me. And then it ran away, continuing down the middle of Laity Street.

I had gerbils when I was a kid. I have nothing against mice. I kind of like them.

When I got home and checked the trap, a mouse was in it. Fuck. Ah, well. Sorry.

I’d already decided, coming up the stairs, what to do. Gingerly take the trap downstairs with an old, tarnished frying pan I have (that I never use), smash it really goddamn hard, and put the creature out of its misery. As quickly as possible, as the only way I could make up for the time it suffered.

When I tried to move the trap, so that I could get it in the frying pan and carry it downstairs, the flaps popped open and I could see. The mouse was twisted on its side, badly stuck, convulsing within its limited range of movement. I remembered that the caretaker and I had to use all our strength, both of us pulling, to get the paper off the trap so we could set it; there was no question that I would be able to cut this mouse loose. It would be crippled and suffering and die an even worse (slower) death, if I tried. One leg was badly mangled, twisted in the glue. It was breathing in short, panicked breaths, really incapable of struggling much. It looked like it had been in the trap quite awhile.

It had shat itself into the glue and there were little mouse turds stuck there.

I took it down behind the building, near the dumpster. I fished a Georgia Straight out of the recycling bin, set it on the pavement, and dumped the trap, face down, onto the Straight. The mouse no doubt perceived a moment of darkness. Maybe it knew what was coming.

I raised the frying pan above my head.

I hope I hit hard enough the first time to kill it. It sounded like a gunshot.

I hit it really hard a second time, just in case.

I didn’t check. I picked up the newspaper, noticing liquid stains soaking through the bottom of the trap. I quickly chucked it into the garbage bin.

I’m sorry, mouse. I just… I couldn’t have shared my space with you. Not safely, not cleanly. If I could have easily and quickly trapped and released you, I would have. Your life just wasn’t important enough to me to make the effort, and that's that, and maybe I'll suffer some karmic reward and I'll remember you and try not to complain.

I have two traps left out, and I sincerely hope they remain empty.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Bela Tarr on Werckmeister Harmonies

I've recently written about Bela Tarr (for the August Discorder) and am playing Werckmeister Harmonies for a few people (I hope) tonight, so I thought I'd post this on my blog -- a link to a revealing article in Senses of Cinema, featuring an interview with Tarr. His new film, a Georges Simenon adaptation, The Man from London, is scheduled to resume shooting again in September (production was derailed in 2005 after producer Humbert Balsan committed suicide).


An excellent article on Israel by Tony Judt, helpfully linked on the new Get Your War On page.

horror movie in my head

It would have been a nightmare, except I felt a little distant from it -- it takes a lot to scare or disturb me in dreams, these days, and though my subconscious occasionally manages to pull some pretty ugly/freaky shit out of the bag, I usually manage to stand at a distance from it, to not be too affected, like I'm watching a horror movie in my head. So you might as well just call it a dream.

Tonight's dream involved two men wandering in a town, a strange place that resembled (though I didn't realize it then) the condo court where I grew up as a kid, a somewhat run down suburb far from Vancouver, far from what to me came to seem a beacon of culture and light by comparison (but conveniently close to an elementary school). Though I think my point of view shifted from time to time, I seemed to identify myself more with one of these two. There was an odd smoky cloud in the air over the town -- almost like a discoloured rainbow, a yellow/grey smoker's rainbow -- and a sense that something was wrong; I think we were trapped, unable to find a way out. I knew before it happened that one of the men was going to kill the other, as a way of making things right, and that the character I identified more with was going to be the one who got killed. And sure enough: the two men came to a place where there were stone steps and a foggy, strange building with stairs and an altar, corresponding roughly to where my childhood home was, I think -- and though it looked like they'd figured out a way to get out of this strange town, one of them began to explain to the other that a sacrifice was needed. He grabbed me (though to some extent we could say I grabbed him -- my point of view continued to flicker a bit), threw me on an altar, and suddenly an ax materialized, which he raised above his head and swung down. Things flickered and then suddenly we re-enacted the last few seconds, except now he was a skeleton with an ax, staring at me. And then I was dead. And then I woke up.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Note to a Friend: Peter Whitehead vs Terence Malick


I have (what, relative to my comfy little life) is a deep, deep problem (relating to tomorrow night).

I just attended the Pacific Cinematheque, where they are screening the films of Peter Whitehead, and discovered that I NEED to see – I mean, I NEED to see – his film, BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT, which screens at 9:30 TOMORROW. As it’s not available on DVD, it’s my only chance to see it. I have SEEN THE THIN RED LINE three times on cinema screens and three times at DVD. I have seen BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT NOT AT ALL.

These look to be fascinating films about all that was best and most interesting (and therefore lost, buried, transient, not repeatable, erased) about the 1960s. I saw clips from them tonight and was astonished, overwhelmed. I know which film I need to see, but Oh, God, YOU NEED TO SEE THE THIN RED LINE, don’t you? I would be glad to take you to BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT, of course, instead, but… It’s more important to me that you see THE THIN RED LINE. Should I thus MISS this Peter Whitehead film? Oh, no!

Should I let you miss THE THIN RED LINE and take you with ME? But that would be BAD, selfish… tho’ you’d enjoy BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT, I think! Ohh. You'd also get to see Allen Ginsberg and other beat writers at the peak of their powers, in WHOLLY COMMUNION...

We could still catch the early show, DAYS OF HEAVEN, at Vancity… Ummm.

I don’t know what to do!



Post Script (to a general audience): THE PINK FLOYD is a pretty amazing experience. The songs are "Interstellar Overdrive" and an instrumental jam I don't recognize the name of. No, Syd Barrett doesn't sing, but it's really quite a perceptual odyssey, and the filmmaking is amazing, beautifully shot and edited. The management of the theatre (who I will presume to speak for -- you don't mind, do you, Christine?) would like to remind patrons that the film is not a rock concert, and whooping, cheering, shouting "Turn it up" or holding lit Bic lighters up is generally not appropriate etiquette for a movie theatre, where people are going to perceive a film, and give not a damn how devoted a fan you are. The band are not present and will not receive your gestures of appreciation. You would prove your devotion to Pink Floyd and the late Mr. Barrett far better by letting the rest of us actually hear the music and pay our respects. Dig?

For those who can't make it, it appears to be available on DVD -- the only one of Whitehead's films to be thus released.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Writing Addiction

It's weird... I've been intensely involved in writing this last week: I finished my upcoming Cinema Aspirant column, on Kinji Fukasaku, and interviewed and wrote up articles on Efrim Menuck (of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and A Silver Mount Zion), Carla Bozulich, and Nomeansno (all of which will be appearing in Discorder next month). Alongside with the correspondence and research that's gone into making these articles happen, I've spent probably as much time at my computer this week as I have at my dayjob. What's strange is that now that it's all more or less over -- the articles might get some fine tuning, but the bulk of the work is done -- there's a feeling of comedown, of mild depression, of not knowing what to do with myself. The nature of the communications involved in interviewing, researching and writing is so intense and substantial that there are few social interactions that can really hold their own against it, and I cast about, looking for something to do... I guess I could go see A Scanner Darkly again (it's a successful adaptation, tho' I'm going to need to see it a couple of more times to really get a handle on how I feel about it)... Then again, there's that Pink Floyd thing playing at the Cinematheque, from the Syd Barrett days... I guess I could do my laundry, too. I dunno. Anyone got any suggestions?

What I need is a writing gig that PAYS...

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A Scanner Darkly Opens Next Week

My favourite Philip K. Dick book, often described as his most personal, looks like it's being well-adapted by Richard Linklater; trailers and the official site give me a very good feelin'. It chronicles a descent into drug-induced paranoia and self-estrangement; Dick writes about it, in his author's note:

"This has been a novel about some people who were punished entirely too much for what they did. They wanted to have a good time, but they were like children playing in the street; they could see one after another of them being killed -- run over, maimed, destroyed -- but they continued to play anyhow. We really all were very happy for awhile, sitting around not toiling but just bullshitting and playing, but it was for such a terribly brief time, and then the punishment was beyond belief: even when we could see it, we could not believe it..."

As someone who also has been, at times, very fond of sitting around, getting stoned, and bullshitting with others for hours on end, the book strikes a resonant chord; there is a sadness to it that is very, very difficult to describe, and a fascinating trope is used to explore Dick's ambivalence toward the use of mind-alterin' substances. Vancouverites might be interested to note that after the time period in Dick's life written about in A Scanner Darkly, the author came to rehab in Vancouver, at a place called X-Kalay; it's the model for the rehab centre seen in the film. The film opens next weekend, reviews here; the Wikipedia article on the book, mentioning Dick's biographical background, is here. It's the first commercial release I've been excited about since, well, uh... King Kong. Shh. Think I'm gonna go on Saturday...

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Meanwhile, in Norway

An interesting story. In case you weren't aware, Norway were second after Japan last year in harvesting whales, against the grain of the World Council of Whaler's nearly 20-year old moratorium on whaling; along with Iceland, they're one of three nations which continue to harvest whales (the other being Iceland). I've actually long been a little suspect about the sacrity of whales, when it seems like it's open season on almost every other species on the planet; we seem to be stripping the earth raw, and focusing only on protecting certain species seems to be possibly counterproductive... Still, as an ESL teacher with many Japanese students in his class, I like to keep tabs on these things, since environmental issues sometimes come up in class. (It also is a fun excuse to segue into discussing the eating of dogs in some cultures, which is also bound to strike a sour note with some people...).

Monday, July 03, 2006

Jazz Festival After the Fact: Random Bits; plus more noise at Video In

It occurs to me that having gotten to know Fe-mail just a little makes me want to read both Pippi Longstocking and some music theory/criticism, and that this reading list probably could only occur in response to them (or Spunk, or any of the member's solo recordings, tho' at this point I'm only aware of Maja's -- see some articles on her work here). It seems obvious that I need to do more homework if I am going to become an adequate advocate of their cause. I will work on it.

I wonder if Tyr of the Winks went to Fred Longberg-Holm's cello workshop? I chatted with him briefly and he seemed like a nice guy. He told me that he figured he and Tom Cora, whom he knew, were the first two people in America to put pickups on their cellos. I wish I'd been able to see him and Nicole Mitchell on Sunday, but I had to work and couldn't get there in time... I hope Lori Freedman found her wallet (the loss of which was announced before the Orkestrova event). I liked her solo show; I found her solo clarinet improvisations surprisingly tuneful, thought she made interesting, exciting decisions.

I wish I'd asked Michael Zerang to sell me a different CD than the Brotzmann one. I allowed the lure of a limited Lebanese pressing with cool cover art to distract me from the fact that I don't really need more Brotzmann and might have enjoyed listening to Zerang's other stuff more. He's a helluva drummer, plus he looks REALLY FAMILIAR... where the hell have I seen him? He did some really subtle work with Fred Longberg-Holm and with Torsten Muller.

I am completely fucking jealous of Kelly Churko's access to Disk Unions. Bastard lives in Kichijoji, so I guess I'm jealous of his access to livehouses, too. Didn't get to talk to him about Haino Keiji or onsen (my two great regrets of my time in Japan were that I only went to one Haino Keiji concert and that I didn't spend more time in onsen and sento and such). Sounds like he's making some progress on the scene there, tho' apparently it's harder work than I thought it would be! -- My impression, based on seeing touring westerners and meeting people like Brett Larner and Samm Bennett at gigs, was that the Japanese were quite welcoming of foreign musicians, but maybe I'm wrong. Looks like he's recorded with the Japanese noise band Guilty Connector -- click his name link above. Like me, he managed to find a copy of the original (Sony!) pressing of John Zorn's Cynical Hysterie Hour soundtrack at a ridiculously low price. Unlike me, he has yet to sell it on eBay...

(Holy shit, there's now a Disk Union USA!!!! Must explore later.)

I hope Mats Gustaffson didn't get a bad impression of me because I offered he and his band a puff on my pipe during their break. I was just bein' friendly, really. Ingebrigt Haker Flaten seemed amused by the offer (he joked about how you'd be able to see a "before" and "after" effect), but Mats seemed a bit stern about it. But he seems like a stern guy; I mean, not just anyone chooses to do a jazz interpretation of "Iron Man." Which, by the way, cooked; never you mind Alex Varty saying they were a one-trick pony, he didn't come to the Ironworks show -- the Culch was just a warmup for these boys -- you need to see them in an intimate venue to really feel the heat they generate). (Mr. Varty: liked your Nels Cline piece and your OTHER Mats piece, tho', and reading your articles is constantly an education, even when I disagree. No disrespect intended. I once composed a few lines of a song in the vein of "Richard Cory" with a chorus of "I wish that I could be/ Alex Varty." No, I will not stalk you, don't worry).

Re: Zu, I didn't get Jacopo's signature. I got Massimo's and Luca's and they both drew cool little doodles, and Mats wrote "FIRE!" like as in "For those about to rock -" and drew an arrow pointing to the top margins of the CD cover (the Zu/Gustaffson collaboration, that is; looks like the title, How to Raise an Ox, comes from Zen; maybe there's a lineage with the concept of "walking the cow?"), but Jacopo never presented himself -- I guess he drums himself exhausted and then collapses backstage. I will seek Jacopo at some future Zu gig and finish my collection; a corner of the insert remains unscribbled on. I hope they have a great time touring with Nomeansno. I have no idea if people from Italy would be impressed by Tofino, not having any great sense of what the area they live in is like. Maja and Hild didn't seem to get much out of the water taxi -- they must have their own fjordmobiles back home.

Nels Cline: I keep thinkin' about how he seemed to get a kind of DARK look on his face, when he was really intensely soloing? It jarred a bit against how nice a guy he seemed -- no trace of darkness in his personal self-presentation -- but it got me wondering about what he channels through his music -- if there's a catharsis involved in some of his playing that involves releasing inner demons, like? It would explain Immolation/Immersion, for one -- there are demons all over that recording... He talks about being an emotional player but I haven't a clear enough sense of his music yet to know exactly what that entails. His recording with Jeremy Drake is really worth seeking out.

Tho' it wasn't connected to the jazz fest, there was also an entertaining noise event at Video In on Saturday night, which was also a CD release party for one of the bands involved. G42's new release, Luminous Mirror, really opens up for me stoned. It's a little too subtle for me to get it without altering my state; a hit on the pipe made it an overwhelming musical experience, whereas it was just a sort of minimal background that I kept THINKING about but not really hearing, before. It says something; apparently some part of me gets in the way of this music... Getting over myself so I can get to the music seems to be a rising theme, this week. I think I look and listen more than some to the people who are playing the music, and focus on the performative aspects than on what is being communicated via the sound; my angle of approach is not ideal... I think I need to read more about music, if I'm going to be writing about it. Part of this all came clear listening to Luminous Mirror with th' more "social" half of G42 tonight (tho' the whole Fe-mail encounter underscored it amply, too). G42 is all about listening to sound, finding meaning in sound. Performance is secondary, tho' I thought they did a helluva job at Video In, with their strobe effects and the clip from Bruce Connor that they'd jacked from Byrne and Eno's "Mea Culpa" video, pulsing in the background. By the way, do y'all know about the My Life in the Bush of Ghosts reissue? Great stuff, but they REMOVED "Qu'ran" from it, which... I dunno, I guess it's a nice gesture, but it seems spineless. Anyhow, you can find the Bruce Connor videos there, or if not, check here.

As for the rest of the performers -- there was abundant humour in what Masa Anzai did, under the moniker Scab; he seems like he likes to go a bit out of control. I liked his noise set (and Kelly Churko's guitar/laptop assault) better than their Granville Island performance as Almost Transparent Blue, actually -- they seemed to be having more fun at Video In. Visiting from the USA, Bloodbox did some finely textured stuff, but I was exhausted by that point and couldn't really get as much out of it as I wanted (he also had some very amusing video effects -- clips of Haxan and footage of insects, twinned on the screen to give a moving-Rorschach effect). I was bit disappointed in the Sistrenatus set, which was cut short so Bloodbox could go on -- I liked the visuals that Harlow used, images of an abandoned cement factory on Vancouver Island that he and the G42 guys had explored, but musically I didn't really attach to what was happening -- am looking forward to the upcoming release on Coldspring, though. A lot of the other stuff -- The Rita, Taskmaster, Griefer -- were a bit too harsh for me (see the review of Fe-mail at the Western Front, below, for more about my feelings about the more aggressive aspects of our noise scene; I just don't need to bear witness to other people's catharsis, and I'm not all that interested in looking at surgical footage, amputations and such in the background. I understand why some people are attracted to this aggressive side of things, but I'm not among them -- I'm more interested in perception than punishment.)

My favourite show of the last week, I must confess -- the absolute highest I got, pipe or no -- was the Orkestrova Electric Ascension. And 85% of why I got off on that so fuckin' much was that first big Nels Cline guitar solo. It's my theory that he pushed the whole ensemble to a higher level with that; it was a masterpiece, the most intense and satisfying thing I've ever heard ANYONE do with a guitar live.

Jesse Zubot impressed me a bunch, too. I liked what he did with Fred Frith last year, but with Orkestrova he really stood out as someone to watch. Didn't get out to any of his other shows, but I exhausted myself seeing as much as I did, so I can't feel too bad.

Nomeansno I already said all I needed to say about. Scroll down. Workin' on an interview.

God bless Coastal Jazz and Blues; they did a fantastic job of putting together this event. It was fun volunteering with them, too -- I may again. One request for the future: bring Spunk to town in full. I feel like I'm being introduced to the band one member at a time -- Maja in 2004, Maja and Hild in 2006... How about just not stretchin' it out anymore and bringing the whole quartet over in 2007, because I'm DYING to hear them live... The most recent album is fantastic stuff -- really beautiful, adventurous, and distinct from both what Maja does solo and what she and Hild do as Fe-mail. It got me thinking of Maja and Hild mentioning Ikue Mori as a musician they admire -- it made perfect sense.

Must read more music theory, and Pippi Longstocking. Spunkpeople, if any of you look at this, I think y'all would like Bob Ostertag.

The jazz festival is over.

Time to start preparing for the film festival...