Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Strange dreams (versus the goddamn clock)

Certain elements of the dream remain in my mind - still half-asleep as I sit here - but the overall structure, the narrative arc, are obscure. Perhaps I only remember the last few minutes before I woke up. I was in a room, large, sparsely furnished, and unfamiliar. I think I noted at one point in the dream that it was not a room I'd ever been in before, contra my usual dream-pattern of locating myself in the room I had in childhood. There was a video game console and a Mario Brothers-like game where certain characters reminded me of friends I have lost in circumstances where I was rejected: objects in the dream reminded me of them, including a chair named for someone I knew in my elementary school and high school days, whom I have not seen for some 20 years; I think the idea was that he used to play the game with me, and named certain objects for his character. A more recent lost friend left a bigger hole, and I'd needed to go into the game and delete certain things so as not to be reminded. Something on the soundtrack reminded me of Laurie Anderson's Mister Heartbreak, but I don't recall what (I have cause in the dream to hum "I turn around - and it's fear; I turn around again... and it's love," or something like that; can't say those are the actual lyrics). I am playing the game with a new friend, whose identity remains obscure. There is also some grand task I am working on, perhaps related to another game, involving building a Tower of Protection, and another structure, whose use I don't remember. I am building them in opposite corners of the room, but they would be better close by each other. Someone comes to help me - someone I know who has suffered a loss recently, not exactly a close friend but someone I have spoken to on many occasions. He wanders about the area, trying his hand at the videogame, and I wonder if I should explain anything about it to him. But we set to at building the structure. (My waking mind has no idea what its purpose could be). I am worried - there is someone ELSE in the room, another friend whose identity is now unclear, and I am concerned he will say something insensitive in regard to death and dying, since this "new arrival" might be a bit raw - I wonder if I should take the guy who was there previously aside and let him know - hey, this new guy, he's suffered a loss recently, so tread lightly. However, there is a distraction - I pause to show this new arrival the area across the room where I'm supposed to have built my Tower of Protection, when people come in the room. They are Chinese people; a woman and her little girl. There is also a "host," an older Asian woman who speaks both Japanese and Chinese. Some conversation takes place, and I try to offer the little girl a snack - based on an odd Filipino or Malaysian treat I tried awhile ago, something like a fig bar but filled with purple yams or sweet potatoes or such. In offering the child the candy I am reminded of my father (who died a little over a year ago, Nov. 27 2009). The mother doesn't want the little girl to eat it. I try to engage the mother - who speaks only Chinese - in conversation, but I can speak only Japanese, and that badly. She smirks at my efforts, and the woman who speaks Japanese and Chinese translates a bit of what I say. I say, in broken Japanese, "Japanese is difficult. Chinese is impossible" (chuugokugo wa dame desu - my recall of Japanese in the dream is better than my recall in real life!). I end on one word I hope she will recognise - "sumimasen," or "excuse me." To my surprise, she warms up to me a bit, and starts to say something. In Chinese, which I don't understand at all.

That's when my alarm goes off. Which has nothing on last night, where my alarm went off as I was embracing a naked woman in a parking lot - she had just taken off all her clothes, prior to entering the compound of some cult I'd just left, and somehow I'd convinced her - naked and far too beautiful for one such as myself - to embrace me. My fingers were grazing the crack of her ass and I was wondering if I was going to have dream sex, when the goddamn clock commenced beeping...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Khadr doc repeats at SFU Woodwards

See below for my thoughts on You Don't Like the Truth. The film repeats on Tuesday, for anyone who missed it:

Tuesday November 30, 2010
7:00pmSFU Woodward's - 3rd Floor
149 West Hasting Street (enter via Courtyard)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Internet dating, round 3,456,592

Tonight on Plenty of Fish, I have clicked on about two dozen profiles and sent - or tried to send - two messages. Of the profiles I didn't reply to, perhaps six of them had terminal spelling mistakes ("to" for "too," "definatly" - things of that sort); a few of them had interests I cannot get my head around (because I cannot see myself ever dating a woman who lists "golf", "4X4ing," or "UFC" as interests, however much I tell myself to keep an open mind); and the rest I was blocked from sending messages to by various filters in place on their profiles ("must not have messaged users for intimate encounters or sex," for instance; sigh). I did make an exception to my usual snobbery and send a friendly message, recommending the excellent Canadian film about LARPing, The Wild Hunt, to a woman in New West who listed the SCA as an interest - because I figured she'd dig it, and because I can no longer rationalize holding the SCA in bemused contempt now that I participate in Zombiewalks occasionally, since, howevermuch cooler the latter appears to me, both are essentially mass dress-up activities. In fact, I was able to imagine myself liking this woman - except I ran into the PoF GLITCH that manifests itself occasionally: you send a message to someone, apparently successfully, but it is never copied to your "sent messages" folder, which means that they haven't received it. So in fact, I couldn't get through. Sigh.

The other woman I sent a message to was a young local woman who I thought I could have some entertaining online banter with, despite our obvious age differences - except I discovered on clicking "send" that she had filters in place blocking people older than a certain age. (Wouldn't it have been nice to have been told that before spending fifteen minutes composing a witty message?). I also checked on a few messages I sent last night, while online: two were read, and ignored; one was the classic "unread deleted;" and one remains unread, after 24 hours have passed.

I remain dateless. Maybe I should get cable?

Enjoy Grinderman!

Just wanted to wish all you Nick Cave fans a happy Grinderman concert tonight. I was at the Lollapallooza, helping mind a friend's New-Agey stand - selling rainsticks and other unusual items - when last Cave performed Vancouverwise; I'd left the stand to check out his set, and was standing reasonably close to the stage when some idiot, no doubt come to see the Beastie Boys or Green Day or such, pelted Nick with his shoe, near the end of "Your Funeral, My Trial." I missed the actual shoe-hit, but I definitely noticed Cave's abrupt exit after it happened. (I think he managed to thank the audience for listening - it would have been near the end of his set, anyhow). He was an energetic showman (tho' I recall that he sang the slightly tamer version of "Papa Won't Leave You Henry," omitting the "warm arterial spray" that I am rather fond of). If I had a ticket, a place to sleep, and the energy, I would definitely be there tonight - I can't remember exactly the last time I saw a show at the Commodore, but I suspect it was Bison BC with Three Inches of Blood and the Golers, during the summer or perhaps fall of 2009 ...alas, tonight's show is not one of those concerts I will be able to see.

Swans on February 25th, mind you... (wasn't Jim Sclavunos of Grinderman a Swan, once?*).


*Edited to add: not according to Wikipedia, he wasn't, but he WAS a member of early Lydia Lunch project 8 Eyed Spy, maybe even Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, as well as playing with Sonic Youth, The Cramps, and many other bands that matter. The project he leads, The Vanity Set, has a website here; article by Jim on Greek rebetiko music here. Hi, Jim!

Landscape with Cellphone

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Queering John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness: it's making my head hurt

So I just watched John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness. I don't have the stamina for the sort of Google search that would be required to scratch the itch the film has left in my head, but I wish I did - because on some level, the film seems to have a queer subtext that I can't quite drag out into the open, and would love to see discussed. Such things have been said online about the queerness of Carpenter's The Thing, with much more coherence and clarity than I will manage below; and I've often noticed in particular a weird attraction/repulsion between white men and blacks in his films, which sometimes manifests itself in very physical ways (yes, I'm thinking particularly of They Live); but Prince of Darkness, because of all the religious, metaphysical, and quasi-scientific jargon that the film lathers out, manages to obscure its queerness better than his other works. But there IS something very queer going on here:

- There are repeated jokes about the Dennis Dun character's sexuality which seem to contribute on some unclear level to the thematic development of the film. Somewhat femme and bitchy in his manner, he dresses in a very flamboyant shirt in one scene, and sports gold chains; this has apparently given him a reputation that he gets kidded about, of being gay. He says at one point that he has a date with a fellow student, and Jameson Parker joshingly replies, "What's his name?" (or something like that). A similar joke occurs later, and then again, when he is trapped in a closet. He actually comments upon it - that he's in the closet - as if it's supposed to be significant, which it wouldn't be, unless you've been paying attention to the idea that he gets kidded about being gay. But what does any of this have to do with the reappearance of Satan on earth? Why is it even in the movie, if it's irrelevant?

- The most striking acts of violence in the film involve the penetration of the male body (the Alice Cooper bike impalement is particularly memorable).

- There is a female-female attack that gets mistaken for a lesbian come-on. There are also various scenes where men must struggle to avoid a sort of "kiss" - the mouth-to-mouth projectile of fluid that is the conduit of evil in the film; the most protracted struggles involve men avoiding the "kiss" of other men, lest they be contaminated.

- The changes that the female body undergoes in pregnancy are given horrific treatment, suggesting a primal fear of the female, almost on the level of Cronenberg's The Brood. The main possessed character - the chosen conduit of evil - swells as if pregnant, during her possession, though no literal birth occurs and the need for her to "appear" pregnant is otherwise unexplained - it is seemingly meant to resonate subtextually, not textually. Indeed, most of the female characters, with the exception of Lisa Blount (RIP), become possessed and have the most active role in bringing Satan into the world; both Satan's host and the "guardians" are female, which spells "women issues" to me...

- The only clear couple in the film, Jameson Parker and Lisa Blount, have a troubled dialogue about sexuality, with her having obvious trust issues. This ultimately forms one of the strongest narrative threads of the film - he is watching her, attracted, from the beginning of the film, and the resolution of the drama will entirely hinge on their relationship. Troubled heterosexuality is most definitely evident and significant to whatever the film is "about."

- In the final scenes - as Satan is trying to pull the anti-God through the mirror - in order to fulfill her role as a female, and rescue Parker from the evil-transmitting "kiss" of a black man, Blount has to sacrifice herself. This involves a plunge into the mirror, where she remains trapped. This leads to a very strange final scene - of a shirtless, sweaty ("beefcake-y") Jameson awakening from a nightmare to confront his own image in a mirror, which he reaches out for, as if his loved one might be in it; on the literal level, she actually IS trapped in the mirror, but there is a resonance to this image that goes well beyond the literal - of a man seeking his lover, or the truth of himself, in his "mirror image." It puts me in mind of similar motifs in Fassbinder's films of Querelle and Despair, both with (text-level) queer themes, in which men become obsessed with other men as "mirror images." In the final moments of the film, Parker is left alone with his mirror image, his hand about to "touch" his reflection's - almost as if he is "two men alone," one of whom - the one in the mirror - has a secretly female aspect.

- Alternately, we could say that in order for him to be "saved" as a man, he has to supress the female in him, which is what he is actually reaching out for - some lost aspect of his identity, his feminine side, demonized and "trapped," just as Satan has been trapped...

None of this really adds up, however, and it sure doesn't connect to all the talk of Tachyons, quantum physics and Christian secret societies, at least in any way that I can tease out now. I can only dig deep enough to find myself irritated by what I've found.

One thing I can say for sure: whether its queer or not, Prince of Darkness sure is one strange movie.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

David M's Christmas Alone in No Fun City!

This blog likes David M., who, in the true Christmas spirit, began sending out gig posters for his upcoming Christmas-themed gig sometime in late October. (Do we know Loudon Wainwright III's song "Suddenly It's Christmas?" ("Suddenly it's Christmas/ right after Halloween/ forget about Thanksgiving/ It's just a buffet in-between... Dragging through the falling leaves in a one-horse open sleigh/ suddenly its Christmas/ seven weeks before the day." It is the funniest Christmas song NOT written by David M.) In the spirit of seasonal resistance, I have held back on posting said posters until we came a bit closer to the day (December 15th at the venerable Railway Club). More will be forthcoming! Merry Christmas!

(Already the malls of Maple Ridge are getting crowded...).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Woman Under the Influence at the Vancity Theatre

Any screenings of John Cassavetes' cinema are to be noted, but the Vancity Theatre showing on Wednesday, Nov. 24th of his A Woman Under the Influence is an ideal time for those NOT familiar with Cassavetes' canon, and hungry for emotionally intense, honest, and challenging film experiences, to begin their explorations. The film is widely hailed as Cassavetes' most fully realized and formally successful project; it certainly is the easiest entry point for those not previously baptised, the film least likely to be accused of self-indulgence, histrionics, or juvenile bad taste (which would, of course, be Husbands, my favourite of his films). Wednesday's screening, too, will be introduced by Vancity programmer Tom Charity, who wrote an excellent book on Cassavetes' life and films, John Cassavetes: Lifeworks. The film is a gruelling look at a working class family bordering on implosion: Nick, played by Peter Falk, while well-meaning, is too gruff and authoritarian for his own good, while his wife Mabel (Gena Rowlands, in what surely must be the most demanding performance of her long career) is highly sensitive, expressive, and emotionally volatile. Or is the word unstable? Highly recommended for anyone who plans to attend a large family dinner this holiday season, the film treads some harrowing territory, but is not without humour and warmth; it also features a terrific performance by John Cassavetes' own mother, Katherine Cassavetes, and a brief appearance by his father - also, perhaps significantly, a Nick - playing a character named (no kidding) Adolf. (He must have had a good sense of humour to do that...). The film is a must-see; if you haven't yet, now's the time....

You Don't Like the Truth: essential doc on Khadr case

This Tuesday, at 7PM, in the Woodward's complex, an absolutely essential piece of cinema is going to play in Vancouver, courtesy of Doxa.

Everyone in this country who votes, everyone who values human rights, anyone who is concerned about the direction that Canada is heading, or who simply values being informed about world events, owes it to him or herself to be educated on the case of Omar Khadr. A 15-year old child soldier and Canadian citizen arrested during a US assault on a compound in Afghanistan in 2002 - I'd mistakenly said it was his family's compound in a previous post - Khadr has been in US detention at Bagram and at Guantanamo Bay since that time, for a period totalling eight years. He claims he has been subject to torture, and this seems highly likely, with witnesses having seen him in stress positions and ample evidence that torture has occured around him. He has certainly been interrogated at great length while being deprived of due process. The Canadian government has not acted in his defense, despite many cries for them to do so, including a Federal Court decision that Khadr's rights have been violated and that it is our country's duty to protect him. Even though a child at the time of his arrest, whose actions were part of a combat situation, Khadr has been accused of war crimes, at one point even being possibly eligible for the death penalty. His main crime - which he has plead guilty to, but which there is apparently some good reason to believe he could not possibly have committed - was killing a US soldier. (See this New York Times editorial for more on that; there is also a past Toronto Star article that is mentioned in the film I am about to review, but I don't have a link to it at the moment; it shows photos that apparently prove that Khadr, at the time the grenade that killed Christopher Speer was thrown, was lying under rubble, riddled with shrapnel, with various bullet holes in him, near death; the headline of the article is a non-ambiguous assertion that Omar could not have thrown the grenade).

The film about Khadr in question is called You Don't Like The Truth. I am unaware of any single document as significant or as compelling as a means by which one might educate oneself about the Khadr case. It is an astonishing documentary, very well-made and intelligent, far eclipsing, for example, Errol Morris' film Standard Operating Procedure in its bravery, educational value, and impact.

The film has a very simple structure. It is based on seven hours of publicly released video footage of Khadr's interrogation at the hands of visiting CSIS agents, taken over a period of a few days. The video quality is variable. All faces but Khadr's are obscured. He sits in his orange jumpsuit, answering questions - or avoiding them, or, for a great length of time, sobbing uncontrollably and calling for his mother.

This raw footage is not all the filmmakers have to offer, however. Again, they make very simple and straightforward choices for assembling their film - except they are the RIGHT choices, choices that were NECESSARY, which far too few people in the media have made in recent years. They interview Khadr's lawyers, American and Canadian. They interview Khadr's sister and mother. They interview a half-dozen cellmates from Bagram and Guantanamo - now released, and in some cases galvanized towards activism. Some, like Moazzam Begg, are controversial figures - something not dealt with in the documentary - but all are highly articulate and intelligent. All are shown the footage of Khadr and allowed to comment, often in split-screen constructions as we continue to watch Khadr; all are unanimous in the picture they paint.
Perhaps the most inspired choice of interview subject is a former US army interrogator named Damien Corsetti. Corsetti, soft-spoken and intelligent and apparently capable of considerable brutality, was at Bagram and at Abu Ghraib, where some of the worst abuses of the "war on terror" are said to have occured. Though found not guilty in the ensuing investigations, in the film, Corsetti is quite open about having been party to horrible offenses against human dignity, something that continues to weigh on his conscience; his nickname, "the King of Torture," appears to have been well-earned. "I did some very bad things," he says in the film. "I have to own it." And yet even he - a man with the word "monster" tattooed in Italian across his chest - acknowledges that Khadr was a child at the time of his arrest and first detention, that he has been done a grievous wrong, and that his country has failed him. "Ultimately the blame now lies on the Canadian people," he continues, since "there have been elections in Canada since Omar was captured... I think the Canadian people need to look at themselves," and try to understand "how I, as a cold, callous sonofabitch, had more compassion for that boy than his own people. If they want to allow one of their own citizens to be treated like this, think of the precendent it sets. It could be you."
You Don't Like the Truth is, simply, an unmissable documentary - something every Canadian should see. It does need a bit of an updating - since the film was completed, Khadr has been tried and plead guilty to the killing of Speer, which may mean nothing at all, save that he is desperate to get out of Guantanamo Bay. By his current sentence, he is to spend one more year there, his ninth. Our country's chance to act may well have passed, but at least we can educate ourselves as to what we have been a party to.
(Edit: a very good Q&A update, with various scary "let him rot" comments, was posted by the CBC today...).
Screening information:
Tuesday November 30, 2010, 7:00pm
SFU Woodward's - 3rd Floor
149 West Hasting Street (enter via Courtyard)
See the Doxa website for more information.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

No Nyala for Al

Ah, it's just as well that I didn't secure a date for the show tomorrow - I'm exhausted. After taking time off, the second week back at work is always the toughest: my throat is ratched, my bad ankle is achey and I feel mentally and physically spent from having to push myself far harder'n I've been used to. So after work tomorrow - I'm comin' straight back home, here to relax and watch a Lee van Cleef spaghetti western with my Ma. Those of you who actually live in the city and are hungry for an interesting evening of experimental music and Ethiopian food, however, are highly advised to head down to Nyala... show starts at 8. (See the original post a few down for links to bands, etc).

Quest for Spaghetti 2: The Hidden Gold

Friend Blake, with whom I ominously viewed a barred owl last night in Maple Ridge, so large and so completely unconcerned by its proximity to us that it didn't even react when I took hold of the tips of the branch it was sitting on and gave it a wee shake - noted my spaghetti post below and sent me two links worth sharing: the Spaghetti Western database's top 20 list, and Alex Cox's version of the same. Cox's book just arrived today, so I'm happily perusing it. I need to see more of these films!

Quest for spaghetti

Since I started preparing for my Alex Cox interviews (below), I've become very interested in a form I've sort of neglected: the spaghetti western (Cox has written a book about the form and Straight To Hell Returns is a homage to it). Until recently, I've only seen the Leone films, which are so highly praised and widely marketed that one might innocently assume they're the only spaghetti westerns that exist. In fact, they're a very, very small, rather exceptional, and (dare I blaspheme) not entirely satisfying example of the form, which, I'm told, contained some 400 films made over a ten year period. I'm actually of the opinion that after his first two, the Fistful movies, whatever his abilities, Leone had such success that his films bloated, with Once Upon a Time in the West and Duck You Sucker (at least) both erring on the side of excess, with bigger budgets, bigger spectacle, increasingly operatic sensibilities and a lot more FAT on the bone than any film can easily support. (I need to revisit The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Once Upon a Time in America to see if they fare better, but I doubt either will change my feeling that his most satisfying film is actually For a Few Dollars More; meantime, I'm much more interested in films NOT by Leone, which have a freshness and a discipline that the rather over-focused on few films he made lack). My early forays into lesser-known macaronis are proving highly fruitful: both Death Rides a Horse (even tho' I've only seen it in a crappy pan-and-scan version) and Between God, the Devil and a Winchester are highly inventive and engaging films, with more than their share of cinematic surprises that made me laugh out loud at their audacity, their inventiveness, and their cynicism. I'm reminded by both of my fondness for Montaldo's Machine Gun McCain; though it isn't a western, the best films in this subgenre seem to share a certain sensibility with it - a kind of blackly existentialist savagery and a certain Euro craftsmanship, which, particularly in terms of its visual sensibilities, has more in common with other great Italian filmmakers - Antonioni, say - than with the American exploitation films it connects with. (I'm also reminded, tho' it's a visually dissimilar form, of my fondness for 1960's and 1970's Yakuza films, especially those of Fukasaku Kinji).

The other nice thing about spaghetti westerns is that it's a very cheap subgenre to plunge into. I picked up, for instance, a 20-movie DVD collection at a local Zellers, to find that about six of the movies on the set are presented in widescreen versions; they look like VHS transfers, and may be slightly cut, but they're still a lot better than I expected, given that the set cost $6.99. There's another box set by Mill Creek Entertainment with 44 Spaghetti Westerns packaged together, apparently including the film that Straight To Hell owes most to, Django Kill, and a Klaus Kinski film that I've read praised, And God Said to Cain. Most of them are doubtlessly pan and scan and a few are probably completely unwatchable, but if the same ratio of keepers-to-clunkers obtains, there's probably some great cinema-watchin' to be had here. (One note: read the Amazon reviews with caution, they've taken to tacking on reviews from OTHER box sets with completely different films). Zellers doesn't stock it, alas, nor London Drugs... maybe I could strike a deal with the devil and go shopping at the Coquitlam Walmart?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Winter's Bone: Brief DVD review

...liked this film, currently on the new arrivals' wall. Missed the fanfare for it - it took a Grand Jury Prize at Sundance - but caught up with it on DVD and was glad I did. It's less mood-oriented than Ballast and a little less devastating than Wendy and Lucy, but deals with equally bleak circumstances - a 17 year old girl faced with enormous responsibilities in a community that might, by others, dismissed as a bunch of distasteful, drug-dealing, violent white trash. The film gives its "trash" humanity, conscience, and integrity, however damaged and deformed these may be by the conditions under which it labours; and the film boasts two fine lead performances, from Jennifer Lawrence and a guy named John Hawkes (best membered by me as the clerk at Benny's World of Blood, in From Dusk Til Dawn - a role I always enjoyed). Worth a rental!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Still no date

Just for the record, I'm still goin' to Nyala stag, at this point... that show's on Thursday, by the way (see below).

Expanding Alex

Those of you who enjoyed Straight To Hell Returns or my interview with filmmaker Alex Cox (below) are directed to the Big Takeover website, where I've published a much longer version of the same! Added stuff at the beginning, middle, and end, so you gotta read it all again, but I think it's worth it... Though do note that I left out the fact that the second interview was cut short because one of Alex' dogs started taking a shit on the floor in front of him! (A first for me, to be added to other firsts, like the time Tom Holliston asked me to look up an Indian restaurant's phone number so he could order dinner, lacking a phonebook in his new apartment... Something about firsts makes them memorable...!).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Notes on last night, enthusiastic yes for Out of the Blue

Wow... so it turns out that Out of the Blue is actually a really interesting film! Tom Lavin, who did the Q&A with Tony Bardach last night, commented that the film was better than he remembered it, and I have to agree. Even scenes that I specifically recall finding lame and unconvincing in past viewings (years ago) - like that of a very pudgy Raymond Burr trying to counsel the young Cebe (Linda Manz) - actually seemed entirely credible, well-acted, and - despite a persistent improvisatory vibe that makes the film somewhat unique - involving as cinema. Manz's performance - which I'd sort of watched as an outsider on previous attempts to take in the film, neither buying nor trusting the film's attempt to encapsulate punk - became involving, believable and poignant; and while I'd always remembered certain images being striking - like the seagulls reflected on the windows of the whatchamacallit that Dennis Hopper drives in the garbage dump, to the tune of Neil Young's "Thrasher" - my overall impression of the film had been of something rough, dark, and sloppy, based perhaps on the crappy VHS tapes I had initially watched it on. Instead, I saw care and craft in almost every composition and was constantly surprised by the beauty of its images (of Vancouver circa 1980!). About the only thing that didn't actually change much was my reaction to Hopper's performance; as an over-the-edge drunk playing an over-the-edge drunk, he's both fascinating and terrible to observe, primarily raising the question of how a man THIS out of control could be making a movie THIS good; he seems so sincerely gonzo that it actually buys him some slack for the films weaker moments (and there are a few - like the rather lamely dispatched murder/theft scene). Best of all, this is a new print of the film, and looks utterly great. Tonight's the big night, when a bunch of the people involved in the making of the movie are going to be there. If I still lived in Vancouver, I would go again; anyone who hasn't seen the film is advised to check it out. (A big thankyou to the VIFC's Tom Charity for programming this film!).

It was also very pleasing to hear people laughing at Straight To Hell Returns... Thanks to Tom for programming that one, too!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Weekend Double Bill! Out of the Blue plus Straight To Hell Returns!

Yes, folks, it's a reminder to not miss one of the coolest movie double bills this city has seen, this weekend at the Vancity Theatre: Dennis Hopper's 1980 shot-in-Vancouver independent feature Out of the Blue and Alex Cox's Straight To Hell Returns (which I interview the director about below). Friday night's screening of the Hopper film will be introduced by Tony Bardach of the Little Guitar Army and the Pointed Sticks (who famously appear in the film, as discussed in my big interview with the band, here). There will be various treats and surprises, including door prizes. After Out of the Blue, also on Friday, I'll be introducing Straight To Hell Returns, again with a few treats and surprises. Those who can't be there on Friday are next best advised to come on Saturday, when a host of people involved in Out of the Blue will attend and share their recollections (meaning the second film will get off to a later start). For those who can't make either night, there'll be another screening of both films on Sunday! Arrive early (6:30pm?) for good seats, this could prove to be a popular event...!

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Little Guitar Army's Awesome New Rock Video

Photo of the Little Guitar Army at the Ron Reyes Birthday Bash by Femke van Delft, not to be reused without permission

If my information is correct, sometime this very night, the first-ever, brand new Little Guitar Army video will materialize on Youtube! (I've been waiting up to link it, but it hasn't materialized as of yet). Note the presence of Femke van Delft, on the frontlines as usual, telling a cop - or an actor playing a cop - to fuck off...! (We love Femke!). More to say about this anon, but note that Tony Bardach (pictured in foreground, above) will apparently be introducing Out of the Blue the same night as I'm introducing Straight to Hell Returns, November 12th at the Vancity Theatre! (interviews with Tony here and here).

Note: your next chance to see the Little Guitar Army live in Vancouver is apparently December 11th at the Princeton, with the Gamelons (Ex-Red Hot Lovers, Excessives, current Spitfires) and the Stoolies (ex-Slow, Ogre, Tankhog). I'll have more to say about the video presently... tho' I plan to say it elsewhere and just link to it here. Gotta spread the good news around, y'know? THE LITTLE GUITAR ARMY ROCK(s)!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Howard the Duck meets Timothy Leary?

I've twice in the last few months gone into comic shops, trying to scratch a stubborn itch.

I have a vivid memory from my childhood of reading a comic book. I believe it was Howard the Duck - I was a fan of the original Steve Gerber series, as a kid, and retain some fondness for it now.

Perhaps I'm getting my comic books confused, but, likely somewhere during or adjacent to the "Quack-Up" period of Howard's - a storyline spanning several issues, where he is institutionalized and ends up (rather famously) seeing Kiss exorcised from a young woman - I vividly recall an episode along the following lines.

Howard is in a somewhat damaged state, wandering an institution, trying, dazedly, to get free.

He finds a doctor, explains that he wants to leave, and asks if the doctor has the key.

The doctor says he does, indeed, have "the key." He is somewhat mysterious about the nature of this key. He places something in Howard's mouth.

Howard begins to hallucinate in earnest.

I did not understand what I was reading, at the time. I was, perhaps, 11 or 12. I understood that the doctor had given Howard some sort of drug, but I had no idea what. I asked my father, and he was able to identify - from seeing him on TV - the doctor as being one Timothy Leary. My father, never a drug user, then had to explain to me about LSD; I believe it was the first time I had heard of that drug - or of Leary.

Visits to two comic shops have failed to turn up this issue or to even verify that the episode happens somewhere. I have a Howard the Duck anthology - the "essential," not the complete - and can find it nowhere in there. The comics I have looked through - getting shop owners to indulge me in my quest - have not contained the above. One of the guys I asked was dismissive - he thinks so obvious a drug reference couldn't possibly have happened in a Marvel Comic, and that I must be in error, but this is a stubborn memory on my part. I can't let go of it. While I might, somehow, have the wrong comic - I don't think so, but it's possible, since I read a lot of different comics as a kid, including some underground ones - I know that I am remembering SOMETHING real, because of the nature of the memory; the conversation I had with my Dad came from SOMEWHERE. (Perhaps Howard the Duck #10? I haven't checked that one yet, I don't think).
Can anyone help? Am I nuts? Is there a Howard the Duck completist out there who can peruse his or her collection on my behalf and verify for once and for all that the above does or does not happen? Did Howard encounter Timothy Leary in an issue? Which issue?


Thursday, November 04, 2010

Maple Ridge Metal (the saga continues)

Though I no longer actually live in Vancouver, occasionally I get contacted by people wanting me to give press to gigs there. That happened the other week - hence my rather uninspired metal gig poster posting, a few down. I mean, I didn't know any of the bands, and I didn't even bother to check the various links to Myspace and Youtube clips that the dude provided, nevermind posting them, because, I mean, I wouldn't be able to go to the concert ANYHOW, so why torment myself? Given my transit challenges, any show I see in Vancouver now basically involves paying fifty bucks for a cheap room, so gigs are few and far between, and I'd actually rather not know about shows I'm going to have to miss.

Imagine my surprise, then, to see, on what passes for a Maple Ridge gig poster, that one of the selfsame bands - not actually represented by the dude who emailed me, but who cares? - is actually PLAYING IN MAPLE RIDGE TOMORROW! (Or, to get technical, today, since it's after midnight - the gig is on Friday the 5th). They look to be pretty good, too - they're called Unleash the Archers, and you can access Youtube audio clips here (I selected their tune "Black Goat of the Woods" as the portal). While I tend more towards blackened, brutal, and/or technical death metal these days than the more melodic variety they seem to be into, the fact that I'll be able to SEE a death metal show without even having to catch a fucking BUS is delightful to me, and I have no doubt that in a live context, these songs will transform themselves from "pretty good" to "fucking awesome," as seems to happen. Also on the lineup are Without Mercy, Remove the Doubt, and Prophet Fulfilled. One of the guys from the very interesting, youthful local metal band Paradosis has been telling me I need to see Without Mercy, so I'm pretty happy about that.

I'm goin' to a metal gig at the Vineyard! Woo!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Al Needs a Date to Experimental Music show at Nyala

Ejaculation Death Rattle's Ross Birdwise, by Femke van Delft, not to be reused without permission

Right, so... a bunch of bands are playing at Nyala, the Ethiopian restaurant, on November 18th. I need a date!

Ejaculation Death Rattle (whose music I apparently once described as "earthy ecstatic deathtrips... kinda like lyin' back naked in a bed of moss as serpents crawl on your flesh" - play with alt-country singer turned avant garde vocal improviser Soressa Gardner. Lee Hutzulak will be there with guests. Yellowthief, whom EDR's lizard-in-chief Ross Birdwise has described as "Lightning Bolt meets Slayer meets Slint," will perform; I don't know my Lightning Bolt or Slint, but do either owe a debt to John Zorn's Naked City, or perhaps Ruins? Not being half as current as Ross, they're the best I'd be able to do. (But I second the Slayer reference). Finally, there's a band I know nothing about, Nervous Operator.

Successful applicants for the role of date should:

- Have at least some fondness for horror and cult movies, as well as arthouse cinema

- Have at least some fondness for spicy food, esp. curries, since it's all I cook at all well

- Have little use for tobacco, television, professional sports, or real estate
- Be actually interested in some of the above music

- Have some interest in attending occasional punk and metal shows

Pretty much anything else, I've found, is negotiable. You should not mind that I don't have a car, a savings account, a condo, or a firm physique. It would really really help me if you were impressed by stuff like my mini-collection of Ultraman monsters, my European bootleg DVD of the Canadian exploitation classic Rituals (which seems like it will never, alas, be released by Code Red, who are talking about going out of business soonish and whose blog is now ofline), and/or my Nihilist Spasm Band box set, signed by all the members of the band. (Just don't try to steal them).
Contact me via this blog! (Find the "contact" button somewhere....).
The show starts at 8.

64 Funnycars Gig!

For those not going to the Little Guitar Army's November 6th video release (which, I'm told, is open to the public at ten - see a few posts down for more) - there's also a 64 Funnycars gig to consider. Tim Chan of that band - last seen by me during the Alex Chilton tribute this summer - writes:


Just so you know, the reunited 64 Funnycars will be playing a gig on Saturday, November 6 at the Railway Club. We had a great time playing a couple of short sets this past summer, but this gig is the real deal -- we'll be doing a full set this time around featuring more of those classics you've been trying to forget for 20 years...

Also playing are a bunch of our friends: a rare Vancouver appearance by Budokan (featuring Andrew Molloy and Graham Watson, ex-Bum) as well as Wilderness Years, a great Vancouver band, and the debut of Friday Night All-Stars (with Eric Lowe of the Funnycars on drums).
Should be a fun night and hope to see you there!


Websites if you're curious:
http://www.myspace.com/prettyvanillagroup (Friday Night All-Stars)

metal gig!