Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Iggy and the Stooges (film) to play Vancouver!

I've seen Iggy Pop twice in my life - once opening for the Pretenders at the Pacific Coliseum on the Blah-Blah-Blah tour (which stunned me - as a relative Iggy noob, I had no frame of reference for how exciting and energetic a showman Iggy could be; I still remember the grizzled oldtimer in the pit who kept hollering at the stage, "spit on me, Ig!") and once in Seattle with the "original reformed" Stooges lineup, touring The Weirdness (Watt, the only new member, wore a boilersuit and humped his amp and clearly was in glory up there). Ig was still stage diving back then, and, senior citizen or not, he leapt into and rode upon the audience an untold number of times; I gather a cracked rib or such made him re-consider the practice awhile ago, though he was so irrepressibly energetic I wouldn't be surprised to hear he's back at it. I have yet to see the reformed Raw Power Stooges, with James Williamson on guitar. Barring them ever coming to Vancouver, our best chance to experience the madness of a Stooges concert is on the big screen at the Vancity Theatre, Monday, March 12th, where they'll be screening Iggy Pop and the Stooges: Raw Power - In the Hands of the Fans, a document of the band's 2010 All Tomorrow's Parties concert where six Stooges fans were armed with camcorders to film the night. People wanting a taste of the show (also available as 180-gram vinyl) should check out this clip of them doing "I Got a Right" - and then imagine it on the big screen with big sound. I mean, it still ain't quite the same thing as seeing the band live, but it may be as close as Vancouver gets, y'know?

By the way, Henry Rollins gives a very enthusiastic review of a recent Stooges show here. My liking for Rollins has seen its peaks and valleys, but I will be forever in his debt for turning my teenage ears onto the Stooges' Fun House and the Velvets' White Light/ White Heat in a Spin article he wrote back in the 1980's. I had (bein' a suburban youth) heard neither album at that point. Suffice to say, they made an impact...

BTW, my favourite-ever Iggy concert footage is viewable here, performing the live-only song "The Winter of My Discontent" circa 1980, with Carlos Alomar on guitar. (And incidentally, that's Clem Burke on drums, soon to play Vancouver with Glen Matlock, Fish and Hugh Cornwell. Why don't I be nice and stick up the gig poster for that?

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Granville Street "ghost sign" brightens a tough week

In the last three weeks, I've had two bouts of illness, an ear infection, two rounds of antibiotics (and the concomitant diarrhea one expects), one bit of very bad news about an old friend, and three pretty much utterly sleepless nights (two of which happen to have been last night and the night before, where I've been kept up by coughing). Add to that an ongoing and apparently un-defeatable fruitfly infestation in my kitchen and I think it's safe to say that it's been a rough stretch - though in terms of bad life experiences it was really only a 6.5 on the scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the worst imaginable... believe me, it can get worse than this). But having taken one week off school for illness and one week for midterm break, I had no choice but to rally myself and get on the train this morning, sleep-deprived or not, and make the trek to UBC.

It was, actually, a pleasant ride in. The sunrise over the Fraser was quite lovely, in addition to which I saw one eagle (not the "bald headed" variety, but a brown one) as it landed on a tree branch and, a couple miles of track later, spied two coyotes - young and small - running together across a farmer's field. My first class involved a screening of a fascinating Claire Denis "New French Extremist" psychosexual horror film with Vincent Gallo and Beatrice Dalle, Trouble Every Day, which somehow I'd never even heard of before this semester. I highly recommend everyone seek it out (there is no Region 1 release, and torrents tend not to be subtitled, but the majority of the film is actually in English, with the French portions adding very little to ones understanding of what's happening). I've seen it twice in full already but got even more out of it the third time through - I love movies that reward attention like that.

The day's most interesting detail came after the film, however, when I bused downtown to meet a friend for a beverage. At Granville and Robson, there's a new round of con-destruction going on, knocking down that optical shop that used to have the cool, creepy Hallowe'en displays and various other small businesses on the corner (it was apparently called "the Farmer building," for the record). What's interesting is not the rubble itself but what has been revealed painted on a wall previously invisible, now exposed for the first time in some 90 years: an ad for a Harold Lloyd movie that played at the Capitol 6, back when it was just the Capitol (of course, that theatre is also now destroyed, too, but y'all remember it, eh?). Grandma's Boy is a film that was made in 1922, and must have played Vancouver pretty much immediately, because the Farmer building went up that same year. The discovery has already been reported in the Sun, which informs us that such signs are called "ghost signs," and that ones advertising movies are relatively rare... but I very rarely read the Sun, or any physical newspaper save the Georgia Straight, so stumbling across this sign was an utterly fresh thing for me.

I haven't seen the film, but the Wikipedia page explains that the film - shown in five connected parts, as the sign says - helped "pioneer feature length comedies," and that it involves a timid man (Lloyd) who is given a magic charm, supposedly from the Civil War, to help him get the courage up to "woo his girl." (The charm actually turns out to be an old umbrella handle - grandma's been tricking her grandson, for his own good).

...which all sounds rather sweet, actually. I suddenly find I have more fondness for the ghost sign than I ever did for the former Farmer building. I'll be very surprised if whatever they build in its place beats either.

Meantime, the rubble IS cool:

Another view of our ghost:

And for anyone who doubts how exhausting this stretch has been for me, y'all are invited to take a gander at this photo from today's commute. I am very happy to see my face so skillfully displaying EXACTLY what my life feels like right now:

But I have duties, besides schoolwork - somewhere I have a big article on Petunia and the Vipers that I gotta stick online (not here) to promote their March 10th show at the Ukrainian Orthodox Hall; their last show there was a delight, so this is a gig I'll be highly recommending, if you have ANY interest in roots music or rockabilly or authentic old country or such. Harold Lloyd would doubtlessly dig it.

More on that later, tho'. Otherwise, consider me sleeping.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A brief note of solidarity with BC teachers

I am almost as afraid of the Liberal agenda for this province as I am of the Conservative agenda for this country - not that there aren't similarities - and want to briefly just extend my sympathy for and solidarity with BC teachers as they amp up their job actions. Visit the BC Teacher's Federation website for more information - see also the links provided here. The mainstream media will almost always portray such job actions in a negative light ("greedy teachers care more about their salary than your children"); don't be taken in.

Alice Bag comes to Vancouver!

Here's a cool event this Sunday, March 4th: Alice Bag, formerly of LA punk legends The Bags, will be doing a reading from her new book, Violence Girl, and performing songs at Red Cat Records. Her official site is here; check out some songs by The Bags on Youtube, here and here... one I wish I could go to!

RIP Erland Josephson, Lousiana Red

I've had enough of obituaries for awhile, but two people whose work I admire have passed and need no be acknowledged: my second-favourite male actor in Ingmar Bergman's stable, after the revered Max von Sydow, is Erland Josephson, who also starred in Tarkovsky's The Sacrifice and Nostalghia, both of which recently screened at the Cinematheque. He has died at age 88 from complications due to Parkinson's; those wishing to pay respects might want to check out his rather cruel performance as Bergman's doppleganger in The Passion of Anna (a terrible and misleading Americanized title of a very underrated Bergman, which, it happens, is my favourite film to get drunk and feel bitter about life and sorry for myself to, on those rare nights when nothing less will do). Also departed: American blues musician Louisiana Red, dead of a stroke at age 79. It happens - no ironic commentary on death intended - that my favourite song of his is "Dead Stray Dog," which happens to be on Youtube. Check it out...

The Little Guitar Army to play Maple Ridge!

The Little Guitar Army by Femke van Delft, not to be reused without permission

Here's an unexpected development: the Little Guitar Army - whom, because of my suburban disadvantage, I haven't seen (and who haven't updated their Myspace) since lunatic goosestepping* frontwoman Linda Stang got the boot - will play The Wolf in Maple Ridge on March 3rd. Better yet, it's a free concert, not counting what you spend on alcohol or gasoline or KY Jelly. No, people who wish to come to Maple Ridge to see it may not crash on my living room floor, no matter how shitcanned you get, unless sexual favours are involved, and even then, note - I'm particular. Opening will be the Likely Rads, whose new CD, Legends in Denim, is just grrreat, and who also have let their Myspace site founder. By the way, Eugene Chadbourne recently put up an interesting rant on the state of Myspace on his website. I can't guarantee it's still there, but... I kinda miss the days when that site was a workable thing, don't you?

*For the record, this is meant as praise. I really dug what Linda did, though I'm most curious how Mellow will fill her jackboots.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Environmentalist Cinema at the Vancity Theatre: oil sands, Enbridge, and more things to be very worried about

Some essential environmentalist cinema coming up at the Vancity Theatre, of great relevance to anyone concerned with what's happening to our country under Conservative direction: White Water Black Gold - official site here - deals with the impact of Canada's activities in the Alberta tarsands, and the likely outcomes of piping that oil across BC. Narrated by Peter Coyote, whom we don't see enough of these days - his voice is sort of a narratorial comfort food - it will also be of interest to anyone concerned with the way the world's water resources are being used. Director David Lavallee will be present for a discussion on the Enbridge pipeline on March 7th - a pipeline which, if completed, will see oil tankers (and their spills) off the coast of BC, and lead (potentially leaky) pipe across as-yet-unspoiled wilderness and wetlands and through the territories of various First Nations peoples, many of whom do not want the pipeline crossing their land. More on that here - the Pipe Up Against Enbridge website. People of a Feather, on a somewhat related note, shows how the way of life of the Sanikiluaq people, who live on Hudson Bay's Belcher Islands, is being impacted by environmental change; people interested in that may also want to catch the socially conscious (but not environmentalist per se) A Place Called Los Pereyra.

It all sounds very worthwhile and educational, though if at all fragile, you might feel safer sticking to the very likable, more-or-less inspiring and Canadian-directed Pump Up the Volume, also screening soon. I remember really liking this at the time of its theatrical release - and not just because Henry Rollins and the Bad Brains cover "Kick Out the Jams" on the soundtrack.

PS. - some friends of mine are expressing concern, so I should note that I'm doing fine, considering. Though I have another bout of illness to contend with, a backlog of schoolwork, and so forth, I'm also off class for a week and catching up on good things like sleep. I just awoke from midafternoon dreams where I had stumbled across a story linking Robert Downey Sr. - the director, soon to be the subject of an Eclipse box set - to the Unabomber - or my sleeping mind's approximation of the same - and was preparing to interview both. It was all very dramatic, though apparently not at all psychic, since doing a Google search for "Robert Downey" + "the Unabomber" - degrees of Kevin Bacon be damned - nets exactly zero hits.

Or did until I wrote this.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

No blog for now... but a brief mention of Beyond the Black Rainbow and Dead Hooker in a Trunk

Not a good week. First I get sick, then a friend kills himself, then I don't sleep AT ALL the night before a big presentation in class, as my mind flops about all night like a suffocating fish stranded on shore. Plus keeping up appearances with Mom requires a certain energy that I'm havin' a hard time sourcing. Overall, I feel exhausted and stressed and slightly intimidated by the work ahead of me (and frigging sick of the long commutes). Plus I'm missing the Budos Band (how could I?) - that show should be starting about now. At least I have a few days away from school. (It's mid-term break).

There won't be anything else here for a long time, I suspect. One note for film followers - there's a trailer online for a very interesting looking local SF film, Beyond the Black Rainbow, with music by Black Mountain/ BCVC/ Sinoia Caves' Jeremy Schmidt (with some involvement by Josh Stevenson). Makeup by the awesome Kyla Rose Tremblay, who zombie'd me once! I don't really know a lot of other people on the project but it looks really cool.

By the way, speaking of local films, I discovered that in a past zombiewalk, a pair of twins who walked with us were, in fact, the Soska sisters, writer/ director/ stars of Dead Hooker in a Trunk (haven't seen it yet, but they got a positive blurb from none other than Eli Roth, so I'm definitely intrigued).

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

RIP Thomas Ziorjen

Do I want to post this? An old friend just killed himself. It’s been lingering in the background since I found out yesterday. I’m reluctant to deal with it publicly, but I’m having trouble finding a way to deal with it at all, otherwise. I don’t even want to tell people - I’m keeping it secret, for instance, from my Mom, who has one of this friend’s early paintings in her living room. She doesn’t really need to know - he wished her a fond greeting last November, the last I heard from him, which I hope I relayed, and I’d rather leave that as his last word to her. It seems better that way - more in keeping with what he might want, if he were alive and thinking clearly. She's too sweet, too fragile, and death has played too big a part already in her recent years.

I met Thomas Ziorjen at Andron Video in Maple Ridge in the early 1990’s. I was working midnight shifts, and this rather odd looking fellow came in - skinny, in shades, wearing a stylishly long coat, as I remember, a look that I came to describe as that of a “displaced urban hipster” - and commenced walking our aisles with a list of titles, looking for specific films, and ignoring altogether the New Arrivals section. That alone was enough to raise my antennae; working at a video store in Maple Ridge meant renting a lot of new releases to customers, so for someone to even deign to look so attentively at the older stock meant that he was an unusual type - either a cinephile like me or possibly a wingnut (one can never be too careful with first impressions, especially on midnight shift). That he visibly had a LIST in his hand further piqued my curiosity. I half kept a watchful eye on him, waiting to see how he would behave, and eventually - when the suspense grew too much - I walked over and asked him if I could help him find anything, whereupon he explained that he was looking for films by Paul Schrader. I perked up instantly (and felt a bit of relief: he probably wasn’t a nutcase). Schrader - who, around about 1990, when this transpired, was still fairly respected and well-known among cinephiles - was hardly known to the average Andron customer. He was best known at that point for his screenplays for Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, and his own films American Gigolo and Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (we’ll strive to forget about Cat People). I’d recently bought and read the Faber filmbook Schrader on Schrader - which was published in 1990, so that allows me to date the encounter within a year or so, since the book was newly published when I got it. Knowing my stuff - knowing about cinema and little else - I directed him instantly and excitedly to the most obscure Schrader title on our shelves, Old Boyfriends, written by, but not directed by, Schrader, whereupon this odd, hip looking guy elaborated - probably unconvinced that the fat, odd video store clerk who was assisting him would merit a detailed response, but indulging me - that what he wanted was films directed by Schrader, because that what he was really interested in was Schrader’s design sensibility.Thomas - somewhere in that conversation, he explained it to me - had a background in design.

Believe me, folks - I’ve worked in two Maple Ridge video stores, putting something like three years into the job. They're to be expected someplace like Videomatica, but out here, customers like this just don’t come in. In my early 20’s, I was singularly unworldly - I wasn’t even sure what a “background in design” entailed - but I was also very isolated in this town; if you think I’m “alienated in Vancouver,” consider what the suburbs were like, particularly back then (....especially since this was some ten years prior to my first going online). Given my isolation, I was very excited to meet this man. We began a conversation that very night that covered various bases, none of which I remember that clearly now. I think he told me that first evening that he’d worked at a bookstore in Toronto; he might have told me his anecdote about meeting William S. Burroughs. I'm reconstructing more from logic than memory, but that might have been how I told him I was more interested in Bukowski - which I was at that time - and he told me he had a signed Bukowski/ Purdy Letters, which he later either ended up either selling me or giving me (I don't still have it, alas). Come to think of it, the first time he visited me in the room where I lived in my parents' apartment, when we began actually socializing, he went over to my bookshelves and excitedly observed that I had a “Black Sparrow” section - Bukowski’s then-publishers; I explained that actually he was just looking at my Bukowski selection, and that my other Black Sparrows were elsewhere (I had a couple of Paul Bowles and maybe a book of poetry by Diane Wakoski and perhaps a John Fante), filed alphabetically by the author's last name. Thomas was an unusual enough fellow that he sank a little at that revelation, then explained that he and his Torontonian friends used to look down on people who filed their books alphabetically. I also sank a little too, perceiving that he had a pretty good point there, but with my prime models for owning a collection then being bookstores and libraries, it had never occurred to me to do things any other way. It is probably due to Thomas’ lasting influence that nothing I now own is filed alphabetically - not CDs, DVDs, books, or records. Everything is organized, but by genre, or occasionally by region, or a combination thereof.

I imagine Thomas would approve of that system of order much more.

From that first meeting at Andron Video, though he was some thirteen years my senior, Thomas and I became the closest of friends. I was privileged to see the start of his attempts to teach himself how to paint. I remember bringing him to a pond where I used to catch frogs so he could photograph water lilies, to attempt paintings in the fashion of Monet. (His recent work is digital and photographic and very, very different from those early paintings). We consumed hundreds of films together (including Schrader’s Patty Hearst, The Comfort of Strangers, and Light Sleeper, which all came out on video around the time of our knowing each other). My earliest explorations of Tarkovsky, some of my first viewings of Herzog, and my discovery of Marat/Sade - a favourite of both Thomas’ and mine, that he suggested I rent for us from Videomatica - were done together. I remember renting a sweet, sad film because he said it was his favourite - A Thousand Clowns, with Jason Robards. I tried to get him into Cassavetes - a rough fit for a guy like Thomas, though he was impressed, as I recall, at the visual sensibility of Love Streams, not having been prepared for how much care it was crafted with.

We also explored lots of music together. When one of his friends, then going digital, gave me his vinyl collection, it led to a burst of enthusiasm on my part for free jazz, which spilled partially over onto Thomas - though he never got quite as into the aggro stuff as I did; he was more into Monk and Mingus and Dolphy, never really joined me in Ayler or Cecil Taylor or the Art Ensemble of Chicago (tho’ I gave him enough tapes of the stuff, never quite giving up; they're probably still filed away somewhere, wherever his stuff is these days). We shared a great enthusiasm for early Ornette, however, up to and including his seminal Free Jazz album, and he had at least some interest in Don Cherry’s solo stuff, though I don’t remember him being as keen for it as I was. Miles, we got into together, too (the scratches on my Bitches Brew CD box set are his fault, dammit!). I would visit him once or twice a week in his basement studio; we would sometimes alter our state, which definitely enhanced the bond between us, and made for many interesting and psychologically intimate experiences. We'd talk late into the night, sometimes all night, almost always with music playing, with Thomas providing snacks and beverages and playing host. I remember one evening - his wife had come down into the studio, and my altered perceptions focused on her words; I was most amused to discover language itself turning into jazz. Another evening, I can recall that there were bizarre reflections of candlelight in the bowls he'd brough us ice cream in, which fascinated both of us. Almost always, on those evenings, he would end up at his drawing board, doing something with art. Sometimes we would paint and draw together. (The two sort of overlapped back then, as Thomas began his visual art - he was using chalk pastels, which sort of are an in-between medium... I have early pieces by him somewhere in my closet, as well, and he likely has a few drawings by me).

Occasionally Thomas would get enthusiastic about music I would introduce him to, which was sometimes, but not always, rougher, noisier, and uglier than he cared for - or else simpler and punkier. He had no use for Sonic Youth and found Eugene Chadbourne too deranged (he once forced me to take off Shockabilly’s “Born on the Bayou,” talking about not wanting to listen to “this abased creature” that he heard in Doc Chad’s vocals). I managed, on the other hand, to get him well into Captain Beefheart (Thomas observing shortly after "getting it" that Beefheart was a surrealist - an apt observation. Trout Mask Replica was our favourite). I believe it was me who turned him on to the music of Terry Riley (Church of Anthrax especially), and John Zorn (I entitled an early Masada tape I made for him - or maybe some other Tzadik release - "Jews with Horns," which he found pretty amusing; I also made him a series of mixtapes with anagrams on the labels - "Tape for Thomas" transformed, for instance, into "Paste of Mothra"). We also both really dug Fred Frith (we listened to Skeleton Crew's Learn To Talk together a few times), and when I got to meet Frith I passed on some music made by Thomas' younger son, and got Frith's autograph for him. He would encourage my "found art" cassette covers, clipped from National Geographics, mostly. Occasionally I would attempt to get into his more minimal, orderly music - I listened at least once to the whole of Philip Glass’ Einstein on the Beach at his insistence. Michael Nyman, another favourite of his, worked better, or gamelan music, but some of Thomas' stuff was just too damned ORDERLY for me. He scored far better when turning me on to pop music that he had liked as a younger man, surprising me that the Psychedelic Furs and Roxy Music had good albums out there, which I'd never have guessed from the stuff of theirs I'd had exposure to (he was the man who first played me “The Bogus Man” and Manzanera's “Miss Shapiro,” reciting some of Eno’s lyrics for that song from More Dark Than Shark, which he had on his shelf. Thomas had Eno's "oblique strategies" around, too). We went through phases of sharing more "normal" stuff, as well - we both dug Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, and Leonard Cohen. He was the guy who introduced me to Cohen's New Skin for the Old Ceremony, which is still the Cohen album I have the most interest in, of his studio works. None of this might seem so remarkable to people who are used to sharing information over the internet, but you have to remember - it barely EXISTED back then (and I came later to it than most). Myspace, Google, and so forth were all things of the future - knowledge was something you got person-to-person, and Thomas and I shared a LOT of it with each other.

Those were the peak years of our friendship. Thomas got me involved in a life-drawing group that meant a lot to me at the time (most of my art from that period didn’t survive the bedbug infestation in my previous apartment - it seemed safer to throw it all out that keep it). I also watched Thomas raise his children through those years - when I met him, both his boys were very young. Since I always was more aggressive than he, and inclined to meddle in the psychology of my friends, sometimes I would delve into his past and his psychological quirks rather intrusively, though he was always quite open and trusting with me, talking about his problems with depression, his previous suicide attempt, his migraines and so forth. We knew each other pretty well, didn't judge each other, tried to support and encourage each other however we could.

Then things began to change - mostly for me. Thomas continued pursuing a career in the visual arts and raising his family - he was a stay-at-home Dad most of the time I knew him - but in the mid-1990s, I went through some radical life changes, at the behest of a charismatic Lakota “spiritual teacher”/ guru figure I was dealing with, and became quite conservative for a time, and suspicious of the path I’d been on, which had seen me exploring a lot of psychologically unhealthy blind alleys,  degenerating a bit as I avoided the challenges of getting my shit together. What can I say - my mid-20’s were a very difficult time for me, and I created a lot of shit for myself so that I wouldn't have to face the challenges of building a life, which seemed pretty much impossible (and very intimidating). I was, frankly, doing too many drugs, and doing weird stuff to myself - experimenting with self-scarification and razorblades, getting into some pretty weird masturbatory scenarios (!), reading too much Nietzsche and Robert Anton Wilson and playing around with voodoo, transgressive pornography, sadomasochism, and other things that I’m glad I ultimately abandoned. Really, I was well-primed for a swing towards conservatism, though I was also, I admit, inclined to blame my friends at that time for not having stepped in to stop me on the self-destructive, that-way-lies-madness path that I was on. Thomas was a key focus for that blame, as he knew more about that stuff than anyone else, had stood by not judging me as I plunged into some pretty weird, unstable shit. There was a definite "why didn't you step in to STOP me" moment or two between us as I gained perspective and control - a blame that took me a long time to get over. 

Somewhere in there, anyhow, I finished my degree and got my first “real” job after many pointless minor ones, teaching English in Japan. If my conservative phase - where I sometimes aggressively lectured Thomas about over-indulging in art and avoiding dealing with reality - wasn’t quite enough to alienate him as a friend, my living for three years in Japan sure didn’t help. He also moved, around that time - up to the Sunshine Coast, away from the town that had brought us together. When I visited on breaks from Japan, I would sometimes head up there, but those visits were never quite as intimate as our basement days on Tamarack Lane. We still watched a few films together, but after I returned from Japan and moved to Vancouver, we never really connected quite the same way. We had a few nasty fights, for one - with me being the aggressor, as always. Other things came between us - judgments, resentments, even money issues. It wasn’t easy patching up our differences and getting close to each other, either, when we lived so far apart.

We shared a few experiences, still. We saw John Zorn’s Electric Masada together in Vancouver, I guess in 2001 or 2002; Thomas made the trip out for that show - though we fought that night, as well, over something minor and regrettable. We barely hung out when he came to town to see Ornette Coleman - I’m not sure why - though we did see an Acid Mothers Temple concert together one night, I think with his older son, then a teenager. We had a few good moments together, though they were few and far between. I wasn’t against the idea of staying in touch, but I was a different person from the one I’d been when we’d known each other best, and I suppose part of me was threatened by what he represented - a past I was trying to put behind myself, or at least didn't know how I felt about. Which is funny, because in recent years, many of my enthusiasms from that time have gradually crept back in. I’m as passionate about music, film, and so forth now as I was in my early 20’s. I'm as crazy an "explorer" as I ever was (though I know Thomas would have no patience for my recent enthusiasm for heavy metal). In fact, I think that Thomas and I would probably be pretty good company for each other now - think that I’m finally stable enough in who I am that I could relax with him, that I wouldn't need to be so bullying or judgmental, that I would be far more accepting of his virtues - his kindness, his playfulness, his humour, his urbanity, his keen intelligence, his practicality (because unlike me, Thomas was always comfortable with tools and cars and technology, wasn't the type to get intimidated by such things). I’ve been really kind of focused on myself in the last while, or family matters, on my studies - but getting together again with Thomas, trying to rekindle our friendship, or at least having a few good visits with him are definitely things that have been on my To Do list these last years. "When I Get Around To It, Someday" stuff, maybe - but definitely pencilled in there.

Except I can’t hang out with him ever again, because he killed himself a few days ago. He left a phenomenally self-involved, meticulously crafted and very, very sad visual suicide note, reflecting where his art has been in recent years (it fills me with a variety of anger that I probably directed at Thomas a few times too often - I want to scream “bullshit, get over it” at him but I can’t). One image on his website in particular haunts me, because if I’d bothered to look at his art in the last while, I would have seen beyond a doubt where he was at - an altered image of Marat’s suicide, side-by-side with a picture of one of the pills that, I presume, he would ultimately overdose on (they also feature in said public suicide note). The title, “Different But Deliberate” gives away everything; I think, if I’d seen this image, I would have known - neverminding the rest of this recent work, which is equally despairing. From this image, I would have known what was coming… more than other people to visit his website, perhaps, since I watched Marat/Sade with the man at least three or four times; it was one of “our films,” along with Stalker (one of mine) and Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books (one of his). I could have done something - except I haven't looked at his website in a year or more, because, what can I say, my mind has been elsewhere. It fills me with a very particular sadness and grief - because, in fact, had I been closer to him these last years (or so I reason), I might have been able to talk him out of this final spiral. We spent a lot of time in the past, talking about his depressions, and I wasn’t afraid to provoke him to rise above them - which at times I’m sure had a positive effect (I can't say that my net influence on him was positive but sometimes, surely, it was). I would have made a try, anyhow - if I'd known, if I'd been paying attention.
I sure wasn’t there for Thomas this time ‘round, though. A mutual friend texted me the other day to get me to call him, because he had heavy news. One of the first things that came to mind, as I made the call, was "Thomas has killed himself." I wasn't at all surprised that I turned out to be right.

(Stupid bastard - why’d he need to go and do this? Why not tell me he was down? Why not call out?)

I’ve missed Thomas for awhile now, but now there’s no fixing it. My condolences to his family and friends, and especially his two remarkable children. Thomas was a very, very good man, very unique, with his greatest failing being that he didn't really realize this, or value it much. I wish he'd made better choices. Wish I had, too.

Guess that's it.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Concert of Note...

Nothin' for y'all again

Forgive me followers - it's been a week since my last posting. And I've got nothing. When not dealing with school stuff - or commuting - I'm spending time with my Mom. Plus for the last week, I've been grappling with the flu, with a concomitant ear infection and the gastric distress that comes from using antibiotics. There's a bit of a break in my classes coming up, but I have two major projects to work on, schoolwise, so... I may not be around much. Again.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Dreams of Temptation

Having recently viewed the (excellent, compelling) prison movie Un Prophete as part of my film studies classes - twice! - I had a dream in part that was informed by it, in which I was in prison and it somehow came out among my fellow inmates that I was trying to stop using marijuana (this may correlate to actual events in my life, note. Clarity has seemed desirable of late). As news spread, suddenly other inmates started, for the fun of it, throwing lit joints around me, so that I was sitting in a cloud of fragrant smoke, temptation everywhere. I believe that, in the dream, I picked one up and partook; it may be the first time I have smoked a joint in a dream.

Three photos from a recent commute follow, completely unrelated to the above.

Thinkin' 'bout Townes van Zandt's "The Hole"

Always thought of this song as a sort of archetypal cuntfear song, but was marvelling the other day at how much of the psychology of addiction it resonates against (addiction being just one other dark womb/ tomb to curl up and hide from yourself in). What a fascinating songwriter Townes van Zandt was.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Spielgusher (Mike Watt, Richard Meltzer) vs. the Unknown Instructors

Hey, Spielgusher is out! It's been rumoured for a long time, was originally conceived of during the days of the Minutemen, finally taking the form of a coupling of rock writer Richard Meltzer's poetry and Mike Watt's bass, with a couple of Japanese on guitar and drums. I have loved some of the writings of Richard Meltzer and much of the music of Mike Watt, but am a little unconvinced that I need this - 'specially after Hyphenated Man (which I've spun maybe five times, to prep for Watt's show, and then shelved. I'm kind of ready, truth be told, for Watt to stop writing operas). Still, uh... it's something to consider. Here's "Fuck Awareness Week" - the guitar (by Hirotaku Shimizu) is pretty awesome, actually...

Gotta say, though - if you're hungry for Watt that you haven't heard, and you don't already have'm, you should go seek out one of the three CDs by the Unknown Instructors, with Dan McGuire doing the poetry and Watt, Hurley, and Saccharine Trust's JOE BAIZA doin' the prime music (with guests like Raymond Pettibon, Jack Brewer, and David Thomas, usually contributing vocals). Based on that one Spielgusher track, I think I'd rather hear McGuire read than Meltzer (unless he was going to blurt out "Electrocute Your Cock" - now THAT's a Meltzer vocal performance I can get behind!).

By the way, should Dan McGuire ever read this: I DID write reviews of Funland, which I shlepped around to a few places. None published it. Awesome album, though - 'specially Joe's guitar. Peace.

Friday, February 03, 2012

RIP Ben Gazzara

First Gus, then Archie, and now Harry.

The Wages of Fear

I've missed a few opportunities to write about Vancouver film events lately - hope a few of you got to see Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole last night, or some of the ongoing Tarkovskys (his two final films play the Cinematheque tonight, Nostalghia and The Sacrifice; both were made in exile - in Italy and Sweden, respectively - after Tarkovsky left the Soviet Union. While Nostalghia is one of his more "atypical" films, it makes a great pairing with The Sacrifice, and not just because both films feature Bergman regular Erland Josephson. Actually, The Sacrifice, after Stalker and maybe Ivan's Childhood, would be the film I'd most likely direct Tarkovsky noobs towards; Solaris, despite being the most visible of his films, is actually not so watchable, is the only film of his I've seen that I would count as less than a masterwork).

However, I come not to write of Tarkovsky but to enthuse over the gripping French classic thriller, The Wages of Fear (poster above), also soon to play at the Cinematheque. There was a time when directing people to this film would have been done via a reference to William Friedkin's Sorcerer, which reimagines it - quite cleverly, I think - but that film is not so well-remembered now, so I guess the portal I'll pick will be the presence of director Clouzot's name throughout Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (forgive me if I'm misspelling that incorrectly) - he's one of the filmmakers to feature on the cinema's marquee in that film, I believe in reference to Le Corbeau. Clouzot made several masterful French thrillers - also highly recommend Diabolique - and is a filmmaker who anyone with a taste for films noir should explore. (Diabolique got a particularly shitty and pointless Hollywood remake a few years ago, too - they might as well have just colourized it and dubbed it into English).

I have nothing new to say about any of these films, for those who have already seen them - but for budding Vancouver cinephiles who don't know them, this is a great chance to get out and see'm projected on the screen...

Geek Dream

In the dream, I'm at some sort of flea market located in farmer's fields. There's a corner that's filled with records and books and such, and I've shopped through it, found little, and left, when I discover, walking down a shrubbery-lined aisle, that one little grassy "alcove" is stacked with magazines, comic books and 45's. (No, not guns - vinyl singles, most with picture sleeves!). I dig in, excited to be looking through stuff that, because it's not in the main area, hasn't been picked over yet, and I find some gems. The stuff I remember includes a couple of issues of Howard the Duck, including issue #1 (though my sleeping brain is not as good as accessing memory as my waking one, so I get the cover wrong); a very old issue of Discorder magazine (I get the size wrong); and a New York Dolls 7" (with picture sleeve - "Personality Crisis," maybe? My brain does better with that one, providing a miniature approximation of the cover of their first album). I excitedly pile up my goodies in a couple of stacks, which I plan to buy, when suddenly there is a flash flood, and I have to cling to the shrubs as the water rises, and rises, and rises.... When it subsides, for whatever reason (I now forget) I have left the area, and somehow run into a childhood friend named Greg, long estranged. I tell him about the stash and that he can have the New York Dolls single if we can just find where it was. My father is there, too, but we pass him by. I get us roughly to the area but instead of finding the alcove we disturb some sort of religious ceremony being put on by formally dressed - like, suits and ties - Native Americans, whom my sleeping brain postulates are Kiowa, for no reason known. Even then, I'm not sure. Rather than disturb their ceremony, Greg and I leave to look for the stuff elsewhere - "it couldn't have all washed away, could it?" - and that's when my alarm goes off. Now I'll never know if I found it, but given my dreams - which often end with unfinished quests, me looking for something - probably not.

...tho' come to think of it, usually it's a PERSON I'm responsible for that I can't find, because I'm too distracted by STUFF. In this dream, it's the stuff that I can't find.... Hm....

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Go Figure

...for all its obviousness, this is the first article I've read that suggests the massive decline in honeybee populations is due to insecticides...