Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Police Beat co-author reads in Vancouver (with Liz, too!)

Charles Mudede, who co-authored the fascinating film Police Beat, which played at this year's VIFF, will be reading on Friday night in Vancouver alongside my friend Elizabeth Bachinsky. The event is described thus:

Speakeasy: Serial Spacewith Elizabeth Bachinsky (Vancouver), Diana George
(Seattle), and Charles Mudede (Seattle)

Artspeak, 233 Carrall Street, VancouverFriday, December 2, 8pm

Recently, west coast writers, artists and architects have been thinking
about how basic notions of space could be redefined. In a 2002 Artspeak
publication, Diana George and Charles Mudede approached serial space, an endless
repetition of particular spaces that appear throughout our conventions of
³urban" or "nature." Serial space proposes a shift in the way we think about
space, away from conventional dichotomies such as city/country, urban/suburban.
How can notions of space be redefined along the lines of serialized space -
endlessly repeating spaces - rather than by spatial dichotomies? How does space
form critical discourse and what are the implications of those formations, if
any? Artspeak¹s Speakeasy series of talks and readings encourage writers and
artists to continue this thinking.

It all sounds a bit spacy to me (sorry) but should be an interesting event...!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Eugene Chadbourne at the Western Front!

(The second photo reveals that there are actually some structural similarities, previously unknown to me, between the face of Eugene Chadbourne and that of M. Emmett Walsh. Dr. Chad appears to have great cranial capacity, as well, which we assume accounts for his genius...)

Something I never thought in my youth would happen: I got to hang out with Eugene Chadbourne for a bit, chauffering him to his Western Front gig on the 25th and chatting with him between sets. Dr. Chad has delighted me since my acid-soaked early 20s, when I first discovered the music of Shockabilly. I was living with my parents in Maple Ridge, dropping every few days, avoiding a whole host of issues that I hadn't dealt with, like finishing a degree, getting a job, or finding a girlfriend... It was all pretty terrifying for me, but drugs kept life entertaining while I braced for my oncoming failure, and often I felt like I was "learning" things from them, too (tho' I wasn't always that serious about trips -- the giddy distorted weirdness and humour of Dr. Chad's take on the drug experience was equally a delight; my friends who really thought that they were developing, uh, spiritually from acid never really shared the sentiment, preferring me to keep Dr. Chad's music well away from them). "Psychedelic Basement" could have been an anthem of that time for me. In fact, it kinda was.

Dr. Chadbourne was most affable when Dan and I picked him up at the airport. "Unless you're waiting for someone from the country of Chad," he said, gesturing at our big CHAD sign, "that must be me." He was taller than I'd expected, and more, uhh, normal, and it was kind of odd noticing an "American accent," which the linguist in me was unable to exactly pin down (since I'd been hitting the pipe prior to the drive to the airport). We talked about whatever came up on the drive -- how the Canadian government is dismantling the railroads in Newfoundland and selling the rail to Europe, which everyone agreed was a very bad idea, to Dr. Chadbourne's fondness for Chinese roast duck (which, alas, we never got to partake in together -- an early soundcheck necessitated we drop Dr. Chad off at his hotel, plus I had to come home to interview Terry Riley by phone -- which interview will appear in next month's Nerve). Probably Dr. Chad's funniest moment was his imitation of talking to Terry Riley as if doing so were a Terry Riley composition; without explaining what he was doing, he began a stuttering, mellifluous "hi-te- hi-te- hi-ter-hi-ter-hi-terry-how-hi-terry-how-hi-terry-how-are-you," remarking afterwards that one should always "talk to musicians in the style of their music." He then exploded in spastic noise, commenting that he was demonstrating how one might talk to Evan Parker. (I tried to share this all with Terry Riley but it just didn't work so well by phone).

After a brief stop by to leave merch and guitars at the Front, where Eugene told us stories of customs hassles -- including one BC customs officer who wanted to search his luggage for marijuana when he was coming here from Amsterdam, as if anyone would actually try to smuggle pot into BC -- we drove to the Best Western. En route, Chad started opening up about a topic I'd tried to interview him about previously via e-mail, drugs -- wondering just how similar his youth (in Calgary in the 1970s) had been to mine (slowly going crazy in Maple Ridge in the 1980s). Pretty darn similar, it turns out; as with my parents, his folks had no idea what he was up to until he told them, and his mother was far more disapproving. He told us of how she thought the comparisons Dr. Chad's cohorts made between Reagan and Hitler were pretty outrageous, since she'd fled Germany during the war; but her own attitudes towards hippies and drug users were themselves pretty extreme, and some of the things she said in heated moments put her to the right of Reagan. During the Reagan years, Chadbourne also related, children were encouraged to turn in their parents, which was pretty scary; he explained how he offered to drive his daughter to the police station to do it, since he "wasn't going to have this come up every time they had a fight..."

The show was delightful. Dr. Chad offered goofy beatific smiles from time to time, sometimes playing with his tongue out, sometimes stamping his foot maniacially. His hair, greying, stuck out from the sides of his head like that of a mad scientist, and he included a brief Bugs Bunny imitation in his between-song patter, which gives you a sense of where he lives; his songs veered between sincere sentiment oddly played and what I can only describe as ironic send-ups of pop tunes (from "Are You Experienced" to a surprise closing number, Michael Jackson's "Beat It.") The best songs were an intense little love song about forgiving someone after being burned, which apparently appears on his CD Me and Paul, from the House of Chadula -- I forget the title and the artist -- and his cover, in response to my request for a Phil Ochs' tune, of "Knock on the Door" (available on the Psychedelidoowop disc with Camper van Beethoven). There was a lot of fun in what he did, but also surprising beauty in some of his noisier solos; he participated in an improvisatory jam with the Vietnamese musicians who opened the show, too, accompanying their strange one-stringed zithers on banjo, which was a particular delight -- I could have listened to a lot more of that. Alas, it was not to be. After selling some of his CDs out of his guitar case, with his delightful homemade covers scavenged from old LPs and then modified, he packed up and crashed, to set out the next day for Victoria and then Calgary, where his dad still lives. I went home to delight in my acquired merch. The Chadklappmuntz CD in particular is delightful, if you're a fan of Chadbourne's more noisy/out there music -- it has some wonderful, veering, and very eccentric lines and textures to it. Any fans of Eugene Chadbourne who haven't heard him for awhile are urged to visit his website, where he sells most of his recordings and has lots of further info about himself.

Dr. Chad seemed very pleased with the interview in my print-version of my blog -- I've dubbed it my "blogzine," by the way -- and gave me a pat on the back after reading it. Delightful meeting you, Dr. Chad! Come back soon!

Friday, November 25, 2005

John Pilger on Internet Reporting

Just read an interesting article by John Pilger on the failure of television and print media to tell the truth about the Iraq war, and on the value of the internet as a source of information. He focuses in particular on the American use of white phosphorus and napalm. The use of the former was finally brought to light in the mainstream media this November, but those who keep an eye on independent news sites or left-leaning/antiwar sites like Znet knew about this stuff last spring. The delayed reaction was initially somewhat surprising to see; I had gone through my shock and outrage months ago, and it was odd to see the rest of the world suddenly take notice -- I'd assumed they just didn't care! The use of napalm -- by another name, mind you -- has yet to be made much of; it was already a known thing when this article appeared in June.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Eugene Chadbourne, Terry Riley, and stuff I've missed

Well, folks, I'm currently a bit puzzled about how to write for this blog; my role as writer/"journalist" is expanding a bit, and I'm not sure what to do about that -- neverminding my self-published "blogzine," I'll be on the phone with Terry Riley on Friday, interviewing him for Nerve; the same day will be spent hanging out with Eugene Chadbourne, whom Dan and I are entertaining prior to his Friday night gig at the Western Front. All of that is exciting, but what do I do with it? Write one thing for print, one thing for my 'zine (if I do it again) and one thing for my blog? (Actually, that's what I did with the Zev Asher stuff, but... it seems a bit much). Add a busy schedule to it -- a full time job, a part time job, a recently-added gym schedule, and a need for ample culture consumption (some call it "entertainment") to give me somethin' to write about -- and we find I'm spread pretty thin. I neglected to review the Meredith Monk show (it felt so much like the show you'd expect Monk to give that it felt like it barely happened -- but just read Alex Varty on it, okay? I really enjoyed the dance elements and the short film "Turtle Dreams" was a delightful closer to the performance of the piece by the same name) and I didn't write at all, Brett Larner interview notwithstanding, about Ellen Fullman and the Long String Instrument, which was some of the most exciting music I've heard in recent years. I'm not going to catch up, either -- between them, Dr. Chad and Terry Riley are going to give me all I need to write about for a week... Plus I'm off to see Antonioni's The Passenger again tonight at the Cinematheque (the European cut is even more languid than the previously available version, and feels quite dreamlike; I highly recommend this film).

So it's a busy and fulfilling life this week; I'm not complaining; it's just my blog that's suffering. My apologies for any apparent lack of enthusiasm... I'm still around!

By the way, the world's ugliest dog has died. (Annoying Wal-Mart pop up -- sorry).

Friday, November 18, 2005

The US, the UN, and Guantanamo

An interesting and useful article on the United Nations, who are abandoning attempts to inspect Guantanamo, since they are being denied the right to do so properly and thoroughly by the US. Meantime, CIA agents are coming forward to decry "enhanced interrogation techniques" currently being employed, which, they feel, amount to torture. Tho' GWB says, of course, that the United States does not torture... Sure...

Tonight at the Western Front: Brett Larner interviewed re: Ellen Fullman's Long String Instrument

(The following is reprinted from the "print edition" of my blog, which also includes an interview with Eugene Chadbourne, not yet seen online... It's out there at the usual places one finds these things -- Noize, Scratch, Zulu, and various other places downtown and in Kits (East Van distribution is, I hope, tonight...).

The koto is a traditional Japanese harp. Though it is usually employed in the performance of Japanese classical music, it is also of interest to avant gardists. Michiyo Yagi (I’m using Western name-order for this, note) is one of the most passionate and interesting of Japan’s koto virtuosos and has recorded for Tzadik; she is part (along with Sachiko M. and Haco) of the avant-garde girl-pop trio Hoahio, and has played alongside John Zorn, Bill Laswell, Mark Dresser, and many, many Japanese musicians. Miya Masaoka is based in San Francisco and has played with Ornette Coleman, Steve Coleman, Pharoah Sanders, Bang on a Can, Gerry Hemingway, and various symphony orchestras; she has played at a few Vancouver International Jazz Festivals, alongside Fred Frith and Joelle Leandre, among others. One of the more unlikely and unusual koto players, however, was not born in Japan, but Saskatchewan. Brett Larner has played with Japanese and American avant-gardists, traditionalists and jazz musicians; his teachers are Anthony Braxton and Kazue Sawai. He is currently based in Tokyo, but will be performing in Vancouver on November 18th, accompanying Seattle-based avant gardist and Long String Instrument designer Ellen Fullman.

I first saw Brett Larner at the Deluxe Improvisation Festival, 2001, in Azabujuban, Tokyo. Almost all the other dozen or so performers on the bill that day (with the exception of NY expat drummer Samm Bennett and visiting clarinetist Gene Coleman) were Japanese, including Yoshihide Otomo, Tetsu Saitoh, and Taku Sugimoto. The music was experimental and improvisatory and often the ideas behind the compositions were as important as the music itself. Brett’s performance stood out as the most interesting to watch; it was also the most minimal, both in terms of the music he produced and in terms of the requirements of performance. Interested in generating drones and sustained tones from an instrument that is normally plucked or strummed, he set gyroscopes between the strings and let them spin. Occasionally, when they fell over, he would right them, sometimes relocating them. Otherwise he knelt on the floor, watching and listening. The audience – also primarily Japanese – quietly and intensely listened along.

It was a memorable concert. At the time, I had a hard time getting into the CD of Brett’s gyroscope drones, Telemetry Transmission: Music for Koto and Gyroscopes, and ended up leaving it behind when I returned from Japan, somewhat to my regret; but I ran into him a couple of times after that, and quite liked him. His new project in Vancouver is performing Ellen Fullman’s “long string instrument” at the Western Front, on Friday, November 18th. I asked Brett about what to expect and about his relationship to the avant garde music scene in Japan...

Allan: How welcomed do you feel in the Japanese scene?

Brett: It's varied a bit over the years, but for the most part very welcome. I've always kind of been in both the koto and improv scenes there. When I moved there for the first time in '97 I was immediately active as a koto player but it took a few years before i really started working regularly with the onkyo (minimal laptop noise) people and other improvisers. I usually felt like I was part of things, not treated differently or anything. Of course that affected my relationship with the koto world, but that's kind of a longer story. Since I've been back (in Japan) this time (a year now) I've been laying low for the most part, just practicing every day, but still hang out and periodically playing with (Tetsuzi) Akiyama, Toshimaru (Nakamura) etc. ( see for more).

A: How isolated do you feel from the North American scene?

B: Fairly, although it varies. I still have contacts and work with people in SF, but other than that no real involvement. There are a few young guys here, Jeffrey Allport, Jonah Fortune, Ryan Mitchell-Morrisson etc. with whom I play whenever I'm here.

A: Is your relocation more or less permanent?

B: Hopefully. I'm there on a Canada Council grant which goes through March. I'd like to stay, but the question of course is how.

A: What keeps you in Japan?

B: Hmmn, big question. Easiest answers: Tokyo is infinite and I like the freedom which comes from existing completely outside a thriving society. The amount and especially quality of artistic activity is stimulating too. And food.

A: Would you recommend relocating to Japan to avant garde musicians…?

B: There is a lot going on there and opportunities abound, but there are many difficulties including visas, high prices, alienation, alcoholism, etc.....I would recommend touring, at least.

A: How does Canada seem to you when you return?

B: Oh man, I thought this was supposed to be a puff piece.....Well, except for part of last year here in Vancouver I haven't actually lived in Canada since '86 when I was 13, so I don't know if I'm qualified to give an answer. The gov't support available for artists here through the Canada Council and other agencies is world-class and something everyone should be proud of.

A: What are your musical interests -- do you listen to a lot of drone music? Minimalism? Noise?

B: My tastes are very wide ranging. John Fahey was my original inspiration to become a musician, long before the O'Rourke revival. I still listen to his music almost every day. Yes, I listen to drone music, not so much Minimalism (in the Reich-Glass vein, anyway), go through phases with noise. Pop music too, especially indie j-pop.

A: Do you also play koto in a traditional mode?

B: Yes. I also play jiuta shamisen and the associated classical vocal repertoire. My emphasis is on contemporary material but I have studied the traditional body of music for many years.

A: Do Japanese ever react negatively to a non-Japanese's non-traditional use of a traditional Japanese instrument?

B: Sometimes, but such things are fairly common these days inside Japan so there is less of such a perception than people outside Japan tend to think.

A: What got you involved with the koto?

B: When I was 18 I saw Kazue Sawai, the world's greatest koto player, perform. That was it. I started studying with Miki Maruta, a former student of Sawai's, then when I finished university I moved to Tokyo to become Sawai's student myself.

A: How did you get involved with Ellen Fullman?

B: I've listened to her music for years. A friend of mine, the late Matthew Sperry, joined her ensemble when she moved to Seattle and sort of got us in touch. I didn't actually meet her though until we were both in SF a couple of years ago. I brought her over to Tokyo in Sept. for 2 days of concerts, our first actual collaboration. The highlight, personally, was a trio of Ellen, myself, and Keiji Haino. A ridiculous combination but successful somehow.

A: What can we expect on Friday?

B: The first half will be some of my compositions for acoustic guitar ensemble. This music, like Ellen's work, utilizes longitudinal mode vibration of strings to produce extremely unusual and beautiful sounds. The singer from my pop band Cinnamon, Kanoko Nishi, will be part of the ensemble and so we may also do one song from our CD "Pony Up!" The second half will be Nishi and I on koto and bass koto playing a composition of Ellen's which is an extension of our work together in Japan. Ellen's long string instrument really has to be seen and heard live to be appreciated. It's amazing.

(See Ellen Fullman’s Long String Instrument and Brett Larner at the Western Front on Nov. 18th).

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

In Print!

Well... There it goes. 350 copies of ALIENATED IN VANCOUVER are being printed up, featuring my Eugene Chadbourne interview, my Brett Larner interview, some of that Zev Asher stuff, and a brief writeup on the Cinematheque's THE PASSENGER. I scattered 50 around downtown tonight, will do another 150 around Kits tomorrow, and another 100 around East Vancouver on Friday. The rest will go wherever there's need for 'em... It's costing me about $210, all told, and for the record, no, I'm not being paid for the ads I'm running (tho' maybe Tim will kick me loose some store credit). Aside from a slightly cockeyed title bar (too late to fix it) it looks pretty good... I may do this again someday!

Monday, November 14, 2005

HMV Superstore: will they make it to 2007?

I seem to recall saying awhile ago that given the nature of the space, it would be bloody difficult for HMV to do a substantially worse job than Virgin; the need to keep the shelves full and an awareness of the diversity of Vancouver's market would surely guide their corporate hand towards bringing in enough interesting stuff to keep people like me happy. I guess I owe Virgin an apology -- I was wrong. HMV have managed to fill THREE FLOORS OF SHELF SPACE with basically the same stock you'd find in their Coquitlam Centre outlet, and pretty much nothing besides. They have six billion copies of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, shelves and shelves of mediocre "sale-price" generica, they've relegated their jazz section to a backroom and their Criterions to a tiny corner space (and they didn't even bring in Nic Roeg's Bad Timing, the release of which is a major fuckin' event); and in the process of uber-corporatizing the space have alienated a goodly chunk of the hip, intelligent, creative Virgin staff, who have split for other locales. They've then replaced said employees with a staff who seem to be about 60% buffoon (I like the big dark haired chick with the piercings and tats, tho'). Granted, they've only occupied the space for a month, and they're doing a few things right: they brought in some Fred Frith discs in time for Frith's concert, are stocking the new New Model Army CD along with the EMI reissues, and to my surprise, actually brought in some Japanese imports last week of Clash CDs in cool mini-LP-style format, which I'm partial to. All the same, I had to teach the kid I asked about "other Japanese imports" how to spell Japanese -- he tried to spell it "Japaness," as he did a completely useless keyword search in their computer system (which turned up a few Half-Japanese albums, but that wasn't exactly what I was looking for). Maybe he was tired from the commute from the suburbs, who knows... I'd like to see HMV survive, but right now they're looking pretty useless -- mismanaged, badly stocked, and staffed by... well, there are some competent people there too, I'm sure. They're probably paying attention to other job openings out there, tho'... I would.

Taking Matters into My Own Hands

Fuck! Terminal City is dead, and the Nerve and Discorder are monthlies. This means I can't run my interviews with Brett Larner (playing November 18th at the Western Front) and Eugene Chadbourne (playing November 25th at the same venue) before their gigs -- it just can't be done. Both Nerve and Discorder have expressed interest in my writing (as opposed to the Straight, which just ignores my e-mails), but it's of no use -- Nerve will run a piece I'm doing on Terry Riley, who plays the Chan Centre in January, but it's no help right now. I have one solution open to me to get things out there in time: to self-publish a brief 'zine of my own. That's what I'm gonna do, then -- assuming all goes well, I'm going to spend tomorrow and Wednesday putting the final touches on a print edition of this very blog, which I'll assemble at a photocopier shop somewhere and schlep around town Thursday, Friday, and through the weekend. Alienated in Vancouver is going old school -- we're gonna step back into the realm of print media and perhaps generate a bit of attention for ourselves (uh, that is, for me). Wish me luck.

I'd write about the Meredith Monk show at the Chan Centre last weekend, but this print-edition thing is gobbling up my free time. It was a wonderful show -- they even did a screening of the short film Turtle Dreams, towards the end of a performance of the piece of the same name, which was a delight to see -- and the Chan is a great venue. My one complaint is that it was one of those shows that I've imagined so much in advance of seeing it ("what would it be like to see Meredith Monk play live?") that in a way, it feels like the whole thing just occured in the realm of my imagination; even when it was happening, it didn't feel quite real. Solution to the problem: she should come back sometime, so I can see her again.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Another Reason to Be Afraid: Dumped Chemical Weapons

A terrifying article on how the army has dumped millions of pounds of chemical weapons into the ocean; some are washing up now and harming people.

The reports reveal that the Army created at least 26 chemical weapons dumpsites off the coast of at least 11 states -- but knows the rough nautical coordinates of only half.

At least 64 million pounds of liquid mustard gas and nerve agent in 1-ton steel canisters were dumped into the sea, along with a minimum of 400,000 chemical-filled bombs, grenades, landmines and rockets -- as well as radioactive waste, the reports indicate.

There are countless more dumpsites that are not off the US coast, the article also reveals. This practice continued until the early 1970's.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Al Neil Project at the Roundhouse

Hm... Looks like Al Neil will not be actually performing as part of the "Al Neil Project" at the Roundhouse on the 10th (8pm, at the Performance Center; tickets at Grunt Gallery 604-875-9516). From the Roundhouse's website:

New Orchestra Workshop and Coastal Jazz and Blues collaborate to produce a concert featuring Al Neil’s ultimate tribute band with Gregg Simpson on Drums Clyde Reed on Bass and Vancouver improviser Paul Plimley on piano, Georgio Magnanensi on samples and performance poetry by Kederick James. Al’s partner, artist Carol Itter will work with VJ Krista Lomax to produce images for the event. In conjunction with the 4th LIVE Biennial of Performance Art presents 4 evenings of interdisciplinary work by and inspired by Vancouver innovator Al Neil.

Al Neil’s careers as a musician, composer, writer, bricoleur, and performance artist has spanned the past 60 years. His influence on many different artistic communities in Vancouver has been profound and enduring. This project looks at Neil as an innovator and a seminal force in the multi-disciplinary practices that have flourished on the West Coast over the past 40 years.

... but really, then, this is a Paul Plimley show. I always find Plimley an odd experience to watch perform; his face, manner, style of dress, and innocent sincere smile all kind of make it look like he' s wandered in from Sesame Street, or maybe Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. He plays, however, lyrically, passionately, deftly, and in a fashion that, well, reminds me not at all of Al Neil, whose music is far more fractured and decayed -- it can actually be quite disturbing (I'm thinking of stuff off Boot and Fog, mostly, which, among other things, turns "Over the Rainbow" into something way druggy and damaged, a truly intoxicating bit of disorder if one chooses to surrender to it)... It's kind of an odd mix. Cool that Georgio from Vancouver New Music (praised as part of my Fred Frith article, below) is playing. Alas, I'm going to miss the gig, but anyone interested in an unusual night of music is recommended to check it out... Who knows, maybe Neil will pitch in a bit himself (he did get out to that John Oswald gig a couple of months ago -- Oswald name-checked him from the stage...).

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Six Reasons to see Good Night and Good Luck

1. Because it is a remarkably stripped-down and spare piece of cinema, with no sex, violence, or swearing (because, assumedly, the filmmakers want people of all ages to be able to see it, considering their topic important); because it is further filmed with great craft and period accuracy in black and white; in other words, because it's an extremely rare and unusual phenomenon in recent American cinema.

2. Because it tackles an extremely significant period in American history (the McCarthy "witch hunts" of the 1950s) at a time when the moral questions raised need badly to be raised -- questions of journalistic integrity and honesty in the face of political injustices, questions of what it means to be a courageous and responsible member of the media when corporations and politicians would seek obeisance and silence on important issues. It directly addresses every journalist, every politician, every media figure in America and shows them by example what it is to be brave and honest and to do things that matter.

3. Because it is amazing proof that it is in actors that American cinema's greatest hopes lie; as with Sean Penn before him, George Clooney is using his own name and star power to make films that could not be made by anything other than a name star in America today, taking risks that few other people could take, using his celebrity to advance the cause of art, of moral cinema, of human integrity; John Cassavetes would be proud to see his legacy (tho' Clooney's filmmaking owes nothing in particular to Cassavetes).

4. Because it confirms that David Strathairn is the best working actor in America today (and has generally fine performances by the rest of its cast, tho' it's Strathairn that one cannot stop watching)... I love to see Strathairn get big roles; he's acted so well in so many independent films -- mostly those of John Sayles, of course -- that it's great to see him get recognition and money, and this is a meaty role indeed for him.

5. Because the clarity and eloquence of the language, and the force and even beauty of the arguments issued by its characters -- primarily Edward R. Murrow, as played by Strathairn -- is a delight; it is a rare thing to revel in the beauty of the words spoken by characters in a contemporary American film -- or to see any more-or-less mainstream film that really respects elocution to this degree.

6. Because it generates an amazing amount of dramatic tension using the most minimal of means and hits its mark with both grace and force.

I could probably squeeze out a few more but I'm tired and I think I have a cold coming on... It's a good film, though!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Riots in France, plus follow-up on Paradise Now

I've been hoping to find a decent news article to provide some background/context for the riots in France; I finally encountered this, which explains the role of simmering racial tensions -- most of the rioters are young Muslim men, disaffected and underemployed, treated as "scum" by white Europeans -- the sort that are considered cannon fodder for terrorist recruiters. There's also a more politicized slant on it on Znet, here. Anyone interested in the relationship between France and North Africa should check out Pontecorvo's Battle of Algiers, a truly important and relevant film about colonialism, terrorism, and torture, which, since it's on Criterion, you just may be able to rent at your local video store...

By the way, Paradise Now, the film about Muslim suicide bombers, has opened in the States to mostly positive reviews. I seem to be the only person who thinks the film errs on the side of making the suicide bombers too sympathetic -- most people praise its "objectivity." Roger Ebert, somewhat bizarrely, says he wants to see a film that doesn't cloud the issue of suicide bombing with religion, as if religion wasn't a huge part of the reality! (My review of the film is here, for a counterpoint). I think I'll write ol' Rog and take him up on the matter.

Also in the news: two cheerleaders have been arrested for having sex in a bar washroom. Life in America is difficult, too, I guess.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Bush in Latin America

An interesting article on Bush's reception in Latin America. Also see here, for an interesting exercise in reading between the lines, as Bush claims that the United States does not torture people, while opposing a law banning the same.

Post-script -- the same story, about how America doesn't torture, has been rewritten and appears here. It mentions Abu Ghraib and is a little less ambiguous about pointing out the contradictions between Bush's words and actions (though not much).

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Jello Biafra and the Melvins at the Croatian Cultural Centre, Vancouver

There was a Noam Chomsky article on Znet shortly after 9/11 where he talked about how actions like the WTC attack would only benefit extremists, on either side. By creating a political climate of violence, fear, and oppression, the most dictatorial, demagoguic, R-complex-manipulating rulers would rise to dominate and guide the masses into greater and greater acts of destruction and hatred. No kidding. Somehow fitting, then, that Jello Biafra (who himself is a sort of extremist, tho' of the best possible stripe) should resurrect himself as a singer and get to touring again in these dark days; his particular brand of politicized frenzy seemed somewhat ill-suited to Clinton's America -- he only needed to speak to people back then -- but is the perfect counterpoint to Bush; it's like he only ever needs to really come out of the coffin when there's a Republican warmonger in power. Baldspot and slight paunch (I should talk) notwithstanding, he gave a performance as manic and passionate as when I saw him in 1984, on the Fall of Canada tour at the York Theatre on Commercial Drive (pic from that gig here), with that other backing band he had back then... I'm not exactly glad that it turns out things are no better, politically, than they were under Reagan (best t-shirt of the night, glimpsed in the mosh pit: "Punk's Not Dead -- But Reagan is!"), but it was nice to see that the man hasn't lost his edge, even if he initially briefly reminded me (sorry, Jello) of William Shatner...

Anyhow, as for the music... The Melvins, after a brief set where they got to be their slow, heavy, intense selves -- truly a great live band -- donned ski masks and totally subordinated themselves to Mr. Boucher's mania, doing a mixture of their collaborations ("Yuppie Cadillac," "McGruff," "Caped Crusader," "The Lighter Side of Global Terrorism") and old classics ("Chemical Warfare," "I am the Owl," and the updated, Schwarzenegger-dissing "California Uber Alles"). Turns out that, Cold War references aside, "When Ya Get Drafted" is more relevant now than when it was written, and "Bleed for Me" can be nicely updated, we discover, to encapsulate current events (after ranting about how America has gone into the concentration camp business, Jello offered the modified line, "so what's ten million dead/ if it's putting down the Muslims" -- changed from "if it's keeping out the Russians.") In frenzied mime, Jello illustrated everything from customs agents searching through your underwear to terrified prisoners being fitted with hoods and flown to Allah-knows-where. He splashed and spit water on the sweating moshers from time to time, showed concern for the people being crushed against the barriers at the front (and apologized that the barriers were there at all) and speechified between songs about how we need to pressure our politicians into providing haven for draft dodgers, should the need come. If financial reasons played a role in getting Jello to tour again, given the destruction wrought by the DK's in their lawsuits against him, there was no trace in his performance that he felt he was betraying anything he stands for -- he seemed to believe utterly in what he was doing, and the mood wasn't one so much of punk nostalgia (which Jello has decried) but a living, breathing, and very current phenomenon -- punk survival.

Tho' really -- one does wonder, given how adamant he was against touring with the DKs, why Jello is suddenly okay singing the same songs with someone else... but I guess we'll let that slide.

Unexpected treat of the night: Jello dropped an early reference to how there would be no "Wesley Willis headbutts" (due to the barrier) and later did as one of his two encores (the other being "Holiday in Cambodia," of course) a cover of "Rock and Roll McDonalds." Wish my buddy Mel had been there -- she actually received a Willis headbutt once upon a time ("he was screaming in my face -- it was pretty scary!").

Best DOA tune: "2+2." (What the hell did Randy Rampage do when he wasn't in DOA, other than that brief Annihilator thing? Could he have ever done anything but play rock and roll? Has he had a straight job in his life? Who hired him for it?) (By the way, whoever said Chuck Biscuits was back with the band was wrong...).

My fame whore moment -- approaching Rob Wright and telling him that as much as I appreciated his recommendation (made when last I approached him at Nomeansno's Mesa Luna show to ask him his favourite book) I simply could not make it through Ulysses, though I did try again. (He advised me the next time I try to take two shots of whiskey before I start and then two more each page). Y'all know they have a gig in Langley comin' up again, right?

Anyhow, I had my own personal small dark cloud hanging over the night (which will go unblogged), but it's nothing compared to the dark cloud hanging over the whole of America right now, and it was good to see Jello shoot a few holes in said overhang and let a bit of light in; America needs people like him, and somehow it seems to me he can do more good as a singer than as a member of the Green Party... Maybe I'm wrong.

Fantasy of the night: Jello should run for office in California again and write a fourth and final version of "California Uber Alles" where he sings about himself... A sort of updated "What if he wins?" thing...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Terminal City Blues, plus dailies rant

Heh. How's that for a sad irony? I get a writing gig with Terminal City and that issue is the last ever issue they publish -- the paper has folded, stopped publication, gone kaput, gone bye-bye. I doubt I'll even get paid for the article, now -- it would have been nice to have a cheque to cash, just for the symbolic value of it. Perhaps I should conceive of this as some kind of test of my commitment to writing -- just another obstacle to overcome... All of this ultimately amounts to another reason to hate Metro, Dose, and 24 Hours, those homages to illiteracy and idiocy, who have gobbled up the city's advertising revenue and driven something that actually contributed to local culture into the toilet. Fuck Metro! Fuck 24 Hours! Fuck Dose! Fuck these people, and fuck you if you actually take their shitty papers from their public-nuisance vendors (unless you're an ESL student or badly in need of toilet paper, or sitting in a restaurant and amusing yourself with a paper that some other idiot picked up).