Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Last Chance to see Rituals Onscreen
...I wish I knew if Carol J. Clover had seen this film. She never answers my emails...
Monday, October 30, 2006
Subhumans at the Lamplighter, Oct. 13, 2006, plus Monkey Warfare note
Some of these are kinda cool (and one or two end up lookin' really good, by sheer chance, but I'm hopin' to use them elsewhere, so I can't very well stick'em here). Gerry, photographed thus, ends up lookin' kinda like some sorta tough guy, like he could be played by a young Clint Eastwood -- I mean, dig the chiselled facial features on this one:
Or in closeup:
They're kinda ROCKSTAR, despite the blurring, but the problem is they don't really look very much like Gerry! ...Anyhow, eventually I figure out how I can get shorter exposures; the trick is, there's this long unpredictable delay between when I push the button and the photo is taken. This makes the results of any attempt somewhat unpredictable: I end up with a great shot of Brian Goble, with his Insite t-shirt clearly readable, for instance -- but his head is missing. All the same, I manage to get a couple of reasonable, but not great shots -- of Jon:
And of Mike:
Of Brian :
And eventually, shots of Gerry that actually LOOK like him:
Sometimes shots that could have been fantastic are just a little too blurry:
But all told I'm happy with about six pictures, and may have a source for others. Sorry to stick my unusables here, but they're better than nothin' (and better than about another 30 completely worthless snaps I took).
By the way, there's a wry, intelligent, engagin' little film coming out soon that touches on some, er, peripheral history that I think people interested in the Vancouver punk scene (or concerned about activism) would really want to see: it's called Monkey Warfare, stars Don McKellar, and is directed by UBC film school graduate Reg Harkema. He's now based in Toronto -- that last link is from the Eye -- but he says the film is an "East Van movie at heart." Harkema has some very fond memories of his days on the early punk scene here; we didn't figure out any gigs we were at together but there must have been one or two... Check out my upcoming interview with Reg in next month's Discorder (which, for those of you downtown, reliably turns up at Scratch Records), and keep an eye out for the film -- it's a must see, if you were interested in th' above.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Another migrating manatee
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Norway's Gay Animal Display
Well, add one more feather in Norway's crazy cap: they have a newsmaking museum display -- well, it's linked on the Fortean Times site, anyhow -- on animal homosexuality. I don't particularly concern myself with human homosexuality -- I'm at a bit of a remove from Vancouver's gay community, and other than standard liberal well-wishings, don't really have any interest in it; but animal homosexuality -- because it fucks up SO many preconceptions about what is and isn't natural -- absolutely delights me. I mean, think of it this way: two male humans fucking aren't going to do a single thing to shut a homophobe up, but two male MONKEYS fucking are gonna force him to actually sit and THINK a bit. So I'm all for it, this animal homosexuality thing... I even sometimes whip out a book I have on the topic in my ESL classes, to give my more conservative students something to ponder (fun review of that book here).
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Gordon Mumma and Matt Rogalsky at the Scotiabank Dance Centre
I love volunteering at Vancouver New Music events: I've gotten to meet some very interesting people by doing so. I spent a couple of hours with Paul Dutton at the 2004 Vox Festival; he eagerly told me all sorts of details of his history as a performer, with Koichi Makigami occasionally weaving in and out of the conversation, sometimes doing weird spontaneous vocal improvs. I first met Maja Ratkje at that festival, starting a dialogue we were able to strike up anew when she and Hild came to town for the jazz festival. Last year, I was privileged to pester Fred Frith a bit (sorry, Fred!). This year, it looks like the merch table conversation of note will have been with Gordon Mumma.
Mumma's bio is here; he is one of the pioneers of electronic composition in America, designing his own instruments and, in the 1950s and 1960s, working with David Tudor, John Cage, and many others. He'll be doing something Cage-related with Vancouver born (but now Ontario-based) composer and performer Matt Rogalsky tomorrow at the Scotiabank Dance Centre, as part of the Silence Festival; I'd be more specific about the nature of the performace, except that neither he nor Rogalsky really know at this point what they'll be doing, either! After a brief chat about William S. Burroughs (a "survival source" in grim times, Mumma called him -- someone whose humour and irreverence and bravery were a source of great inspiration and fortitude), it turned out that Mumma's best story revolved around the Italian Marxist composer Luigi Nono. We were talking about vinyl fetishists -- that is, record collectors -- and I told him a rather fun story told to me by a guy named Brad about his attempts to secure a rare recording by Nono. It turned out that Mumma knew Nono; they were friends, having met at the Venice Biennale. Commence anecdote:
In 1964, the Boston Opera Company, under Sarah Caldwell, were looking to perform Nono's opera Intolleranza, a multimedia work that "attacked racial segregation and nuclear weapons" (it apparently provoked a riot at its 1961 Venice premiere). They wanted Nono to be present for rehearsals; he applied for a visa and was promptly refused, because, as Mumma put it, the US state department "thought he was gonna overthrow the friggin' government." Though very much a left winger, Nono was no particular friend to the USSR, and had long engaged in smuggling forbidden compositions in and out during his tours there -- they were almost as scared of him as the US; but his politics were radical enough to have him branded as an undesirable, no less. This was quite unfortunate for his wife, Nuria Schoenberg Nono, since she was hoping to visit her mother, Gertrude -- Arnold Schoenberg's widow -- in Los Angeles; she, too, was denied a visa. The Boston Globe apparently ran a headline that read, "State Department Says No No to Nono," whereupon several artists, intellectuals, and sympathetic politicians -- including Edward Kennedy -- began to protest, until finally Nono was allowed brief access, with strictly regimented flights to Boston and LA and then back to Italy, so that he wouldn't have the time or leisure to agitate. All of this is fresh in Mumma's memory because he has been digging through his correspondences with Nono for donation to the Nono Archive. (He expressed sympathy for Nuria Schoenberg Nono; between her husband and her father, she has two pretty daunting estates to manage!).
We then went on to talk about him discovering tapes of a performance of David Tudor's "Rainforest" in Rio de Janeiro, with Mumma and Todor and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, in the summer of 1968. (The booklet notes, minus the photos, can be downloaded here). This is on a recent CD that he's brought to town with him (he did mention that elements of Thursday's performance will resemble that composition.) I am greatly enjoying the Mumma I brought home, Electronic Music of Theatre and Public Activity; I'll probably pick up another of his CDs tomorrow. Matt Rogalsky's CD I have no idea about as yet -- I haven't heard it -- but I always liked the man when I knew him around SFU. He seems to have established himself in the world of avant-garde music -- I'm looking forward to finally hearing him play.
A final detail about Gordon Mumma: he's now local! Or close: he lives in Victoria, having left the US for a more politically comfortable environment (and for other reasons). He doesn't perform that often these days, he said -- but I've dangled the offer of an interview someday, if I can get our local papers interested (what the hell, I got Terry Riley in the Nerve Magazine). By the way, a photograph of Mumma, Luigi Nono, Robert Ashley, and Nuria Schoenberg Nono, taken in Venice, can be seen here. (I had incorrectly identified this photo in an initial version of this article as having been shot in the USA, but Mumma has written in a correction: "No connection or meeting with the Nono's was possible during their USA visit, due to legal restrictions and the constant monitoring and tracking of them by the FBI.")
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Cris and Curt Kirkwood to record together as Meat Puppets
I only ever really loved their first few albums, but still...!
John Cage in Vancouver, plus the Rotting Corpses of Halloween
New Music Festival of Cage performances (Click the "Launch Silence Flash" link) starting on Wednesday. Thursday, I think, features a guy I know from SFU, Matt Rogalsky, who I thought was a really interesting person (and who turned me on to the Holy Modal Rounders!), but whose music I've never heard. Sounds like the overall thrust is to focus on experimental composition and notation techniques, tho' personally I'm looking forward to John Tilbury doing prepared piano stuff; I don't think I've actually heard compositions for prepared piano -- by Cage or otherwise -- live. A little concerned about the silence-to-sound ratio, but I'll be there. Tons more creative Cage stuff going on in the city, too.
Trouble is that I'm really just not on the John Cage page right now -- I just finished posting some Crass lyrics on my Squamish Five/ Vancouver punk thread on the Nomeansno discussion forum, which shows you more where my head is at these days (it seems more appropriate, given the state of the world, tho' I'm as timid and middleclass as they come, so...).
By the way, speaking of the state of the world, has anyone noticed that Halloween decorations this year are taking on a singularly grim tone? It seems like there are rotting corpses in every window; there's not a trace of innocent kitch -- no pumpkins or black cats or politically incorrect witches' hats -- there's just DEATH, looking you square-on. I've been disturbed by display after display. I can't help but see it as a reaction to the denial of the body count in Iraq, which a lot of people no longer really want to know about -- it just comes creeping in some other way. It's like we're trying to compensate for the fact that we don't have REAL rotting corpses lying around everywhere. What a bummer for those who do.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
The Lives of Others at the Vancouver International Film Festival
The whole point of the film festival appears to see so many films that you really don't mind waiting a year to do it all again... It was a great couple of weeks; thank you to the VIFF and Vancity Theatre people for their work. (Now we can start looking forward to the Canadian horror series; make sure you attend Rituals, it's a must see for horror buffs -- written about here). Hell, I'm not even sure what's coming up at the Cinematheque... I'm kind of exhausted.
The People's Choice Award winner for best international film, The Lives of Others (the link is to an informative online press kit PDF on the film; the festival listing is here) proved to be a very interesting, but questionable, film -- I'm not sure I want to applaud and promote it or write it off (some have done so, for presuming to make an ultimately sympathetic character out of a member of East Germany's secret police, the Stasi -- a conceit that could be seen as dangerously dishonest, whatever its purposes; as with Schindler's List, there is something suspicious about celebrating too enthusiastically the exceptions to a horrible rule). Certainly during my first viewing of the film, I was willing to suspend my disbelief -- if cinema can have elephants that fly, why not? -- and I found the film very moving; it worked. In retrospect, I'm not so sure about it. The director, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, has said "More than anything else, The Lives of Others is a human drama about the ability of human beings to do the right thing, no matter how far they have gone down the wrong path." The generally unsympathetic and frightening portrayal of the Stasi, the director's stated moral purpose, and the apparent further intent of the film to heal some of the wounds that exist in Germany, might override these objections. Whereupon, alas, we encounter a whole 'nother set of objections, that the film, gripping tho' it may be, is just a little too pat, a little too manipulative, a little too much like a television drama (I felt that way about The Yacoubian Building, too, but ultimately it didn't bother me that much in that case). The film is scheduled to open in late February; it's certainly worth a look -- would be curious to see how others react. It says something -- not sure what -- that it was voted the most popular film.
The disappointment of the festival -- at least relative to my very high expectations -- proved to be Into Great Silence. An extremely ambitious film -- 2 hours 40 minutes with almost no dialogue, showing us the rituals of monks in a Carthusian monestary -- the film simply didn't have the craft to pull it off. It was intermittently very beautiful -- a few images reminded me of Vermeer, which is no small praise -- but I found it awkwardly edited, with repetitive cutaways to lines of prayer and portraits of the monks which didn't really work. I could never quite adjust to the film's rhythms, and time and again I found the director would cut away from something I really wanted to see and contemplate after only a few minutes. Rather than functioning as a filmed prayer, in the manner, if you will, of James Benning's 13 Lakes last year -- the film mostly just shows people praying. It's not the same thing, and it lost me after about an hour and a half, tho' I kept watching and waiting and hoping it would bring me back in.
Anyhow, I'm looking forward to seeing how my interview with Reg Harkema, about his film Monkey Warfare, looks in print. Really liked his movie (it ties in to stuff I'm thinking about lately; see the previous post) -- the article will be in next month's Discorder. Hi to Reg, and thank you's to Mark, Ellie, and Diane of the festival for keeping me in the loop and for putting up with my sometimes boneheaded questions. Thanks too to Mickey Brazeau, for helpin' make sure I was in the right lineup. I'm gonna cut the list short there, but, uh, thanks to everyone else, too. See you next year.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Direct Action (the Squamish Five), the Vancouver scene, and Punk
(Photo credit: an ongoing eBay auction for the original DOA benefit single for Direct Action, featuring a cover of Gerry Hannah's "Fuck You." It's item number 250038758210, if y'wanna bid! I remember having this single and playing it time and again; I was 15, and both fascinated and scared by the mood of political tension in Vancouver at the time).
I've been working on this feature interview on the Subhumans, and in preparation for interviewing Gerry Hannah, got to reading Ann Hansen's book Direct Action, and really doing research on the history and arrest of the group (who I knew by the media name, back in the day, the Squamish Five -- click the link for an archive of articles on them). It's a chapter of Vancouver/Canadian history that fascinates me, and to that end, I've visited the CBC archives in Toronto, interviewed filmmaker Reg Harkema (whose upcoming feature, Monkey Warfare, deals - sort of - with the Five), and interviewed or talked with many people involved with the Five in some way or other. I hung out with filmmaker Glen Sanford (a clip from his documentary on Gerry, Useless, is viewable here, tho' I would recommend ordering the film directly from Glen at glenette at shaw dot ca). I sent emails to Warren Kinsella and Chris Walter (who had interviewed Kinsella for the Nerve Magazine -- click Warren's name for that, it's a must-read). I talked to Subhumans members Mike Graham, Jon Card, Brian Goble, and of course, Gerry Hannah himself (more later on where that particular article will be published), and interviewed the security guard who was injured at Litton, Terry Chikowski -- tho' it took me some time to get up the nerve to do that. (Though I didn't have much luck engaging Mr. Kinsella in dialogue, he made the point that no look at the subject matter would be complete without talking to Chikowski, which, really, I think is true). What I'd be wondering, tho' - if anyone actually reads this and is interested - is what people made of the impact of the arrest of Direct Action back in the day, on punk and on punk political activism? How did people react to the fact that people were hurt? - because I know I kinda just swept that detail under the carpet and sung along with "Burn it Down." Any stories of how people were affected or how they reacted would be most interesting, be it Vancouver-based or otherwise... I've started a related discussion on the Nomeansno board that has gotten some interesting responses. Feel free to post your thoughts here; I'd be very curious.
See th' Vancouverites out there at tonight's Subhumans gig...
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Gillo Pontecorvo is dead - a sad day for cinema
Pontecorvo is one of the least appreciated of the great Italian filmmakers; his The Battle of Algiers is a very important film for anyone concerned with terrorism, resistance, and the plight of oppressed peoples. It's a shame his follow up documentary is not available on DVD -- to say nothing of the "long cut" of Burn! (Queimada), a cinematic cheat sheet for The Wretched of the Earth. (The link to Burn! is for the MGM DVD released last year, but it's a cinematic scandal to be avoided; they ignored the fully restored, Italian language film, circulated theatrically in the previous year, and distributed the truncated, cropped, inferior English-dubbed version). Perhaps because he made so few films (or because he dealt with serious, controversial political issues in his films), his work hasn't been made widely available here (His early film, The Wide Blue Road, is on DVD, however, and I highly recommend it -- it's a somewhat romantic tale of the struggles of a lone dynamite fisherman in a small Italian village, starring Yves Montand. It would be great fun to watch this back-to-back with Clouzot's The Wages of Fear). It's sad, but I hope his death will trigger a restrospective of his films in cinemas across North America, as I'm sure he also would have wanted. He was a great filmmaker and his films deserve to be appreciated.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Subhumans Gig Friday at the Lamplighter!
By the way, diehard fans who are curious what the pictures of Gerry with little bits of flamin' paper are on his blog are advised to seek out Glen Sanford's documentary, Useless, which can be purchased -- at the moment only on VHS -- from the director directly at glenette (at) shaw.ca . It is short and quite impressionistic, but I really liked it -- will be working on getting a screening of it happening in Vancouver sometime; it's been a few years since it last played here, I believe...
In other news, Barbara Streisand apparently yelled at a heckler to "Shut the fuck up!" during a skit before a concert where she was mocking George W. Bush. It is the first and only time I have ever felt the remotest inkling of liking for Ms. Streisand, so cheers to her!
Saturday, October 07, 2006
A Pain in the Neck at the Movies
Those who attend films with me know that I have a predilection for sitting up front, in what I think of as the Susan Sontag seats (Sontag apparently said somewhere that true cinephiles tend to like to lose themselves in the experience of a film, and naturally gravitate, as did she, to the front row). I've been like this for as long as I've been a hardcore movie buff -- I remember watching Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire in my late teens at the Royal Centre Cinemas (remember those?) on Georgia Street from the very front row -- ditto Reservoir Dogs when it was first run; both those films were distributed here back in the 1980's. While not all movie lovers share this quirk -- Roger Ebert apparently likes to sit at the back -- it does seem that most aesthetes I know like to sit somewhere on the margins; front, back or side are all acceptably elite, just NOT IN THE CENTER WITH THE REST OF THE POPCORN-MUNCHIN', CHIT-CHATTERIN', CELL-PHONE-CHECKIN', SEAT-BACK KICKIN', EVER-INATTENTIVE HERD. Which, alas, tends to be where all my non-cinephile friends like to sit, producing a bit of a tug-of-war sometimes; if you ever find me in the back half of a cinema with you, you should feel flattered. (Unless it's the Cinematheque or the Vancity, where up front really is too close; the screen is very high in both venues, and you might actually find me as far back as row five).
Anyhow, I just wanted to say that the combination of this quirk, my ongoing holiday from work, and my media pass to the VIFF means that I have quite a stiff neck right now. I've been only seeing one or two films some days, as I'm working on writing projects -- tho' on others I've seen five. (Today I'm doing four -- thus far I've seen the terrific Ten Canoes -- from which the picture above is taken; the moving and worthwhile Son of Man, and a good documentary on Walter Murch). I'm really quite sore. Y'all are welcome to give me a massage: post offers in the comments section. And now I must go to see the new Miike Takashi.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Chris Walter reads at Lucky Red
Was reading Chris Walter's interview with Warren Kinsella recently, which relates to a piece of writing I'm doing. (Gerry, you there? Click the link). Haven't actually read any of Walter's books yet, but I think I'm deciding that I need to, since he's writing from and of the Vancouver punk scene, which I also seem to be writing more and more about lately (tho' nothin' is being published yet... soon, we hope). Walter is doing a reading tomorrow night, in fact, as th' poster above indicates, and I would surely go, but I'm off to see Ellen McIlwaine at the Wise Hall. Maybe you could go in my place?
Noam Chomsky in the Straight (and in Vancouver, awhile ago)
You know, I don't really have anything much to say about Noam Chomsky at the moment, but I really liked the article in the Straight this week, so cheers to Brian Lynch. Plus I wanted the excuse to use this photo, which I took at a rally in Vancouver when Chomsky spoke here in March of 2004, after a demonstration against the Iraq war. He made some points that resonate off Lynch's article -- about how, for instance, the Vietnam war had been going on for years -- with American involvement -- before the American public mobilized against it, while conversely people were protesting America's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq before they began. Something he saw as a cause for hope.
Hey, any of y'all seen The Trial of the Catonsville Nine, based on the play by Daniel Berrigan? Watched it this morning. It's a pretty intense experience; I recommend it. I quite like Dar Williams song about Berrigan, too, "I had no Right," though I don't much like the look of her website (Dar, I really would rather NOT see your thighs; leave it to Liz Phair, okay?).
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Lost in Tokyo
Cassavetes fans -- if you have any doubt, set it aside. The subtitles are terrible and the title graphics are an embarrassment, but Lost in Tokyo ranks right up there with Signal 7 as a fine tribute to the films of John Cassavetes; it is very raw, real, and moving (and will probably lose a fair share of non-Cassavetes fans, so cinematic dabblers should consider themselves warned). It screens again tomorrow around 4PM. I highly recommend it -- Ikawa Kotaro, the director, the stars, and the guy who scored it are in town, too, and are funny, intelligent, and likable people...
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Will Oldham in Old Joy, other festival gems, Subhumans afternote
Damn, you know... as a film buff, I always (exclusively!) associated Will Oldham with Danny in John Sayles' Matewan. I had no idea that the Will Oldham whose name I'd seen connected with neo-folk music (I guess -- I don't actually know his stuff, yet -- as soon as these downloads finish I will) was the same guy, also given to recording under the name Bonnie Prince Billy. Anyhow, Oldham will be playing Vancouver November 9th through the 11th, and his newest film is at the ongoing VIFF - a very quiet, gentle, and intelligent (but quite subtle) work, Old Joy. I reviewed it in last month's Discorder, but that's nearly almost long gone, I guess -- the one with the line drawing of a tree on the cover. Washington State is quite lovely and lush (not, um, unlike BC) and the photography for this film is beautifully done, as is a driving sequence set to instrumental music by Yo La Tengo. It's worth checking out -- showtime info here.
What else have I liked? The Host is a well-made action thriller from Korea, but while it does reveal some interesting details about Korean culture and character (and is quite funny -- it seemed a real crowd-pleaser), it partakes of a reactionary Hollywood structural logic that I didn't entirely like, and I was definitely weirded out by aspects of the ending; I've decided to forget it. Haven't seen that many other Korean films yet -- Tom Charity recommends The Woman on the Beach, and my students suggest The King and the Clown -- but the other one I did see, Geo-Lobotomy, was a brilliant, loopy, absurd indictment of capitalism (I missed the Q&A with the director but it's apparently all intended to be read as a political parable, for which it helps to know a bit about Korean miner's strikes of the 1970's, which I don't). I enjoyed the Japanese film Cain's Descendant, a dark, strange, and oddly moving tale that reminds one equally of David Lynch and Dostoevsky; it stars Visitor Q himself, Watanabe Kazushi, who is in town, dressed in the same jean jacket, apparently, that he wore for the film... The only other film I'd really recommend (that I haven't gushed over already) is Michael Glawogger's Slumming. I loved Workingman's Death, his documentary, and found this a fascinating extension of some of his concerns in that film. It's alternately dark and funny, and the character of Sebastian -- whom you will hate at the start and feel at best ambivalent about (but oddly fond of) at the end -- is a fascinating commentary on privileged, nihilistic youth in the age of global capital; you will probably know someone who you think should see this film... Showtimes for that one here.
Really, I'm not seeing as much as I'd like -- I'm trying to work on this Subhumans article, having finally gotten a home for my Nomeansno piece and (I hope) having put the wrap on the Pointed Sticks thing I've been slavin' over. In any event, as we wait for the 13th at the Lamplighter to roll around -- believe it or not, folks -- Gerry Hannah has a blog! Keep yourself well-entertained...
All Your Base are Pwnt by Me!
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Volcano Suns Reunite! Waah!
I had no idea these guys were back together! One of the most memorable gigs of my gig-watchin' life was seeing the Volcano Suns at the Cruel Elephant in, I guess, the late '80's. This was the GRANVILLE Elephant incarnation, right toward the end of its tenure as a punk venue; the place was fuckin' FALLING APART. It was raining heavily, and the ceiling was leaking EVERYWHERE, with great clumps of soggy insulation plummeting down onto the stage and industrial-sized white buckets set up in various places to catch the various torrential streams of leakage dribbling down. The overhead lights were fried and steam was coming off the floor lights -- within a very short period of time, the venue would be shut down for good. The band somehow managed to play in these conditions, shirtless and humid and sweaty and soaked with rain -- it was like seeing a concert in a cave; somehow no one got electrocuted. I remember they did stuff off All Night Lotus Party, and maybe a couple of songs off Bumper Crop -- and here's devoutly hoping for a CD reissue of those two fine slabs of musical meat, by the way (the above pictured disc, Career in Rock, can still be found on eBay and is actually a killer recording, of interest to any Mission of Burma fans out there, tho' it's quite a bit heavier and more primitive than MoB). Years later, as a souvenir of this memorable past gig, I got a vintage Volcano Suns t-shirt off eBay, but it doesn't, um, actually fit me, so...