Sunday, August 31, 2008

Confessions of a Bootlegger (SuperHappyFun shuts down)

The online DVD bootlegger, SuperHappyFun, has shut down operations. The blog entry about it is here. If there were internet bestsellers...

I bought Face to Face off SuperHappyFun a long time ago. It turned out not to be my favourite Bergman, but seeing it it gratified my curiosity, and the quality was accurately described.

Fairwell, SuperHappyFun!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

What a Classy City We Live In

Saw not one but TWO girls today, squatting on the sidewalk with their panties down, pissing in the middle of downtown.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Beck: uggh

I was predisposed not to like the show. I should have sold the ticket. One guy offered me $70. But curiosity got the better of me.

I shoulda known better. Buncha herdspeople clapping and cheering - one obnoxious boomer bitch beside me even dancing - through a too-fast, unconvincingly soulless Vegas rip through Beck's greatest hits, beginning, bizarrely, with "Loser." I could not shake the feeling that I was consuming something that comes essentially down the same chute as Tom Cruise; that I was part of some transaction even more suspect and malign than that documented in Privilege. I wonder if the band members were all Scientologists? They sure didn't seem like a real band - rather like hired guns. There were a couple of moments of near-intimacy (like when the band put down their instruments and joined Beck up front for a rappish number or two, with Beck tossing in a reference to R. Kelly, whom I assume, from South Park, is also a Scientologist); but generally it felt like a professionally executed spectacle-by-numbers with no real human emotion or values crossing the chasm between the characterless but well-dressed robots onstage and the confused, whooping, cheering, salivating horde. It's hard to believe, and harder to embrace the fact that this is the same dude who recorded One Foot in the Grave, or instructed us all to "give the finger/ to the rock'n'roll singer/ as he's dancing upon your paycheque..." now selling tickets for $60+ to tasteless, soulless clueless middleclass consumers eager to bask in the glow of celebrity and cheer their own reflections. The giant dildo has crushed the sun and is now teasing about my nether regions: I felt bored, irritated, unclean, and generally embarrassed to be there, marked by my presence as just another consumer, sucker, sap. I left before the big rousing finale of "Where It's At" - bitching at friend Michael from a payphone in the Orpheum lobby, hearing the cheers and not understanding. No idea what the encores were. Fucking sucker. They got me.

Of course, I doubtlessly would have enjoyed it all a lot more if a certain couple of provocateurs (because it was Robert Dayton as well as Mack who I had this convo with) hadn't pointed out Beck's ties to the CoS, but I don't think I would have enjoyed it enough to be a satisfied pig at the trough. And it didn't help that I then had to walk home through the obscene spectacle of plastic young assholes getting drunk and parading their tits, muscle, money and utter lack of culture or restraint all over Granville Street... I feel so alien, so alone on a night like this. Where are the real people? Why is the world turning this way? Why am I participating in it? Where's my log cabin? Where's my escape hatch? How do I find my way home?

"Chemtrails," oddly, does a pretty good job of describing how I feel tonight: drowned. Like so many others. Ah, well.

Beck, Scientology, and Suicide

Where would I be without Sir Adrian Mack? He has greatly enriched my confusion and paranoia, this weekend graciously even explaining what the fuck chemtrails are. Beck's song of the same name, with references to people drowning, is being taken by some folks as offering an odd new development in the outing of Beck as a Scientologist, and his connection to two suicides - one by drowning - of artists connected to him, who had claimed they were being harrassed by Scientologists. Check this article for more backstory. I suddenly feel vaguely nervous about the concert tonight, wary, uncomfortable... Thanks Mack...

Old Time Relijun are coming

Old Time Relijun are from western Washington State, and have an appealingly weird aesthetic that draws what singer Arington de Dionysio says are somewhat obvious and overly used (but still very useful) comparisons to Captain Beefheart and Pere Ubu. Tho' he did a 1067 gig not too long ago, apparently it's been five years since his band has played Vancouver in full form; they're scheduled to appear at the Biltmore Cabaret September 11th, alongside Shearing Pinx. My mind is a bit foggy at the moment (drinkin' last night), so I ain't got more to say, but - I like the Old Time Relijun CDs that I have, and Arington has performed with Haino Keiji, which makes him All Right By Me.

And now I must catch a short nap before the Beck show...

See You Friday

Why do I like the Subhumans so much? Their songs are pretty simple and straightforward, after all; musicially and lyrically, they have more in common with Woody Guthrie than Harry Partch or LaMonte Young or Zoviet France or the No Neck Blues Band or any of that highfalutin' avant-artschool stuff that I digest so eagerly. Part of that's what I LIKE about them, though; as with Woody, there's something straightforward and easy to process about what they do. There's no need to dig for meaning, as long as you can read their lyric sheets, and the act of thinking about their songs is tied to thinking about real social problems, without much question as to where they stand or what they're saying. Each songwriter in the band has his own unique personality, too... Mike writes perceptive "musical journalism" that Phil Ochs would appreciate; though they require a little more effort to unpack, I tend to enjoy his songs most ("Urban Guerrilla," "Firing Squad," "Behind the Smile") and his wordplay ("I put the idiot in ideology," from "Celebrity" - nice!). In general, Gerry seems to have the most finely-honed sense of crafting "big dance thumps" - the best propagandist of the bunch, in terms of turning his politics into catchy populist anthems ("Fuck You," "Slave to My Dick," "I Got Religion" - etc). Meanwhile, Brian has the wittiest lyrics, his sense of humour and perhaps his personality best captured in his songs; not all his songs work equally well musically - I'm actually not that excited by "Modern Business" off the new album, but when he's on he's great ("For the Common Good," "People of the Plague," "Dead at Birth" or - relatively serious for Goble - "No Wishes, No Prayers," a great song, too-seldom heard) . All three have unique personalities - filtered into something that isn't THAT musically distinctive, but is like the musical equivalent of whole wheat bread, for me: a staple food. And they come from Vancouver! Having been broken up for more years than they've actually been together, they may not have played the torch-bearing, scene-maintaining role that DOA have played, and they sure as hell don't hold a candle to (my real faves, locally) Nomeansno as songwriters or musicians... but I'm delighted that they're playing again on Friday night. See you there?

Oh: and Personality Crisis' reissue of Creatures for Awhile (with current Subhumans drummer Jon Card) should be available at this gig, along with Chris Walter's Personality Crisis bio; and the big man should be selling and signing his books and t-shirts and stuff (I still love East Van best of all). See my Jon Card interview in the current Skinny for more, including fun use of a zombiewalk pic!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Salo on DVD

DVD Savant review of the new Criterion release of Pier Paolo Pasolini's Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom here. It has, interestingly, been given the spine number 17, to correspond with the spine number of the previous, short-lived Criterion release of the film.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Insect Fear Ironies

Ah! The cruelty of it: I get excited by the release of Phase IV (see below), my favourite, and probably the most philosophical, humans-versus ants movie; then even more excited to discover that all three of my fave "insect fear" movies (Phase IV, The Hellstrom Chronicle and Bug) have bug sequences shot by the same guy, Ken Middleham. I go so far as to order Bug - starring Bradford Dillman as an obsessive entymologist struggling with intelligent, fire-starting cockroaches - on DVD; then - having overcome a mouse infestation and managed to evade (thus far) our buildings' occasional bedbug flareups - I discover a cockroach in my bathroom. I've lived here for three years, and haven't seen a cockroach, but apparently a neighbour moved here from an infested building and they are slowly spreading. Somehow they're less entertaining in the flesh... Sigh.

In-between films

So both the Cinematheque and the Vancity theatre are soon to be between programs, what with the VLAFF, the VIFF, and so forth coming up. To tide us over, there will be screenings of Orson Welles' Touch of Evil - the restored version, with a guest to talk about it - and two films by Sokurov, including the highly-praised Alexandra, at the Vancity, and screenings at the Cinematheque of Fritz Lang's Metropolis (not yet online, apparently), Genet's Who is Bozo Texina, works by Alain Robbe-Grillet, and a 35 mm print of Teshigahara's splendid Gaudi documentary. Oh, and there'll be an afternoon screening of John Ford's The Searchers. Who knows what I'll be able to attend - I have much writing to catch up on - but I figured I'd let y'all know what some of the options were, since new Cinematheque and Vancity programs may be awhile in surfacing... Cheerio!

Telus Sucks: a whine

"To better help you, please tell us what type of internet connection you have - high speed ADSL or dial up?" The computer speaks in an officious, perky female voice; I am surprised at my patience as I answer. I guess I've gotten used to it: there is no choice but to negotiate various filters before getting to talk to a human being, who will ask me some of the same questions, and then probably be unable to help me. It is not yet 6AM, but there is still a lengthy wait, once I get that far, to talk to an agent; the soft rock that plays in my earpiece - it sounds vaguely like Stevie Nicks, but is too quiet to actually discern - is punctuated by another computerized voice, saying crisply, "Looking for a career in the telecommunications industry? Telus currently has open positions for call center agents..." There is some irony to this message, since, to my ear, at least, it translates roughly into, "We're sorry that we are not answering your call, but fuck, man, would you want this job? You know how Telus treats their employees..."

Of course, when I do get a call center agent, English does not appear to be her first language. She speaks quickly, with an accent, slurring words together, so it comes out as a stream of babble. I have to ask her to speak more slowly and a little more loudly. At least she can understand me, which is not always the case - occasionally, calling Telus, I've had to repeatedly spell my name or give my phone number, since the person answering the phone (in Mexico? India? Who knows where call centers are located these days?) could not recognize English numbers or letters - taking "S" for "F," or such - which was jolly fun. Once we have her speaking so I can understand her, she explains that yes, I do have a problem, and gives me a reference number, telling me that if I still have this problem, I should call back tomorrow. "Telus agents are currently working on it... Is there anything else I can help you with?"

Well, you didn't technically help me, because I still have the same problem that I called about, but... uhh, thank you, no.

I can't get access to my email, you see - haven't been able to since last night. Apparently I am part of a systemic outage. (Those of you trying to reach me through my Telus account are advised to try my Gmail or Hotmail accounts, since that's the only way I'll be able to hear from you.) It's part of a series of annoyances with Telus. My parents, the other month, were conned by a Telus agent - when upgrading from 'hi-speed lite' to a high speed connection, the better to watch streamed horse races - into an expensive and useless package, paying $89.95 per month for cable (which my parents get free in their building anyhow, through Shaw) and a modemless, wireless connection that is not much better than 'hi-speed lite' to begin with, since it tends to cut out. The package is about $50 more expensive than it had any right to be, but my parents, being sweet and somewhat naive, easily fell for the spiel; they are not quite as naive now, having cancelled the offer and gotten the price cut dramatically.

The next frustration came in the form of a knock on my door - someone selling, no doubt, the same idiotic, overpriced package, who had worked out a deal with the superintendent of the building to be allowed in to "give a presentation" on their new system. Since no one came to this so-called presentation - advertised on our elevators and bulletin boards with chipper posters with Telus' signature aloe vera (or whatever the plant is) on them - the agent went door to door, knocking, catching me naked and midway through a piece of writing. So offended was I by the intrusion - these bastards have the gall to come knock on doors to advertise their shitty service? - that I resolved that, at the nearest convenient moment, I would explore switching. Maybe I'd be better off going through Shaw, anyhow?

Amusingly, a week later, I came home to discover a note left in my door: Shaw agents had come knocking, too, and left a number for me. So I guess I won't be calling them, either. Who knows: maybe the Telus guy tipped his friend the Shaw salesman off, that I'd been offended? (Or maybe he has two jobs, one for each company?).

Friends of mine with cellphones have reported the same problems - horrible or non-existent tech support, faulty connections, insulting and exorbitant billing schemes, pressure sales. Can no one in these industries figure out that offering quality product at a reasonable price is the way to go? Someone please sell me something that works...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Privilege on DVD

So: Peter Watkins' long unavailable cult film Privilege - last screened in Vancouver as part of Kier-la Janisse's wonderful Big Smash festival - is the newest of his films to be released on DVD by Oliver Groom's Project X imprint (Amazon link here). I have a review of it in The Skinny, which I'll leave you to hunt down, alongside a review of Black Francis' sold-out solo show and an interview with Subhumans drummer (and former DOA/SNFU/Personality Crisis member) Jon Card. Privilege kind of makes my head hurt, and there are things about it ("We Will Conform!") that are a bit hard to swallow, but I find it a fascinating and provocative critique of pop music, and I think it'd be well worth any film buff's time to seek it out - or at least to seek out my review of the film, which I'm quite pleased with. Oh: and there's an even funnier zombie pic of me than the one posted below in the current issue.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Zombies of Vancouver

Zombies! Photos by Femke van Delft (top and bottom) and Dan Kibke (the remainder, including self-portrait). Zombie makeup by Kyla and/or Harlow. Zombies: Al, Dan, Sylvia and Jen. Not a zombie: Jon Card. See you next year at Zombiewalk!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

From out of nowhere, Art Bergmann

So I dreamed about Art Bergmann last night. We'd been on a plane (or maybe a ferry) together. The power was out in Vancouver, but no one told us; we were brought to the terminal and all the passengers were told we had to leave, even if the city was dark (it was somehow a big deal). Art was wandering around and I said hello to him, asking him why he had come back; didn't he want to retire? "The fans won't let me," he growled. We went to a table and sat down, talking a bit until some female fan recognized him and was being quite rude, teasing him about his "comeback." Art muttered something and wandered away. I went out - I briefly wandered around the terminal looking for something to drink (or maybe an Art Bergmann LP). I had made arrangements to sleep over at my friend Michael's house - he was living with his mother (who in real life lives in Ontario) and another houseguest, someone who had nowhere to go because of the blackout. Coming outside, I saw Art lying on the wet pavement in the parking lot. His legs were crossed in a vaguely yogic pose, but he was obviously in some deep despair. Michael and this other person who had joined us were watching from the car. "He says he just wants to be left alone," they called to me, but I squatted down - Art had shrunk to a tiny size as he lay, legs crossed, on his back - and convinced him that he should get up and join us. Art sighed and sat up, then he rose to his feet, growing taller as he did so until he grew back to his full height. "Art sure is tall," I thought, as we walked to the car.

The reality is somewhat stranger. Art Bergmann - while not that tall, since in my dream he was a veritable giant - is, in fact, in Vancouver tonight (I should imagine he's still here). He introduced the Pointed Sticks at the Summer of Love yesterday with a spoken word poem of a sort that ended in the words, directed at the audience, "I wish you all death" (or maybe it was just, "I wish you death.") He apparently had been screaming "die" earlier at the Doors tribute band that preceded the Pointed Sticks onstage. While this may seem negative to some of you, I am delighted and cheered to see Art being so grouchy, since it seems to indicate that the fires are still burning in him; if he had just been a polite gracious guy it would have been quite depressing, but "I wish you all death" was, in context, some cool shit for him to say... Through the Pointed Sticks set - dominated by several new songs and Nick Jones' announcement that there will be a new Pointed Sticks album, "to close the circle" - Art wandered around backstage, talking with people who knew him. Afterwards, I decided to come over - I happened to be in full zombie attire, from Zombiewalk - and say hi. "You once came into a video store where I was working in Maple Ridge and signed a copy of Highway 61," I told him, somewhat lamely. "It's great to see you up and around." He got my name, and the fact that I know a couple people who have been involved with him in recent days, and after establishing that I was just being an effusive fan and wanted nothing, muttered, "Misty. Play Misty for me," referring to a 1970's movie in which a radio personality is stalked by an obsessive fan. I took my leave quickly after that, but Art - who was far more motile than I expected, given recent reports of him, though walking with a cane - continued to chat with people. Bev Davies invited me to pose with her for a "zombie attack" photo and I obliged, with Nick Jones reacting in the background...

I also got zombie pics taken with Jon Card, Tim Ray, Tony Bardach (I think), and Danny Shmanny of my favourite neglected Vancouver punk band the Spores. It's funny what being a zombie does to me - I become much more gregarious. Plus I've never had so many strangers ask to pose with me (because several people - from Australian and Asian tourists to a big old guy with a beerbelly who asked me to strangle him on camera - came up); really, I should just walk around in zombie gear all the time. There are too many tales to tell for the moment, and the undead must not upstage the living, but if you see a Leatherface-looking giant on Flickr or Facebook or such, it's probably me. I'm still itchy from all the makeup.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Pointed Sticks Tomorrow! (Plus Melodic Energy Commission, Slowpoke and the Smoke)

All photos of the Pointed Sticks by Cindy Metherel, except for Ian Tiles (taken, I think, by the band while they were in Japan) and Gord Nicholl, onstage at Richards on Richards, taken on a disposable camera by Nick Jones himself!)

Hey, gang - I dropped the ball on this one, but the Pointed Sticks play a free show at the Summer of Love in Kitsilano, I gather at 5PM tomorrow. (I think the Melodic Energy Commission play tomorrow too, and Sticks' bassist Tony Bardach's doowop project, Slowpoke and the Smoke). Got swamped with other projects, so this is all the promo I can give these guys, but stagger on down after zombiewalk and maybe we'll see you there!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

In which I demonstrate my objectivity and intellectual honesty

My mandate on this blog and in my writing for Vancouver papers has long been to find things that are OUTSIDE the mainstream that have great value and beauty, and to give them a little press and attention. I seldom find fault with the subjects I write about or give "negative reviews" of things, unless I'm assigned to watch or listen to some utter piece o'shit (which happens rarely), or stumble into a mainstream Hollywood movie that offends my sensibilities, like The Dark Knight (reviewed below). Very occasionally, I'll ask uncomfortable questions of someone I interview, if I think they're important; I HAD to grill Joe Keithley a little bit for his support of Warren Kinsella's Fury's Hour, for instance, when I interviewed him for Razorcake. More often than not, I'm pretty patient and supportive and want to make people I speak to sound, if anything, smarter and clearer and more articulate than they often really are, helping them along as best I can, dragging out the best of them and condensing it down to something that makes for an interesting read. Some would perhaps say that I am not a real journalist, because of all this; for instance, by writer Janet Malcolm's standards, in her fascinating treatise on journalistic ethics, The Journalist and the Murderer, this would make me more of a publicist. Which, really, there's some truth to; but then - since I'm not being paid for 99% of what I do, whyever would I want to write about things I'm *not* enthusiastic about?

Lest I seem completely like an aesthetic roundheels, though, rolling over for any film as long as it plays at the VIFC or Cinematheque, let me just take a minute to say that Daniel Lanois' Here is What Is, still playing tomorrow night at the film center, is an embarrassing vanity project of considerable incompetence which should be avoided at all costs, unless you have absolutely no taste, or are fascinated by the spectacle of naked emperors blissfully dangling their genitalia in public. It's true that I walked out at the halfway point, but I am confident that the film didn't do much to redeem itself; based on what I saw, I would advise staying home and cleaning the accumulated green stains off your bathtub as a more productive and enlightening way of spending your evening. Through the course of the alleged documentary, Lanois plays boring music, not particularly well; he deluges us with annoying visual effects; and he invites all his celebrity friends - like Billy Bob Thornton - to pop by to praise him on film, as his music plays. Just in case we get bored, Lanois (or perhaps his co-directors, tho' he often speaks of the project as "his" in the course of the film) throws in a woman who I'm assuming works as a stripper for good measure, to dance to his music periodically (Perhaps she would prefer the term "dancer," but the crack of her ass was so much a part of her routine that I really can't go there. If you're a woman who performs in high heels while displaying your asscrack, you're a stripper, no matter how much clothing you leave on); alas, her appearances were not so much titillating as they were an incentive to roll my eyes in bewilderment and shake my head sadly. The film does boast a couple of interesting appearances by Brian Eno - whose apparent friendship with Lanois the film does nothing to explain, but rather than elevating Lanois' stature by his presence, Eno threatens to compromise his own. (In part that's why I walked out - I wanted to escape before Eno sullied himself irreparably.) My friend Michael, who stayed, reports that the most interesting thing that happened after I left - aside from a humanizing encounter with Sinead O'Connor, whom I have no curiosity about or feelings for - was when Eno held up some coloured cloth and used it as an analogy for something in music, the point of which was utterly lost by Lanois' choosing to fuck with the visual effects, so the colours could not be discerned through the scene. All around, Here Is What Is is a masturbatory, misguided, embarrassing film, that confirms my suspicion that Lanois is one of the most overrated figures in the music biz, however a nice guy he may be. Sorry, Daniel, but... deal with it. Think twice about putting movies like this out in the public sphere; it's like going on a date with a booger hanging out of your nose.

There, I did it, I wrote a really negative review of something playing at an arthouse cinema. Now poor Daniel Lanois' blood is smeared all over my keyboard and I'm worrying that he'll somehow see the above and be hurt (or hire a hitman). Are you happy now, Janet Malcolm? Can I go back to writing about stuff I like?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Photo by Dan "sucking neck wound" Kibke

I last walked like a zombie a couple of years ago, and it was so fun and so precious an experience that I have a huge zombie boner (figuratively speaking) at the thought of doing it again. From : Saturday, August 16, 2008 at 12:00pm - 2:30pm Starting location: Vancouver Art Gallery. See you zombies there.
Oh: the Rio's Friday midnite movie double bill of Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later makes perfect sense now.

The Bus Beheading and the Windigo

Odd story: it offers the seeds of a perfectly reasonable explanation for the recent bus beheading - that Li had read a story that ran in the paper he delivered about the history of the Windigo in Native folklore, and was somehow "inspired" by it - but instead leans towards a completely unreasonable explanation, that Li had "gone Windigo," possessed by an evil spirit, with the fact that he had been delivering a paper detailing just the behaviour he exhibited being racked up to eerie coincidence. Odd sort of pandering, that - or is it wishful, "I want to believe"-style thinking?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Two Longed-for DVD Releases: Machine Gun McCain and Phase IV

While DVD Beaver was snoozing - because I don't recall them mentioning either of these on their usually very informative release calendar - a French company put out a copy of Machine Gun McCain, under the original Italian title of Gli Intoccabili. I ordered it as soon as I heard; the film is charmingly misanthropic, with a hard-boiled but undeniably romantic vision of the little guy versus the mob, but as much as I love it, all I have is a less-than-pristine DVD-r rip from latenite TV. Great pissed-off Cassavetes performance, Falk is terrific, and the title song, "The Ballad of Hank McCain," was, of course, given a great cover - with a Mike Patton vocal - on John Zorn's Big Gundown remaster. The soundtrack is one of the more dissonant works of Ennio Morricone. French review here, which reassures me that the original English soundtrack is presented (not just French and Italian dubbed versions - a small cause for concern) and gives promising reviews overall. The DVD is listed as being 94 minutes long; I believe there was in fact a seldom-seen, more meditative longer cut, but I'll take what I can get, at this point. Of course, you'll need a region free player and a PAL compatible TV to play this DVD, so don't rush out and buy it unless you know you've got what it takes... Unsurprising that it's the French to release this first, given their love of Cassavetes.

Also exciting, and on Region 1 release: Phase IV, an arty little ants-versus-humans SF film that I think has been long underrated (even getting a spoofing on Mystery Science Theatre, I'm told). The sole film directed by designer/graphics artist Saul Bass, who worked on Kubrick's 2001 and on many of Hitchcock's films, it's smart-as-can-be hard SF, involving a stubborn rationalist (Nigel Davenport) locking antennae with a group of super-smart ants, as his young, more adaptable assistant (Michael Murphy), dismayed by his senior's stubbornness, tries to find another way. In framing its 60's-ish fable of a paradigm shift, it pleasingly pays tribute to its sources, particularly "Leinengen Versus the Ants," a classic story of colonial endeavour and the supremacy of the whiteman over jungle, women, natives, and ants, which you can read in full here; like the film The Naked Jungle, Phase IV queries, plays with and comments on its source material, but without shortchanging us on insect photography, or bogging down too much in male-female relations, both of which the Heston version is guilty of doin'. It goes quite a bit further in tempering its Leinengen, too, which he badly needs; a love interest just isn't enough to set things right). DVD Savant reviews Phase IV here; the author finds the film's ending a bit murky, but I think it's perfect and in keeping with the times in which it was made (and tho' it's of course a shame that some of the closing sequences were cut by the distributors, I must say I've always admired how open-ended the last segment of the film is, leaving you wondering what Phase IV might actually entail). The reviewer rightly praises the design of the film and the stunning ant photography, courtesy of late documentary photographer Ken Middleham, of whom I know very little - save that he was DOP for the insect scenes in William Castle's Bug (a film I loved in my youth - pitting Bradford Dillman against killer, firestarting cockroaches!) and another favourite insect fear feature, the pseudodocumentary The Hellstrom Chronicle (still unavailable on legit DVD, but widely bootlegged). I actually didn't know until researching this that the bugs in my three favourite insect fear features were shot by the same dude; there's a two-part documentary about him on Youtube, called Filming the Invisible, part one of which is here.

Now these are some worthy midnight movies!

Double Indemnity Friday, plus Texas Chainsaw Midnite Movie!

I adore the films of Billy Wilder. Not all work - I never made it through The Seven Year Itch, I'm not particularly a fan of Some Like It Hot, and I'm only partially amused by Stalag 17 and One, Two, Three - but I absolutely adore The Apartment, Sabrina, Ace in the Hole, and Sunset Boulevard. My reasons for loving these films - especially the first two on the list - are personal and sentimental, and while I would hasten to recommend them to anyone who loves cinema who may somehow have missed them, I think it's probably fair to say that Double Indemnity, his dark, stylish, cynical film noir, is the greater achievement, the more perfectly crafted and profound film. It's certainly essential noir: lust, mistrust, betrayal, murder, guilt, confession, and a (homoerotic?) reconciliation with the Law of the Father are all present in abundance (and can be read about at some length here, if you don't mind an annoying pop up). It screens Friday at the Cinematheque, then again Saturday, as part of their film noir series (which features many films I have not yet seen, to my delight). It's turning into a great summer, cinematically.

Also on Friday night, for cinephiles of a different stripe: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1 and 2 will be screening at the Rio on Broadway. Both are fascinating films; the second in particular will delight anyone who has spent time with Men, Women and Chainsaws, as all serious horror buffs should; plus it features an embarrassed Dennis Hopper, and is as funny a horror film as I've seen - a sort of gruesome, but still effective, sendup of the first film, with more than a few ridiculous delights and little of the genuinely unsettling hysteria of the prior film. I haven't been to the Rio yet, and I'm not sure I'll be able to make this double bill, but it's great that there's a midnight movie series in Vancouver! Future double bills in their series this summer include Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later, Basket Case and Brain Damage, and The Evil Dead 1 and 2. The main feature this week, meanwhile, is a stoner comedy with arthouse cred, David Gordon Green's The Pineapple Express - positively reviewed here by Roger Ebert. I thought Green's Undertow, the only film of his I've seen, was a promising, if unnecessary, venture into Terence Malick territory; if only it hadn't had that fucking Philip Glass score, I might have even enjoyed it. It certainly makes me curious what he'll do with the stoner comedy genre. It can't beat Smiley Face, but...

Speaking of stoner comedies, I'm actually kind of curious about the Cheech and Chong reunion performance, but surely it's already sold out...?

Another Foot Found

This time in Washington State.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Stooges Gear Stolen in Montreal!

Horrible shit: a truckful of the Stooges' gear was ripped off in Montreal. I don't imagine that anyone who reads this blog is connected to the criminal underground of Quebec, but just on the off chance, could they spread the word that the Stooges - cultural icons, sweet people, and NOT in the upper ranks of rock'n'roll moneymakers - really aren't people one should go rippin' off? Go steal Nickelback's gear, or somethin' - some band that pollutes the cultural environment with prefab/cashgrab hits - not a band nearly everyone loves...

One variant of the mass mail going around, if you haven't read it, is as follows:

please, please, PLEASE as soon as possible contact
Eric Fischer at:
cell phone: +1 646 932 1907

all equipment was in a rented penske 15 foot yellow truckwith u.s.(michigan) license plate number AC46493
parked immediately outside the hotel, the theft had
to have happened in the morning, between 6:30 and7:30 am - truck and all gear stolen
there's a web page at:
http://www. hootpage. com/stoogesstolenstuff/stoogesstolenstuff. html
that will soon have pictures and updates to more stuff found missing

What We Do Is Secret: Germs movie

The movie's Myspace is here. Punk has always been material for indy filmmakers (Repo Man, Suburbia, The Decline of Western Civilization - all of which I like); somehow I am very suspicious of movies like this now, though, with punk of yore being glamourized and lied about while current punk bands - real punk bands - continue to be ignored and marginalized. I'll watch What We Do Is Secret when it comes out, of course - but it's going to have to clear a couple of hurdles in my mind before I'll be willin' to let myself enjoy it.

Anyhow, I guess I better get on with marking my student's papers. Sigh.

A Gift for ESL Teachers

A restaurant in China has named itself - faithfully copying the words off their monitor - "Translate Server Error." This is a lovely example of why ESL students should NOT trust their technology to do their thinking for them...

Monday, August 04, 2008

Pointless Dreams of Cat Power

I am not a Cat Power fan. I don't dislike her - Chan Marshall, that is; I actually briefly owned one of her albums, and had respect for it, if no particular interest in what she was doing. She has not entered my mind for months. For reasons unclear to me, I dreamed last night that she died of overwork in China the other day - or maybe it was Japan - where she had been labouring for 20 days straight to establish an audience. The dream included TV footage of commentators describing her efforts, showing her performing to crowds, and a couple of huge promotional posters of her, dressed as some sort of Asian warrior-woman, and brandishing a sword. "That's an odd image for her to use," I thought. "But I guess it's kind of appealing..."

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Mission of Burma, Diamanda Galas

Ah! I needed a few shows to be excited about. Mission of Burma play the Plaza on September 30th; Diamanda Galas plays St. Andrews Wesley in November. Good!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

You're Crazy for Taking the Bus

In other news...

Anthrax Case Suicide

Check out the story on Bruce Ivins, the doctor who is believed to have been behind the anthrax attacks in the US (who hanged himself recently, as criminal charges were pending). Interesting that he had patents on genetically engineered anthrax vaccines, and stood to get very rich if the panic spread...

Ah, profit...

Friday, August 01, 2008

Cool Japanese Gangster Cinema of Yore

Most of the Japanese gangster films I've taken in have been directed by Fukasaku Kinji or Takeshi Kitano (I'm a bit behind on my Suzuki Seijun, if you'll forgive me). Takeshi you probably know, and I've always had mixed feelings about his films and his endless self-showcasing; Fukasaku I enjoy far more, though since digesting his legendary, gritty 70's gangster series usually called The Yakuza Papers, I've had a limited appetite for more, having gotten the point quite well. Alas, I haven't thus far been able to explore many of the classic gangster films from the 1960's, the films that inspired such filmmakers and established the formulas from which they departed, in part because a lot of them - viewed as money-making vehicles for domestic audiences at the time, like the Nikkatsu Action films playing this weekend at the Cinematheque - haven't ever been distributed in the west, and are as yet unavailable on DVD, even in Japan. Aside from being a lot of fun to watch, this makes them of considerable historical interest; I could see quite a bit of Battles without Honour and Humanity in tonight's first feature at the Cinematheque, 1968's Gangster VIP, which - despite a somewhat faded print - I enjoyed utterly. (It tells the story of a young, virtuous hood - indeed - battling corrupt bosses and trying to make his way in the world and look out for his friends and his girlfriend). Velvet Hustler, from the previous year, has wonderful colours and owes a lot to the French New Wave; guest Marc Walkow, touring with the films before the prints are sent back to Japan, so he can project subtitles onto the screen as they play, described the film as "continually threatening to break out into a musical," for instance as star Watari Tetsuya whistles the film's theme song while performing the opening assassination. I actually didn't stay for the whole film - one movie at the Cinematheque was about all my ass can take, these days, new seats or no - but I enjoyed watching Watari shitkick some obnoxious American sailors in a barfight, and I think I'll come back for a few more of these films - maybe Roughneck tomorrow, and definitely A Colt is My Passport (which I hear is particularly good) on Sunday at 5:30. It was especially nice to see a generous helping of Japanese audience members in the cinema tonight (tho' I didn't spot any of my students). Walkow reports that, Gangster VIP's fading aside, everything else in the series looks quite good; based on tonight's experiences, I think the next few days are definitely worth checking out...

The World According to Monsanto

I always thought Nike got a bum rap. Sure, they exploit workers in third-world countries: what clothing manufacturer doesn't? Industry leader or no - however useful a victory it would be to the anti-globalization camp for Nike to admit wrongdoing and make changes - it's kinda unfair to single out one manufacturer for abuse, for behaviour that is widespread; I feel the same way about animal rights people pickin' on KFC, when anyone who eats non-free-range chickens (like me!) is as guilty as KFC of supporting factory farming practices...

One evil megacorporation does seem particularly worthy of being singled out for abuse, though, in our century: Monsanto, largely responsible for Agent Orange, rBGH, GMO's and more. A documentary about them, The World According to Monsanto, opens tonight at the VIFC. There's a Greenpeace article on Monsanto and the film, here. I don't have much to say about it - I ain't seen it - but I'm going to. Thought y'all might be interested.