Monday, January 26, 2009

Henry the Cranky Tuatara fathers children at 111

I haven't posted anything of interest to cryptozoologists for awhile, so here's a charming tuatara story I found in the Fortean Times' Breaking News section. I have been priviliged to see living tuatara, which are quite rare, mostly due to competition from introduced species on the New Zealand islands where they once flourished. Any increase in their number is good news...

Friday, January 23, 2009


Ah, great. $780, I pay, for rent, for a bachelor's suite in the west end, where I'm in my fourth year of tenancy. I've grappled with a mouse infestation, a single but still unwelcome cockroach, and now... bedbugs. They seem to be everywhere in the city. I could only find one, having dismantled my apartment in the search - after waking yesterday with a singularly big and itchy bite - but one is enough. Thankfully the building manager promptly called in an exterminator (both of whom confirmed that the bug, who I saved in a pill bottle, was a bedbug). Unfortunately this means my apartment is currently doused in poison and my belongings are piled in odd combinations of garbage bags and boxes, awaiting reassembly. I guess I won't be doing any writing on Sunday, either...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Spark FX Festival 2009 at the Vancity Theatre!

Once again, the Vancity Theatre brings us the Spark FX Festival, commencing tomorrow with The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad at 7PM. Last year there were introductory comments and such dealing with the special effects, corresponding, I think, to workshops that are going on elsewhere; me, I just want to see the Ray Harryhausen stop motion effects, which by far are some of the coolest shit of my preteen years. I will be fleeing the theatre afterwards, since I have no interest whatever in seeing the first Pirates of the Caribbean film again - the only one of the series I've already seen, and no cause for excitement in a seasoned cinephile - but Thursday I may stick around for both Forbidden Planet and Alien. The rest of the festival is a write-off for me - some people might like to see City of Lost Children on the big screen or revisit Pan's Labyrinth or Terminator 2 or such; I won't be joinin' y'all, but I won't be judgin' you either...

On Having Removed Some Stuff From My Blog

People interested in Vancouver punk history and/or activism may be disappointed to discover that I have removed some fairly controversial material from my blog recently. This site was being used in the service of what appears to be a couple of people's personal vendettas (against people other than myself, I should note), and while on the one hand I admit to having found much of what transpired fascinating, I ultimately have no interest in facilitating that sort of behaviour. Feel free to complain or post abusive comments below, but note that I also have turned on comment moderation, and will be simply deleting anything I consider ad hominem or slanderous... Cheerio.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Al Goes to the Cobalt, sees Rude Norton, and hears about the Golers!

The Golers play tonight at the Cobalt! As you will see, they are not really my thing, but they feature prominently in the sequel to that little comic strip I did the other week when I went to see Rude Norton at the Cobalt. It took me awhile to get it drawn, scanned, and to make time to write the text, so it's not goin' up until the night of the show - sorry, Golers! Hope you have a good set tonight...! Faces have been changed to protect the innocent, but names have been kept the same; fuggit.

Apologies to Rude Norton for not writing more about the show itself! I enjoyed Brian's self-effacing humour immensely ("We probably shouldn't be the headliners," he quipped at one point, then smiled, "but we are." There's truth in this statement, but I still had fun!) Here's this cool photo Bev Davies took of you (Jan. 2 2009):

See how you've grown? This is the same band - the same Brian, anyhow - on June 12, 1979, at the Smilin' Buddha. I will refrain from making any reference to your state of self-exposure (or did someone else do this to you?):

Having Tim Rollins (I think I'm spellin' that right, given the jokes about him bein' Hank's illegitimate nephew) sing "Fortunate Son" and inviting Howard Ricks to join you onstage for a few songs at the climax were inspired choices indeed, and I confess (sorry) to enjoying Ricks' worshipful Iggy medley ("I Wanna Be Your Dog," "I Got a Right," and "No Fun") more than any of the Rude Norton "originals" (if "Gilligan's Island" counts as a Rude Norton original... it is a fair bit different, musically, from the theme song. I'm pretty sure "Pictures of Matchstick Men" was by someone else, too...). One bit of feedback: there really are people out there who want to hear Rude Norton do "Tits on the Beach" live. It's not like we're going to have many more chances!

Thanks are due to Bev Davies, tireless photo-documentarian of Vancouver punk. I saw Bev at the Cobalt that night. She gave me a candy bracelet, as she meandered about, taking the odd picture. I contemplated whether or not to eat the candy ("do I really need all that sugar?") or keep it as some sort of odd decorative souvenir. I hung it on my wrist while making up my mind. Later that night, urinating into a Cobalt urinal, I looked down at my hand and realized that the bracelet was still on my wrist, dangling down a bit, no doubt being sprayed by micro-droplets of urine. This iced the decision for me, and I've since draped the bracelet over one corner of the Bev Davies 2008 Vancouver punk rock calendar (which I interviewed Bev about here, by the way), which I've turned to the page on Rude Norton. Which was the pic for last October, but what the fuck: my kitchen can stay frozen in October 2008 while the rest of the world moves on.
And now we present...

Alienated in Vancouver: The Comic Strip
"Allan Goes to the Cobalt, Part 2":

Have fun, folks. I won't be back for a few days. (2014 note: I finally fixed the two panels that were out of order! It only took me five years...).

Overwhelmed and Sore

After a few months of seasonal depression and exhaustion, where I didn't want to write at all, I had a brief creative spurt, followed by the onset of a Repetitive Strain Injury in my neck and shoulder. I have been avoiding the computer as much as possible, since mousing gives me an intermittent but wince-inducing sharp pain in the neck... I have a few other things to post today, but then I have to escape the blog for awhile, to focus on some promised projects for magazines. I keep saying this sort of thing, and I keep posting three times more than most bloggers, but I will be away for most of next week, I hope... Thought I'd tell y'all.

Hey: gig notice: Sinoia Caves, the side project by Jeremy Schmidt (of Black Mountain and BCVCO) play the Biltmore on Saturday. I actually find their CD, while texturally pretty, a tad oversimple and thus, um, boring (sorry!), but I love Schmidt's playing with his other projects and hope that live he'll pique my excitement further. I skip half the gigs I write about these days but you might actually see me at this one.

The New Creation: TROUBLED on eBay, plus the story of A UNIQUE DISASTER

My favourite story that I wrote during my two year tenure with the sadly defunct, much-missed Nerve Magazine was my feature on the recording of the New Creation's second album, A Unique Disaster. It was the follow up to Troubled, the Christian garage rock band's uber-obscure 1970 vinyl debut, thought lost to the mists of time; the story of the rediscovery of that album, partly due to the fine instincts of much-missed Vancouver record dealer Ty Scammel(l?), warms me in very strange ways, and the renewed creative impetus its welcome reception, come its CD re-release, some thirty-odd years later, kindled in Chris and Lorna Towers and drummer Janet Tiessen, positively delights me. I'm very glad that Tunnel Canary came back to life; I'm thrilled there's a new Spores compilation CD; and it's great that the Pointed Sticks reformed to tour Japan (and have a new CD coming soon!) and that the Subhumans are back in force (and are working on their next release as I write)... but the New Creation comeback story remains my favourite local resurrection ever, and probably always will.

The article that I wrote about said resurrection is no longer online, because of the collapse of the Nerve site. I thought I would do the world a favour and re-post it.

I also thought I would do this guy on eBay a big square favour and tell the world - hate me though you might, if you thought you were the only person who noticed - that a fine-looking copy of Troubled, the LP, is currently on eBay. The copy, in fact, looks much better than this one - the usual pic one sees. I didn't want to lift buddy's image:

Yes, folks - Troubled, the LP, is on eBay. Right now. It looks like a really nice copy of it, too. I don't really think I'd win, anyhow, so I'd rather at least have an influence on the outcome of the auction. Please don't kill me: it was probably going to go out of your price range, too.

Since it's so timely, then, here's my New Creation story from a couple of years ago. Chris Towers sometimes peeks in on my blog, so feel free to say hi to him. He provided the photos - I'm not sure who took them - Oliver, maybe?

Have fun.

The Resurrection of the New Creation

By Allan MacInnis

Ty Scammel was an elfin old hippie who specialized in selling psychedelic rock LPs; for years, he was a fixture in the back of the Vancouver Flea Market. Ty died of cancer awhile back, but he’s left a legacy with us – an utterly unique Vancouver band who were snatched back from thrift-store oblivion when he found one of a mere 100 extant copies of their first LP, Troubled, in a bin in 1988 and began to share it with his hipper clientele. The band was the New Creation, a musically eccentric Christian garage band, currently being marketed as “outsider music.” Their new CD, A Unique Disaster, was recorded more than 30 years after Troubled, and is partially dedicated to Ty. I’m delighted that the attentive scavenging of “one of ours” has actually made a mark on the world of popular music – albeit a rather odd one. I hope, wherever you are, Ty, there’s lots of good weed and a turntable – I liked you a lot, man.

“The New Creation’s Troubled is just a terrific album, a showcase of raw, inventive musicality,” writes Irwin Chusid, WFMU disk jockey and author of Songs in the Key of Z: The Curious Universe of Outsider Music. “Categorically, it’s – I dunno – 60’s Garage Godcore? Yet it transcends being a mere period piece. The band’s songwriting is deliriously brilliant, their lyrical perspective haunting. The band’s sincerity is unquestionable, even if its meters are unfathomable. If you don’t like Troubled, you’re a spineless micrococcus. You’re a barnacle beneath the yacht of aesthetic cognition – a Philistine – in every sense of the word – and you deserve to be heaved face-first from the Temple of Analogue Bliss.” The hyperbolic Chusid is one of several outsider music enthusiasts who got behind the 2003 reissue of Troubled, along with outsider music “scout” James Brouwer (whom Ty turned onto the record) and Companion Records’ Will Louviere and Troy Peters, who chose the CD as their label’s first release.

“It’s an amazing thing, y’know,” the soft-spoken Chris Towers tells me. Now in his 60s, the retired postal worker cuts an imposing figure, looking like a heavy-set and slightly shaggy Michael Moriarity and wearing a huge colourful sweater that his mother Lorna Towers (also in the band) knitted for him. “We recorded it in 1970, made 100 copies, and mailed them all, except for those given to family members, to Christian ministries all through Canada and the United States. Never heard a word, and then 32 years later, Will phones up from San Francisco... It was a thrill, such a thrill!”

Back in the day, Chris Towers was a fan of Christian rockers such as Larry Norman (who penned my favourite couplet of the genre, “No more LSD for me/ I’ve met the man from Galilee”) as well as secular acts like the Doors, Cream, and the Rolling Stones. He got to talk with Ty at his Mount Pleasant home shortly before he died and give him copies of the CD. “We had tea” – tea tea; trippy as his music sometimes gets, Towers is not a drug user – “and talked over recordings and such. He had a fantastic collection!”

In 2004, energized by the rediscovery of their music, Chris and Lorna Towers got the idea of recording again. “Mom and I started drafting songs, hinting at the Last Times. It was Mom’s message, she was really concerned to get something out. And it’s all to do with Armageddon and the Apocalypse and that kind of thing.” They flew original drummer Janet Tiessen out from Toronto in August of 2004; they hadn’t been in touch, and nor had any of the members kept up their instruments. The trio required more than an average amount of help from producer Oliver Conway, of Aero Music ( and the Yale bands Oliver and the Elements and Incognito. “He was really marvellous,” Chris says. “He was patient, he was a mentor, he taught us things as we went along. He had suggestions for guitar riffs and for adding the keyboards,” which “added another sound and depth to it. He was just marvellous. I can’t thank him enough for the time and the patience he showed us.”

The album, which will be distributed locally by Scratch Records, is, Chris warns, “dark. It is really dark – doom and gloom throughout.” At one point, for the song “Jokes and Games” – about contemporary decadence – he uses Grieg’s “Norwegian Dance Number 2,” which sounds basically like carnival music, as a way of lightening the mood, but for me, it only serves to darken it further. I asked if it was meant as an ironic commentary on people who might regard the New Creation like a circus sideshow, and Towers laughed. Nothing of the sort was intended, he assured me.

Another of the peppier numbers, “From the Roman Shores,” is probably my favourite song on the disc, with Lorna singing “'Cos he’s the Antichrist!” and Chris chiming in with a background “6-6-6” in a bizarrely singalong chorus. It is catchy enough that you could imagine people clapping time over a campfire, if people sang songs about the Antichrist over campfires. Maybe somewhere they do. I ask Lorna Towers, now in her 80s, to explain a bit about the Antichrist to me.

“He’ll be human – just a very suave gentleman at the beginning, and exceedingly brilliant,” she says with conviction. “And he’ll take over. People will have to trust him. They’re going to have to trust somebody! What’s happening here, gridlock all over the place! This place has been decimated, almost, of everything that we love and know...And all of a sudden people will begin realizing that this guy is going to take charge, and they’ll flock to him. And things will get real steamy, when he’s going to demand everything of humanity...”

The Antichrist will rise “from the Roman enclave of nations – or whatever Rome has touched,” including England and Germany; “so it’s been decreed in scripture.” (see Daniel 12:11-12 and much of Matthew 24. The New Creation have helpfully annotated their sophomore release with scriptural references). “The thing is, with the CD, we tried to just put it out and not so much make people scared of what’s going to happen, but to know this will happen!” Lorna says. “There’s no point in refuting it. If you go against the word, and suddenly this whole group of people around the world is gone – it will be too late then to start thinking you can be a part of that. Then the wrath of God does descend in the tribulation. If you have not believed, if you have not been moved in this general exodus, it’s too late. It’s hard to tell you about the general exodus because we don’t really know how it’s done, but we’re talking about God, the creator of the universe. It’s easy for him!”

The authors of the Left Behind series draw on the same pool of beliefs as the (Baptist) Towers. Lorna calls the series “excellent.” “They DO get it right,” she says emphatically. “All the way through.”

For those wondering, the US cannot be read as a new Rome – Lorna Towers makes this very clear. Her son is no fan of the way things are going in the United States, though. (He emphatically asks me to print that he is speaking for himself, and not the other band members, in what follows). “I loathe George Bush,” he says, to my delight. “And I’m fearful of the religious right. My neighbour to the one side is a Muslim – we’re the best of friends. My neighbour to the other side is a Sikh – we’re the best of friends. I embrace everything and all, though I still believe our message is so essential and important... but I have no ill will toward anybody, no matter what their faith. Except that I get very agitated listening to George Bush and the coterie he’s got with him in Washington, because I think they’re just destroying more than they’re doing good in this world. You know, the charter of rights in this county guarantee everybody the same rights, and they’re getting trampled in both countries, I think.”

Chris believes gay marriage is a right, doesn’t like Stephen Harper, and has always voted New Democrat – far more left-liberal views than one might expect, though again, he is speaking just for himself: “Jesus was more of a socialist than he was a capitalist, that’s for sure. I think that’s been lost. To call the United States and to call Canada Christian countries is just... it’s not an abomination; it’s perverse, because there’s nothing Christian about the politics of either country. Money is all.” He believes that the teachings of Jesus, with their “love your neighbour” message, are “special and meaningful today as always.”

How does the band feel about the fact that at least some of their fans are drawn by more voyeuristic desires, peering into the strange world of People Who Are Not Like Us?
“Well, so be it!” Lorna says. “I’m sure that listeners will pick up something in Troubled and A Unique Disaster, with the intensity that we feel, the truth that we feel – especially when times are a little bit hard and bewildering. But you know, I really just leave it to the Lord...!”

Chris agrees: “I guess subliminally the message is there, whether they’re just enjoying it for the offbeat music or whatever.” Towers, still a music fan, has been slowly exploring the world of outsider music – he’s read Chusid’s book, and has listened to the Shaggs, Jandek, and Daniel Johnston, and is working his way through Companion Records catalogue. “It’s interesting music, you know! The ideas behind what they’re doing, their slant on things... The musicianship doesn’t live up to it sometimes, like ours, but it’s very interesting!”

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Wrestler: meh

Not a great film, by far; I think I am going to side with the dissenters - Peter Rainer, here, who emphasizes the film's lack of originality, or even Armond White (tho' I don't see much in the way of "repulsive, violent nihilism" afoot, and found Johnny Handsome unwatchably bad at the time, tho' it's been awhile). Both Rainer and White find the parallel made at the beginning of the film between Rourke's Randy "the Ram" Robinson and Mel Gibson's Christ cause for eye-rolling, but I would have been willing to play along if only the film had been more interesting. There are likeable moments - Rourke brings considerable warmth to some scenes, for instance when he is working at a deli counter, psyching himself up for it as he would a performance in the ring - but the characterizations are so undercooked and formulaic that one never cares deeply about his relationships or his struggles, and the final set up - Randy walking in to what may turn out to be his martyrdom in the ring - has far less drama to it than one would like. And is anyone else voicing suspicion at what Aronofsky does with his actresses? I found Jennifer Connolly to be a bit cheaply exploited and degraded in the sex party in Requiem for a Dream, and there's something equally suspect about Aronofsky's handling of Marisa Tomei's nudity as a stripper. I didn't really need to see her pole dancing with a thong up her ass in order to appreciate the parallels between her job and Randy's; the camera seems to linger on her flesh at times more as a testimony to Aronofsky's power as a director ("see what she will do for me?" a la Sevigny/Gallo) than because it somehow enhances our understanding of her character or profession for us to grope her with our eyes. The Wrestler is not terrible, but the overwhelmingly positive response is testimony more to critical desperation for real cinema than the merits of the film; it is a very, very small success, which in some ways is worse than a huge failure.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Hail the triumph of Thor!

...but not Vancouver's Thor, sorry to say. Still, check it out.

Mock Up On Mu, Motherfucker!

Not many films defeat me. I tried to watch Craig Baldwin's Mock Up On Mu last VIFF and ended up walking out, but I felt my doing so was more a judgment on me than on the film; my brain hurt, and it had kicked my ass, too.
Rich with esoteric in-jokes and historical references (tho' it's set in 2019) that I assume only Jack Parsons/ L. Ron Hubbard-studyin' freaks will understand - and I do not mean Scientologists, but fans of, like, Bare Faced Messiah and such - the film has as distinctive and quirky a style as Guy Maddin, but is completely idiosyncratic, and it has no bearing on silent cinema (Maddin's plundering-ground).
In fact, there are no other films like it that I've seen. I would pay money to read Sir Adrian Mack interview Craig Baldwin about this film. Check the trailer out here and tell me if you don't have a "what the fuck is that?" moment. (Old VIFF listing here, official site here for more). The film plays one night only at the Cinematheque, tomorrow.
I can't promise on bein' there - I have a cold and am feeling ill and dazed, and am committed to see The Trip to Asia at the Vancity with some friends who love classical music tomorrow... but SOME OF YOU NEED TO SEE THIS FILM.
You know who you are. Right?

RIP Ron Asheton

Holy shit: I just read that Stooges' guitarist Ron Asheton died yesterday of a heart attack. This is very sad news - even moreso since the Stooges have been so active since regrouping. My condolences to the Stooges (especially Watt... jeez) and to anyone who didn't get a chance to see them play live. Way sad news.

DOA Tours China!

Sometimes the blurry shots are the best ones: Joe Keithley by Cindy Metherel

I'm proud and a bit stunned to see it: a Vancouver punk band - I'd call them the "grandfathers of Vancouver punk" but I'm not sure how Joe (or Chris Arnett!) would feel about that - is touring China! Chinese DOA fans (or happy Canadian expats) can catch them at these shows:

Jan. 9 Mao Live House, Beijing
Jan. 10 Vox, Wuhan
Jan. 11 Yuyintang, Shanghai
Jan. 12 Castle Bar, Nanjing
Jan. 13 D-22, Beijing

People unaware of DOA's Asian following are strongly advised to check out the Japanese DOA cover-tune compilation, We Still Keep On Running with DOA - really fun stuff, and available from Sudden Death. More on the new Spores comp later...!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Alienated in Vancouver: The Comic Strip!

I've occasionally done comic strips, dubbed "The Allan Funnies," for my own amusement, more than anything else. I don't have the discipline or the ambition to do anything serious with the form, but it's kind of fun - a way to direct my compulsive doodling. A friend of mine, Michael Carrothers, suggested I apply myself to some "cartoon blogging," and it seemed like a fun idea.

The SNFU article referenced is viewable online here, by the way; the Blowfly piece is here.

I'll have more to say about the Rude Norton show (the one I was going to) later, along with a couple of great Bev Davies pictures, but in the meantime, I give you, "Al Goes to the Cobalt."

To be continued...!

Friday, January 02, 2009

RIP Donald E. Westlake

I only note obituaries here for people I was actually a fan of. I know Freddie Hubbard did some fine work, but I've never really followed it; there was one really out-there CTI recording that I'd probably spin again if I bumped into it, but other than his appearance on Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz, I suspect I own nothing with him on it. My condolences to those who knew him or loved his music, I mean no disrespect. Donald E. Westlake, however - fuck, do you KNOW how many Parker novels I've read? I've lost count. I'd guess about a dozen, both the originals and a few of the new ones. I've seen a bunch of the film adaptations, too (The Outfit is likely the best of those I've tracked down, but I enjoyed the non-funny director's cut of Payback more than I would normally care to admit. I haven't seen Godard's Made In USA yet).