Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fond of Tigers with Mats Gustafsson Thursday at the Biltmore

Stephen Lyons with Limbs of the Stars (Fond of Tigers offshoot, minus Dan Gaucher) at 1067; photo by Femke van Delft, not to be used without permission

You may have read my brief interview with Stephen Lyons of Fond of Tigers in The Skinny, and/or Mats Gustafsson's little sidebar about his enthusiasm for vinyl. The Fond of Tigers/ Mats gig is on Thursday at the Biltmore, with the Secret Mommy Quartet opening; it's highly recommended. I've seen Mats in combination with a few different people, both from Vancouver and elsewhere. I greatly enjoyed his show with Robots On Fire a couple of years ago at the Cobalt, for one (pictured below); but I have often found him such a powerhouse as to steal the show a little bit. (I mean, he even gave Italian thrash jazz monsters Zu a run for their money).Though it was fun to see him squaring off, as the leader of Team Sweden, against at least one member of Fond of Tigers - the always interesting Jesse Zubot - during the hockey game on Sunday, and though I was secretly kinda (truth be known) pleased that Sweden ultimately won (since they actually produced more cohesive and attention-grabbing music and appeared more attentive to their team leader's conducting - tho' it was Mats skill with toy hockey games that proved decisive), I really want Mats to go away impressed with our scene, and have tried, during my dealings with him, to turn him on to all sorts of cool local music, from Al Neil to Slow. (So far he seemed most impressed with the New Creation!). Fond of Tigers definitely have it in them to kick ass live, but I wonder how "the beast" (as Stephen Lyons refers to him in that interview, above) will fit with their ambitious, but very varied and sometimes quite delicate music...? To wit, maybe they won't be so fond of tigers after actually playing with one? After the relative theatre/comedy of the improv power play event, with rowdy audience members booing every penalty against team Canada as called by ref Fred Lonberg-Holm and chortling when Swedes got penalties - this is where the real hockey game begins, for me...

Before he arrived last week, I asked Mats to comment on his experiences in the city via email. He replied that the "food is great and even fantastic," and that the "vinyl shopping is top class!" (He's a big fan of Dandelion Records, especially, though Femke, Dave and I also dragged him to Zulu, Neptoon, and Audiopile when showing him around the city, and I hooked him up in one way or another with Scratch, Noize To Go, and Otis Music; we have yet to get him to Red Cat, however, which he really should see). "Seriously," he continues, "Vancouver is a town I freakin' love coming back to. Means a huge bunch to me....after my first visit in '94, it has always been rockin! And the younger noise/improv scene is really interesting and alive!"

Mats with Robots on Fire at the Cobalt, photo by Femke van Delft; not to be used without permission

While talking with Fond of Tigers founder/guitarist Lyons, I happened to ask him, as a point of curiousity, about the quasi-Christian-themed covers of their first two CDs, the art for which he designed. A Thing to Live With features a female angel smoking three cigarettes, held by a man’s hand. Release The Saviours includes a preacher, pilgrims, and fish, and, inside, another angel brandishing a handgun (again, with male appendages to aid her). “It’s funny," he answered. "You know, you’re the only person, out of all the interviews I’ve ever done, to zone in on that. Which I'm quite surprised by, because you put out an album called Release The Saviours," with a cover such as it is, "and you'd figure someone would ask. But nobody said a peep. I don’t know what you have to do. Maybe if there was some picture of anal rape with a crucifix - it has to be like that, it has to be blood and gore - somebody would go, ‘hey, you seem to have something going on here,’” he laughs. “When we put out Release The Saviours, I was starting to prepare - people are going to ask about these things. And that was awhile back, and nobody said anything. It’s like I’ve been cramming for a biology quiz and I walk in and am told the quiz is off and we’re just going to watch a movie. ‘Oh, okay.’ And then three years later, I go to order a sandwich, and someone’s like - ‘here’s that biology quiz.’ I’m no longer prepared for this question!"

While he never did answer that particular question, then - and I'm more than happy, having called attention to these matters, to leave the actual explanation up to the reader's imagination - Stephen did relate a story pertaining to the possible effects of his dabbling in religious iconography. "It was funny: we were coming back from a show in Kelowna. We have to have two vans, so there's four of us in one and three in the other, and as we're driving, everything is clicking. We're understanding the links between the iconography, some of the song titles, some of our thoughts about the role of religion in society, and we're starting to have" - he pauses - "multiple epiphanies" (And here I must note that I rather like his choice of words, since it seems to riff off the idea of the multiple orgasm. I wonder if one can have epiphanies that squirt?). " And then the cell phone rings and the other van has broken down - it's on the side of the road, it's steaming, it's on fire. And then we haven't spoken of it since. Maybe that was a light smoting," Lyons chuckles.

What are we releasing the saviours from?, I replied. "I guess there's the sort of double meaning of releasing them from their obligations as particular leaders of different ideals and faiths," Lyons tells me. "Like saying, 'y'know what, you've had a good run, but we're going to do a little restructuring, here. Thanks for all your work, saviour; you've run a good faith, but we have to let you go. We're going to try a different approach for awhile'... But then there's also the more violent notion of 'release the saviours,' like 'release the hounds,' with the saviours setting upon the world and kind of destroying it. It exists on both those levels, for me."

Lyons had a whole lot more to say about his band and their music, but duties elsewhere call me from my blog; perhaps the opportunity will arise to sneak in a few more quotes at a later date (someone really does need to make Lyons' fondness for Kenny Rogers public). Meantime, if you're interested in an ambitious, unusual Vancouver avant-jazz band - one that combines elements of driving post-rock, American minimalism, abstracted ethereal space-solos, raunchy skronk, and (early) Mahavishnu Orchestra-like tension/release workouts, this will likely prove to be a show worth your while.

Fond of Tigers at 1067, photo by Femke van Delft, not to be used without permission

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Error! Error! The Hockey Game is Tonight!

Yes, folks, the improv jazz hockey game between Team Sweden and Team Canada is TONIGHT! (My bad! - I had previously identified it as happening on Monday). More on it below.... you can also read my old interview with Mats Gustafsson here.

Also: Joelle Leandre is playing Performance Works, not the Performance Centre. Sorry - without a printed jazzfest program, I appear to be a bit lost.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

In which we belatedly recognize the ongoing jazz festival

The Thing, photographed by Femke van Delft at last year's jazz festival; not to be used without permission!

NOTE: THE ORIGINAL VERSION OF THIS PIECE WAS FULL OF ERRORS. I have corrected it, including those that apply to events already finished, for vanity's sake alone.

The (shocking, depressing) absence of a decent print program for the ongoing jazz festival has meant that instead of spending three weeks plotting my jazz fest, as has been my wont for years, I have been focusing on other things; I tend to pout in the face of unwelcome change. I HAVE written something on Mats and Fond of Tigers for The Skinny, and plan more for the blog, but I have delayed looking at the rather painful and challenging Coastal Jazz website. I am sure I have missed many things already... but I'm determined to catch a few shows.
I'm excited to see that improvising bassist Joelle Leandre plays tomorrow in the afternoon, with tenor saxman Urs Leimgruber, on Granville Island (it's a free show!). She also is part of the Innovation series, an excellent program of improvised and avant-garde music coming up at the Roundhouse. This should generate some intense listening - I have Leandre's recording of Cage's Ryoanji somewhere about, plus Contrabasses - her duets with William Parker; she's definitely a musician of interest.
Fans of Leandre's at times intense, minimal bass improvisation might productively follow that show up by going to see Jeffrey Allport at Solder and Sons; it falls outside the jazzfest proper, I believe, but percussionist Allport is among the city's most interesting improvisers. Raymond Strid should go see him, and he should go to see Raymond Strid. Since this is NOT in the jazzfest guide, I will provide the information:
Andrew Drury (NYC) & Jeffrey Allport -percussion duo
w/ Josh Rose
Solder and Sons
247 Main St.
Sunday June 28, 7pm
There is also a show Wednesday, involving one of the Swedes, but again, outside the scope of the jazzfest proper:
Rachael Wadham & Christian Munthe (Sweden)-piano & guitar-
w/ Glaciers-Jeffrey Allport (percussion) / Lief Hall (voice) / Robert Pedersen (tape machines & Oscillator)
The Vinegar Factory
1009 East Cordova St.
July 1, 8:30pm
And yes, that's former Mutators frontwoman Lief Hall on voice...
I will not, myself, be at the Allport gig, because The Shuffle Demons play free in Gastown, and I have long wanted to see them live. This will be of much wider appeal than the relatively rarefied music of those such as Leandre and Allport; you might remember "Spadina Bus" and "Out of My House, Roach" from Much Music in the 1980's. Just before that wraps up, at 8PM at the Roundhouse, it's ice hockey time - Mats Gustafsson and Team Sweden versus Francois Houle and Team Canada. There has been a last minute substitution for Team Sweden: cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm has been flown in from Chicago to perform. This show simply cannot be missed, representing the final phases of a project that has been developing for quite some time. I'll be there! (People with really cool garage rock and free jazz rarities on LP should chat up Mats about trading...). Then Fond of Tigers on the 2nd, again with Mats...

Beyond that, folks, you're on your own!

Cure is a must-see. Drop everything and go tonight.

Saturday at 8:45 and 11:00, you have a chance to see Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Cure at the Vancity Theatre. I want to add to what I've written below only that indeed, Cure is a masterful film - highly compelling and rewarding, an utter masterpiece of a sort, so good that I am considering seeing it again tomorrow. It is very slow and restrained, but has amazing atmosphere and music (and in fact, I grudgingly must acknowledge that the Tarkovsky comparison isn't entirely dumbfuck, after all, based on pacing alone; Session 9 is a more appropriate point of comparison, however. Seven and The X-Files are also clear reference points, too, as City Reels suggests - though there's something of Michael Mann's Manhunter in it, too). The guide is quite correct to talk about Aum Shinrikyo as a reference point. I never expected to think of the New Model Army while watching it, but I did - their song about becoming a member of a cult, of sorts, "One of the Chosen" -- one of Justin Sullivan's most brilliant and effective moments as a songwriter of late. The film tries to get inside the mind of those who would seduce others to murder... and the minds of the seduced, while asking meta-narrative questions about our relationship to the horror genre. This is a very, very smart film. If you enjoy thinking about horror movies and what they reveal about human psychology, it is simply a must-see.
Did I mention that the New Model Army are coming in October? That's the plan - it's made their website, at least. Though don't worry... I believe it won't be held at the Balmoral.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A brief pause while we recalibrate

Since their gigs are over, I took Andrew WK and Nardwuar down, pending my completion of the Nardwuar transcript. I then discovered an offer to publish them in 'zine form waiting in my Inbox. Well, okay. Looks like they're off the blog for good: sorry, folks! (It was taking too long to finish transcribing Nardwuar, anyhow... I'd have had him up here for another week at least).

By the way, I have nothing to say about the deaths of Michael Jackson or Farrah Fawcett... but did you realize that Sky Saxon, former Seeds singer and Source Family member (connected to Yahowha 13) died on the same day? Just for the record.

Read my movie review below!

Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Tokyo Sonata and Cure

Though I've only seen a handful of his films, it seems fair to say Kiyoshi Kurosawa is an uneven filmmaker.

I'd admired the craft of The Guard from Underground (1992), a stylishly shot, restrained, and atmospheric Japanese "office slasher" film that happened to be the first of his films I stumbled across, but I found the story so drearily by-the-book as to wonder why the horror community was making such a big deal about him.

I was utterly stunned by the next film I saw by him, however, which demonstrated his abilities in spades: Kairo (2001), also known as Pulse, is one of those Japanese horror films that has served as the basis for a Hollywood adaptation, but I assume the remake has nothing on the original. It starts as what seems a more-or-less conventional, but extremely creepy ghost story, revolving around a suicide, then gets increasingly surreal, philosophically-minded and ambitious, audaciously wandering away from its apparent initial genre story to become a meditation on loneliness, isolation and alienation - a condition which it connects with computer technology and life in cities, which are gradually shown to be deserted, as more and more people become mere virtual ghosts, unreal to each other and even to themselves. The film is quite insidious in making its point, and one feels so unsettled by it at times -- I even found myself literally shivering at certain images, and I'm a hardcore horror film fan from way back -- that it must be onto something. Though it's not perfect - there are moments when it is a little too overt in articulating its theme, and the transition from ghost story to philosophical apocalypse film has more than a few "what the fuck is he doing now?" moments - it's one of the most ambitious, most serious-minded, and most disturbing horror films I've seen from any country, and perhaps my favourite Japanese horror film (unless we call Battle Royale a horror film; I'm very fond of that movie, though it's a very different animal indeed from Kairo). (A more detailed review of the film can be read here).

Convinced I'd found proof that Kurosawa - Kiyoshi, not Akira; there's no relation - was a major figure in Japanese cinema, I rushed out to find the next film of his I could get my hands on; it turned out to be 2003's Doppleganger, an incoherent SF/comedy - I think - involving a scientist, his double, a woman, a robotic chair, and a roadtrip. My feeling at the time was that it was an empty mess of a film of no interest to any serious cinephile; I have no desire to revisit it to elaborate further on that judgment. I didn't make it through 1999's Charisma, my next attempt to take on Kurosawa's cinema - another apocalyptic SF film, I'm told, revolving around a symbolically significant tree - but, though it wasn't to my taste, it seemed at least far richer in its ideas and more coherent than Doppleganger. (Presumably the fact that the tree has symbolic weight is why some dumbfuck mentioned on Wikipedia compares Kiyoshi Kurosawa to Tarkovsky, thinking, I guess, of The Sacrifice; this is by far the stupidest Tarkovsky comparison I've seen -- and there are some doozies out there. Kurosawa's films, while carefully lit and shot and often featuring very striking compositions, look like nothing so much as very good mainstream commercial Japanese cinema, tho' we gather he cites American cinema of the 1970's as an influence). I resolved to hold back on exploring the rest of Kurosawa's films unless I had some assurance, on a film-by-film basis, that they were worth watching.

Good news for me, then (and for y'all, too): I've been told that of his horror films, 1997's Cure, like Kairo, is one to see, and there will be 11PM screenings of that film at the Vancity on Friday and Saturday, and one at 8:45 PM Saturday. The program guide, City Reels, says the subtext of the film is the Aum Shinrikyo nerve gas attacks on the Tokyo subways, and given that - and the fact that, like Kairo, it's one of the films his reputation among horror buffs is founded on - it's likely to be a very interesting film indeed (and wow, the Vancity scored a 35mm print for us to see - for a mere three screenings! There's some generosity of spirit at hand here). It's kind of odd that it's likened in City Reels to both Seven and The X-Files - reference points I find rather dissimilar; I wonder how it yokes them together? (This review, with a few spoilers, appears to suggest the answer, but I don't want to read it too carefully).

I'd also been told that Tokyo Sonata, Kurosawa's new film, starting tomorrow at the Vancity Theatre - was very good (it was called "delightful" in this Cannes review on Cinematical, say). It's not a horror film, but a look at Japanese family life. People interested in Japan or Japanese cinema will find at least some things to like about it, to be sure; I found it a mixed bag. I quite liked the first hour, which presents as a rather dry comedy about the desperate state of the modern Japanese salaryman. When Sasaki - played perfectly by Teruyuki Kagawa, whose hang-dog face you might recognize from Bong Joon Ho's segment of Tokyo! or Miike's recent Sukiyaki Western Django - is fired from his job, he ends up disguising his unemployment from his family and milling about the city, where he runs into another recently shitcanned office worker, who has set his cell phone to call him five times an hour so he can pretend he's still employed and thus convince himself and those around him of his continued importance. Backgrounds for their discussions of their plight include oil can fires, an amusing signifier of poverty lifted more from images of hoboes gathered in trainyards during the US depression than the blue-tarp tent cities of the homeless in Tokyo's parks (I sure didn't see any oil can fires in the three years I lived there, though I saw a lot of poor people). The humour of these moments is appealing indeed, and when, during a job interview, the helpless Sasaki responds to a query about his skills that he's really good at karaoke, I laughed aloud. A sad but true observation, and very funny -- less cruel and over-the-top than Miike's jabs at his salaryman/ father figure in Visitor Q, but equally apt. After a time, his wife and children begin to suspect that there are problems, and tensions rise in the family, as he takes out his frustrations on them; so far so good (though one scene where he hits his insubordinate youngest son, who wants to play piano against his father's wishes, is somewhat shocking in its violence; it looks like the kid really gets roughed up a bit).
Teruyuki Kagawa as Sasaki in Tokyo Sonata

The film starts to err in its second half, though, as Kurosawa expands his focus to the rest of the family; I found myself anticipating exactly where the film would go next, as Kurosawa gives each of his characters the opportunity to escape from the constrictions of their life together and test their creativity and endurance outside it, to see if anything better can be found. Much that happens is clearly "supposed" to be surprising, so I was irritated to find myself one step ahead of the film, feeling myself increasingly struggling against Kurosawa's attempt to work us around to some sort of formulaic closure. (Spoilers abound for the rest of this paragraph; proceed as you will). The housewife is abducted by a desperate but helpless knife-wielding stranger (another familiar face, Kôji Yakusho, from many of Kurosawa's other films, including Cure, as well as Bounce Ko Gals, Shall We Dance, and The Eel) who (can you see it coming?) wins her sympathy and takes her on an adventure that includes sex by the sea in a deserted shack. At one point, she cries out about wanting to escape her life, in case the thematic weight of any of this is lost on the audience. The youngest son, who dreams of being a pianist, gets to run away from home and be tested in an ordeal that sees him implausibly sent to prison for a short time, even though he appears to be about ten years old. The older son - even more ridiculously - runs off to join the US military, as if such a thing were possible (a rather immature plot device that allows Kurosawa to VERY briefly target Japan's involvement with the US in Iraq, but which bizarrely writes Japan's "unofficial army," the jeitai, out of the equation, situating Kurosawa's critique in a let's-pretend realm instead of, um, that of REALITY; it's a strange move indeed, since the jeitai have been very much involved in the American Iraq misadventure. Why he is so indirect in dealing with this issue I cannot say). And finally, Sasaki himself - reduced to a menial cleanup job at a mall - finds a packet of money in a toilet stall, runs off with it, is hit by a truck, and cries a bit in the gutter about the impossibility of starting over - again, Kurosawa practically holding the theme up on flash cards. Sasaki decides, apparently as a result of being nearly killed, that the money is a bad thing, so - the dream of starting over abandoned - he drops it into a lost and found slot (!) and returns home, where he finds his wife and younger child waiting for him, having also given up their own fantasies of escape.

All of this seems a bit silly to me; it takes the material for a good dry comedy and turns it into an unfunny, cliched, and rather predictable farce. Worse, the film then resolves all the action with a sentimental happy ending that reunites the family around the youngest son's now-realized dreams of playing the piano; it's a sickly sweet soporific that pretty much negates everything I liked about the first half of the film, attempting to wash away the problems with Japanese society and family relations that the film had previously pinpointed with one hollow feelgood stroke. I had thought, half an hour previously, "God, I hope this doesn't all climax in a piano recital; anything but that." Sometimes being right isn't satisfying at all.

But, I mean, that's just me; I'm a negative creep, difficult to please, and tend to prefer cinema that sets out to eviscerate the Japanese family unit than test it and reaffirm its inevitablity and endurance, which is what Kurosawa's newest film ultimately seems to do. Compared to Tokyo Sonata, I much preferred the sarcasm of Miike's "happy ending" to Visitor Q - the family sucking the lactation from the breasts of their mother, having been brought together by the act of dismembering and burying some dead bodies. Now that's a family film I can get behind!
...but maybe the average Vancity attendee has a higher tolerance for sentimentality than I do? Tokyo Sonata is not a terrible film, and Kurosawa is an interesting filmmaker, who probably has one or two other stunningly good films to his canon that I have yet to encounter. Here's hoping Cure is one of them!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

David M., The Nervous Fellas, Kafka

David M. having No Fun Alone At Christmas, at the Railway Club, by Femke Van Delft.
Not to be used without permission

Hey, folks: anyone wanting to catch No Fun's David M. performing live at his dayjob (near the magazine department on the 3rd floor of Chapters on Robson) should be advised that he has decided to start an hour later, and will be doin' his thing from 2:00 to 4:00 this Saturday. It's a darn fun way to spend a post-brunch Saturday, and it's free! I have requested he do Larry Norman's "Six Sixty Six." I wonder if he will?

Also Saturday: The Nervous Fellas' reunion gig (Myspace here), at the newly-reopened Rickshaw Theatre (254 E. Hastings), of which I hear promising things indeed. I swear I saw these guys once before - I think it was opening for The Pogues and Joe Strummer back in October of 1991. But maybe I'm wrong? Maybe they were opening for some other band I saw at the Commodore back then - The Replacements, perhaps? Wherever I saw 'em, I enjoyed the show, and I've been wanting to see The Deadcats again for awhile, too, so this should be a fun night! (Maybe I can find some tattooed chubby psychobilly chick to grope).

Cinephiles, meanwhile, are directed to contemplate the Kafka series upcoming at the Vancity Theatre. (Having trouble getting the appropriate section of their website to load but they're listed on the main page at the moment). Soderbergh's Kafka is a piece of stupid shit, as I recall (pardon me for not wasting more words on it), but Welles' The Trial is not without interest, Michael Haneke's The Castle is something I'm very much looking forward to, and Class Relations -based on Kafka's novel Amerika - is a free screening, which should excite some of y'all.

Nothing much else to say at the moment, but I plan to have things up in the next week or so on Nardwuar, Camper Van Beethoven's Victor Krummenacher, Fond of Tigers, and Mats Gustafsson. Plus you can see the next issue of The Skinny for a bit o' the same... See you at the Rickshaw.

Hey, that poster is wrong! It still reads The Ukrainian Hall! No, folks - it really is at The Rickshaw, trust me!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Changing Vancouver

Vancouver record shoppers might want to note that Noize to Go is being forced by renovations to exit their present location at Seymour, near where A&B Sound used to be; they don't have a new address yet (but if you have any good ideas...). I'm told that Dandelion is at a new location around the corner, too; that The Jem Gallery has shut down its previous location and is now "by appointment;" that Only Seafood has been closed - presumably because the cost of complying with a health inspection was too great - and that Cafe S'Il Vous Plait has also gone under or been replaced. (Ain't sure which - thanks to Teddy Stinks for passing on some of this news, which I only remember in part). Meanwhile, Granville Street and its environs feel more and more like a street in some harsher, say, American town every time I walk down it at night; I had a striking few moments when walking about downtown the other day of feeling like I was in some completely other city, as if the street I was on had been sold out from under me and replaced. With this much change happening so quickly, moving would almost be redundant.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Gig I Wish I Could Go To

Looks like life will keep me from seeing this gig tomorrow, but I'm most keen to experience The Rickshaw, and I'm ready to see The Tranzmitors again.
Aren't The Nervous Fellas playing The Rickshaw soon? Yep - June 20th. I'm pretty sure I saw them opening for the Pogues and Joe Strummer at the Commodore, a loooong time ago. Or was that some other band?

Douglas Rushkoff on the impending decline of Facebook (maybe).

As found on Boing Boing... Douglas Rushkoff on the impending decline of Facebook, maybe.

Drinking Cold Water On A Hot Day

(Just posted something to this effect on the Nomeansno discussion forum. Perhaps I should sue myself for plagiarism?)

I got to thinkin'... some time ago, I knew a Native American "spiritual teacher." (I don't want to call him a "medicine man" because I don't know if I'd be using the term correctly, frankly. He was a pipe-carrier and described himself as heyoka). He claimed that drinking cold water on a hot day actually affected the body temperature such that it had the ultimate effect of making you hotter. To help you feel cooler, he said, you should drink hot water on a hot day. (I'm pretty sure I've encountered this in popular culture somewhere, as well, though I forget).

Unwinding at home, I find this thread on the internet answering the question from a western medical point of view:


I am personally drinking cold water in today's heat, but for some time, I tried to take his advice. I begin to suspect he was wrong, as the reply to the above thread suggests.

I'd be curious if anyone else has encountered this notion.

Death Race 2000

Trust me: go to a DVD store and rent Death Race 2000. It's as brilliant a satire on American values and media as you're likely to find; it is very, very funny... and it would be a fitting tribute to David Carradine, to screen one of his signature roles.

Arthouse and repertory cinemas in town really should be considering running a David Carradine double bill, of this and Circle of Iron.

A signed copy of Dog Soldiers

Now on sale at Abebooks - I find this signed edition of my favourite novel, Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone. Too bad I ain't got the $550!

Stone has inscribed it with a passage from the novel (don't try to read his handwriting:)

"In the end if the serious man is still bound to illusion, he selects the worthiest illusion and takes a stand."

Well, if I wanted to own a valuable book, that'd be the one...

Monday, June 08, 2009

Rockets Redglare, plus the Nancy Spungen murder revisited

Y'all should know: there's a pretty interesting documentary available on DVD on a guy named Rockets Redglare, a morbidly obese NY hustler/ drug dealer/ drug addict/ alcoholic/ libertine/ comedian/ actor and raconteur who died a few years ago. I just stumbled upon the disc this week; I knew it had a rather difficult history, but missed word that it had actually been released. It's a shame it has received so little attention - the film is worth seeking out, worth thinking on.
You've probably seen Rockets Redglare - real name Michael Morra - in SOME movie or other. He's appeared in films by Jim Jarmusch (he's the "I'm serious as cancer" guy in Down By Law), Steve Buscemi (Trees Lounge) and even Oliver Stone (he's the killer at the end of Talk Radio). There's a compelling quality to his appearances that leaves you wondering, after his scenes, exactly who the hell he was ("he wasn't just some actor"). Redglare, who weighed as much as 700 pounds at one point in his life, is as physically grotesque a human being as I have seen - possessed of enormous man-tits, oft-toothless, and projecting a look of utter decadence, like a corpulent, debauched baby - but he's also fascinating and charming and oddly likable. In the doc, Jarmusch, Buscemi, Willem Defoe, Matt Dillon, Julian Schnabel and many others who knew him share fond stories, some of which are funny indeed. It's a sad life - Rockets was born addicted to heroin to a junkie mom, who would later be murdered by a violent boyfriend; plus it's hard to watch a human being who, through excess, has so damaged himself - but it's also a warm film, directed by a young filmmaker and friend to Rockets named Luis Fernandez de la Reguera, who died a few years after Rockets in a 2006 motorcycle accident. (His statement about making the film is here).

Punks out there might have encountered Rockets Redglare's name in another context, mind you.
He was among the last people to see Nancy Spungen alive; he was Sid and Nancy's dealer. The full story of that rather famous "celebrity punk murder/ death," including Rockets' statements about that night, is here. There is apparently an upcoming doc called Who Killed Nancy (official site here), which purports to vindicate Sid. There are some who hold that Redglare himself was the killer, but apparently the director of Who Killed Nancy has another theory.

While I am all for justice being done, I really don't care that much about Sid and Nancy, frankly - "punk rock for the tabloids" - but it was interesting to think about Rockets Redglare tonight. Among other things, he really makes me want to lose weight. I suspect some of my readers would find their own value in this DVD, if they sought it out. Make sure to check out the Sundance Q&A with the director and Steve Buscemi in the extras; there are some fun stories therein.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

...And then, David Carradine

I am horrified to find myself fascinated by the strange situation left in the wake of David Carradine's passing. I need a "breaking news" feature installed in my toolbar or something, to keep track of developments; I am at the mercy of Wikipedia editors. Everyone first seemed to assume suicide; then autoerotic asphyxia; and now there is this odd detail that his hands were bound - that his throat, hands, and penis were connected in some way.

This does not immediately suggest a case of autoerotic asphyxia; men usually do not masturbate with their hands tied, be it above their head or behind their backs (both scenarios have been reported). If Carradine was into shibari or had some sort of extreme attraction to edgeplay, maybe it would be conceivable, but... that's a pretty significant level of kinkiness we're talking about. In fact, an ex-wife has come forward with stories that may support such theories. Meanwhile, Thai newspapers are catering to the desire to gawk by running pictures of his body. (The newspaper in question has a site, here, but I have yet to find a picture on it).

Perhaps even worse than the desire to gawk: there is a strong tendency to tease in such circumstances, even in the face of death - a very interesting article by Matt Mills, reprinted in the current Xtra West, about teasing, prudery, and sex (actually focusing more on the criminalization of relatively harmless sexual activity, but it's still apropos).

I really do want to know what happened. I hope there is a thorough investigation. I half-suspect that someone may have been involved in the transaction - it may still prove an accidental death, but there was talk of a mysterious footprint, at one point. (And now, I discover, rumours of secret kung fu societies that the actor was investigating. Seems like image-spin to me...).

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Husbands on DVD: Region One, This Time

Cassavetes' Husbands is to be released August 18th by Sony. Here's hoping they offer the proper long cut, with all the puking and shitting and moaning, and the full "bullying" sequence, after Peter Falk drops his pants. Too much to wish for, probably - you HAVE to assume it'll be the shortened cut - but, well, it's become kinda like a prayer for some people now (like the 635 people who have signed the online petition in hopes of just this release). So we might as well repeat it, no? Dear Sony,

Thursday, June 04, 2009

1067 Friday

A big fuckin' ant at 1067 (photo by Allan MacInnis, taken quite some time ago).

Hm... looks like a fractionated Fond of Tigers, dubbed "Limbs of the Stars" (with six out of seven FOTters being present) will play 1067 tomorrow; opening is Swanvista, whose music I do not know, but whom I vividly recall one Ferdy Belland praising to me some time ago.
Other than that, I'm overheated, overweight, overworked and overtired, so don't be expecting too much from this here blog for a few days. I'm cooking up schemes to promote Eugene Chadbourne's August 19th gig at the Cobalt (Fake Jazz) and trying to decide whether to go see the Queers at the Red Room or Ejaculation Death Rattle and Yellowknife, featuring Poib Fehr, at Music Waste next Wednesday. I think I'll go check the Queers' Myspace. Hey, didja read the Chris Walter thing on them in the Straight?
Yep, Chris Walter is writin' for the Straight now! Howboutthat.

Monday, June 01, 2009


Saw three rats in an alleyway downtown tonight, scuttling about, drinking from a puddle, and ultimately running into each other in their frenzy to scurry away from me. It's the first time I've seen them downtown - the rats were between Seymour and Granville, just off Helmcken, I believe. Previously I'd only seen mice, squirrels, occasional raccoons, and the strangely ubiquitous West End skunks hereabouts; rats seemed to be largely contained within the DTES and maybe Chinatown. I guess they're like the crack dealers who hang out on Davie Street: some things are everywhere in this city - if you just know where to look.