Saturday, March 31, 2012

Henry Rollins shoots and scores

As I've said, my fondness for Rollins has had its peaks and valleys over the years, but I definitely get a kick out of the way he handles himself in this video. Pretty good stuff here, too, interviewed by Ms. Tabata...

A dream you don't want to read about

...So in the dream I'm part of some cult who are instructed, for whatever reason, to emasculate a member who has betrayed the cause (this likely relates to the essay I'm writing comparing Koji Wakamatsu's United Red Army to the notorious Kichiku Dai Enkai). I stand watching as the rest of the group set to work, attacking this man's genitals. For whatever reason, I rebel - I can remember thinking "I draw the line at cutting someone's testicles off"- but then decide to take a kitchen knife to my own testicles, holding the knife in my right hand and slicing across from the bottom. It is not particularly painful, almost tickles, so I'm unsure if the cut is successful, but then see that my boxers are soaked with blood. The image of blood dripping from my wounded scrotum is the last part of the dream I remember.

The most disturbing part of the dream is that it wasn't very disturbing, was in fact quite matter-of-fact and "normal"-feeling. I'd been reading about animal castration in Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma prior to falling asleep. Perhaps that influenced it...

Some sunsets

Max Cavalera returns to Vancouver: Soulfly plays the Rickshaw April 1st

...for those of you not going to Damo Suzuki, my old Max Cavalera interview, and photos of Femke's of Soulfly's previous Vancouver gig, can be found here!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Another odd dream

Another odd dream, in which I am a writer, and I've been asked to investigate the disappearance of another writer, one Brian Hoagland, who was staying in a hotel where he was working on a project, but never returned home. His family and friends are worried that he may have killed himself (apparently another reference to the recent suicide of my friend Thomas, who took his life in a hotel room). I phone Hoagland's number and reach an unusually long answering machine recording that seems to indicate he is in good spirits and hard at work. I'm reporting to someone - my superiors? - that it seems unlikely Hoagland killed himself, when somehow the news reaches us (over the radio?) that in fact, Hoagland's body had been discovered: he was struck by lightning while going for a swim! My theory is vindicated. Then my cellphone alarm goes off, waking me for another day at school...

Just in case my dream knows something I don't, as I wrote the above, I did a Google search to find out if there is any significant Brian Hoagland out there that my subconscious might be referencing. There isn't. Where did it come up with such a specific name, I wonder?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Record Store Day special releases announced

Record Store Day is coming up on April 21st and I'm positively relieved that there's nothing I really covet on the list of releases.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Dreams of Leaping to the Defence of a Persecuted Student, plus my own bad news

Dreamed last night that I was sitting in a classroom which looked suspiciously like one of the classrooms in my old high school. The professor, an African American, was punishing another young African American man in front of the class. There is some chance that the blackness of the two (especially the teacher) was somehow attributable to my recent acquaintance with the song "Mr. M'Bow-Wow" in the delightful animated film Hugo the Hippo which recently screened at the Cinematheque (see below). The young black man being humiliated was, it happens, named Miles Davis, though he bore no particular physical resemblance to the trumptet player of that name. Perhaps this is just due to the lazy incompetence of my dreaming brain at getting visual details right - it often provides only vague sketches as a sort of shorthand, knowing that I will accept incorrect images for the sake of continuing to dream - a sort of suspension of disbelief; but then again, I seem to recall that the teacher was also named Miles Davis, as well. Can't really say why. I mentioned Miles Davis, whom I rarely listen to these days, in my post about a friend's suicide a few weeks ago, which may be why the name was floating around my subconscious. In any event, eventually, I found myself enraged by the arrogance of the teacher, who was so clearly in the wrong in what he was saying about this young man that I could no longer hold my tongue, and I began shouting, from my seat to the rear of the class, that he had no right to humiliate this young man this way. Didn't he realize who this young man was? How dare he? Some dim part of my mind realized as I raged that I was probably fucking myself up for good in the class by behaving thus, but - as happens when I lose my temper - I simply could not contain myself.

I suspect that this dream may be obliquely speaking to my recent experiences at UBC, where, it transpires, I have not been selected for the UBC Film Studies MA program. I made a shortlist but not the final cut, and it is highly unlikely that enough students ahead of me will drop out such that there will be a space for me. This renders my last two terms there an entertaining but rather expensive waste of time, forces me to consider what my Plan B is to be (all fog and insecurity at present), and makes it rather a challenge to care about my final assignments, due over the next few weeks. Fucksake, I didn't even ASK how my application was going - couldn't they have waited to tell me until after the term was over, so as not to completely demoralize me re: the four essays I now have to write? If I'm not getting in, it's not likely I'm going to be able to justify continuing to entertain thoughts of doing a Masters somewhere else: it's back to the workforce with me, likely taking whatever shitty jobs are to be had in Maple Ridge, so who will ever care what my grades were?

Gah. Anyhow, I'll slouch my way through the final hoops regardless, what the fuck.

David Cronenberg's Wife? Cosmopolis teaser and more

Well, that's amusing. I was typing "David Cronenberg" into the Wikipedia search bar and was given the autocomplete option of searching for "David Cronenberg's Wife." Surely this was not an entry on his actual spouse - it must be a band! Indeed, it is. By the by, there's now a teaser online for Cronenberg's new film, Cosmopolis; it looks VERY interesting (there's also a slo-mo version if you want to try to get a closer look at some of those images). While we're at it, turns out Youtube is useful for seeing some of Cronenberg's short subjects - from early films like "From the Drain" to much more recent ones like "Camera" or "At the Suicide of the Last Jew in the World at the Last Cinema in the World." 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Improvised Sax-Skronk Wonderland: Darren Williams comes home

The Sorrow and the Pity by Femke van Delft, not to be reused without permission

Various Vancouverites seem to be fleeing the city these days for cities where culture is more appreciated, rents are cheaper, and jobs are plentiful, but saxophonist Darren Williams (Vancouver's skinny white answer to Albert Ayler, member of Fake Jazz favourites The Sorrow and The Pity, and semi-regular Eugene Chadbourne collaborator - featured on Eugene's recent album, Stop Snoring) means no censure on our city by having relocated to Kelowna. It's "completely due to my wife getting a much better job with BC Interior Health," he explains via email. "We've finally entered the Vancouver housing market, albeit by way of Kelowna. It is my plan to make monthly trips to Vancouver to play shows and remain active (at least somewhat) in the East Van music scene while hopefully setting something up in the Okanagan and getting back out to Calgary to play the odd concert."

Good to know! ...and in fact, the next week will see Darren in town for several gigs. On March 30th , he and V. Vecker will "each do a solo set (not at the same time) then a collaborative set," entitled "Saxophone Intercourse." Special guest will be Fist Full O'Snacks, the solo music project of one Robyn Jacob, which Darren describes as being a "minimalist-ish song project with lovely incessant piano." That takes place at Thor's Palace, 339 East 13th Avenue; it's "part of the Do Improvise Yourself music series as curated by wonder drummer Kevin Romain."

Darren on the left, with Robots on Fire featuring Mats Gustafsson at the Cobalt; photo by Femke van Delft, not to be reused without permission

March 31st will see Darren at The Prophouse Cafe: 1636 Venables (1 block off Commercial) with "abstract synth quartet" Spectrum Interview, featuring Lee Hutzulak, David Leith, Frederick Brummer, and Toby Carroll; sounds can be heard here, here, and here. After that, Darren tells me, "there will be a duo with Torsten Muller and I locking horns" - though presumably Torsten's horn will be an upright bass, as usual (I think Darren is being figurative).
Darren working the swirl with Eugene Chadbourne, photo by Femke van Delft, not to be reused without permission

Finally, on April 1st, Vancouverites have a chance to see The Sorrow And The Pity, who gig a fair bit less often in town than they once did, but will be playing the Astoria (769 E. Hastings) as part of Black Light Sundays. I'm planning on sprinting back and forth between the Astoria and the Waldorf so I can catch BOTH Damo Suzuki with Von Bingen and this duo, whom I haven't seen in something like three years. Darren reports that "for that night there was talk of performing 'Friday the 13th' as a means of acknowledging April Fool's...  Perhaps we might dust off the old cover of 'Self Pity'..?  I don't know.  As I am sometimes as surprised as the audience by what Dave brings to the table I leave the making of any 'special plans' and quotes to him." Mr. Bastard, the other member of the Sorrow and the Pity, did not report back, however, so I will leave readers drooling for a "Self-Pity" cover that might not ever happen. (Perhaps a special verse could be worked in to encompass the Hanson Brothers' controversial decision to play the post-Cobalt Cobalt?).

Cinema for Damo Suzuki fans: Deadlock, Deep End

Does this image from Roland Klick's Deadlock remind you of another cult movie?

At least two of the films that Can wrote soundtracks for in the 1970's, Deadlock and Deep End, circulate as grey market DVDs and likely as torrents: Deep End is a disturbed coming of age film, directed by Jerzy Skolimowski, who also made The Shout (which Brendan Gleeson is seen watching on TV in The Guard) and the recent Vincent Gallo film Essential Killing; he further played the cantankerous ex-KGB uncle in Cronenberg's Eastern Promises, which is where most readers will likely have seen him. Deep End makes extended use of Can's "Mother Sky," but also includes Cat Stevens songs, while Deadlock - a film I have only just discovered and have not yet finished - presents itself as a modern, quasi-psychedelic spaghetti western, very much of its time (1970), and appears to be entirely scored by the band. What I've seen of the film thus far is very, very interesting. People wishing to prepare themselves for Damo might find it  enjoyable to look at the way a couple of the songs from the Can soundracks album - especially the title song and "Tango Whiskeyman" - are used in Deadlock (both videos linked feature images from the film, while the link under the Deadlock title, at the top of the post, leads to IMDB boards that offer a far more thorough description of the film than I am giving here). Not sure if living torrents for Deadlock exist - it's obscure enough to have no Wiki page and only three IMDB writeups - but Video-Trash has an excellent version of it available on eBay (presumably a greymarket transfer from a PAL DVD). He also seems an excellent source for REAL spaghetti westerns, including very nice looking copies of the Klaus Kinski films The Beast and And God Said to Cain...

Friday, March 23, 2012

RIP Robert Fuest

Yeah, you THINK you don't know who Robert Fuest is, but he directed The Abominable Doctor Phibes - AND he directed no less a film than... The Devil's Rain! You know, The Devil's Rain? Where Ernest Borgnine plays a Satanist (who melts!), and the supporting cast includes William Shatner, Tom Skerritt, Eddie Albert, Keenan Wynn, Ida Lupino, John Travolta (in a part so small it seems more fitting to call it a "smidgen" part than a "bit") and Anton La Vey himself, playing - you guessed it - the High Priest of the Church of Satan! The film is so much fun precisely because it takes itself so fucking seriously, to the extent of having a grimly protracted Boschian "climax" where Satanist after Satanist melts into piles of repugnant goo; we cut from one Satanic puddle to the next, while somber, evil music plays, long after the narrative point ("the Satanists are melting") has been established. Fuest, being interviewed for the commentary for the DVD, is unintentionally rather comical in his observations of this scene (in a good natured way, considering the commercial failure of the film was so pronounced it all but sank his cinema career): he did not have full creative control, was basically directing the film on hire, and whoever was bankrolling it (I forget who) insisted on the goo shots. Fuest himself is unconvinced of their value. Alas, now I will never get to explain it to him.

Seriously, folks: if you haven't seen The Devil's Rain...

Me & My Shadow (& My Cellphone)

For some reason, shadows - especially on a day as sunny as today - are exceptionally interesting at UBC's Nitobe Memorial Garden (their Japanese garden tucked away in a back corner of the Vancouver campus). Is it that the air is clearer and the sunlight sharper? Are the mosses and gravels somehow an ideal field for a cast shadow? I have no idea, but the shadows everywhere in the garden are interesting - the shadows of the various shrubs, trimmed and re-ordered to the principles of Japanese gardening; the shadows of the bamboo fences and Japanese ornaments; the shadows of the trees and their branches; the sublime, hypnotic shadows of the leaves blowing in the wind: all are exceptionally interesting, though for anyone with even a slightly narcissistic streak (which I think means everyone), no shadow of course is quite so interesting as one's own. All of the photos below were taken today: all but one at Nitobe garden.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Hanson Brothers to play... The Cobalt?

The Hanson Brothers by Femke van Delft, not to be reused without permssion

Jesus, now there's a piquant revelation: the Hanson Brothers - Nomeansno's Ramones-worshipping hockey-goon alter egos - are scheduled to play the Cobalt on May 5th. Its the first major punk show I've noted there since the venerated wendythirteen got the boot. I imagine most punks of the city - at least the ones who have been around for a few years - are pretty reluctant to set foot in that venue, however much they might love The Hanson Brothers; I certainly feel that way. I've been waiting for news of a Hanson Brothers' Vancouver show for some time, and had been planning on going; now I'm pretty sure I won't. I wonder: do the Wrights and company have any inkling of the history of that venue? Are they consciously making a move that will alienate a portion of Vancouver's punk scene (or at the least force them to make an uncomfortable choice), or are they just so far at a remove from that scene that they have no idea what they're getting into? Do they even know the documentary No Fun City exists? Maybe they think wendythirteen is still involved with The Cobalt? Maybe they don't even know who she is?

Hm. Whatever the answer, I don't imagine that this will be the Hansons' best-attended Vancouver show. (Why the hell aren't they playing the Rickshaw?).

In related news, Tom Holliston's new solo album is available at Red Cat Records...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Damo Suzuki anxiety, plus my old show review

Odd. The last time I saw Damo Suzuki was the day in 2009 - August 8th, to be exact - when my mother had her stroke. My father, who, obviously, was alive at the time, elected not to tell me about it that day, since he knew I was going on a date that night and didn't want to upset me (!); he faked his way through a phone conversation with me in-between visits to my Mom in the hospital. On discovering, the next day, what had happened, I wrote about her stroke here and here. Up until that day, I had a very sexy girlfriend (the relationship, somewhat new and fragile, didn't survive the anxiety of what I was going through); I still lived in my (funky, if bedbug and mouse infested) apartment in Vancouver; both my parents were still alive; I was still employed at a decent job that I enjoyed; and I had a good friend who very shortly thereafter bailed out on the friendship, mostly because he was too cowardly to stand by me in times of trouble (good riddance!). Everything has changed so radically since then - much of it within a few months after that gig - that it's probably for the best that I'm not a very superstitious person; I would actually be somewhat nervous about seeing this show!

For the record, my original review of Damo's 2009 Biltmore gig - which may or may not have seen print in The Skinny - was as follows:

Damo Suzuki’s Network
With Defektors
The Biltmore, August 8th
By Allan MacInnis

Last time I saw Damo Suzuki was circa 1998, at The Gate, methinks. Can’s since-departed guitarist Michael Karoli was with him, and the set - friends assure me - featured a couple of actual Can songs, tho’ I personally do not recall. Near the end of the set, Damo, moved by the happy dancing audience members, leapt down from the stage and proceeded to hug us. Damo is a legend to some folks - his performance on the Krautrock kings’ 1970 “Mother Sky,” for the soundtrack to Skolimowski’s Deep End, is a masterpiece of pseudomystical rock mantra-making - so this moment I remember with great clarity; it remains the single most affectionate gesture I have ever seen a musician make towards his audience. (He even kissed my friend Liz!).

At the Biltmore on August 8th, there were no Can songs, just jammy psych-rock with the sinewy Suzuki improvising channelled declamations, prayers and prophecies, as the band (featuring members of Sex Negatives, Twin Crystals, White Owl, and Josh of BCVCO, Von Bingen, and Magneticring) rocked out behind him (“Damo Suzuki’s Network” means whoever ends up playing with Damo when he comes to town). What with Damo’s (Japanese/German?) accent, the entirely improvised nature of the music, and the volume and intensity of the psych jam, I understood not one word or phrase he sang, growled, or spoke - which is kinda too bad, because I’d love to know what the Gods who speak through him have to say! ...And as with any live jam, there were moments where the center ceased to hold and musicians flailed about until they found a groove - Damo tending to just carry on with whatever previous mode he was in until they locked in, whereupon he would shift styles to match. Still: this was an epic night, intense and powerful, the passion in Suzuki’s delivery communicating more than enough, sub-semantically, to make it enjoyable and meaningful, and the exploratory, oft-fast paced music very much in keeping with the psychedelic grandeur of “Mother Sky,” without repeating a riff of it. Got me dancin’, anyhow... tho’ I had to settle for a handshake when the sweaty, exhausted, and happy-seeming Suzuki left the stage this time.

Openers Defektors gave an energetic ‘70’s-garage-punk-with-a-twist beforehand, the enthusiasm of their performance doing much to freshen what might’ve seemed a bit genre-bound, otherwise. My date, at one point, turned to me and asked if they’d really sung a lyric about living in a Taco Bell. I dunno; did they?

Weird Dreams of Billy Wilder's Sabrina

Apropos of absolutely nothing - it connects in no way to any film I'm writing about or looking at of late - I dreamed that I was watching an extra on a DVD about Billy Wilder's Sabrina, in which an actress who was supposed to be Bette Davis (who is not in the film, and who in fact looked quite a bit more, in my dream, like Betty White) revealed in an interview that the "region 3" release of the DVD (supposedly Japan, though actually South Korea, Southeast Asia, Macau and Taiwan) had an extra scene in the film, completely unseen by North American audiences. Interesting that in a dream that gets so many things wrong I would get right the idea that, because the Japanese are so nuts for Audrey Hepburn - who is in Sabrina - they would no doubt be the ones to have a unique print of the film. I lingered on the dream in a semi-conscious state, elaborating it for some time while resisting waking up, but this detail was authentically a dream detail. In fact, the film whose extras I've been plundering is David Cronenberg's Rabid, which is about as far removed from Sabrina as one could get...

RIP Tonino Guerra

Italian poet and screenwriter Tonino Guerra has died at 92, leaving a legacy of very impressive films that he worked on, including films directed by Antonioni, Tarkovsky, Bellochio, Rosi, Angelopoulos, the Tavianis, Fellini, and many others. Scanning his writing credits reveals the curious detail that despite being active in Italy as a writer through the 1960's and 1970's, he was apparently never once temped by the spaghetti western!

Stormclouds over suburbia

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Damo Suzuki with Von Bingen April 1st! Also, Thrones! Sorrow and the Pity!

Damo Suzuki with Josh Stevenson at the Biltmore a few years ago, photo by Allan MacInnis

Hey, someone tells me that Damo Suzuki is coming through Vancouver again, to lead a set with von Bingen at the Waldorf on April 1st. Last I saw Damo jamming with Josh Stevenson at the Biltmore, the music was very much in keeping with Can classics like "Halleluwah" - anyone interested in improvised psychedelia and/or Krautrock should make this show, 'specially if you haven't seen Damo before. I've caught him twice - once at the Gate with Michael Karoli, where he leapt off the stage and gave a bunch of us hugs (including myself and, it transpires, Herr Adrian Mack); both nights were joyous, liberating experiences where (as I usually do not, cannot and will not do at gigs) I actually DANCED.

Then again, there's also Thrones playing at Iron Road Studios that night (Thrones being a project by former Melvins/ High on Fire bassist Joe Preston), with Fake Jazzer Anju Singh's new project, Dead Terror. And speaking of Fake Jazz, Dave R. Bastard and Darren (R.?) Williams will be doing a Sorrow and the Pity gig at the Astoria as part of Black Light Sundays - just close enough to the Waldorf that MAYBE one can do both this and Damo. Hmm...

Anyhow, looks like a pretty good April 1st!

Al's Attempted Metal Weekend, plus Glen Benton versus the Rickshaw sound guy

Scarebro at the Astoria, March 16, photo by Femke van Delft (not to be reused without permission)

Attempts to reconnect to my primal self, blow off steam, feel part of a tribe, and generally enjoy a couple of metal shows were kind of foiled this weekend, alas - I ended up walking out early on both of them. The Scarebro/ Big Nothing/ Congress show at the Astoria started so late that I was exhausted by the end of the Scarebro set, which wrapped up around midnight, with two bands left to play. Scarebro have solid tunes, much more straightforward than what guitarist/vocalist James Farwell does with Bison, though the high point of the night was (still) probably the ironic segue into the BOC's "Astronomy" bridge at the end of the one about the joys of work (one of their strongest songs in its own right, due to the brilliant simplicity and universality of its chorus - a catchy repeated refrain of "I don't wanna go to work," in its own way as powerful as pop-historical one liners like "I need a god damn job" or "school's out for summer"). It was rivaled only by James' potentially legbreaking leap from the (high) stage of the Astoria to solo on the floor, which sorta started like he was going to just fall; he then seemed to ratify gravity and leap into his tilt, ending up safe and soloing on his knees, maybe as much to his surprise as the audience's. It was amusing, too, to watch (bassist, former Pride Tiger and S.T.R.E.E.T.S. member, Bison cover artist, and former Alienated in Vancouver cartoon subject) Mike Payette, who, celebrating his birthday, seemed more than a bit inebriated and glazed-over (James kept calling him "Muffy," for some reason - the vibe between them was a bit odd that night). Really my only complaint was that it shouldn't take til after 11 for the opening act to go on - it's just not fair to people who have, like, jobs or gruelling daytime schedules or such; Fem and Dave, whom I'd met earlier for beer and burgers at Pat's Pub earlier, had long since glazed over, staring at what they were reading as an unintentionally queer-themed reality TV show about UFC on the Astoria's screens. They left as soon as Scarebro wrapped up, and I was in no state to stick around any later myself, much as Congress sounded cool online.

Scarebro at the Astoria, March 16, photo by Femke van Delft (not to be reused without permission)

The Rickshaw had no such issues - the show started at 8pm, as per usual, apparently a venue policy and a very, very wise one - but the head of excitement built up for Deicide was somewhat tainted when singer Glen Benton blew a bit of a fit on the Rickshaw sound guy a few songs into the set, cussing him out for meddling with his microphone, accusing him of stealing it (?!) and telling him to get the fuck off the stage. I'd actually briefly considered interviewing Benton - an intimidating figure, but certainly an interesting one. Had my school activities not rendered it impossible, it would have been interesting to discuss the social uses of blasphemy as practiced by the band - how it functions between the band and its audience, which I think is a much more relevant question than whether Benton is "really a Satanist" or so forth. My own thesis is that blasphemy in metal is mostly just an aspect of solidifying tribal bonds - ingroups and outgroups, creating and maintaining an "us" solidfied in relationship to a "them," with bonds that much closer by their involving the shared breaking of social taboos - witness the guy in the crowd with the Cradle of Filth "I Fuck Nuns/ Jesus Is a Cunt" t-shirt - tho' obviously Benton's relationship to cussin' out God might have more personal dimensions, as well (I've braved talking to Lemmy about his father-issues, so why not Glen Benton?). It'd also have been interesting to talk to him about why it is widely assumed that there's something WRONG about metal blasphemers and "stage Satanists" who are adopting a persona for the sake of their art (Slayer, say), as opposed to people who "mean it, maaan;" personally, I would rather listen to metal bands that are just doin' it for fun, "like a horror movie," as Cannibal Corpse are wont to say about their murder/ rape/ mutilation and gore themes; it's not like I feel let down to discover that Alex Webster isn't really a serial killer, so why should it affect me to know that Tom Arraya is a Christian, or that Glen Benton, while still describing himself as a Satanist, isn't about to go burn down a church? It takes awhile, but Mark Prindle gets into some of this with Benton, in his interview with him, which makes me even more curious about the guy - "if you wanna fight God, fight Christianity, do it with words. Actions only make us look stupid. Burning churches down, all the other bullshit that came out of Norway and shit. They’re all 17-year-old kids fuckin bored fuckin rebelling against Mom and Dad and shit... A lot of that shit was just stuff they could brag about in interviews").

Deicide crowd by Bev Davies, not to be reused without permission

Anyhow, while not expecting him to exactly be a sweet and cuddly guy, given his habit of branding an inverted cross into his forehead, and being no stranger to people chewing out the Rickshaw sound guy - witness Michael Gira during the last Swans show here - I really didn't want to risk being put off Deicide's music by Benton's crankiness: I've got half a dozen of their albums and find them very useful for surviving my more gruelling commutes. Nothing quite seals you off from the mundane chatter of suburbanites like Deicide - there are mornings when nothing less will suffice.

In fairness, I should note that I was already not enjoying myself that much, which also had something to do with my leaving early, as:

a) I actually did think the sound  rather sucked that night. Death metal - particularly Deicide's variety of it - is so dense, and so much about technical complexity and precision, that it kinda makes it hard to appreciate when the individual instruments merge together in a vague, pummeling roar (turning their music into what Benton derisively calls "blur metal," in the Prindle interview linked above). It's gotta be a difficult music to make sound good live, 'specially in a concrete box like the Rickshaw - but it was disappointing that I couldn't even pick out what song was which. As close as I tried to listen, it all just merged into one vague, assaultive stormcloud, and I couldn't beyond a doubt discern a lyric, a riff, a lick. None of which was Deicide's fault, but neither was it very enjoyable. It's music I'd much rather listen to on headphones, or in a venue with really, really clear sound (the Venue, much as I dislike other aspects of it, gets my vote for the best in Vancouver at the moment - Wolves in the Throne Room sounded great there).

b) I had already been somewhat put off the night when, during Abigail Williams' opening number, an overly enthusiastic mosher, in the metal mode of moshing - aggressively going around shoving people who weren't moshing, and then patrolling his mostly empty territory - rammed into someone, slipped on the beerslick floor, and came careening into me in such a way that his shaved head collided with my crotch. While it was not the worst sacking I have received - a deliberately directed knee or foot is much, much worse - I have done a good enough job of protecting my nuts through my adult life that I haven't had to EXPERIENCE the dull ache of testicular pain in a long time. This made the experience no more welcome, even if I got an anecdote out of it. My balls were still vaguely aching when I related the story to Scrape proprietor JJ half an hour later, standing by the door ("it gives a new meaning to the concept of giving head," he replied. Ha.)

c)  I felt a vague pressure growing in my bowels, and there was NO way I was even going to look and SEE what the Rickshaw men's room toilets were like, let alone attempt to USE one. I like the Rickshaw, don't get me wrong - its one of my favourite places to see live music in the city - but I try not even to LOOK into the men's room stalls when using the facilities; to my recollection, I have never not regretted a toiletward glance there. To hell with chewing out the sound guy - someone should turn Glen loose on the Rickshaw janitor!

Deicide crowd by Bev Davies, not to be reused without permission

Anyhow, nursing my testicles, evacuating my colon, and sparing my ears from the blur all had a role to play in my bailing on that show. Bev was on her way out, as well, having gotten the pictures she'd come for. High points of the evening, in the end, included:

a) seeing the massively long hair of the lead guitarist of Jungle Rot, who swung it in arcs that rivalled Corpsegrinder, and then seeing the amazing photos Bev took of him (she observed that his hair looked rather feminine and soft when at rest and then, when he swung it, straightened out and became almost weaponized - as nearly was Bev's camera, when she was pushed by a mosher)

b) seeing the kid next to me at the urinal in the men's room (safe, compared to the toilets) continuing to headbang to Jungle Rot's music while he peed

c) Jack Owen's cool little toss-away solo that he launched into as Deicide took the stage. He's kinda been relegated to rhythm guitar duties in that band, but I rather like his solos from his Cannibal Corpse days, so it was fun to hear one while the band were gearing up

d) Running into Anju Singh of Ahna something like four times during the day, and then later Kyla-who-made-me-a-zombie at the show (note the presence, if you follow that last link, of the Soska sisters - the makers of the Vancouver-shot exploitationer Dead Hooker in a Trunk - also all zombie'd up in those photos, which Kyla also had a hand in, and watch this space for news about a screening of an unrelated sci-fi movie Kyla did makeup effects for. Also, go see Anju's new project, Dead Terror, on April 1st, opening for Thrones at Iron Road Studios. While I'm digressively cramming things into this space, also note that the night before, there will be a gig at the Interurban organized by Scratch - I ran into Keith at Scarebro and he's very happy to be back to putting on shows. The headliner will be Dominique Fricot).

e) Seeing the general warmth of the metalheads (the "tribal brotherhood") towards each other, and ogling the cleavage and fishnetted thighs of the women present, many of whom were Pleasingly Plump and Pale - a preference of mine (tattoos and piercings are optional). Come to think of it, being a fat dude, I actually rather like that metal shows seem to have a higher percentage of fat people of either gender in the audience than, say, noise, jazz, or punk shows, though they have nothing on the American casinos my Mom likes to gamble at. The very fact that I feel physically at home at metal shows probably has something to do with my re-awakened fondness for the form, as does my ongoing suburban relocation. Let the beautiful cityfolk have their highfalutin' noise... we do things differently out here in th' 'burbs.

In the end, tho', both the concerts I'd stayed in the city to see - for the first time since Wolves in the Throne Room in January - ended up being disappointing affairs. The best part of the weekend ended up being seeing Hugo the Hippo at the Cinematheque - it's exactly as charming and surprising as Mack suggested in the Straight.

Though it was also a lot of fun to encounter a sped-up Ms. Pac Man at Pat's Pub, and a Multicade at the Astoria that featured Frogger, Dig Dug and more.

Al indulging his nostalgia, playing Frogger at the Astoria, by Femke van Delft.

Thank yous to Bev Davies and Femke van Delft for the terrific photos of both nights!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Got nothing

Well. Bill 22 passed, Book Warehouse is closing down, and there are signs of trouble at the Ridge (impending con-destruction). Kinda makes me inclined to beetle down into my nest and avoid looking out the window. I think I may drink some alcohol this weekend.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hugo the Hippo!

Jeez. Adrian Mack's interview with the director of cult cartoon favourite Hugo the Hippo in the Straight this week is a rather mind-bending affair. The film screens Sunday at 1pm at the Cinematheque, and has been described as phantasmagorical, psychedelic, politically incorrect, weird, violent, funky, sweet, lyrical, wacky, and "a trip." (At least half of those words appear in Mack's article - go read it). Dunno about you, but it sounds like the perfect way to follow up Saturday's Deicide show at the Rickshaw to me...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

BC public education 2

A petition you can sign!

BC Public Education is in Danger

The following is a note I received from a BC teacher, addressed to their community:

Public education as we know it is in danger in BC. Here is why the current fight being waged by teachers is very important. It is about a fight the government has waged on teachers regarding the purpose of K-12 public education. With Bill 22 the way we educate our children in the province will change dramatically. The current fight being advertised by government on teachers is simply to keep all eyes away from what lies underneath and is about to be rolled out.
Government sees the education of our children:

• as something that can be sold on the open market and as a place the business community can access to make large profits

• as a training ground to provide inexpensive labour and a large consumer group

• Like other financial ventures it is to be efficient, accountable, have success gauged by numbers

• Choice will only be provided to those lucky enough to be able to afford it

• The upper levels of K-12 will only be available to a few
• Unions are a bother by voicing opposing opinions to the government mandate


• Focus on creating a system that is equitable to all, where all students have a realistic opportunity to be the best they can be

• See no pre-determined hierarchy, simply students who all deserve an opportunity and the best that society can provide for them

• Want to surround every child with a community in hopes that they will reach their full potential.

• Focus on creating a system based on equity and equality mirroring the one that provides the educational foundation in Finland - #2 in world rankings in math, science and reading

The Numbers:

• Canada currently ranks an average #5 in the world in math, science and reading

• Government wants an cheaper education system styled after the USA that currently ranks 21st

• 2002 – 2003: education accounted for 26% of the total provincial budget

• 2012 – 2013: education will account for only 15% of the total provincial budget

• 2012 – 2013: $4.7 billion – if still at 26%, the education budget would be $8.1 billion

• The education system should be getting an additional $3.4 billion if it still held the 2002 – 2003 priority in the provincial budget

• Government is looking for ways to make the education budget even less over the next few years

Other Facts

• Chronic underfunding has left all but 6 School Boards in Funding Protection (similar to Bankruptcy protection)

• Board funds have been frozen for the next 3 years leaving a $100 million shortfall this year

• Severe cuts have already been made – cuts now in school closures, zero for supplies and resources

• Bill 22 stripping of contracts will save money by making it easier to replace experienced teachers with less experienced, less expensive ones. In many cases teachers can be replaced with non-teachers providing even more savings

• Current negotiations are a diversion to keep people from focusing on the major issue for this government – the rapid implementation of the BC Education Plan:

• Accepting feedback from the public even though changes are already written providing the perception that they are listening to the public

• "Personalized learning" means students staying at home and learning on their own computer

• Will allow hundreds of students per teacher

• Cheaper non-teachers available for students to submit assignments and pick up new ones

• Contract changes allow for removal of teachers that do not agree

• Money will be saved on school buildings as all but a few regional buildings can be sold - no longer be required to service children who are now taking courses on line at home

• Standardized assessment will become easier as the teaching from on-line teachers will be the same

• Ready market for large corporations wanting to sell technology. The consulting board for the BC Education Plan had 20 members tied to the corporate world and zero educators

• Creation of a system dependent on technology providing a ready market for both hardware and software manufacturers as well as internet providers – including the sale of data plans.

• Control of curriculum and standardization will allow students to complete school by grade 10 providing needed cheap (and undereducated) labour during the week. Leaving in grade 10 will mean more students will not have enough education to go to university and will more than likely stay in lower paying jobs in the company they work for.

• Education left in the hands of busy parents and at home with little direct supervision, making it more likely they fall behind and only finish up to grade 10. Earning money at an earlier age could benefit the family income as well as provide a great source of disposable income – more purchasing power at a younger age which is good for business.

• Private school students, who will remain in the traditional model to grade 12, and only the most motivated children in the public system, will have the skills to enter university – predominantly leaving the rich who can afford private school to claim higher level jobs

• Larger number of workers and dismantling of the trade unions will allow for a lower minimum wage once again, as well as eroding worker rights, providing more flexibility and higher profits for businesses. As well, with the rising numbers of consumers, sales will improve.

• While people throughout BC worry about the little things the government is focused on something much bigger - dismantling our current system (ranked #5 in the world) and replacing it with a cheaper model (similar to those ranked #22 - #25 in the world) – one that provides preferential treatment to those who can afford it. Bill 22 must be stopped or brace for dramatic changes.

A BC Teacher


Note - foolishly thinking of the last place I saw Scarebro play, I said in the title of my plug for the Congress gig on Friday that it was at the Biltmore. It ain't! It's at the Astoria. Sorry 'bout that...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Of Julia Stiles

I think I'm becoming a Julia Stiles fan. Having seen her in my favourite Patricia Highsmith adpatation, The Cry of the Owl (the recent English-language version, acting beside Paddy Considine - that link takes you to my old review), a couple of David Mamet films (especially Stuart Gordon's adaptation of Edmond, where she stands out, acting alongside William H. Macy) and now as Lumen Pierce in Dexter Season 5, as Dexter's partner in vigilantism, I find myself impressed by her level of intensity and the challenging roles she takes on. Kinda hope Lumen makes her way back into Dexter's orbit - it was a pretty interesting relationship. Fans of the series are directed to her excellent turn in the equally dark, twisted Patricia Highsmith adaptation mentioned above, it's a vastly underrated film, quite rich, and not without a certain very dark humour.

RIP Moebius

Noticed an obit for some French comics artist named Jean Giraud yesterday, and didn't leap to post anything here because, in addition to being preoccupied with an essay, I didn't recognize the name (blush). Call him Moebius, though, and you've named one of the most distinctive artists of the comic books of my youth. ...I mean, I was always a bit of a Richard Corben fan, to tell the truth, because he drew lots of lush nude females, and I was 12 at the time of my greatest enthusiasm for Heavy Metal, but there's no question as to whom the more evolved style belonged, and if I were going to revisit backissues (something I'll probably get to between ages 63 and 70, at this rate), it would be Moebius strips I would look at first. There are lots of sites devoted to him - some of his drawings for the unmade Jodorwsky Dune can be glimpsed here. RIP, Moebius.

Bison BC-related gig: Congress, Scarebro and Big Nothing at the ASTORIA (not the Biltmore as I previously wrote)

Bison BC in a former incarnation, by Femke van Delft, not to be reused without permission

Wow: Congress actually kinda reminds me of (sainted faves of my grungy youth) Tad, except they're way uglier - check this stuff out! (Looks like that's Matt Wood of Bison BC and Haggatha on drums, too). They play the Astoria with Bison BC pop/punk sideproject Scarebro and another very cool-sounding band, Big Nothing, on Friday March 16th. Sounds like exactly the sort of cathartic sludgebath that might rejuvenate  exhausted shaggy souls like mine, 'specially with liberal doses of beer... Hmmm...

By the way, click the Tad link above for news on Tad Doyle's upcoming Brothers of the Sonic Cloth album...


Man, taking four classes at UBC is taxing! In the last three weeks I've had four papers to write (two major), a few articles to read, several movies to watch, and one presentation to give (which required a fair bit of research). Add in the time I'm spending commuting and I'm pretty pooped. Gonna be kinda absent here for awhile...

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Herzog's Into the Abyss to play the Vancity

One of the most highly-praised documentaries of 2011, Werner Herzog's death penalty documentary Into the Abyss, will play the Vancity Theatre March 16th and 17th. Haven't seen the film myself yet, but it sounds like Herzog is taking on some meaty, emotionally powerful material here; and surely the cinephiles of Vancouver (all twenty of us) need no convincing to see this film?

One thing of interest, though: I was thinking aloud in class the other week, after a screening of Steve McQueen's Hunger, that it's kind of curious that the flight of birds seems to be evolving into a signifier of death in cinema. I'm not sure where it came from, but it serves that fuction in Robert Altman's Vincent and Theo and in Kurosawa's Dreams, and then again, a bit more mysteriously, in Hunger. And here again, we have a flight of birds on the Into the Abyss poster. Why do birds taking flight represent death?

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Fun with Wikipedia: happy birthday to us!

Things you can do with Wikipedia: look up people who share your birthday! Today's mine - I'm 44; and I share the day (though not the year) with Milton Avery, Piet Mondriaan, Maurice Ravel, Tammy Faye Bakker, Daniel J. Travanti, Peter Wolf, Townes van Zandt, Bryan "Walter White" Cranston, Bret Easton Ellis, Rachel Weisz, John "Alex Cutter" Heard, and Peter Sarsgaard. Happy birthday, folks! Also on this day, the song "We Are the World" had its international release, and Stanley Kubrick, Paul Winfield, Divine, and Alice B. Toklas died. Finally, thems what are still into the Christianity trip celebrate the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas today. How 'bout that...!

Let's listen to a great Townes van Zandt song in his honour, shall we?

The Diagram Prize for improbable book titles

Being wiped out means that I'm particularly susceptible to finding things funny, so I was more than receptive when I stumbled across an anthology of Diagram Prize winners, entitled How to Avoid Huge Ships. Every year, the Diagram Prize is given to the most improbably titled book (it has to be a real book). Flipping through this delightful little tome I found myself laughing uncontrollably, first on campus and then on the bus; it's really the sort of book that you'd best not open on a full bladder. In case anyone else out there feels the need of some laughter, here is a list of past Diagram Prize winners (favourites include The Theory of Lengthwise Rolling, Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality, and, of course Reusing Old Graves), and this year's shortlist (my vote goes to Cooking with Poo).

African bullfrog ant crusher video

Glenn Erickson posted this great video - very, very funny and with a conclusion that he notes is "powerful" and "philosophically rewarding" - with thanks to correspondent Craig Reardon. Where it came from before that, I cannot say (Korea, originally, it seems...).

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

On my capacity for self-amusement

I am highly amused by my comments on Adrian Mack's recent News for Youse. No one else is, as yet.


Once more with feeling! (I'm actually going to hold off on posting my Petunia interview until after this show, but I'll let y'all know once I have). Again, fans of roots music, rockabilly, gospel, and "real" country music should check this show out (and buy Petunia's LP, if you can - the "long version" of my review of it ran on the No Depression website awhile ago...).


I wonder how many other Vancouverites are excited about BOTH the upcoming Bresson restrospective and the Deicide show at the Rickshaw March 17th? (They haven't updated their Myspace in awhile either - it's like EVERYONE has left Myspace in the dust, suddenly - but at least it registers their most recent album, To Hell with God.) I wonder what Glen Benton does to keep blasphemy fresh? He's been at it for a loooong time now...

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Robert Bresson at the Cinematheque

The timing couldn't be better - a major retrospective of Robert Bresson's cinema is coming up this spring at the Pacific Cinematheque, just as I am hungering to expand my awareness of his work. Allow me to confess that I have seen only one Bresson film, Pickpocket, to completion - but was fascinated; for all its restraint, the film is shockingly arousing, with transgressive hands slipping into strangers' pockets all over the place, a sort of subtly Satanic pride in sin and criminality, and an overall sense of excitement in furtive, secret meetings and anonymous transactions that amply rewards, among other things, attempts to queer the film. (Not that you gotta be gay to get stirred up). And all this from a Catholic filmmaker famed for his austerity - it's no wonder Paul Schrader borrows from it so often (Taxi Driver, American Gigolo, Light Sleeper and The Walker all owe something to it, or explicitly quote it, as does the Dardennes' L'Enfant). It's one of those films that everyone who cares about cinema should have under his or her belt, so to speak. Highly recommended.

...and by the way, I lifted the Polish poster for the film, above, off a movie poster website with an entry dedicated to Bresson; do be sure to check the other images out, since they're quite beautiful.

Bizarre Sloganeering

...saw a poster for a protest with the unlikely words "hands off Syria" the other day. What? Shouldn't that read "hands on Syria?" Don't Syrians actually want our help, given what's happening? I mean, "hands off Iran," sure, but...

The Little Guitar Army in Maple Ridge: the best of my bad cellphone photos

Awesome show in Maple Ridge tonight - the first time I've had a chance to see the Little Guitar Army since Mellow replaced Linda. Having my share of issues around change, I hadn't known how I would feel about the switch, but it turns out that it doesn't negatively impact the intensity of the band in the slightest. True, Mellow is a somewhat smaller presence onstage than Ms. Stang, but then, so was Adolf Hitler; and the less show-stealing nature of Mellow's performance has the appealing effect of foregrounding the songs and enhancing the sense of this band being a collective unit, an organic entity, a real army, as opposed to a vehicle for the scarily unhinged fantasies of being (for instance) trod on, whipped and humiliated that followed from their previous incarnation. And Mellow is a strong singer and appealing stage presence in her own right, and the songs remain, while not exactly the same, as awe-inspiring as they ever were. I had almost forgotten how good some of these songs are, actually - world-class rock that will likely never be as widely appreciated as it deserves, truly on par (and I do mean this as praise) with the 70's classic acts (AC/DC, Nazareth, Cheap Trick, Blue Oyster Cult and more) that inspired them. One of Vancouver's very best bands... Cal sported facial hair and dedicated "Can't Fix Stupid" to his ex-wives and parole officers; and Tony Bardach, witnessing my struggles with The Wolf's ATM, kindly bought me a beer - thanks, Tony! Also thanks to the Likely Rads' Jay Raymond for making this happen (I almost got a contact high from his body odor). The keepers of my cellphone photos follow...