Friday, July 26, 2013

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Gorgo cache discovered!

 Photo courtesy of David M.

(Edited to add the above picture and a few asides. Just read the whole thing again, okay?).

Unlike pretty much anyone I now know, aside from David M., I have actually eaten Gorgo. 

Back in the 1980's, as a suburban teen and an aspiring (if infrequent) participant in the Vancouver scene, after seeing a No Fun sponsorship spot for the "delightful lime-green toffee chew bar" known as Gorgo on Soundproof, I sought out a bar. We had it at the Maple Ridge 7-11 where I once worked, and I remember that my big-haired Goth female friend and I both tried it. As I recall, we agreed that it was kind of revolting - one of those "is this food?" foods, screaming its artificiality with every bite - but it was definitely lime-flavoured, unique, and a challenge to chew. We presumed at that time, after trying the stuff, that any appreciation No Fun had for Gorgo was ironic; I am no longer so sure, since irony and sincerity are complex matters when it comes to No Fun. If one is ironic about an ironic gesture, for instance, does that produce a double negative and make one sincere again, or does it merely result in a meta-irony? (And if one can be meta-ironic, can one be meta-meta ironic? What about meta-meta-meta irony? This seems a perilous path to tread, so I try not to think on such matters at length). 

In any case, Gorgo disappeared, as far as I know, before the decade was out, not just here but worldwide, so one of the amusing things about seeing David M's solo Chapters gigs (when I still lived in Vancouver a few years ago) was that, well into the 21st century, some twenty-plus years after the worldwide demise of Gorgo, he was still doing the odd Gorgo spot (often by request). One of the top things on my list when my girlfriend and I went to the first of the Werewolf T-shirts records garage sale events the other week was to get David to show her his Gorgo.

As you might imagine, after so much time and use, David's surviving Gorgo is not in great shape. Green and black slime appears to have oozed out of the packaging of his few remaining bars, then hardened again - I am not sure by what chemical process such things happen - and the wrap is quite wrinkly, making it hard to see the lime-green monster cartoon that graces it.

But here's the news: I am delighted to learn that David, in planning his move, has discovered an apparently mint-condition cache of Gorgo, wrapped and secreted away by his late Mom. So rooted in obscurity and lost in time is Gorgo that no other image of it can be found online; the above display was newly assembled  by David M., and marks the internet debut of the green Gorgo monster (who bears no resemblance to the prehistoric Godzilla-ripoff that is his apparent namesake). Yes, you saw it here first -- unless you're connected to the David M. or No Fun Facebook pages, in which case, you saw it there first.

Personally, I think, this calls for a No Fun reunion and Gorgo-thon, where a few of the remaining bars can be auctioned off to the highest bidder along with a limited edition CD of No Fun Gorgo spots. I would go to that. These may be some of the LAST REMAINING BARS OF GORGO IN THE WORLD - which is kinda appropriate, when you think of it, for a candy named after a movie about a resuscitated dinosaur. Surely there is someone out there who would pay big money for a bite of Gorgo again, even if it has been unrefrigerated and subject to untold chemical processes for twenty-odd years...?

Those unfamiliar with No Fun's Gorgo spots are directed to Youtube, for this clip.... There is a wealth of other No Fun material on Youtube now, though I have yet to stumble across another Gorgo ad... Pico singing a narcotized version of "Smoke On The Water" (while David plays "Sweet Jane," I think) is pretty special, though... I remember Pico...

For more, see "Gorgo Slumbers (and Awakens!)" on Facebook...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The continuing story o' John Furlong

Breaking news...

RIP Dennis Farina

Dennis Farina brought a little bit of class to every film and TV show he appeared in, but it wasn't until after his death that I realized that a lot of other people felt the same way. Not only does Michael Mann's Manhunter have the definitive Hannibal Lecter interpretation (Brian Cox > Anthony Hopkins), it has the definitive Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina > Scott Glenn). Check out Adrian Mack's obit on the Straight site - Bobby Rydell left a comment!

Monday, July 22, 2013

At David M's

David M. entitled this photo: Celebrity journalist and #1 Art Bergmann fan Allan MacInnis visits the home of NO FUN for a refresher session on how to "Write Like Us":

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Blinded By Turds redux

I did this already but I just want to re-iterate my appreciation for Oscar Brand's "Blinded By Turds." Grungy metal version by the Walsh St. Cop Killers, with added references to East Timor, here!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Black Flag tonight!

Hope y'all have good fun at the Black Flag show tonight. Ron Reyes is an amazing vocalist, and I count myself privileged to have been at his 50th birthday bash awhile ago, where I got to hear him sing several Black Flag songs. It was truly memorable, and I'd love to be there. Alas, I'm sidelined in Maple Ridge - no money, nowhere to sleep in the city, and a bellyful of antibiotics that have me poopin' and wiped, so to speak... I won't be goin' further than Ma's, to watch movies. Have fun for me, okay?

Friday, July 19, 2013

No Fun at the garage sale: Werewolf T-Shirts Records garage sale #2 this weekend!

David M. has No Fun At Christmas, by Femke van Delft, not to be reused without permission. Unless you're David M.

The new, improved Werewolf T-Shirts Records garage sale and memorabilia extravaganza will take place this Saturday at Chez M., just off King George on 98A Avenue, Surrey, B.C., starting at normal garage sale hours this time (circa 9am) and running to 5ish. I am told DVDs and CDs will be re-stocked and that there may be special No Fun-related items for discerning fans to experience and perchance acquire. You may even be so lucky to glimpse the actual Werewolf T-Shirt behind the label name, though as far as I could gather last time, there is and has only ever been one, and it is not for sale. Plus there's, like, usual garage sale stuff - though not the "you forgot the B"-type garage sale stuff; it's a pretty high-quality event, actually. And David M. himself will be there!

The Act of Killing at the Vancity Theatre: Joshua Oppenheimer interview

You may have noted my Straight interview with Joshua Oppenheimer, discussing his remarkable new film The Act of Killing - an absolute MUST SEE for anyone with discerning tastes, opening this weekend at the Vancity Theatre (theatrical cut showtimes here, director's cut showtimes here). In fact, I got to talk at greater length with Oppenheimer than the Straight piece suggests - a somewhat technologically challenged interview that began on Skype, as Oppenheimer was being driven from one set of interviews to another, then, when Skype failed, ended up being recorded with my microphone pressed up against my cellphone's speaker.

If we begin on a fairly grim note, understand that the film is nonetheless a strangely wondrous experience - surreal, beautiful, funny, and very human -  in spite of the serious, sober, and upsetting themes that run throughout it. There is a sort of "moral culture shock" at seeing how comfortable some of the former death squaddies are at talking about their past actions that  places you in a very strange relationship to the images on the screen, which is only heightened by the lack of explanation Oppenheimer provides about how certain things ended up being filmed (I'm still not sure what the hell the gigantic man-made fish sequence is all about, but it's the perfect way for the film to begin; we are plunged in at the deep end from the outset - it's the ultimate we're-not-in-Kansas-anymore opening...).
Joshua Oppenheimer, standing, and three of the Indonesian Paramilitaries (L-R: Safit Pardede, Anwar Congo, and Adi Zulkadry)

AM: Tom Charity (whose own interview with Oppenheimer is here) gave me a thumbnail sketch of the origins of the project - that you had initially wanted to interview the survivors and relatives of the 1965 purge in Indonesia, but they were afraid to get before the cameras - but that you discovered that the killers were more than willing to talk... Could you elaborate on that?

JO: Well, I went to Indonesia for the first time in 2001, to make a film (The Globalisation Tapes) about a community of plantation workers that were struggling to organize a union in a place where unions had been until very recently illegal... I found myself on a Belgian palm oil plantation about sixty miles from the city of Medan, where I ultimately made The Act of Killing. And I found that the women workers in this plantation were spraying a herbicide that was killing them. It was dissolving their livers, and they were dying in their 40's, and they really needed a union, so they wouldn't be killing themselves. These were the friends I was living with and making this film with. And it turned out that the biggest obstacle in organizing a union was fear - fear because their parents, their aunts, their grandparents, their uncles - had been in a strong union until 1965. It had been fairly effective, but they were accused of being communist sympathizers during the genocide, and put in concentration camps and then killed by the army. And they were afraid this could happen to them again. This was my first encounter with Indonesia, and my first encounter with the genocide. And I made that film, and then I quickly went back to Indonesia. I knew this was a terribly important story, not just about what happened in 1965, but an ongoing regime of fear and violence and impunity and corruption that was still in place today. And because I came to this via a Belgian plantation company, I understood from the outset that it involved how everything we buy is haunted by the suffering of the people who make it; there was a story here about the conditions under which the workers who make everything we buy toil. And so I went back promptly to Indonesia and found that everytime we tried to film in a more focused way about the 1965-1966 killings, the military would come - the police would stop us, the plantation administration would stop us in the form of security guards... we would be stopped. And meanwhile the survivors would sometimes send me on these pretty painful missions to meet neighbours that they knew had been involved with the killings, to see if they knew about how their relatives had died - because they never had been given confirmation that their relatives had died. They just knew that they'd been taken away, and never returned; and therefore they felt guilty even mourning them, because they didn't have closure that comes from knowing someone died. They still had this tragic hope that the person might still be alive.

AM: Right.

JO: So I started filming the perpetrators then - and they were boastful and open, much like Anwar is, in the first scene where I take him to the roof, and he shows how he killed, and then dances. That was the very first time I filmed with him, and that was typical. It was as though I'd wandered into Germany 40 years after the Holocaust and the Nazis were still in power - this is how people would speak, especially if the Holocaust had been widely celebrated as it happened by the west, which was the case with the 1965-1966 genocide. It felt like it was such an enormous story, and so important - an opportunity to explore how we as human beings build our normality on the basis of violence and tell stories to run away from the most painful aspects of our reality. And I also understood from the outset - because I started this project with plantation workers who were dying, because they were too afraid, as a result of this history, to make a union that would prevent them from poisoning themselves; and they were making palm oil that goes into our margarine, our skin creams, our ice creams - because of that I realized that this is not some distant, far-off reality; this is the underbelly of our reality, it is part of us, we are part of this. We depend on this reality for our everyday living, and in that sense, we depend on Anwar and his friends, and the world you see in The Act of Killing. We are all in a way much closer to perpetrators than we might like to think.

A smiling Anwar Congo demonstrates his long-distance garroting technique, useful for avoiding getting blood on you

AM: The sequence at the end of the film, where Anwar revisits the roof, his hair is white. And I'm curious - because he dies his hair black for much of the film, after we first meet him - if that scene is being shown out of sequence, or if it's occurring much later, after his hair has grown out?

JO: It's the very last thing I filmed - it's six months after the previous (scene), and his black hair has grown out again. Production went like this: I would go and I would shoot for three, four months at a time, and I would come home with anywhere between one hundred and seven hundred hours of footage, depending on the shoot, and work through that material, and think about what I needed to film next. I'd go back (portion untranscribable) and anywhere between three months and eight months would have passed, and Anwar's black hair, that he dyed for the re-enactments, would have grown out and turned white again. Hence the changes of hair colour you see through the film; it's not out-of-sequence. The film is very largely chronological, except for the high-ranking political leaders, who I filmed at the end, so as not to jeopardize my access and not get us all arrested before the rest of the movie was shot.

AM: What have the reactions been in Indonesia?

JO: The film has been screened very widely, since the 10th of December last year - International Human Rights Day. There were fifty screenings in thirty cities on that date. As of the beginning of April, there have been 500 screenings in ninety-five cities. It's grown ever since, with more screenings each week than the previous week. The Indonesian media in response to the film has started to produce very extensive investigative reports about the killings and about the film. The largest news magazine, for example, Tempo magazine, published a special double edition about the film on the first of October, with 75 pages of boastful testimony from perpetrators all over the country, plus about 25 pages about the movie. And that really set the tone for the rest of the coverage, where the media has said, 'my gosh, this is so powerful and so undeniable, because it's coming from the perpetrators themselves.' And these men - if they were really heroes, these 'founding fathers' of the regime, in a way, they would be enjoying the fruits of their heroic victory in their happy retirement, but by the end of the film, they either are destroyed by what they've done - Anwar is devastated by it; the rest of them - Adi for example - are totally hollow... And these news producers and editors and publishers are faced with a pretty stark choice. They're members of the Indonesian establishment, they're in their middle age: do they want to grow old as perpetrators or do they want to take a stand? And that's starting with Tempo magazine, the largest newsmagazine in Indonesia. The Indonesian media has really started to report on what happened, and their 47 year silence about it. So the film is helping to catalyze a key change in how Indonesia is talking about its past, and now there's a movement for presidential apologies, a truth commission, for reconciliation processes...

AM: And the re-enactments we're seeing, the film noir stagings of the killings, the fish, the stranger material in the film - these are directed by Anwar and the others, these are their own ideas?

JO: Those scenes were made like this - I was Anwar's crew; Anwar's not a filmmaker - though Herman was a great assistant director. (Portion untranscribable). We would create spaces where we shoot with two cameras, where Anwar would be free to set up a scene, direct a scene, tell people what he wanted to do - improvise the scene, and call cut; or if it was too emotional for him to call cut, I would call cut when the scene was over. And then he'd reflect on the scene, all in real time, captured by two cameras. So that's typically how the non-musical scenes worked; the musical scenes were shot like musical numbers, with a choreographer and a costume designer, whom Anwar chose, in locations which Anwar picked.

AM: Herman Koto (pictured below with a prop severed head) seems a very unusual character. Did he have a background in film? 

JO:  He had a background in acting. Now that I remember it, one of the assistant directors who is directing the audition in the street [with Koto] at the beginning, he actually did have a background in film; he was an assistant director in action movies in Jakarta. But Herman had a background in acting. The paramilitary group had a theatre troupe before I arrived on the scene, and Herman had been in it; Anwar cast him knowing his background in acting. When I first met Herman, this guy comes down the lane towards me wearing a singlet, with long hair - a big, scary-looking guy, and I thought, ‘oh no!’ And then I thought ‘oh yes, but of course, that’s what these men would look like.’ And he turned out to be invaluable, you're right. I think he fell in love with acting through the making of the film, and like every good actor, he discovered an actor’s loyalty to the truth, and to the emotional and moral truth of every situation that he performs in. That's what you have to do to be a good actor. So he played this role throughout the film of somehow guiding Anwar, leading Anwar - by force, or gently - back to the truth, back to the pain that Anwar was trying to deal with through making the film, but also trying to run away from. I know in Vancouver that Tom is opening the long version of the film - you really see the evolution of their relationship very clearly in the longer version. It shows the role he had in the shooting.

AM: How does he end up in drag so often?

JO (see his answer in the Straight article). I don't know if Anwar cast Herman in drag to pick on him, or because (portion untranscribable). Of course we know that Herman's not gay. I’m gay, and I can see that if Herman were gay, it would simply not be funny at all. It’s funny because he’s clearly not gay, he's a big brutish gangster - but he’s also a soft-hearted man and father, and I think he's fabulous in drag. I wish those dresses would fit me - I would have taken them. But they were all bloodstained at the end...

AM (laughs; portion untranscribable).
Oppenheimer "directing" the torching of a village

 JO: I think because Herman plays this important role, bringing Anwar back to the truth, he really likes the film; he really likes the way film exposes the hypocrisy around him, by which he has felt, over his life, used, by these hypocritical gangsters and paramilitary movement - the politicians that hired him to be their goon. Anwar has also watched the film and I think you can say he feels very moved by the film. His response to the film was, 'this is an honest film, and I'm glad that I got to be so honest; it shows what it's like to be me.' And since he saw it on the first of November last year, as much as it has been transformative and useful for the Indonesian human rights community, he actually has also stood by the film.

AM: I'm glad to hear that. I admit - I had questioned his sincerity at points in the film; where he breaks down towards the end of the film, I wondered if he was performing to the camera.

JO: I think towards the end of the film, there's this moment just before that where he says to me, in desperation, really, 'don't I feel what my victims felt' - wanting me to say yes, because if he feels what his victims felt, then he puts his victims in the position of nothing more than being in a movie. And that's insincere; but I think when I say to him, 'no, of course you victims felt much worse than this Anwar, because they knew they were going to be killed' - I think for him the bottom falls out from under him. And I think, that final scene when I took him back to that office... I had been struggling to get back in there since the first time I filmed him; I didn't know then what had happened in that office, when I first filmed it, because I didn't know him yet. And I was struggling to get permission to get back in there, and finally a new shopkeeper took over and gave us permission. The first time back, at the end of the shoot, I naively thought that I could get him to walk through that space quietly and tell me what happened there [as he does earlier in the film, when demonstrating his garroting technique, pictured above]. And that's what he's trying to do. I was thinking I'd use the scene earlier in the film, and it turned out that it was still raw - from the experience of five years of shooting, suddenly he's caught totally unaware and he starts retching. He doesn't have words for what's happening to him - I'm not sure I have words for it, either. But I think suddenly in that moment - he's trying to do what I asked him to do, take me through that route and say what happened, again. And he doesn't know what's happening to him. It's like his body is physically rejecting the words he's speaking, like he's trying to vomit up the ghosts that haunt him, only to find that nothing comes up. Because the ghosts that haunt him are his own past, and insofar as we are all our own pasts, he will never be [free?] of it. Insofar as he has any conscious thoughts about what is going on with his body, perhaps he's hoping I'll be able to cut that out, and deliver what I asked for, which is a simple explanation of what had happened there. I think that's why the final scene has that peculiar sense...

AM: I see.

JO:  It's tempting when we look at documentary to think - either people are totally unaware of the camera, in which case things are authentic and natural, or else things are staged. And of course in reality, we're always aware of the camera in documentary, and if we're not looking at it, its because we've been asked not to look at it. In reality, the camera provides a moment, an occasion through which you can safely - a momentous occasion where you show things that you otherwise would not show; in this case, it becomes a safe space for this physical reaction to happen. He knows unconsciously he's safe, and so these feelings come to the surface. And I think but of course he's fluent in how to use the space - he's used to being filmed, of course he's conscious of the camera; the film is made up of a succession of stagings that allow for these very authentic emotions to come through.
Koto "tortures" Congo in a framegrab of the film noir sequences

AM: Speaking that, there's a scene where someone - Safit Pardede - is shaking down merchants in Chinatown. You leave it a bit ambiguous as to whether this is a re-enactment or if it's something that actually happened...

JO: He's actually shaking down merchants in Chinatown! I don't think I leave it ambiguous - there's nothing to suggest it's a re-enactment there, so far as I know, except that there's re-enactments elsewhere in the film. What I did, because I felt there was a moral grey zone, there was a line there, I felt it was essential to explain to everybody in the market why I was there, and I felt that it was essential that I pay everybody back. So after they were done shaking people down, they would move on, and I said, 'wait for me a few meters away, and I will get a release form signed,' but really what I was doing was explaining why we were there and paying everybody back...

For those wanting more information on this remarkable documentary, executive producers Errol Morris and Werner Herzog enthuse about the film here; in no way are they waxing hyperbolic, as this movie is every bit as provocative and rich as they suggest.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Pigeon baby

So after discovering last night that indeed there still is a nest on my balcony - just re-located to be out of view from my window - I decided today, since it's hot, to put out some water for the bird.

I draw the line at feeding the birds - its mate, if it's still out there, can always fly in food - but water I can spare. It can't be easy, sitting in one place all day without easy access to a drink.

The Mama pigeon immediately took off when I opened the screen, leaving her "nest," such as it is, vacant. At first, it looked like there wasn't much in it, but after a minute I could spot the baby pigeon, lying helplessly on its back, eyes shut, legs up, looking pretty much like a little sausage with yellow down on it. It was wiggling around a little, helpless, none too comfortable. Hard to be entirely unmoved by the so-called miracle of life happening right before my eyes on my balcony. 

There's only the one - one of the two eggs she laid must indeed have rolled off the edge; her nest is definitely in a bit of a shambles compared to what I previously saw. I couldn't resist taking one photo. The Mama came back shortly after and is resuming her position, and as yet remains skeptical about the water, but I suspect that won't last long. Click on the photo for a slightly larger version - its head is tilted away from the camera, so you can see the eye and the beak (both grey).

Evil Dead (2013) is Not That Bad: a DVD review

The new Evil Dead movie, out on video yesterday, turns out to be pretty good. I suspect that there are a great many people who were fans of the original who, like me, didn't bother seeing it theatrically. There are good reasons to have missed it, in fact, that have nothing to do with its quality. Before I consider why they should check out the film regardless, now that its out on DVD, let me speculate on a few of the reasons it probably didn't get the audience it deserved.

First and foremost, there's no doubt that a lot of viewers are sick of remakes, particularly where cult and horror films are concerned. Other than the totally respectable Rob Zombie Halloween films, there have been very few interesting ones, many (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Death Race, I Spit On Your Grave, Last House on the Left, Total Recall) seeming unnecessary in a world with easy access to the originals, as they add nothing particularly exciting (bigger budgets, better effects - but so what?) to the films and franchises they exploit, offer no new ideas or insightful elaborations on their source material, frequently lack the audacity and courage of the originals, and in the end seem more like transparent attempts to separate young people from their money than labours of love, fandom, obsession, or sincere derangement (as was generally the case with the original films). Each time another one comes out, it's like you can smell the producers' thought process from miles away: "Hey, this is a small budget movie with a huge cult following, and no one has remade it yet (or no one saw the last remake); if we remake it, and amp up the effects, we can cash in, because everyone who loves the original will come see it!"

At some point, as a cinephile, you want to stop co-operating with that logic, want to draw the line, say "count me out." Who needs to spend money on a lazy cash-in that takes as its first premise that you are not that discriminating about the films you watch, that you're easily duped, that, as the Dead Milkmen once put it, you'll dance to anything?
Plus - I can only speak for myself, here - my fondness for the first Evil Dead film (henceforth The Evil Dead,) which I loved when I was 13 or 14, has not travelled so well with me into adulthood. I loved it plenty back then - saw it  twenty or more times on VHS as a teenager, in various social settings (alone, with friends, at parties). But part of the reason I watched it as often as I did was that I only actually HAD ACCESS to a couple hundred horror movies in Maple Ridge at that time; there weren't THAT many video stores, and not many horror movies in them, which made it a much bigger deal to all of us. The Evil Dead was the goriest kid on the block, back in 1981, which every new friend you made had to see.
The world (and our access to movies) has gotten a lot bigger since that time - even here in the suburbs. There are a lot more movies at our disposal, and wouldn't you rather see some gorefest you haven't seen previously, rather than revisit the same old tired "classics" time and again? I mean, it's more understandable if we're talking about younger viewers, but someone who did The Evil Dead justice in the 1980's who still needs to see it more than once every few years is either not looking very hard for film fare, or has something wrong with them - OCD, demonic possession, etc. That's not to knock the film - the simplicity of the text is actually a good feature, since it's about as archetypally pure a distillation one can find of its formula - but it limits the number of times you can return to it for something new. You see it twenty times in your teens, and really - you've gotten about as much from it as you're going to get, ever; by the time of the 1987 sequel, Sam Raimi himself was mocking the original, playing with it, chuckling...

Given all the above, it's entirely reasonable to have questions. How necessary is the 2013 Evil Dead? Do I really need to see it? What can it possibly add to my life? Even if it's a good remake, does the world need a good remake of The Evil Dead? And given the state of cinema and the nature of remakes, how good could it possibly be?
While the answers to the first few questions are open to debate, it turns out that the answer to the last one is: pretty good! The best stuff is at the beginning - they insert some interesting psychology into the "cabin" scenario (a girl is brought there to kick heroin by her brother and committed friends who want to help see her through withdrawal; this allows the filmmakers to riff on parallels between addiction and demonic possession, which is cleverly handled). They also create some believable backstory for the brother and sister that they're able to exploit in the last act (he abandoned her when their mother was dying and cannot abandon her again and keep his self-respect).  And they build up to the possession stuff with craft, care, and patience, playing things pretty much straight and sincere throughout, as if The Cabin In The Woods had never been made. The film is wise not to smirk at itself, or at least not very often. Not all of it is perfect - the illustrations in the "evil book" look like they come from a contemporary graphic novel, and not an ancient occult text - but there's enough craft and care and creativity on display that the film manages to suck you into its world, no matter how jaded you are.
Once the gore kicks in, alas, Evil Dead (2013) becomes less engaging, perhaps because 40 minutes of gore is simply not as satisfying a meal to the savvy film consumer as it once was. We know, nowadays, that you can show pretty much anything you want onscreen, so you have to do something pretty outrageous or disturbing to actually get attention with a gore effect - something that hasn't been done before. The film tries on a couple of counts, and wins respect for making an effort and not flinching. One new gore idea, involving an Exacto knife body mod that immediately got me thinking of American Mary, stands out as pretty cool. But part of the charm of the first film is that its gore effects were pretty asinine - I mean, they use PLASTICINE for one sequence! It's nice that the filmmakers pay homage to the original a few times (in scenes involving shotguns, chainsaws, and tree branches), but the world already has the FIRST Evil Dead film for that sort of thing, and simply improving the effects is not the same thing as bringing something new to the plate. Finding new and unusual ways to mutilate bodies falls well below finding new and unusual REASONS to mutilate bodies on the list of things that horror films today need. Once the young people start killing each other, some part of the brain goes on hold and waits patiently for the story to return...

It does so nicely, which is ultimately why I'm recommending the film; it crafts a new ending, fit for its characters, and resolves things on a fairly satisfying note. As remakes go, Evil Dead is one of the better ones - it would be a good film to watch with the friends you saw the original with in the 1980's, if any are still in your social circle (none are in mine; ah, well). 

Evil Dead party, anyone?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Cops, skunks, and kaiju, plus pigeon denouement

Strange night.

Cops were all over the Coquitlam bus loop - two cop cars and an ambulance, present for no reason that was clear to me. Later, as we turned in to the Pitt Meadows portion of the 701's trip, two cops boarded the bus and escorted a teenaged-seeming girl off. She may not have paid her fare - I heard words to that effect - but was bothering no one, sitting talking with her friends. On the other hand, the cops behaved like Stasi, the whole bus going quiet as they glowered at her unsympathetically and told her they were "taking her back." "Oh hell no," she replied - and immediately I sided with her, because if she's trying to get somewhere around midnight, being escorted from Pitt Meadows back to Coquitlam is a major inconvenience. Despite her lack of desire to go, and her having done nothing wrong on the bus that *I* could see (except maybe having skipped the fare), they escorted her off, and then ended up cuffing her and struggling with her outside as we drove away (she was resisiting, tried to make a run for it, but there's still something inherently wrong about seeing two big uniformed men wrestling with a frigging girl, you know?). The driver assured me afterwards that it was NOT a simple matter of fare evasion - that there was a call out that the girl was suicidal or something, and the police had been looking for her. If that's really the case, I'm sure being manhandled by the cops will cheer her up immeasurably; they behaved like their intent was to punish, not to help, but... I have to admit that I don't know the whole story. The driver agreed in spirit, as I got off the bus, that if it had been all about fare evasion it would be like we were living in East Germany... That's exactly the impression the episode gave me, to my uninformed eye...

What else to report? I saw Pacific Rim tonight. It was spectacular and hollow; overwhelming as promised, and yet still disappointing, with razor-thin characters, a plot that a kindergartener could understand, nothing writerly or engaging about the dialogue; it's del Toro's least likable film that I've seen, reads more or less like a damp Starship Troopers minus Verhoeven's wry political subtext. Of course, the monster effects and the battles and the AVX 3D are all overwhelmingly BIG, as you'd expect, and his fondness for Japanese monster movies is clearly sincere (it sort of stands to Godzilla where Peter Jackson's King Kong stands to the original). But somehow the bigger and bolder these cinematic spectacles get, the less interest I have in them; I enjoyed watching the movie while it was in front of me - somewhat in spite of its obnoxiously murky, over-packed visuals and lack of subtlety, nuance or humour (abacus scene not withstanding) - but I would never go so far as to buy a DVD or Blu-Ray of it. Given a choice, I'd rather re-visit Cloverfield (which actually has interesting characters, some nice writing, and something on its mind), or Gareth Edwards' strangely memorable, very intelligent US-invasion film Monsters, or watch pretty much any original Japanese kaiju film you can name, rather than seeing Pacific Rim ever again. Here's hoping Gareth Edwards' upcoming Godzilla reboot learns from del Toro's mistakes - though given the demand for spectacle and for ultra-huge films that employ ever more expensive technologies, so they can be presented at maximum ticket-price, it seems unlikely...

I also saw a skunk running up the street where I live, which is new. Skunks, while common in the west end of Vancouver, don't usually show up in downtown Maple Ridge. I think if I'd followed the skunk around for a couple hours, it would have been exponentially more interesting than Pacific Rim.

Finally, speaking of nature, the wind off my balcony apparently blew the pigeon eggs off. I could see the nest had been disrupted last week, and had gotten mysteriously closer to the balcony's edge; the other day I looked and the eggs and birds were gone. I'd like to thank the elements for taking care of my pigeon problem for me. Presumably they now will give up.

EDITED TO ADD: Nope, I was wrong. Understand, the last time I looked out onto my balcony and saw the Mama pigeon, I made eye contact with it for some time. It returned my not altogether friendly look with a somewhat terrified eye; I imagine it was fairly scared that I was going to fuck with it in some way. This is understandable, given that I have, in the past, chased this pigeon and its mate angrily around my apartment, thrown things at it, sprayed water at it, banged an Indonesian rattle on the window at it, and screamed at it from my window to make it go away. I've tried to convey in every means short of violence that it is not welcome to nest on my balcony (especially if it intends to shit all over it). To communicate this, I've modified my balcony to make it harder to land on, and last year, chopped up (or had the building handyman chop up) the chair that it (or its parents - I'm not sure which generation bird this one is) were nesting in, swept up its nest, scraped up its shit, and generally made its life fairly difficult. A couple minutes of sustained eye contact (with me trying to psychically channel the message that I really wished it had chosen to NEST SOMEWHERE ELSE) probably were fairly stressful to this bird, given this history.

So being a smart bird, it turns out that it has moved it's nest right into the corner of the building, where I cannot see it from the window. It's still there. I discovered it tonight, stepping out onto the balcony with a visiting buddy (who smokes). I only THOUGHT the nest had blown away - it had simply been relocated for stealth, out of view of the window.

I kind of felt admiration when I discovered this, I have to admit. Who's a smart bird? Yeeah.  I almost want to give it some bread or something as a peace gesture, to show that at this point, I am ceding the battle, at least until its babies have flown. But I think it would constitute sending mixed messages.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Of Kris Kristofferson

Despite my earlier piece considering the man and his music, I have nothing much to say about Saturday's Kris Kristofferson concert at the Red Robinson Show Theatre, but it was pretty sweet to hear my Mom humming along to this (and a few other songs that she recognized). Pleased that the audience, a few shouted attempts to engage with the singer aside, was pretty good at listening to the music, and Kris' presentation was warm, gracious, sincere, and stark - just the man and his guitar, with his daughter joining him for a handful of tunes (amusingly inclining her head towards her dad at the line in "The Pilgrim (Chapter 33)" about being a "problem when he's stoned." With 1000 seats, mostly all filled, tickets at around $85 a pop - that's not a bad haul for one 77 year old dude!

Maple Ridge Caribbean festival 2013: of fried plantains, white people, and dogsnot

The Caribbean fest that happens every year in Maple Ridge's Memorial Peace Park always surprises me. Hundreds of people turn out to the free weekend event - including a goodly number of members of the African diaspora who are not a highly visible presence in our small suburban burg any other time of the year; who knows, some of them may well travel from other districts for the purposes of the fest? I would, and I'm just another fat white guy in a tropical shirt: there's an abundance of tasty Caribbean, Fijian, and African food, and that alone is enough to get me out, since you can't get that stuff in this town otherwise. You do get the occasional "stupid white people moment" (such as the one I observed today, in which a middle-aged white guy asked the Taste of Africa vendors if they sold hot dogs), but if you can get over your embarrassment at such things, it's a small price to pay for having goat roti, Jamaica patties, fried plantains and bottles of Ting come to town. There's a ton of stuff in the market stalls that I don't need - nicknacks, Bob Marley t-shirts, vibrantly coloured fashions largely for women (and the odd men's shirt that will in no way fit me); but it's still enjoyable to walk about and take in the scene. And - as my girl observed - there's a ton of big booty women who come out for the weekend to strut their stuff, presumedly since big-bootiedness is considered an actual asset among some brothers (and a few of us white folks too - it's a feature of the fest that has not been lost on me in years past, though I was conscious this year not to let my eyes stray too far). About the only thing notably, weirdly absent is wafting marijuana smoke - a shame, given the reggae, ska, and steelband music that fills the pot-free air, but most of the people in attendance are pretty straight seeming white folks, including seniors and children and family people, who need their sensibilities catered to (or are long since well-conditioned to doing their smoking in secret). There are plenty of visible uniformed cops prowling about making sure that no ganja gets whipped out anywhere too publicly, and that the vibe is safe and family-friendly; I guess I can't complain too much about that, even if it would be fun if once a year the whole of downtown stunk of weed, and not just the apartment buildings and schoolyards...
As with Adstock (see below), I didn't take in a lot of the music this year - I was preoccupied with getting to see Kris Kristofferson on Saturday - but enjoyed hearing a ska band that afternoon covering the Specials' "Message to You Rudi," wafting on the wind to my apartment a block or so away. Today, I enjoyed Vancouver's Bounty Hunta, doing his thing with a DJ, and I appreciated that B. Kenyan, who spelled him, brought a bit of consciousness-raising to the event, sharing his dismay at the George Zimmerman verdict. (He also told a story of correcting a child's mis-association of Bob Marley with marijuana, and not peace, but I can't begin to do it justice). Truth is, I don't know jack about DJ culture or toasting or any of that - it's actually rather foreign stuff to me; my reggae knowledge basically amounts to spinning The Harder They Come soundtrack a few times a year - but it's still kind of pleasing to see people talking about Babylon and declaiming "Ja Rastafari" from a public bandstand in the midst of this highly straight, white, "what's-on-TV"-culture town. (Lord knows the musicians must find the culture clash as entertaining - and positive - as I do). Toronto reggae singer Steele, today's headliner, made a fun acknowledgement of the area's usual musical sensibilities, asking the crowd a few songs in, "so I hear you all like country music?" Lest you think he was mocking us, he followed this up by performing a surprising, highly entertaining, and totally sincere reggae version of Kenny Rogers' "She Believes In Me," which apparently he's recorded on his new album... 

Delightful as that was, the high point of the fest was a wheezy little pug of amazing, instantaneous friendliness, who, when he saw me waving at him from where I sat, immediately ran over to me - owner in tow - to blow a light spray of dogsnot in my face, then crawled up onto my lap for affection. I love dogs, but I don't get to hang out with them much, so dogsnot or not, it was a treat.

Here are some photos of him, and of the rest of the fest - well worth attending, if you never have. See you in 2014.

B. Kenyan

 Steele with Natural Flavas

Friday, July 12, 2013

Supercool music geek garage sale update

A head's up: the next David M. / Werewolf T-shirts Records garage sale is still a week or so away (July 20th, this time starting at the "normal garage sale" time of 9am), but there will be another super-cool music geek garage sale tomorrow, July 13th, featuring tons o' CDs for a mere toonie each, at East 7th and Scotia. I will not mention the name of the person involved, in case she has psycho stalkers out there, but note: Alex Chilton fans in particular may find this particular garage sale rewarding. (At least three people reading this now know exactly who I'm talking about).

Unless she's keeping her Chilton CDs. She may well, but I bet she's got lots of other cool shit, for those of you who still like CDs...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Alligator: Korean DVD review

Just a helpful tip for anyone looking it up: the Korean DVD of Alligator (written by John Sayles, starring Robert Forster as a cop hunting an oversized alligator in the Chicago sewer system) is actually much cooler than it appears from the item listings on eBay. The sellers there, following the box for the DVD, list the aspect ratio as fullscreen (4:3 or 1:33 or whatever), but in fact, this is because the default setting for the film is stretched (not panned and scanned); if you adjust your TV to widescreen format, you get a proper widescreen presentation. The colours aren't great - bluish and muted, with a b-grade image, typical of a somewhat unsung 1980's b-movie - but if you have fondness for the film (which well should, since Alligator is an even better Jaws knockoff than Joe Dante's Piranha, also written by Sayles, and has surprisingly good alligator effects) it's well worth picking up, 'specially since the Region 1 DVD is OOP and generally a lot pricier than the Korean version.

By the way, generally speaking Korean DVDs are one of the best ways to get budget presentations of classics, cult movies, and arthouse films that tend to be pricy or long unavailable over here. They don't appear to be obvious bootlegs, of the sort that used to come out of China, and generally (the occasional odd glitch in the English on the box art) are pretty nicely presented, if somewhat bare-bones. The only caveat: anything with sexual content or male genitalia may be censored! I had a Korean Cannibal Holocaust for awhile (which I've since sold, since it's a disgusting piece of shit non-film, in my opinion) that had optical fogging on the genitals but all the gore intact... 

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Petunia and the Vipers to open for The Real Ponchos!

Al Mader (the Minimalist Jug Band) and Petunia performing at Slickity Jim's 2.0, photo by Erika Lax, not to be reused without permission

...tomorrow at Cafe Deux Soleils - Petunia and the Vipers in a rare opening slot for The Real Ponchos, with an opening set by Kesia. Should be a great show!

Note: far as I know, Al Mader, the Minimalist Jug Band, is not scheduled to perform tomorrow, but Erika just sent me this photo, and it's a pretty great moment, so...

Edited to add: video of Petunia at Slickity Jim's here, shot by mah girl! Thanks, E.!

The Black Sabbath - Friedrich Nietzsche Purple Ramen conundrum

I am in no way interested in attempting to analyze Black Sabbath's song "God Is Dead" (as some folks are doing), but I am utterly confused by the ramen streaming from Nietzsche's mouth in the art. Nietzsche, of course, was one of the first philosophers to speak of God being dead, but I'm unaware of any particular association between Nietzsche and noodles. Help?

Monday, July 08, 2013

Adstock 2013 in Maple Ridge

Today was Adstock 2013! This year, I only checked out a couple of bands, most enjoyably the Bone Daddies, who offer a spunky blend of ska and punk and rockabilly. Rhythm guitarist/ vocalist Jonny Bones is a natural frontman, true enthusiast, and an important figure on the local scene, also responsible for the Pitt Meadows' Horrorshow series of Midnight Movies (note his Texas Chainsaw t-shirt). He said between songs at one point that the Bone Daddies have been going at it for nine years already, so I guess they're due some kind of notice. They certainly deserve it: they were tight and fast and fun as hell, and Bones is probably about as close a punk to Joe Strummer in spirit as Maple Ridge will ever produce (though a Joe Strummer with a passion for horror and cult movies, which, you must admit, is a pretty pleasing concept). They have a new CD out now, called Sinister City... Got a great kick out of their bassist's lime green bass strings...
Like last year, the crowd - including Maple Ridge notables like the Likely Rads' Jay Raymond, currently taking a break from music - was mostly clustered in the shade at the peripheries of the park, with a small cadre of diehards getting up to stand on the concrete in front of the bandstand. The most enthusiastic person in that area was the young female toddler who weaved in and out between the skankers' boots and elbows, occasionally booting a bottle of blue Gatorade, egged on by a member of the Wrecktals (I think he was, anyhow - he sure was keen to snap a photo of the Wrecktals' logo on Bones' guitar strap!). Her assumed Mom (with pink hair and a Misfits t-shirt) occasionally swooped in and scooped her up when things got a little too enthusiastic; she didn't get moshed on that I saw...

My girl, in town to check out some of the bands with me, was less inclined to stick around for Abriosis, a highly challenging Vancouver death metal band with Alxs Ness, formerly of Without Mercy (previously interviewed on this blog, here). They opened with the number "Crypsis," then followed with "Vessel," from their new EP, available for free download on their website (click their name, above). From the gitgo, it was all flinging hair, involuted, dense guitar lines and guttural growls from Ness, who can hold her cookies against those giant mofos in Tyrant's Blood (or any death metal vocalist you can name). Alas, I had dinner to cook and a Mom to visit, and a girl none too sad to take off early, so I snapped a few pictures and beat it. Truth is, I've always found death metal sounds better on headphones during a commute, when you're trying to shut out the banalty of your fellow passengers' conversation, than on a sunny bandstand...!
In between bands, Howard St. Roy kept the crowd happy with fast-paced acoustic guitar tunes that had plenty of "go" to them - including a spur-of-the-moment cover of Billy Bragg's "New England," when Abriosis needed a bit of extra time to get their gear set up (note: how many cymbals does one drummer need, anyhow?). St. Roy was a perfect between-band entertainment, very entertaining and engaging. Apologies go once again to Ninjaspy, but by the time I got my gal home and got dinner into us, we really didn't have the stamina to head back into the sun, and sat around listening to records while Ninjaspy roared dimly in the background (when Adstock is happening, you can hear it for quite a ways). Ninjaspy now surpass the Bone Daddies as the band I have had the most opportunities to see without ever actually having done so! Maybe next year...
Thanks to Adam Rayburn (AKA the Ad in Adstock) and the people who organize this event. Maple Ridge may be a bit of a cultural backwater - Barney Bentall drew a bigger crowd when he played the same bandstand than I've ever seen come out for Adstock - but for the counterculture kids (and aging punks) of suburbia it's a pretty vital experience...!

I may be taking a bit of a break from the blog for awhile - I have to focus on some other stuff - but I'll be back eventually, no doubt. Have a good summer (and remember, there's free music all next weekend in Maple Ridge, too, at the Caribbean festival!).