Saturday, January 31, 2015

Electric Wizard!

Yeah, I'm officially in love with the new Electric Wizard album, Time to Die. And totally excited to see them play the Rickshaw in April. I'm feeling burnt out on the whole writing thing at the moment so I doubt I will try to write about them in a serious context, but wow, what a great, heavy album this is, the smartest, most authentic-seeming piece of contemporary Sabbathry I have encountered (and I'm including that recent Black Sabbath album). It's themed around a murder committed by a 17 year old acidhead, subject of the true crime book Say You Love Satan, and has lots of swirlin' texture around the thudding riffage. I'm partial to that stuff. Only trouble is - the Rickshaw website says it's already sold out! Nooo! (Maybe there's a way, though).

Thursday, January 29, 2015


There's going to be a metal show in Maple Ridge at a dive bar two blocks from my apartment on my birthday! Hmm.

In other news, I'm a big fan of the new Electric Wizard album. Bizarrely, you can get it for $24.99 at London Drugs, in double vinyl gatefold! Cool!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Death and shit in dreams

In the dream, I'm working at a used bookstore and a man comes in, says something cryptic to me, and starts shooting customers. I am unharmed.

Later, I'm at my mother's hospital bed. (She's not currently in hospital in reality, note). She can speak (no signs of the aphasia she actually has) and I'm discussing the crime with her, and how paranoid its made me. I hand her a piece of paper the shooter gave me. It is a dark piece of construction paper - maybe brown? - with a colourful mandala of circles within circles painted on it. It has my name written on it. She is disturbed that the killer knew my name - it means it wasn't a random crime.

I need to take a crap, so I sit on the toilet that is right beside her bed. I mean, she's smelled my pooh before, right? I'm crapping, when some member of the hospital cleaning staff comes onto her balcony; he's sweeping. He continues to sweep his way into the room. I fold myself in half, my belly on my thighs, as I shit, so as to hide my genitalia.

Then it occurs to me: maybe the killer licked the paintbrush when he was writing my name and there will be traces of his saliva in the paint? I phone the detective in charge of the case to give him the tip, but end up long distance with a female who I do not know, who takes my information. She is sitting in a car. The "camera" tracks back to her partner, standing outside the car: it appears to be the killer! Dramatic music swells.

There was something else about my wandering around the streets at the scene of the crime, trying to figure out what happened, but I don't remember that part.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

And once again...

I don't feel like forcing it right now, so there won't be much from me over the next while. I'm working on a big Chris Desjardins interview, but I have no passion for writing at the moment. I have a couple of outstanding commitments, a couple things I might do for fast cash, and at least one project that is really important to me that I want to do something with (my Ryszard Bugajski interview) but I'm feeling more and more like it really doesn't matter what people write about anything, anyhow. It feels like a silly hobby, a distraction. Plus I need to make MONEY, folks... need to get my life-shit together, and writing has never been a truly reliable source of income for me. Besides, I've kind of done what I wanted to do when I started to interview people a little over ten years ago: I've gotten to interview most of my living musical heroes and favourite filmmakers and a few really interesting people besides and there's not much left in the way of worlds I want to conquer in the realm of journalism (it would have been nice to have a cover feature for the Straight but if my Cronenberg piece loses out to an article on the new head of UBC, I'm obviously shit out of luck). I have a backlog of unpublished stuff that I've done, too - things that got back-burnered when I stopped writing for this magazine or that, that can keep me happily distracted if that's what I need. Really, really, really just not feeling it.

I ain't going to declare the blog dead, exactly. I'll be back. But I got nothing to say right now. You're better off finding me on Facebook, like everyone fuckin' else.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Some Youtube videos I've shot and uploaded

I've uploaded a sampling of Youtube videos from shows I've been at - like this one from the Rebel Spell's performance at Adstock this past summer. There's about fifteen vids up all told now - the Flesh Eaters, Mudhoney, Red Herring, Danny Shmanny, Chris Arnett, the Furies, Andrew Jackson Jihad, Wett Stilettos, David M., Carsick Cars, and a Gun Club cover band called Sex Beat. And don't forget my clip of Roky Erickson in Vancouver, which my girlfriend uploaded for me when I was still a noob at these matters. It's still the only video from that show!

Friday, January 16, 2015

RIP Lorna Towers of the New Creation

I rather love the New Creation's Troubled - the Vancouver Christian garage rock record that has attracted so many fans since its resurfacing, having been lost for so many years. I wrote about the unexpected follow up to that album, A Unique Disaster, here, and have been priviliged to count the male of that band, Chris Towers, as a friend - an earnest, likable, and decent man with a rich inner life, passionate and sympathetic political views, and a very interesting musical sensibility. I'm delighted to have gotten him to perform at a birthday event a few years ago - see here for more on that. His Mom, the band's other lead vocalist and songwriter, was always somewhat intimidating to me, by comparison: a conservative, outspoken, opinonated Christian and a fan of the Left Behind series, the few times I met her I was definitely at a disadvantage, since I neither wanted to argue with her beliefs nor submit to her authority and be chastened for my own views and lifestyle (which I doubt she'd have approved of much). Still, she was a bright, creative, charismatic character, who led a very interesting life, had a unique and engaging singing voice, and her songs - I gotta hold this one up as the masterpiece, positing a massive conspiracy to fake a God-denying archaelogical record - were far more eccentric, in the best of all possible ways, than I think she could possibly have realized (my impression from talking to her on a few occasions was that she definitely thought herself to be one of the "normal" ones, and the rest of us weird; I suppose I did her a disservice by concealing my own strangeness from her, so we could really see the other). In any event, I'm very sad to report on her passing, which Chris Towers informed me of a few days ago (she passed on January 13th; Chris alerted me by email to say that "She went peacefully with all but one of her children beside her." I wanted to give it a couple of days before I reported on it. My condolences to her large family and many fans. Long live the New Creation!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

On the novels of Chris D., part one: Mother's Worry; plus the Hookers of Maple Ridge Part Two

So here I am, reading Mother's Worry, a sleazy crime novel written by Chris D. My bookmark is a ticket stub from the Seattle Flesheaters show, where I got to briefly shake Chris' hand and pick up six of his novels (which he packed especially for me! Thanks, Chris!). I'm happy to report I'm very pleased with the investment. It's proving to be a great read, and I'm looking forward to reading all six of his novels over the next little while (the one he recommends as a starting point is actually No Evil Star but the first page of Mother's Worry sunk a deeper hook).

I actually wasn't entirely sure I'd enjoy Chris' writing, truth be known. It's not like I love everything he's done unequivocally. I have never really gotten into Divine Horsemen, say, and I thought his movie, I Pass For Human, was okay/ interesting but nothing overwhelming. Besides, I'm a Nick Cave fan, too, and couldn't get more than 50 pages into his first novel, And the Ass Saw the Angel, when I tried it. But Mother's Worry, so far, is totally entertaining. Violent crime story with lots of graphic gore, sex and twistedness; I'm not a third of the way through and there's been at least six murders (some graphically described);  a military brawl; a car theft; a liquor store robbery; one horny Mexican prostitute getting her pussy eaten by a gangster in the street; a multiple murder and a gun-vs-knife fight inside a brothel; and a fight inside a morgue wagon, where our antihero has been trying to hide out amongst some corpses. There's also - oh, let's see - a gay DEA agent giving a blowjob to a psycho, plus ample description of mescal, rye, and blood spattering everywhere (there's some puking, too). Oh, and our hero has just fallen off a train, covered in blood, a bag full of stolen money tucked into his pants, on a mission to confront his unfaithful girlfriend, whom he's just seen in a Polaroid sucking another man's cock. This is a fun read, maybe a little bit knowing/ winking to those of us who have digested our share of Jim Thompson, Richard Stark, David Goodis, James M. Cain, and so forth - some of Desjardin's literary antecedents... and maybe the perversity of some episodes is a little too-sick-for-realism, a little on the so-farfetched-it's-kinda-funny side, like there's a smidgen of David Lynch, too, in Chris' toolkit, where you can only just sort of grin and shake your head (and keep reading)... But all-in-all it's a deeply fun book to read. I gather the next section is going to focus on the main male character's girlfriend, who in his absence has fallen into a life of stripping, drug abuse, and maybe hooking (remains to be seen but I'm expecting it)...

Which brings me to a brief follow up to On the Hookers of Maple Ridge. One of my more insensitive posts here, maybe, but when the street I have to cross to get home from my aging Mom's turned out to be the stroll for some somewhat worse-for-wear smalltown prostitutes, it made me kind of cranky. It's enough to run the gauntlet of homeless and street crazies in the city, trying to get to and from work, each one wearing down your compassion a bit more, making you feel that much more depressed about Vancouver, its priorities, and your own selfishness. That's bad enough: I don't want to have hookers hopefully saying hello to me on a regular basis, when I'm just trying to get home. And particularly not WEATHERED ones! I mean, call me a pig if you like but if these were $500-a-night supermodel hookers I might not feel as cranky about having to visibly project my total disinterest as I walk by them; I might even feel flattered by their attention, feel something more like "as if I could afford YOU," instead of what I generally feel, which is closer to, "as if I would ever pay money to have sex with you! Give me a fuckin' break!" (I never say this ALOUD, mind you, as I plow past them. But they're probably pretty good at reading body language...).

Anyhow, I wanted to follow up that bit of prickishness on my part (pardon my recap of it). I don't LIKE myself for having that feeling, but it's there. However, after a couple of years of this, my attitude is changing a bit. I still don't want to have sex with the local working girls, natch, but I suddenly feel a whole lot more compassion for them, BECAUSE...

...I have discovered that some of them go to work BEFORE I DO. Just this morning, in fact - this very cold, dark, wet BC morning, on the way to the train station at 6:25 A-motherfucking-M, there was a workin' girl standing on the corner, hoping someone would come by. No cars anywhere on the street, and the only other pedestrians were a guy walking the other direction and a drunken middle-aged woman yelling and cursing at someone unseen as she staggered around one of the streetcorners adjacent to the local bar. At least the workin' girl in question wasn't wearing high heels and a miniskirt, she was bundled up in a parka with furry boots on, but it was still kind of heartbreaking to see her standing there so early, on such a shitty morn. I almost wanted to ask her how long she'd been there, when she'd woken up, how much money she makes at 6:25 AM in Maple Ridge in mid-January. I wanted to buy her a cup of coffee or something, except I also really do NOT want to get involved in her life, her problems, or get her hopes up that I'm going to give her money (or try, god help me, to "rescue" her), because, sorry, I'm not gonna. But the thought was there: what's the fucking point of being a prostitute if youi've got to wake up at 6 in the fucking morning and stand in the cold and the rain? Just get a job in a fucking factory, for godsake! How can it possibly be worse...?

Of course, she may not have all that much choice in the matter at present, but that's even sadder. So okay, workin' girls, I'm going to try to adjust my crankiness meter where you're concerned and cut you a bit of slack. I still am going to walk stolidly by, ignoring you, lest you get your hopes up or waste your attentions on someone who is not going to give you money, but that's meant as a sort of kindness - the most I can muster at present. I hope you're making more money than I am, I really do. Somehow I kinda doubt it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The continuing saga of the death of print media: Xtra West to go fully digital

Wow. Xtra - including Vancouver's Xtra West - is going to cease its print editions, is going fully digital. I've written for them whenever something cool and queer-themed crossed my path (like when those Dicks reissues happened, I talked to Gary Floyd for them). I'm a bit of an odd fit - "I'm not queer, only strange" - so I haven't been exactly a regular, but I've always felt well-respected and well-treated by them, and I've enjoyed a lot of their articles (though I haven't read them very often since I stopped living in the West End). Crazy that the print edition won't be out there anymore, they're a pretty notable part of the Vancouver landscape.

Another video uploaded: the Flesh Eaters at Neumos', Seattle

Check it out! Amazing night, and though it was more of a stand-there-and-listen-to-it kinda show, there was quite the happy little mosh pit for the encores (powerhouse performances of "Pony Dress" and the Gun Club's "She's Like Heroin To Me.") Thanks to David Ames for the ride there and back and the good company (and hi to Ford Pier, spotted in the audience...).

I didn't shoot video of any of the best songs in the evening ("Satan's Stomp," say) but I might upload one more clip... Great stuff from Mudhoney, too!

The Company You Keep, Gabrielle Rose, and so forth (BC-film related)

If I had the resources, I would hire a t-shirt shop to make Gabrielle Rose a "made in BC" t-shirt with a line drawing of the map of the province on it. Not because she's from BC - she is - but because in more than one instance its her presence in a film that twigs me to the fact that it was shot here. I mean, I don't exactly have a keen eye for these matters: there are dozens of times that I've watched a made in Vancouver film and not realized it was shot here until midway through when some glaringly obvious landmark pops up, like when Arnold Schwarzenegger drives a truck through the Simon Fraser University campus in The Sixth Day or when Save On Meats pops up in Dreamcatcher - but more than any single building or landscape, the handiest signifier that a movie was made in BC for me is the presence of Gabrielle Rose.

Case-in-point: The Company You Keep. By me, this is an under-appreciated, entirely workable (but not particularly remarkable) film with an excellent cast and an interesting story, involving the fallout of 1960's radicalism and its lingering relevance today. Before Ms. Rose appears, I hadn't been certain that it was filmed in BC; there's a scene set in what sure LOOKS like the Granville Street Skytrain station - the eastbound platform with those distinctive red railings - but all train stations look a bit alike, and I had otherwise been seduced by the film's use of Vancouver and the outlying area to represent about five different American cities, so I wasn't sure. But there she is, with maybe one line of dialogue, playing Brendan Gleeson's wife, standing by him as Shia LaBoeuf, as an ambitious journalist, questions him in his role in possibly helping a couple of 60's radicals from the Weather Underground go underground. She might as well walk on screen holding a placard saying "Welcome to BC!" And that's a good thing, I always like these moments (it's about the fifth US film shot here where she's served exactly the same function. Another I recall was Uwe Boll's mediocre, bizarrely expensive Lord of the Rings knockoff, In the Name of the King).  

Anyhow, The Company You Keep is by no means a bad movie. If there wasn't such a glut of available cinema (I hereby acknowledge my debt to David M. for my use of the word "glut") it might even get a recommendation from me, as a thinking-person's thriller and decent drama, well-assembled by director Robert Redford. But for a Vancouver film buff, I can think of no better reason to see it than the fact there are some very big name actors in the film, and it's pretty fun to know they all converged on Vancouver for the shoot. I wonder where Nick Nolte hung out when he wasn't on set?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Robert Crumb on baiting religious fanatics, the death of American journalism, and so forth

Robert Crumb speaks on the Charlie Hebdo shootings. His comic response is out there on the internet but you're going to have to seek it out for yourself; it's not that offensive, actually - it sounds way worse than it is - but no wayyyyy am I going to put myself in the firing line on this one!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The death toll rises: Robert Stone, Francesco Rosi, Rod Taylor

Sigh... not going to blog about murdered French cartoonists... Just going to briefly note my sadness to learn that Robert Stone has died, at age 77. I didn't actually like the last two novels of his I read (Damascus Gate and Bay of Souls), but Dog Soldiers is my go-to if anyone asks me my favourite novel; a tale of corruption and confusion in 1960's America, it features a sentence that I often tell people is my favourite in English literature (but I'm not really serious, since the sentence is "Dieter farted loudly and without embarrassment"). It was made into a film that doesn't quite do justice to the book, Who'll Stop the Rain. One of the few non-journalism-related celebrity encounters I'm glad to have had is running into Michael Moriarty and telling him how much I admired his interpretation of Converse in that film.  A Hall of Mirrors is great, too - filmed as the rather awful WUSA - and I actually have quite a bit of fondness for Stone's 1992 novel Outerbridge Reach, and some of his short stories. I actually once wrote Stone some fan mail, but I have no idea if he ever received it.

Besides Stone, I'm also saddened by the passing of Francesco Rosi, at age 92. I want to see Christ Stopped at Eboli and The Mattei Affair... I loved his bullfighting movie The Moment of Truth  and his anti-war WWI movie Many Wars Ago, and I liked Salvatore Giuliano - more of an interesting film than an entertaining one. I have Hands Over the City at home but haven't done it yet.

And of course we should note the passing of Rod Taylor (The Birds, Zabriskie Point). I liked him in both those movies and was kind of really happy to see him turn up as Winston Churchill in one of these overrated recent Tarantino films...

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Wait a second... re: The Interview

Corresponding with a friend who shall go unnamed and suddenly I have this horrifying thought: did
the CIA just slip one past my gates? Did the silliness of Seth Rogen and James Franco just serve as a lubricant to slide home a state-condoned, consent-manufacturing advertisement for the notion of targeted assassination? Is the silliness of The Interview a spoonful of sugar that helped the medicine go down? Did I not NOTICE that?

It woke me up at 6 am, being pissed off about this. (Well, that and the need to pee). Now I can't get back to sleep. I'm irked.

There's stuff that I actually liked about The Interview: the portrait of Kim Jong Un - played just brilliantly by an actor named Randall Park, whose work I haven't yet seen otherwise -  is both humanizing and critical. He's no less obnoxious than Franco's Dave Skylark character, and one of the better jokes of the film is that the two of them discover that they have much common ground. I came out of the film wanting to be optimistic about it, that the entire mess over the film could actually possibly provoke some good-willed dialogue between North Korea and the rest of the world, that would lead to the rather isolated nation becoming more enfranchised.

It's kind of like hoping True Lies would have made friends and influenced people in the Muslim world. The image that makes it impossible, that stuck there in my head, that I couldn't really process or incorporate into my attempt to see the film charitably, is the Kim Jong Un death scene, which is, though apparently softened considerably, really quite graphic and disturbing. It was also put into the world with the involvement and approval of the US State Department
North Korea's UN Ambassador Ja Song Nam has said that "the production and distribution of such a film on the assassination of an incumbent head of a sovereign state should be regarded as the most undisguised sponsoring of terrorism as well as an act of war. The United States authorities should take immediate and appropriate actions to ban the production and distribution of the aforementioned film; otherwise, it will be fully responsible for encouraging and sponsoring terrorism." It may just be that I haven't slept much but suddenly, awake before I need to be, I see things very clearly from North Korea's position. At least from my current point of view, it looks like they're kind of in the right about this. And the thought that I didn't actually NOTICE this, that I wasn't actually UPSET about it for a couple of days, that it slipped right home without my reacting is truly disturbing and frightening.

And now I have to get ready for work.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Cinema consumed: The Interview, Tusk

For those who have not yet found it online, The Interview is now playing at Hollywood 3 second-run cinemas in Surrey and Pitt Meadows. I caught it with a friend at the latter theatre for an admission price of $4.75, along with about 30 other filmgoers on this very rainy BC Sunday. The film is fun, but it's so trivial/ forgettable that it's somewhat hard to believe it could provoke such a drastic real-world reaction, with the US presently imposing sanctions on North Korea over the hubbub, and God-knows-what still coming down the chute. It's certainly no more provocative than Team America: World Police (though quite a bit funnier), and several magnitudes less cruel, less revealing, and less serious in intent than The Red Chapel, which is a film that deserved to provoke an international incident (and a far better film to seek out if you're wanting reflective film fare involving North Korea). The tone of The Interview's comedy is closer to that of Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay (which offers a similarly sympathetic, humanizing pothead's-eye view of a monstrous figure in world politics, George W. Bush). It's irresponsible cinema, maybe - presuming to twiddle in the realm of international politics without seeming to have much concern for its repercussions; and if there is any element of a "publicity stunt" at work here then whoever is responsible should face legal consequences. It's also a film that non-fans of Franco, who is really excessive here, will find aggravating. Still, my friend Marina Sonkina used to opine that the central question worth asking of a comedy - maybe the only one - is whether or not it is funny; that this trumps all other considerations of politics, responsiblity, etc. And The Interview is funny. I laughed often. Not as much as I would have liked - it's not as inspired as This Is The End - but I was certainly amused enough for $4.75, and glad to have seen it. I have spent more money on films I enjoyed far less.
Speaking of potheads, though, you know what isn't funny? Kevin Smith's Tusk. It flickered so briefly on screens last year that I barely noticed it, and only just caught up with it tonight. I had quite enjoyed Red State and thought that Smith might actually be turning over a new leaf with that film (though I never believed he would retire; he loves attention far too much. Instead, he's made an absurdly trivial movie, in many (but not all) aspects describable as"The Human Centipede with walruses." Or maybe Sssssss with walruses, if you remember that film. It reads like something a couple of stoned buddies came up with on a lark, giggling insanely at the prospect of someone surgically altering other people in this manner. (Some of the actual giggling over the idea plays over the credits, note). Lots of things can seem funny and brilliant when you're not in your right mind, but apparently Smith hasn't learned to discriminate between the ideas you have when you're high that seem great but aren't, and the ones that are truly inspired... or else he just doesn't come down long enough to engage in sober consideration of his projects in the cold light of day (which I would recommend he start doing). Johnny Depp has a lot of fun with an uncredited, heavily-made-up role, and Michael Parks is great, as always, but the end product is just ridiculous (especially if you're a fan of The Human Centipede and Sssssss; it's almost like a piss-take on those films). It's possible I chose the wrong companion to view Tusk with, mind you - my 84 year old Mom didn't think much of it - but I think my patience would have been tried even under optimum viewing conditions (which presumably involve one or two cinema-savvy friends and a bag of bud). Smith apparently plans to do two more Canadian-set horror films, including something involving a killer moose on the rampage, entitled Moose Jaws. If he indeed is committed to that course, hopefully he will grow out of the "aboot" and "eh" jokes and references to the Bob and Doug McKenzie coo-roo-coos. It's kind of hard to believe he lived in Canada for any length of time (no doubt the real joke occurs on the level of meta-humour, that we're being encouraged to laugh at the unfunniness of the jokes, but...).

Sunday, January 04, 2015

My Flesh Eaters interview!

Living musical heroes... let's see... Peter Stampfel, interviewed him by phone. Eugene Chadbourne, have met and interviewed him. Rob Wright of Nomeansno, met and interviewed him. Gerry Hannah of the Subhumans, have met and interviewed him. But did I ever think I would get to talk to Chris Desjardins of the Flesh Eaters? No I did not! Nor did I think I would have a chance to see the band, but I will, January 13th in Seattle. Please let the gods of punk allow this to happen...?