Sunday, May 28, 2023
Dayglos in Ox!
Saturday, May 27, 2023
The Full Bug - an Interview with Matt Hewlett, re: One of the Best Record Stores of Vancouver Island
They're called the Full Bug, and are run by a guy named Matt Hewlett, who did a brief email interview with me, below. I'm in italics, Matt is not.
Matt: I don’t know what a Full Bug actually is. It is a Van Halen song off Diver Down, one of several records I played over and over as a teenager. Not their best album but nevertheless it’s my favourite and "The Full Bug" is my favourite song on it. I wanted a name for the store that didn’t mean anything and had almost zero previous internet presence.
What is your history with selling records? Did your stock begin with your own collection? Were you selling in Vancouver? How did you end up in Duncan?
I don’t have a lot of history selling records, I did a few pop ups in Vancouver prior to moving to Duncan. I do have a long history of buying records, in my late teens and early 20’s I was fortunate to have a fairly high paying job and spent most of my disposable income on records. This was what I started the store with.
My partner and I wanted to get out of the city and decided on Vancouver Island. Duncan seamed like a good enough choice, we were initially going to open a restaurant, that being our previous wheelhouse. As we were looking at spaces to lease I started to feel like Duncan could use a record store, when I found my space it was settled and we moved.
What are the pros and cons of being in Duncan? From a mainalnder's perspective, the pros are pretty striking, because I can find stuff on the island that is long gone on the mainland... But do you find yourself wishing more people from Vancouver would come over? Are there enough local punks to pay the bills?
I definitely don’t get as much traffic as I would in Vancouver or Victoria. Sometimes it frustrating when rad records just sit, but at the same time it’s nice that cool records hang out for a bit. I get a lot of people from all over the island and Vancouver, it’s great to see someone from a bigger city get stoked about something they thought they missed out on. I don’t really need help selling punk and metal collections they always sell, like most stores the bulk of punk and metal records are new or reissued.
Being one of the few places stocking new vinyl, I can cast a pretty wide net and all genres sell. Classic rock and hard rock definitely sell the best which I am happy to sell. There’s an assumption that there aren’t cool records in smaller towns. That just isn’t true, people move to small towns from big cities with their big city collections. Some of us small town folk even make our way to the big city.
I have had some surprisingly amazing collections come in from locals. In the first couple of months here I bought a collection of every Nick Cave record from the last three Birthday Party LPs up to The Good Son including the singles, the others in that collection were Gun Club and Cramps. I’ve managed to score a couple of great new wave and post punk collections that disappeared immediately. Right now I have an original mail order copy of Radiohead’s In Rainbows. I am working on convincing myself to sell the original copy of the Germs GI I scored. Both of those were from locals. I’ve also had original Black Flag and D.O.A. sold to me locally.
Thanks, Matt! Readers wanting more information can check out the Full Bug's Facebook or Instagram pages, or see more photos and such at this webpage.
Friday, May 26, 2023
Gigs of early summer: Asian Persuasion All-Stars, Betty Bathory, Rodney DeCroo, AK-747s, and Me Bats + Circus in Flames
It is too hot to sleep, so I am awake, again, blogging somewhat casually. Various gigs and such are competing for attention over the next while, as summer kicks into gear.
Asian Persuasion All-Stars have a gig at LanaLou's tonight, which would be great, except I'm going to be at the Cinematheque for a double bill (possibly on far too little sleep!). I interviewed Tim Chan and Eric Lowe of that band here; I've only ever caught them at a Bowie Ball, and would love to hear "Racist Friend" live, in particular - and love that they managed to make maybe the least pandemicky pandemic video ever around it.
Betty Bathory is also doing a couple of things: Weener Issues, a tribute to Ween by Daddy Issues, is happening at the Lucky Bar in Victoria tonight and at the Railway tomorrow. I am told four songs definitely on the set will be "It's Gonna Be a Long Night," which saw Ween channeling early Motorhead ("we peed on that one first," Betty quipped on Facebook); "Baby Bitch," which apparently is a favourite Ween tune for a few people out there; "You Fucked Up;" and "I'll Be Your Johnny on the Spot." There's a lot more on the setlist, but "I don't wanna give too much away," she says. I don't know if I know my Ween lore enough to feel fully prepared but it'll be a great excuse to check out the Railway again.
Next weekend, meanwhile, Betty will bring BB Allin and the Stabbers back to the stage, after a very long hiatus, with the catch being that both shows are being held on Vancouver Island. I have a soft spot for GG, but it's not uncomplicated, since he was a pretty antisocial, unsavoury wreck, probably operating on a couple of personality disorders (if you haven't read it, check out this Legs McNeil interview with a character named Johnny Puke, who was with GG on his last day). I loved Betty's BB act last time I caught it, but going to the island for a show is not uncomplicated. Read my interview with Betty - my first encounter with her, in fact - about the BB show here.
There are other local gigs competing for that weekend, too. Rodney DeCroo will be doing a launch for his new book, Fishing for Leviathan, also featuring CR Avery. "I worked on this book for a little over three years," he mentioned in a message, "so it's been awhile since my last collection. I'm good with that as I'm not a big fan of trying to publish a book every year." Truth is, I have a much better chance of convincing my wife to see Rodney DeCroo in Vancouver than BB Allin in Victoria, though Rodney won't be smearing any shit on anyone, either authentic or ersatz. He tells me, of the event, that:
We're having a poetry book launch celebration and show on Friday, June 02 at Backspace ( Blake Williams art studio/warehouse at 1318 Grant Street, just off the Drive). I'll be reading poems and performing with my band The Metaphors (the band I played with at VIFF). C.R. Avery is kicking things off when a set of his stuff as well. Some of my street photography will be on display too.
Rodney and I talked about his VIFF Centre show here. Apparently tickets for that event are almost sold out, so I wouldn't hesitate if you're interested. I had actually thought I would catch the AK-747s at Bullys in New West that night - deets here - because that's a very convenient, cool space, where my wife and I spent last Halloween (watching Betty, in fact, with me in drag and my wife as Frida Kahlo; do look at that post, if you've missed it). But I could see the AKs at Red Gate instead, on June 9th... hmm.
...which brings us to June 3rd, where there's a show I'm very excited about, involving the newest incarnation of Stab'Em in the Abdomen, the Me Bats (more on which below) and Doug Andrew's band the Circus in Flames. I did a very substantial Doug Andrew piece for the Straight, back in 2017 - that being part one; part two is here. One of those parts includes the story of the tour Shanghai Dog did with the Replacements! The Circus in Flames was, in fact, one of the last shows I caught before the COVID lockdown, with Doug inviting the audience at the Fairview to sing "Happy birthday to me." Which was a really sweet thing for him to do!
Since that gig, in no particular order, the couple Erika and I were at the show with separated, the Fairview shut down, and COVID changed everything for a couple of years (not so you'd notice so much now, which makes the whole thing seem that much more unreal). What did Doug do in that time? I fired him an email and asked for an update:
Although I did some solo and duo gigs during & post-COVID, last Saturday, May 13th at the Princeton was the first Circus In Flames show in a long, long time. Right around COVID, I needed a change so I got my Telecaster back from Brian Barr and started writing songs with a different format in mind. I've trimmed the band down to a four-piece electric combo and May 13th was the first show with our new electric bassist, Duncan Chambers. I was extremely happy with how the new sound and new songs went over on the 13th and we're looking forward to playing again at the Princeton on Saturday, June 3rd with the Me Bats and Li3. We're going on last and I hope to see you there. Good to hear from you and thanks for checking in on The Circus!
Wednesday, May 24, 2023
...awake at 3am: my CPAP mask and The Yakuza Papers
So this is new: I'm having cause to think of Kinji Fukasaku's Yakuza Papers films in light of my CPAP situation. In particular, the first one, Battles without Honour and Humanity. There is a scene where - as I recall, anyhow - Bunta Sugawara's character has to cut off a finger, to present the severed digit to someone he has offended as a token of apology. (For some reason, he and his friends are doing this in a barn or some other rural location where they are hiding out). He does the deed, laying his hand on a piece of wood, setting the knife to one side of it, and bringing the blade down, severing his pinky - a momentarily distracting thing to do to oneself, I'm sure - then sets to looking for his finger, so as to safeguard it for presentation. It's nowhere to be seen. The scene becomes quite comical, as he and his friends search, mystified, for his missing finger. Where the hell did it go?
It eventually turns out that while no one was looking, a chicken ran off with it.
Now, all my fingers are presently connected, but to sleep, I wear a ridiculous amount of headgear, including a blindfold to keep the light out, a chin strap to keep my jaw shut, and a CPAP mask over my face, which blows air up my nose to keep my airways open at night. The mask means I don't snore, can breathe effectively. Alas, the people who design CPAP masks - a relatively simple thing, you would think - have done nothing but make them more complicated as the technology has developed. My current mask has seven points where it can fall apart. The magnet - you see it lined in blue below my ear - can come detached on either side (this can and does happen). The velcro strap that holds the magnet on can also come detached. There are two velcro straps holding the headbands to the mask on the top, as well. And there's the nosepiece, which clips in place to the hose by a mechanism that also makes it very easy to remove altogether. Not sure why this is considered an asset, because all it means is, periodically my nosepiece comes off.
This is exactly what happened tonight. The nosepiece is nowhere to be seen. I was trying to re-assemble my mask, having gotten back to bed after my washroom trip. Erika is still asleep in the bed. Half an hour on my knees on the floor, first groping in the dark by the dim light of my cellphone, then with my actual cellphone flashlight on, has netted no nosepiece. All my extra masks are, I guess, on Vancouver Island - there is no other nosepiece to swap out for, or at least none that I can find without making a major production of it.
There are no chickens to have run off with it, but there IS a curious kitten who might have picked it up and batted it elsewhere while I was in the toilet. I've searched the hallways to see if maybe it ended up out there.
I'm really tired, I just want to go back to sleep, but I also would like to breathe while I sleep. More restful that way - for Erika too, because otherwise I will snore.
5:08 addendum: eventually I wake up my wife, more by accident than design - "What's happening?" she murmurs from the blear of sleep as I root around on the floor again with my flashlight, looking for the nosepiece. She tells me to turn on a light if I have to, and covers her head with her blankets (CPAP is good for that). I look under the bed, under the dresser, in a drawer that was open. I find a Dayglo Abortions' pin I did not know I had - a Two Dogs Fucking pin, probably their best album cover before Hate Speech - but no CPAP nosepiece.
Finally I figure, fuckit, I'll go back to bed anyhow. I'll snore a bit, but I still can sleep, sort of. Just before turning out the lamp, I look down at the floor...
...and there is the nosepiece. It had rolled under the cedar chest - was down where my knees had been, while I was looking near the head of the bed. Only by virtue of giving up and going back to bed do I find it. There is a cheap Zen koan to be fashioned from this experience, if you like.
Despite having been able to put my mask on, turns out that I'm still awake, two hours later - my brain got jammed into the "on" mode, and sleep was not much assisted by the kitten (who climbed in bed with us about half an hour ago and is now doing windsprints between the bathroom and the living room). Mostly I just had to pee again. But at least my CPAP mask is intact, so that when I try to sleep next, I can.
Tuesday, May 23, 2023
...awake at 4am
Dreamed my father had bought a house out in Maple Ridge and had ambitions to remodel it - put an extension on the property. We were walking in the yard and he was explaining his plans. I hadn't been that impressed with the house but I was impressed with his ambitions for it.
This is very far off any sort of actual experience of my childhood. As I pee, I contemplate how I've gotten off any map involving "having plans," having fallen back into a world of buying records, writing about bands, going to shows.
It's not really the best world for me - a world of constant distraction and temporary engagement, more the illusion of community than a real one, chatting with people who don't know me, who I don't know, who I have no real personal investment in, who have no real personal investment in me, who nonetheless want me to do things for them, because free press is free press...
And yet I feel some love for the community, y'know? I feel kinda bad that I missed out on the Dennis Mills thing this weekend - when I finally looked online to get the deets, I saw that it was sold out (Dennis has a cancer in his throat, I gather. I now have five Facebook friends dealing with some sort of cancer or other. As far as I know, I'm still cancer-free...).
There is some need for a re-set but it's hard to figure the what and how. Do I have no ambitions? I should have ambitions. Not sure if "owning property" really needs to be among them, and I'm not sure if the impulse to be engaged in community in some way needs to be a bad thing... but (awakened at 4am with a frog in my throat and a need to pee - it wasn't even the kitten's fault), I'm back to thinking something ought to change, that *I* ought to change. Drifting, dreaming, floating through life...
Kitten leans in from his leaning cat-tree pillar to say hello by computer light... he holds my hand to his face without really biting much, though he licks it a little. I should drink a glass of water and go back to bed... I could still get a couple hours before having to wake up for work...
Friday, May 19, 2023
Donnie Darko and Southland Tales at the Rio, with Richard Kelly in attendance (updated and expanded)
I couldn't resist. I had never seen Southland Tales, and Erika was occupied, so I was present last night for the Rio's screening of it. I must say that I had a lot of fun. A few cineastes were bemusedly chatting in the lobby about how "incoherent" Southland Tales had been - a sort of chuckling, head-scratching, "well-I'm-not-mad-BUT" kind of puzzlement - and I observed that I felt it was PERFECTLY coherent, I was just utterly excluded from that coherency.
At least one of them laughed!
But I've never felt excluded from Donnie Darko. It's a very, very weird film in its own right, but somehow it feels less so; the sense at the end of the film that you've completed a perfect circle is somewhat overpowering, so much so that you might not even notice, if you're not of a mind to reflect on it, that it's almost impossible to EXPLAIN what you've just seen. It's a film Erika isn't very fond of, so since I don't get a lot of time for movie-watching on my own (and when I do, generally prefer to look at films I have not seen before), I've bought a ticket to this. I mean, when else will I have the chance to see Donnie Darko with the filmmaker in attendance?
Richard Kelly seems a very pleasant person. Surprisingly young: he's still in his 40s, but registers as much younger than that. He has a sense of humour, and seems actually able to identify with people who don't understand his films (at one point joking about Southland Tales being "incomprehensible;" he acknowledges that the struggle is real).
I wonder what cut of Donnie Darko they're playing? Has the director's cut won the day, for events like this? I prefer the theatrical, but I've only seen the director's cut one time through, so I'm willing to go with either.
I guess we don't get to hear any other Rebekah Del Rio songs tomorrow. She's amazing. One of the high points of last night was hearing her perform "Mad World" (partially in Spanish - "Mundo Loco"). Much as I'd have loved to come away with an album that that was on, it is not available on any of her recordings (yet); I asked. Which makes having heard it even more special.
If I'd had cash and if one of the albums on her merch table had been her debut album, not a Twin Peaks soundtrack, I'd have bought it (but I might hold out now until something with "Mundo Loco" comes out - she did say that something was in the works).
2. Donnie Darko night
That's weird: tickets weren't cheap, it was a Friday night - and yet that was the busiest film screening I've been to since the start of COVID, I think. The Rio was packed. The average age of the patrons was maybe 25. And some of them hadn't even seen the film before!
Richard Kelly seems like an extraordinarily nice guy. He was a little less forthcoming with the huge audience last night than the smattering of devotees who turned out for Southland Tales, and questions had to be spread out judiciously - because there were plenty of them. They were all interesting, and Rachel Fox did a find job mediating ("questions, not statements!"), but there were tons I didn't get to ask - for instance:
With Southland Tales, Kelly had given a nod to Kiss Me Deadly, but hadn't mentioned Alex Cox or Repo Man, in spite of the flying/ glowing vehicle at the end. Would have been interesting to talk to him about that - about his feelings about Cox's filmography. If Donnie Darko is Kelly's Repo Man, is Southland Tales his Straight to Hell?
Or, say... the moment in Donnie Darko when Donnie is first lost in the mirror, communing with Frank, and Samantha interrupts him and asks, "Who are you talking to?" - there's a feeling of a visual effect there, as Donnie "snaps out of it," but while it is very striking in terms of the effect, it's immensely subtle on the eyes; you feel it, are jolted by it, even, more than you actually see it, so much so that I wonder if it's all down to Jake Gyllenhaal's performance. Is there a visual effect there? If so, what?
When Noah Wyle's character, the science prof, says he's not going to be able to continue the conversation lest he lose his job, is it because he wants to tell Donnie that "there is no God?" ...because an American high school teacher sure wouldn't be able to get away with that...
...and so, does Kelly believe in any conception of God? Because there's something quite mystical and profound about the film... Donnie is "following God's path," as he says. So is Donnie Christ? Some questions, you just know will make your fellow audience members groan...
Speaking of which - was Kelly cognizant of Nietzsche's eternal return of the same when he wrote the film? There is something of the eternal return in it: the idea of affirming life so deeply, living in such a way that you can embrace and accept even your most painful moment as something that will repeat itself eternally, of refusing to say no even to this... Donnie is laughing as he goes to bed at the end of the film; I think Nietzsche would have approved. I also think that asking this question would have seemed very, very pretentious, though maybe less so than the "Donnie as Jesus" question, since people wouldn't know what the fuck I was talking about (do kids today even know who Nietzsche was? I somehow doubt it).
But, like, some people HAVE read Nietzsche. It's not entirely obvious that Kelly is among them, however; it could just be that Nietzsche is on MY back, filtering my read of the ending... who knows...
Those are the questions I didn't get to ask. The one that I *did* get to ask - I expressed shock to discover that Kelly is, still, a pretty young guy. He was born in 1975 - he's 48, the same age as Drew Barrymore. When the events that happen in Donnie Darko take place, he was barely a teenager. Having had no idea before these events how young he was, I had assumed he had - like I did - grown up fucked up in the suburbs, that Donnie was an analogue for him (in asking the question, I said that I was "almost as fucked up" as Donnie was at the time, but - tempting tho' it was - I did not enumerate how; suffice to say that it would be interesting to know if LSD was a factor in Kelly's youth, since 1988 was about when I began my experimentations with that drug...). His answer was interesting, noting that the difference between 1988 and 2001, when the film came out, was no greater than the difference between the present day and 2011, but the level of cultural change between '88 and '01 was vastly more substantial. He talked about 80's nostalgia films (The Wedding Singer, also with Barrymore, was one of the only other ones around) and about how he'd had an older brother who helped give him a feeling of a connection to the decade. I had figured the lure of the 1980s might have had something to do with his soundtrack choices but, though he mentioned music, it didn't seem to be the overriding factor.
It was interesting to hear, but it wasn't the best question or most interesting answer of the night. The best question came from the back of the house, and involved the whole "kiddie porn" angle. Donnie's reconfiguration of time (spoiler alert? If you haven't seen the film, you have no business in this paragraph, but do what thou wilt, I guess) has mostly net benefits; by virtue of Donnie embracing his own death, Gretchen and Frank aren't killed, and Drew Barrymore's character doesn't lose her job (because the school isn't flooded, etc). Donnie is selflessly setting things right, sacrificing himself... except for one detail, that Jim Cunningham - Patrick Swayze's - kiddie porn ring is NOT busted, if Donnie doesn't burn down his house. So - the questioner asked - does the kiddie porn just continue?
And thus was revealed something that you SENSE in the film, but that isn't by any means explicit: that what you see in the "Mad World" montage, after the now-missing month of October that everyone has lived through then been dragged back to the beginning of, by virtue of Donnie's manipulation of time, is evidence of the "residual effects" of said month (most of this is not verbatim but I believe those last two were the words Kelly used). It's not just Donnie who has travelled in time - he's brought the whole world back with him! We see Kitty waking up troubled and Cunningham crying, and the idea is - though the details are left mysterious - she's somehow realized the truth about him because of these residuals. He's crying because - obscurely, unclearly - he knows he has somehow been busted!
...So no, the kiddie porn does not continue, though it would have if Frank and Donnie - because it's two of them, really - hadn't manipulated time as they do. Just like it's only by virtue of assenting to his death that Donnie saves Gretchen and Frank, it's only by virtue of Frank and Donnie going through their own journey, beginning in Frank's own death, that Cunningham is busted, in either version of the world. Cunningham wouldn't have been busted if Donnie hadn't lived through October, even though Donnie ends up dying in the... second October? See what I mean about the film being inexplicable...?
But it really is a happy ending all around!
The other fun detail of Kelly's Q&A is that apparently, when Kelly was doing post-production of the film, he shared space in an all-night lab with a crew who was working on a Madonna video, and he made her a cappuccino. (He also laid out a meticulously crafted cheese-and-crackers plate, but she didn't touch that - "too many carbs?" he speculated, but noted that she did drink the cappuccino.)
(A residual effect of that last paragraph is that I discovered I have no idea how to spell cappuccino. I guess I have never tried to write the word before. I mean, I've fixed it now, but I was like, "two Ps one C? One P two Cs?" Took me three tries to lose the red squiggle.)
Also loved Kelly's remark that in choosing to set the film in the 1980s, he dodged certain contemporary phenomenon: "I didn't want him to have a blog," Kelly quipped. I chuckled. I thought of another fucked up 80s kid and his blog. It's probably all-round better for Donnie that he didn't have something like this.
Oh, and it was the theatrical cut. That was nice. Kelly acknowledged fondness for both versions but thought the theatrical cut was better for a first-time audience. I agree, though now I want to see the director's cut again!
Thanks to the Rio Theatre and Rachel Fox for two very entertaining nights with Richard Kelly - one of the most personable filmmakers I've interacted with, ever. If you get a chance to see Southland Tales and Donnie Darko with the director in attendance - if this event, billed as the "Fluid Karma tour," really IS a tour, and it comes to your city - do go to both films (hint: you'll get a much more intimate audience with the former, which means more chances to interact, ask questions, request signings, etc). Sure glad I did both nights!
Tuesday, May 16, 2023
Alienated Top 10 for 2023 (so far)
So here's how things work, it seems, in terms of getting stuff read on a blog.
I have between 20-100 regular readers here on Alienated. It's not possible to get a more exact estimate, but about that many people follow my blog and/or check out things I post myself on Facebook. Some of the stats I see are perhaps obscured by people who just read the top post on my blog without clicking on the article - there may be more readers than these numbers reflect, but it's a bit of a backwater - I don't hide this fact, or do much to combat it.
Occasionally I write something that accidentally has clickbait value - that ends up turning up on Google searches. I did something a couple of years ago on Quentin Tarantino's foot fetish and the film Four Rooms, which, if you haven't seen it lately, is a really unsettling, somewhat less-than-wholesome film to go back to from a post-#metoo perspective. This piece has gotten, as I write this, 9436 reads, because it turns up in searches; I've done nothing to promote it or share it, it's just that many people are looking up juicy pieces on Tarantino's foot fetish. It's actually kind of embarrassing - it's not like I meant the piece to get that much attention. On the other hand, a piece I did on Sleep Apnea and Ear Infections back in 2008 has gotten 7241 reads, not because that many people Google those words, but because for a long time my piece was one of the few things that turned up; sometimes if you corner the market on an obscure topic, you see results like that - if you have the only thing on the internet on a topic people are Googling, you'll get noticed that way.
Most reliably, however, the things that get read the most on this blog are articles on musicians, because musicians actually have fans who follow them on social media, and they aren't shy about using social media, generally. A few people don't re-share, but most musicians I write about post everything that gets written about them. I do a fair bit of film writing, too, but since it is rarely the case that filmmakers with a social media presence re-share my stuff, it doesn't really get read. Orson Welles is a bigger presence, culturally, than Brock Pytel, but since Brock is alive and sharing, the piece two posts back I did on him has (so far) netted 63 reads, whereas (since the Cinematheque has not yet done anything with it), that post on The Trial immediately prior to this has only gotten 21 reads, so far. That's kind of the way it goes. Occasionally distributors or the marketing departments of the cinemas who are screening the films I am writing about actually DO re-post things I do, and many, many people read them, but, really, my film writing is even less popular, say, than my blogging health updates on my struggles with cancer. Opinions about film - even informed ones - are a-dime-a-dozen commodity, and people who read writing about film (or at least MY writing about film) are few and far between. C'est la vie: if I've done something about a film your theatre is showing, and you're not sharing it, I might as well have not done it at all.
(Unless it involves Quentin Tarantino and foot fetishes.)
Musicians, however, are less shy about getting attention, and often share things I do with them, or have Facebook groups that I can share pieces to. This means that the top ten pieces I have done this year have all been on musicians. And for those who keep track, here they are!
Dead Bob - a John Wright mini-interview: 384 reads.
Blind and Proud: Blind Marc on skateboarding, Isolated Earthlings, Mutated Earthlings, Dayglo Abortions and more: 348 reads.
The Residents: a concert review, Vancouver 2023 - a worthy 50 year celebration: 272 reads.
TIE: Murray Acton on "Smart Food," Eating Animals, and the Kills of Tilikum (AKA Shamu): 242 reads/ The Matt Fiorito Interview: of the Dayglo Abortions, Powerclown, and much much more: Also 242 reads.
Being Between: a Selina Martin Interview (with John Wright/ Nomeansno/ Dead Bob tie-ins): 232 reads
Get It On: A Benefit for Ukrainian Refugees in Poland: 226 reads
The Vanrays: East Van Soul Served Hot - a Spencer McKinnon and Gordon Rempel interview UPDATED: 202 reads
Piss and Bacon: Sleaford Mods and FEAR upstaged by a) Gustaf and b) the Dayglos: 189 reads
The John Otway Trickle-Down: Otway's SECOND EVER APPEARANCE in Vancouver, Feb. 3 2023, 169 reads
TIE: An AK-747s/ Rob Nuclear interview: Useless Brutality and Clinical Depression (...in a Bought City): 166 reads, tied with Betty Bathory must be seen (to be believed?): A plug for Daddy Issues, this Friday at the Railway, also 166 reads
My piece on the Screaming Females also got 150ish reads here, but then got ported over to Stereo Embers, with fresh photos; I have no stats for that site, haven't asked. So it's up there, too.
Anyhow, that's the most popular stuff on my site this year, for those who are curious. Not a film article among them.
Monday, May 15, 2023
Queering (and restoring) The Trial - plus, The Cinematheque reopens today!
People have remarked upon the casting of gay men in the cinema of Alfred Hitchcock before - most notably in Rope, where two gay actors, Farley Granger and John Dall, are cast as queer-coded characters, done just subtly enough to slip past the censors of the day; their identification does not seem all that covert now. North by Northwest, Strangers on a Train, Psycho, Rebecca, and The Lady Vanishes all have been mentioned in this regard, as well - but I've long wondered if there's something even more subtle going on beneath the surface of a couple of these films. Hitchcock seems interested not just in having gay actors in his film, or characters coded as gay, but in having the former overcome the latter. Cary Grant - either gay or bisexual, depending on ones sources - most famously has to battle and overcome an overtly gay "bad guy," Martin Landau, in North by Northwest, by which process Grant eventually achieves sexual potency; Strangers on a Train similarly has Farley Granger - a gay actor - having to defeat Robert Walker (the actor is straight, but Bruno, the character, is coded as gay) in order to succeed in his relationship with Anne. People wanting to note how progressive Hitchcock is in this regard seem to de-emphasize that in order for normalcy to be restored in these films, homosexuality must be defeated; but the narrative in both these films itself seems to offer a symbolic struggle with homosexuality, as an evil which gets in the way of happy straight coupling. And of course, in this regard, some representations of gender noncomformity in Hitchcock's films are pretty virulent
(A brief aside - if you haven't seen Contrapoints on JK Rowling, I suggest coming back to it later; the video is long, but the discussion of the harm done transpeople in Psycho, Dressed to Kill, and Silence of the Lambs is worth coming back to)..
Anyhow, as I say, observing such things in Hitchcock is not all that new. But until reading up on the restoration of Orson Welles' The Trial, apropos of tonight's screening of the film at the re-opening of the Cinematheque, it had never occurred to me that Welles might also have deliberately structured his film to capitalize on his lead - Anthony Perkins - being gay (or bisexual). That's the read given it by filmmaker (and friend to Welles) Henry Jaglom:
Casting Perkins brought another, unspoken element to "The Trial." Welles knew that the actor was a closeted homosexual, Jaglom says, and used that quality in Perkins to suggest another texture in Joseph K, a fear of exposure.
"The whole homosexuality thing—using Perkins that way—was incredible for that time," Jaglom says. "It was intentional on Orson’s part: He had these three gorgeous women (Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider, Elsa Martinelli) trying to seduce this guy who was completely repressed and incapable of responding."
"Psycho" had come out only two years earlier, and Perkins’ role as cross-dressing killer Norman Bates had made an indelible impression on moviegoers. It was Welles’ intention, Jaglom says, to echo and reflect that persona in "The Trial."
"Orson thought it was important to use whatever a famous actor brings with him to a role. The closetedness of Perkins’ homosexuality, the mama’s-boy thing from ‘Psycho’—he thought that brought a whole wonderful subtext.
"I remember him saying that they never talked about it, but he felt that Perkins definitely knew what he was doing."
The Trial was not well-received in its day (Andrew Sarris described it, apparently, as "the most hateful, the most repellant, and the most perverted film Welles ever made," which definitely increases my interest in it!). I recall - but cannot say where - seeing past criticism that singles out Perkins as being miscast as Josef K. But seeing it through the lens of Jaglom's observations here seems like Perkins' casting becomes kind of essential and enriches the narrative considerably. It even (kind of) enriches the context of the screening, as the film - along with the Vancouver premiere of the Korean film Walk Up, which I know nothing about - marks the reopening of the Cinematheque after being shut for renovations to the bathrooms, to make them gender-neutral (also a digression but if you haven't heard Ivan Coyote's TED Talk on why we need gender neutral washrooms, it's worth your time).
Of course, there's lots more to say about Welles' The Trial; I hope to post more about it before subsequent screenings, one of which, on May 26th, screens in a double bill with my favourite documentary at the 2022 VIFF, De Humani Corporis Fabrica (which featured in several blogposts by me during the VIFF, but the most informative is here). The new 4K restoration was done from the original negative; I'd somehow missed the news that the film's negative had been rediscovered, and have only ever seen it in imperfect public-domain presentations sourced from damaged prints. The trailer looks gorgeous (if a bit weirdly contemporary-feeling - vintage trailer this is most definitely not). It's a film I've wanted to revisit for decades; I had not known that Welles had described it as the best he'd ever made, and had not realized that he'd retained full authorial control over the film - a rarity in his body of work.
I will be holding off until the 26th to see the film, myself - and hope to have more writing up before that time - but there aren't that many screenings (it also plays May 23rd - is that a new thing, that the Cinematheque is open every second Tuesday?).
This is kind of like seeing a brand new Orson Welles film - more exciting to me than the restoration of Touch of Evil, personally. Whichever night you go on, if you're a cinema lover, I would not miss it..
Friday, May 12, 2023
Summer of the SLIP~ons starts tonight! ...and May 19th... and more dates TBA...
So I've already written about the AK-747s and Daddy Issues a bit, but just a reminder that the SLIP~ons are on the bill tonight at the Railway, too! Not clear who the headliner is, of the three, but the SLIPs - raucous, unruly, and not quite as inebriated as the Replacements were that night at the Town Pump - but close! - are well on the way to releasing an EP (mark your calendars for May 19th, for the first single and video; more action throughout the summer; the title of both the initial single and the EP as a whole is Heavy Machinery). Brock Pytel (whom I interviewed here) says the show is "a casual thing, because I love Betty and we haven't ever played with any of her bands." Check out the SLIP~ons previous single, "Bad TV," here.
Wednesday, May 10, 2023
Big Takeover #92 about to ship: Robyn Hitchcock and Dead Bob features
Hi, blog readers! Just letting y'all know that I have two stories in the upcoming Big Takeover: an (kind of dark, very candid, and I thought quite interesting) interview with Robyn Hitchcock and a small piece on Dead Bob, which includes material on "White Stone Eyes," the unfinished Nomeansno song (with lyrics by Rob) that appears on Life Like. You can pre-order it now!
Apparently Big Takeover also has Twitter and Instagram posts about that but I kinda just stopped at Facebook, myself. Not mentioned on the cover: Jack Rabid interviews a new Modernettes reissue! (But two happened in rapid fire there, so I'm not sure which it is).
Tuesday, May 09, 2023
Betty Bathory must be seen (to be believed?): A plug for Daddy Issues, this Friday at the Railway
I have no fucking idea. Not everyone one speaks to loves Betty. Some find her a bit on the, um, "amoral" side, or was that "immoral?": I have certainly seen people take a moral objection to elements in her shows. And how do we exactly understand the sexuality of her performance? I wrote some dazed notes to Bob Hanham, who I don't think was present for the RescUkraine thing she did in March (hence the Gord McCaw photo; Gord's great but Bob is my usual go-to for Betty). I was trying feverishly to get my mind around what I was seeing (I was slightly twisted, you understand). This is mildly edited for clarity (and further re-edited to avoid misrepresenting mentioned parties):
It's very complicated, what she does! On the one hand, last night was the most stripperlike performance I have seen of hers, lotta gyration and sexualized motion and a mostly bare bum from the start - it's an objectively cute bum, but attached to someone who subverts straight sexuality so thoroughly that I found myself staring at it lost at times, wondering what the hell to make of it. I mean, she had on her normal horrifying face makeup and a glittery cut-off t-shirt that at first (reading only the middle few letters) I took to say, "Princess" but which, on closer inspection, read INCEST, befitting her one liners about daddy's cock ( Like, "Jeezus, Betty"). I found my (somewhat stoned) head going to the weirdest places: Can a woman do drag? Dan Harbord (whom I chatted with a bit) and Gerry Hannah had been going at it about drag on Facebook the other day, which brought to mind feminist arguments about whether drag was "mocking," satirizing, or even attacking women. Dan was at the gig and we talked about the topic - drag was on my mind. I thought, having myself experienced doing drag on Halloween, I was exploring, playing, having fun, "trying it on," but I certainly didn't intend any commentary on women. And how could a woman feel attacked, presented with a man who was dressed like THEM, subverting masculinity? Masculinity is sometimes threatening to women, but I think most women get a kick out of seeing a man in a dress...
...But, like, how would a woman who had been sexually abused by her father - a startling number of women seem to have that as a life experience - feel about Betty making stripper moves in an "incest" t-shirt, and framing KISS' "Love Gun" as being about your father's cock? What exactly was Betty sending up/ attacking/ commenting on, there? Seeing her is like being at a protest march and being hit over the head with a large, angrily-brandished sign that you CAN'T READ: "What just hit me?" I *think* that a man with an investment in the power structures of the patriarchy - a priest, a cop (I just typo'd that as "cock"), or a daughter-fucker would find Betty wayyyy more threatening than a woman would. Betty the Avenger? Even tho' she's playing with femininity, she's not ATTACKING it, any more than drag performers are attacking femininity. Which led, as I tried to sort this all out, to my wondering: WHAT IF BETTY HERSELF HAD A COCK?
I mean, would I like her more for it? Is it BETTER to have a woman in this role? Would her having a dick change things, ruin them, MAKE it an attack on women? Can only a woman do what Betty does?
Hell, could anyone other than Betty do what Betty does?
...So there I was, trying to imagine what was inside Betty's panties, trying to imagine a cock in them, while she made stripper moves and symbolically "blew" Orchard Pinkish and it was all INTELLECTUALLY exciting and not remotely SEXUALLY exciting, which is on the one hand really weird, and on the other hand, makes total sense. What's her actual sexuality about? I have no idea, completely mysterious to me. In a way, I don't wanna know.
But anyhow... we got a TON of originals out of Betty last night. Mr. Katynski (who I guess is one of Betty's "dicks," along with Orchard - I dunno if all her bandmates are named Richard?) informs me that they are slowly working on an album... they did do "Love Gun" and "Be My Baby" and Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker," but I don't recall if there were other covers. She did that "Hail Satan" song, which is such an amazingly OBVIOUS chorus for a song that it's hard to believe I haven't heard other people do that. She ended with a cover of "Touch Me I'm Sick" where she had some sort of rubberized goo attached to her crotch and was pulling it out, examining it in horror: like, Jeezus, Betty....
Monday, May 08, 2023
Joe Keithley bares a folkie heart on Stand
I always wished Lemmy Kilmister would record a straight-up acoustic blues album. Headcat - his rockabilly side-project - was fun enough, but there are much bluesier moments throughout Motorhead's discography, most notably "Whorehouse Blues" - probably the only pure acoustic blues number in Motorhead's repertoire, but there's also the electric "Lost Woman Blues," which is equally potent. There are other moments like that here and there, but why not do a whole album to showcase Lemmy's diversity and lift people outside the narrow confines of metal and punk?
He never did it, and now it's too late...
Being of such a mind, I really enjoy Joe Keithley's side projects, since they do exactly what I wished Lemmy would have done, albeit in a folk idiom, not (for the most part) in a blues one. Stand, his third departure from DOA, takes Joe's humanistic, fair-play politics, his uniquely gravelly voice and his expressive guitar strumming deep into the realms of roots music, and uses them to welcome effect; while there is little that is particularly original on the album, there is still great pleasure to be had in hearing familiar songs presented in a new way, and there are some inspired covers; and one new song that fits perfectly with Joe's politics and the current climate in Vancouver.
It's not the first time he's recorded a folky solo album, of course. The somewhat neglected classic "original" Joe Keithley folk album is 1999's Beat Trash, which - again, along with a few originals - sees Joe covering Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly, as well as doing acoustic reworkings of DOA songs (like "You Won't Stand Alone," originally on 1998's Festival of Atheists, which Joe, in a surprising bleedover from his musical career to his political one, would later cover with Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley on bass!).
Stand is very much of a piece with Beat Trash, so much so that the Leadbelly song in question ("There's a Man Going 'Round Taking Names") gets reused - same song, different recording. There are also Johnny Cash and Stompin' Tom covers - the Cash being a song DOA has also recorded, including in a rather famously fucked-up, slowed down version on Loggerheads, which version I think Joe kind of dismisses now, but which I rather love. Meanwhile, the Stompin' Tom song (originally entitled "The Bridge Came Tumbling Down," here given as "19 Scarlet Roses") has been covered by Les Claypool and others; the song is about the disaster that killed fourteen workers on the Second Narrows Bridge and got it re-named the Ironworkers Memorial bridge - a piece of local history that I'm glad to have cause to educate myself on. Joe has done other Stompin' Tom covers and riffs over the years; they work very well indeed. I'm guessing that's Floor Tom Jones on drums, from the rockabilly propulsiveness of the beat, but there is precious little online about who is playing what on the album (or who wrote what), so you may just have to buy the album to get these deets straight.
Of course, there are also a couple of reworked DOA songs on Stand, including what is probably the most musically enjoyable version ever of "The Warrior Lives Again," which originally appeared as "The Warrior Ain't No More" on Let's Wreck the Party, but has resurfaced under the less grim new title once or twice since (again, can't tell you who the female co-vocalist is, but she's well-used, and I believe she pops up again on "Fentanyl Blues," more on which below). There's even an acoustic take on (most) everyone's favourite classic DOA tune, "2+2" co-written by Keithley and original DOA drummer Chuck Biscuits. It holds up just fine with acoustic guitar and mandolin; you'd never know it began its life as a punk song. I'm not sure where "Ginger Goodwin," about a coal mining labour activist, originally hails from - I believe it also first appeared on a DOA album at one point; it's also on Beat Trash.
I think, in fact, there is only one 100% original song on Stand, "Fentanyl Blues," the topic of which is obvious and relevant; the song puts Joe's voice to great use, and does indeed have a blues element to it (weird: I swear I saw a rock video for that online, but now I can't find it...). The only other song that is kind of new - but only kind of is an expanded version of "This Machine Kills Fascists," which did appear on DOA's Northern Avenger, but only in the form of a minute long sketch. The song is named off something written on Woody Guthrie's guitar, and is a fine idea for a tune, but on Northern Avenger the song ends before it can really get its hooks in you - it's more of a teaser, there. It makes a solid (4 minute+) album closer, here.
But the song on Stand that excites me most is "Men for All Ages," probably one of the silliest but most inspired and likeable things Joe has done since DOA covered "That's Life" - but made even better by virtue of it being an original; it's Joe's fond homage to Star Trek, which I know best as "Captain Kirk, Spock, Scotty and Bones" off Talk-Action=0, but which originally came out under the current title on another, more electric Keithley side-project, his Band of Rebels album (which, I'll fess up, I don't know so well; "People Power" is also on it). When I spoke to Joe about it in 2018, telling him the Star Trek song was one of my favourites on his recent albums, he responded that DOA had never done it live, quipping that "I gotta get that to Bill Shatner, because he’s a Canadian, too, and he’d probably appreciate it. It’s a really good song... And it’s very unknown." Maybe I'll finally have a chance to hear this song live, when Joe returns to touring, now that it's surfaced on record again? I'm glad to see Joe thinking there's still life in it, one way or another.
So there's lots to enjoy on Stand. People might balk at the idea of having an album consisting almost entirely of covers and re-workings of songs that appear on other albums, but this is exactly what you used to see old-school folk musicians do, covering songs, reworking them, adding verses, changing titles, and re-contextualizing bits of them to make new wholes. That's what folk music used to be. The pressure to have constantly original material protected by firm copyright has more to do with how music functions under capitalism than it does with these traditions, which Pete Seeger, Leadbelly, and Woody Guthrie were all firmly entrenched in. Joe is very much working in that tradition, too. Plus while the songs are sometimes familiar, the presentation of them is not; if you enjoyed Beat Trash and have ever had cause to wish Joe would do another album like it, you're going to really dig what he's doing here; it's a worthy follow-up. It may even draw in a new audience for Keithley; some people, like my wife, for instance, are put off by the aggro noisiness of punk, but I suspect I'll be able to get away with spinning Stand while she's home, which is win-win, for me. Hope to get to see it played live sometime soon, too...
...speaking of which, Joe tells me he is recovering just fine from his hernia operation and says he should be back to playing shows by late June. Lots of time to check out Stand before then.
Play the Star Trek song, Joe! Please?