Friday, December 31, 2010

The Unabomber, MK Ultra, and so forth

A friend, who shall go nameless, has sent me an excellent link to a blog being kept by the Unabomber's brother, David Kaczynski, speculating that Ted's experiences with MKUltra may have greatly informed, in some way or other, what became of his brother. Make sure you read part two, as well, and the comments. (Those interested are further advised to seek out Lutz Dammbeck's film The Net). Thanks, friend! Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A lull

No writing at the moment. Adapting to a new computer, getting a bunch of dental work done before I'm without an extended medical plan, doing random housekeeping activities, and having some holiday cheer. I have nothing to say. Happy New Year and all.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Get Your War On Returns

One of the most optimistic gestures directed at Barack Obama is that David Rees suspended Get Your War On once he took office. Operation Enduring Freedom was still ongoing, US troops were still committed to Afghanistan and Iraq, Guantanamo Bay was still open, but... well, maybe Rees wanted to give Obama a fair chance.

Get Your War On has resurfaced.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Shows, shows...

January 15th at the Rickshaw - Download, Dead Voices on Air, and Gnome & Spybey! A Spybey kinda night! Also pLATEAU, Wet Mango, and DJ Dizy Pixl!

For those craving more metallic flavours, on February 7th, Motorhead return to the Vogue, and on February 13th, Cradle of Filth return to the Commodore! Ooh, the decadence...

Swans February 25th at the Rickshaw!

Somewhere sooner than that, I think, the Creaking Planks are having an anniversary gig, maybe with the participation of the Minimalist Jug Band and Petunia... more on that later! (I think it's separate from their January 1st gig at the Railway, but I might be wrong...).

Chris D. anthology published!

...apparently it's been out for quite awhile, but I missed it: Chris D., of LA punk band the Flesheaters and Divine Horsemen, has an anthology of lyrics, short stories, dream journal entries and so forth out now (it may or may not be related to a project that was supposed to appear on 2-13-61 press, and maybe briefly did, but if that book ever got published, I've never seen it, and it's long OOP now). Chris D. is my favourite punk vocalist and has a great knack for stealing titles from gritty, sleazy, violent, or otherwise memorable movies and building highly memorable songs around them (cf. "Tomorrow Never Comes," "A Minute To Pray, a Second to Die," "Eyes Without a Face," God knows how many more). The one time I almost got to see the Flesheaters - touring their underrated Dragstrip Riot album, and scheduled to appear at the Granville location of the Cruel Elephant back in the early 1990's, I guess - the show was cancelled so that Chris, who is somewhat of an expert on Japanese exploitation cinema and has written a book on that topic - could travel to Japan and research Yakuza movies. I was bummed, but I still remain a fan... I wonder if this new book will include Chris' old movie review columns from Forced Exposure...? Oh, by the way, his movie about heroin addicts as vampires is also worth a look...

Friday, December 17, 2010

RIP Don van Vliet

Captain Beefheart has died, of complications from MS, at age 69.

I have nothing in particular to say about him, but for whatever its worth, my favourite Captain Beefheart songs are the early pop-blues stuff on Safe as Milk, andthe slow progression into the longer, jammier structures found on Mirror Man. I wore out Trout Mask Replica a long time ago and have set it aside for some future date; mostly these days when I spin Beefheart, it's Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), or what original Bat Chain Puller demos can be found (there are some on an excellent comp called Dust Sucker that I highly recommend); or sometimes Doc at the Radar Station or Ice Cream for Crow. For some reason, the song of his that most gets stuck in my head is "I'm Gonna Booglerize You, Baby" off The Spotlight Kid. A unique human being, a major force in the world of music; my respects.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

No Fun Alone at Christmas 25th anniversary tomorrow

All photos by Femke van Delft, taken at No Fun Alone At Christmas 2008. Not to be RWP, etc. Guest in middle photo: Michael Unger, of comedy duo the Skinny

Turns out that there's a Tom Harrison interview with David M. in the Province today. In it, you will, at the very least, learn what the M. stands for (but not how to pronounce it). Tomorrow night at the Railway, it transpires, marks the 25th anniversary of No Fun Alone at Christmas in Vancouver (and its less isolated "No Fun at Christmas" variant, when Paul Leahy, the other official half of No Fun, plays - tho' David does have guests for this, and all, No Fun Alone at Christmas shows). While I actually prefer my No Fun songs in non-seasonal garb, and am in particular hoping to catch No Fun on Drugs* someday, since I've never seen that particular show, I think I need some beer, soon... so tomorrow night sounds like a good night to head down to the Railway (which, incidentally, is one of the top three Vancouver watering holes singled out for praise by homebrewer extraordinaire John Wright, of Nomeansno and the Hanson Brothers, when I asked him to recommend local beer-drinkin' establishments to German tourists, for a German Nomeansno article. The other two were the Steamworks and Yaletown Brew Pubs!). I really, really hope David will do some sort of rendition of "Work, Drink, Fuck, Die" - it's a song my heart is cravin' at the moment!

*Or, I suppose, the solo variant, No Fun Alone on Drugs, which has even more bathos to it, no?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Faint praise for Inception: high praise for Dreamscape

I don't really care about Christopher Nolan's films, but I've somehow managed to see all of them so far. While Following and Memento were both interesting enough, Insomnia was just another mediocre big-budget thriller, and I really did NOT like his two Batman films, which - especially The Dark Knight - seem to me to vie with 24 for being the most politically irresponsible works of popular culture of the Bush II regime (my original rant on that film is here; I have not revisited the film, to see if I feel the same way about it, though I did try, out of morbid curiosity, to take in Nolan's first Batman, as well; in addition to finding it politically distasteful, I found it rather dull, and didn't finish it). Still, I haven't walked away from his movies altogether. In my neverending quest for "good movies to watch with my mother," I recently tried The Prestige on her, and didn't mind it - though I don't think I enjoyed anything about it quite so much as the idea of casting David Bowie as Tesla (not his performance, mind you, which is by-the-book and unremarkable, but the idea of it). Cinema as magic, the desire to make people believe - Nolan seemed to be trying to make a self-reflexive fable of his film, which I didn't entirely buy, but there was certainly a degree of craft at work that I could appreciate.

Tonight, I finally got around to Inception.

A few thoughts: given the success of the movie, there clearly is demand for cinema-as-mindfuck experiences, so I can't quarrel with the film's complexity on the level of marketing; if the only question that matters is, will it sell?, clearly the answer is yes. Still, I was prone to wonder on more than one occasion if the complexity of the narrative - with its various sublevels of dreams, populated by "projections" of the subconscious of the dreamer - served more to obfuscate than enlighten; does Nolan want us to go away thinking about and discussing his film, or is he simply aware that the more impenetrable it is, the more times you'll have to watch it to figure out what's going on? There used to be an old t-shirt slogan that read, "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit;" I am not convinced that it does not apply in the case of Inception.

Secondly, so much is attempted by the film, narratively - deftly shifting between different "dream levels," where a host of characters are fighting multiple battles, or undergoing multiple crises, simultaneously - that the sheer density results in a feeling of rather incongruous tedium. One senses you're supposed to be sitting on the edge of your seat, but I was slouched back on the sofa, feeling numb. It was almost like watching the chase scenes in Spielberg's Minority Report, which are boring precisely because Spielberg never manages to make either the characters or the narrative significant to us; it's just another movie with footage of Tom Cruise being chased, yet more sound and fury signifying nothing. The only difference is, with Nolan's film, you have to work a whole lot harder to hold all the narrative threads together, while caring not a smidgen more... Add to this a related complaint, too, about the ridiculous amount of gunfire in the film - I personally have never even SEEN a gun in a dream, that I recall - and a brief whine about the excesses of contemporary special-effects cinema (it appears that anything is now possible in cinema, but that doesn't mean it's interesting) and you begin to get a sense of my boredom.

Thirdly, it was interesting that almost everything I did kind of like about Inception reminded me of William Gibson's Neuromancer. It would be probably be interesting to sketch out the parallels. More work than I intend to do, but I wonder if anyone else has gone there? (edit: yep). It comes closer to plagiarising Gibson than any other film I'm aware of.

All that said, I actually enjoyed Inception more than anything Nolan has done since Memento. There does seem to be some deeper meaning gotten at in the final sequences; while I still find the film noisy, cluttered, and excessive, I am almost prepared to believe that it is sincerely intended to be "about" something - that it has actual, useful CONTENT, in the suggestion at the end, say, that the film is about the fragility of human experience, with the rather nice image of "building a house on a cliff." Those who want to find things to think about in Inception - who are less skeptical than I that it's worth the effort - might find it a fertile starting point for something, and I must not begrudge them.

...Plus it's always nice to see Pete Postlethwaite in a film, even if he's badly underused...

However, for anyone who cares, I'd like to recommend a much, much better movie in which people enter other people's dreams - a rather delightful, archetypally-rich gem from the 1980's called Dreamscape, which I only discovered this year, picking it up on DVD simply because Max von Sydow was in it. (I'll watch anything Max appears in - hence Minority Report, by the way). It begins with an astonishing nuclear holocaust nightmare sequence that will resonate for anyone who grew up during the Cold War; it's very effective and politically rather bold, for a movie that is aimed at a relatively young audience:

The story involves a US President (Eddie Albert) who is plagued with nightmares of nuclear war. Dennis Quaid is an arrogant, cocky, morally naive but fundamentally virtuous young psychic, wasting his talents on picking winners at the track, who is brought in to help enter the President's dreams. Max von Sydow is the mostly benevolent scientist/ father figure who guides him. Christopher Plummer is the Deep Government spook who is horrified what peace will do to his business; David Patrick Kelly ("Warriors... come out to playyy-ayyy") is a rival psychic that Plummer is grooming for his own purposes. Kate Capshaw, the only wasted performance in the film, is a non-credible love interest. While the film does have an innocent cheesiness to it - a friend aptly described it as the sort of dreck he would have loved when he was 11 - it also has interesting ideas, which it is humble and engaging in presenting, as opposed to the noisy arrogance of Inception; if you can get over the naivete of having an anti-war American president (during the Reagan years, no less!), its politically quite acceptable, and I've no doubt that a Jungian with an interest in dreams (and hero's journey stories) could find much to say about the relationships between the various father figures and sons, in the film - Plummer and Kelly versus von Sydow and Quaid (tho' I won't attempt to further fake that perspective myself). And most significantly for a fan such as myself, Max von Sydow gives one of his most charming performances, from a period where he must have felt great delight at where his career was. Some of his monologues resonate directly against those about dreams in Tavernier's La Mort en Direct (aka Death Watch, the mutilated, shortened English language version), another under-seen gem of the 1980's (also featuring Harvey Keitel, Romy Schneider, and Harry Dean Stanton!). These are idea-rich science fiction films that I respect and love; Inception, while not without a few interesting aspects, is mostly just a noisy piece of commerce.

Mom didn't like it, either.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Enter the Void: make no further plans until you SEE THIS FILM

Have you ever had (gasp) a drug experience? Did you combine it, most eagerly, with cinema? Are you the kind of person, say, who might watch Tarkovsky's Stalker while under the influence of a psychotropic? ...Are you even in the slightest bit interested in The Tibetan Book of the Dead? (Did you ever own the Tim Leary/Richard Alpert version? You don't have to have read it...). Do you relish perceptually adventurous, scopophilically gripping, fiercely ambitious film experiences - the kind that leave you staring in silence at the screen, flabbergasted, your eyes wide open, your attention wholly captured by the images there, which dare to take you to realms previously thought unfilmable, with the filmmakers apparently grinning at their own audacity all the while? Does the use of cinema to capture unusual subjective states (like, say, the perceptions of the newly dead) resonate for you? Did you feel, aside from the horror and disgust and rebellion, a smidgen of awe and respect at the cinematic feats of Irreversible?

If any of that resonates for you, take it from me: you really must go see Gaspar Noe's new film, now at the Vancity Theatre, Enter the Void. You must see it in the cinema - to experience it on the big screen - and you must see it as soon as possible - tonight, if you can - because there is a good chance you may wish to go see it again before it ends its short run. If you are the sort of person in whom this blog has an interest, you will want to see this film. Trust me, and read nothing else about it - because the less you know, the more intense your attentiveness will be. (It is okay to know that it is set in a Tokyo rendered in part in psychedelic glo-stick neon, & that it involves a young drug dealer who gets shot, but I wouldn't trust any other critic not to inadvertently give away some of the delights and surprises of this film; knowing more than you do thus far can only lessen its impact). You needn't fear, by the way, that it will be as brutal as his Noe's previous two films, by the way - it isn't. Go see this movie.

Postscript: Gaspar Noe MAY be an arrogant showoff, or worse, a conservative of some sort. This film has some of the moralizing feel that runs through Irreversible (my copy of which I actually gave away, having come to the conclusion that it is a fundamentally, inexcusably homophobic text). It will not be uncontroversial, and I do not promise you you will ultimately be on side with this film - you may wish to rebel, to guffaw, to call it down. This is your right, your privilege; I cannot say how I feel about the film, or Noe, myself, save that in this case, I am staggered by the immensity of his ambition and the skill with which he brings it off. One thing I think I can say with certainty, however, is that if you're a cinephile, regardless of how you end up feeling about Enter the Void, you will probably want to see it again at least once.
Unless you're Katherine Monk, tho' I'm not sure she counts as a cinephile (...don't read that unless/ until you've seen the film, eh?).

Post-script the second - this one is an apology: Trigger, double-billed with Enter the Void, is a sweet, sincere gesture of a film; it is very well-written, with a fine ear for human dialogue; (the late) Tracy Wright and Molly Parker give great performances; it is a film that will be of great meaning to those who knew and worked with Wright; while - for those of us who are not in the inner circle -the film will likely prove interesting in that it is set in the same Canadian rock landscape that brought us Hard Core Logo, and in fact features co-producer Callum Keith Rennie as a character named, um, "Billy" (and Julian "Bucky Haight" Richings, too, though he is not explicitly called Bucky anywhere in the film). Some of the themes from Hard Core Logo are carried over, as well (and you all know that Hard Core Logo 2 is finished and playing at the Whistler Film Festival, right?). There are all sorts of good reasons to go see this film - but my experience of it was completely dwarfed by the Noe film, so I haven't really even tried to do it justice. I liked the film!
(I've edited this last bit to get rid of a misunderstanding - I'd thought there were some nights on which Trigger was the second film featured, and recommended catching it BEFORE, not AFTER, Enter the Void - but I seem to have been confused, now that I've re-checked the Vancity theatre homepage...)

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Gigs this weekend: Bison BC, Little Guitar Army, Theocide and Without Mercy... and more!

Dan And of Bison BC, photo by Femke van Delft, not to be reused without permission

For a mid-December weekend, there's a lot happening in Vancouver over the next couple o' days.

As noted below, Bison BC play the Biltmore Friday, with Weapon and Haggatha (I must say, I like their self-description on "First the Earth cooled, then the dinosaurs came...then HAGGATHA arrived and shit all over your mind.") What really shits all over my mind, actually, is that the Bison show tomorrow is not sold out, but the Roger Waters gig at Rogers Arena is. I saw Waters in Tokyo about ten years ago, to please a Pink Floyd-loving friend, and must say that, while he has written some decent songs in his day, the performance was among the most uninvolving I've sat through - with Waters walking rather blandly back and forth across the gigantic stage with his bass, practically invisible behind his celebrity aura, occasionally gesturing at to the audience to cheer, as video of his glory years played on a gigantic screen overhead. Lou Reed, when I saw him in Japan, ignored his "hits" in favour of jamming out with Mike Rathke on current stuff, only tossing in a mercifully hurried, "let's-get-this-over-with" encore of "Sweet Jane" and such at the end so no one could bitch; but Waters, on the other hand, cranked out, for over two hours, exactly what the audience expected and demanded, without a trace of in-the-moment inspiration, passion, or spontaneity: the aural equivalent of a wax museum, the sanctified status of which completely erased what was "actually" happening (an overblown but meticulous performance of some songs that for the most part have been played far too often) and replaced it with the Grand Message of the night, that Baby Boomers Rock. (Yawn). It WAS nice that he did "The Bravery of Being Out of Range" - which is the last song he recorded that I have actually listened to by choice a couple of times - but even that will make way for The Wall tomorrow - an appropriately monolithic title, given what it's become. I loved The Wall as much as anyone when I was 13, and have never seen it actually performed - but tomorrow, if I decide to stay in the city and see a show, I'll be at Bison. Tear down The Wall indeed!

Saturday is a little harder to figure, since there are a couple of conflicting events. The Little Guitar Army are having their Christmas show, for one. Doug Smith sent me a couple of posters - one for the show by Rev Rot n Hell, and their "2011 Miss Feb shot for the Isotopes hockey calendar, with partial proceeds to a Britannia Community Centre hockey program for underprivileged kids!" (Photo by Rebecca Blissett). By the way, I'm not sure who the Stoolies are, but I gather there are ex-Slow/ ex-Tankhog members in the lineup - am I wrong about that?
Doug further tells me "we have 3 songs available on itunes and all the digital sites ('30 Watts to Freedom,' 'Can't Fix Stupid,' and 'Jack Pike')" whilst he works out a deal to release their first, much anticipated record. Spring may see them doing another video and releasing a few more songs for download; if you haven't seen the "30 Watts to Freedom" video, it's a must. Now THAT's living culture.

Shocking to say it, but while I am considering actually seeing a few shows in the city this weekend, I'm not sure the LGA will be one of them. Neither, I suspect, will be Chris Walter's booklaunch for Sins of the Poor at Funky Winker Beans, featuring Alcoholic White Trash and Aging Youth Gang (comprised of former members of Curious George and the Spores and... and, hm, also including Nick from Little Guitar Army. I guess he's going to have a busy night)! Good bands, and I've long been a supporter of Chris, but if I am lucky enough to be seeing live music in Vancouver on Saturday, I think it'll be the metal show at the Rickshaw,
featuring Fallen Decade, My New Enemy, Until Dawn, Theocide - who are pictured to the right, giving a very energetic and entertaining performance at one of the Maple Ridge church venues that rents out to live shows - and Without Mercy, whose CD I've been enjoying, but have never seen live. Like Arch Enemy, they're one of those metal bands whose singer - buffalo-throated and fierce - you would NEVER guess from the music is in fact female. I will be studying Ms. Alxs' larynx from the pit, trying to spy abnormalities that might make it possible for a woman to sound so goddamn tough. It must be at least LARGER than your average female's... I do not know how she does what she does without her throat exploding in a spray of blood.

My apologies to China Syndrome's Tim Chan, who seemed a damn nice guy when I met him at the Alex Chilton tribute, and who did some perfectly credible Chilton covers, both with that unit and 64 Funnycars; while there is some question of where I will be Saturday, I will not be at the Railway Club, where China Syndrome will share the bill with Weathered Pines and others. There was a period in my youth when it would have been otherwise, but what I crave right now is metal, not smart independent pop. Those of you who feel otherwise know what to do.

Friends of mine who crave avant-garde electronica, meantime, will be at the SquareWaves festival, as written about in the Straight by Alex Varty. The show portion of the two-day event is at the new Blim location, 115 East Pender Street, which is so big and nice that I had to step inside and gawk briefly the other week; it is the best Blim yet by far (tho' the space in that office building by Cinemark Tinseltown still has a certain charmed spot in my memory). Magneticring performs Friday night, with Josh turning up at the modular synth symposium on Saturday. I begrudge no one thinking this is a cooler event than a buncha metal and rock shows.

Wherever you go, have a good weekend, folks. Ain't it nice to have so much cool stuff to choose from?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Time crawls...

It's 5:10 AM. I have a cold, and can't sleep - I have a sort of dull pain behind my face, I'm too plugged-up to use my CPAP machine, and I'm online trying to kill time, which is dragging painfully. I slept for a few hours between 5pm and 8, and then for a few more between midnight and 3AM, but I've been awake since - sometimes lying in bed, sometimes giving up and coming to the computer, to break the monotony of just lying there, listening to the rain. I'm telling myself that, sick or no, I need to go to work today, which means that I could really use a couple more hours' rest, but it's not forthcoming, and each minute goes by so slowly...

Having returned to work, for the time being, means that I will be blogging less during the next few weeks. Various writing projects are in the works, but none for this site. I might try to stick up a Little Guitar Army poster for their gig this weekend... that's all I can think to do...

Oh, and Fake Jazzers will want to note that Ahna's album is in stores, but I haven't heard it, myself... and I don't really know if any Fake Jazzers still follow this blog...

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The answer to the Howard-meets-Tim condundrum

Awhile back, I posted about a persistent mystery: I had long been convinced that somewhere in a Howard the Duck comic, Howard encounters Tim Leary and is given acid. He is institutionalized and looking for "the key," which Leary interprets somewhat playfully, prefiguring one of the episodes in the comic where Howard hallucinates (say during his "quack up" period). I remembered all this vividly because I'd had to ask my father to explain what was going on, being barely a teenager at the time and unfamiliar with Leary, let alone acid. I decided, a few months ago, to resolve this mystery - could a Marvel comic, however hip and subversive, actually have gotten away with an acid reference back then? Searching in vain through HTD back issues in a few comic stores led me to consider the possibility that I'd gotten something wrong - that maybe it was in a different comic book, perhaps something more underground and drug-friendly, say. Thanks to a friend of a friend - a nod goes out to Eamon, with the hope that I'm spelling his name right - I have discovered that in fact, it wasn't even a comic book at all. The Tim Leary, acid-as-the-key episode is actually from Cheech and Chong's Nice Dreams, which I saw theatrically with my Dad when it was released back in 1981.

Mystery solved!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Bison BC Maximus: Biltmore Dec. 10th

Bison BC by Femke van Delft, not to be reused without permission

Vancouver's hairiest band, Bison BC, make another foray into the Biltmore on December 10th - the first gig there since a bandmember's injury, a few months ago, caused a cancellation to a show that I gather was sold out (lots of tickets still available for this one, I'm told). I have no idea if the Skinny website, which has mutated considerably, is still hosting my old Bison articles anywhere; portions of a couple of my conversations with the band, about Quiet Earth and Dark Ages, were edited together for Germany's Ox Fanzine a few months ago, but since the "complete piece" has never run in English, I've posted it on the Big Takeover website. Why the heck not - give the boys some more exposure worldwide. Listened to Dark Ages today on the train, actually. It's such a serious, moody, heavy and bleak album that I confess, while respecting it, that I seldom spin it, finding it actually a bit of a bummer; but there are some amazing songs on it no less (I'm particularly partial to the first two cuts, "Stressed Elephant" and "Fear Cave"). I think I'll only be able to see one final show before 2011, and I think this is going to be the one.

Unless it's a metal or a punk show in Maple Ridge... there was a very interesting one just last night...

Wages of Fear Cinema Salon on Tuesday!

One of the best thrillers in the history of the form, Clouzot's The Wages of Fear - the basis for the remarkable William Friedkin remake Sorceror, which I've also always enjoyed - will play the Vancity Theatre for Cinema Salon on Tuesday. I might actually make it out to this one, as I've never seen it on the screen...!