Tuesday, April 30, 2013

To hell with Christy Clark

As I commented here, Ms. Clark's strategy during the debate last night, whenever she was confronted with a question she could not, or did not want to, answer, seemed to have been to deflect it and return to a variant of her catchphrase, "grow the economy, not the government." Presumably this means selling off public resources to friends and cronies, further dismantling public education, busting unions, and sucking up to people richer than her (since they're the only ones that actually matter). Her blank eyed, blank-faced vacuity as she mouthed her pet phrase really seemed to speak volumes about her contempt for the people of British Columbia (to say nothing of her continual assertion that somehow her government has been good for the economy; it's certainly not my impression of things! But then, I have a few friends in the film industry...). To tell the truth, I kinda wish Joey Shithead had dedicated a performance of "Rich Bitch" to Ms. Clark during DOA's farewell show, though I can understand why he didn't...

Ah, well. I'm no great fan of Adrian Dix but I'd rather a bland populist to a vicious, dishonest neocon any day...

Friday, April 26, 2013

Guess who?

Guess which band, in their original lineup, has announced a Vancouver date this summer? It's going to sell out in something like three minutes.

A Lemmy moment

Ha! Someone attached to the Facebook group, I Fucking Love Heavy Metal, shared the above image online today. It's almost identical to something Lemmy said to me backstage at the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver a few years ago, which appeared in Big Takeover # 68, in 2011; it's quite possible Lemmy used a similar quote for two separate interviews, of course (or that someone is slightly misquoting the BT piece, though I doubt that's the case). My conversation with him went like this:

AM: On the topic of religion, then – something I always wondered, I assume at one point when you were a little boy you actually believed in God.
LEMMY: No. My father [“a padre in the RAF,” as Lemmy puts it in his autobiography, White Line Fever] walked when I was three months old. He got thrown out of the church anyway, for breaking the sacred marriage vows.
AM: So your mother raised you outside the church?
LEMMY: My mother wasn’t religious or non-religious. She just didn’t give a fuck; neither do I. Having grown up, and learned about religions, I think it’s just an excuse for crowd control. It’s just another government, isn’t it, really? And all the different ways to worship the same geezer, what’s the fuckin’ point? Catholics and Protestants have been at each others’ throats for hundreds of years – and some of the worst fuckin’ excesses and murders and tortures – for what? FOR WHAT? What do you got to show for it? A bunch of dead people who went to their deaths screaming. Fuck that, y’know, fuck that shit – you can’t justify that shit to me. Fuck God, I say, and fuck the devil as well! I don’t need’em – I’m responsible for what I do! 
I must say, folks: whether it's similar to something he may have said elsewhere or not - Lemmy sure MEANT these words. There was a real spark in his eyes, and  his gruff voice went up a notch in volume and I must confess that I found him more than a little bit intimidating at that moment! (I was only a few feet away from him, in a tiny dressing room, as he nursed a jack and coke prior to the show). I had actually a few other questions in mind, but after a statement as strongly worded as that... what more need be said?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Leviathan: in with the fishes (must-see documentary!)

Opening at the Cinematheque tomorrow - Leviathan, the new documentary from the Harvard Sensory Ethnography Labs. My Straight interview with the directors is here! This is a magnificent piece of cinema - don't miss it on the big screen...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

RIP Allan Arbus, Richie Havens, Chrissy Amphlett

Allan Arbus died, at age 95, the other day, though his passing was not much remarked upon at the time (for whatever reason, it didn't appear to be posted on the Wikipedia "Recent Deaths" page until a couple of days after the fact, so I, for one, missed it). You may have seen him in Cisco Pike, Coffy, in Damien: The Omen II, or in various TV appearances, including M*A*S*H*; or like me, you may remember him best for his delightful work with filmmaker Robert Downey Sr. - he appeared in Putney Swope, but starred in Greaser's Palace (pictured), a film of which I am fond. If you feel, you're healed. 

Richie Havens, who performed this momentous song at Woodstock, also died. I never listened to his albums, to be honest, but I thought his passion at Woodstock made him one of the standout performances. Surprised that he was only 72.

Apologies to Divinyls' singer Chrissy Amphlett for my not having leapt to note her untimely passing the other day, but again, my purposes on this blog when I write obits are personal, to note the deaths of people who loomed large on my radar, not to note celebrity deaths in general. I did briefly own a Divinyls album in my youth, but I bought it because I thought it would be punkish and transgressive, given the cover art and the way the band presented themselves; I was disappointed at how poppy and mainstream it was, whereupon I sold it and never went back. All the same, songs about masturbation sung by women are reasonably rare; I can only think of the Divinyls "I Touch Myself" and Cyndi Lauper's "She Bop." So she deserves a bit of credit, eh?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Happy 420/ Happy Record Store Day/ etc

In honour of our overlapping "holidays," at some point today I will smoke marijuana while listening to vinyl out here in the 'burbs. Sorry to miss out on the celebrations!

The city was in some weird sort of lockdown tonight, actually... came back from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly to see weird roadblocks in unexpected places, emergency services vehicles cued in front of Funkys,  abundant cops... I wonder what's going on?

Friday, April 19, 2013

More dreams of the zombie apocalypse

I haven't been watching that many zombie movies lately, honestly. Last night's zombie apocalypse dream must be a metaphor for my life in the suburbs (unlike, say, the last one).

In the dream, I'm a smart, resourceful guy - maybe a scientist - who is with a group of people who are seeking refuge during the zombie apocalypse, which has just gotten underway. There's a system of tunnels of some sort with food and cultural resources and accommodations - not sure exactly what they're supposed to be, but they're perfect for people seeking refuge from zombies (fast zombies, too, as I recall; consciously and aesthetically, I take my zombies slow, but they're pretty darn speedy when I sleep). Somehow everyone in my group screws up or gets separated and eaten and by the end of the dream, I'm left alone in my fortified, zombie-free tunnels. That's it; the dream ends on me waiting for people to show up, settling in to entertain myself for a very, very long time.


I had initially gotten very excited to hear that Russian folk metal band Arkona were going to tour through Vancouver, and expressed my dismay that their Canadian tour was cancelled due to work visa issues. All the same, both Scythia - who were going to tour with them - and the Conan-themed Omega Crom are two highly entertaining Vancouver metal bands, about whom I've written here and here; they'll be playing Funkys tonight (April 19th) even without Arkona, and I thought I'd wish them a happy show!

Upstream Color and Picture Day, now showing at the Vancity Theatre

Cinephiles ho! A truly remarkable film plays the Vancity Theatre this Sunday, a genuinely unique, visually impressive, moody and beautiful science fiction film (of a sort) called Upstream Color - the newest film  by Shane Carruth, who made the time travel feature Primer a few years ago. Like Primer, there is much about the film that is a puzzlement; in fact, it's almost as if Carruth sets out to foil any attempt to reduce his film to a simple statement of theme or plot. Upstream Color has something to do with mind control, parasitology, mental illness, the tenderness of new relationships, corporate intrigue, ambient soundscape art, voyeurism, pig farming, orchids, Thoreau, hotels, and identity. Formally, it employs techniques like starting a scene showing one character in one location performing one action, then cutting to the same character, at the same time, performing a different (but related) action in a different location - contradictory, overlapping streams of narrative that, I suspect, can never be fully reconciled (unless there's some sort of decoder ring that I was supposed to have received at the door). In addition to the film's highly oblique methodology - and occasional digressions into something approximating conventional narrative filmmaking, that tease you into thinking that everything may yet "make sense" - there is also much Malickian lyricism (often involving said pigs), and some very fragile, very human moments between the film's leads (Carruth himself and an excellent Amy Seimetz). I cannot say I enjoyed the film, exactly - I found its challenges more than a little overwhelming, and could not, at film's end, effectively take stock of what I witnessed. It's the sort of film that rather demands more than one viewing, a prospect I must confess I find a little daunting; not since I attempted Tarkovsky's Mirror some twenty years ago have I felt so left behind by a film. Still, those craving substantial, demanding, singular cinema should definitely catch Upstream Color on screen while they can; it's one of the most striking films I've seen this year, and moments will definitely get under your skin and remain with you...
Double billed with Upstream Color on Sunday, and screening a couple of other times besides, is Picture Day - a charming, engaging film about a young woman striving to negotiate the complex passage between youth and adulthood, filmed in Toronto and starring Tatiana Maslany, a terrific young actress who also appears on the Space Channel's Orphan Black. Everything about Picture Day was likable; my comprehension of the story and theme was around the 100% mark; and I was very glad in retrospect that it was a somewhat "light" experience, given the other film on the bill. I will remember Upstream Color, and I will forget Picture Day, but I must admit that I had a lot more fun watching Picture Day... abuse me, judge me if you must...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Procrastination vs. Deadlines

With certain interviews I do, I still have to stare down the demon procrastination, even after nine years (!) of interviewing people for print (beginning with Zev Asher, for Terminal City, and Terry Riley, for Nerve Magazine in the fall/ winter of 2005). It's worst when I think I've made a goofy comment or error or asked a singularly dumb question during the phone conversation, because I dread having to hear myself back, making an ass of myself. Certain interviews can be very revealing about my levels of comfort with the topic and the subject: occasionally I'll giggle (if I'm nervous), ask ramblingly vague questions (if I haven't slept or prepped enough), interrupt the person I'm interviewing (if I have some idea about their work that doesn't fit with their own), or seem to fail to hear their answers, while I try desperately to think of my next question (usually due to a combination of all of the above, though it's worst if they, too, seem nervous or uncomfortable). Often my faux pas (what is the plural of faux pas, incidentally?) sounds far less noticeable on tape than it felt during the conversation, but the awareness that I've committed one makes it very very hard to sit my ass down in this office chair, rewind the tape (I still use tape), put on my headphones, and relive the embarrassment, as I transcribe. Sometimes I'll do pretty much anything to distract myself from getting underway, frequently involving cleaning my apartment, but not ruling out masturbation, puttering online, eating, and/or dithering on my blog, like now.

However, I have a deadline looming for this piece I'm writing, so...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Giving the Overrated Its Due: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Me in a nutshell: when some given thing - a band, an album, a film, what-have-you - is vastly praised from every corner (and earns millions of dollars to boot), when in fact it is not much better than a billion other similar things - bands, songs, films - something in me, whether it's my ego or my sense of justice or my restless hunger for new experiences - inwardly objects to this, makes me want to resist the overrated thing and champion the underrated. It isn't just that I'm a snob, or that I've internalized the cultural rebellion of punk, or that I'm in revolt against the suburban conservatism that reigns in the town where I grew up (and now, alas, once again live) - a conservatism which treats artefacts like Dark Side of the Moon like holy relics and sneers at the new and unfamiliar... It's not any one of these things that draws me to the non-mainstream; if I might shift the blame a bit, it's that the mainstream is so narrow and shallow and carries along with it so much mediocrity that I can't be satisfied within its confines. There's something wrong with it, and with people content to drink only from it, and not something wrong with those who seek adventure in the uncharted and unfamiliar...
It's probably best if I don't turn this into a rant about music, but film-wise, perhaps the best examples of overrated, over-praised, over-emphasized films in the current "mainstream canon" are Blade Runner and Apocalypse Now. Neither is in fact mediocre - they both are quite remarkable films in their own way - but to a lot of people out there, they're regarded as pinnacles of cinema, often appearing on "top 10 lists" of the greatest films ever made, alongside Taxi Driver, The Godfather and certain high-profile films by Stanley Kubrick. All of which find their way into top 10 lists for very good reasons, but all the same, I was starting to get sick of hearing about them when I was still in my teens. There's a certain type of highly vocal film viewer from my generation or older - people who grew up in the days before the internet - who regards these films with a sort of reverence that speaks volumes about their level of knowledge about cinema; they seek consensus with others that these are the truly great films in cinema history in part to block out the possibility that there may be better films out there of which they've never heard, and they watch these fucking movies over and over and over again, like they're somehow bottomless, inexhaustible experiences.
Nothing wrong with having favourites, mind you, but given the vastness of cinema, these viewers really are missing out on a whole lot. Typically of this kind of movie lover - a kind I've encountered many times - they will have seen very little non-English-language cinema, whatever the country or culture. Ingmar Bergman and Akira Kurosawa are canonical figures for another type of conservative film viewer - and also very deserving ones - but even they won't be familiar to these Apocalypse Now-types. They'll have seen Ken Russell's Tommy and Altered States, but probably not The Devils or Women In Love. They'll have seen John Carpenter's remake of The Thing - likely having it on their top 10 list, as well - but they may well not have seen the original, or more than one or two other Carpenter movies. They will have seen and been impressed by Lawrence of Arabia; but may not have seen any other David Lean films. If their musical tastes are similar to their film consumption - which will likely be the case - they will have seen Alan Parker's film of Pink Floyd's The Wall upwards of 10 times; if their love for Floyd is such that they have also sought out La Vallee and More, they will nonetheless hold the Alan Parker to be the better film. Such viewers often are sincere in their love of cinema; they just have mistaken the deep end of the kiddies' pool for the adult diving area, and have no idea that that other pool exists, or what to make of it when they encounter evidence of it. By proclaiming booming devotion to their conservative canons (likely also including films by William Friedkin, Walter Hill, Ridley Scott, Michael Mann, David Lynch, Sam Peckinpah, Quentin Tarantino or David Fincher), they can fortify their identity, their social status, their being "in the know" without realizing that in so doing they are blocking out far more than they are gathering in, or that they have positioned themselves, in their insecurity, at the "high end" of the Lowest Common Denominator...
Which, I guess, is not the greatest sin in the world. These are all good movies and gifted filmmakers, after all; not everyone needs to dig deep; and in our present culture, even with the internet, you have to do a certain amount of work to get beyond the mainstream media's circumscription of culture, which not everyone has the time, energy or inclination to do. People who get their information primarily from TV, corporate newspapers and/or the radio (aka "the feeding tube," as I believe Richard Meltzer described it) may simply not get exposed to that much non-mainstream culture, and to some extent deserve to be cut some slack. As long as they don't want to go on and on at you about how great Apocalypse Now is, failing to appreciate it when you try to explain that you're "done" with that film; and as long as they're willing to have their minds blown when they encounter films they've never heard of before ("so who is this Tarkovsky guy, anyways?"), such film viewers have nothing THAT much wrong with them. I don't mean to be putting anyone down, here, really; I'm just acknowledging the presence of a certain TYPE of film viewer, a kind of intelligent North American conformist whom I sometimes have felt frustrated by - and whose tastes are seldom represented in the programming at venues like the Vancity Theatre or the Pacific Cinematheque.
I write this now because one of those "high end LCD" top 10 films is currently screening at the Cinematheque, and it deserves to be remarked upon. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly ends its run on Friday. I had pointed it out to a friend recently, and gotten the reaction, "At the Cinematheque? Really?"  He elaborated that he thought such movies were too mainstream for the Cinematheque... which, really, they normally would be, but The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is a vastly entertaining, richly cinematic film, and really did need to be included on what I presume is the Cinematheque's first-ever programme of spaghetti westerns, since it's the most successful and influential film of the subgenre, so much so that when I tell people that I like spaghetti westerns, many presume that I'm talking about this film, primarily (I'm not). It's the number one film on Quentin Tarantino's Top 20 list of spaghettis; it's number three on Alex Cox's. I'm with Cox in thinking that it's actually not the best Leone - I think a certain overly ambitious bloatedness is starting to creep into Leone's filmmaking with this film, which dominates more with each subsequent movie he made; his masterpiece, as far as I'm concerned, is his previous Clint Eastwood/ Lee van Cleef vehicle, For a Few Dollars More, which has every bit as much craft and wit and charm to it, but packs it into a much leaner runtime (132 minutes, as opposed to TGTBATU's sprawling 179). There are fewer digressions, fewer indulgences, fewer places that test the patience of the viewer. Famed soundtrack (and towering reputation) aside, about the only thing that The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly has going for it, in fact, that For a Few Dollars More lacks is that it has Eli Wallach, whose character, Tuco, is one of the great delights in spaghetti history (Wallach is 97, and still alive, even occasionally turning up in films! Between his role in this film and his delightful cameo in a weirdo kung fu film called Circle of Iron, my admiration of Eli Wallach is pretty much permanent).
But here's the thing: any quibbles I might have about the praises heaped upon this film are entirely relative to its vastly overrated stature. It's still a pretty terrific film, one I have never grown sick of revisiting; it's just not so great that it deserves to be the only spaghetti western that 95% of the population are aware of. What's more, it is not the fault of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly that it has been seized on and overpraised in the way it has. It's an essential film, and the entertaining parts far outweigh the indulgent ones. I'd be happier to revisit it than Blade Runner or Apocalypse Now or almost any other film in the conservative canon alluded to above (though I can watch Taxi Driver again, it turns out; I avoided it for some fifteen years and was happy to discover on revisiting it that I could enjoy it anew)It's actually a long time since I've seen The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, so I can't really write about it at length, but howevermuch of a snob as I may be, I really cannot pass up the opportunity to see it onscreen, projected from 35mm. It's not like such opportunities come around every day, and certainly not at the Cinematheque. For any filmgoers who have not seen the film, don't pass up the chance, consider this a must-see, overrated or not. Just try to remember that there were hundreds of these films (Wikipedia estimates 600, made between 1960 and 1980), and if Leone was a pioneer and a master-craftsman and a hugely important figure - he certainly was not the only genius of the form!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Weird books at Carson's

Hm. So it looks like I'll regularly have hours on Mondays at Carson Books (4275 Dunbar) for the next while, and will check in with delightful, weird, or curious used books now and then. Today, after chatting with a friend about Sammy Davis Jr. and the Church of Satan, I decided to poke about to see what we had on the "dark" side on our shelves. Mostly the store focuses on the more positive end of things - we have tons of books on Buddhism and self-help and Christianity and so forth, but not that much on Satanism or the occult. Still, I definitely had my eyebrows raised to find Michelle Belanger's The Psychic Vampire Codex: A Manual of Magick and Energy Work in the occult section. It's a manual for feeding on the energy of others, talking, for instance, about how you can feed on the ambient energy at a concert. From page 97: "You can actively harness ambient energy to inspire emotion, consciously redirecting this through a crowd so that the energy becomes even more intensely charged. This technique encourages the natural cycling of energy within a crowd, and it can also insure that, when feeding, you do not drain the area of all emotion, literally 'sucking the life' from the room..."

While anyone who has been to a metal or punk show will be familiar with getting off on the energy in a room, how unpleasant to think that there are some people out there who are dark enough in their view of themselves, and stingy enough in their givings-and-takings, that they experience being at a live show as a form of... "feeding!" How, uh, sad! After some reflection, I moved the book, published by Weiser, to the "vampire fiction" area, with the Twilight books and so forth, since I think the book will likely sell faster to maladapted Goth teens than to ritual magicians... no offense to Ms. Belanger; we just don't get a lot of ritual magicians in the store these days...

Actually we don't get that many maladapted Goth teens in, either...
While I was in the "vampire fiction" section, what did I stumble across but the delightfully-titled Women Who Run With the Werewolves: Tales of Blood, Lust and Metamorphosis. Sounds like a must-read for Ginger Snaps and The Company of Wolves fans; it's a collection of short stories  about girls turning into werewolves, apparently. Now THAT I find a charming idea - this sort of thing as the topic of fiction is nothing but piquant; it's only when one starts taking it seriously that I start to get a bit spooked...

Thanks to Adrian Mack for the cool Sammy Davis Jr. pic!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Message From Space coming to DVD!

Okay, I kind of have to see this. I have managed to date to avoid The Green Slime, since it sounds like it might just be awful, but Message From Space - also directed by Kinji Fukasaku, best known for his terrific Yakuza Papers films and/ or Battle Royale (or maybe for his contributions to Tora! Tora! Tora!) - sounds from the Wikipedia entry, where it is being described as a "Japanese Star Wars," like it might just be a whole heck of a lot of fun. Available from Shout! Factory this Tuesday (and yes, Videomatica has it on order).

Friday, April 12, 2013

Cool book! Will Eisner's PS Magazine: The Best of The Preventative Maintenance Monthly

Spotted second-hand at Carson Books and Records (4275 Dunbar), where I've pulled a couple shifts recently: Will Eisner's PS Magazine: The Best of the Preventative Maintenance Monthly. From the blurb on the back, we learn that Eisner "believed in the teaching power of comics, and from 1951 to 1971 he produced PS magazine for the US Army. The Preventative Maintenance Monthly, called PS because it was a postscript to the standard technical manuals, was aimed at teaching American soldiers about weapons safety and proper maintenance of vehicles, aircraft, and electronics..." None of which, in fact, is exactly my thing - that sorta "guy stuff" usually loses me; I've always cared more about culture than tools and machines, which generally seem kind of alien and unfamiliar and intimidating to me, and I tend to find it annoying that some people presume that because I'm male, I should care about such things... but still, the idea of a comic book teaching soldiers how to start a stalled jeep or "How to Keep Your Hydra-Matic Happy" (whatever that means) is pretty appealing! Only $14.95, in great shape... and SOME of what Eisner does reaches my "inner guy"....

Tuesday, April 09, 2013


No one to share with

Found some marvelous Javanese and Balinese gamelan music on vinyl at a Value Village today - four albums worth, at $1.99 each. It's a great score; it's nearly impossible to find good vinyl at thrift stores lately, and these are marvelous indeed - albums that would surely cost five to ten times as much at any cool record store. All the same, playing one of my finds this evening, I can't but think somewhat sadly that I have no one to share it with.

One friend whom I used to listen to gamelan with - he may well have been the person who introduced me to it - killed himself a couple of years ago. So he's out, I guess... tho' some sense of him lingers on the peripheries.

Another one whom I used to sometimes share gamelan with, often in altered states, pursued his fondness for drugs much further than I did, which eventually led to me getting kind of judgmental about his shitty life choices and him sending me somewhat surprising e-mail death threats. So he's pretty much dead to me now, too, though as far as I know he's alive out there somewhere. May our paths never cross again; I got nothin' whatever to say to him.

A third friend I doubtlessly listened to gamelan music with at some point or other - we shared a lot of music together - chose an inexcusably cowardly time in my life to decide to end his friendship with me, backing away from me on fairly trivial pretexts around the time that my Mom had her stroke and my father died. Obviously, whatever his grievances, he was just retreating from having to be there for me during heavy times; friends like that I don't need, so fuckit - better off without him.

I might have shared this music with a girl I was seeing recently, but it looks like we've broken up. No fault, no blame, it was a lot of work travelling over to the island, and, really, gamelan music wouldn't have been her first pick, anyhow... I would prolly have felt like I was forcing more of my weird enthusiasms on her. When you fear sharing things you like with people because you worry you're stretching their patience - when you have to just keep filing things in a drawer hoping they might come up some day, and give you an excuse to mention them... well, there are probably better relationships to be in. One shouldn't force things.

Of course, I do have other friends who are hip to the pleasures of gamelan - it's not like I don't know ANYONE - but which among them wants to visit Maple Ridge? No blame there either, of course: if I didn't live here, didn't have obligations here, I sure as hell wouldn't (unless I was making a run on the town's thrift stores...).

Ah, well. I am thankful, at least, that gamelan music sounds just as good with no one else around. Especially when you're sprawling in your underwear reading a Repairman Jack novel and sipping tasty peppermint tea. I wouldn't be able to do THAT if some other person were in the apartment. So, with apologies to the people mentioned above whom I still count as friends - tonight, mentally, I am saying to heck with you all, and I'm flipping this here record onto side B, whereupon I am going to persist in enjoying this beautiful, brain-tingling music regardless of your absence.

I could make it for three years in Japan, I can cope with another three years in Maple Ridge... Like Bukowski says, one learns survival by surviving...

"West Coast Expressway to Yr Skull"

...that title being a silly play on the title of an old Sonic Youth song. (It beat calling it "Today on the Train").

We might also riff of Nietzsche: "When you look long into (the train window), (the train window) looks into you..."

Whatever. I'm tired. It's a pretty pic.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Ha! (amusing book design)

Found on the shelf at Carson Books (4275 Dunbar - my part-time bookstore gig): Be Elvis: A Guide to Impersonating the King, by Rick Marino, "President of the Elvis Impersonators International Association." Awesome mirrored cover lets you see your face superimposed over the King's! Only $6.95!

Sunday, April 07, 2013

RIP Les Blank

I would write an obit for Les Blank, but I've never actually seen any of his films.

Nope, not even Burden of Dreams or Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe. I know it's wrong of me. I owned the Criterion DVD for awhile, which has both films on it, but I was going through one of those phases of rolling-my-eyes-at-Herzog's-excesses that sensitive cinephiles tend to go through every few years, and in a fit of pique at some other Herzog movie, I sold it (maybe this was around the time his found footage "space" doc came out, with Brad Dourif narrating from the point of view of a supposed alien? I wanted to hit something, trying to watch that). Of course, many people have said that Burden of Dreams is superior to Fitzcarraldo, the film the making of which it documents, but it doesn't help matters that I'm not actually much of a Fitzcarraldo fan...

Anyhow, RIP Les Blank. I'll see some of your films someday, I promise...!

A pleasant change of plans: Nick Cave in Vancouver

Bad cellphone photographs by Allan MacInnis

Abundant thanks to Dave Bowes and his friend Darlene for making it possible for me to go see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at the Vogue Theatre tonight. Nick looked great - it was hard to believe that the live footage of the Bad Seeds doing "From Her to Eternity" that appears in Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire was filmed in 1987, because when the band launched into that song tonight, 27 years later, as the segue from new material to old, Cave really didn't look all that different; if anything, he seemed a little slimmer, stronger, and healthier. And whereas many a musician who has been performing for decades resorts to formalized routines to get by, from Joe Keithley playing the guitar behind his head to Iggy Pop kicking his own ass, sacrificing a certain freshness and presence for a predictable, reliable delivery of a certain kind of performative product, Cave seemed to find each song as fresh and alive as if he'd written it a few months ago, his movements and gestures and facial expressions and jokes seeming to emerge spontaneously and freely from a passionate engagement with the material and the audience, with no suggestion that he'd probably be doing much the same thing the next night in Seattle. Amazing versions of "Jack the Ripper" and a deliciously obscene, profanity-rich, and very, very sexy "Stagger Lee" - with Cave gesturing unsubtly at his crotch as he sang of man-on-man fellatio between Stagger and Billy DeLyons (and later Satan) - were probably the high points of the night, which often saw Cave leaning into the audience, holding hands with (or apparently leaning his weight on the upraised arms of) mostly female fans.  Actually, the whole set was terrific; maybe it was just that I enjoyed hearing those two songs especially...

Whether it was a shoe or a can (as someone commented on my previous post) that Nick got pelted with at the 1990's Lollapalooza gig where I last saw him, I cannot actually say with certainty, but it was pleasing to note that the only thing thrown at him tonight appeared to be a female undergarment, during "Deanna." Oh, and a love-struck, awestruck female fan threw herself at him and got to get onstage and kiss him a couple of times. Later, someone offered up a bizarro rabbit-thing mask, eliciting a bemused "Donnie-Fucking-Darko" quip from the lanky singer, who draped the creepy object on his mike stand for half a song as we neared the encore. Still no arterial spray, but the audience sang along happily with the "whoa whoas" and "yea yeas" during "Papa Won't Leave You Henry," and issued deafening, incoherent cries for pretty much Cave's entire back catalogue when he solicited requests from his piano - the winning song being "Into My Arms." Only real surprise was the inclusion of Anita Lane and Blixa Bargeld's "Stranger Than Kindness" where "Your Funeral My Trial" would normally have been; maybe the latter song has bad memories for him, now, in this town.

The enormous shadow of Nick Cave on the Vogue wall reminded me pleasantly of the doublings that frequently appear in the novels of Cormac McCarthy, a writer I imagine Cave enjoys considerably. No doubt they inspired a few photographs much better than mine. Setlist from the night is here. It's great to replace my somewhat unhappy memory of the ill-fated Lollapalooza show with this delightful evening of poetic, dark revelry. Thanks again, Dave & Darlene!

On the bus home, listening to the Angels on my headphones, I wondered if Cave ever saw them, as a young man in Australia? I could somehow see him being a Doc Neeson fan... wishing Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds a pleasant US tour...!

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Welcome to Vancouver, Mr. Cave

I was at Lollapalooza when Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds last played Vancouver, back in the 1990's. I was manning a friend's booth, and missed Green Day and the Beastie Boys and even Funkadelic, but I went up front to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, the one band in the lineup I followed religiously at that point. The crowd was lukewarm on him - there were obvious, cheering fans (like me), but there were people who didn't get it, didn't like it, didn't even respect it, like the idiot who pelted Cave with a shoe during "Your Funeral My Trial," which brought an abrupt end to things. Such occurrences limit how much anyone can get into a concert; part of the joy of seeing live music is being part of a communal experience with people who like the band as much as you do, and the capacity of assholes to ruin an experience at a festival is one reason I've since mostly avoided Lollapalooza-type events ever since (I remember shoes thrown at Henry Rollins at my previous Lollapalooza, come to think of it). Worse, the less-than-welcoming, less-than-civil vibe of the audience that sunny afternoon wasn't the only thing that left me with mixed feelings: I also remember being disappointed that Cave altered the lyrics to "Papa Won't Leave You Henry," omitting the "warm arterial spray" of the studio version, for reasons unknown to me (to date it is the only song I know of to mention arterial spray - though perhaps if I pored closely over a few Cannibal Corpse lyric sheets I'd find others...?). I suppose this seems absurd, but, corny as it might be, I always really liked the bloodthirstiness of that lyric... It was kinda like seeing Leonard Cohen replace "crack and anal sex" with "speed and careless sex" when singing "The Future"...

Anyhow, much as I've enjoyed Cave's music over the years, for reasons I cannot recall - perhaps having something to do with the Lollapalooza experience, I skipped the Commodore Grinderman show a couple of years ago, and kicked myself for weeks afterwards when I heard/ read what people had to say about it. When it was first announced, I spent a good day or two contemplating buying tickets for the sold out Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds show that's happening tonight at the Vogue, but I have yet to hear a song off the new album that I really like, and simply couldn't convince myself, especially in a time of limited resources, both financially and in terms of stamina, that I would enjoy the experience. Perhaps I'll be kicking myself again, once I read the reviews of the show...? Recent setlists have included a few of my all-time favourite Cave songs ("The Mercy Seat," "Tupelo," "Red Right Hand," "Jack The Ripper"); at least a few of them were not on the setlists that I read when contemplating buying a ticket, or I probably would have bit the bullet (I remember thinking, "ah, he's not even playing 'Tupelo' "...and now that I see that he *is*, I wince).

Anyhow, my respect to Nick Cave, and my envy and well-wishings to those who are getting to see him this time round! (I wonder what touring band, at this point, could force me to undergo the expense and inconvenience of an overnight stay in the city? Arkona nearly did, but then got cancelled. Short of a show by the Flesheaters, or Saccharine Trust, or Borbetomagus, or Rocket From The Tombs, or anything involving Tad Doyle, or Peter Stampfel, or Gary Floyd... or maybe a Spores reunion... I dunno that I'll be seeing many concerts in 2013...).

Thursday, April 04, 2013

RIP Roger Ebert

Well, fuck. (That's a link to the Sun-Times obit, which you may have to register to read, but - Roger Ebert died at age 70 today).

Adrian Mack on Miami Connection, plus Marc Emery

Today's Straight indeed does have an entertaining article by Adrian Mack on Miami Connection, opening today at the Cinematheque...! (And double-billed Friday with the terrific spaghetti western Death Rides a Horse...).

Also of note in this issue: Marc Emery writes from prison about the need for marijuana reform in BC...

Goddamn cancer! (for Roger Ebert and Doc Neeson... and others)

As I say in the comments below my Argo post, I have always held Roger Ebert in some esteem, even while quibbling with many of his reviews and generally using them in my own writing to contrast my, er, elite opinions and perceptions with his populist ones (see my previous articles on Mandingo and The Good Mother for cases-in-point). Sneak Previews and Siskel and Ebert At The Movies were both important as a means of finding out about many an interesting film, marooned here as a suburban kid, in the days prior to the internet (and probably prior to VHS; no doubt I saw my first Sneak Previews years before there was a single video store in Maple Ridge). As a growing cinephile, I watched both shows with the same fervent regularity with which I pored over the movie listings weekly in TV Guide, and doubtlessly was influenced by the way both men (but especially Ebert) talked about movies. I still read Ebert's reviews and blogpieces fairly regularly, though never to help me select movies to watch, since I know from experience that he often loathes films that I love (zero stars for The Devils? Really?) and loves films that bore me silly (like Argo, which he gave four stars). No: I read his reviews to sharpen my own perceptions of films I've already seen, and/or for the sheer entertainment value of his writing, which can be considerable. I've also occasionally followed his blogging, which has flourished since cancer has deprived him of the ability to speak; I have "friended" him on Facebook, and hope to continue to read his writing for years to come (even if only to quibble with it).

So I'm sad to hear that his cancer has returned, and wish Mr. Ebert courage and fortitude as he once again renews his struggles with this damnable disease. The same goes to Angels vocalist Doc Neeson (see below), and indeed, to anyone else receiving treatment... Be strong, stay hopeful, and fight...!

RIP Chris Bailey of the Angels

Chris Bailey was the bassist for Australian rock band the Angels, known as Angel City in North America. Of the four albums of theirs I have (the American versions of Darkroom, Face to Face, Night Attack, and Two Minute Warning), I see - pulling them from their sleeves - that only one song has a Chris Bailey credit for co-writing a song, "Storm the Bastille," off Night Attack. Almost everything else is Brewster-Neeson-Brewster, with the occasional Eccles popping up.... so Bailey may not have been one of these songwriting-genius bassists like Lemmy and Rob Wright and Mike Watt and Gerry Hannah (say). Nor can I recall offhand many bass solos or standout stylistic flourishes that he may have contributed to Angels songs, so he's no Brian Ritchie, either (though there is that great rolling bassline in "Take a Long Line"). He mostly just disappears into the song and fleshes it out, without showing off overly much (which, of course, is an entirely respectable thing for a bassist to do, especially when there are two guitarists in the band). All the same - he was a solid musician and a member of a band I've liked since I was a teenager, and I'm sad to report that he died today of throat cancer at the too-young age of 62. (Scary, too, to hear that singer Doc Neeson is battling a brain tumour; suddenly cancer seems to be everywhere. My best to him).

Incidentally, I always thought "Storm the Bastille" would be a great cover song for the Little Guitar Army to tackle, but I bet their version (as with their take on the BOC's "Godzilla") would kick righteous ass on the original... It's a good song, but if there's a man in the world with the genius to improve it, it would be Cal...

(By the way, for filmpeople checking in, the Angels appear live in Jane Campion's film Holy Smoke, doing "Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again," and their song "Take a Long Line" is played in the killer croc movie, Rogue, by Wolf Creek director Greg Mclean. So you actually do know their music a little, maybe!) 

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Miami Connection, Death Rides a Horse at the Cinematheque

Looks like I've kind of missed the boat, writing-wise, re: Miami Connection, playing this weekend at the Cinematheque. It sounds like it would be delightful to write about, regardless of the relative quality of the film (which I haven't seen): an uber-obscure 1987 Korean-American actioner bought as a cheap cinematic gamble, sight unseen, on eBay, by an Alamo Drafthouse programmer... and now transformed (with the help of said theatre) into a sudden cult hit? Huffington Post article on it here - I'm sorely tempted to check this film out. (Hoping there's an article in the Straight on it tomorrow - I want to know more)!.
Also this weekend is Death Rides a Horse, which is my pick, out of the Cinematheque's spaghetti western series, for the non-Leone-spaghetti that Vancouver cinephiles most need to see (...of the films that're actually in the program, that is - there are a few titles ahead of it, but they ain't playing!). Lee van Cleef is just great; director Giulio Petroni made the even more terrific and politically-complex Tepepa, but approaches the simpler storyline here - an archetypal revenge narrative with a couple of mild twists - with the eye of a master...The Cinematheque seems to be getting a fair bit more adventuresome in exploring lowbrow, cult, and exploitation fare; I for one heartily approve...