06.10.12

I sometimes realize that weeks go by and I don’t write anything here. The website was down for about a week anyway, but in the last month, I have had a few nice things happen. Number one is, after so much hassle with denied credits and correspondence classes, I finally got my degree from the University of Arizona. Now if anyone says I’m a shitty writer, just refer them to this piece of paper: undeniable proof that I am a genius.

I watched Dead and Buried (1981) this month. I don’t recall ever hearing much about this movie, but I was really into it. It made the British Video Nasties list in the 80s. It wasn’t hella gory, but I thought it was the best kind of creepy and, besides having some pretty glaring holes in the plot, fairly unique. Sheriff Dan Gillis (James Farentino) is a small town sheriff investigating a series of murders. From the beginning, you get an idea of who is doing the killing, but not why. While the film does not make use of monsters, there is a solid H.P. Lovecraft feel to the story. The movie also makes good use of camera equipment tools for terror. The things going on in the film could probably not go on for long without somebody noticing, but if you turn your logic center off it has some brutal scares. People often equate 80s horror with slasher films or cheesy low-budget fare. Overlooked are some of these films that capture an eerie tone in the vein of the better Italian horror films. You can also look for a pre-Krueger Robert Englund in the mob.

If you want to give your CD collection a boost, this book about the birth of the rock ‘n’ roll sound in the late forties and early fifties. I say CD collection because to look for vinyl records of these often obscure musicians can be an expensive task. This is a collection of stories about the tragedies and triumphs of the people who brought the sound around while Elvis was still driving a truck. Tosches has a good sense of humor and a clear reverence for the subject matter. He’s also not afraid to print the legend once in a while. I’m not the most educated musicologist, but I’m apt to pick up random albums with guys holding a saxaphone on the cover. This book takes you down the path efficiently. Really essential reading.

And for no reason, here’s a picture of a duck I saw. This is Brooklyn after all. Seeing a duck was like watching Wild Kingdom to me.

I have also finished a draft of what I hope will be my next published novel, The League. Finishing is a good feeling, but also has brought on a new level of neurosis as I prepare to send it around and be regularly rejected. But I am really happy with what I have now. Hopefully, I will find a publisher that will help me get behind it.

03.07.12

I found another cat scare in Roger Corman’s Humanoids from the Deep (1980). The movie was pretty entertaining, borrowing heavily from H.P Lovecraft stories and Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979). Vic Morrow is the only notable cast member. He plays a bigoted  businessman who wants a cannery opened in the town. Why was Morrow always saddled with racially questionable characters? There is something about him that is believable as the small town, angry white man. The cannery thing is really a side plot; it has little to do with the town being overrun by fish heads. The fish creatures adhere to the slasher trope that young people who get naked are doomed. However, unlike the cannery subplot, the nudity does (or tries to) have something to do with the plot. I’ll leave that as a surprise.

Corman should have adhered to Lovecraft’s concept of the fear of the unknown. These creatures had huge brains and long arms, however they didn’t act like it.

A tasteful shot from the point of view of a humanoid. You would think these people would have noticed a giant fish person standing this close, but I don’t think that is the point of this shot.

03.02.12

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I’m really excited that I got to contribute a review of a recent Gories performance for The Brooklyn Rail. They are always way awesome. Their first three albums are essential listening in my book.

The Gories in The Brooklyn Rail

02.03.12

I revisited some movies during the past weeks while I have been feeling a little run down from being sick, yet not sick enough not to go to work. Maybe this can help you over a rough patch. Here is a week’s worth of double features for better or worse:

Missing in Action (1984)/The Octagon (1980)
Chuck Norris has become a hipster punch line the past few years, but these two slabs are why he deserves to be a household name. These movies are full of slow motion hand grenade action and Ninjas. Nobody knew much about Ninjas when The Octagon was made, but everybody knew that they kick ass. That’s all you need to know to enjoy it.

State and Main (2000)/Bowfinger (1999)
Two meta-narratives before that sort of thing was all the rage. State and Main has several good one-liners. Bowfinger shows Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin can be funny when they try. I don’t like the dad thing Steve Martin moved into, but he plays a good sleezeball.

Ghost Story (1981)/An American Werewolf in London (1981)
These two movies are the first to scare me badly as a child. Looking at them now, they might not seem terrifying, but Nazi werewolves with machine guns wrecked me at a young age. Nazi werewolves with machine guns are enough of a reason to see An American Werewolf in London.

Demons (1985)/Ganja and Hess (1973)
I know you are thinking of all the better foreign horror you would rather be watching, but Ganja and Hess and Demons are really good when the cough syrup is kicking in. There are better Argento/Bava family films, but what does Demons have to offer? Only a guy chopping of heads with a sword from a motorcycle. Only a random helicopter crashing through a roof furthering the plot. It was a good double.

Ghosts of Mars (2001)/Let Me In (2010)
There are better John Carpenter movies, but even though none of the acting in this movie is very good, I like the rapport all the characters share. The flashback scenes via cheap looking models of Mars are worth the whole movie. Although it is really a flashback inside of the entire flashback that is the movie since the whole thing is a testimony. Is she testifying that someone is flashing back and explaining something to her? Doesn’t matter. Let Me In was a respectable remake of Let the Right One In. The original was better, but I like a remake that brings something to the table besides dumbing down.

Office Space (1999)/Strange Brew (1983)
Like revisiting old friends. One thing that struck me watching Strange Brew so much later in life is how cool Max von Sydow is to appear in this movie. I mean he is too cool to begin with. He did Shakespeare. He worked with Bergman. For him to recognize value in The McKenzie Brothers is mind blowing. He can’t have needed money. Max could probably walk into any bank and say: “Hello, I’m Max von Sydow and I need some cash” and they would have to give it to him, wouldn’t they? Let’s put it this way, Max was waaaaay cool BEFORE Strange Brew. It put him into another stratosphere. You wouldn’t see Klaus Kinski in Strange Brew.

Gosford Park (2001)/Apocalypse Now (1979)
Wanna napalm a Sunday afternoon? Test your endurance with a classic and a sleeper. Robert Altman turned his knack for utilizing huge casts into a clever whodunit. I like Altman anyway, but you don’t hear about this one as much. I watched Apocalypse Now Redux because I could not remember ever watching it with the cut footage reinserted. Honestly, I think it was a better movie without that stuff. Those scenes on the plantation were just too off the road. Plus in Redux, Martin Sheen gets laid twice on a river mission in Vietnam. Coppola really Lucased Apocalypse Now in my opinion.

01.28.12

I watched the 1979 adaptation of Dracula because I thought Frank Langella was an interesting choice as the count. This version was kind of fun, mostly
due to this strange take on sex with a vampire.

There were a few psudo-psychedelic moments like this in the movie.

Check out the bat flying over the knee.

Sir Donald Pleasence and Sir Laurence Olivier knighted up this movie. I wouldn’t recommend it over Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre of the same year, but it has a shade of the same vibe if you’re looking for some 70s movies with a gothic feel.

01.10.12

Blind Willie Johnson
Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground
(Mississippi)

There is a legend that Blind Willie Johnson was arrested for singing “If I Had My Way, I’d Tear This Building Down” in front of a New Orleans courthouse. While there are several versions of the contention, it is generally agreed that the Johnson’s detainment was based on a misunderstanding. Whether or not the police believed Johnson was inciting a riot or making a threat, the incident is a testament to the power his singing. He made it real in front of the courthouse decades ago, and he made it real to artists such as Bob Dylan, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Billy Childish, The Grateful Dead, and Led Zeppelin who are among the multitudes who have covered songs Johnson was known for. Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground is a collection of nearly all of Johnson’s recorded output (omissions being alternate takes). The album contains twenty-six songs from five recording sessions: a body of work from a man whose actual birthday and birthplace can only be confirmed by vague declarations on his death certificate. Details life and death are in question and linger as a longstanding rock mystery. It is the stuff music legends are made of.

Mississippi Records is becoming a premier label for reissues. Combining folksy packaging with contemporary design, the artwork looks timeless without the typical trappings of “collection” style layouts. It is an appropriately tasteful frame for this compilation of Johnson’s interpretation of spirituals. His gravel-tinged vocals and heavy-handed style of slide guitar picking create an infectiously haunting sound. “I Know His Blood Can Make Me Whole” a slow burn that shows the seams of Gospel melody conceits evolving into popular music. The tune is representative of a style of dark proselytizing that reminds us that the bible can be sourced for chilling imagery.

A woman named Angeline, who is generally thought to be one of his wives, accentuates Johnson’s evocative style with a series of chilling backing vocals on many of the tracks. Angeline’s matter-of-fact vocals were laid down in several of Johnson’s recording sessions. Bringing up the rear with melodically hollow tones, the back up vocals emphasize the ghostly temperament Johnson creates in songs like “I’m Gonna Run to the City of Refuge.”

“Dark Was the Night (Cold Was the Ground)” is a melancholy caterwaul that was chosen by Carl Sagan to be included on the record that was stored aboard the Voyager 1 satellite on its journey through the solar system. The song floats through space representing the human race along with tracks by Bach and Chuck Berry. That certainly makes the album worthy of any serious music collection.

 

 

12.07.11


Here is a link to  review I did for the Tucson Weekly. The Resonars is one of my favorite overlooked bands. This is a re-issue of their excellent Bright and Dark LP released by Burger Records. Burger has been putting out excellent stuff lately.  Burger Records

The Resonars- Bright and Dark (Burger Records)

12.04.11

Even for a slasher film, Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood is pretty stupid.
1) Is Jason sponsored by a power tool company? Where does he keep getting that stuff?
2) Why is everyone in this house having sex at the same time? Did they coordinate this?
3) How is Jason, who is essentially a walking corpse at this point, able to disconnect the power in the house when he does not seem to fully comprehend the semantics of walking around a wall?
4)  Where did the cat in the closet come from? Was that cat sitting in the closet the whole time, including the time since the last renters left the house?
5) As the movie nears the end, why does the killer find the need to stop and confront at the people he is chasing? Wouldn’t that time be better spent running? Particularly as, by the end of the story, the remaining people have figured out something is wrong. He is waiting for them to think: Oh, that’s what all this is about.

Is there anything redeemable about the film? Yes. Someone does get killed with a party horn, and it does honk when the person is stabbed with it.

Maybe the movie is ruined by the fact that it’s Sunday morning at 8:45. I have been getting up super early recently. I realized I haven’t written here in about a month. I have spent too many extra days at Lutheran Hospital doing cancer follow up. It has been over a year since the surgery and chemotherapy. I seem to be OK, but  all the following up that goes on when someone is cured in the movies is never portrayed. It’s like: “Yea, cancer’s over. Let’s get a milkshake.”

No milkshake for me, but I still try to remember all the faces I saw at the chemo treatment center, a percentage of which likely have passed by now. So I feel fortunate to be mostly cancer free. I am still waiting for tests.

I have also been buried by my final German class. That has been a pain in the ass for two years, but there is light at the end of that tunnel.

I have a draft of The League (working title) done, but I can tell it already needs a lot of work. I have put it down for a few weeks so I can knock out the bulk of these last German lessons. But I am enthusiastic that some of you will be seeing it within the year however we decide to get it done.

As far as active writing, I have a piece in the upcoming Tucson Weekly. I have also been working on some short stories recently. It’s about time I posted a few new ones.
Well, seems like a relatively mundane post, but things are going well. This is going to be the year to escalate.

08.04.11

razorcake_cover_63.jpg

Razorcake 63  is out. This ish has an interview I did with Found Footage Festival creators Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett. I am pretty proud of how it came out. Found Footage Festival DVDs are guaranteed laughs.

Still working on an interview with an excellent band called The Overnight Lows and still sending interview requests to John Waters. I think perhaps I am being naive that that will ever happen, but one can hope. I’ve probably accidentally achieved stalker status.

We have been practicing as The Basement Apartments again. Things are sounding A-OK so far. New songs are coming together and the old songs are sounding less like new songs. R’n’R.

I have been working on a novel about a guy who moves to the southwest and becomes confused. I have been calling it The League for a while, although I have discovered  recently that this is the title of a popular television show. I guess I’m changing the title, but I haven’t thought of anything catchier.

I am now in a regular dog walking route. Knowing where to go every day is a big plus. As a creature of habit, it is good for me to know where to be. Big projects for me right now are finishing a draft of the book, continuing to finish the cursed German class, and getting rid of Tuberculosis, which I just discovered I have. After last year’s cancer, I have decided to become a collector of fine, antiquated diseases. Next up: Leprosy. Anyone who wants to trade Leprosy for Tuberculosis, just give me a call. 

 

07.13.11

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Here is a link to a review of a recent Guitar Wolf show I wrote for The Brooklyn Rail. They kick ass always and forever!!!

Guitar Wolf


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