Friday, February 29, 2008

Haunted Vancouver, Reclusive Jeff Mangum, Acquanetta Too

The Hidden House - Vancouver, WABlogging from my dad's slow but purposeful PC today. A smattering of info-bits before I head out to visit friends tonight.

At belly dance class this week, my teacher Ruby asked one of the dancers if she would be able to perform once more at the Hidden House in Vancouver, WA. Ruby wanted to know if an encore performance would be possible after what happened last time. If you say something like that in a room full of belly dancers, several voices will shout out at once, "Why?! What happened LAST time?!"

Turns out the dancer and her friend were upstairs in the house, which is also a Greek restaurant, and couldn't find a light switch. She heard a very distinct heavy sigh right behind her shoulder. Her friend bumped into a chair that mysteriously ended up in a doorway that had been clear before. The belly dancer who heard the sigh said her mom didn't want her performing at the Hidden House anymore, but she felt it would be OK.

Is the house haunted? we all wanted to know. Ruby nodded emphatically. "Oh yes," she said with many more head nods. "It's most definitely haunted." Then she told us of the time she was in the bathroom (no light on either--what's with the light switch situation over there?) and she heard, at first very softly, a woman screaming, that got progressively louder and louder. She jiggled the handle to the door but couldn't get out and the screaming became unbearingly full-on wailing, then began to die down again. Ruby finally got the door opened and booked out of there, "But I left my cell phone behind," she said, laughing. "I had to ask George to retrieve it for me."

George runs the restaurant, A Touch of Athens at the house. According to Ruby, he knows the house is haunted too and won't go in there without other people around. I found this such an entertaining way to start my class and even though I threw my back out this week, I was able to dance most of the time and really enjoy myself. Maybe we should start more group activities with some rousing ghost stories. It's quite a bonding experience. And though I worry that people will not frequent a haunted restaurant--I'm more eager than ever to go. I will test all light switches before entering any rooms, and take a belly dancer with me at all times. It's hard to be scared when you're surrounded by spangles.

In other news, Keith sent me this Slate article on Jeff Mangum, super-mysterioso front-man to beloved pop group, Neutral Milk Hotel. Taylor Clark calls him The Salinger of Indie Rock--an apt description. After two CDs, Neutral Milk Hotel slipped quietly into the ether and Mangum traveled the world, had a mental breakdown, and now lives happily with his wife, making art but not music.

Keith and I met him and the band when they toured after releasing their first album "On Avery Island." They were just sitting on some folding chairs and on the floor of Aquarius Records on Valencia Street in SF, playing away like a bunch of creative guys at a college dorm party. Really nice guys. I'm sorry that Mangum has had so many spiritual crisises to contend with. He kindly allowed me to use an intro to one of their songs for my failed opus, Fog, even though he was a little hard to track down at the time.

Singer/songwriter Sean Hayes, co-starred in Fog. He just played in Portland and will return this summer.

And finally, Captain Bijou had posted the Captive Wild Woman trailer on YouTube, featuring Acquanetta as the Gorilla Girl: (Creature of evil, running amok, blazing a trail of fear-crazed horror.) Unfortunately, YouTube ousted the trailer in a bout of copyright pillaging by whoever owned the property. I guess trailers from the 40s are now free from copyright infringement--everyone breathe a sigh of relief.

Here's "Tarzan and the Leopard Woman" instead from a Tarzan doc. in the making. Acquanetta IS the Leopard Woman.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Busby Berkeley Choreographs "Dames" (1934)

Smiling Dick Powell sings the praises of Dames. Busby Berkeley began his career as a military drill lieutenant where he learned how to make patterns with large obedient crowds. His dance experience came on the job, first for Broadway musicals, then Hollywood, where he found the ideal medium for his singular genius. By moving the camera up, down and all around (extremely rare in the 30s), he created chorus-girl mandalas that still amaze and make me slightly queasy at times. One thing's for sure--the guy liked the dames.

Note the heavy Buz influence in the Coen brothers' cult classic The Big Lebowski. Jeff Bridges = National Treasure.

Husker Du - EIght Miles High

The Minneapolis trio plays the Pinkpop Festival in Landgraaf, Netherlands, 1987. Sometimes you just have to RAWK.

RIP Grant Hart, 2017. You rocked hard, often and poetically.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Alternate Oscars - Great Unsung Performances

Danny Peary, whose great books on cult movies are sadly out of print, has another great out-of-print book, Alternate Oscars. He looked at every Oscar year since day one and picked who he thinks should have won. His picks are thoughtful and interesting.

So I've been wanting to feature some forgotten yet great performances. Like most of America I've seen zero of this year's nominated films. I'm not buying into the yearly time-frame when it comes to watching films anymore. I know--what about the big-screen experience; movies aren't made for television viewing, etc. But films cost $10 or more to see now. Kind of steep. And this year's crop is alternately violent, grim or heavy, and that's just Juno. Sorry. They all sound like excellent films and I will have a look, but meanwhile, let's revel in the fabulousness that was Party Monster.

That's right. Particularly Seth Green as James St. James in Party Monster (2003). The film has a convoluted background. Directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato had already made a critically acclaimed documentary about late-80s club kids in New York called Party Monster. They then went on to make another fine doc, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, and then somehow, some way, secured funding for a dramatic re-telling of Michael Alig's rise as a successful party promoter and fall as a homocidal maniac. Former club kid, James St. James wrote a book called "Disco Bloodbath" (Now out of print and worth hundreds of dollars, but reprinted as "Party Monster" which is still available. How I mentally kick myself for not buying it in 1999 while it sat in stacks at A Different Light Bookstore in the Castro.), and this is what they based the film on. Therefore James St. James, who had a love/hate relationship with Alig, is our storyteller and moral core in an increasingly decadent and vacuous club scene.

Macauley Culkin plays Alig, and if he seems a bit stiff and mannered, it's because Alig, who's a sociopath, never knew how to be completely human around his peers. Unfortunately for Culkin, there's no reward in playing the part of a bad actor. It just looks like bad acting. Green, on the other hand, is funny, smart, kooky and increasingly horrified by the goings-on around him. Two flamboyant guys, traipsing around New York City, dressed in raw meat and glitter--it could have been a nightmare--and in some ways it was--but somehow it works for me. I honestly think Seth Green deserved an Oscar nomination, but this might have been a little too edgy for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

The clips here won't give away any important plotlines from the films, but some of the links to other clips might curtail your first-time viewing pleasure, should you want to see these movies from start to finish. So if that's the case--don't click on anything.

Here, James teaches newly arrived Michael how to be fabulous.

And here, Michael cheers up James, who's just received some bad news regarding his trust fund.

Best supporting actress goes to Marilyn Manson as the late Christina Superstar. I've seen a lot of footage of the real Christina and Manson's portrayal is not exaggerated at all. Genius!

Another great and surprising performance is Ben Affleck in Hollywoodland (2006), playing George Reeves, former Superman television star of the 50s.

Affleck is now getting back on the career track after directing critically acclaimed Gone Baby Gone, but in 2006, he was nowheresville as an actor--almost washed up and left to dry after a bunch of box-office duds and an avalanche of annoying press about his love life. Then, he played opposite the excellence that is Diane Lane (as Reeves' sugar mama, Toni Mannix--best supporting actress material), and all the bitterness and disappointment that was Reeves' life and career trajectory just oozes out of him in a subtle, masterful performance. I think it's safe to say that Ben Affleck could relate to the sense of failure Reeves felt after he couldn't break free of his Superman role to obtain serious film work.

In 1959, George Reeves shot himself in the head, or did he? Director Alan Coulter's film bops back and forth between past and present, as the borderline sleazy detective played by Adrien Brody tries to piece together the life of the man of steel. The choppy storytelling is sometimes disruptive and annoying but in the end, Affleck's and Brody's characters reach their epiphanies, for good and ill. Affleck does a great job portraying the popular, charming Reeves. Who even knew Affleck could be charming? That's some great acting right there. Watching him flail and flounder on the low-budget TV show is really pathetic and funny, and finally you see his spirit slowly getting crushed--not by external forces, but from within. Great stuff. Unfortunately the only clip I could find of Affleck playing this role is in French (Unsung! Except by the French!), but here's the trailer.

Let's wrap up with Chloe Sevigny in Whit Stillman's last film of his yuppie trilogy, The Last Days of Disco (1998, following earlier films, Metropolitan and Barcelona). Sevigny plays Alice, a sexual neophyte and college-grad, struggling to maintain some sort of dignity in the early-80s Manhattan disco scene. Her bitch of a friend Charlotte (Kate Beckinsale) has given her some bad dating advice, which Alice is employing here, hoping to score with her crush, Tom, a corporate lawyer.

You know this won't end well for Alice, but She's such a pure soul, that you can't help feeling some empathy for her, surrounded by heartless, motor-mouthed scenesters. Sevigny infuses Alice with a quiet dignity--not an easy thing to do in today's movie madness--but Chloe Sevigny has got the magic charisma x-factor thing going on and it looks like several hundred thoughts are swimming around in her brain throughout her quiet interludes--so rare. Best supporting actress: Andrea True Connection singing "More More More!" during that seduction scene.

To marvel at the talent that is Chloe Sevigny, rent HBO's Big Love, where she plays Nikki, the second wife in a Mormon polygamist family. A conniving, manipulative compulsive spender in a ankle-length prairie skirt, Nikki will fill you with seething rage. Hey Chloe--thanks for the emotions!

Since disco will always live on in our minds and hearts, I'll end with my favorite disco song, Heatwave's "The Groove Line." Lead singers/brothers, Keith Wilder and the late Johnnie Wilder, Jr., are Dayton, Ohio's finest.

The Organ - "Brother" & "Steven Smith"

What does a mix of old-school Cure and The Smiths as done by a girl band sound like? The Organ--which I just discovered today, and they already broke up before I could go see them. I feel so lost.


Steven Smith

From the CD Grab That Gun, another fine Canadian import.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Good vs. Not-So-Good

I know it's silly but I've always thought that Barack Obama is the most excellent Star Wars name never used. Doesn't he sound like a totally cool Jedi Knight? Cooler than anything George Lucas could ever think up. God, it's embarassing to admit you like anything about Star Wars with its characters who sound like the imaginative space inhabitants of a 10-year-old boy. Read these out loud and try to keep a sense of dignity:

Lando Calrissian
Mon Mothma
Leia Organa
Obi-Wan Kenobi
Grand Moff Tarkin
Boba Fett
Mace Windu
Count Dooku
Captain Typho
Darth Maul and Vader
Jar Jar Binks

Some of these actually have rhyming schemes within their own names. It is hard to make up names, even from our own world, but Star Wars is especially dopey on that account. Anyway, I'm still getting over my horrible cold, so bear with me and my fuzzy logic. Come on Texas--you know who needs to triumph--turn it around for yourselves.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

This Week in Arts & Sciences

It's been an exciting week for the arts & sciences. Tonight is the opening gala for "Tonya & Nancy: The Rock Opera." Triangle Productions' 20-song epic covers the lives and loves of our favorite good girl/bad girl skaters from 1994. One more sign that our tabloid culture has infiltrated the high arts and Satan will soon be ruling over us all. The Oregonian has a preview and you can hear the song "Estacada" which contains the awesome line: When I met her, my ex, thought my sucking Gillooly luck had changed, for the best...
"Tonya & Nancy," at The World Trade Center Auditorium, 121 SW Salmon St., Portland; skating through 'til March 8. Tix.

Last night we had a conveniently timed lunar eclipse, quite visible above the tree-line on our street. At 7 p.m., we headed out and watched what happens when the Earth, sun and moon all line up alongside each other: coppery, shadowy moon. Or "Au Gratin" as Jackson called it, referring to the paint color we used in his room.

The moon over the Fremont Bridge in Portland.

The moon near Coit Tower in San Francisco.

Photo sources: The Oregonian, SFGate

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

CAN Wednesday

My old roommate Stephen Abbate used to DJ record parties in his room. He'd say things like, "Today is Can Wednesday," while pulling out all his Can records. I'd say, "How come?" and he'd say, "Because we CAN." Then he would play all his favorite Can songs and eventually make me a cassette tape. Stephen is still dj-ing. I don't think he can function without playing records for people. You can listen to Stereo Steve on Fridays, 12-3, west coast time--always eclectic and infused with garage-acid weirdness.

Formed in 1968 in Germany, Can is the quintessential Krautrock band: improvisational, proggy psychdelic trance opera. They've had a few singers (most who had never sung before) but I'm focusing on Kenji "Damo" Suzuki, a Japanese street guy picked up by the band one night, who slithered his way through several classic Can albums. Original singer from America, Malcolm Mooney, performed in Oakland a few years ago with Myles Boisen, and a bunch of other improv obsessive compulsives. Myles engineered/produced my band She Mob's cds. See, it's all inter-related somehow.

I knew Can was one of those little-heard yet greatly influential bands, but I never had such a complete list of those bands until Wikipedia enlightened me. Sample of bands/people influenced by Can: David Bowie, Talking Heads, Joy Division, The Fall, The Flaming Lips, Brian Eno, John Lydon. The band Spoon is named for the Can song, Spoon. I did not know that.


Mother Sky


Bands who like Can:
Vibravoid - Mother Sky (2005)

The Fall - Cruiser's Creek (The Fall actually have a song titled I Am Damo Suzuki, but I like Cruiser's Creek better and it's all very Can-like, and it's my blog, so I get to pick).

More Fall greatness: Totally Wired. Maybe I should have The Fall Friday...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The World's Worst Dictators

Parade Magazine picks the top-20 worst dictators (everything's a list these days). Number one: Kim Jong-il of North Korea. That's a human card-holding image of his father, who died in 1994, but who was proclaimed Eternal President by his son. North Korea is a fascinating and disturbing experiment in oppression and mind-control.

Among the 20 countries are China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The question regarding all these guys (it's all guys) is, how far out there can they go? The answer: pretty fucking far. Writer David Wallenchinsky includes U.S. involvement with a lot of these governments, including China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. In some cases, it's a twisted tale of epic proportions. Example: China is our second leading trade partner and we owe their lenders $388 billion. Yet China's government is accused of spying on our technologies, enforcing abortions, restricting most media coverage and doling out guilty verdicts in 99% of its criminal trials. Just another business day around the world.

You can comment on your pick for worst dictators on the Parade site, and of course, the first comment to come up lists our president. Someone had to say it. In this case it was "Jane." Well put, Jane:

Our very own George W. Bush
by Jane posted:02/19/2008 11:33:AM
To begin with, the very basis under which he "came to power", i.e. elected, is questionable. Interesting how a state run by his own brother was the deciding factor, or have we forgotten the dangling chads fiasco? Then his use of the public outcry regarding 9/11 to launch an attach on Iraq, even though there has been proof that a)not only were there no weapons of mass destruction as stated but the claim of such was known to be false, b) Bush already had an agenda to oust Saddam Hussein, c)this attack has profited oil interests, including the Bush dynasty, and other well connected people, i.e. Haliburton which has been given contracts that were never put out to bid according to U.S. law, d)diverting money and military power away from the real terrorist situation --- primarily Afghanistan --- has put us in much greater peril regarding terrorist threat than before 9/11 plus it has taken our economy from a strong one with NO NATIONAL DEBT to one which is clearly in a recession and with a national debt of over 9 trillion dollars (yes !!!), averaging $30,549 per U.S. citizen and increasing 1.56 billion dollars per day, yet he e) has pushed through tax cuts for the extremely wealthy. WHEW !!! And that's just the beginning. How could anyone with a conscience believe this man has done anything but extreme harm to this great nation of ours?

source: Parade

Monday, February 18, 2008

You Gotta Love Humanity

Au Revoir Polaroid Instant Film

Last week Polaroid announced the end of instant film. I had noticed a lack of instant cameras for sale in drugstores a couple of years ago. Remember all those annoying would-be hipster commercials for i-Zone Sticky cameras? Gone! As are all the manufacturing of all the professional and consumer-grade cameras. Now film will be phased out and the company will concentrate on, of course, digital imagery.

I used to do continuity on film shoots and we always used Polaroids to make sure everyone's costumes, hair-lengths, make-up (especially bruises and fake tattoos), cigarettes, drinks, etc. were all properly in place from day to day. Everything you see in film and television is shot out of sync, unless it's one long take. So now do people use digital cameras for this? You'd have to have a pretty big view-finder to tell how long someone's cigarette butt should be for the next day's shoot/smoke. I guess you could plug everything into a printer and print out the day's photos; one more step to deal with in your long work-day. I will miss watching the development of instant, square-framed, oddly saturated Polaroids.

Professional Polaroid artist portfolios on (amazing)
How to Frame a photo like a Polaroid
How to make a Polaroid pinhole camera

Friday, February 15, 2008


Our whole family has been really sick for the past week with a nasty chest cold. Jackson coped by watching too much Nick Jr. and we stumbled upon Yo Gabba Gabba! in the process.

We actually had been exposed to this surreal play-based psychedelic freak-out a few months ago when we saw all the character dolls featured in a Portland anime collector's shop on Hawthorne Blvd. Although my first thought upon seeing the colorful pop-eyed things was, what fresh hipster hell is this?, Jackson was immediately drawn to these creatures. "What are they? Why is he green with two faces? What's her name?" he said, picking up the flower-headed Foofa. At the time I had no idea. Now I do.

Started by indie-rock dads and hosted by DJ Lance Rock, Yo Gabba Gabba! heavily features most every genre of pop music ever created by mankind. The 24-minute episode we saw today had enough hip hop, old skool rap, beat box, techno and power pop to edify most ex-musicians trapped at home with their short-attention-span toddlers. Songs covered the concepts of not throwing things at your friends, being careful with sharp objects and the importance of jumping up and down.

I was only going to show one of these but it's hard to resist the overwhelming magnitude of "Party in my Tummy." Beware! Repetitive phrasing ahead.

How to Make a Tentacle Face

Former Club Kid, author and all-around personality, James St. James shows you how to make a tentacle face out of liquid latex and Cheerios. Clever!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Start A Love Train has a post about songs that never fail to break our hearts. I thought I'd post about a song that always uplifts mine. Don't know why but this gospel-inspired #1 hit by the O'Jays never fails to make me feel good. And you can dance to it. Come on people all over the world (everybody)...

...Join hands (join)
Start a love train, love train
People all over the world (all the world, now)
Join hands (love ride)
Start a love train (love ride), love train
The next stop that we make will be soon
Tell all the folks in Russia, and China, too
Don't you know that it's time to get on board
And let this train keep on riding, riding on through
Well, well
People all over the world (you don't need no money)
Join hands (come on)
Start a love train, love train (don't need no ticket, come on)
People all over the world (Join in, ride this train)
Join in (Ride this train, y'all)
Start a love train (Come on, train), love train
All of you brothers over in Africa
Tell all the folks in Egypt, and Israel, too
Please don't miss this train at the station
'Cause if you miss it, I feel sorry, sorry for you
People all over the world (Sisters and brothers)
Join hands (join, come on)
Start a love train (ride this train, y'all), love train (Come on)
People all over the world (Don't need no tickets)
Join hands (come on, ride)
Start a love train, love train
Ride, let it ride
Let it ride
Let it ride
People, ain't no war
People all over the world (on this train)
Join in (ride the train)
Start a love train, love train (ride the train, y'all)
People all over the world (come on)
Join hands (you can ride or stand, yeah)
Start a love train, love train (makin' love)
People all over the world ('round the world, y'all)
Join hands (come on)
Start a love train, love train

Happy Valentine's Day like it's 1973!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

YA Novel Round-up

It's that time again; 3:48 p.m. It's cold, wet and occasionally snowing outside. I enjoy looking out our big windows and watching the snow fall amongst the giant-sized fir trees. It's like being in a snow globe. Then it melts and we don't have to deal with it other than aesthetically. Now that it's February, signs of spring are popping up out of the dirt (mysterious bulb-like shoots) and we get some sun, which then clouds over ominously and hails on us. Jackson just looked out the window and discovered a spectacular rainbow across our neighborhood. Good eye. It's all a little confusing and it's condusive to reading.

I got on a YA novel jag last month. There's so many kids and young adults around here, our libraries are chock-a-block full of the stuff. I found an ancient copy of Where the Lilies Bloomby Vera and Bill Cleaver. I used to have the paperback when I was a YA, living in the suburbs of Nor. California. I read this book at least once a year and I couldn't remember why that was, since it always gave me the creeps a little. So I checked it out to remember. It's beautifully written. That's why I read it so much, but being so young, I didn't realize it was so beautifully written. I didn't have a lot of point-of-reference for that sort of thing yet, having just started reading on a serious level. The novels forced upon us in school were too ancient to have the proper impact. Flaubert, Hawthorne, Hardy and Dickens were not any kind of reality for us in our 70s tract homes. YA novels were a good way to relate to the novel, without being overwhelmed.

So back to Where the Lilies Bloom; the creepiness is due to the really dark and scary adult themes throughout the book. Without spoiling the story: four Appalachian kids who live in the Great Smoky mountain range must deal with the potentially catastrophic consequences for their family when their father starts the slow process of dying. 14-year-old Mary Call Luther (all the kids have odd names: Romie, Devola, and my favorite, Ima Jean) is in charge and she is one tough teen-ager. Extremely intelligent and proud of her family, she shoulders an impossible burden. She's a great protagonist and doesn't care if she's sweet and pretty like her older sister, Devola. She figures sweet and pretty girls end up with creeps like their landlord, Kiser Pease (great name). In the film made in 1974, Kiser is played by Harry Dean Stanton and the thought of him trying to marry Devola (Jan Smithers, pre-WKRP in Cincinnati fame), was so disgusting to me. I didn't know who Harry Dean Stanton was at the time, but his photo in my paperback was enough. Also, Mary Call, although resourceful and smart (she teaches her family how to wildcraft: gathering valuable medicinal plants on the mountain for sale), finds that life conspires against her as she bravely struggles to keep the family together per her father's instructions. She is, after all, only 14. Pretty gritty. Surprising solutions do take place, but I won't give them away.

The whole enterprise of feeding a family of four with $50 of life-savings hidden in a sock while weather-proofing an ancient house in the middle of snow-covered winter was so completely alien to me as I sat in my green vinyl beanbag chair, reading this book, listening to Pink Floyd. I'm glad the married writing team of Vera and Bill put this all together so middle-class teens could blow their minds on some harsh reality. Here's a particularly Gothic passage:

The peaks of the mountains were enveloped in shaggy drifts of undulating translucent fog.

I blamed it on the mountain air, how it hurt to breathe, as Romey and I, pushing and pulling the creaking wagon, on top of which Romey had constructed a makeshift bed to contain the trussed, shrouded figure, strained upward toward Roy Luther’s final resting place on Old Joshua. The shovel we’d tied alongside him clanked a little with each turn and jolt.

At one point a raven, black and lustrous, came flapping out from a bush and flew alongside us, his hoarse tok, tok weird and hollow.
Good stuff. People LOVE this book and out-of-print film. I recently read on a newsgroup that the original North Carolina house used in the film was for sale for over $1 million. Location location location.

I nabbed another Cleaver novel, the unfortunately titled Hazel Rye. At some point in the early 80s, Bill died, leaving Vera to finish this, their last novel together. So the story is quite truncated and rather bleak. Hazel Rye is a 12-year-old living in Florida on land that contains a forgotten citrus grove. Her weird dad wills it to her but Hazel is not an enterprising girl. She just wants to get her ears pierced. That is until a very Luther-like poverty-stricken, but intellectual family of four comes to live in the guest house on her land. The boy, Felder Poole, is a plant-growing genius and he very quietly inspires Hazel to start caring about her orchard. She grasps the idea of making money off the grove, but then a curious thing happens. She becomes curious about the entire process and so her entire life opens up to the possibility of wonder. She's quite scrappy too. Watching her brain unfold and start working is pretty interesting, especially as she witnesses the process of bud grafting:

Soon with luck, under the strip of the budding tape, under one of the polyethylene strips, there would take place a union between the bud and the parent stock.

Hazel viewed all of this with the eyes of the amateur discovering that she no longer wishes to be one. Within her a clean and eerie passion had begun to punch and thump. Young and ignorant and far afield, it did not speak its meaning. The feeling that she was being turned, that she was under some kind of attack, rolled through her, and now there was no thought of what the trees might do for her. There was only the feeling of being related to earthy things and of being pushed into a new and marvelously mystifying place.
Pretty poetic for a 12-year-old. Both heroines in these novels have absent mothers and fathers who misunderstand them. Hazel's father is so controlling over his daughter that it gets into incestual territory (without the incest). What's up with that, Bill and Vera Cleaver?

To top off my reading adventures I plowed through Lexicon Devil: The Fast Times and Short Life of Darby Crash and the Germs. Not technically a YA book, but it features a lot of oral history of the Germs' high school days in 70s Los Angeles. I never knew the Germs' basic premise started at a hippie-scientologist-EST-Transactional Analysis-experimental school where students were encouraged to design their own curriculum and to delve into the concept of word sculpting to get at the true meaning of things (hence the fascination with all things lexicon). This was after orientation day where teenagers were called cocks and cunts by their future faculty, not allowed to go to the bathroom, and led through some really bizarre yoga moves before they could be enrolled in the school. Parents were required to attend this initiation with their sons and daughters. Good times.

This book was one dark ride. Any joy you might expect to find in the early punk-rock scene is blown to smithereens by the realities of these youngsters and their terrible home lives with psychotic, possibly schizophrenic parents, drug and alcohol abuse, and in Darby's case, the desire to manipulate everyone around him. And then eventually he comes out as gay and but remains very closeted due to the homophobic hardcore scene of the time. And then dead by a purposeful O.D. at 22. I can't really recommend this except if you know a teen who's romanticizing the early days of punk all out of proportion to its grim beginnings (cathartic for the pioneers, but grim). Throw this doorstop their way and tell them to be glad the music industry has sanitized it all for our mindless pleasure. Or tell them to make their own scene. As we're all aware, piercings and hair gel aren't very rebellious anymore.

Darby photo source: Theresa K

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bad Hair: How I Cope

When I'm having a bad hair day, which is quite often lately, I tell myself I have this guy's hair cut. Then I don't feel so bad. Maybe there's a fantasy hero/ione hairstyle that will help you get through your bad hair days too. Aragorn led an army of Middle Earth dwellers through three extremely long films with greasy, unkempt hair, and he was hawt. Hermione had big ol' bushy hair in her first movie (since straightened out quite a bit) and she's the smartest student at Hogwarts.
And yes, the White Witch is a total pain in the ass, but is your hair as fierce?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Portland Embraces the Rad

Tonight on OPB, The Oregon Experience will feature C.E.S. Wood, a soldier who fought in the Nez Perce War in 1877. He was deeply saddened by the U.S. army's treatment of the tribe and became the translator (and possible embellisher) of Chief Joseph's famous and heartbreaking "I will fight no more forever," speech at the Canadian border. Respectful of all cultures at time when that was very rare, Wood went on to become an accomplished novelist, journalist, satirist, poet, and an anarchist, anti-imperialist and corporate lawyer(!). He supported the rights of anti-war protestors and advocated for birth control. He was a co-founder of Portland's first library and art museum, and was friends with Chief Joseph, Mark Twain, Emma Goldman, Ansel Adams, Clarence Darrow, Margaret Sanger and John Steinbeck. This photo doesn't really do him justice but he was a total hottie as well. Yes, I have a crush on him. Watch at 9 p.m. tonight. A mini bio.

In completely unrelated radness, DJ Gustav of 94.7 KNRK, Portland's extremely decent alternative station, just played Hot Butter's 1971 hit, Popcorn in the middle of the afternoon. Because, he explained, it's a great example of the Moog synthesizer. Popcorn drives Jackson absolutely wild and we have made up many dances to its perky percussion. Which reminds me, I have to pick him up from school now. Enjoy:

WFMU's 79 versions of Popcorn

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Washington State Says Hell Yes to Obama

Today Keith became a delegate today for this self-proclaimed "hope-monger." At the caucus held at our district's middle school, the democrats so outnumbered the republicans that they filled up the school gym. The tiny republican group had to go to the library. The majority of our neighbors voted for Obama. I was sick and couldn't go :( but I watched his Richmond, VA speech tonight and did something I haven't done in years while listening to a politician. I smiled (and teared up a little, I admit, when he said that no one who works should be poor in America).

Obama blog
Photo credit: Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Replacements: All Over But...

Quick read: The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting: An Oral Historyby Jim Walsh. Oral histories are not always the best way to go. Would it have killed Jim Walsh to include a little editorial commentary per chapter to give us a sense of the times that The Replacements were shouting about? How about a discography? Or even a few photos of the actual album covers, since they're heavily featured in the book? In these regards, the book is a little too cool for school, which is the philosophy (along with massive drug and alcohol consumption) that hastened the disintegration of the classic 80s garage band. They actually rehearsed in a basement, which you can kind of hear in their beer-soaked, ashtray-scented sound.

Oh well, I tore through this book like a speed-reader, or a reader on speed. Too many memories of "I was (insert place, time, age) when I first heard the Replacements," are included, and nearly nothing about the early upbringing of the 'Mats (unless you want to know the birth weight of the Stinson brothers). People (and editors, wherever you are): we really don't care. I don't remember where I was at all at that moment in time. Probably in the bowels of SF State U.'s basement where our college radio station played this dirty-sounding rawk day and night for a few glorious years. Or probably my friend Alan Korn told me about the Replacements, just like he told me about Nick Drake and The Plastic People of the Universe. If you wanted to know anything of musical importance in the early 80s, all you had to know was Alan Korn. I did learn from the book that these guys grew up in a Catholic neighborhood and that Paul Westerberg attended Catholic schools right up until he co-founded the band at age 19. That explains a lot (to me, anyway).

I clearly remember the Replacements shows in San Francisco. I got yelled at by a Bill Graham goon once at the Fillmore for dancing on a table. "Hey!" he bellowed incredulously. "Get DOWN from there!" It seemed like a natural thing to do at the time. Maybe it wasn't allowed in the balcony; lawsuits and things.

That was the night I later found out that a former bandmate of mine had sex with Bob Stinson in the supply closet of the dressing room. I had seen Bob leave the closet, sweat-drenched and wearing a man-sized diaper, making his way toward the stage, but no one else in the room looked twice at him. I just thought he was doing coke. Well, it was quite an evening. Tommy Stinson and I nearly ran into each other while crossing paths in a darkened hallway and we did a double-take when we realized we both seemed to be wearing the same shade of red lipstick. He was so much better looking in it than I, of course.

They used to play at the IBeam on Haight Street too. Those shows were more intimate. And weird--the IBeam was a combination 80s dance club/indie rock hangout, full of gigantic revolving disco lights that hung precariously from the ceiling. These always looked out of place during Butthole Surfer shows, but I digress. Paul Westerberg was often hanging out at the bar, and drinks went all around, especially if you were a tall, willowy blond, sitting nearby (I wasn't; not even).

I guess my point is...what is my point? At that time, during the Reagan reign, here was a group of Midwesterners yelling: This society is so full of shit--we have no place in it! Yet they yelled, not in anger (like all the little punk bands that we lost interest in, long ago), but with a sense of bemused sarcasm. And a delicate hope for some kind of human connection. That describes my state of mind in the early 80s, especially working in jobs, pre-Internet (oh, the humanity). They used humor as a weapon and a shield and numbed themselves with more substances than I could ever keep up with. They were supermen with instruments, who, of course, could not endure their own personal problems, or their anti-corporate stance. That's why Paul Westerberg is currently writing ad-copy for Intel. Kidding! He's a solo artist. And he's the reason people still care about the band. He couldn't have done it without their camaraderie and the gonzo guitar of Bob Stinson, but basically his songs and outsider vision have influenced a lot of people.

Here's some old and later stuff. The fast and furious live show is from 1981(!) when they released their first, album, "Sorry Ma..." The more commercial video was made for MTV. MTV just loved that sort of thing.

Find more artists like The Replacements at Myspace Music

Find more artists like The Replacements at Myspace Music

Goddamn Job and Junior's Got A Gun

Bastards of Young video is critiqued.

Photo source: Replacements Scrapbook

Girl In A Coma - Clumsy Sky

San Antonio-based Girl In A Coma are Morrissey fans. In fact, they've been touring with him in Europe for the past month. Hope that's going well. Rock on Mexican American mujeres. I misssed their last Portland show because I was too tired (a late Tuesday night gig is bad booking and not my fault). That won't happen again.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Movies You May Want to Miss - The Big CUBE (1969)

The above scenes from The Big Cube trailer pretty much say it all. Lana Turner is (as always) brittle and melodramatic as Adriana Roman; theater actress, widow of recently deceased Frederick Lonsdale (Richard Egan), and victim to a plot concocted by stepdaughter Lisa (inexplicably Swiss-accented Karin Mossberg) and Lisa's gold digging lover, Johnny (George Chakiris, proving why he never had much of an acting career after West Side Story). Johnny's been expelled from medical school for cooking up LSD with his hippy gang. Together, he and Lisa lace Adriana's prescription pills with enough chemical enlightenment to blow her mind. Then they stand to inherit Lisa's father's millions. Pretty brilliant!

The film is actually quite dull in long stretches, making it more of an incompetent exploitation flick than an actual camp classic. Plus it's strangely cast and shot in Mexico on the cheap. There are all kinds of worldwide accents to contend with, and the hippies are so MEAN. They trash everything in sight, be it a dance club, their bohemian artist pad, or Lisa's mansion. Even Johnny and Lisa's wedding is not immune to the wonton destruction, and through it all Lisa smiles serenely. She is cruising for an emotional bruising. But in the end, it's Johnny who ends up rolling around in his decrepit basement apartment like a rat in a bowl of corn flakes. "Don't take that stuff!" he warns an ant who has crawled upon his laced sugarcube. "That stuff is BAD for you!" It's a message film.

Saving it all from becoming a big snore-fest is Pamela Rodgers as Bibi, who appears to have landed from the planet DumbSlut1969. She is the BEST! I was going to include some of her dialogue but then I found a YouTube clip (see below) that does her much more justice. I could never convey the fantastic bubble-brained delivery she strives to deliver so expertly. I LOVE all scenes featuring Bibi and only wish the entire movie revolved around her. That would be a classic. Here's a great big psychedelic butt to get you started:

And now:

Bibi mesmerizes Lisa into using poor judgment (and going beltless).

That's a telephone in Bibi's hand, not a plug-in pleasuring device, although it might as well be since she wants to use it to call a bunch of guys and plan an orgy (see clip below--sorry, no orgy, just the dialogue--almost as good).

Whoo! Is it trippy in here or is it just me?

This Queen Bee will harsh your mellow.

Couple of squares.

Drugs = wide-angle lens time.

Bedding as a framing device.

When Lana Turner starts to trip, suddenly the lamp gets all red and I included that here because David Lynch uses a red-glowing table lamp as a portal to another dimension in his latest film, Inland Empire (at least I think that's what he's doing). Maybe he's a Big Cube fan.

Lana Turner is all "Wha-??? happened to my career???"

She's fucked

No, the marriage does not last. Thank you for asking.

"A" is for acid! My mom had a big crush on George Chakkiris but it was not to be. He would crop up in other bad films within our lifetime and that's a fine by me.

Bibi! She's a star!

Trailer - "The trip that starts with a giggle and ends with a scream." A popcorn movie.

OurManInHavana has thoughtfully provided Bibi's big strip-tease scene on YouTube as well. But I know my readers would never be interested in seeing something like that.

A special thank you to Tuckers for giving me this DVD as part of the Warner Bros. boxed set, "Cult Camp Classics 2 - Women in Peril" (which includes another favorite, TROG). Best housewarming gift ever.

And for those who would rather remember Lana as the victimizer, not the victim, see The Postman Always Rings Twice with John Garfield. As Bibi would say, "Sweetness baby!"

Oregon Gets With the Times

One thing Oregon regularly gets wrong is the weather. Rarely, if ever, is the weather report right around here. It's not anyone's fault (I think). It's what they call variable conditions within several micro-climates. For instance, today's paper said there would be "some rain" (there's also variable media statements regarding the forecast of rain, including: showers, some showers, a little rain, a little afternoon rain, etc.) As I check out the handy window here, I see that it's snowing quite heavily. Well, that's how it goes lately.

But Oregon got something very right this week. Starting this Monday, if you're gay and you and your partner want to form a domestic partnership--you can! This gives you most, if not all of the same legal rights as married couples. Right on, U.S. District Judge Michale Mosman for rejecting a potential lawsuit that would have blocked the current domestic partnership law. Congratulations to local gay-rights advocates for all your hard work on this issue. And for those who are planning to appeal: Squashing your fellow citizens' civil rights puts you in league with the devil (speaking in Biblical terms). Enjoy the eternal damnation!

Domestic Partnership forms are available online at

Friday, February 01, 2008

Flight of the Conchords - Heh

How lazy is it of me to post THREE Flight of the Conchords videos? This lazy:

My personal favorite: Business Time

She's So Hot - Boom

Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros

Source: YouTube, of course-a-fous