Wednesday, April 30, 2008

PDX Film Fest This Week Featuring "Wild Combination - A Portrait of Arthur Russell"

The Portland Documentary and eXperimental Film Festival starts tonight, April 30th, and runs through Sunday, May 3rd. The opening film grabbed my attention. Wild Combination is about the late cellist and composer, Arthur Russell--an eccentric who ran away from his Oskaloosa, Iowa home to join a Buddhist commune in San Francisco where he met up with his mentor, Allen Ginsberg. He ended up moving to New York and there he composed music in several genres, including avant garde with Phillip Glass and The Kitchen, disco for the Studio 54 crowd, and personal folk tunes. Apparently his career output remained obscure due to his perfectionism and somewhat hermit-like tendencies. He died of AIDS in 1992.

I never heard an Arthur Russell song until half-an-hour ago. I suppose we might be hearing more of him. His song "This Is How We Walk on the Moon" was recently featured in a British T-Mobil commercial. The documentary is getting a lot of positive press. Congratulations to director Matt Wolf; only 25 years old and already honoring hidden talent from the past.

Wild Combination - A Portrait of Arthur Russell documentary teaser.

From Wolf's director's statement:

Before I even heard Arthur’s music, I was intrigued. My friend described a long forgotten gay disco auteur in a farmer’s plaid shirt, obsessively listening to mixes of his own music on the Staten Island Ferry. That image alone was enough, but when I heard the emotional intensity and the complex beauty in Arthur’s music, I was obsessed.
- PDX Fest site with a schedule that includes parties, several evenings of short films, filmmaker karaoke, an invitational experimental film battle, and workshops like do-it-yourself green screen and a found-footage free-for-all with San Francisco filmmaker, Craig Baldwin.
- The Oregonian gives a nice overview of festival events.
- A whole bunch of Arthur Russell music on YouTube

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Troggs Word Association Tuesday

In 1966 they gave the world Wild Thing, which inspired countless covers, some majestic, some satiric, and some very, very unfortunate. But did you know The Troggs recorded quite a few other very decent songs? The Troggs were a perfect combination of bright pop and heavy sludge. No wonder they're such an inspiration. I'm going to do a little word association as I listen to these fine Troggs tunes.

Hip, Hip, Hooray - The pinnacle of pip poppiness.

Night Of The Long Grass - Psyche A Delic!

Love Is All Around - Indeed! I love you Troggs! Mwa! Mwa!

I Can't Control Myself - Bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah bah! Your low-cut slacks and long black hair--it sounds like singer Reg Presley really can't control himself. Impressively lusty.

With A Girl Like You - This is a perfect song. Kind of ridiculous in its sincerity and heartfeltness, as when you like someone all out of proportion to any kind of reality, as yet. But it's so hopeful--you know it will work out for the best. And dancing will be involved.

- The Troggs Tapes - The infamous and profane dialogue of the band during a recording session that supposedly was the inspiration for "This Is Spinal Tap."
- Official Web site.
- C'mon--support The Troggs!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Vancouver, WA Coloring Pages

Craft Magazine, harborer of all that is hip and knitted, has an article in April's issue on how to make a coloring book, using photos and a few Photoshop filters. Here's my hastily thrown-together attempt at capturing Vancouver in coloring-book form. Seemingly simple instructions did not make for an easy craft project. Best to attempt this with very high-contrast photos that contain little or no foliage. Washington State: a place known for its high-volume of foliage. But if you like futzing with Photoshop over and over and over again--this is the project for you!

Now, get out your green crayons and let's color Vancouver, WA.

Mt. St. Helens as seen from downtown Vancouver with the Columbia River in the foreground.

Mt. Hood, anchored by the view of townhouses along the river. You'll need a lot of grayish white to color these since both mountains are still, well into April, completely covered with snow.

Birthplace of Burgerville, where I had a Tillamook cheeseburger and shake made from Oregon-grown strawberries tonight.

The bell tower at Esther Short Park, downtown Vancouver.

Historic Fort Vancouver, home of the trillion-ton Fourth of July fireworks show.

The now defunct Evergreen Airport. Torn down in a Crate & Barrel development deal. Its last paint scheme: aquamarine.

Make way for a new Fred Meyer. Shop for groceries, home furnishings, hardware, clothes, and/or electronics. A mind-boggling consumer experience under one roof.

Main Street, USA. I mean, Vancouver.

The Vancouver commemorative plate, coming to a Goodwill near you soon (unless I see it there first).

A raised ranch house.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Relax to Aram Khachaturian's Sabre Dance

Love Sculpture featuring Dave Edmunds - 1968

Dave Edmunds revisits his old hit in Sevilla, Spain, 1991.

L.A. Music with animation by a large corporate entity that shall remain nameless.

Jack Cathcart's Continentals - 1950

J-Marimba Ponies

Berliner Philharmoniker - Seiji Ozawa, conductor

More Sabre Dance:

- Aram Khachaturian on Wikipedia
- As performed by preschool-aged children in The Philippine Montessori Center Instrumental Ensemble.
- Liberace introduces The Trinidad Tripoli Steel Band on The David Frost Show, 1970.
- It was originally from a ballet.
- Learn to play The Sabre Dance with Olga from The Toy Dolls!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Akira Kurosawa - Ran, 1985

Intense guy on horseback, wearing 16th century samurai garb, riding incredibly fast with a blurred, foreshortened background, moving in one long take, or perhaps cut into two slightly jarring shots by one off-angle edit. Must be an Akira Kurosawa film.

There are so many films to choose from when it's time to watch this cinematic genius. I decided to see Ran again after 20 years because it really speaks to our current war situation, and to all our war situations. A retelling of King Lear, Ran pits brother against brother against father in a big land grab gone awry. There's a wise fool, and one amazing female role, Lady Kaede. She is a very unusual woman in Kursosawa's large cast of characters, partially because she's featured at all in his usually male-dominated stories, but also he gives her vengence a back-story. Do not mess with Lady Kaede. Her attack/seduction scene with her brother-in-law puts me in mind of a war conference between Chenney and Bush. I know it goes down in the White House just like Kurosawa foresaw.

I originally saw Ran in the theater when it first came out in the U.S. This time I had to rent it on DVD but it's still very powerful--a poem and a lament about our inability to live peacefully with one another. Film historian and Kurosawa scholar, Stephen Prince provides commentary. If you can't afford film school, rent every Kurosawa DVD that has Stephen Prince commentary, and listen. You will learn a lot about filmmaking and it's cheap.

I didn't include any gore here, although there's plenty and none of it gratuitous. Blood would look exploitive and out of context in a still photo, plus it makes me queesy. In the film, the battle scenes are simply astounding and as Prince points out, all are shot with three cameras and with over a thousand extras--no visual effects. This is the last of its kind. You won't see an epic shot in this realistic mass scale without CGI--sorry fans of realism in film.

Prince calls Kurosawa a true epic filmmaker who excelled not just on the scale of his work, but for the movement within his shots. Kurosawa choreographs swirling masses of humanity, clashing and falling all over each other. In Ran this talent coexists with plenty of slow-paced Noh story-telling techniques to formally present this legend. It's a real masterpiece, made by a man in his 70s who knew he wouldn't get any more chances to film like this in his lifetime.

And if samurai epics that mirror out own world are not to your liking, see Ikiru (To Live); as life-affirming as any war lament, played out within the quiet existance of a Tokyo bureaucrat. Very epic on an emotional and philosophical level.

And now:

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Heavy Metal Moments - Dio "Rainbow In The Dark" 1983

Jackson has this crazy, five-colored clock radio that we can't use as a clock because it tick-tocks too loudly when he's trying to sleep. But he loves the crappy-sounding AM/FM receiver and turns the little purple tuner knob to find his favorite songs like a manic DJ on three bowls of Cocoa Puffs. He calls it the clock that sings. He only has a few favorite songs--currently tunes by Spoon, Tegan and Sara, The Ramones, Peter Bjorn And John, and his preschool folk-music sampler are topping the list. The rest he makes up on the fly. As in, "I like this song. It's fast and I like fast music."

He also likes really loud music. Yesterday I heard him DJ'ing down the hall. Ronnie James Dio's passionate delivery wafted throughout the house, with that distinctive synthesizer plincking in the background, like something from "Cats." Jackson paused in his tuning so I guess he approved and we all rocked to the sonic majesty, the compressed, intense EMOTION that is Rainbow In The Dark. I always thought this was some kind of power ballad to a girl who's like a rainbow in the dark, but it's actually an existential soliloquy on the darkness that befalls you when you're kicked out of Black Sabbath. I wish "American Idol" was more like this.

I don't believe in imposing my musical taste on my child. It sort of happens naturally without any effort from me anyway, but if he wants to watch and sing along with Barney, so be it. I once read a blog comment from a mom who insisted on banishing all children's music from the house because her child only liked the Talking Heads anyway. And what's more, only "Remain in Light" would do. That's a mom who isn't giving her kid much of a musical education.

At least with Barney, as irritating to adults as he is, kids learn songs about sharing, playing fair, and showing affection. The Talking Heads will get you a lot of disconnected alienation that you can dance to. Best to mix those messages up a little since children under seven are raging egomaniacs anyway. Might as well expose them to a few songs about friends making us super-happy. Besides, studies show that simple, repetitive music is good for pre-readers who learn words, sentence structures and rhyming schemes by singing along. When Jackson was really little I got some bluegrass CDs so we could both listen to something basic, yet heartfelt and danceable (and deceptively difficult--ever try plucking a banjo?).

I give the kid a wide range of the arts to choose from. He'll sort it all out by age ten or so. This morning Jackson stopped the dial on The Stairsteps' Ooh Child and we danced around the kitchen to the ultimate 70s cheer-you-up song. There's room in our breakfast nook for Barney, Dio and The Stairsteps.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I Was A Stone Roses Virgin

Last week, 94.7 Alternative Portland played a song I had never heard before and I thought, hmmm, what's this? Sounds old, yet timeless; jangly--reminds me of Ride. I wonder if this band was friends with Ride. What IS this band? Luckily DJ Gustav back-announced the song. Thank you radio gods! A commercial DJ who back-announces! It was The Stone Roses playing She Bangs The Drums.

Why haven't I ever heard them before this day? True, they only made two albums, but their debut, 1989's The Stone Roses, is considered one of the finest ever to come out of the UK. I've seen the Manchester musical/bio-pic/comedy, 24 Hour Party Peoplethree times (in fact, it's such an awesome a film, I'm going to BUY it right now [click]). I'm married to a pre-emo man who knows every lyric and melody of every Joy Division, New Order and Smiths song. We were both saddened when television personality, music maven, and Factory Records' founder Tony Wilson died last year. Keith even went to The Factory once, but due to a migraine, never made it to the interior. I think I know a little bit about the Manchester indie rock scene, which turned into a rave scene, which then lost my interest completely. So I'm not a total git or tosser. Yet this disparity.

The Stone Roses were not a Factory label band, but they hailed from Manchester and they had that uncanny musical intelligence that came out of that region in the late 80s/early 90s. They were a huge influence on that whole mid-90s Brit-pop (Charlatans, Blur, Oasis, Suede, etc.) situation. Those bands were good, but they weren't as mind-blowing as we were led to believe by the music media (personally, only Blur did it for me). I do think The Stone Roses had a bit more of a freaky force going for them. I'm sure the massive amounts of ecstasy their fans ingested didn't hurt everyone's happiness factor. At least until the drugs, egos and bickering took over. Being in a band is like being married to two or three other people. Imagine the logistics of trying to keep all that together.

Waterfall - live on Tony Wilson's show, "Other Side of Midnight" 1989. Remy's got an interesting cross-over drumming style.

She Bangs The Drums - I heard it in the car while pulling into the garage. Then I ran into the kitchen and turned on the radio to find out who it was. I, geek.

I Wanna Be Adored - live at the Hacienda, 1989.

Fools Gold - ravey, but wait, don't leave the room, it's good.

And be sure to give I Am The Resurrection a listen. It's a pretty decent indie-pop tune that then turns into something else entirely, three-and-a-half minutes in--a really clean, raving jam session. People continue to wig out over John Squire's guitar but the whole time I was listening, I was thinking: The drums! The killer drumming! (Head implodes.)

Tuckers took me to a few raves back in the day. I was always more impressed by the logistics and architecture of a rave than the culture or rapid-BPM music (that's Beats Per Minute--imagine dancing to the rhythm of a woodpecker on crystal meth). Let's dwell a moment on the concept of smart drinks. That's not a very rocking scene if it entails a smoothie bar. But I loved the light shows, the DJ pulpits (I wonder if anyone ever fell off of those platforms--they were so much higher than the dance floor). The chill rooms--they always reminded me of Greg Brady's bachelor pad when he took over Mr. Brady's den--the pillows, the mobiles, the lava lamps and blacklight posters. The tense, groovy vibe.

Raves reminded me of going to a 70s-era mall. With the Orange Julius stand in one corner, Spencer's Gifts down the hall, and lots of backpacks full of consumer goods: glow sticks, drugs, bottled water. It was overrun with glassy-eyed, smiley-faced white people, like a clearance sale at The Limited, only it's drugs On Special Now. I don't why I got off on this tangent. The Stone Roses are nothing like going to the mall. But if anyone wants to open a rave mall, I'll try it once. Actually, the Vancouver Mall has Glow Golf: blacklit, fluorescent, underwater-themed miniature golf. It rains here a lot and we have to keep busy.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Portland - Land of Puppets

We're not really savvy about brains yet. We don't know why certain concepts leap to mind at specific times, sometimes creating serendipitous effects. The other night, I dreamt I was scrubbing calcified salt deposits from an elephant's feet with a very long brush. The elephant was lying on her side, patiently awaiting clean feet, and of course, I don't know why this came to pass while I was sleeping.

Another strange occurrence: last Saturday on our ONE hot day of this year so far, I woke to the sound of birds chirping. For the first time in many months flannel sheets were unnecessary. It brought to mind certain mornings, eons ago, when I attended fine arts summer school back in Northern Calfifornia.

I remember dragging myself to school, wondering: WHY did I sign up for summer school anyway? I don't even know anyone at this school. It's Summer. I'm supposed to be on vacation--not going to SCHOOL. But fine arts summer school would immediately kick in its awesomeness on the first class, which could be anything from (depending on what you signed up for) performing magic tricks, dancing the Hustle, creating experimental animation with 16mm film and sharpies, or puppet-making.

Puppet-making was one of my favorite classes of all time. I took it twice. It was taught by Bruce Chessé, who informed us at the beginning of each summer session that he had worked with Jim Henson and we were going to be making some muppets, then puttin' on a show. I dreamt of working with Jim Henson. Mr. Chessé was my window into the mind of the muppet master. Within the first week, we were cutting patterns out of foam, getting high off of rubber cement fumes, rummaging through mountains of fabric and creating eyeballs from black sequins, cut-up L'egg eggs and the backs of plastic spoons.

Nothing phased Mr. Chessé. When four boys made the entire KISS army and wanted them to lip-synch KISS songs for the show, Bruce said, "Figure out how many songs you want to do and I'll set up the record player." (Calling Dr. Love performed by KISS muppets is something I will not forget anytime soon.)

He sewed all our fabric bodies on an ancient Singer machine that ran by foot pedal. He never seemed to get tired, lose patience, or forget to instill a passion for puppetry. He was a master teacher. I found myself wondering last week, on our nice hot summery day: whatever happened to Bruce Chessé?

So on (cloudy, raining) Monday, The Oregonian prints a funny story by Inara Verzemnieks about an upcoming Columbia Association of Puppeteers fund raiser, "Diamonds To Duct Tape," an adult puppet cabaret with belly dancing puppets, Carmen Miranda puppets, human/giant puppets, etc. (sorry--sold out--there may be tickets available for the day-time kid's shows still).

I thought, wait--there's a chartered puppet guild in Portland? Portland is a vastly entertaining city, but who knew there's been a puppet guild here since 1975? So I checked out their site, and there, of course is Bruce Chessé, of the Oregon Puppet Theatre. He's lived here since 1980. And not surprisingly, his family background is fascinating. His father was a famous marionettist and painter. That's why he inspired us in class--puppets were like family. I've moved to the land of puppets and it's dreamy.

- Puppet poster from Olde World Puppet Theatre's
- Shakespeare puppet by Bruce Chessé.
- Making and Using Puppets in the Primary Grades- Susan Barthel and Bruce Chessé's video on puppetry for kids.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

When Cultures Collide

Many years ago, on New Year's Eve in San Francisco, I had received a phone call from an ex from high school. When I say ex, I mean that in the loosest term of the word. He and some friends were in town and wanted to stop by. I hadn't talked to him in a few years but I figured, what the hell. In two years since moving to San Francisco, I had gone from heavy metal girl to punk rock girl. I had short hair, a retro sweater, and most likely skinny jeans. These guys showed up with all their long flowing hair, platform boots and elephant-sized bell-bottoms intact. They greeted me with devil signs.

Then one of them asked to borrow my roommate's 60s-era hollow-body bass for a few moments. "Do you mind if I play?" he asked politely. I said, sure, go ahead, expecting a nice musical interlude. He crouched on the floor in the hallway and proceeded to speed-metal his way through the gnarliest solo ever attempted on an unplugged imitation Hofner bass. It sounded like this: DUH DUHNUH DUH! DUH DUNUH DUH! DUNNUH duh DUNNUH duh DUNNUH DUH DUH!!! at machine-gun pace.

"Well, what are you boys up to tonight?" I managed to stammer. They were all headed to the beach with a case of cold Budweiser. There were a bunch of girls waiting in the car. Would I like to come along? I excused myself with a headache and watched them decend to places beyond. Then I headed to the Hotel Utah and saw The Mutants play Twisted Thing, New Drug, Insect Lounge, and Opposite World to a tiny room stuffed full of freaks. Oh, and I was on acid at the time.

This is a fine example of When Cultures Collide. Lucio recently inspired this idea when he sent me this video of the Finnish band, The Leningrad Cowboys, playing alongside the Soviet Red Army Choir. The song: Sweet Home Alabama. This is but one example (there are more below). It's kind of like the Star Wars cantina bar scene concept of artistic collaboration. Everyone's coming from different directions, but once the music starts, we're all in it together.

Luciano Pavarotti and Grace Jones sing a duet at his fundraiser for Angola in 2002. When Grace Jones steps on a stage, reality goes on a bender.

Pavarotti liked to experiment. He once sang It's A Man's Man's Man's World with James Brown and it's actually quite moving. When cultures coincide.

Andy Gibb sings Thank Heaven For Little Girls on "Punky Brewster." This is the only episode of this show I ever watched and it still depresses me. There are definitely limits to what innate charm can accomplish.

The Standells perform Do The Ringo and I Want To Hold Your Hand in The Munster's living room. This is the only episode of "The Munsters" I ever watched from start to finish. I was really sensitive to canned laughter, even as a kid, especially when a show wasn't very funny. But I was enchanted by the disparate parts of this world all coming together on our television screen.

Bitchiness: A Celebration

Dynasty - Alexis tries to take over Blake's mansion but Blake has other ideas.

Dynasty - Sammy Joe dances seductively, to the chagrin of Alexis.

Dynasty - Alexis and Krystle roll into a convenient mud puddle at the bottom of an otherwise arid California canyon.

Days of Our Lives, 2004 - Kate and Sami bitch-hug in the middle of an elegant restaurant.

Television. May it enrich our lives forever.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The History Channel is Groovy

On this day in history (April 16, 1946), the Hallucinogenic effects of LSD were discovered by Swiss chemist, Albert Hoffman. The History Channel site has an awesome little video of this event.

And on MonsterQuest at 9 p.m. tonight, researchers will be traveling to Sumatra to look for the Orang Pendek, or Man of the Woods. Considered by neighboring Flores residents to be "the real Hobbit," Orang Pendek has been spotted in the rainforest, leaving footprints behind. Man, beast, or missing link? Find out tonight, on MonsterQuest. (Sorry--I just liked typing that bit of marketing there).

Aaaand don't forget, Peyote to LSD: A Psychedelic Odyssey will be airing Saturday, April 19th at 10 p.m. Wade Davis follows his mentor, plant explorer Richard Evans Schultes, to enlighten the western world about hallucinogenic plants, native ceremonies and scientifically backed psychedelic research. Authors, musicians and beat poets will join in the fun (don't they always?).

What's going on over there at The History Channel? Tuckers says, "Must be under new management..."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Madonna - Rock The Vote 1990

Before she became a British disco star.

Modern Rocking Chairs...Rock

Spring cleaning: it's not just a marketing term. It's a very real phenomenon, one that took possession of me this week and hasn't yet released its rubber-gloved grip. Yesterday I vacuumed--not just the rugs, but the corners of the ceilings and the bugs out of the window frames (those were some big dead bugs). I moved things out from under the beds, dusted, and vacuumed them. That's right: I cleaned storage areas. I wiped off the 1/8-inch layer of dust around the computer monitor and am watching it resettle now as I type. That's the bummer of cleaning--everything gets dirty again right away.

That's why we purchase things. To forget for a moment the futility of having to clean them eventually. I've been wanting a modern rocking chair for the living room but it's not an easy find. There's plenty online but not so much in stores. So do I order a chair from the Internet and hope it's comfortable? There's the added element of rocking. Is an online chair capable of satisfactorily providing my rocking urges? I have an energetic child. Can he rock safely (hopefully to sedative effect)?

Why modern? Because I used to have a hand-me-down old-fashioned rocker and it took up a lot of valuable real estate in the room. Plus it traveled across the rug, eventually bumping into walls and furniture. Modern chairs tend to be minimalist and hopefully steady on their simple runners. America, I need your help. Do any of you own these chairs? Let me know how they ride.

Delfino - Home Decorators Outlet, $229.99 (marked down from $329). This is slightly ridiculous, I know. It has no legs and those crazy (cheap looking) industrial arms. It's like a modern rocking chair that's trying too hard to be modern. But it's such a surreal version of a rocker--impressively surreal. In the outlet store; imagine that.

Lillberg - Ikea, $159.00. You have to build it, of course, and it won't last but a few years, no doubt. I know this because half my house is furnished this way, but it's cheap and simple and won't block my fireplace. I actually tried it out and it rocks...OK. Sort of a last-resort choice. Ikea also has some fun woven rocking chairs but they're more sun-porch-like in scope.

Although, saaaay...I am liking this new Hejka chair for $139. Damn you, Ikea, for feeding into my current craving for handwoven furniture! It just needs a big, fat cushion and a sun-porch--not likely in the Northwest.

The Blu Dot Buttercup Rocker from Design Public. I love this. It's $849. Never mind.

The Eames Rocker - EBay, or the molded plastic re-issue from DWR, $449.00. This is the chair all the hipsters want. has a primer on this chair written by a modern dad who wanted a cool rocking chair to sit and rock his new baby. Helpful, but WHATEVER, Daddy Types. It looks really uncomfortable to be rocking a baby in. Babies tend to grow and get heavy. An ample base and arm cushion might come in handy. But at least you'll look cool, rocking that baby while your own arm goes numb and then tingly. Note: it's futile to try and be a cool parent. Spit-up at 3 a.m. decrees that you are now a member of practical society. Practical will never be cool.

Verner Panton Relaxer, bonluxat. A re-issue of a Panton design from the 70s. Whee. Could be dangerous, especially next to a fireplace. Potentially not relaxing. Price? I guess if you have to ask...

Aviar Rocker - Chiasso, $698.00. Hey, this looks strangely familiar... Nice. Bulky but comfortable-looking. $698 is not a horrible price for some decent furniture. Yes, it's a long way from Home Decorators Outlet, but not that long. We would get it dirty within 15 minutes. I'll just spin around on my creaky office chair for a few moments and dream of rocking one day. Rocking, rocking, zzzzzz, oops, spilled my drink--GAAAH! (Wipe clean with a damp cloth.)

UPDATE: It's been two years and one move later after this post and I finally found a nice rocking chair that seems to work well in our rental. It's a bentwood and I don't know what year it's from. I'm guessing the 70s. It's got some dings but it was half off at a local consignment store. The magic number sealed the deal: $40. For that amount of money, I'm willing to call this a modern rocker that fulfills our needs. I hate the term: light & airy. I wish it banned from all discussions about design and decor. But this chair is light & airy, dammit. You can actually see through it. And it's easily movable. I promise I'll never use that term again to describe anything. Only this chair.

- Modern rocking chair history from designboom (with rocking chair timeline!).
- Apartment Therapy ponders the topic of rocking with babies.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Underrated Ladies of the 80s

The 80s were a good time to form a band, especially if you were a bunch of girls with homemade haircuts and a lot of pent-up angst. Suddenly, punk made it just fine to yell out your frustrations to a staccato beat. It was so refreshing to be angry and not hear, "Jeez, put a CORK in it," over and over again. There was plenty of room for melodic pop too, combining self-expression and good old attitude. It wasn't a time to sell a million recorded units. It was a time to Express Yourself.

Formerly named Kleenex (until threatened by a corporate tissue-backed lawsuit), LiLiPUT was a Swiss band that started out raw and thrashy and ended up kind of lightly pop-experimental. Kill Rock Stars put out a 2-disc retrospectiveof their stuff from 1978 to 1983 and it sounds great. I don't know why I myself don't own it (mentally pointing to my head and mouthing, "idiot").

LiLiPUT - Eisiger Wind, 1981. This is a collage by FUNK'n'ROLL, featuring great early-80s ladies' bands with LiLiPUT (man, that name is hard to type) accompaniment.

The Raincoats reformed a few years ago and toured but I never hear any of their songs on the radio. They started out very minimalist and unschooled with a violin sawing away, and got all drums & bass world-beaty toward the end of their first run. Kurt Cobain was a big fan. Here's one of those videos of an album cover so you can hear an old song, The Void (which I guess Hole covered--I'm not much of a Hole follower). The album is their first from 1980 and self-titled. They got slicker as they went along, but were always quirky and they have a very devoted following.


Let's casually segue into some Romeo Void. Lead singer Deborah Iyall is a poet and artist. I used to see her all the time at shows. After the bust-up of their band, she and her husband quietly took in the likes of The Butthole Surfers, Camper Van Beethoven, and whoever else was playing in a small club in San Francisco. I never got up the nerve to say hi. I should have--she's cool. A Girl in Trouble was a top-40 hit but was controversial since it's about a girl getting an abortion. MTV rarely played this video--that might be because it truly sucks (although, in 1985, that never stopped them). But really, it's bad; although Benjamin Bossi's sax is great. Remember sax solos? Neither do I. You have to dig out your 80s records to hear them. Deborah is so bittersweet. Close your eyes and listen...

The Waitresses - I Know What Boys Like, 1982. People either like this or hate it, but I've always thought Patty Donahue's delivery is really funny. She's celebrating the art of being a complete tease. You gotta love that as a musical theme. I heard an interview with founding member Chris Butler on NPR and he said Donahue was a tough chick who based her style on film noir femme fatales. As cool as this sounds, The Waitresses couldn't catch a break, even after composing the theme song to "Square Pegs." Ending on a sad note, Donahue died in 1996 from lung cancer. But the sly "come-hither now go away" look in her eyes will live on forever:

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Inflatable Trash Bag Subway Grate Art

Joshua Allen Harris has found a good use for discarded plastic trash bags: inflatable subway-grate animal sculptures. (Smacking myself on the forehead with the palm of my hand), of course!

Where's The Olympic Torch?

Can you spy the Beijing Olympic Torch as it makes its way to San Francisco's Ferry Building on its only North American stop?

Olympic Torch in San FranciscoAnswer in comments.

photo source: SFGate

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Chewbacca as Muse - Wookiee Poetry for National Poetry Month

Most people don't like to write and share poetry. They're afraid their poems might come off as "bad." We're taught that poetry is a special talent, flowing from the inner core of its creators, then worked and re-worked to perfection. But most "good" poetry leaves me befuddled, or day-dreamy. What was I reading, I wonder, as I start a few lines back and try again. Pop music from the 60s starts playing in the dusty jukebox of my head. I flip through the book, wondering how many more poems are left to read. Will I get through them, or just skip around to the easy ones? What was I reading again? At least I'm trying to read some poetry, I commend myself. Start once more.

Like ballet, it takes a special appreciator, as well as a special writer to excel in this particular craft. My theory is that there's nothing inherently wrong with bad poetry. In fact, bad poetry is fun to write. I don't know if it's fun to read, but it's probably more fun than reading Sylvia Plath. I think we should all pinpoint our muses, write our poems and revel in them; good or bad. I did so today.

The Wookiee Has No Pants

Chewbacca - my museFrom the Shadowlands of Kashyyk
  to the moon-smashed shores of the Yuuzhan Vong War
Son of Attichitcuk, husband of Mallatobuck
Father of Lumpawaroo, distinguished speaker of Shyriiwook
Han Solo never revealed his true feelings for you.
Loyal friend, faithful mechanic
Walking carpet, would-be head-ripper of Orion Ferret
From the Great Pit of Carkoon
  to the leafy fronds of Rwookrrorro,
You freed squabbling Wookiee clans
  by ripping the arms and legs from the sockets
    of Trandoshan slaver, Ssoh
Disguised as Snoova to protect Leia Organa
  and nanny to the Jedi twins
What of your own wife and child?
Never mind — a bitter pill.
As Yoda so sagely intoned,
Good-bye Chewbacca. Miss you, I will.

Research gathered from Wookieepedia
SuperNova performs Chewbacca in the last video.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Edgar Winter Group - "Frankenstein"

The year: 1972. The place: my friend Pam's teen-age brother's bedroom. The reason: we had no idea. He had always ignored us completely. Until one day when he asked us both to come in, have a seat on the bed, and look at THIS!:

The Edgar Winter Group - They Only Come Out At NightWe examined the album cover politely. It was the era of individuality, high self-esteem, and glam-rock acceptance so we didn't want to say anything uncool. Then he put the needle on the record and, as if initiating us into a secret rite, said, "Now listen to THIS:"

Even as an eight-year-old, listening to this song for the first time, I assumed The Edgar Winter Group must have consisted of seven or eight guys, which impressed me no end. I tried picturing them all in my head, each more crazy-looking than the other. But this video is even more impressive, showing the basic rock quartet with Edgar playing timbalis and sax all the while wearing a very heavy-looking tricked-out synthesizer keyboard. I've played (and carried) 70s-era keyboards before. They are some of the densest objects in the universe. But happily I find that the more I watch the video, the crazier it seems, living up to my childhood imaginings and then some.

Edgar tells the story of Frankenstein in this interview. He seems like a total sweetheart. And he's a Scientologist--ca-razy! (genius).

Appropo to this post, this might be the greatest album cover of all time.
The Edgar Winter Group - Shock Treatment

Monday, April 07, 2008

The Big Boys Had Soul

Who was the funkiest punk band of the very early 80s? Easy: Big Boys from Austin, TX. This band had a lot of heart, soul, anger-management issues (at least in song format), and were all-around good fellows who encouraged their audience to sing along and start their own bands. Skate punks, 70s soul revivalists, drag queens (OK, only singer Randy "Biscuit" Turner was in drag, particularly favoring ballerina tutus), the Big Boys were a big influence on a lot of musicians and performers over the years.

They first caught my attention with their excellent cover of Kool and the Gang's Hollywood Swinging. Back in the early 80s, let's just say that skate-punk bands did not readily acknowledge the greatness of 70s funk and soul very often; like never. The Big Boys didn't just play soul/punk (dubbed "funkcore;" I guess "spunk" didn't make the cut)--they LOVED it and it shows. They had a horn section for crissakes--unheard of at the time.

You can get 31 of their best songs (short and sweet) on their Fat Elvis collection. There's also a Skinny Elvis but "Fat Elvis" has their best soul music. It's also full of hardcore stuff that hasn't aged as well, in my opinion, although impressive for its passion and Randy Turner's gnarly vocals. Their best punk stuff is anthemic (Fun Fun Fun, Apolitcal, We Got Your Money, We're Not in it to Lose) and there's even a moody ballad, Sound on Sound, that ushered a more thoughtful Minutemen-like vibe into their melodies before they busted up in 1984.

We Got Soul photo collage featuring the Impromptu Horns (a bunch of friends from high school) and Chris Gates' excellent (stuck-in-my-head all week) bassline.

Funk Off / Baby, Let's Play God - Randy Turner shows his charisma in this Flipside video.

Fun Fun Fun with lots of live-show clips. Whoo! The underground 80s were fun to the third power.

This must be the Guyville Liz Phair was singing about. Nothing but GUYS.

- Very sadly, Randy Turner died in 2005 from Hepatitis C.
- Guitarist Tim Kerr's interview for Perfect Sound Forever. Long ago we were briefly pen pals. Back in my day, if you wanted to write fan mail, you actually had to write on a piece of paper, then mail it. I liked his letters because they were written in big black pen and looked like set lists. Yes, I was a fan.
- Big Boys fan site

Friday, April 04, 2008

Tupperware Found Footage Friday

Remyyy hosts a "same video different use" forum on Vimeo. This was #4 in a series and featured found footage of a Tupperware infomercial with whatever people wanted to do to it, including adding soundtrack, edits, colorization, whatever.

The first one only added the song, but I think it works. You can see what the original footage looks like there and then watch it change in the other entries. Why would you want to do that? Well, I personally really like Tupperware--the product, the concept, the history of. And I like editing too. Combine the two and I'm in some kind of alterna-heaven. If you're stoned, this will seem very artful. And if you're not, it might make you feel like you are. Plus the Jell-O(TM) is so heavily featured. Those are all good enough reasons for me.

How Soon Is Now from Baywhale on Vimeo.

Primerware from Ben Millett on Vimeo.

The Last Tupper from Philippp on Vimeo.

Eat Your Jello from Paul Davis on Vimeo.

My friend May sells Tupperware. Get in touch--she'll set you up with all your burpable food-storage needs!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Farewell Evergreen Airport, Vancouver, WA

Evergreen Airport was built in the 40s and closed down in 2006. For a little airport, it covers a lot of land, giving our eyes a break from the ever-growing shopping sprawl on Mill Plain Boulevard. There are other visual treats on Mill Plain; Mt. Hood on clear days; there's an excellent view of it from the Cost Plus parking lot (and I recently discovered, from the Post Office on 136th Avenue). I enjoy seeing the mobile home parks because they're traditional and I like that look (especially the homes with lots of lawn gnomes and wind chimes--very homey to me). And Knight Camera is an unassuming house-like structure full of cameras, camera parts, lenses, tripods and guys with tool kits, ready to fix anything you bring in, or supply you with affordable parts if it can't be fixed.

But our pleasantly deserted transportation ghost town is now gone, demolished within the past two weeks to make way for a Crate & Barrel, among other things. We are sad to see it go. It's charming to have an airport in your neighborhood without having to deal with the noise or air pollution it normally would have generated. Here's how it used to look before turning to rubble. Thanks to the guys at Knight for fixing my camera so I could take these.

Safe journeys.

Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields, SW Washington State