Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Albert Brooks Asks for a Bailout

Retired (or fired, depending on how you look at it) advertising exec Albert Brooks attempts to get his nest-egg back from a casino in my favorite comedy, "Lost in America."

Dark picture, like the economic crisis we're facing right now! So timely for 1985.

What to watch when you have the flu

Mike Long dances to The Only Ones' Another Girl, Another Planet in Hamilton, Ontario. Go Canadian guy, go!

Another Girl, Another Planet from Mike Long on Vimeo.

Mike Long made a dance video a day for a year. I don't know if any of them were made while he had a flu. If so, that would be a very dull video.

- Dance like Mike Long.
- MySpace.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Sexiest Couple in Hollywood History

My reliable source tells me that Paul Newman was a fine, upstanding man, but we knew that already by his actions over the years. What a giver.



Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall Camp.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

"Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains" 1981

Here it is, the DVD you've been waiting for, all spoiled up here. After being shelved upon its release and only showing up on late-night cable TV and a few festivals, ...The Fabulous Stains has arisen. Lou Adler's second film after Cheech & Chong's Up in Smoke is about what you'd expect from a guy who left the music industry to direct Cheech & Chong's Up in Smoke. It's a bad film but it has lots of good little moments throughout.

Marketed as a satire, it plays most of its scenes straight and doesn't seem to know what it's satirizing. Punk rock? The meaning behind pop music? Feminism? Media-fueled youth marketing? It's all there and I still haven't a clue what the film is saying about any of these ongoing topics.

The duct tape on the microphone stand is a nice touch though. It's the kind of detail that make the film cult-y and watchable. The grime, exhaustion, youth and inexperience of its rock & roll road-trip, all come through—in the backstage dressing rooms that look smelly; the bad hair, and clangy guitar sounds. The shots of the bands facing their adoring and hostile audiences get it right.

Directing live music on film that feels like a spontaneous moment in time is almost impossible, but this film manages it, which could be what people respond to when they see it for the first time. What does it feel like to be in a punk band? A lot like this, and you probably need a shower too.

Plus you get 15-year-old pissed-off Diane Lane and her 13-year-old cousin Laura Dern, escaping their shithole Pennsylvania town by turning themselves into pre-riot-grrl stars. So what if they have no talent or originality and they dress like street-walkers on angel dust? I found the film most disappointing in its exploitative use of young girls in see-through tops (what Diane Lane calls in her entertaining DVD commentary with Laura Dern, "Titty power!"), underpants, fish-nets and heels—and its many close-ups of teen-age crotch on stage. That was and remains icky.

Saving the enterprise is Diane Lane, whose intelligence, instincts, and dignified presence shine through, as always. She's such an underrated actress. Had she been working in the 1940s she would have been the best film noir anti-heroine of all. See her in Hollywoodland to get an idea of her range. I don't care how many Richard Gere films she feels compelled to do—I'm glad to see her making a comeback all these years later. And now:

Ladies and Gentlement, The Fabulous Stains

Diane Lane in The Fabulous Stains
The Looters in The Fabulous Stains

Fun facts:

The British punk band that tours with the Stains are played by Paul Cook and Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, the haunting eyes of Clash bassist Paul Simonon (sigh), and former boxer turned actor, Ray Winstone, singing for the first time (and punching half the cast out). Diane Lane says in her commentary, "These guys were TIGHT!" which cracks me up, but she's right. Their two songs are power punk on rocket fuel, wearing lots of hair gel and big wool coats. Realistic dialogue: Steve Jones says, "wanker," "tosser," and "bollocks."

Fee Waybill, lead singer of The Tubes, parodies himself in stoner fashion and was really disappointed when this didn't result in his big acting break. Welcome to Hollywood.

Screenwriter Nancy Dowd (Slap Shot, Coming Home) left the project and took her name off the finished film after experiencing sexual harassment by the crew. Not much female empowerment happened on-screen as well.

Courtney Love claimed to have found inspiration in this film—about a girl with more bravado than talent, who dresses like a (kinder)whore and steals her best song from a male rock group. I will say no more.


- L.A. Times
- The A.V. Club.
- Brianorndorf's Stains article features the short documentary by the late Sara Jacobson, The Making of Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains. Jacobson was working on a screenplay about an all-girl rock band but it remains unfinished as far as I know.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Save the Economy: Go to the Mall

My parents were in town this week and it rained on the day we promised Jackson we'd take him miniature golfing. Luckily, the Vancouver Mall (otherwise known as Westfield, whose Web site makes the sassy claim: It's so you), has Glow Golf. This is an indoor miniature golf course, completely painted black with a day-glow under-the-sea motif. You have over 50 holes to golf, all with starfish, palm tree, volcanic rock, and mole-hill obstacles. There's even a psychedelic multi-colored windmill, though that's not very oceanic.

It looks like this (I'm borrowing these photos from another local blog because I didn't have the presence of mind to take my own photos--sorry, glow-golf is a little mind-blowing).

I know all parents think the world of their children but I'm not exaggerating when I say that Jackson is a miniature golf prodigy. He barely aims as he sets up his ball, yet it goes near or in the hole almost every time. He nearly beat his dad (who aims, extensively). Jackson has homing-pigeon instincts when it comes to glow-golf. I am very proud.

Because our economy is so in the toilet and it appears that our country, a former super-power, may I remind you, is about to go bankrupt, I thought I'd pitch in and put my Google AdSense cash back into the stream of currency that ebbs and flows all around us. What better place to do this than the mall? This blog is not earning money on any grand scale. In fact, if this blog were to be represented by a pop-culture icon, this McDonald's Happy Meal toy as spotted in the food court would do the job nicely:
Happy Meal MunchkinsI am a munchkin in the world of wizards (and witches). But if the digital bytes fail to, uh, byte, we're all going down. My 10,000+ hits (OK, some of them were by ME, I admit) and $12.96 in AdSense revenue is just as good as Perez Hilton's 10 gazillion hits and god knows how much ad loot. He's just going to spend it all on ugly, ill-fitting clothes, mark my words.

I, on the other hand, have more refined tastes. But not much money, so what can be bought with $12.96? Let's look through the lens of my camera-phone and find out! Note: my camera-phone is pretty good at taking photos--for a camera-phone. More and more, my instant photos remind me of pinhole-camera prints. That would make it a digital pinhole camera--the mind reels! But that IS the look. And it's SO me.

C'mon, let's ride to the mall! I'm buying! Fifty cents a ride.
No, we cannot afford to buy the toddler Vans. They're $25. Hipster baby-wear is always an oddity to me. There's nothing less hip than a baby. I mean that in a good way.
How about some satanic Halloween accoutrements? I'm sure there's something plastic and imported in here under $6.
How about a colorful, cheap wig? Wigs make life more fun, until the itching starts. Even a cheap wig is probably more than we want to spend. We're just wig window-shopping... Hello Evil Kitty!
Do you need a Lego representation of a murderous, sociopathic, movie-marketing toy? McDonald's has your back. $1.99.
I don't want these, but aren't they a strange phenomena? Big purses that look like little-girl purses. Seems like the cross-over between the sexing up of little girl clothes and the childing down of adult clothes makes for weird, unnatural marketing messages.
These are so serene, especially when you plug them in and flick the "on" switch. Undulating waves of light imitate the movement of garish water. If I owned a bar, I would line these up on one wall instead of having a TV. Then my patrons could drink, watch and meditate on all that is natural and artificial in our world.
The Vancouver Mall has a carousel, hiding in a darkened corner. It's a nice ride with a train ride behind it and lots of horse sculptures on display. You can have a dark little birthday party in there, kind of like being inside the world's largest basement rec room. $1.75 per ride.
My camera was struggling in the low light (and I'm too lazy to read the jumbo manual and figure out how to adjust for that). Here's some display animals for your scenic train ride.
An attempt to capture movement. WHOA! Not successful, but kind of arty, for a mall.
So what'd we spend? Did we make under $12.96? I think so. Unfortunately Google won't mail my check until I make $100, so we've got another year or so to actually buy anything. I'm sure the government bail-out will be under way by then and we can all rest easy, knowing our government is taking care of everything.

I'm going to have insomnia tonight--I can tell.

Things are looking up. The Bedazzler™ is back!

"Mad Men" - Cable Television as Muse

Illustrator Dyna Moe creates retro-artwork based on "Mad Men" moments. I love her use of iconic props from the amazing set design of this show: the copy machine, a Rothko painting, a blue egg, a pink elephant, an Irish Setter, a bag of potato chips. Inspired!

Dyna Moe's blog: I Let My Fists Do The Talkin'.
Source: Urban Outfitters blog (and a whole bunch of other Internet sites lately).

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Haunting Saga of Joe Meek

I had planned to feature several of the outsider musicians in Irwin Chusid's book, "Songs in the Key of Z,"but then I got stuck on the Joe Meek chapter. I ALWAYS get stuck on the Joe Meek chapter.

I'm tempted to feel a touch of envy when researching the lives of outsider geniuses, but life is not always a roll in the hay for the musically inclined. The factors that make for an outsider artist: eccentricity, visions (aural and otherwise), intense spiritual inclinations, obsessive compulsiveness, and the marching to one's own drum, also make for a difficult life journey. The social isolation and ever-lurking symptoms of mental illness are always a possibility for intense unhappiness, and in the case of Joe Meek, homicidal rage.

So why the fascination with him? He's just endlessly fascinating. A gay, tone-deaf farm boy who set up his own recording studio in a London flat above a leather goods store, Meek could only compose songs by humming tunelessly into the ears of willing musicians who were able to discern what the noises in his head were supposed to sound like. Living in England in the early 60s when homosexuality was a crime, he was paranoid and subject to blackmail threats for his secretive personal life. He visited graveyards to record sounds of the after-life, and he was obsessed with outer space and the sounds that might reflect that particular state of mind. He will also be remembered for his infamous technique of hurling whatever heavy object happened to be nearby at musicians who pissed him off, in his quest to reach unknown heights of magical musical moments.

He used metal springs, kitchen gadgets, all manner of recording devices, blow-out levels of reverb, and musicians' feet stomping on the floorboards of his flat to achieve his goals. For a time he produced some innovative, memorable music and worked with session musicians as talented as Jimmy Page and Ritchie Blackmore, but by the late 60s, the buttoned-down world of London was about to explode into psychedelic wackiness and Meek couldn't produce a hit. The rent was due and he was depressed and paranoid, resulting in two shotgun blasts, the first hitting his landlady, the second, himself. No more Meek sounds would follow (that we know of); it was 1967 and he was dead at 37.

Clip from the documentary, "A Life in the Death of Joe Meek," showing just how stodgy the British recording industry was at the time that Joe Meek did the unthinkable and became an independent producer. There were musicians playing in every room of his flat, including the bathroom, kitchen and stairway, while Meek did the opposite of what the industry dictated. Instead of making it sound "live," he made it resemble the music in his head. And that was a ca-razy sound indeed.

Here's his big #1 hit, Telstar, by The Tornados. Space-age surf music, unheard of in 1962.

The Tornados - Robot Scopitone, 1963.

The Honeycombs - Have I The Right? Honey Lantree on the skins. The Honeycombs couldn't believe the foot-stomping, heavily drum-laden sound that came out in the final mix. They freaked out and not in a good way. But it went to #5 in the U.S. and was their biggest hit.

Joe Meek - I Hear a New World from his Outer Space Music Fantasy concept album.

- Interview of Joe Meek showing some of his equipment in the background — "I have to watch some of these people...like a hawk."

- "The Strange Story of Joe Meek" - BBC documentary (part 1 of 4).

- For more of Joe Meek and other outsider musicians, see Richie Unterberger's "Unknown Legends of Rock 'n' Roll Psychedelic Unknowns, Mad Geniuses, Punk Pioneers, Lo-Fi Mavericks & More." After you read this and "Songs in the Key of Z," you might be feeling a little bit like an outsider yourself. Watch some CNN. That'll put you to rights.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Karen Black - More Than Just "Trilogy of Terror" (but that too)

As I age, I'm looking for new older role models. Women in American society are not exactly revered for their wisdom gained with the years. I don't care about all that. I'm aging and there's nothing I can do about it, so I best embrace it with arms wide open.

Like that dream I once had where my hair was all streaked in black and silver stripes. I didn't think in horror, AUUGH--look at all the gray hairs! I thought: my hair looks so COOL, like it's old and new at the same time. So remember that when the gray starts showing. It's just the old and new in you, giving you your stripes.

Here's a Hollywood cult star who never gets old. Karen Black is the one to call when you're casting a unique individual who thinks outside the box. I doubt Karen Black even knows there is a box to begin with. There's nothing boxy about her at all. Her intensity is always appreciated around here.

Here's a thorough montage of much of her work over the years. Thank you, Karen Black for your stellar presence.

My parents wouldn't let me watch "Trilogy of Terror" in 1975. Their consensus at the time was, "Go to bed." Unfortunately my parents' house had a lay-out that created a "funnel effect," which meant I could clearly HEAR all the sound from the movie from down the hall. Which of course made it even MORE scary than if I had watched it with them. To experience this for yourself, simply play parts 2 and 3 with your eyes closed.

"Trilogy of Terror," 1975 - Amelia's Story Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Karen Black's MySpace page, featuring her song, I Want A Lip.

Hey, happy birthday Sue Iconolodge. I'll bring some cake next time I see you.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

ANTM Dolls - The Makeover Episode

See what a trip to Kmart, an aisle full of clearance items, and a camera-phone have wrought? Tonight is "America's Next Top Model's" very popular makeover episode, where 12 would-be reality-show contestants are "improved" on the whim of the show's host and executive producer, Tyra Banks. Some past seasons' makeover results have been...of questionable improvement.

Join me now, in a parallel universe, where ANTM dolls (marked down from $16.99 to $10, and featuring jointed torsos for POSING!) partake in their OWN make-overs, tonight on America's Next Top Doll Model...

Hello. I am a reasonable stand-in product for a Tyra Doll (until I license such product myself). Welcome to America's Next Top Doll Model makeover episode. Let's meet our doll models, shall we?

First we have Paisley.

Paisley: How do you do! I'm just tickled to be here! Whoo!

Tyra Doll: Paisley, you look like a little girl going to her first birthday party. We're going to give you a more sophisticated look. One that says: Come hither, now please, just go away...

Paisley: Ooh, that sounds exciting...I think...tee hee!

Tyra: First we're going to trim off all that excess hair...Paisley: Wh-WHAT?! Oh dear lord...

Tyra Doll: Then we'll give you a new weave for the look of glamorous sophistication.
What do you think Paisley?

Paisley: I...love it. Thank you Tyra. But it does hurt my scalp a little... heh heh... (tearing up).


Tyra Doll: Miss J. Alexander Doll, what are we going to do about Paisley's messed-up weave?
Miss J.: I will be wearing an extra neck embellishment for each girl eliminated. There will be 14 neck embellishments in all...

Tyra Doll: Miss J.--Paisley's weave? LOOK at it.

Miss J.: Shake it around, girl. Looks like a nest of bees got a hold of your head...
Paisley: Ow, ow, ow! It's hurting me! Give me pain killers! Please!

Tyra Doll: Don't worry Paisley. That weave is coming off this MINUTE.

Paisley: Oh thank you Tyra! Thank you so much! (Sobs.)

Tyra Doll: There! How's that Paisley? We're bringing back the Sassoon-inspired asymmetrical bob. What do you think?Paisley: Oh Jesus, lord...God give me strength.

Tyra Doll: Next up--Sienna!
Sienna: Oh Tyra, you're even prettier in person!

Tyra Doll: Thank you. Sienna, you're going short--Mia Farrow in "Rosemary's Baby" short!

Sienna: Eeeeee! Who's Mia Farrow? What's "Rosemary's Baby?"
Tyra Doll: Hmmmm. This is NOT what I had in mind. Jay Manuel? Hand me the scissors.
Jay Manuel Doll: Here you go.

Tyra: Thank you. (snip! snip! snip!) There! THAT'S what we're looking for!
Sienna: (Gasp!) Oh! Oh no! NO!!!

Tyra Doll: And finally, Sidney...
Sidney: H-hello.

Tyra Doll: Now where is that girl with all the personality? You're fading before our very eyes! Therefore, a little color will make you stand out. There! You are straight out of an old Hollywood movie!Sidney: But those films were in black & white. Mother-fu(bleep!)

Tyra Doll: THERE'S the spunky girl I remember. Turn around. Let's have a look at the whole picture.Sidney: I will sue! Once my roots come in, so help me, I will sue!

Miss J. Doll: It does wonders for your profile.

Tyra Doll: Own it, Sidney, before it owns you. Jay Manuel! How did the girls take to their make-overs in the salon?Jay Manuel Doll: Not bad, Tyra. Some tears, several suicide threats, but with the extra grief counselors you provided, everything was pretty much under control.

Tyra Doll: Excellent! Everyone, remember--stay fierce!Someone! Give me a fierce finger-wave, c'mon!

Production Assistant Doll: Oh OK, (waving), there you go.