Saturday, December 08, 2007

Who Are You Going To Be When You Get Here?
Thank you for your work, Beat Takeshi...

One of my primary film enjoyments in life come from a stocky dynamo of creative force, Kitano Takeshi. Whether it's something he directed himself, or something he just starred in, I tend to enjoy this man whose mind and spirit always seem to be somewhere else, but who still maintains a screen presence like few others.

I first came across him when his directorial debut A Violent Cop had set the cinephile world abuzz. Come to think of it, I think it was in England's film mag Empire...since even many things "movie" in America still have an allergy to most things subtitled. In any event, I tracked down a copy...and well, hey, I didn't really like it much at the time. I couldn't, however, deny that he was definitely on to something.

Time has passed, and I've consumed many of the things Kitano that I've been able to lay hands on (and I admit that those who guffaw at copyright laws have been most helpful where American distributors have failed me). I can still picture one of his most tender moments where after playing a brutal thug for the better part of two hours he still tugs at the heart strings by repeating "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence" to Tom Conti at the end of Oshima's film of the same name. But it's Sonatine and Fireworks that still remain at the top of my Kitano fact, atop the heap of some of my favorite movies ever.

So last night, I sat down to watch his last (well, the latest one I could get ahold of)...

Takeshis' (2005 , d. Kitano Takeshi)

The Story: Once successful Japanese media icon Kitano Takeshi meets his doppelgänger, we follow the twin Takeshi through a dreamy journey of what it to NOT be successful Japanese media icon Kitano Takeshi...sort of.

The Review: Ok, let's just start this by saying that if you don't know anything about Kitano's life or work, you might still enjoy the film but you're going to be missing out on a whole lot of subtext. And let's counter that by saying that even if you do know a fair bit about him, you still might not enjoy the film and there's likely even more subtext that's zinging over your head. I enjoyed the hell out of it personally, but then again I tend to really enjoy what others consider "failure" if the makers are at least really trying to do something with it. (And I wouldn't call this a failure...)

Granted, it's two years after the fact and I'm only just getting to watch the movie, but I remember the critics being none to kind to this one. Looking back (having now watched the movie), it seems in many ways to be a case of a critical darling falling out of favor by not delivering what's expected of him. I admit, even for myself, that I missed Kitano's usual mixture of elegiac thoughtful beauty smashed together with brutal quick violence in this one. However, (and I sometimes have to chastise myself for forgetting,) there's a joy in seeing an artist grow, branch out, and try new things.

As the story progressed and the life of the sad sack struggling Takeshi became more and more outlandish, I kept thinking that it was like watching Kitano do Fellini in an exploration of filmic identity along the lines of David Lynch's recent films. That's not to say it was wholly derivative of those filmmakers, because this one's very much a personal project. Then I went back and did a little reading on the film, and found that it's being described as the first of Kitano's "self-deconstructive" films (The plot of the next one sounds even more Fellini...). In the end though, the problem therein lies.

Like any text, whether it be movie, book, or artwork. To some degree it has to stand on it's own. Not everyone going in has had access or exposure to the elements the filmmaker brought to the piece. Furthermore, even those who do like to wax intellectual about creative work don't always want to invest the time to learn more about any one piece.

So does this movie stand on it's own? To be honest, I'm not sure. I couldn't watch it as a neophyte, and I enjoyed a lot of it knowing what I already did about it's creator. That ultimately taints my ability to judge. From that stance I can say that large portions of it did work, it certainly was entertaining, it certainly had wit and depth...but, I'm not sure where it was ultimately trying to get to...

I could sit here and philosophize about the exploration of alternate realities and how, like life, they wouldn't necessarily have clean clear cut conclusions either...but it's not my place to justify the work. Not only that, but it'd be pretty arrogant of me to think that I could. It was a challenging piece of artwork that engaged me for it's run time, and I'd watch it again. So from my point of view, pretty successful. At the same time, I can see where a goodly proportion of my friends and family would not be so generous with it. (From a few I can hear the "Huh?"'s and "That sucked!"'s from here...)

So I say...if you enjoy dream-like experimental films that explore the nature of film, character, film violence, and image while having a healthy dose of a wacky sense of humor...I can't see where you can walk out of Takeshis' having gotten something for the ticket price.


Monday, November 12, 2007

When All I Wanted Was a Little Nappy Nap...
It's just time for that Swiftian kind of honesty...

I was beginning to worry about me there for a while. I was afraid that I was about to get delinquent on showing up to just say...well...anything...

After all, the weather's getting a little cooler (yes, even here in sunny southern California), the holidays are fast approaching...those wonderful overwrought consumerism spectaculars...and let's face it, there's nothing about a warm mug of cocoa that makes you wanna say "Hey, what the hell am I doing? I've got work to do?"

I've always been an advocate for the U.S. adopting a state sponsored "Naptime Program", that could easily be modeled after the Spanish siesta. I don't want to rehash all my thoughts here on that personally hallowed subject, but I will reiterate that an after lunch glass of milk and a stretch on a little padded mat for a while has never sounded bad to me. (And in an attempt to be PC for all them lactose intolerant folks out there...we could substitute apple juice...maybe orange...grape might be pushing your luck...but I refuse to serve anything that's chockful of Corn Syrup!)

Now that winter's almost upon us, I'm nearly to the point of advocating hibernation...or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

At the same time, I don't want this to sound hypocritical in light of my (somewhat) recent bashing of energy drinks. I still think all of that is silly...and it's not as though I myself am now filled full of lethargy. No,'s the onset of the end of the year...the holidays...and since it is winter...what better than hibernation? (Assuming the bears and other woodland creatures have any need to hibernate now that Washington state will probably be the same climate as Tampa Bay with the rate we're going)

Anyhow, it's the speed and the pressure that somehow gets smacked onto us at this time of year.

I mean, I've had a pretty productive year. I wrote two novellas. I did a bunch of paintings (and one really big one!). I revamped my website. I started writing blogs again. I started cleaning my ears again. I mean, I've been busy. But there's something about that end of the year, that always makes me think that I didn't do enough...

...and what's gonna stop me from getting more done? That's right...that's right: Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Maybe I'll have to retract some of what I said it's just occured to me...maybe I can get my naptime here in banning all the holidays. After all, a recent report I saw said that Americans work more hours than any other country in the world, and we're still not as productive. So maybe, we could make up for that gap by banning holidays...(and then maybe we could get my naptime referendum introduced...cuz if you're going to be working 16+ hours a day, you're gonna need a nap.)

Let's think about this logically. You got two types of holidays: the forgotten and the overproduced.

Now judging by how many folks besides myself were cruising in and out of the closed post office parking lot this morning...I'd say it's a safe bet that I wasn't the only one who didn't realize it was Veteran's day. Not to be crass, I feel that our veteran's do deserve recognition and some thanks, but obviously since no one in corporate America's figured out how to market it to death...we've sort of forgotten this one. And what the hell is Columbus day supposed to be about anymore? Not only were there people here when he got here...we've pretty much figured out that Vikings got here first...and now there's plenty of speculation that the Chinese were already hanging around the west coast long before Chris took the risk of not falling off the edge of the world. And it's not like anyone really gets the day off for either of those (and many others) except for bank employees and postal works (I'd include the rest of the government..but from what I've seen lately, I'm beginning to wonder if we should just mark the handful of days on the calendar that they actually do seem to work), and I somehow doubt that the bulk of those who do get it off spend the day in reverence for our fighting forces, or having a beer for Columbus.

Well, they might have the beer, but I doubt they give three cheers to the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria before downing it.

Then there's the overproduced: Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter, Halloween (although at least it's kept most of the fun about it). I'd include St. Patrick's day, but I don't remember the last time I got the day off for that one either. And Thanksgiving sort of rides the's not quite as oversaturated in the marketing department as those above...and the only consumerism it really advocates is just food. Then again, that's sort of my problem with Thanksgiving...who the hell are we thanking? What percentage of the populace grew any of the stuff they're eating? How many of them went out to the old stump with the axe to give the ol' Tom Turkey the big shave? How many of them were starving to death, and had to turn to Native Americans for help? And how many of them wouldn't have just eaten entirely too much that day anyway?

Back to Christmas though...which in a lot of places you're not even allowed to call it that anymore...which has always made me wonder: do the atheists and whomever else who get all uppity about the use of the word Chrismas really think that it has much religious significance to most people these days? I mean, lest we forget, just saying "God" or "Jesus" used to be considered blasphemy...and once upon a time blasphemy could be a stoning offence...but when's the last time you said "Jesus Christ!" in exasperation and somewhat beaned you up side the head with a big chunk of concrete?

Anyhow, it seems to me that all most people even do anymore is shop for stuff...constantly. It's the only way to explain why when I drive cross country, the outskirts of any town (and in some cases all the rest of it) have all began to look the same. The Appleby's and Circuit City's and Bed, Bath, and Beyond's and so on are everywhere, and as I rarely see any of them closing down it must mean that someone's shopping there. And once Starbucks of the Coffee Bean has landed...your small town is finished...usually because the Wal-Mart's pretty much killed every thing else. So...why do I need a holiday that's become nothing but an excuse to buy more stuff for each other that we probably would've bought for ourselves anyway? (Unless you X-mas shop exclusively at Spencer Gifts, Adult Bookstores, or other fine novelty shops)

And if we got rid of it...that's another day of work to buy more stuff anyway! Perfect!

Not that I want to leave out good ol' Valentine's Day. I remember as a kid it being the cutesy day where we all made little paper bags with construction paper hearts as a little inner classroom mailbox for slips of paper featuring our favorite comic book, cartoon, or movie characters which we all handed to each other (after spending time trying to figure out how to ditch out on giving one to that one kid we really didn't like). Then somewhere along the became all about jewelry...or rather my obligation as a male to buy some for my significant well as some sort of ridiculous date within which to present it. Now, I guess men are somewhat back in on the action as Valentine's means buying all kinds of crap for each other...and mind you that's the only way to prove your love on that special day...because X-mas isn't've got to buy more crap! So it's good you worked that day to be able to afford it.

Which brings me to my final thought on all this...which isn't holiday related...but it's close in spirit: Why do we still pretend that Saturday and/or Sunday are days off? Remember that thing about blaspheming above...well, there used to also be rules about working on the weekends. But if you work retail (ie. selling sh!t) and I've worked retail, when could you ever count on Sunday as of rest?

So let's just stop more holidays!...and no more weekends! We've got money to make and crap to buy...and it's high time we got on with it.

And then maybe, just maybe...I wouldn't feel like I still had so much to do at the end of the year...

AND I imagine that dropping from exhaustion will help me attain that nirvana-like state of hibernation I now feel myself to be in pursuit of...

See how a good plan always comes together?


Monday, November 05, 2007

Never Gonna Fall For...Modern Life...Never Gonna Fall For
Only the French could do it like this...

Thanks to a film I viewed a few weeks ago, I was trying to think of another movie that made me laugh out loud, and at the same time, frankly, depressed the hell out of me...

Actually, I should be more specific. The 90's version of Cyrano de Bergerac with Depardieu makes me laugh and by the end makes me really sad, but that's not really what I'm thinking. Come to think of it, most modern romantic comedies depress me...but usually don't make me laugh. Anyhow, that's a whole other issue...

I'm talking modern life...or just life in general...or the human condition...that kind of high-falutin' silliness.

The first movie that sprung to mind was Mike Judge's Idiocracy, which barely saw release last year. It's depiction of a future overrun by the proliferation of the lowest common denominator was both laugh out loud funny and very obviously meant to shame you for laughing at its stupidity at the same time. It was something Judge had certainly been perfecting with Beavis & Butthead. The sad irony being that over time people stopped looking down at their moronic antics, and began to identify with them. (The "bliss of ignrance" so to speak...)

Someone just tossed in Terry Gilliam's Brazil, which is another fine example. It's a d@mned good combination of Orwell and Huxley's visions of the future. It doesn't try to deliver on the laughs in a typically comedic fashion, but it certainly has some classic funny moments. Hell, Robert DeNiro as a revolutionary air-conditioning repair man (I know, I know...Heating Engineer) is pure hilarity in and of itself. And yet, it has one of the most horrific moments ever when the same character is a scene that simply has to be seen.

So why was I thinking about this? Because I sat down and watched:

Playtime (1967)
written and directed by: Jacques Tati

The Story: On his way to appointment, M. Hulot ends up spending a day trapped in the new modern section of Paris where he constantly crosses paths with a pretty American tourist who can't find her way free to the classic parts of the town.

The Review:
Playtime is another one of those massive undertaking's that became a cinematic pariah in it's time when it was considered a disappointing failure after much anticipation during it's 3 years of production and massive construction of several city blocks for the set. Now, of course, it's come to be considered a masterpiece, not only of Tati's well regarded work, but of cinema in general. I felt it well deserved that distinction while watching it.

But it wasn't exactly easy...

The words "oppressive" and "alienating" don't fit in to the description of many comedies, but Playtime could easily be described as both. The meticulously constructed sets of steel and glass with little but black and grey tones for a color palette were at once amazing, and utterly frigid. The angles and planes of..well, everything...reminded me of the futurist drawings of Antonio Sant'Elia but drained of any of the character or humanity. So, they were at once fascinating to look at it, and horrific to imagine occupying.

Not that it's easy to imagine that as the whole film was lensed at a distance not wholly unlike watching the whole film through a security camera. That's not to say it was a bad thing. There are so many rich details to watch in the edges and corners of any given frame. Hulot and the tourist girl aren't the only figures who seem to be wandering in circles through this glacial modernity. If you look around, you'll see the same distinct little figures move through the frame, and by the end, they're almost like the people you see each day around your neighborhood that you don't know and likely will never speak to.

And yet, there's still something very funny about watching Hulot get whisked through it all. One particular standout moment is a scene on a shopping center's showroom where people are wowed by an array of useless but interesting modern gadgets. It's sort of a preview of The Sharper Image 10 years before said company first opened it's doors.

By the last third of the film, it warms considerably as Hulot is snagged into a new modern restaurant that's barely finished construction before it opens it's door to the public. There are a number of wonderful comic moments such as couple who never gets served their dish which sits on a tray in front of them with waiters constantly coming to prepare it only to be called away. The restaurant's construction is shoddy, and as the evening really gets under way, the public all but tears it apart piece by piece. In the midst of the chaos, however, is where most of the human connections take place (mostly lorded over by a archetypically "Ugly American" tourist).

Believe me, I've only mentioned a few highlights, there are plenty more wonderful jokes and sight gags (the best one involves the door of the restaurant...but I'll say no more). Not to mention that I could write an entire analysis of the design "flaws" the movie pokes fun at as "form" rules over "substance" much to the chagrin of the people dealing with it.

By the end, I was exhausted. Mostly because of the conflicting emotions watching the movie, but also because it seemed so much more relevant to our lives now than perhaps it did then. Or perhaps it was a truth that they weren't ready to face about the potential for alienation in modern life. However Playtime presents that alienation in the modern structural forms from office buildings to office cubicles, all the elevators and escalators in between, and out to the endless cycle of traffic outside. In reading the wikipedia entry for Tati, it seems that his last project was meant to be another comedic take on the sort of alienation that's even more pervasive today: "'Confusion' was a story about a futuristic city (Paris) where activity is centered around television, communication, advertising, and modern society's infatuation with visual imagery." (

I'm sure if computers were as much a part of daily personal life in Tati's time (he died in 1982), he'd have had something to say about them as well. In some ways that brings to mind another movie...David Cronenberg's Videodrome (which...well, isn't a comedy). Although it was about television, it really had so much more to say about the future of computers, and the anonymity and potential alienation contained therein.

In any event, I recommend you get a copy of Playtime, give it a whirl, and maybe give it some thought.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

No New or Smarmy Post of Questionable Merit or Validity Today

For those of you still with me...I've done up and moved my web address. The former address (no longer shall we say its name) has been wiped from the face of the interenet (although google'll probably still have it for the next millenia even though it's not there...)...

Anyhow...I can now be found at...

The page layout and what have you is new...the about the same...but you can see my Three New Portraits in the art section! Yeah!

New content coming soon as some other things, uh...get finished.


Monday, October 22, 2007

I Almost...Almost...Want My Moustache Back...

It was time for some culturin'...

I've recently completed an editing session on the two short books I wrote earlier this year in order to ready them for a trip to the bosom of our government's Library of Congress.

If only I was as well traveled of late as my work will be. Only postage is far cheaper than travel and lodging...oh, and food...and all that other stuff.

In any event, I've nearly managed to pull together my ideas for a new book, and am preparing myself to start.

On the other hand, I’ve also recently completed a series of painted portraits that will soon be on display. So far, they’ve been a hit with those I’ve shared them with, and I may have snagged a commission out of it. Now on the cusp of a new literary adventure, I’ve been getting pushed back toward painting again. I’m a touch torn on which to pursue…

One of the influences toward the artistic was a show I went to the other day.

In the 7.5 years that I have occupied Los Angeles, I had yet to make it to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It took only slightly less time and a visitor from out of town to make it to the Getty Center. This coming from a guy who spent at least one day each month at the Detroit Institute of Arts for several years. In any event, I had actually talked myself out of going on Thursday morning, when another friend asked me if I wanted to go that afternoon. Oh Serendipity…you slippery b!tch…

The show we attended was for one Salvador Dalí, the guy who André Breton wanted to eject from the surrealists but who came to personify it in the public’s eye.

Over the years, I’d developed somewhat mixed feelings about Dalí’s work, but I came to realize that it wasn’t Dalí himself that I had the problem with. Haha…it was marketing. Much like Escher, Dalí was one of those guys that got spewed all over T-shirts, mousepads, oven mitts, and stack after stack of badly reproduced coffee table books.

Granted, I’m not sure I ever saw any Dalí merch that outdid that ridiculous blow-up version of Munch’s The Scream.

Anyhow, it had diluted what I thought about Dalí’s body of work over time and with much repetition. This show, however, managed to retract many of those feelings. The fact of the matter is that all those reproductions (like with most painters) fail to capture the stunning quality of the work when you are standing in front of it.

I’ve never been a huge fan of overly colorful work. That’s just a personal thing. But Dalí captured a vibrant and electric palate that even the whimsically nightmarish quality of his subjects couldn’t render garish. The show gathered together an impressive collection of his work from museum’s around the world as well as a surprising amount of work from private collections.

Most interestingly though, it showed me how much work for film Dalí had attempted. I had seen the Bunuel films, of course, but this showed an aborted project with Fritz Lang and further sequences that were unfilmed or cut from Hitchock’s Spellbound. Even more shocking was the array of work he had completed for an animated collaboration with Walt Disney. However, what captured my eye and heart the most was an attempted collaboration with my beloved Marx Brothers. (There was an illustration of Groucho as Shiva that I would have risked imprisonment to abscond with.)

It was much of this work that I was most thankful to see as I imagine much of it has spent a fair amount of time sealed away in archives, and is rarely ever viewed by the public.

Funny enough, reading some of the exposition on the walls about the pieces and listening to some of the crowd, I was reminded of Dalí’s penchant for being spurned by some of the art world for his right wing politics and his elitism. The final marker on the way out was a quote from Andy Warhol on Dalí whose company Andy enjoyed as he felt that being with Dalí was like being with a “true artist” but that Salvador would never be caught dead in a loft. This gave me a good chuckle thinking about how many I’ve known who’ve put more effort into living up to a stereotype of an “artist” or “musician” or “poet”, etc. rather than putting the same effort into the work they did.

I won’t comment on the elitism…I already catch enough flack for that.

Which brings me back around the merchandise.

I’m sure Dalí would’ve been more than fine with it. In fact, he did some work and even appeared in several ads in his time. I always remember a passage (enough to paraphrase it) from the photo-essay “Dalí’s Moustache” when they ask him why he loves painting, and he replies “For the love of Art” but the photo on the opposite page shows him having tooled his moustache into an ‘s’ with two paintbrushes crossing it.


It’s still something artist’s are expected to spurn as a distraction from the “truth” of their medium (especially the image conscious above.). But I still find that like most things in life, art too is driven by it.

After all, it’s not for nothing that the name ‘Medici’ is so often coupled with all them lovely Renaissance artists.

(Oh and for the record...haha...if you thought the Mona Lisa was should see the Persistence of Memory...)


Monday, October 15, 2007

I'm Still Listening to Ann Coates
Nothing like vaguely obscure music trivia to hit the ground running...

Ah Saturday night...

On Saturday night, I found myself...somewhat against my the Palladium in Hollywood, in order that I might take in one Steven Patrick Morrissey...known most commonly by his last name.

Why do I say 'somewhat against my will'? Well, it's mostly in jest at the strongarm job done by the far more radical fans amongst my social circle to get me to go. It's not that I don't like the man or his music (ok, sometimes, I feel he's a little too 'Morrissey' on some of the songs)...I just didn't develop the same sort of fervor for it in my angst-ridden heyday.

I tried to explain, that as I was growing up...if you were into that sort of music, you were either a fan of The Cure or The Smiths/Morrissey. I must say that the Smith I chose was Robert Smith, and was very much The Cure fan. I never went so far as to put the make-up on, nor did I veer very much farther into Goth territory...but I liked the music...sometimes, too much.

Nevertheless, I was aware of The Smiths and Morrissey's music. In fact, some friends I did on occasion break into a sort of oddball barbershop quartet of The Smiths' 'Handsome Devil'. If you are familiar with the tune, you might be having a little chuckle at the thought. If you are not, I suggest looking it up and then imagining it. Either way, I'm sure if we did that in any school now, we'd be suspended for a few days and forced into some sort of gender sensitivity training. (Like I said, look it up.)

Over the past few years, those with whom I share a fair amount of music have increased my Morrissey quotient to far greater numbers than I had in previous years...and I confess, though I'm passed those moody angst-ridden days of yor (you can believe it or not! ha!), I like the stuff. I think it's too late for me to become a fanatic, or to run out and snatch up all the recordings...but the appreciation, it's grown considerably.

So, Saturday...

My first big kudo to the man comes in the form of the pre-show show. Once the opening act left the stage, the backdrop behind them became a screen for a string of video clips from a New York Dolls performance (and yes, I know I have Moz to thank for getting to see them perform a few years ago) to old French advertising to a James Dean screen test. Now, as much as I like watching roadies test and check all the mics and instruments, this was a better way to spend the half hour in wait. Furthermore, I have to say, even with the basic knowledge I have of was a primer of sorts, and completely warmed the crowd up.

He opened with "How Soon is Now" which is still a powerful and commanding way to open a set. In fact, I was surprised at how much heavier and rocking the show was. Now some of this might be due to its being closing night of series he did that week in Los Angeles, but even so it was a much more driven set than I would've expected. Throughout the set, he held a strong sway over the tempo and the crowd, the band was ultra-tight, and the feeling of concert-lull was kept at a minimum. And I must confess, there is an element of excitement, even for someone who's not a great fan, to get to see someone as iconic as Morrissey especially when he's got great reign on his musical prowess.

And I should say...he definitely knows how to play to his crowd. Nor have I ever seen a group of people so feverishly enthralled to see a performer. They were enraptured. Haha...fortunately the sound was good (at least where I was) that the crowd's enthusiastic recitation of the lyrics didn't drown out their idol...but seriously, as long as the musician's were out there, Morrissey could've gone off stage, had a beer, eaten a sandwich, and they would've continued singing the song without him. Throughout the set, they waved gifts and letters to him...and he had a fun running commentary as he reached as many as he could that was both gracious and healthily tongue-in-cheek. Surprisingly, despite the orgiastic fervor near the front every time he reached out to grasp hands, only one skinny Asian guy got on stage to grope him for a moment before being pulled away.

On a side note, watching the fans, I couldn't help thinking of the Cure show I had gone to years before. It was a stadium show, and packed to capacity. As we walked around to our section, a funny thought occured. For all any of us knew, Robert Smith could've been wandering the crowds having a hot dog and a beer, and no one would've known in the sea of look-a-likes.

At this show...well, you can't take Morrissey's look quite as far...but there was one poor fellow with blond hair who tried to imitate the haircut...which ultimately made him far more Vanilla Ice than Moz.

Anyhow, I had a very enjoyable time, and was sure to thank my host for holding me at gunpoint to go. Also, I think the time was right. I'm not sure why, but the older, heavier, mature Morrissey is far more to my liking than the long-limbed willowy character I remember seeing from my youth. There's something in the charisma of his age and stature that grounds him more in my reality...whatever that means....

Finally...he did play my favorite of his repertoire "Why Don't You Find Out For Yourself"...although to a minor letdown he didn't pack the wallop behind it like he had other former slower numbers like "Shoplifters of the World"...but said criticism only fluttered through my mind before I told myself to just shut up and enjoy it...


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

WINNING FRIENDS AND INFLUENCING PEOPLE... apparently something I don't do too well.

But I'll tell you what...I often feel like a man without a country.

I have two loving parents who are still together in a country with two out of three marriages end in divorce batting average. They were middle-middle class when I dropped out of the chute and were upper middle class by the time I struck out on my own...the middle class, which to my eyes is rapidly disappearing. I exceled at and had a decent interest in academics, arts, and athletics at school, which is a seldom seen phenomena. I moved around a lot growing up which gave me both a desire to see and experience new places and people, but also fostered the occasional feeling of impermanence...and from that I found that often times the people from the place I moved to had little love for the place I just moved from (ie. the people in Michigan frequently accused my Texan brethren of being rednecks...and the people from Florida hated all the snotty "snowbirds" who came down from Michigan..and so on).

I haven't had and don't watch television with any regularity...I see it as a tool for a great capacity to educate and inform, but seldom seems to get used that way. I don't go see most of the blockbuster popular movies...well, because they look like garbage from the get-go in a lot of cases (I don't mind brainless fun...but soulless brainless fun is even worse). I don't listen to most popular music...usually for similar reasons...but modern day pop and hiphop couldn't conceivably get more played out than a lot of what's on the radio. I hate advertising...even most of the "cute/good" ones. And while I'm an adherent to the internet...which again is conceivably a great falls prey to all of the above and then some (ie. so much information, art, and literature to be tapped into from all over the world...but most people just prefer to watch videos of people doing stupid stunts or watching their pets do silly things).

I don't really care for Los Angeles...although it is a bizarre sociological experiment on a grand scale in really bad cheap architecture. I wouldn't go back to Michigan as I feel there's nothing there for me. I could never really get in to Florida. And, I'm not feeling very Texas right now...but more because I'm not sure how much more I can grow there. A lot of the places in between that I've been to have been nice, but I've never gotten a strong enough vibe off any of them to actually move. I don't have nearly enough money to go to Europe, Asia, or Australia...and ain't entirely sure what I'd be going there for (...except maybe to get into adventures à la Highway to Heaven).

It's not just the city exactly either...while I love the principles that America was founded on...I don't always like where I see it going (see TV, internet, etc. above). I don't understand the weird dislike we have for learning other languages and cultures even though we pride ourselves on being a melting pot. I don't particularly find the policies or rhetoric of either side of our political machine interesting or involving...or even effective on anything. I don't like our obsession with celebrity that's coupled with our insane desire to tear them down. This list just goes on and on. Most of all, I don't like that we seem to have lost our vision for a future and progress...and have instead opted for complacency (oh...and voyeurism).

(It goes along with this lax casualness with respect and manners and this deluge of incorrectly aimed compassion that the world's flooded with...but that's a whole other issue...another time)

This isn't just merely negativity either (I'm willing to bet that Chris Crocker's "Leave Britney Alone" got more hits than any one page on Wikipedia). I sort of wish it were. I try to be friendly and polite with people as I see them on the streets, run into them in stores, sit next to them on airplanes...what-have-you... I certainly don't harangue them with a diatribe about all of the above and then some. I try to give them a smile, nod, and wish them well. Unfortunately, it ends up mostly being my friends and you dear reader, who gets the brunt of the diatribe of disonance that is my experience as I experience it.

I probably owe you an apology and a beer for all that.

As it is, some people are running for the hills...and I'm here to say...if you're feeling that notion, go ahead and run...

It's how I see things. It's my interpretation. Perchance some good fortune in my future might change it...but I certainly don't think I'm delusional...and it's certainly not just's stuff I see in the news...on the internet...from discussions with friends. And call me Capt. Elitist, but I generally don't have the capacity to just accept it all for what it is and think it's all going to be ok (...I'm sure more than enough people thought that about Nazi-ism amongst other mass bad ideas...extreme example on one hand...but I think what's going on now is even more dangerous...).

Besides...I already had someone tell me I was going to die unmourned and unloved...haha...hell...I'm ready to deal with that if I have to...


Friday, October 05, 2007

Mom...Dad...It’s all Ridley Scott’s Fault...
My dream of being a Mod-superstar is over...

I've got a confession that I'm going to make.

Most of you already know it...but to the greater hip population of the world, this may come as a revelation.

I really really love Ridley Scott's Blade Runner...and have...oh, more or less have ever since I convinced my dad to rent it when I was in the fourth grade because it was in the sci-fi section, and Han Solo was on the cover.

Keep in mind, I'm not trying to cop to some sort of childhood preternatural discriminating movie taste...I also convinced my dad to take me to see Dungeonmaster (this ...although they took down the good poster for it) at about the same time.

I went to see the newly released "final cut" in the theater this morning...and yeah, it was the first screening...but I didn't go out of any desire to fly the Dork-nation flag. I just went then because it was early, it was a weekday, and I was hoping no one would be there (see my last post...and in reference, the guy who sat next to me was breathing so loud I began to wonder if he was trying to inhale stuff off the floor...and he brought in his lunch...oh it's a whole separate thing...). It wasn't crowded, but I was surprised at how many people were there for the time and the day.

And there was this one lady...

Now keep in mind...I've been to Star Wars screenings...I got taken to a premier of a Star Trek movie...I've done Rocky Horror...hell, I went to a midnite Raiders of the Lost Ark screening with about 2 dozen half-assed Indiana Jones...(notice I haven't even touched on my trips to San Diego's Comic-Con in this list)...and yeah, I've seen the chubby dude who made his Tron outfit. I'm no stranger to costumes in movie theaters.

But in her beige trench coat and was decidedly more Dr. Who than Rick Deckard...even with the neon-shaft umbrella that she popped open during the credits. And she let out a loud "Whoo-Hoo!" at the Ladd logo...and at the end credits...

My point is that she was a fan...and obviously a very enthusiastic one. In fact, I think that maybe the girlfriend of the dude behind me appeared to be the only person who hadn't seen the movie in the entire theater. It has fans. It has a considerable fanbase. There's message boards devoted to it. There's people who've copied the poster font, and used the logo on things.

I have no problem with that. It's a visionary movie (if a little thin on solid plot ground), and it still holds up, and still has copycats today. Writing this now...I'm only proving that I'm a part of that camp, that nation.

The problem (and wherein my shame lies) is that I live in Los Angeles. If it's not embarrassing (and painfully pretentious for some reason) to say I'm a writer in this town, it's admitting that Blade Runner is one of my influences. And dammit if I didn't also go to film you see where I'm going? Amongst my generation, Blade Runner is second only to Star Wars as the most clichéd title to be mentioned as one's reason for getting into the movies!

Although at least it has enough artistic integrity for me to continue thumbing my nose at the people with GI Joe and Nintendo tattoos...and I do, you know.

But there's nothing to represent the same aesthetic exactly. Film Noir came before it of course, but using that is even more cliché AND pretentious...and as for earlier sci-fi, umm...Logan's Run or The Black Hole just aren't the same. And the stuff that came after...well, it's derivative of Blade Runner and every film snot in town will be happy to remind you of that.

To some degree, I blame this on the internet and the large scale connectivity across border and nation (hey, like this website here!). Before the internet, I WAS the guy showing Blade Runner to my "unenlightened" friends...and then nodding cooly in hip cabal with the guys who had already seen it. Now this kind of crap is everywhere...and frighteningly enough, I'm sure I could now find guys who did the same thing as me getting their dads to take them to Dungeonmaster!

It's like that joke I heard this comedian tell once about China that went something like this: "There's 1 billion people there. If someone told you that you were 'one in a million'...there's still a thousand other guys out there just like you..."


Ok, ok. Most of what I'm saying here is in jest, largely because I'm tired of people defining themselves by the popular culture they were exposed to while growing up...probably because I was the first guy I knew who did that...and now everyone I meet or see seems to do that...

Blade Runner is still very special to me because of the place it takes me to, especially since most movies fail to take me on such a special journey into a richly detailed movie world. I mean, I've seen it at least a hundred times, (this was the third time I've seen it in the theater) and I still noticed all sorts of little things I'd never seen (not including the little things they added or changed for this edition). And the scene where Deckard shoots Zhora in the back as she runs through the panes of glass is still one of the most chilling scenes of romanticized violence I've ever seen.

But also, it's inspiring for me in a completely different that sometimes gives me hope. When Blade Runner was made, Jaws and Star Wars had already come and changed the movie world to the Summer Blockbuster Universe (that paved the way for a lot of the bloated nonsense still in theaters today). Somehow, Ridley Scott managed to slip this semi-esoteric existentialist film noir/sci-fi hybrid through the system...have it flop, haha...and somehow still be a cinematic landmark...with a goofy fanbase.

The funny this is that this form of inspiration sort of affirmed when I went to see The Darjeeling Limited an hour later. Sure it's the polar opposite type of movie...but in a universe of Bay/Bruckheimer movies (them together and separate)...Wes Anderson still gets to make his quirly little movies...

There is a way...


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Do You Hear What I Hear?
Take a moment to reconsider the license to kill...

I was going to start this with one of those "can someone help me out here?" sort of phrases, implying that I wanted some sort of explanation for the events that I witnessed...

But it would've been untrue.

I don't need an explanation. I know what was happening.

I went to a show to see Ladytron in San Diego this time last week. They put on a helluva me...I don't want to be responsible for anyone rushing out to pick up their albums based on my recommendation only to respond with the cry of "That ain't music!" (Try it with Generic Redneck works better)....but I'm on the verge of digression. It was a good show...but it could've been better....but that was through no fault of the band.

We got there for the last few songs of the opening act. We weaved through the sparse crowd. We found a spot and planted our feet.

Therein lies the problem.

I should preface this with a little set-up. See, I never get to movies really early if I can help it, especially if it's just me. I don't show up late either, but I try to get there about the time most everyone has settled in. Then, I navigate to a spot where there are few or no people...and if I can't get away, I try to make choices based on who looks like they've got the potential to annoy the crap out of me. Big warning signs are things like cell phones in hand talking or testing...and I avoid anyone under the age of...say plague, espcially if there are more than two of them.

However, when I get there early, without fail, if there's a bunch of loudmouths, a dude with the bright light of his phone open the whole time, or whatever...they WILL find me.

No joke. I've put it to scientific test. (Lately, I've come to realize that it might not just me...but that there are purebred @$$holes everywhere now.)

Now...with the movies, I have a theory that home video viewing has led to this sort of inconsiderate "casualness" at the theater. Fifty years ago and before, going to the movies was a big experience that people dressed up people treat the theater like a version of their own living room they don't have to clean up. Well...we could tie in the old theatrical bit of the "peanut gallery" and the lower classes behavior while watching plays as well...we've sort of come full circle.

In many cases, I'll go to the pricier theater, just because it thins the likelihood of this...but doesn't eliminate it.

Concerts, however, are a little different. They're louder. When there's no seats, there's a lot more movement. Alcohol is frequently involved. It's a little more interactive than having a story beamed at you on a large screen.

Oh...but most importantly...they usually cost a helluva lot many case, they're one time experiences, as you may never get to see that band ever again.

So back to Ladytron. The lights dim. The intro music pipes up. We're bracing for the goodness to come when were jostled aside by this slope browed neanderthal (I'm not just being mean, I have corroborators) and his two chicks. Ok, ok...whatever, we're at a's not too packed...there's room for everyone. If it had ended there, I wouldn't have thought twice. The band takes the show, and we're on the go.

But for the first two songs caveman keeps dragging out his phone (which again, the light keeps catching my eye) and keeps talking or texting. When he's not doing that, he's leaning over yelling into one of the girl's ears. I can't understand him...but I can hear him as being discordant from the music. Then the phone. Then more yelling. I try yelling for him to shut the phone...but he can't hear me.

So eventually, I just tried to get far enough away from him...which sort of worked...except now the place has been filling up...and there's more press toward the stage. It helped...but I'm still catching this thing blinking on every now and again. And this went on for the whole show...(a few times the two girls left intermittently to answer phone calls...and they didn't look like doctors on call)...

Ok. So you say, he probably wasn't a fan or didn't care?

Not so, says I. He mouthed along to some of the songs while texting. But the weirdest part, at the closing of several songs, he's pumping his fist in the air all excited....but what I don't me, he hasn't payed attention to the music since he's shown up.

Then I encounter my next mystery I've seen at too many shows...which managed to be wonderfully distracting. A dude dressed up in his nouveau-mod suit, with a trio of dolled up sluts has moved in behind me. They're very very very sauced...and getting worse as the show goes on. Oh...and they're dancing...well...they're flailing...but it was distinctly an approximation of dancing. It was on beat a few times anyhow.

And they got a little room to move...oh, but keep in mind, no one else is dancing and though we are on the floor there's no "pit" of any they're flailing, and though there's some room around them...yeah, they're all over my back.

The blond girl seemed to be especially fond of driving her squared off purse into the space between my shoulder blades when not boxing me on the arms with it. Sure I shoot them some dirty looks...but they're drunk and appear to be on the verge of passing out...they don't get it. Finally, I was able to ditch them for a while when blondie hits me with another surprising back jab with her sharp purse, and I throw back my shoulders which knocked her into her friends and well away from me.

Now this was a fairly low end show cost-wise...but when I've got to really big ticket expensive shows...I've never understood being this out of it (minus the obnoxiousness)...Why do you pay good money for something you're not going to remember? The really shocking one is when paramedics have to get involved which I've also seen more than a few times. I get it...and I don't get it.

What I wonder more than anything, is how do they always find me? I said...I'm getting more and more convinced that they are rapidly becoming the majority. The weirdest part though is that if you do confront some loudmouth jack@$$ at a show or whatever, they act as though you're the rude one for infringing on their right to be obnoxious in places where other people paid good money to enjoy something without the unnecessary input. Especially in the last few years...where somehow 9/11 and the Iraq war have been alchemistically changed being an @$$hole into some sort of display of liberty and freedom.

But's also the paying money for something you don't actually pay any attention to, and that you probably won't remember.

Seriously...I'm not looking for answers...but it's a basic illogic that seems to be more and more of the system now...

I just felt like saying something.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Sans Cheveux...Sans Souci...

And back down to the world...a year later. Hope no one missed me. I didn't get any cards.

In order to relieve my occasional deep-seated anxiety at the thought of rest and the rising fear of stopping before I complete a work is reaching hysterical levels of horror-movie like foreshadowing (someone get me a Ouija!)...I've decided to sit down and write me up a whatever the hell you wanna call this.

For a moment...I wanted to just complain...something I've been credited with being a formidable purveyor of. And I lack for something to complain about. I can even complain about my complaining as it doesn't actually do anything. So in some sense, I'm working on leveling that off the same time, I think it removes one of my most loveable traits to my legion of fans who are fortunate enough not to have to share physical space with me...

In particular, I was going to complain about things that usually involve the grocery store, the post office...places where those who could be mentally like unto the gods themselves are somehow reduced to idiocy by either standing in line or by the baleful gaze of the person with whom they must do some exchange of business. That and the fact that no one reads or pays attention to what they're the woman I watched enter her pin number in the zip code screen and vice versa seven or so times at the self-checkout lane at the grocery store. On one end you might say in a wonderfully compassionate tone "Well, why didn't you help her?", to which I might reply with just a hint of vinegar-like spray "If you always step in, when are they ever going to learn?"

It usually makes me think of the scene in Shaun of the Dead where he goes through his routine the day after everyone's a zombie...and he doesn't notice the difference...

But I didn't come here for that...

I've been doing research for a new idea for a book, and frankly it's led me to have to tap into some areas that I usually leave untouched for the very reason I wanted to leave it untouched the last time I looked into it.

Now, I'll admit to having had a certain fascination with the occult/secrety society/fantasy side of life since I was fairly young. Thing is, on one side, people tend to either believe in that stuff wholeheartedly and except things as presented, or they have just enough of it in them that they'll at least read a horoscope and maybe screw around with some tarot/numerology/palmistry. On the other, there are of course people who believe that if you can't see it, it don't exist. Then there's my group...I believe that there is more to life than the immediate reality...but I also think that the New Agers, Wiccaans, UFOer's, and hell most regular Judeo-Christian folk are all...well...umm...wrong. Not that I have any answers I try not to be too loud or mean about it...most of the time...

In any event, there's a history to all this stuff. It's not like people just started seeing UFO's in the last 50 years since Roswell. And crazy religious stuff goes way way way back...umm...pretty much as far as we do as a species. Hell, people still believe that there were whole continents (and not just Atlantis) that sunk into the sea. Problem is, you try to track some of the history of this stuff and within mere minutes you can be up to your @$$hole in Reptiloid conspiracy theories (amongst many others).

Now granted, I'm doing this for a work of fiction, so it isn't as though I'm worried about my own credibility...I've got a license to drive this fantasy car wherever the yellow brick road to Valhalla may take me...but at the same time, I just want the facts.

In the defence of the academic community, it's easy to see why you wouldn't wanna touch this stuff. It's not as though crackpots have been in short supply even long before the dull-witted populace I alluded to before. In fact, from the research I have been gathering, it seems to take about a sweep of the second hand on a clock before anyone you can sort of reasonably take seriously is suddenly surrounded by a gaggle of goofy sychophants, supporters, and wildly unbelievable corroborators.

Not to mention all the contradiction in any of these fields, followed by all the splintering. I have seen the top of the conjecture mountain and found it's apex to indeed by very high. Sometimes, trying to read through this stuff, I feel like I need a sherpa just to crest the lower hills of this malarkey.

Even the more prevalent and widely accepted modern day religious materials fall prey to this sort of thing. For every book written by one guy trying to prove something in the Bible or Torah is wrong or simply a bunch of horse hockey, there's twenty more written to refute that claim. But almost all of these books I assume are only attempting preach to the choir, because most of them use this circular argument to defend themselves (ie. "It's in the Bible. It must be true.") with no further evidence, or they fall back on some sort of personal epiphany they had in life, which while it may be touching, is a PERSONAL experience that isn't necessarily felt or understood by someone else, especially a non-believer.

And of course, I cringe any time I walk by any religious section and see the gazillion morons who cashed in on refuting the DaVinci Code. Although, I don't know what's worse, all that garbage, Dan Brown's goofy novel itself, or the fact that many people wholeheartedly bought into his fiction or these other yay-hoos opinions. The whole Merovingian/Last Scion "what really happened to Jesus?" thing is a fascinating chunk of religious consipiracy history...but it's just as surrounded in murky mythology and general nuttiness as any of the rest of it. The history of the Tooth Fairy is easier to trace (or the fact that a fair few Catholic Saints appear to be..uh...Greco-Roman gods...)

The facts. I just want the facts.

But I realize...hey...I am dealing with secret societies...and conspiracies...and mythology...and well, religion (which if it were so clear cut and everyone agreed, we probably wouldn't have so many franchises, n'est-ce pas?) so things like facts are few and far between down this winding and very twisted road. It's the nature of the beast. So I'm willing to compromise...

How about just a sort of journalistic approach? A Who/What/When/Where/Why? Although not so much on the why...that tends to be the express lane to Conjecture Mountain.

The closest I've come in my goal, and the farthest I need to get into the why in many ways was Frazer's The Golden Bough. It pointed out something I had never really thought of which was this: People in desert climes usually have a dance or ceremony to call down the rain...People who live in jungle/rain forest climes usually have a dance or ceremony to stop the rain.

In some ways, that's all I ever needed to know. And yet, the search continues...hell, maybe I'll have found evidence of a lost continet by the time I'm done...