Sunday, December 23, 2007

I was a pretty weird kid

Jeez. I just watched the South Park episode on sex education - in my spare time, to help cope with the stress of all the major writing projects I'm not working on, I've been cycling through episodes, backwards -- and it's put me in mind of all sorts of things. One vivid memory was of telling my friends in Grade 7 or such that I really kind of liked the smell of my sweaty jockey shorts, say after I'd worn them for a couple of days (and maybe once or twice to gym class). It was sweet and musky... I wasn't sniffing them for pleasure, you understand -- I hastened to clarify when they all told me I was gross; I would just, you know, inspect them based on scent from time to time to decide whether it was time to change them. Somehow my explaining this fact did not make the practice seem any less gross to them. I went through a period in my pubesence of being painfully aware of the smell of my crotch, actually; I felt like I had developed certain smells before the other boys and was terrified I was weird (and this was in the days before the Won't Get Weird campaign). This led to such extreme practices as splashing my father's aftershave on my balls once. I do not recommend doing this.

Blogging when you've been smokin' a bit might be dangerous, too.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Peter Stampfel in the Nerve Magazine

About the only thing wrong with my new Peter Stampfel interview is the Nerve "goofy caption" on the photo, which identifies Mr. Stampfel as drinkin' whiskey instead of water, when the article specifies that he's been off drinking for awhile -- since 1988, he reports. Ah, well - minor error; anyone who reads it will get their facts straight. (Note - the link above is temporary; if you're reading this after January 2008, you'll need to go to the Nerve Magazine website and search it out in the archives). More from that interview will appear (in Q&A format) in an upcoming Bixobal, and you can hear Stampfel's new song, "Stick Your Ass in the Air," which I mention in the article, on Youtube. Funniest thing I've heard in awhile - Stampfel truly lightens mah load with songs like this.
Also in the Nerve: ace photographer and artist Femke van Delft has a bunch of really cool photos illustrating my Scratch Records Birthday Celebrations review. Femke's shots look even better online than they do in print, but it was still delightful that the Nerve gave us a colour spread...!
Meantime - promises, promises, but I still plan to put up Bev Davies, Blake Nelson, and Keith Parry interviews, REAL soon. Like, over the holiday. Watch this space. BTW, people interested in weird music for the holidays should check out the Meme Lab for the 27th - the Her Jazz Noise Collective (whom I plugged in the "best of 2007" section o' the Nerve) will perform there, among others.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I Am Legend

Yet another theatrical release that I quite enjoyed. I'm really getting kind of confused -- is my brain atrophying or something? 30 Days of Night, The Mist, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, I'm Not There, and now I Am Legend: I've liked almost every film I've seen in a commercial movie theatre lately, and I haven't been to either the Vancity Theatre or the Pacific Cinematheque in weeks. Is this some weird bi-product of personal stresses and age, a leveling of tastes, the very thing I used to feel contempt for in those around me? (How many times have I heard people whine words to the effect of, "I work hard all day and when I get home, I don't want some art film - I want to be entertayyyyned!" God help me, am I becoming One of Them?). Then again - maybe these are all just, well, pretty good movies! I'm used to associating the megaplexes with mediocrity, but perhaps things are actually changing for the better...? Each of these films has been a surprise and a treat, far better than I expected them to be; I feel grateful as all heck to actually be able to find a film playing at a commercial theatre that I can genuinely enjoy.

I haven't much to say about I Am Legend, though. It's no great work of film art, you understand - my praising it should not be mistaken for my taking it seriously! - but it's still damn good at what it does. The craft with which we are presented a post-plague, overgrown, deserted and strikingly silent Manhattan is impressive, as is the restraint with which the material is handled; I was worried that I'd have to put up with Will Smith playing the clown and a vast amount of gunplay, but in fact, the film is far more about mood than it is about action (Michael Bay fans probably won't like it very much, which is fine by me). It even has a relatively short runtime; in an age where the prevailing concept of a blockbuster is a film that, like a powerful sex toy, provides climax after climax, each leading onto the next, to assemble a feature that clocks in at a lean 101 minutes, and has a fairly uncomplicated, singular, and even somewhat brief peak, is actually kind of daring. I didn't like it as much as I enjoyed Francis Lawrence's previous feature, Constantine (which remains a huge guilty pleasure), but it's so good at what it does that I can accord it nothing but respect. It's more of a remake of The Omega Man than it is an adaptation of Richard Matheson's novel (anyone who tells you that the ending follows Matheson has obviously not read the book), but this really doesn't matter much (the novel is nowhere near as good as Matheson's Hell House, anyhow).

One element of the politics of the film that I find odd: in exactly the same way that 28 Days Later updated the concept of the zombie, the "vampires" of Matheson and The Omega Man have been replaced by the inhuman "infected," which is how they're referred to in the end titles. There's something vaguely disturbing about a climate where being monstrous and inhuman is seen as a matter of whether or not you've contracted a disease, and where having contracted this disease is enough to completely transform you - where the barrier between the human and the inhuman is so terribly fragile (bizarrely, the vampires of The Omega Man and Matheson - and probably the Vincent Price film as well, tho' I don't remember it very clearly - were more human than the "infected" are here; they could talk, think, plan, whereas in I Am Legend, they're defined almost entirely by their vicious rage). A friend suggested over a meal today that the designation of the monstrous as infected probably stems from AIDS paranoia, but I'm not so sure that's what's going on; there's also a "humanization" of the monstrous that seems to be afoot - a growing recognition that human beings are a lot scarier than, say, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, or any other quaint critters of yore (The Mist is interesting in this regard, too, since, for all the tentacles and claws that abound, the people in it eclipse the monsters as the primary source of fear). If you aren't infected, you're either immune, a carrier, or in danger of contracting the condition; in which case we must be ever vigilant, lest we become monsters ourselves. Not sure what to make of it, but it's a trend that bears following... viruses seem to have overtaken the occult as the source of world evil!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Bizarre Waking Dreams of Mingus

In the dream, I am in Grade 4, in Elementary School, and the whole class has been assigned a presentation on a Charles Mingus composition (in my actual Grade 4 class, presided over by a hippie named Terry Hansen, we used to listen to popular music on his reel-to-reel and discuss the lyrics in a booklet he had written out for us, but I'm not sure the dream-class meshes with the real one). The title is obscure - I know it in the dream, but not when I awake; it's one of Mingus' poems set to music (not the lyrical version of "Fables of Faubus," because I remember thinking that in my dream). Whatever it is, it's supposedly on Let My Children Hear Music, tho' now that I'm awake, I don't recognize it in the track listing. The next day, I am late for school, and I have to find the CD. My father (in the dream only; there is no correspondence between the dream father and the real one) supposedly has the song on a CD - he has tons of stuff on Mingus, and he has a bio on Ken Russell in which Russell discusses (supposedly - this never happened) a film version he made of the Mingus composition (it looks strangely like the hardcover edition of Ingmar Bergman's The Magic Lantern, though - nothing in this dream is quite "right.") We can't find the song, though, and the majority of the dream is me climbing up and down the stairs in the building - not the actual one I grew up in, which is the usual setting for such dreams - trying to locate it. Finally I get off to school half an hour late, without the song, wondering if I'll get in trouble. I have some other Mingus-related material in my bag, but I'm not sure it will suffice.

Then I wake up, and have to get to the school where I teach. If I had any around, I'd listen to Mingus on the walk to work, but I don't!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bad Feng Shui and Me

This odd feeling: I’m trapped by my stuff. I have all this stuff. Even the area beneath the computer monitor is a cluttered mass of felt pens, business cards, CDRs, batteries, lighters, cassettes with interviews on them, a notebook... Everything screaming for attention, attention, attention: notice me! Deal with me!

That’s me that’s screaming for attention, asking to be dealt with. And even moreso the “cool” stuff all around me – posters, books, movies, CDs. I’m overcompensating. I’m not just some fat nowhere kid, some boring mediocre suburban schlub (or to update myself: not just some fat balding 40 year old ESL teacher. Fuckin’ yikes): I’m screaming out to the world: Look at all this cool stuff I’ve got. I’m interesting! I’m worth knowing! ...It’s like a neon sign on a dingy building, a sleight-of-hand distraction so you don’t see the peeling paint.

It’s also like a security blanket. It reinforces my identity, reassures me that I’m interesting, reassures me that at the very worst I will have the good company of all this manifestation to see me through, even if single. My books and my poetry to protect me.

It might not be all bad. To some extent, it’s also just a natural extension of my mind. It’s how I think – my mind is a busy mess of buzzing, competing interests, and so is my room. But there’s a lot I don’t think about, and that’s also reflected in my space. I don’t think as much as I could about the areas I’m weak in: controlling my life, improving it. Working on my health – losing weight, getting stronger physically; controlling my money – getting out of debt, not indulging myself so much, not NEEDING more stuff. Improving my social status – working on relating in a new way with the people around me, so the need to acquire more stuff and define my worth THAT way isn’t so predominant in my character. All this stuff I’ve got keeps me busily distracted, so I don’t have to attend to this.

My high school buddy David said it over 20 years ago – that my stuff is like a womb, inside which I’m suffocating. (These are old issues with me, which at different times of my life, I’ve attended to better than others). Need to find a different way of relating to the world. Minimize a bit, create a space that doesn't scream so hysterically of the need to be noticed. I think if I really put some of this shit AWAY, calmed my space down, I might also be a calmer, more focused person. It’s stuff I could afford to work on – to re-organize my environment as a first step in reorganizing the self. I feel so much more relaxed in other people’s spaces – no one I know dwells in quite this cluttered an environment. It’s gotten oppressive. Needs dealing with.


(And then I go online to post this and am confronted by this rather jarring article in Slate on pseudocide – faking ones own death and disappearing. It might be easier than clearing up all this goddamn stuff).

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Exhausted, Non-Blogging Me - plus CineAction 72 is Out

Photo by Dan Kibke: Al of the Living Dead

Well, sorry, folks - there's a huge feature in the Dec/Jan Nerve Magazine on Peter Stampfel of the Holy Modal Rounders and a two-page spread on the Scratch Records birthday celebration, but I haven't posted much at all on this blog o'mine lately, which I'm well aware of. I'm pooped, for one - those two articles, plus my dayjob, plus visits out to my parents in Maple Ridge every couple o' weekends - plus the untold mundane stresses of life (getting laundry done, dealing with intermittent electrical problems in my building, helping a buddy move, etc) have kept me far from writing. The odd moment I've been able to spend at the computer has been devoted to downloading episodes of South Park and/or things involving the female of the species (or at least IMAGES of the female of the species, which are so much easier to work with).

I am currently working on (for this blog) the Blake Nelson interview, a Bev Davies piece, and a somewhat late but definitely readable Keith Parry piece, tying in to the Scratch article. I also have contributions to Bixobal and Razorcake that I'm working on, as long as whatever I'm doing for the next Nerve Magazine (in February). With luck, I'll get through all of this during the Christmas season, in between orgiastic consumption of turkey and, we hope, a couple of rolls in the hay. Those of you who are impatient to read more of me, if you actually exist, can always head to your favourite quality magazine stand and search out CineAction 72, just out now, which features my feature interview with Charles Mudede, dealing with the films Police Beat and Zoo, and of course, the Enumclaw horse sex case. I am too pooped to bother posting links to these things, but you know how to Google. I am very proud to appear in a journal associated with critic Robin Wood, one of my favourite film writers ever...

Anyone wishing to soothe my weary, under-appreciated self by giving me a massage, a blowjob, free alcohol, a better-paying and more rewarding dayjob, or flat out hard cash, is welcome to comment below. Re: the blowjob, I am still currently only fielding applications from women, but I'll keep you posted.

And now I'm going to take off my socks, stretch, and watch some South Park.
Oh: by the way, I highly recommend Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, which is a finely crafted, very entertaining, and psychologically rich film, featuring fine performances by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Albert Finney. (I personally don't care much for Ethan Hawke, but he's not at all bad in this). I have nothing to SAY about the film, but the less one knows about it beforehand, the better: just trust me.