Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The collection...

Let me tell you how I spent the last five nights (ahh, what bliss…)

A friend procured for me something I have been without for a while. It is something that I partake of less and less as I write more and more, but it’s a must for movie viewing. This occurred at almost the same time a package arrived for me. Said package contained an avante garde horror movie by Russian director Andrey Iskanov entitled ‘Visions of Suffering’. The timing between the two was perfect and Thursday when I got off work I napped (5 AM start times, especially for a night person, do that to you) and then waited for it to get dark. After a brief session I turned on the film, turned off all the lights and sat down to take a high dive into what I am now thinking of, as ‘Avante Garde Horror Movie Weekend’.



Visions of Suffering was good. NOT a masterpiece of film but perhaps momentary masterpieces of imagery and sound. As a whole it fell apart at times (especially near the end), making it seem almost more a strewn together cache of vignettes than a proper film.

Without having seen his other films, I can tell You what Iskanov is amazing at seems to be visually creating nightmare worlds that should not be possible to translate from immemorial archetypal subconscious brain goo into living, breathing film. Iskanov has an eye for location, some talented makeup people and a general 'True Value' know-how in crafting what's around him into a completely terrifying and alien context.

VOS bled into a viewing of Ti West’s The Roost, an independent film Showtime entertainment put out. GREAT FLICK. The Roost is heavily stylized so that it looks as though you're watching a B movie on a UHF station at 2AM in 1987. It's shot entirely at night out in the country and it looks like they bumped the gain on the camera up to the max so as to 'fuzz out' all the images. Adds nice texture to the story, which isn't the greatest but definitely works to move the viewer through the eye-candy from an obvious visual eccentric.

Friday it was Dante Tomaselli's 3rd film, Satan's Playground. I had only watched this once before, after I bought it the week it was released last year. Tomaselli's stuff is definitely 'Avante Garde' aftter a fashion. Like Iskanov this is drug-inspired cinema, to the point with Tomaselli's last (and arueably most popular cult hit 'Horror') includes scenes of characters consuming weed and mushrooms to add to and accelerate the already bizarre world his films take place in. Satan's Playground is great but flawed - maybe not flawed if Tomaselli was purposely critiqueing horror conventions such as how each individual in a stranded car will leave adn walk off into the spooky woods of New Jersey's Pine Barren's, disappearing one after the other, none of hte subsequent adventurers apparently content to just SIT AND FUCKING WAIT before venturing off to be slaughtered, but flawed if one is looking for seamless continuity or any portion of logic to come into play. But then again, this is horror, not theatre, and although I ALWAYS expect more from movies that drift in these directions, I've learned to appreciate other aspects of the genre enough to forgive some oop's and oh's. Of special note in Satan's Playground is actress Irma St. Paule as elderly Mrs. Leeds, mother of the Jersey Devil. Her part could possibly best be described as Frank Booth's grandmother.

Next came Dario Argento's Inferno, sequel to his blood soaked fairytale masterpiece Suspiria. Now, I have LOVED Suspiria since I first encountered some of its imagery in a documentary about Argento that subsequently led me to seek out his movies over a decade ago. Suspiria's anniversay edition was the first DVD I owned. Since then however, I have often grown jaded in my thoughts of Argento's films. I had bought an Anchor Bay special edition double feature of Inferno/Phenomena (known in the States by the unequivacly lame title 'Creeper' and butchered of its goriest scenes) and loved them, but in subsequent exploration of the director's proliferate canon the constant reliance on certain images and plot (used loosely) conventions began to disuade me from further exploration of Argento's works. 'Teenage girls in trouble-black gloved killers-victims standing ludicrously stationary while various sharpened inplements poke, prod and puncture their bodies, etc, etc, etc.' This seems to be the running program, and really, although he definitely has an eye for setting and atmosphere, a few of his films takes you a long way. So now, after several years of nothing but an occasional viewing of Suspiria, I cracked out Inferno one night and Phenomena the next. Here's what I found after some hindsight.

Inferno survives, much as Suspiria does, as a visual masterpiece, so much so, that any plot holes or horror movie posturing can easily be ignored. That scene near the beginning with the girl who UNBELIEVABLY drops herself into a pool of water in the cellar of the old building she's staying in, only to find that its a submerged mansion IS ARCHETYPALLY AMAZING. The sound, the imagery, the lighting, ah, its fucking perfection I tell you. Inferno goes on to match up perfectly with its sister Suspiria as beautifully lit in deep reds, blues and purples, creating a similar, if probably more modern, fairytale image that remains intact no matter where the film goes. Inferno is the 2nd part in Argento's fabled 'Three Mothers' trilogy that has now spanned four decades. The long-awaited and often rumored third and final installment, aptly titled, 'Mother of Tears: the Third Mother' finally came out in late 2007, and hopefully will measure up.

Phenomena, featuring a very young Jennifer Connelly and one of my personal favorite actors, Donald Pleasence, is a strange story that involves a girl that can communicate with insects and, of course, a black gloved killer. Phenomena is good, but sub par when held against Suspiria and Inferno. Taking place in the Swiss countryside, the locations are all gorgously photographed in the film, howver an outdated metal soundtrack often pre-empting the spooky, Victorian-inspired soundtrack one gets used to from Argento and collaborators Goblin, a reliance on faulty-logic posturings, and sans fairytale lighting, well, it just doesn't measure up. The Climax of the film has some great imagery, but its a bit dodgy getting there.

Finally, last night it was Lucio Fulci's House By The Cemetary, for which a more appropriate title might have been 'House Where People Continually Venture into The Dark and Spooky Cellar Where They Have Previously Witnessed Others Being Beheaded and Disembowled', but then I guess a title like that wouldn't leave much to the imagination.

House is a great movie for what it is. To appreciate it you must watch it on its own terms, by its own logic (or lack thereof). If your going to go out and rent a couple horror movies, and the others are conceptual masterpieces like, say, The Exorcist or Day of the Dead, well, House is just not going to measure up after such heady classics. But when House seems strongest is after a cultist's submergence in movies like Demons, Demons 2 or even something like Phenomena. Not alot of what the people in the film do makes sense, and the dialogue replacement is atrocious (yet comical, especially the ADR for the little boy, clearly delivered by an adult trying their best to impersonate a little boy), but as an old school, hacked-to-bits-in-a-haunted-house kind of way, it is of a calibur all its own.

It dawned on me that the movies on my shelf are not all masterpieces; there are those, like Mullholland Drive (or anything Lynch for that matter), Big Lebowski and Donnie Darko, and then there are those such as the ones I've just catalogued. Those niche classics purchased and sometimes awaiting years between viewings. The thing is they are there when I want them, and that's the point of having the collection.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Mars Volta...again

I will probably get a lot of shit for this, and I expect most people will not agree with me, but I have come to a conclusion about The Mars Volta. After listening to that new album, Bedlam in Goliath, inside and out for a couple of weeks, I believe that they are the closest thing to what Jimmy Hendrix would be doing if he were still alive today.

I know these kinds of comparisons are pointless, but its just something I have come to hear more and more on this album. Listen to Electric Ladyland a dozen times, then get to know Bedlam in Goliath. I can't quite put my finger on what makes me draw this bizarre conjecture, but its there. For one, the imagery - I have always thought Hendrix was very elemental in his work - he draws on the four mystical elements soo much (Water, Earth, Air and Fire). This is something I'll go into more in a subsequent post because it fascinates me to no end. But really, TMV's imagery is similar. I hear a lot of Water and Air in Bedlam in Goliath, while the title itself seems a nod to the element of Earth. They even have some interesting allusions toward the kind of free form jazz Hendrix was infusing his rock and roll sound with throughout his entire career.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

my week...

...has been a flurry of activity that feels an awful lot like inactivity. I refuse to discuss my day job here and as such I will spare my readers the ongoing tragedy that is working for ANY brand of corporation these days. Remember people, corporations were legally declared the status of human beings back in 1886 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad that under the U.S. constitution a corporation is a natural person and as such is entitled to the same rights under that document as any other ciitzen. Thus corporations ARE the dominant form of life on this here planet Earth...

Today was my newspaper day. This is a new ritual I've worked into my week, where I go and grab a cup of coffee and throw a quarter at a local paper (my choice thus far has been the recently streamlined Long Beach Press Telegram) and sit outside and read it. This is partly to celebrate the return of good weather (easy those back home, I know you think its all good weather out here on the west coast but climate is relative, you know?) and partly just to re-create a dying cultural ritual.

As information becomes more and more intangible I fully recognize that people in my relative age-group are going to be the last ones to want to have a tactal sensation such as holding a cd booklet, amassing shelf upon shelf of DVD's or sitting down and opening up a newspaper - fighting the breeze and working it into different physical folds and manipulations in order to better view the columns and pages. This is important to me - and I am fully aware that it represents a strange schizm within my own personal operating system. The appeal of riding the wave of the future and 'owning nothing' (iTunes old motto, something that appeals to the long standing ideal I've had of being completely 'Nomadic') and the longing to 'time travel' as I'm always talking about, through things like music, media and actual physical manipulations of the spatio-temporal realm I choose to recognize around myself*. This is an act such as that - sitting down with black coffee and an actual, god's honest physical newspaper I channel my heroes, from David Lynch to Hunter S. Thompson and I relive life as it was twenty, thirty, fifty years before the physical world started to disappear (further evidence of this: the housing slump. The person to invent a dwelling for people and their families that takes up NO measured space on the physical plane would not only make TRILLIONS of dollars (or credits by that time as physical currency will also follow suit) but also reinvent the way we view and interact with these infinite wavicles that flutter and vibrate constantly around us, revealing themselves to us only at certain intervals we choose to assign value to...

Anyway, while reading my paper there was an article about the 75th anniversary of the 1933 Long Beach earthquake. Not as massive as the 1906 San Francisco quake that was retroactively found (???) to have registered a 7.8, the LB quake nonetheless rated a 6.4 on the Richter scale (invented 2 years later), causing a lot of damage and a new outlook on how to prepare for the inevitabilities associated with building on a 46 mile, right lateral, reverse slip fault line.

So apparently Monday the city held a 10 person panel discussion on how far they've come since the quake. Fine. The thing that grabbed my attention, and the reason I'm even going on about ANY of this, is the Press Telegram refers to the discussion Monday as having been 'led' by, and here it is, "...seismology celebrity Lucy Jones."


Seismology Celebrity? Does that even make sense? I didn't realized anybody in the field of seismology, not that there's anything wrong with it, could be considered a 'celebrity'. How much of a celebrity is she? Has she been on Cribs? (and if so, is her abode an amazing prototype of what Earthquake proofing will look like in the year 2000...er...2010? Has she been on the tonight show? Guest starred on Entourage?

I had to know. The very idea of this had my mind racing like Brown's drunken Junebugs** on a warm July evening. I finished my coffee so quickly I burnt the insides of my mouth like a trooper and raced home, stopping only to purchase yet another cup of coffee and be assailed by a turrets afflicted old man who walked up and down the parking lot at the Supermarket plaza up the street from us in a confused and angry stupor. I took his abuse and jotted down the license plate number of the car he finally relinquished to and then sped home, firing up the internet and running a quick search on the intriguing Ms. Jones...

Here's what I found.

Go ahead and google 'Lucy Jones'. Taking somewhat away from the slew of articles and references that one would expect to answer a search on a serious and really rather accomplished scientist are three images at the top of the page. One is a Van Gogh-esque portrait, another a young girl's photo, and the third a somewhat frightening B&W photo from the days of early photgraphy recording an image that is so ... bizarre (and folks who know me know it takes alot for me to say something is bizarre) that I almost could not continue on with my query. It is an unexpected chronicle of one Lucy Elvira Jones, identified by one Daniel Mannix as a former exhibition at the Houston (Texas?) state fair. This Ms. Jones is standing with her knees bent the opposite way, looking much like a wolf or dog. She was apparently double-jointed (I've known double-jointed people and never seen any that could do this) Seriously, go open another window or tab and look at this. It's fucked up, and very reminiscent of something from Tod Browning's cult-classic film 'Freaks'.

Anyway, finally continuing on down the page it does seem Lucy Jones is indeed the closest thing to a 'celebrity seismologist' possible, wikipedia actually stating that,

"...Dr. Lucile M. Jones is the first face most Americans see after an earthquake strikes southern California, as she is known for answering questions from the press following any significant earthquake. Dr. Jones even held a press conference with her sleeping child in her arms, asking that the press be quiet, which they did."

So there, You do learn something new everyday (yesterday I learned that blu-ray dvd sales are about 1/35th of those of regular dvd. Fuck blu ray) and once again I find an interesting odyssey growing out of my weekly newspaper fetish.

* I will discuss the nature of physical reality in a subsequent post tentatively entitled: Indetermincy Prinicple - I hardly knew thee.

** I will discuss the nature and background of the metaphor for 'Brown's drunken Junebug races' in a subsequent post tentatively entitled: Brown's Drunken Junebug races - I hardly knew thee

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

dvd wars...

From the AP this afternoon I learned of the thrilling adventures of pirate dvd busting in Malaysia. Apparently, the Motion Picture Association of America has donated two labradors from Northern Ireland to Malaysia's Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs. The two dogs, Manny and Paddy, are trained to smell the chemicals used in the production of dvd's. The story, by AP writer Julia Zappei has a hysterical twist in that apparently (and I seriously could not believe this when I read it) the 'movie pirates' had placed a bounty on the heads of the previous team of dvd-sniffing canines, somewhere in the purported ball park of $29K. The article ended assuring us that the MPAA and the MDTCA were doing everything in their power to protect the two new dogs, but never answered the question of whether or not the previous 'team' were indeed collected upon by prospective assassins. After doing some sniffing of my own I found many articles, this one being fairly representable of the rest:


Bounties on dogs? This is a new age people; a new age of criminal practice, of one-eyed pirate loyalists committed enough to their cause to don ski masks and hide behind grassy knolls, taking careful aim at Labrador retrievers racing into Malaysian airports at moments notice to catch twisted pirate freaks running off copies of the next Adam Sandler mega-hit in the bathrooms, swallowiing balloons full of USB cables and dvd spindles, turning the once great flea markets of this nation into dens of sinister debauchery where at any moment YOUR son or daughter could spend their hard earned allowance money on these sub-par discs, complete with homemade menus and ill-proportioned aspect ratios.

It is a cold day in hell my friends, and I have seen the evil of the next millenium.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Norton 0 - 2


“How am I supposed to get anything accomplished at all living next to maniacs like this?”

“Look mam, I need you to calm down okay?”

“Calm Down? I AM CALM GODDAMN IT!!!”

“No mam, you are not. Now listen, we’re here to help you, my partner and I, but first you gotta calm down. We understand you have complaints with your neighbor, but if you keep acting like this its going to have to be you we haul off down to the station.”


“Because its part of every police officer’s job when responding to situations like this that we assess the true threat and neutralize it. Now, we’ve heard your complaints about your neighbor, BOB, but I for one have not seen a single sign of any disturbance of the peace since arriving here. What I have seen is you standing on your front lawn and screamin and carrying on to the point that you’ve got all your neighbors out of bed and calling to complain about you. You here that squawk box my partner’s been responding to for the last ten minutes? Those are calls concerning your behavior. Do you understand now?”

The woman would continue to go on complaining for the next five minutes, finally making irritating the officer enough for him to react by handcuffing her. As you might imagine, this did not go over very well and as such his partner had to help him subdue her and cram her more than ample frame into the tiny back door of the police cruiser, finally slamming shut the door that only opens from the outside.

His partner was concerned.

“You think there’s anything to her story Luke?”

“I don’t know Randy, its not like I’ve had time to think on it much since getting here.”

Behind them the woman continued to bark and scream in the back of the cruiser. Officer Randy was becoming visibly distraught by the noise.

“Look, you stay here and make sure she doesn’t eat the fucking apolstery and I’ll walk over and talk to the neighbor, okay?”

“You sure that’s a good idea? Why don’t I just radio for backup?”

“Naw, that’ll take too long. I don’t wanna be here all goddamn night. It’ll be fine, I’ll just go over and let him know we were called.”

“Alright, call me on the walkie you need anything.”

“Will do.”

A tiny rumble of indigestion found its way up from Norton’s belly and overtook his attempt at delicate speech for a moment.

“BURP. Sorry, something we ate definitely isn’t agreeing with me. Anyway, where were we?”

Norton 0 paced, and as he did so he took another tiny treat from the pouch on his belt and popped it into his mouth. He looked at his audience, the Mayor, slouched against the pristine linoleum wall, the egg-shaped bruise still throbbing out that painful red glow that freshly split flesh always seemed to resort to. His eyes were on Norton, but his mind was elsewhere, perhaps with his family.

“LOOK! None of the rest of your party has been harmed. Shit, we didn’t even mean for you to get hurt, but the boy is always over reacting, especially after one too many Charlie Bronson movies, if you know what we mean?”

He could tell by the cold and confused stare that the Mayor most certainly did not.

“Why…why am I here?”

“HELL-OH!!! You are here our dear public representative, to inaugurate the first phase of gentrification set to sweep through the city, an outward wave of demolish, polish and abolish from our P.O.V.”

Norton gesticulated the letter “P”, “O”, “V” with three sharp jaggles of the index finger on their left hand. The fact that they were favoring left instead of the much more common right did not bode well for Mr. Fancy Pants here. It meant Leon or one of the Irma’s was back in charge. Not good…

“Not good at all…”

“Huh? Stop it, you keep trailing off, its like listening to a ransom note.”

“Oh, were we speaking aloud again? My dear…”

Norton’s eyes flaked again but this time they seemed to flip, or perhaps more accurately ‘spin’, like the motion of a slot machine, when you watch and try to follow the cherry through the whirlwind of the interior mechanism. The Mayor watched this with a new kind of fear, and when the motion behind the maniac’s eyelids stopped the blue-gray orbs that turned to re-address him were softer somehow; kinder.

“Are you… are you alright?”
“Me? Oh yes, heavens yes. The question is, are you alright? This nasty little welt on your head, oh my…”

Norton reached into another pouch at his side and after a moment of digging through things (the only somewhat decipherable article the Mayor caught was what appeared to be but he prayed was not, a finger) until finally producing a ratty old handkerchief.

“No, no really, I’m okay…”

“Oh don’t be silly, let’s clean you up a bit, shall we?”

The Mayor consented, the soft padding motion of the suddenly rickety hand, combined with that strange sheer in the eyes made him feel better about his current situation. SO good in fact, he felt he should discuss some things with his attacker.

“So you said I’m here because of the developments…”

“Well heavens yes, aren’t choo? We mean, we certainly didn’t ask you to come here…”

Suddenly the pressure of the disgusting rag against his forehead increased and he looked up to see the eyes had changed once more. Now they were… harsh.

“…we merely took advantage of the situation in order to gain a little bit of an audience with an otherwise busy man….”

The Mayor flinched but Norton did not respond to his new horror, they merely continued to speak.

“It’s really this simple. We live here. A lot of others do as well. It might not look like ‘living to you, but you are not from where we are from, and as such, you do not understand the spatio-temporal intricacies of this plane the way we do.”

“What? What the devil are you talking about?”

“It is people like you, giving open contracts to all of these GODDAMN land perverts {I think you call them contractors} that are destroying all of the sacred spaces of the city-states.”

The Mayor had become distracted. The tiny voice that had interrupted the overall diatribe had seemingly slipped through some possibly exploitable ego-crack in the Universe currently accosting him.

“By god, what the hell am I talking about now? Is your madness contagious?”

“Madness? Oh no my dear,”

The eyes were spinning now like a roulette wheel strapped to a rocket engine, and as a result the voices coming from Norton’s mouth were whipping back and forth through a disturbingly varied plethora of tones and timbres, accents and cadences.

“Madness is what you people suffer from, always walking around with your ‘I’s’ and ‘me’s’. SACRED is what we are talking about, and maybe you’re finally getting the gist of it!”

Suddenly the Mayor began to shake violently. His tongue grew cold and he wet himself. Somewhere deep inside of him a commotion of personalities had broken out. In the few seconds left before he felt the ego-scaffold he long ago declared as his ‘Self’ slipped forever off the edge of stability and liquefied amidst a horde of other, long denied personality statutes, the Mayor realized what a horrible mistake he had made in declaring gentrification this years Magick word.

He began to cry for his mistakes.

As Randy walked the short distance to the woman’s neighbor’s door he lamented briefly on the task of keeping order amidst such a volatile and willful population.

“Oh well, plenty of room for all of ‘em in this Universe I guess.”

The object of his inquisition before him now Randy knocked out three soft, polite rasps on the large iron door.

“Iron? Don’t see that very much anymore…”

Suddenly the door shot upward, some air-fueled track and tech mechanism no doubt employed. Beyond the threshold was a man, hunkered over with twisty spine, three cigarettes hanging from his lips at varying intervals and what appeared to be a Magick wand in his hand, complete with a sparkly star at its terminus.


“Ah, good evening sir. Officer Randy of the department of peace and freedom. Just wanted to let you know we received a complaint on this residence earlier this evening…”

“sO wHaaT? wE’Re fAr tO busy fOr ‘Ese iNter’uPtiOnS’”
“Sir, we just wanted to let you know, BURP, oh, excuse me… ugh, sorry, anyway, we just wanted you to know, BURP, ugh, sorry, uh, sir, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you if I could use your restroom…”

“Oh be quick about it, would you.”

Either something in the man’s demeanor had changed or… oh it didn’t matter. Officer Randy had just enough time to run into the house through the door of the room the man had pointed to, throwing open the strangely shaped lid on the toilet before excavating the contents of his stomach into the dank and cavernous device.

Still at the door the man had disappeared and now there was a large talking turtle occupying the space he had formerly held.

“Well, that’s one down. Now, if the council was right, we should be able to round up the rest of the entirety of the Nortonverse really rather simply. His partner should be along shortly.”

The turtle spoke to no one in particular, and as it turned to approach the door behind which Officer Randy’s screaming emanated from, it passed before a large, ornamented mirror. The reflection, to anyone who might have been watching, was initially that of the old man again, but then it continued even after he had passed before it, as if now a massive single file line of people were passing before its reflective surface. There was the turtle, a tiny blond midget woman with a hockey stick, a midget with a bad comb over and a large, bearded man in a chef suit eating from a crinkled bag that said ‘FINGERS – NEW ASIAN RANCH BAR B Q’ just to name a few of the dozens of images that flashed by while the man quietly slit what was left of Officer Randy’s throat and then consumed his entire frame in .02 seconds, the resultant burp running forward and backwards in time, and up from the microcosm and out into the macrocosm.

The man’s mother-hive had always told him, if you eat too fast you could choke to death from an air bubble.

Norton cradled the other man’s weakened head and whistled a tune that would not be written for another twelve years.

“The author was as you, mistaken and confused by his own sexuality. Make love to each other, but don’t make hate to the world around you by erecting these armies of giant concrete dildo’s to house your EL-EE-VAD-DOORS and ROOMS. These are atrocities of the eleventh degree and as such, as enlightened peoples, we must fight their spread and keep the sacred, mysterious spaces of our cities clean and dark. Like the underpass at 87th.

Forever more a changed man the Mayor gazed into Norton’s eyes and wept openly.

“We… will… put things… right. We promise.”

His eyes closed and beneath the thin, leathery membrane of his lids Norton 0 could see the same spinning motion performing its obligatory shuffle.

They smiled, but the smile was cut short by another burst of gas.