Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Lori and I have taken our time getting across the country, sleeping late in cheap motels and stopping at popular tourist traps like the Montana State Prison and the Mystery Spot. I'll have some details soon, since we've endured many adventures and weathered a flurry of curious episodes since leaving the safety of Seattle. Thanks to several gallons of rum concoctions and expired medications we have kept big sickly smiles on our faces as we reconnect with family members, friends and near-friends and even a few benign enemies.

The wedding is Saturday.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Flowers of Evil

Basic Hip Digital Oddio is a consistently fine website to check for unique sound recordings, but this week's downloadable album, Flowers of Evil by Ruth White, is one of the ... no, absolutely the eeriest thing I've ever heard. English translations of Charles Baudelaire's poems set to primitive electronic music/noise. I haven't been able to get much farther than "The Litanies of Satan," which I downloaded first. It's a truly frightening piece, and I had to turn it off halfway through because I felt evil spirits being conjured in the corners of the room (and I wasn't even stoned at the time). Check out the upcoming list for future offerings, it's usually interesting and always obscure. Almost on a par with bubblegum machine, the current reigning favorite mp3 website in my small, limited universe.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

There is a woman across the street with a bucket of soapy water, washing a child's chalk designs off the sidewalk. It strikes me that I've never seen anyone do this before. Seems a slightly cold act, with a feeling of finality to it. Not only that, but she's wearing a tight black leotard and costume cat's ears on top of her head. What is the world coming to?

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Well, a correction is in order. There is further evidence that Robert Quine's death was a suicide, an intentional overdose. This is not a whacked-out hotshot. RIP

Lori and I will be leaving Sunday June 13th (with luck) for our drive across country to the Capital City of Michigan (the name of which I forget). For anyone who cares a little, we'll be getting there sometime the following weekend. Then the wedding is June 26th ... if you didn't get an invitation but you're reading this, most likely you're invited and the damn thing got lost in the mail. You wouldn't be the first. Drop me a line and I'll straighten you out.

Friday I'm interviewing Jehane Noujaim, director of the fine documentary Control Room. She spent time at the Al Jazeera network at the start of the Iraq invasion and captured the goings-on, and it's a great film. I'm having trouble getting all my ideas and facts together ... I'm politically ignorant, primarily because I tend to see both sides of every argument, and that's an exhausting thing. Far as I'm concerned, EVERYBODY is wrong, there is no truth and the best you can do is just be polite to your immediate neighbors. So I tend to feel that the war is none of my business ... which, of course, is not so. The one thing I came away with is the feeling that Al Jazeera are as biased as Fox News, which the reporters readily admit to. So is there anywhere we can get honest coverage of the war? I guess that is my first question to Ms. Noujaim.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004 - Guitarist Robert Quine found dead - Jun 8, 2004
Too bad. One of my favorite guitarists. Just goes to show, you oughta kick before age 50.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Well, hell ... as has just been pointed out to me, I have now at least two readers. Thank you, Mr. Soren Davis, Chicago's King of the Tom Cats and a major player in his region's Freestyle Shouting League (he has enormous lung capacity due to years and years of smoking). I'll see you in the Capital City come June.

Speaking of Lansing, last week I did an interview with the Lansing Noise concerning my tenure in the Clutters. Supposedly there is now a healthy "twang" (Good god, how I hate that word) scene in Lansing, with bands sprouting like dandelions (attractive in bunches from afar but unremarkable when examined in detail) and for better or worse, the Clutters were one of (if not the) first "alt-country" (Holy Christ, how I hate that term) band to gig in the city. No matter that no one really liked us much, because anyone with a punkrock bent thought we were fat pussies for having slow songs and a bearded violin player, and all the people who actually listened to the Torch and Twang radio show considered us far too loud, sloppy, stoned and stupid to take seriously. All of these criticisms were entirely valid, by the way. Still, we had more character than most anyone else from that dirty little sideways town, so what the hell, we deserve to be remembered as much as anyone. Keep an eye out for the article, and we'll see just how much column space actually gets devoted to us in the final analysis.

The new Reigning Sound record, Too Much Guitar, is fucking great, maybe not the masterpiece that Time Bomb High School was, but who can have two in a row? Real soul for real people. Anyone with an interest in rocknroll is encouraged to shut the fuck up and go buy it. Well, no, get Time Bomb High School first, I guess, but you won't go wrong with Too Much Guitar either. Great version of "You Got Me Hummin" ... and "We Repel Each Other" is a great title for a love song. Still looking for a copy of the latest Seger Liberation Army recd, but no one is stocking it around here ... yes, that's right, I'll have to buy one.

I'm thinking of going back to school ... either theology studies or flower arrangment. Seriously. These are my two choices.


First off, I wanna give a hearty "fuckin' A" to fellow genius Dave "Ragz" Hanson, because, far as I know, he's the only other set of eyes checking out these entries other than my own. Am I wrong? Doesn't matter. The vacuum I shout into just got a little more crowded, and who better to share my closet than someone I've known for twenty years? Grow some tits, Dave, it's just you and me in here.

I went to my first official big star press conference on Saturday ... I'm not a big fan of Donnie Darko but I have to admit the new theatrical "director's cut" made a few plot points clearer, even if they probably still need to tack on an extra thirty minutes or so to actually make sense. It opened Saturday night at SIFF, so I was afforded the opportunity to be in a room with Drew Barrymore for forty-five minutes and I said what the hell. It was everything I expected, that is, dull, but like I said, I was in a room with Drew Barrymore for forty-five minutes and lemme tell you, she sure looks good from across a large crowded room full of Seattle journalists. Lots of pointless buttkissing, stupid questions and general fluff ... maybe if it was a movie I cared to write about (like this) I would be more enthusiastic, but short of Drew pulling me aside to tell me she likes my boots and wonders if I have a place she can hang out for a few hours and watch 3-D porn films, the event was not going to deliver for me.

More later? More later.
Werewolf of Woodstock

The Woodstock music festival is finally over, and a local farmer, furious at the noise and garbage generated by the throngs of hippies, takes out his aggression on the abandoned stage during a rainstorm. In perhaps the first (and last) instance of a werewolf being created through massive electrical shock, he is struck by lightning and somehow transformed into exactly what he hates most, a filthy long-haired creature in torn clothes and bare feet. Meanwhile, a struggling rock group hits upon a great gimmick for their demo tape. They travel to the empty festival site and play their songs on the legendary stage to legitimately claim they were "recorded live at Woodstock." The werewolf sightings convince the local police that a hippie is to blame for a recent murder, and the rock band is immediately under suspicion. However, a pair of hip, young detectives from Los Angeles aren't so sure, and when the girl guitar player is abducted by the beast, the rest of the musicians are recruited to assist in the rescue by playing their instruments as loud as possible, drawing the hippie-hating monster out into the open. This peculiar Dick Clark production proves that the generation gap was still considered bankable in 1975, or at least enough so to warrant a late-night debut on ABC's "Wide World of Entertainment" program. Cheaply shot on video, it's clear that no one thought much further than the goofy premise, and once the novelty of the concept cools the remaining action quickly becomes rote (although a third act scene featuring the werewolf making a hasty getaway in a stolen dune buggy is priceless). As the monster, Mod Squad star Tige Andrews spends all his time swathed in bandages or hidden behind a cheap wolfman mask, and the damsel-in-distress role filled by Belinda Belaski is a stereotypical flaky hippie who feels "vibrations" and eventually bonds with her captor. Perhaps an Altamont Speedway werewolf would have had more resonance with the target audience. The psychotronic viewer will note a fleeting appearance by Al Adamson leading man Robert Dix as a policeman; it's nice to know he found work in a "legitimate" production like The Werewolf of Woodstock. - Fred Beldin

Memorial Valley Massacre

Slasher films are often criticized for their habit of encouraging the audience to identify with the killer. Memorial Valley Massacre is an extreme case, but not for genre-standard hand-held POV shots. Instead, the "maniac" is a feral forest-dwelling manchild resisting the encroachment of modern society with violence, and his victims are city-slicker campers who threaten his pristine wilderness with litter, ATVs and land developments. While the gentle valley hermit feeds his pet mouse and frees a hapless rabbit from a snare meant for men, the "civilized" weekenders guzzle beer, blast speed metal and prove themselves to be among the most repellent disposable characters in slasher film history. This unique perspective doesn't make Memorial Valley Massacre worth watching, however, unless one is interested in seeing what happens when the worst elements of 80s junk horror and teen sex comedies collide. Slutty teenage girls dance in the rain, a fat kleptomaniac kid provides unneeded comic relief, and a gang of mismatched bikers dress like extras in a John Mellencamp video. The death-dealing wild boy's outfit is a Halloween-cheap faux fur getup accented with plastic buck teeth, and if he's been isolated for twenty years, where did the candles in his cave come from? The third act boasts a steady stream of absolutely unconvincing gore effects, so the squeamish need not fear unless they’re sticklers for logic. Most of the cast was never heard from again, but a few genre regulars appear as ringers among the amateurs. William Smith has a pointless role as a retired Army general who loves his RV and John Kerry (no, not that one) is an alcoholic park ranger with a secret link to the killer in the forest. Cameron Mitchell is onscreen for all of three minutes, getting off easy with top billing and minimal effort as a greedy land developer. - Fred Beldin

The Demon

By not including any actors of color in its lily-white cast, this dull, dimly-lit slasher nonsense from South Africa is a rare instance of apartheid actually sparing the dignity of those it means to oppress. The Demon moves disjointedly between two sets of characters whose lives are impacted by an "aberration of the species" that is "less than a man and more than a man." Exactly what and how is never addressed, nor is the reason why the rubber-masked killer wears pre-Freddy Kruger razor-tipped gloves but chooses to suffocate his victims with ordinary plastic bags and twine. Cameron Mitchell is set up early on as a main character, a psychic investigator called upon to find an abducted girl. He glares intensely into space, tears up a feather pillow and speaks in hushed tones to the vengeful father, then disappears for the next thirty minutes, reemerging just long enough to be shot in the forehead ("Did your extra sensory perception prepare you for this?"). The bulk of the screen time is enjoyed by a pair of cousins who teach at a nursery school and spend quality time with their respective boyfriends. Meanwhile, the unidentified maniac looms in the background, stalking the girls for some reason rather than just offing them outright like the rest of his prey. It all leads up to a lengthy cat-and-mouse that ends when a resourceful naked pre-school teacher makes an impromptu smock out of a shower curtain and protects herself with a bottle of shampoo and a pair of scissors. Ridiculous as The Demon is, few will gain any pleasure squinting through the dusky cinematography or enduring the long wait for things to actually happen. Boycott it. - Fred Beldin