Sunday, August 29, 2004

A Clown.
Lori and I spent yesterday afternoon at an unnamed location visiting with some of our more politically radical friends. I only vote when absolutely necessary myself, and when I do I'm the kind of wise guy who votes Libertarian just so I can be smug about it at parties. But I can dig it, their thing is righteous and I'm with 'em all the way, so when they hold a bake sale to raise money for Kerry's campaign, by god I'll buy some of those purple heart-shaped sugar cookies.

I never considered it before, but a bake sale such as this is a highly illegal activity. We live in dark times, so these opposition guerrillas have to quietly set up in a densely populated area for only a few short hours at a time to avoid capture. In this case, by the kiddie wading pool at a local park, where a steady stream of joggers, strollers and roller-bladers ensured a quick turnover of pastries. The idea is to sell as many baked goods as possible, then cut out fast and split up for several weeks if necessary to elude the goon squads. But Kerry's campaign is important to these democratic warriors, so they brave certain torture and humiliation at the hands of Republican forces to scrape up money for their beloved Kommissar.

Spitfire radicals all, these swashbuckling bake salers were all packing guns, but each had only one bullet -- for themselves, if they were captured. They are very aware that Bush's braintrust is proficient at placing spies in the ranks of the rebellion, so they trust no one, not even each other, and every member of the organization is identified with a code name and number (i.e. "Dandelion, Zero Six"). But there is rousing camaraderie amongst the bake salers, and they exhuberantly push their donuts and lemon squares.

"Every snickerdoodle we sell buys one more bullet to aim at George Bush's head," our anonymous friend declared. "We will choke him to death with those mitten-type things you use to pull hot things out of the oven, what are those called?"

"Oven mitts?"

"Yeah, our fucking oven mitts! Goddamn!"

Lori and I felt privileged to be in the company of these dedicated men and women. We purchased some delicious homebaked goods and helped bring our country that much closer to a perfect, pure reign of liberal feel-good humanism.

Friday, August 27, 2004


Once again, Japan steps up to put a green, rubbery face on mankind's collective fear of world war, terrorism and apocalypse. If this movie can't make us all stop and think, then we are truly doomed. - 9/11 toy found inside candy bags - Aug 27, 2004
Check this band out ... instead of a drummer they use a tap dancer. It works better than you'd think. You can download the whole album for free, so fuck it, right?

Tilly and the Wall

Despite some unexpected gum surgery, Lori and I made it out of the house to attend, well, a Rolling Stones "tribute" night (I know, I know). I thought only Chicago wasted its time with multiple-band tribute sets, but here in Seattle the phenom is just as popular. This was a benefit for "No Vote Left Behind," which billed itself as a means to get young people active in the democratic process, but actually was just left-wing propaganda designed to evict our current feudal lord out of office. The political discussion was limited to a drummer (never give the drummer a microphone, please, I beg you) describing Republicans as "assholes" and "stupid assholes." With brains like this behind Kerry we can look forward to another four years of our current administration.

Anyway, I was in no mood to speak or be spoken to, so I glowered at the drunken revelry around me, and cringed painfully at the pitiful drag queen that served as emcee. What the fuck is it with Seattle and drag queens? A fag in women's clothing isn't shocking, subversive or amusing anymore, and this one (its name was "Anna Rexia," get it?) was as bad as they come. Dude, put some fucking pants on.

We only caught four bands, and they were pretty terrible, the only saving grace being that they were limited to three songs each. Finally, fifteen minutes behind schedule my pal Jeremy's band came on, the whole reason we were there, and they were better than I expected. With only one rehearsal under their belt they acquitted themselves nicely with "Before They Make Me Run" and "Happy." Jeremy was pulling out all his Rod Stewart moves, even had the rooster hair and silk scarves going. The more Lori and I thought about it, the more we realized that he could very well become the Rod Stewart of the next generation, and you can take that as positively or negatively as you are inclined.

Manos, the Hands of Fate is the sole production of Hal P. Warren, an El Paso fertilizer salesman who wrote, directed and starred in this peculiar low budget horror story. A stuttering, staggering sort of film, Manos stupefies the viewer with an odd, timeless pace thanks to innumerable continuity gaps and awkward editing. While a painfully amateur production all the way, the damaged technical aspects are matched with a story of illogic and confusion that lend the sort of dreamlike frisson that only sublimely wretched films can provide. What might have been just one more curiosity in the junk room of cinema history is given life by John Reynolds, whose performance as the bizarre caretaker "Torgo" is so eccentric that he's worth recommending on his own. Reynolds twitches, sways and fidgets so incessantly that his movements appear choreographed, like an extended pantomime piece. His enormous knees and clumsy gait are never explained, but his glassy eyes, paranoid demeanor and overall itchiness make him stand out amongst an otherwise indifferent cast. This addled obscurity actually earned a few playdates back in the day, but was generally met with derision by audiences, and misfortune followed in its wake (including Reynolds' suicide). After sitting on the shelf for decades, it was resuscitated by the snarky comedy series Mystery Science Theatre 3000, which roasted Manos, the Hands of Fate in a popular episode. As a result, video and DVD copies have kept this charming little epic in circulation far greater than the rural Texas drive-ins for which it was meant. Seek out the original, non-ironic version first for an utterly unique cinematic experience. — Fred Beldin

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Melida Arredondo told CNN-affiliate WFOR, "My husband did not take the news well."

Welcome to the 1960s. The first insane war protest has occurred.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

I can feel a dry spell coming on.

Let me elaborate ... since taking on a full time (well, 35 hrs per week) job again, I've been keeping up nicely with my writing, probably putting down more words than I was with unlimited leisure time. Part of it was a few opportunities for new venues falling into my lap, occasions which I rose to admirably, plus the Resonance deadline necessitated extra work as well. Still, between stealing a few minutes here and there on the clock and heading right for the keyboard immediately after returning home, I was pumping out fairly decent stuff on a regular basis. This past weekend slowed me down. I had ample time to work, but just couldn't get my brain around it. There are no assignments outstanding, just various projects that, if correctly executed and pitched to the right editor, might expand my horizons and gain me a few months of home officing. But I'm stuck, nothing cooking, so last night I gave up on trying.

Instead, Lori and I went down the street to a fancy joint called Rosebud (not a gay bar, although everyone who works there or patronizes the place seems gay to me) for Manhattans. This has become one of our favorite diversions, ordering Manhattans in different bars around town. Typically the dive bars I prefer atmosphere-wise just can't make 'em. Although it's just bourbon and vermouth, there's something about the shake and the presentation that requires a bartender who knows more than just shots. So we have to upscale it ... if anyone needs to know, we've found that Von's on Pine wins as far as the value to quality ratio (you can't beat $3.00 for a Manhattan made with Jack Daniels, and that's all the time, no happy hour price), but it's a fucking rib joint, so you can only hang out there for so long. The Deluxe Grill on Broadway serves the best possible Manhattan, but you gotta pay for the privilege. $8.00, but that's with Makers Mark in a huge glass, easily worth two of anyone else's drinks in potency. Still a little uppity for my tastes, but I always feel comfortable there, enough for two drinks anyhow.

Last night Rosebud did the trick, but we had to suffer through the bartender's impersonations and juggling. Like I said, everyone is gay.

So if anyone is still reading, you've probably noticed that I'm going to have to work out my writer's block here with mundane details, more mundane than the average weblog (I fucking hate the word "blog" and I just won't use it). Better make some coffee.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Rent this one too ...


After a long-faced town minister abandons his post due to the local population's indifference to religion (his congregation has been whittled down to three elderly women), a sinister figure in black sweeps quietly through the village to wreak righteous revenge on several of the more wicked citizens. Sinners abound, including a corpulent, self-important banker, an addled, goat-poisoning crone, a violent alcoholic, a pair of adulterers and a disrespectful son. These wretched souls are visited in the night by the Grim Reaper, and each must face eternal justice (or in the words of the videotape box synopsis, "each must face their own terrible horror and terror"). This Depression-era period piece boasts a unique idea in casting the Angel of Death as a serial killer, but ultimately A Day of Judgement is more a heavy handed morality play than the horror film it bills itself as. The scenes of the Reaper's revenge are clumsily staged and often confusing, and despite brief gore effects and a laughably cheap vision of Hell at the climax, the remaining running time (too long at 101 minutes) is a dull, Southern-fried batch of cliches. Some actors are tolerable, others amateurish, and many are regulars from the films of producer/actor/director Earl Owensby, a prolific maker of low-budget features for drive-ins of the South during the 1970s. A Day of Judgement is hardly in league with whacked-out religious horror gems like Blood Freak or the gory testimonies of born-again exploitation director Ron Ormond, and its fragile morality is sometimes questionable (why does the resigning pastor escape the scythe when he allows his own feelings of failure to drive him out of a town that desperately needs spiritual guidance?). A corny "it was all a dream" ending finds our sinners casting aside greed, lust, drunkenness and hatred as Sunday morning beckons with a brand-new preacher who sports a strangely familiar black cloak. This simplistic view of human nature as something that can be simply "scared straight" isn't likely to win any new recruits or even provide sniggering entertainment for nonbelievers. — Fred Beldin
It's about time, too ...

The Official Site of the New Vanilla Fudge

Friday, August 20, 2004

Ten movies you should rent this weekend.

Directed by George Barry

Assorted directors

Directed by Chano Urueta

Directed by Doris Wishman

Directed by Al Adamson

Directed by Michael Findlay

Directed by Ed Adlum

Directed by Richard Haines

Directed by Rene Cardona

Directed by Juan Ibanez and Jack Hill

Last night my old lady and I spent far too much time at the Tractor Tavern, enjoying about half of a performance by the Tarbox Ramblers. I say about half because these bald-headed fuckers went on and on and on and on ... a great band, the first band I've gone to the trouble of the leaving the house for in a while, and for about half an hour I was digging it enough that I was determined to finish it off and buy a CD. Song after song we waited politely while six drunk "dancers" (Lori accurately likened them to the Peanuts kids in full swing) ruined it for the rest of us by encouraging the Ramblers to ramble on for a full 75 minutes. As Lori wilted patiently, I drank myself into a firm position that I wanted to congratulate these guys on their blurry, rhythm-heavy blues and uncanny resemblance to Pat Bills (all three of them, it was eerie). At the second song of the encore they lost me, so we spent the hour-long bus ride home with irritated headaches and a sense of wasted time.

Still, this should serve as an endorsement of the Tarboxes. It's a raw blues for albino Bostonians, reverent but not slavish, idiosyncratic without being postmodern, mostly standards with a few high quality originals tossed in. Most assholes love it when a band just won't shut the fuck up ... if you are such an asshole, then you'll be entirely satisfied. I appreciate the fact that the Tarbox Ramblers are likely semi-pros, boasting four-star reviews and puny paid admissions, and they probably figure they won't be back on a Seattle stage in a while, so why not milk it for the drunken enthusiastic few? Good luck to 'em ... I'm still enough of a fan to want to follow up and see if I can't find a venue for a write-up.

Speaking of which, my new scheme is to interview Carol Channing when she comes to town in September. More on this as it develops.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

On a less dour note ...

Dig the bubblegum machine.

I urge everyone to visit this site and download Jeff Thomas' "Straight Aero" immediately. Can't get it out of my head, a swell 60s groove that celebrates the singer's absolute squaredom ... "I don't smoke, I don't sniff glue/And I don't hang with the cats who do/Avant garde and underground/Never really been my scene or sound/Straight Aero." Genius.

I am becoming distressingly square my own self, substance-wise anyhow, and not by choice. Reefers have been cut down on due to occasional dizzy spells, alcohol makes for headaches and I never really had a cocaine personality (although I have some friends who do, whose names shall remain famous). What I have is a ritalin personality, which is similar, except that the drive to stimulate oneself into artificial arrogance is tempered by an extreme fear (and/or hatred) of social situations, which results in a much lower profile. It also reflects a preference for the cold fluorescent light of a pharmacy over the filth and noise of a crowded nightclub restroom.

I'm probably better represented by the second offering on Week 86 of the Bubblegum Machine, Jona Lewie's reserved but catchy synth-popper "You'll Always Find Me In The Kitchen At Parties." Here's a cat who's hep, but can't make it with people ... it's gonna sound boring at first, but give it a chance or two. Trivia note: the background chorus is sung by Kirsty MacColl, the woman who wrote "They Don't Know About Us," which Lori and I have considered "our song" for some time now (although these days it's getting stiff competition from Guitar Wolf's "I Love You Okay"). Now look, I hate Tracey Ullman as much as everyone else, but for Chrissakes, what a song. In fact, if anyone can score me MacColl's original recording of "They Don't Know," let me know. It's very important to me.
I am nurturing a tender melancholy as of late, something so diminished from the burly depressions I've known in the past that it barely registers ... but still, my heart beats sluggishly and I'm prone to fits of nostalgia for times that I'm relieved are long gone. People I miss desperately but never call or write to. Places I never want to see again but wish I had the option of avoiding. I know I'm exceedingly typical in this kind of ennui, particularly at my pre-middle age state, but there we are, most of us anyway. It's hard to look into the future ... I looked into the future ten years ago and couldn't see anything except some murky hope. Now the future looks clear, and that's the problem. I see desks and buses, diets and eyeglasses. More money, but at a terrible price. At least I still look good ... I see myself aging gracefully, growing distinguished and even dashing in the eyes of certain women with particular tastes. Yes, I will be that guy. Is that the best I have to look forward to?

Thursday, August 12, 2004

A new piece for the Stranger ... freshly delivered, expect it cast into ink next Thursday.


Serial killer chic never goes out of style, and it doesn't get much more retarded than the Zodiac Killers. Rip-Off Records kingpin Greg Lowery heads up this goon squad of bad taste and familiar riffs. Snotty vocals, monosyllabic guitar solos and songs like “Nazi Interrogation” and "Genetic Mutation” are exactly what punk purists of a certain stripe swallow whole. Killed By Death-style noise is common enough, but the Zodiac Killers push the attitude to cartoonish degrees of aggression. Is it cool to do a record cover photo shoot at an authentic Zodiac slaying location? Or to distribute bullet-pierced posters shot with the same ammo the real killer used? If one says yes, then one will call it rock & roll. Live, the band is a ghoulish, sloppy spectacle, but it's punk as hell and their outfits (complete with Zodiac symbol armbands) are pretty sharp. - Fred Beldin

Pat Todd & The Rank Outsiders

Reportedly the new honky tonk band from the man behind the Lazy Cowgirls. Are the Cowgirls broken up for good now? This cryptic website won't tell you anything, but keep an eye on it. Pat Todd is a great songwriter and a turn away from punkrock and toward straight-up country is the most appropriate choice he could make.

Deming explains.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

OK, Jesus Christ, now I need a beer. Mm, yeah, that's better. My unchecked anger got the best of me again about thirty minutes back. Finally getting my head together enough to send more writing samples out to new magazine prospects, and after a half hour of carefully crafting the perfect introduction letter and selecting the pieces that display my versatility, fuckin' Yahoo suddenly refuses to attach files to my email and erases what I had spent so much time on. I could blame the heat, the new job, the coffee, lots of things, but it doesn't matter, I screamed myself hoarse and punched a few walls. I've been much more level lately, but this kind of thing cuts me deep. I mean, if the TV reception is bad or I bite my lip, I've learned to deal with it ... but fuck ass motherfucker if something gets in the way of some responsible act that I've finally fought my way through the haze of melancholy to tackle. Another half hour down the line and I had achieved my goal, but I only have so many half hours left in my life, and even fewer of these occur when I have energy, peace and quiet and a spark of confidence.

I hate you all.

I've been obsessing over the abject selfishness of the modern world lately, pretty much every time I walk down the street and witness petty acts of negligence that would brand me a crank if I was ever to demonstrate the irritation they cause. But they all pile up, you morons, and that's exactly why lesser men lose their minds and commit themselves to killing sprees. Jaywalking, littering, aggressive driving, it sounds silly but all of our actions, no matter how mundane, cause ripples that affect our environment and our fellows. But some people apparently travel in a bubble that allows them to float along peacefully without regarding anyone else.

You wanna know why the rest of the world hates Americans so much? BECAUSE WE DESERVE IT. Or at least you do. YES, YOU!

Saturday, August 07, 2004

What the hell ... here's a review I wrote for consideration by the newly refurbished Amazing Stories magazine. Turns out they don't need it, so I guess it goes here.


Monty Python may have made the first attempts, but TV comedies of recent years like Kids in the Hall and Mr. Show have proven that graphic violence gets laughs. The modern world has become so desensitized to severed limbs and spurting blood that gore can serve as a punchline, either for crass shock value or as a winking reference to slasher film conventions or some other meta-motive. The societal impact of this phenomenon is best left to philosophers and politicians, but the fact of the matter is that this kind of extreme slapstick is now de-rigueur, and the British import Shaun of the Dead is the latest to mine mayhem for mirth.

It's decidedly rare for a feature-length horror/comedy to succeed on either front; witness the Scary Movie franchise or any number of Troma hack jobs as examples of bad taste replacing humor and suspense dispensed with altogether. Against the odds, Shaun of the Dead emerges as a film that could lose the gags or the gore and still stand up, a film with energy, wit and of all things, subtlety. British telly watchers will be familiar with stars Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson from the BBC-TV series Spaced, which was helmed by Shaun director Edgar Wright. The characters are essentially the same, a slacking twenty-nine year old and his long-suffering girlfriend. Along for the ride are a boorish best friend, a pair of pretentious flatmates and the title character's mum, all of whom suddenly find the irritating minutiae of their lives swept away forever when a cannibal zombie apocalypse forces them to barricade themselves in the local pub.

While we've all heard that story before, co-writers Wright and Pegg build slowly to the action, allowing their characters both exaggerated tics and humanizing details. The early scenes of Shaun capture the ennui of post-collegiate life perfectly, with friendships strained by responsibility and a sense of betrayed potential shared by all. The approach of the zombie attack is obvious to the audience from the start, but for our heroes the drama drops out of nowhere (pretty realistic, that) and once the carnage begins it's a non-stop gut-muncher full of the exploding heads and ruptured organs so beloved by gorehounds. There's tension too, thanks to some Night of the Living Dead-style claustrophobia. Already a hit in its Merrie Olde homeland, Shaun of the Dead arrives Stateside to further jumble our genres and expectations. - Fred Beldin