should I list all the books, journals and discs I collect within a particular month then surely this blog would be awash in lists. I, however, love reading those types of lists on other poets' blogs. another blogger said something along the lines that one can't help how one writes, but one surely makes choices in what one reads. and the first things I do when I visit another writer's home is look at his/her bookshelves. I don't mean to do it, it really is unconscious. and I thought I was the only one who did it until fairly recently when a fellow poet came to our house and as I went into the kitchen to get us a couple of beers he was scanning my stacks. and I do believe it was unconscious on his part. I was greatly relieved, in fact.
Really Bad Movies
a bard's eye view of love, life and psychotronic cinema
Thursday, October 28, 2004
Monday, October 25, 2004
an avid (rabid) movie-goer since I was a kid I don't recall ever seeing this film in a theater or drive-in the year it was released. and I remember the year vividly because I was a 10-year-old boy and Star Wars took me by the seat of my pants for one wild ride that summer. the space opera was a terrific blast of adrenaline back then, and I don't know how many times I saw it that year.
but I don't remember director Dario Argento's masterpiece at all. that is, until I found a disc a couple of years ago. I've known of the film for some time but had not seen it. so when I brought the disc home I placed it in the tray to see what's to see.
and it didn't disappoint at all. Argento is foremost a visual stylist, perhaps like a painter, but without the psychology of the kind you would find in Hitchcock's films. Argento specializes in the most stylized brutality ever conceived on celluloid. but it isn't really a sickening brutality, not at least for me because certain scenes are so overtly theatrical one simply marvels at their executions. one stares at the screen amazed by it all.
the story is about a young foreign exchange student Suzy Banyon (played by Jessica Harper) who uncovers a coven of witches at her German dance school. not much in the way of plot. yet, Argento's mastery is not linear storytelling. the director creates episodes to clash in sound and color. yes, the movie feels pieced together, but I would argue that that is a strength and not a weakness. by presenting episodes rather than seamless narrative Argento opens us to previously unknown sights. we are astonished and revolted by what we are seeing. by foregoing linearity the artist can create unique time, a time that fits more exactly the created world rather than the world we daily occupy. the imagination is better suited, at least for some things, to episodic structures than narrative constructions. who thinks and imagines in narrative anyway?
this is the second film, the first is Deep Red (1975), that combined the talents of the Italian prog rock band Goblin and the visions of Argento. the score suits the material, and I mean the synthesizers, vocalized screeches and drums harmonizes the violence. the movie is best played real, real loud.
anyway, the first murder is a shock and is perhaps one of the most beautifully choreographed ever framed on film. Argento is a master of editing and lighting. or he is a master at finding artisans who are masters at editing and lighting. either way the film is saturated in reds and blues perhaps to signify the heat of violence and the psychological ennui of the coven of witches. for they are brought easily down by Banyon. who knows?
at any rate, Banyon breaks thru her own malaise and attempts to discover the school's mystery which is deep-set but very fragile. because no one really fucks with the witches they have got a bit smug and lazy. but as I noted earlier the film is not big on psychological depths. one views it as a rollercoaster ride. there are a few set-pieces that are downright silly, such as the scene where the dormitories are drenched by falling maggots. and yet, there is something compelling in Banyon's travails. a hint of strength that is finally fully tested by the lead witch.
it is nearly Halloween. the perfect season for Suspiria. Argento has made, and continues to make, good to very fucking good films. Argento ain't everyone's cup of tea but if you like the strong stuff then surely this film will whet your whistle.
Friday, October 22, 2004
a few years ago I ran across a little catalog that sold 1950s and 1960s pulp novels. it was a zine really with mini-essays by the seller/publisher on his pulp passions. I can't recall its title, or if the person now has a website, but his zine, and his enthusiastic love of pulp fiction, was pure pleasure to read.
the guy loved the stuff, loved it at the first intensity. he warned, I recall, prospective readers hungry to get their hands on old porn that the novels really weren't as graphic as the covers would have you believe. in fact, they were pretty tame compared to the stuff available in today's markets. however, I also recall an essay on the last pages that said in so many words that he can't stand people who whine and think there is no good around, nothing worth doing, nothing at all. to these blanks he spat and said there is always something to do, some good to be had and create. all you must do is find what you love.
a lover of life, an enthusiast in fact. for who lives without passion (yeah, sounds a bit pompous, I mightily agree, but what the fuck) lives a half life.
no new age BS in this ramble but something that I must remind myself as I trundle thru my days.
Task: to be where I am
even in this solemn
and absurd role
I am still the place where
creation works on itself.
there are lotsa poems to read, poems to write. and I read today Tim Burton's movie Ed Wood gets a 10-year anniversary special edition dvd, and there is a dvd box set of six Wood's pictures. also, on Tuesday Dawn of the Dead (2004) will be let loose. and books by August Kleinzahler, Rusty Morrison and Joshua Clover come out early next month. and so I have to remind myself about living, which for me means to live with desires and passions. carpefuckingdiem.
Sunday, October 17, 2004
tag line: WE ARE GOING TO EAT YOU!
Italian schlockmeister Lucio Fulci toiled in b-movie limbo making every sort of genre film imaginable: war dramas, comedies, police thrillers, the list goes on and on, and he would may be interesting only in his dogged longevity in the Italian cinema if it weren't for his horror films.
by the 1970s Fulci began his career in horror by tacking himself to whatever was popular. that meant he began making the particular type of Italian thriller known as giallo (Italian for yellow) that took as their source the cheap pulp novels printed with yellow covers that specialized in lurid sex and graphic violence. Fulci's giallos, such as Lizard in a Woman's Skin (1971) and Don't Torture a Duckling (1972) were strong visual presentations of themes that would occupy him for the rest of his filmmaking career: sex and violence.
in the vast underbelly of rip-off exploitation filmmaking, no one better steals from other films than the Italians. and Fulci used his considerable talents (or non-talents) in following the horror movie trends and turning out the best and the worst of pastaland gutmunchers.
the consensus of the work of Fulci between, say, 1971 and 1983 is mixed at best. and I don't mean ambivalence, I mean there are rabid Fulci fans or fans of genre films who hate Fulci's guts.
George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead was released in Italy as Zombi, and was a huge hit. Fulci went to work immediately to cash in on Romero's success and made his so-called sequel to Romero's smash film. it was released under the names Zombi II and Zombie Flesh-Eaters. personally I like the second title the best. neither stuck and the movie has been released on DVD with the title Zombie.
the film is perfect for the drive-in because it is so well lit. most of the action occurs during daylight and its slow, smoky pace can afford its viewers several hits of the bong or trips to the toilet without missing much on the screen.
but it ain't a good make-out movie. most viewers would be pretty annoyed by seeing zombies amok in graphic detail tearing out intestines or poking out the eye of pretty Olga Karlatos who plays the mad scientist's, Richard Johnson, wife. the other principals are Al Cliver and Auretta Gay who portray a boating couple on holiday in the Caribbean and take along Tisa Farrow (yeah, Mia's sister) whose doctor father disappeared on the apocryphal island Matou, and newspaperman Ian McCulloch who is investigating the disappearance.
scientists Johnson and Farrow's father have somehow, either through chemistry or native voodoo, awakened the Spanish Conquistadors buried on the island from their slumbers and now are on a foul rampage.
Farrow's father is the first to get it, and the film begins with his unmanned ship entering New York harbor. harbor patrol investigates and finds no one on board, except for one pissed-off and mean motherfucking fat zombie who promptly tears open the throat of one police officer. the zombie is shot by the second officer and disappears in the water never to be seen from again.
but what matter continuity? later we find Gay scuba diving in the waters of the Caribbean only to be attacked both by a zombie and a shark, underwater mind you, where else would a shark and zombie be. who knows where the fuck they came from, but when they attack each other, shark vs. zombie, and I mean a real shark and a stunt double in zombie dress, it is hard not to laugh and choke on your pretzels and beer.
it is also hard not to shake off the sight of zombie and shark. what an image! so our principals do find Matou and Richard Johnson, and let me be plain here, most do not make it out alive. but you expected that didn't you, since this is a cheap-ass Italian exploitation zombiethon.
I mentioned the pace is languid and smoky, the colors are washed-out and the light is grainy. but I think that is by design. it fits the zombie theme: slow-moving killers intent on eating you. the score is a wonderful synth mix by Fabio Frizzi (it really is perfect for the movie) and the fx stuff is done by the brilliant Gianetto De Rossi.
the drive-in crowd might be pleased by the silly ending and hopefully sober enough to drive home without mishap. some of the images, please help me, I can't get out of my head. whether that is because I'm susceptible to such nonsense or that Fulci's magic works, I dare not say.
i'll give you a reason to cry
* * *
of all the
in all the
walks into mine
Saturday, October 16, 2004
spent the past hour reading theories of Bush wired for sound at Is Bush Wired via Pelican Dreaming. many write like conspiracy theorists but the photos of the squareish bulge on the back of Bush during the first debate are compelling.
* * *
the quaintness of any avant-garde work is perhaps an inevitability, via this post by Geof Huth. the problems of shock and novelty is that works that shock and are new don't remain that way.
I grew up on punk rock of the early 80s, what was dubbed hardcore: short, short songs of around 300 beats-per-minute, where the vocals often were screams and growls and the music was a basic three-chord simple structure.
and yet, much of that music to me is unlistenable. its shock has since long worn off, and I never thought I'd see the day when Iggy Pop's (a veteran punk many of us loved) song "Lust for Life" would be used for Carnival cruises.
Marie Osmond singing a punk song, much less reciting a sound poem by Hugo Ball as being a punk project, surely is the bottommest of the very bottom of the chummed waters of pop.
much of the nihilism evident in the music and its followers was just so much posturing. the symbol every punk had either tattooed or marked on his/her jackets, shirts, pants or black Converse hi-tops was the Circle A: anarchy. here is an snippet of utter futility in lyrics from a terrific SF band, FEAR:
I Love Livin' in the City
My house smells just like a zoo
It's chock full of shit and puke
Cockroaches on the walls
Crabs crawling on my balls
Oh! I'm so clean-cut
I just want to fuck some slut
* * *
I quoted that from memory, and given what is played on the radio and TV today it ain't too shocking. but it pissed off and disturbed my parents to no end.
at any rate, there were some great bands that emerged from the movement. the wonderful Husker Du from Minneapolis was a collection of extreme talents that pushed out and exploded the often insular worlds of punk and mainstream musics. tho they too never veered too far from traditional song structures and melodies. however, it was their musicianship, and the need to take risks, that foregrounded much of what is now played on MTV. I do not meant to suggest Husker Du thought of itself as an avant-garde band, or that it was so influential that musicians could not imagine doing what they do today if it weren't for Husker Du. I do mean to say that the avant-garde makes its meanings in subtler ways.
there is a favorite song of mine by Husker Du. it is a cover of The Byrds' "Eight Miles High". it is speeded up and hardly recognizable as being a song by The Byrds. the song, as I understand it, is about being high on drugs, but it is an anthem from the era of hope, violence, idealism and change. I have the sensation that singer Bob Mould was absolutely offended by Reagan's America, and disillusioned that the hippie ideals became slush in the 1980s. so that Mould stops singing the lyrics by the end of the song and screams powerfully, in anger and frustration. the song collapses from its own momentum. the screams end as screams must end. and it doesn't fail to move me each time I hear it.
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
terrific to see Steve Tills writing after a brief, but seemed like forever, hiatus over at Black Spring. and also Michael Basinski's good review of Steve's journal of the same name both at Steve's blog and at the journal The Hold where Basinski has been publishing his reviews for some time now. I'm a fan of Basinski's odes on books and the occasional jazz, or spoken word, cd. Basinski writes on a great number of different writers and visual poets of various styles, such as performance poet ric royer and abstract poet Ric Carfagna. I look forward to his latest batch at The Hold every month or so.
Monday, October 11, 2004
Make It On the Side
there is always a group of songs looped in the brainpan. the songs vary from day to day, even hour to hour, but I suffer, like everyone else, the compulsion to delight in it. the best way to do that is to sing along.
oh, the horror! the horror! the persons caught within listening range their ears begin to bleed from my exertions. not that I mind, of course, but then someone will ask me what is it that has me carrying along.
the past couple of weeks I've been rather obsessed with two side projects, one from 1985 , the second released last year 2003.
the self-titled ep Seeing Eye Gods released by Epitaph was an experiment in mid-80s psychedelia by Brett Gurewitz of the punk band Bad Religion. don't know much about the recording except that it was a one-shot five-song picture disc ep. the picture disc is paisley and only about a 1,000 copies were pressed. it remains out of print. however the disc itself says Unauthorized Duplication Would Be Appreciated.
the songs, "The Only One", "Psychedelic Suzy", a cover of Status Quo's "Pictures of Matchstick Men", "Strawberry Girl" and "Happy" are slow meditations of unrequited love. and who is too old for love songs? for they are reasonably well-produced, extremely well-played songs. the instruments are layers of fuzzed-distorted electric guitars and acoustic guitars, bass and drums with a little sampling of strings.
what to say about an album that I've known since 1985? I do not own the album but borrowed it from my friend. I don't recall how he got it. my favorite song, the most fully realized song on the ep I think, is "Strawberry Girl". I plan on having another friend record the vinyl and convert it to cd.
the other album is Give Up by The Postal Service released by Sub Pop. it is highly addictive from the opening song to the last instrumental. a witty blend of electronica and pop, and quite frankly have not heard electronica so catchy since the last New Order album. when I told another friend I can't stop listening to the recording he said, yeah that is a side project by the guy from Death Cab for Cutie and the guy who records as Dntel, and he has all those albums too. a lot of cool info on The Postal Service here.
I love the scratches, bleeps and noise of the music with the singer's clear, intelligent voice over it. the album should give electronica artists a shot in the arm for tho it ain't that new a concept (remember Soft Cell and The Human League of the early 80s?) it is well-done and fresh.
side projects, like collaborations between writers and artists, is like travel in a foreign country. when you take off you can become a someone else, the I as other, ya know, and do anything because there is a number of (your)selves for you to find.
Sunday, October 10, 2004
supersexy stuff at Unprotected Texts.
how long have you owned a book before you read it?
what was the last book you read that really made you go wow with no idea the book had such power?
Friday, October 08, 2004
it is countdown time. in just a few weeks we go to the polls and decide who will lead us. I've not considered myself a political writer at all. tho a sequence of poems that have political content are published here. so the second debate tonight between Bush and Kerry will, it seems, solidify the beliefs of each camp. the hope I've mentioned in my previous post has evaporated.
I will not engage in any punditry here, but I do find it mighty depressing to hear the talking heads in the broadcast media speak tonight only on style, the presentation and speaking manners of both candidates, rather than the essences of each issue. who won is decided by how presidential one looks rather than his intellectual acuity and analyses of our current crises in education, environment protection, foreign affairs, civil rights etc. etc.
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
A B B
the acronym is Any Body but Bush.
and I'm sure most persons have heard it already. today, I read in the Wall Street Journal an editorial on the October Surprise, the writer listed a number of scenarios. which one will it be?
just returned from a reading, Poets Against Bush, to benefit the political action committee MoveOnPAC.org where I bought a couple of Poets Against War anthologies and read a couple of poems. it was an energizing experience. I wasn't scheduled to read but was rather roped in by the organizer, and publisher, Richard Hansen when it was open mic time. but it was good to be in the presence of many writers who feel as strongly as I do about this administration.
that was a good thing. yet, I've been feeling a really guilty. I'll explain. you see, this is my favorite time of year, and Anna and I expect the birth of our first child in a little less than nine weeks. I've literally been dancing on air. but the horrors, the atrocities committed by groupthink, lies and duplicity, the evils, the violence and the relative malaise of individuals before such enormities makes me wonder whether there is any hope at all.
and yet the feelings of hopelessness might be a sign of life, and where there is life there remains a chance. I can't explain my feelings of joy except for the obvious outlined above. what can poetry do in these wild times? and I do not mean Auden's overused phrase: Poetry Makes Nothing Happen. cuz it does, for each individual. my guilt is in my enjoyment of life, knowing full well all the terror. but poetry must know this as well, for even in the dirge there is pleasure, in its melodies and its absolute necessities of utterance. that is a cause for hope:
joy and real fucking horror.