Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Curse of the Blair Witch (1999)

I had just taken the disc from the tray and turned the TV off when the phone rang. it was a market research firm to ask about my movie-going habits. I was glad to oblige the interviewer 10 minutes of my time. but all the films the caller mentioned I have absolutely no interest in wasting 90 minutes of my life on. that doesn't mean I haven't used up 90 minutes or even several hours of my precious time on earth on wasted film stock. I have and will do again presently.

so this little ditty aired on the SciFi Channel in June 1999 as a promo for the film The Blair Witch Project. it is now an extra on the DVD version of the film. let me stop here and confess to you my rabid love of these types of films and TV shows. do you recall the 70s Leonard Nimoy vehicle In Search Of? ol' Spock hosted this show that sought out the paranormal, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster for example, in a faux-documentary style. the 1970s abounded with this type of stuff. I recall one popular book on the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle, and films that went straight to the Drive-In on subjects like a contemporary search team finding Noah's Ark on Mt. Ararat.

a boy in 1970s America had this type of caca coming out of his ears. and I dug it. I still do.

Curse is done in the same faux-documentary style as Nimoy's show but better produced. here we are given the history of the Blair Witch (a woman named Ellie Kedward accused of witchcraft and banished from the township Blair, Maryland in 1785) and her alleged acts of evil that occurred every 50 or 60 years. there is the skeptic Professor of Folklore, there is the local town historian, there is the Professor of Archeology who found the missing footage, there is the town (later renamed Birkettsville after the original inhabitants of Blair got scared shitless and abandoned the town) sheriff, there is the P.I. who looked for the missing film students, and there is, to my great delight, an In Search Of type show called Mystic Occurrences with the guest being a Wiccan in 1971 explaining the origins of witchcraft in general, and Ellie Kedward in particular. the makers of Curse got the tone down just right for Mystic Occurrences from the washed-out film stock to the opening Theremin-style theme music.

what gives this show the veneer of authenticity is how the director uses alleged archival materials, such as letters and drawings. the letters are recited in accents that attempt, I assume, the times of the mid-19th century in relating the mythos of the witch. we have Ken Burns to thank for that style of letter recitation, so thank you Ken, it works for horror films too. instead of acoustic guitar and banjo music, the letters are read over layered whispers and droning ambient noise. it works, for me at least, as very creepy. the producers of Curse did a grand job in putting together many little pieces in the creation of a very silly concept: an investigative report on three missing film students and their encounters with the Blair Witch.

but this short film is market driven. it was meant to intrigue a potential audience into seeing the main film. it worked. I have seen the movie and I loved it. but between you and me I've seen this little film more times than I have seen the main feature. deliriously, gloriously wasted 45 minutes of my life.

Monday, September 27, 2004

the weather in the Bay Area yesterday, 9/26/04, was absolutely gorgeous: clear, blue sky and temp. in the 80s. so it was a great day to see The Pixies at the Greek in Berkeley. we started the day with a scrumptious lunch at Joe's Taco House in Mill Valley. the bay was blue and calm when we drove over the Richmond Bridge, and SF was illumined in silver and grey from the fog. and you know it is a very warm day when SF is enshrouded in fog.

Sunday was the last gig of a three-day marathon at the Greek for the band. and it showed a bit, in the hoarse voices of Frank Black (aka Charles Thompson; is he calling himself by another name this time round?) and Kim Deal. the banter, when Frank and Kim did talk, seemed to further a general pissiness between the two than genuine bonhommie.

but bigfuckingdeal to me. they rocked, oh yeah! Joey Santiago plays one mean motherfucking guitar, and the band crunched effortlessly between lite-pop to bone-cracking hardcore. this monkey done gone to heaven! and the crowd moshed with enthusiasm. well, Bay Area fans are not known to get violent, at least whenever I've been to shows. the moshing, ahem, I mean slam dancing (I've always favored the latter term; it is so much more descriptive and indicates my age, when I used to see Circle Jerks, D.O.A, Black Flag, Flipper, T.S.O.L. etc. etc. I slammed, or skanked. but I stopped that many years ago when I did a stage dive and landed on my head. when I came to a couple of minutes later my girlfriend dumped me, my buddies thought I did the most excellent dive since I seemed to float like a ghost before landing on my noggin, and the band playing stopped and laughed their asses off. oh well, fuckit!)

but it was the most polite slam dancing I've ever done seen. it looked from my vantage point like gentle pushing rather than the aggro I use to see in the Sac punk scene of the early 80s. all that is to be commended, who the hell wants to have a busted head at a rock concert. especially to this thirtysomething poet who paid good fucking money to see a great band at the top of their form.

Mr Black has put on a lot of weight, but he still screams like a banshee. Ms Deal can lay down one mean bass line. Dave on the drums kept the beat at skull-rattling intensity. the crowd roared its approval. the only complaint I had was that the sound was really, really shitty. it kept going out. that was a real drag, especially on blitzkrieg numbers such as "Dead" and "U. Mass".

but I'm a fan of the band. have been since the late 80s. they could have played their songs with plastic toys and I'd have been satisfied. there were two opening bands, didn't catch thier names, but I did catch both were from SF. the first band sounded very influenced by the droning compositions of Velvet Underground. my pal said they would probably sound better in the studio rather than onstage. I agreed. the second band was a nightmare implosion of 70s Grand Funk Railroad kitsch. good god, they were bad!

by the end my buddy and I were exhausted from sitting in the heat all day. all I could think about was a good meal and lotsa water. we decided to forego an evening stroll down to Telegraph straight to Moe's for books and instead bid Berkeley adieu for another night.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Smack Down

some things are just plain fascinating, and other things are just crazy. the world of professional wrestling is both to Toronto poet Michael Holmes whose latest book Parts Unknown: Wrestling, Gimmicks and Other Works (Insomniac Press 2004) is an intense ode to the players, and those who are played upon, written in short poem-bursts of visceral music.

all the key players, Jake the Snake Roberts and Rowdy Roddy Piper for example, are here in all swagger and sweat. There is a poem about Piper that takes its title from a horror flick the wrestler starred in, They Live. it begins, [t]he hateful things he's done in a kilt / accrue. Piper's wrestling gimmick, his persona, was the crazed Scotsman and he always wore a kilt. Piper's instrument was, yeah you guessed it, the bagpipes.

and so the poems do accrue and build toward the coda Finishing Moves, a sequence of poems using the argot for wrestling moves that those in the business, and their huge fan base, use. wrestling is black light theater and this sequence is a tour de force of images and double-meanings. take this section.

vi. Low Blows

Shattered Dreams

* * *

the poems move on and on and if you feel you're about to pass out from so much info on pro wrestling Holmes provides a six page glossary to answer those questions you were always afraid to ask. what is a Blade and how is it used by the pros, you ask? here is Holmes definition.

When a wrestler takes a small piece of razor blade, usually secured to tape on his finger, hand or wrist, and runs it along his skin to produce "controlled" bleeding.

* * *

Holmes has the chops, his poems are muscular mini-movies. here is Section 5 from another sequence called Bell Suite.

Because its fake it's not real--
tell me again because I'm too dumb
to understand, too unreal to rail
against what numbed
one town into this town
derailed my train of--
it's not easy to own
up to this thoughtlessness, my love
the one apology I still need to make
(it's real because it's not fake)

* * *

the power of art, however we wish to define art, is its artifice. for somehow, when we act (activate) our imaginations we exist in the state of becoming. art makes for actions from its pretending, and these actions become us, and that "us" is constantly being defined over and again, always striving with horror and pleasure. Holmes's fascination for pro wrestling makes for some very good poetry. the poet uses the persona of a rabid fan to write on the personas used by those in this wild business. for Holmes the poems move with humor and grace because we all pretend to be authentic. for reals.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

it is the first day of Fall and the walking to and from work is pure pleasure because of it getting light later in the morning and darker in the evening. the air snaps from cold in the morning, and it is warm, with an underbite of cooler air in the evening. ah, my favorite time of year.

so stopped at the Newsbeat to see what's to see. Doug, behind the counter, sees me and says, How's literary life?

fucking hell, I reply. this morning I was running late for work, my computer is acting up, waking in the morning feels like being a ling cod at the end of a fishing pole dragged to the surface of the sea from a depth of 300 ft from a fisherman on a boat just off the Farrallons with all my guts poppling outta my mouth while my eyeballs sorta just go bam! out their sockets. oh, and I think my dog, Hugo, is possessed.


yeah, fucking possessed. you see last night Anna left the bedroom door open and Hugo disappeared. Anna says, where is Hugo. you know he's probably on the bed. get him off.

so I go in their expecting Hugo to be stretched out in blissfull sleep on the bed with sheets and covers all spread out in disarry. and sure enough he's there. but he's not on the bed. oh no, that hound is hovering over the bed, like little Regan in The Exorcist. the room temperature must've dropped to freezing and Hugo's eyes were round, red lasers.

then Doug tells me about a Ted Joans festival in SF in the next few weeks or so. he's not really sure when but asks me to ring him at the shop tomorrow for a definite date and time.

Doug stocks many, many wonderful journals. I always make discoveries. today I got:

The Threepenny Review because of the hilarious essay by August Kleinzahler on his own dog and the poetry of Berkeley poet Jim Powell.

Circumference: Poetry in Translation a nice surprise. not seen this journal before, but when I got home and looked more closely was pleased to see my friend James DenBoer's, and Maria DenBoer's, translations of first Millenium Latin poet Venantius Fortunatus.

fo A rm (dis/embodiment) I've not seen this journal before, but was struck by a couple of visual poems by Michael Basinski and mARK OWEns. also, there is poetry by Judith Roitman, a poet I know from a collobaration done with Jim McCrary and published in McCrary's chapbook Dive, She Said (Hog Oil Press 2000). and what looks like a cool interview with Robert Kelly. Crag Hill has posted publication announcement here in February.

and a couple of days ago I found at Barnes and Noble what's got to be the coolest Chicago Review published because it focuses on the work of the late, great Ed Dorn.

Monday, September 20, 2004

there is a snippet of song running in my head at the moment. I hadn't heard it in years until a couple of months ago the DJ at the Trash Film Orgy played it. I don't remember the title and only recall the chorus which ends with the word: vampires. the band is My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, and the reason the song is looped in my brainpan this evening, after taking a class at Kaiser to help manage my cholesterol levels (I had been eating like a freaking pig), I stopped at a bookstore and thumbed through the latest Pleiades which contained a couple of poems by a poet I've not read before: Jiri Cech.

so who is Jiri Cech? his poems, in english, have been buzzing in my ear since I got home. don't know if they are translations. so I google Cech and come across his website here where the poet claims to have fallen in love with his sister, and is also a businessman and vampire. hence, the song by My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult on a loop. disturbing shit, indeed. okay there has been, and are currently, business-person-poets but has there been any poet-vampires since Baudelaire? and I'm being generous with Baudelaire, cuz there had been reports of him seeing daylight once in a great while, and we all now, from books and movies, vampires just can't stand the sun. well there is now, I guess, but why stop at poet-vampires? why not werewolf-poets and poet-zombies. oh! imagine the ad campaign for a movie with the title Dawn of the Poet-Dead:

"When There is No More Room in Hell
The Poets will Walk the Earth."

goodness, I shiver just from that! but the poems by Cech, ushered into the journal by his Renfro Hix, are damn good. like to read more, and hopefully Cech sneaks out from his coffin once in a while, and pens more poems from his inkwell.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

James Dickey's Deep Dive

caught the tail-end of John Boorman's adaptation of James Dickey's novel Deliverance (1972) on TV the other night. I mean the very end of the movie where Dickey, as the soon-to-be-flooded town's sherrif, confronts Jon Voight and Ned Beatty about the number of life-preservers found in their battered rafts. Dickey thinks something evil had happened, and I got to confess Dickey does a good job of being a nasty, sinister, paranoid dude.

I must've seen the movie at least a hundred times since it's opening. it is an evil, beautiful film with a simple narrative plot device, paddling down-river by three ordinary suburbanites and one guy, Burt Reynolds' character Lewis, who is hell-bent for primordial action, in order to create dread and suspense. the soundtrack, acoustic banjos and guitars along with ambient soundscapes, creates both an atmosphere of action and horror. even the last frame of the film is suffused with sickening dread.

the movie is iconic to say the least, most can quote: squeal like a pig, boy! and nearly everyone can identify its source without being told its name. but is it groundbreaking cinema? the 1970s was a time when taboos were broken, and cinema, whether commercial, art-house, horror, exploitation or porn, was mining rich veins of themes and subjects. recall the summer blockbuster was practically invented by Jaws and Star Wars, and Deep Throat was a huge commercial hit in the 1970s.

but Deliverance is perhaps best viewed not by its title, after all does Voight find deliverance in committing violent acts?, but by its raw emotional power and iconography. it is a big-budget exploitationer, a very good one at that. Dickey's novel is a summer read, and the film adaptation is a movie best viewed at Halloween. it only skims themes stated broadly by its title. what depth can be found in the movie is the veneer of human drapavity exemplified by Burt Reynolds' Lewis and the two woodsmen who initiated the atrocities. Boorman's film dives deep in the shallow pool of its own actions. Dickey is surprisingly good actor. it is wonderful to see the wildman poet, as I understand he was a hardcore alchy and show-off, use that persona to good effect. that alone is an accomplishment.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

summer is winding down. the light here in N CA is changing from flourescent blue to a smudged blue. that means Fall is but a few days away. the official start is 9/22/04, I believe. but it is still freaking hot outside. ah, but the leaves are starting to turn brown and drop, not en masse, but very soon my neighborhood will be buried in them. so I'll begin posting reviews of cheesy horror movies to count down All Hallow's Eve. whatever catches my fancy, whatever I've watched, and obsesses me at the moment. cuz I watch lotsa them. man, do I, you should see my collection of DVDs. then again, maybe you shouldn't, you would probably shake your head and say aloud, WHAT THE FUCK?!

really brilliant work at Pelican Dreaming.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Anna and I did a little shopping for some much needed clothes, for me. you see I walk to work, round-trip is about five miles, and I wear out shoes and pants so freaking fast. anyway, pleased to note Halloween stuff has been brought out by all and sundry merchandisers. ain't no thing, really, but I love Fall, and really dig Halloween. and today was a beautiful pre-Fall day: the light in California, oh man! I do believe 19th Century French plein-air painters would die from orgasms if they found this light. but don't take it from me, cuz I am biased mofo. dig?

Sunday, September 05, 2004

reading Eileen Tabios's lovely menu of *white trash* cooking makes me hunger, and wonder why not cook up a series of poems based on food, the preparation, serving and eating of it.

I also do not cook but I love to eat, and my favorite cuisine is Mexican. certainly experimental writing can afford a lushness, a sensuality, necessary for the writing on food. I recall a poem by Simon Ortiz that is in the form of a recipe. let me see if I can find it. ah yes, How to Make a Good Chile Stew -- This One on July 16, a Saturday, Indian 1971, a four-page poem that lists the "ingredients", the "directions", "further directions to make sure it's good", "waiting for it to get done", and ends "at last". here is a portion:

Make sure you smell the chili in the saucepan once in a while and
think of a song to go along with it. That's important.

. . .

Smelling and watching are important things, and you really shouldn't
worry too much about it -- I don't care what Julia Child says -- but
you should pay the utmost attention to everything, and that means
the earth, clouds, sounds, the wind. All these go into the cooking.

Woven Stone (The University of Arizona Press, 1992)

the history of a cuisine is the art of the necessary in the face scarcity. what better subject for poems.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

here's a wonderful new blog filmism by Australian poet Will Fox found via The Jetty by Australian poet Cassie Lewis.

Fox subtitles his blog "by & large, movies are crap". I agree and I watch too many, many crap movies. like last night, viewed the 1941 film Love Crazy because it starred William Powell and Myrna Loy. fell asleep near the end, but no matter, Loy is so lovely and such a pleasure to watch whatever silly movie she starred in to pay the bills. now to fire up the DVD player and watch one more piece of beautiful crap.