Monday, October 31, 2005

we dress nicholas up in his lobster costume then hit the streets. our neighborhood is crawling with trick-or-treaters. we ran out of candy twice in one night. we have lived here for six years and only have had a trickle of kids at our door. we were never in danger of running out of sweets before. we live in an older part of the city with a sizable yuppie, bohemian and gay population. not a lot of small children live in our neighborhood. this year many homes were also decorated for the occasion. kids were everywhere.

the night was exhilarating. i'll post pics of nicholas as soon as i upload them. he had a wonderful time, and didn't mind being a lobster in the least. maybe it is because he is 10-months old, and doesn't know the difference. whatever. he looked great. it was a happy halloween.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

it's the great pumpkin, charlie brown (1966)

most peanuts holiday specials are still broadcast annually on tv, which makes them, for me, a special occasion. i've resisted the temptation, tho i've held in my hands just last weekend the holiday box set, of buying any of the tv work of charles m. schulz because they are on just once a year.

and but so, i caught this broadcast last tuesday. i've grown older, but charlie, linus, lucy, sally, pigpen, snoopy et al. have not. for sure, like totally. the same adventures, the same costumes preserved for posterity for ever. i can imagine an alien civilization happening by chance on our broadcasts and wondering who the fuck are these people?

well, anyway, i love halloween imagery, and there is something heroic in linus's stern belief in the great pumpkin, who rises from the pumpkin patch on halloween night and give to all the good boys and girls toys. the only one who doesn't think linus is full of shit is sally who's crazyinsane for the boy. and so they wait all night in the pumpkin patch for the great one to appear.

meanwhile, snoopy has his usual wwi flying ace adventures. while the rest of the gang go out trick-or-treating and then attend a halloween party. everyone scores on candy but charlie who had cut too many holes in his sheet-ghost costume. charlie looks like a pale spud. and when he reaches into his bag finds he was given rocks rather than confections.

there is something heroic in that as well. the special runs at about 22 minutes which is just about right for the usual madcap revelry. in the end, sally feels cheated about missing out on the halloween celebrations while momentarily believing in linus. she breaks out into screams to protest her sense of betrayal by linus. and linus falls asleep waiting, like vladimir and estragon, in the pumpkin patch.

fantastic. it is linus who ends the show telling charlie brown that next year, next year he'll see the great pumpkin rise to save the children of the world. anna asked me who my favorite character was. i said the usual, snoopy, and especially charlie brown. she told me it is linus who is admirable. yes, indeed.

i can't go on. i'll go on.

Monday, October 24, 2005

little shop of horrors (1986)

in a word, make that two words, fucking perfection. the world of movies is not complete unless there exists a singing, man-eating, plant from outerspace named audrey ii. director frank oz adapted his version of the off-broadway play, that was in turn an adaption of an old roger corman flick released in 1960. oz retains that goofy air of b-movies, and adds his own brand of camp for flavor. the result is delirious, rib-breaking hilarious, witha book and music that you not only can dance to, but also will sing, like a curse, forever.

which is what i do today. sing those songs in my awful scratch. they are catchy. and perfect for the story of a schmuck, seymour, played by rick moranis who toils in florist shop located in skid row. seymour got eyes for the resident beauty, audrey, played by ellen greene, and alas is nothing but a shadow to her. until one freak day, seymour discovers a really weird plant for sale on the street corner, takes it home and nurtures it. he names the plant audrey ii, in honor his secret love, where it grows and grows. seymour finds out audrey ii not only can talk, but sings for its supper. the plant promises, and delivers, all sorts of wishes, including the love of audrey, to seymour in exchange for human flesh.

and so on. moranis can't sing a note, but that is no matter, since he had adequate voice coaches and can fake it, a little. greene can sing, and i wonder what had happened to her, since i've seen her in nothing ever since. the rest of the cast is full of cameos by the likes of john candy, bill murray, and most memorable is the brilliant steve martin as audrey's sadistic, dentist, cum greaser boyfriend.

story: goofy. yet it is the songs that carry the film. steve martin's intro song is catchy and hilarious. it goes something like.

when i was younger i was a bad little kid
my momma noticed strange things that i did.
like shooting puppies with a bb gun.
i'd poison guppies, and when i was done,
i'd take a pussycat and bash in his head.

then my momma say

what did she say?

she said my boy's gonna find a way
to make his natural tendencies pay.

he'll be a dentist!

i don't know if that is quite right, since i quoted it from memory. but that is how catchy the songs are. they stick to the memory, like silly putty, or 3-day-old bubblegum.

needless to say seymour and audrey fight back, destroy the plant, and live happily ever after in oz's cracked vision of 1950s domestic bliss, a vison of america which means a house with astroturf for a lawn, furniture covered in plastic sheeting, tv dinners, and a power structure where father knows best. all satirized, and made even more poignant for the fact that the film was made and released in ronald reagan's america because the old gipper was indeed selling to the u.s. citizenry a land as a beacon shining on a hill, and domestic life frozen and lifted straight from a 1950s sitcom.

as homer simpson says, doh! for in the end, audrey ii lives on in little cuttings that mug for the camera as the scene of connubial bliss fades to black. a predictable ending, sure, but movie is carried not by the novelty of its plot, but by the energy of its performers, and the songs invented for them. this is one of my favorite films of all time. like michael keaton as beetlejuice said about the exorcist, i've seen this movie a hundred times and it just keeps getting funnier and funnier.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

portions from the self-interview

q: could you define yr craft?

a: you mean a poetics?

q: sure.

a: of course. i'm always thinking about cooking, then eating, the next meal.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

asylum of satan (1971)

william girdler started, at the early age of 23, his short, prolific, career as a maker of cheap-ass exploitations goodies with this goof of a flick. he died in a helicopter crash at the age of 30 scouting locations in the philipines for an action flick that was to have starred marlon brando. in the space of a few years girdler managed to make some very silly, yet memorable, movies that have developed a rabid cult following. a following based on the aesthetics of 1970s americana, loud, cheap, garish, and odd. which is not unlike the fans of the u.s. vehicle from the same era the amc pacer.

short of plot the movie concerns the plight of a young woman who is ambulanced in the middle of the night to a strange, foreboding asylum for some undefined mental illness. the woman wakes in the morning and is greeted by the house matron played in drag by the same dude who portrays the doctor and proprietor of the hospital. she has no idea where she is or whether or no her doctor ordered her confinement. thus begins a very confusing movie.

the rest of film concerns the other charges of the asylum, an older woman confined to a wheelchair, a blind girl and an old man. the rest of the inmates wear cloaks and hoods, eat only eggs, and do not speak at all. as soon as we see them in the dining hall hunched over their plates of eggs all cloaked-up, we know, because the film's title already clued us in, that these dressed-up characters are acolytes of old scratch. don't worry the red one shows up at the end, mighty pissed and fucks up everybody in sight. but not until a long hour worth of film stock is wasted.

it seems the doc who runs the place is trying to appease the anti-god. he then orchestrates the rather baroque murders of the guests who are not dressed in hoods and cloaks. the old man is thrown out of a three-storey building. the blind girl is attacked by cheap, stiff as cardboard, snakes while taking a course in hydrotherapy. while the woman in the wheelchair is gassed. as she lay on the floor choking against the white mist, rubber bugs, and spiders, suddenly attach to her face.

oh, and need i mention the zombie who stumbles out of a crawlspace to get our heroine when she is need of some down-time to collect her thought in her room? not only can't the zombie hit a two-by-four with a 30 lb. sledge hammer even with a huge target painted on the wood with the phrase, hit me here you fucking moron, but his fx'ed appendages and bloody eye slip off in mid-yawn.

even that is not the end of the indignities for our litle miss distressed. for during the course of the movie her very plaid-dressed boyfriend had searched low for his beloved. in the last scene he rescues her from being sacrificed to old itch, and that is that. or is it? cuz when natural lover find his true love, the asylum has returned to its delipidated condition and there is not a soul to be found.

yet it was issa who wrote, the world of exploitation / is the world of exploitation / and yet . . .and yet. when goofball finds his damsel he turns for one last look at the room. and there is the mask of satan himself. in red and flaming mad.

strictly for the drive-in circuit. girdler pieced his movie together like a boy scout building his champion-style soapbox derby racer. you can nearly see the editing tape on the print of the film. however, the energy and enthusiasm for the project is evident in every frame. there is a kind of goofy innocence, a diy work ethic, that carries the movie forward. barely watchable the film compels viewing simply for the reason that it was conceived and executed. like the principal products of america that old wcw wrote about not quite gone completely loony. would the good doc like this film? hell no! but surely he would probably smoke a bowl and laugh like hell during a screening.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

portions from the self-interview

q: 'fess up. didn't you work on developing a 'voice' in yr poetry?

a: i worked toward some kind of sound. i wanted to be the richard hugo of u.s. poetry.

q: you don't think that richard hugo is the richard hugo of u.s. poetry?

a: i've thought, yes, there could be a possibility.

q: grrrr!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

portions from the self-interview

q: so you think poetry can save the world?

a: no. too much is given to the therapeutic powers of art in this culture. poetry might not save the culture, but to paraphrase brodsky, we exist in language, therefore poetry might indeed save a life. poetry mustn't need be about 'goodness' or 'badness' for it to exist in its own plane. it must exist without relying on having to be, by necessity, about anything.

the precise action of passive words.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

it's been a week of 12 hr days. worked last monday, which was a holiday, and probably have to put in some hrs this weekend. i'm so exhausted i can hardly stay awake. so mr. girdler will have to wait until i'm better rested. i'm usually such a lazy sumbitch that i require 12 hrs of sleep and have to have somebody hold my mouth open so i can eat.

in the meantime, if you like poetry than click on the recent Mipoesias guest ed. by Tom Beckett. it's a'brimming with a some really fucking good poets. i got a few in there too. stop by, stay awhile, put them dogs up and read, read.

comment vivre sans inconnu devant soi?
Rene Char

Monday, October 10, 2005

next up, william girdler's asylum of satan.

whether you step in it, or flush it, please throw some shit michael schiavo's way.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

matango [attack of the mushroom people] (1963)

post-war japanese genre cinema seemed to be dominated by one man, ishiro honda, a filmmaker whose most famous export was a gaggle of godzilla flicks. i've not been a big fan of godzilla even tho i've must've seen all of them growing up either on tv or in various matinee movie houses. however, matango is a film that started it all for me way back when. my love of exploitation and horror films began with this japanese cheapie.

the 1970s was a rich era not only in drive-ins and grindhouses but also in late-night tv horror hosts. n ca had as its host the estimable bob wilkins' creature features who possessed a laid-back, deprecating demeanor on his show. wilkins looked, to me, a lot like woody allen because of his slight build, his sandy hair, his thick black-frame glasses, and the fact he always had in his hand a huge stogie. wilkins wasn't yr typical horror host, and he would often implore his viewers not to watch his movies because they were crap. he even would read the tv guide to let you know what was on the other channels.

even so, wilkins became something of a legend around here. everyone remembers him. and i would beg my parents to let me stay up late on sat. nights to watch his program. that the films would freak me out, even the cheesiest of them, added to the thrill of watching them. so matango was the first horror movie i recall watching and loving every frame of it. thus it all began.

by the time i got to seeing this flick it was already 10 years old and it was considered pure poop. i didn't know what critics were saying about the film. honda is a master storyteller. the director casts his cinema in the fall-out of post-war japan. monsters and people are living in the aftermath of defeat and radiation. this film is about a hodge-podge group of young professionals out for a day's sailing. their boat is shredded in a freak storm and we find our protagonists marooned on a rainy, rocky island. they think they are alone until they find on the other side of the island another wrecked ship seemingly devoid of its crew, and the ship is covered in orange fungus.

sure it sounds almost like a japanese version of gilligan's island, except these yahoos lack a professor to make tools and grow gardens for food. our poor crusoes have no food and no man friday to act as guide in flesh and spirit. they do make repairs to their own damaged vessel in the hope of drifting into the shipping lanes. what little tinned stuff found onboard the strange fungoid vessel is quickly munched. the plot is languid, testifying to the boredom and tedium of having lots of time on hand and nowhere to go. the group slowly turn on each other as they ran out of food. before that they find the log of the mysterious captain of the mushroom ship, and they discover that it was a research vessel investigating nuclear radiation. there are snippets in the captain's prose about his crew eating the only edible thing on the island, mushrooms, and these pieces of texts are grave warnings to stay the hell away from them shrooms.

all to no avail. the movie starts with the one lone survivor narrating his adventures in the locked cell of a tokyo mental hospital. outside his window is the city haloed in neon. the film ends with one last look at the skyline of tokyo as the narrator turns in finality to face his doctors, and us, doomed and cursing civilization. which is a strange tack to follow so late in the film since the majority of screen-time each castaway is yearning to leave the island and get back to home.

honda marked this venture with his usual themes of the individual versus collective identity, a country blighted by radiation, and the mutations that are the results of nuclear horror. the film is lushly photographed in color, and turns highly psychedelic in the last reel as we find the mushroom people growing and alive in the island's forest. that was the scene that scared the shit out of me. even for relatively tame 1970s tv. back then.

tv no longer have horror hosts, well okay, they do, but back in the day when one can see movies only at the theater, wilkins was special in his particular brand of nerdy looks and good humor. that he brought us some of the worst in world cinema is a wonder.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

a couple of days ago i was reading the poems of tom fisher published in lvng. last spring i had downloaded and printed up all the pdfs of the journal. anyway, i liked enough of fisher, a poet new to me, that i googled him to see if i could find any more of his work. and i discovered thru a bio published at the website of the journal delmar that fisher wrote his dissertation on poets who abandoned poetry, like oppen, like (riding) jackson.

it would be an interesting read. i know of only two poets, mark young and james denboer who both did not write poems for over 20 years. i've not asked but i wonder during that era of silence did they not read poetry too?

the idea of giving up writing is part of being a writer. despair and frustration seem to be part of the package, along with pleasure, elation and ecstasy. i've said outloud on another blog that i think poetry is a religious calling. i do not mean by that any sectarian bullshit. i'm not a religious person. however, i'm an atheist that admits to the supernatural, or supernatural wonder. I dig the mysteries of living and the universe we all inhabit. poetry for me is a way to conduct my life, in whatever awkward fashion I have, not as a narcissist but as one who lives by and thru words, in this short span of living.

there is no fame in it, or if there is we'll all be long dead to enjoy it. so fuck it. poetry is eternal, yes, but it is also for the here-and-now. that is how I read, anyway, whether the text is by catullus or charles olson, the poems live within my reading and are therefore contemporary.

but should a poet abandon poetry. shit, that is up to the individual. and from the examples of oppen and (riding) jackson the reasons for it are as strange and unique as their verses. I despair all the fucking time. all the fucking time. no sense of drama here, for we all, as poets, know it. perhaps we are writing in a void. but this is the life I have, and as I want to spend it with my family, I also want to spend it in language, whatever my abilities allow me to. i'm struggling, as poets we all are struggling with it. I think, and hope that language and a few amigos in the art is enough.

* * *
next up, a review of a fave japanese horror flick matango.

Monday, October 03, 2005

i've always loved the ephemera of cinema. things such as movie posters, trailers, lobby cards and soundtracks, to name just a few things. but i've not become a collector, i think it would be a slippery slope, one item leads to another and more and more, and next thing anna would worry about not only the toys, books and discs overflowing our house but posters plastered to the walls and so forth . in other words, these things would contribute to the clutter of our lives, but wouldn't add to the decor, and anna has indeed raised my standards and tastes.

for some things, but for others i'm still that 8-year-old boy mesmerized by a movie poster. i loved going to the drive-ins and theaters perusing the posters in the snack bars or lobbies as if i were at the louvre. i had written a poem about an old grindhouse, the star theater, located downtown that specialized in cheap chop-socky kung fu movies. an early draft tried to recreate the splendors of its dilapidated lobby and the posters often printed in chinese characters about the wonders of bruce li or bruce le in mid-battle.

i recall one poster for a film that had me all worked up that i saw at the sac 6 drive-in. the movie was sorcerer starring roy scheider, fresh from his famous anti-shark activities in the summer of 1975. i begged my dad to take me to see this thriller based on its wicked poster. with a name like that and an image of some monster vehicle dangling from a teetering wooden bridge sure had my attention. but the movie was all poster, and no film. i was bored shitless that night. the movie was neither a horror film nor an action piece. that wasn't the first film where i spent most my time at the snack bar looking at more posters, but it sure the hell was one of the first where i remember a movie actually driving me to tears from tedium.

and there were other posters i remember vividly where i've never seen the film. i recall a porn theater that was located in the same strip mall where my mother did her banking and shopping. i shit you not, the porn theater was indeed right next to the bank, and down a bit was the old department store ben franklin, which was a kind of cheap knock-off k-mart, where we would get shoes and pants. i knew what type of movies this theater showed even when i was a pup, but i couldn't imagine what they were quite like.

i guess that is when the posters were supposed to do their work. my mom was doing bank business while i stood outside the porn theater looking at a poster for a film called diary of a flea. i've no idea what the movie was about, and i still haven't seen it, tho from the period victorian costumes of the actors on the poster it is a good guess the source material is a victorian novel. and i recall the poster as being far from prurient. however, i remember peering into the lobby and wondering about those mythological creatures that purchase tickets to go inside and watch such films. the lobby was empty save for a woman cleaning the glass counters containing candy bars and popcorn. i don't recall any other posters in any detail but i remember there were many.

just this past summer i went to the drive-in twice with my buddy, b. on both occassions i broke away from our beer-drinking, shit-talking evening to look at the posters in the snack bar. and i went to the theaters twice and did just that too. i can't shake the habit. i'm a grown man now, and i'm in deep.

as of today there are 28 days until halloween. one of my fave halloween sites spookshows has a counter, and there is little more depressing than the day after halloween when the counter reads 365 days till all hallow's eve.

if you haven't guessed, i dig fall, and especially halloween. love everything about it, the harvest imagery, the ghouls, the kitsch, jack-o'lanterns, black and orange color schemes, pumpkins, sounds of creaking houses, ghosts that bump in the night. oh man! it is a rich time, and the imagery of halloween beats, for me there is no contest, christmas, easter, thanskgiving and 4th of july put together what with those holidays possess piddling afterthoughts of decorations and traditions rather than the full-bodied expressions of harvest and horror.

so to celebrate i'll attempt at least two movie horror movie reviews a week for the month of oct. the films will run the gamut of cheesiness to sublimity.

to steal a poem by james dickey, my life is made of the world / i will do what i can.

in the meantime, groove on the ambient soundscapes supplied by 13thtrack, a terrific source of halloween music of allsorts.

my cold? gone for the most part. tho without bitching, and i have been bitching too much about it, it was hell. worst cold i've ever had. my name felt like it needed a change to bloody richard.