a bard's eye view of love, life and psychotronic cinema
Sunday, October 31, 2010
13 things i found in my trick 'r treat bag
scoop of vanilla ice cream 2 peeled bananas marlboros red hard-pack w/ 1 cig missing bowl of cap'n crunch cereal w/ milk a waffle deck of playing cards can of budweiser bic lighter zombie survival guide taco seasoning diet pepsi cuban cigar a rock
don't think i'm not counting the days down. still have the persistent cough and i've yet to get a full night's sleep because i'm doing some serious hacking. which is almost making me cranky. almost. the weather forecast for the holiday weekend is wet and cold. halloween is i think supposed to be dry. rain on halloween used to bum me out when i was a kid because it interfered with doing some hardcore trick'r'treating. no matter now. kids will be out in full force, nick certainly will.
wouldn't you know it but tv broadcasters had all month to show the halloween specials. instead they are showing classics and newer stuff this weekend, including it's the great pumpkin, charlie brown. i've set my dvr to kill and i'm really looking forward to the newest tv series on amc, the walking dead. the series is based on a graphic novel of the same name and is about, yep, you guessed it, zombies! debuts on halloween and blessed be technology where i can digitally record the show without bumping into serious candy-gathering time.
can you believe it. after a pretty rainy weekend it clears up today and we have one of those clear, blue, cloudless, cold autumn days that make me want to bust out into song. seriously. i love this light here in california as it spreads and dapples the streets, vehicles, homes, hi-rises and the million trees that sac is famous for.
i should be singing but i've not been able to get a full night's sleep because of the tail-end of a cold with a persistant nagging cough. and the lack of sleep is seriously bringing me down. halloween is just a few days away and i'll i can manage is a gruff, hmmm. . .crap, i need a witness and i need some sleep. i should be sleeping now but i'm wide awake.
so i'm listening to halloween radio via live365.com and reading the blog by steve roggenbuck found via ron silliman's links a couple days ago. roggenbuck is a think a poet in his early 20s which makes me officially on the level of being the old man. ah what the hell. . .as my compatriot in these arts of life and writing jim mccrary wrote:
Here’s the deal You may not have noticed But when you are young You write crap Maybe later you wont
That’s how it goes.
mccrary knows his shit and i sure as hell won't be calling him an elder statesman. he's as vital and contemporary as anyone else, then and now. mccrary is like the fonz, always cool.
roggenbuck is i think vital too. i like what i've read thus far but why i'm talking about him here is his post on copyright and publishing. i'd link directly to it but i can't figure out how. maybe i can't because i'm old. i don't know. at any rate, find his blog and check out the 10/14/10 post. i can dig what roggenbuck is saying. brings into focus for the 21st century d.a. levy's copyrot ethos. fuckin' a, right. and it is an ethos i've publicly embraced for a long time.
now for something nicholas said that tickled my funnybone. we'd been watching a movie where a family moves from kansas to so cal so there's a lot of lush photography of surf, sand, sun and beaches and the soundtrack is packed with songs singing the praises of my beloved state. nicholas turns to me and asks, what's the big deal about california, daddy. it's just filled with lots of traffic and big crashes.
just a little mildy high from the histamines or whatever from the tail-end of a cold getting to sleep and staying asleep is still a bitch and dreams when i do dream are tableaux vivants like this one i was visiting mark young don't know if i was in rockhampton or he was in sac shooting the shit when mark says, i'm leaving for ohio tomorrow gonna visit tom beckett, i ask yes, mark said then i woke up
last weekend nicholas and i were out doing chores and shopping. we stopped at costco where they sell what the sell in bulk, in big packaging and dimensions. i mean huge. gigantic. fucking enormous boxes of stuff. including tickets for events and movies and the like.
and there it was: tix to a haunted attraction for pretty cheap. i pointed these out to nick and asked if he'd like to go to a haunted house. he jumped at the chance. i warned him that it's scarier than scary and it's probably too frightening for him. i told him we won't buy the tickets but instead drive out to the haunted house and take a look-see.
i know he's too young for serious scares. there was no way in hell i'd take him on the tour anyway. but i was curious to see what the haunted house looks like from the outside. it's been many years since i went to a haunted attraction. when i was a wee pup i was both fascinated and frightened to death by haunted houses. usually i'd wait outside while the group i was with would take the tour with, what i thought at the time, the serenity of a zen monk and superman's nerves of steel.
when nick gets older, if he wants to, he'll hold his old man's hand at a haunted attraction. it's difficult to convey the thrills and excitement produced by the arts of the scary. fun and an adrenaline shot thru the cerebral cortex is part of the attraction. perhaps also the dalliance, even if it is a fiction, with death for a few minutes is part of it as well.
below is an audio tour of the haunted mine at knott's scary farm, located in so cal, in the early 1980s. what i love about this clip of history is the thrilling screams of the riders, how the men will scream out, oh shit! and, what the fuck is that?! that these riders are having a great time is without question. more sensible individuals might wonder why a person would subject him/herself to such terror. fun lies at the bottom of it. seriously. life imatates art and we, at these attractions, reinvigorate that the art of life can be a joy too.
at lunch today the topic at the table turned to the s.f. giants. they have a game tomorrow or sunday and i suppose it matters greatly how they perform during that game if the team wants to make it to the world series. i don't know. don't follow baseball and i don't know how the rules work or how the play-offs are structured.
i'm asked, hey rich, you don't follow sports at all. is that because you are anti-sport, or anti-capitalism, or. . .?
i say, i hate sports. bores me to tears. couldn't care a whit about nearly all sports, except professional wrestling and roller derby.
then i'm asked, hey rich, are you really non-competitive.
the subject of competition went the round of the table and it was agreed by personal anecdotes that competition teases out the best in us.
i dunno. it probably does. i didn't want to argue the point. but for me competition breeds negatives, and that highly competitive people might not lead better lives for their nature perhaps does not allow them to relax.
i'm more competitive than i'll admit. i try to rise above it. i'm not by nature a jealous guy anyway. when friends and acquaintances achieve considerable success i'm truly grateful for their success.
but i wonder what the hell we mean by *success* anyway. it doesn't mean more money, in my book. nor does it entail a degree from an ivy league school. or hi-falutin contract from fsg to bring out the next book. all success is relative and without sounding like a hippie -- too late, i thnk -- what really matters is the love we make and share and the work we do to advance that love whether it be in pictures, words or sounds.
besides, in my line of work, the world of words, competition among my fellow wordsmiths delivers, in my humble opinion, only ill will. i learn from my reading always. i don't advocate a kind of mediocrity in writing because i think we can achieve excellence without developing an attitude of me vs them. there is a school of thought that writers, artists in general, are unhappy creatures and what drives the engine of creation is the desire to better our environments. yes, of course, but unhappiness does not always come with a heaping of scorn for other people that are not you.
still so complicated. i do what i can. i practice non-competition, almost successfully.
now, i'm wary of movie sequels in general i can be particular to a sequence of movies that turn into a franchise and even if the sequels suck they provide a modicum of enjoyment and fun viewing. the original star wars trilogy is an example of a good franchise but it is an odd duck from the pack of movie franchises because the middle film, empire strikes back, is the best of that bunch. my favorite recent movie franchise are the tremors films. the best of that group is the first flick but all of them have a measure of charm.
a sequel is not always a franchise in the making. sometimes it is a rather needless cash grab, or god-knows-what-the-fuck-they-were-thinking-when-they-made-a-second-feature. but i'll sometimes give it a shot. sometimes, joel, you have to say what the fuck. i'm a huge fan of u.k. director neil marshall, and i love his feature the descent so when i read good press on the sequel i said, what the fuck.
marshall's film is about a group of adventure-seeking women who go caving in the appalachians, get lost in the caves then are attacked by a clan of sub-human, blind, feral, ferocious, and obviously very pissed, cave-dwellers. sure it sounds goofy as hell but marshall achieves a beautiful story about one of the women, sarah, who lost both her husband and her daughter in a car accident. sarah is, in the phrase of critic carol clover, the final girl and she is there because her friends believe that after a year of grieving a holiday in a cave is just what sarah needs. marshall's use of the dark, tight places of the caves plays havoc on the viewer's nervous system. the chemistry of the women is just right and when the feral creatures do attack about mid-way thru the pic marshall deftly explores the breakdown of the group and the survival instincts of the characters.
marshall's flick is taut, beautiful and with the director's ending, a near-perfect gem. marshall i think was the executive producer of number two. number two is helmed by jon harris, an unknown, to me, director and pennned by others who are not, obviously, marshall. i don't mean to sound dismissive since harris manages to work a few chills in his movie. sarah is back in the center of this movie that takes place a few minutes after the events of the first pic. the creatures are more vicious and the gore is ramped up. there is one scene that matches nearly marshall's claustrophobic set-pieces. with all that the harris's movie fails to suspend the curtain of disbelief from the outset and while marshall's flick was mainly about the group dynamics of his characters harris's pic is just about watching blood and guts.
not that i have anything against blood and guts but i was hoping for a movie that would measure up not only to marshall's earlier effort but the vibe of the halloween season. it kinda, sorta does. i don't feel like 90 minutes of my life have been stolen from me after watching number two. but i didn't feel like reaching for the candy corn either.
it would seem an auspicious number, 13, to talk about something spooky, like real-life ghost sightings, or urban legends, or the legend of the chupacabra, or even the fear of the numerical value itself. i mean, what might be spookier than the human mind scaring itself over a number. how does that poem go by frost?
They cannot scare me with their empty spaces Between stars--on stars where no human race is. I have it in me so much nearer home To scare myself with my own desert places.
still, it is fun to scare ourselves. one urban legend i recall growing up was the razorblades hidden inside an apple. we forget sometimes and think that the past was easier, less terrifying, more assured, than is the present. not so. the 1970s was a time of great economic, environmental, political turmoil. hence, certain urban legends bade us to be scared. that never prevented us kids from trick-or-treating till our bags were bursting with goodness, and if some parent did give us something more healthy than say a lollipop, we threw it away not because we worried that the interior of the thing, be it crackers, homemade cookies,or god forbid! an apple, was packed with blades or rat poison. no. we tossed them because it was not candy.
so far as i know that urban legend has never transmogrified into a truth. but that's what's so cool about halloween. it is a time to put on a mask and face death. all the imagery we invest in are symbols of the underworld where it was once believed dead souls would roam the earth on this one night. death is all around us, still, and can't be denied. as we all know. for one night we put food out to satiate the spirits and we dress like them to confuse the dead from the living.
now those traditions have been transformed into trick-or-treating and the costumes are an investment toward a license we normally don't allow ourselves any other day. we acknowledge and become the other, thus nullifying the scare factor. in a way, we might even be closer to our truer selves by wearing a mask. our defenses are lowered and we have, for a night, invited death to party.
the times are always scary, it seems. halloween is then a break from the pessimism and bitterness of contemporary economic and political bile. i say contemporary because we are living in frightening times, of our own making and the fact that the world is still so rapidly shifting that it has unmoored certain factions that feel threatened. halloween is no balm or salve for our ills. rather than ending on a sour note i'd rather point to the tradition of offerings to the dead and the wearing of masks that even when we are in the shit we can still make it good. life is like that.
ah too much irony can thicken the blood and stop us up, dead in our tracks. what's a little childish wonder now and again? go on, admit it, you have anti-pomo loves and desires. perhaps you really do love the music of the carpenters. or maybe you have the complete filmography of rob reiner sitting in your dvd collection. whatever the case, we all have them. call 'em guilty pleasures. call them an ironic stance on anti-irony, much like how a lot of hipsters seem bent on '80s shlock rock re bands called journey. 'don't stop believing now' now, okay.
whatever the rate, i have a goodly amount of affection for the haunted mansion at disneyland. that's disneyland in anaheim, because it's the only disneyland i've ever been to. did visit epcot center in florida way back when -- it was boring. disneyland is not. forget anti-brand posturing disneyland is a lot of fun and a damn site of cool shit. particularly the haunted house.
the haunted house is open all year round but this time of year, all thru christmas, the gang at disneyland transforms it into a nightmare before christmas, jack skellington, affair. what happens when two holiday collide, halloween and christmas? a whole helluva lot of funky goodness. when we visited disneyland last year at halloween time we toured the haunted mansion 3 or 4 times in a row. it's that good.
and it's popular. there is a fan site dedicated to the haunted house doom buggies and a stream cast of music, like the grim grinning ghosts song, and a lot of other stuff at live365.com. it's perfect for the season of candy-corn-stuck-in-the-teeth.
there are many vids touring the haunted house up at youtube.com but i couldn't find a short advert for when two holidays collide. i settled on the commercial below which is a taste of the year-round decor of the haunted mansion, and is still, i think, a great way to celebrate pumpkin day.
vampires leave me a bit cold. the whole other-wordly, sexiness, bloodsucking, charismatic thing is, oh i dunno, a bit boring. what i want in my fright creatures are some scary motherfuckers and vamps are just not it.
there are notable exceptions. esp. when the vamp is so damn vamperlicious. take chris sarandon who portrays a vampire in the hyper-goofy, fun, saturday matinee-like flick fright night . this pic has everything an excellent b-movie should have. it even boasts a cast that includes roddy mcdowall as a creature-feature tv movie host that is recruited by the teenage charley brewster whose house is right next door to sarandon's.
brewster tacks toward mcdowall because the latter's tv persona is a vampire hunter and brewster happens to be a fan of mcdowall's show. the director, tom holland, hits all the right notes that includes some genuine scares, a fair amount of sexiness primarily from sarandon, and a lot of laughs.
i don't know if there was a sequel made but the ending of this flick certainly hints at one. my dislike of the vampire mythos is not based on nothing but my own idiosyncratic tastes. i can't explain why i get bored with most vamps and why, conversely, i love zombies. who knows? but if more vamp movies are this good then perhaps i could be, um, turned.
this book, the halloween kid [simon and schuster; 2010], written and illustrated by rhode montijo, might not become a classic but it is an utter delight to read and to look at. it's become a favorite here at casa del lopez/bronson and nicholas and i've been reading it together nearly every night since we bought a copy last month.
montijo taps into a child's sense of wonder and consequence while also messaging an adult's peaked nostalgia for in this book a masked stranger saves an unnamed community from all the creepy crawlies that would jeopardize halloween, particularly that explicit candy gathering ritual called trick-or-treating.
what gets me are the cool illustrations grounded in blacks and oranges. montijo hearkens to old-style comic book illustrations from the 1950s. but the work is, at least to my eye, not the least dated. rather, the halloween kid, the trick-or-treaters, and the bad guys that would ruin halloween, live in a neverland that rewards repeated visits.
the language montijo employs in telling his story is sorta old-skool, aw shucks, b-movie western. it works just fine and each time i read the book i seem to take on a very silly, and rather affected, ranch-style drawl. nicholas doesn't seem to mind.
this is a wonderful book. perfect for pumpkin day.
This is the kind of stuff brings a childhood delight to the grown up world of starchiness and forgotten romance. Poets are ministers of relief and despair; will the world but listen. It doesn’t even matter.
do you recall that mtv show 'pimp my ride'? neither do i, never watched it, but i think the premise of the show is one where the participants would take a beater vehicle to a professional 'mack daddy' to have his/her car rebuilt into a sweet ride. i'm not sure what the hell the word 'pimp' means in the context of the show because to my old skool ears the word 'pimp' was slang meaning to sell, yourself and/or your goods and services.
in other words, it's not for lack of modesty or anything but i rarely it seems pimp myself and/or pimp the stuff i dig and the writers i love. forgive me, it's a fault of mine and a lifetime of habits ain't gonna end just because i attempt to will it to end.
wtf, anyway. let me do a bit of acting like huggy bear [the pimp character played by antonio fargas on the 70s tv show 'starsky and hutch' with a cool sartorial style] and do a bit of promotion.
first, my brother in the art, jonathan hayes, is participating in the litcrawl portion of the literary festival litquake in sf. here's a link to jonathan's profile. if you are in sf tomorrow, 10/9/10, click for the schedule here go see him read and then say hey to hayes.
ernesto priego has a new book the present day [leafe press; 2010]. it's a killer. i should know i provided a blurb. ernesto is a great writer both in spanish and english. click here and order the book now, will ya!
and ernesto's busy with a new project, the hay[na]ku postcard project, with ernesto 'crowdsourcing' poems via old-fashioned paper. i don't know what 'crowdsourcing' means quite, but i suspect if ernesto's in to it, then it's a good thing. click the link above, check the posts -- you might even recognize the title of a, ah hem, blog in the pics -- and ask to participate yourself.
and poet/photographer maurice oliver is keeping it good and real in portland, oregon. maurice is a very talented poet, see his blog here for both poems and pics, in his own right but he's also an unsung and excellent editor. his zine concelebratory shoehorn review is on it's 45th iteration. i have poems in it as well as the inimitable crag hill. check it, send maurice poems, and read a few yourself both on his own blog and his zine.
finally, the title of this post does not come from a desire to fool the world. rather, the weather has been so lovely, so deep into fall, that on my walks to and from work today i had some riffs by joey santiago looped in the brainpan, bringing me much joy in my steps. in short, i had this song stuck in my head:
i'm a nut for halloween imagery. my favorite colors? you guessed it, orange and black. one of my favorite holiday illustrators is ellen clapsaddle who did most of her best-known work in the early years of the last century. her images are both spooky and heavily redolent of the whimsy of childhood. i'm not a collector of her cards -- original cards go for a pretty penny nowadays -- yet we have several repros that make for gorgeous viewing, like the example on the left.
clapsaddle was a prolific artist who made postcards and greeting cards for all manner of occassions and holidays. she also did several for the thanksgiving day holiday, which makes her unique because there really are very few commercially made decor for that holiday. thanksgiving is probably the least marketed holiday and some might argue the purer for it being so.
but for me, clapsaddle is best for halloween. she hits the nail squarely and her images of witches, and harvests, jack 0'lanterns, and even, yes, young women who, it was once believed, would find a soulmate on halloween, are an important layer to this most special of days.
if i were to steal titles from punk albums it would be iggy pop and the stooges record of the same name as this post. oh, and the idiot too. i've been longing to write a chapbook length sequence using that one as well. it is so, as the kids say, apropos.
i was feeling rather down yesterday, goofy as well, but as i walked to work in the cool of an early autumn morn i was thinking of my limits. we all have them, limits. as one gets older the future narrows quite a bit and those limits we think when we are young that we can overcome them, those limits turn into brute facts.
i can't sing, can't add or subtract, can't even vector worth a damn too. yet what worries me the most is losing the ability to be at times amazed at being alive. that amazement is married to a sense of humor as well. life is a tragedy, yes we all know it, but as sam beckett reminds us in his works, that tragedy is often damn funny. sometimes the joke is on us, and sometimes we are in on the joke but what is living without laughter and the dumbstruck awe of the absurdities.
like the classical chinese poets often wrote, no talent, no ambition, but if i can stretch this conceit out a bit more, what i can do is translate this life into words.
because i prefer to walk rather than drive i move thru the city at quite a slower pace. which means i see all sorts of shit that i'd miss if i was whizzing by at 45 mph. there must've been a full moon, or maybe it was the extreme heat -- we've been in a heat-wave and temps soared near and above the century mark for the duration of the work week, because people both in cars, on bikes and even on foot were cranky as hell. e.g. last monday i was witness to a bicyclist and a guy in a car screaming all kinds of epithets at each other. and yesterday drivers were doing the same sort of screaming at each which culminated in one driver blocking the other car and yelling and gesturing like he just invented the gesture.
sure, i know, nothing new, yet for the most part these sorts of outbursts are fairly rare. most of the time people are fairly courteous or indifferent to each other to bother to curse at the other's existence. but maybe it's the car that's at fault. like when we get into a car another creature takes over us and makes us behave in ways we normally would do, like picking our noses in plain site, which it seems we do only in our cars.
whatever. i was regaling some friends with a few of my observations during my perambulations thru my beloved city when one of my friends said, you aughtta write a book because of all the shit you see. i didn't tell my friend this but i think i have been doing all along with my poems. not consciously i think but it occurs well enough that i know i do write about my travels on foot quite frequently.
for good and ill, i suppose. but as for my writing there is a phrase uttered by seamus heaney around the time he won the nobel prize. heaney called for a post-beckettian poetics that would be equal to the realities as we know it now. on the surface i think a post-beckettian poetics would take irony, comedy, tragedy and marry them in a fairly mininalist style. still, i don't really know what the fuck heaney meant, but beckett is someone i read fairly early. beckett is the dude who stopped writing in english because he said you can't help writing poetry in it. i suppose the maestro is right, there, but i suppose if i were a native albanian speaker i'd say the same of the albanian language, i can't help writing poetry in it.
i think that a post-beckettian poetics not only eschews the divisions of hi and lo art but also can't give a rat's ass for major and minor writing. to paraphrase the brilliant surfer-skater-california poet kevin opstedal in re the minor poet sir john suckling invented the game of cribbage so two minor poets could play it in the cabin of a jet-liner at 33000 ft in the air.
my friend said, you should write a book about my travels and observations. well, okay, i'll do what i can, poem by poem, blog post by blog post as i work my way thru my own destinations and a definition at the start of a post-beckettian poetics.