Friday, October 31, 2008

happy happy halloween!!!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

announcing jim mccrary's all that

you need this book!!

lifted from crg hill's blog:

ManyPenny Press is pleased to announce the release of All That by Jim McCrary. This collection of chapbooks, McCrary’s first full-length book, spans over twenty years of the author’s efforts.

Channeling William Carlos Williams, Ed Dorn, Robert Grenier, Joanne Kyger and others on and within the airwaves, McCrary has created a body of poems that snips and snaps, chuckles and guffaws, tugs and strokes, kisses and bites. Steve Tills puts it this way: “Jim has devoted his spirit and heart to pursuits decidedly antithetical to self-aggrandizement. Quietly, he has followed a most courageous lineage of others also both gentle and careful in their approach to telling the truth and making it uniquely compelling. You’ll sometimes recognize that lineage when you take up All That. You’ll frequently marvel at the quiet, substantive authenticity McCrary has achieved in the sometimes lonesome but always deeply communal turns his truly individuated, unequivocally human poeming has taken.”

Or as K. Silem Mohammad puts it: “Out of the wild Kansas plains comes a howling wind, and in that wind is a howling wolf, and in that wolf is a howling lamb, and in that lamb is a Russian doll with another Russion doll inside it, and inside that one another one, and inside that one a plastic pill bottle because one of the dolls got broken, and in that bottle one last Russian doll, and in that last doll another howling wind–and here we go all over again. Somewhere in there, probably around the first wind and the wolf, is the poetry of Jim McCrary, which is really really really really good.”

All That

Including interview excerpt with Tom Beckett

171 pp.

ISBN-13: 978-0-9798478-0-6


ManyPenny Press

1111 E. Fifth St.



$15.95 + $3 postage

Make checks payable to Crag Hill

Bookstores should contact Crag Hill


to arrange for discounts.

If you would like to order on-line,

go to:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

deranged [1974]

the title above might sound like a critique of the mccain campaign it is rather an effective exploitation/horror movie based on the serial killer ed gein. gein was the first serial killer that captured the public imagination. a serious momma's boy with a strong hatred of women gein appeared to be a nice enough old coot until the police found pieces of his victims used as furniture in his house. gein's story been mined by films as diverse as rob zombie's house of a 1000 corpses and tobe hooper's texas chainsaw massacre, but none have captured the strangeness of the man like the movie deranged managed to do.

the venerable actor roberts blossom portrays ezra cobb who's tenuous grasp of reality slips after his over-bearing, sex-hating, women-bashing, psychotic and plain-old weirdo of a mother passes away. suddenly the women placed out of reach by his mother become a tantalizing possibility for old ezra. but mother even in death still has her way with her son. ezra's oedipal guilt is too strong so he snaps one night and digs up his mother from her grave to place her back into her room. from her vantage point she is still calling women harlots and warning ezra to stay away from them.

women are too tempting for ezra to resist. he dates a few local women his own age but feeling tremendous guilt by his own desires he kills them. what he does with the bodies is straight up gein. what makes this such an effective film is the near-documentary style of filmmaking and editing. the grittiness of the photography gives the movie the appearance of a news report. and blossom is such a good actor that ezra's mad urges are portrayed in a subdued yet stylized manner so that even his walk, dress and speech pattern are very believable. the only drawback to this film is that the filmmakers felt the need to insert a tv news reporter sending dispatches on scene as the story enfolds. it is irksome to watch the reporter act as the chorus to the proceedings. the movie would be just fine without the reporter's presence.

that is a minor quibble tho. the film is a rather understated gem of exploitation. redolent of the 1970s style of drive-in filmmaking yet still retaining the distinction of the first-rate independent feature it may not be a masterpiece but it is a damn good movie for halloween.

a leap to hip-hop

frankly i know very little about hip-hop. i'm old enough to remember hearing 'rapper's delight' by the sugar hill gang when it was brand new. and when kurtis blow rapped about 'the breaks' my friends and i were beside ourselves in wonder. what is this rap thing anyway?

but my listening ended after the '80s when i began to follow indie bands such as the pixies and the sugar cubes rather than the emerging gangsta rap of nwa. and commercial hip-hop now getting airplay is i think as self-serving and decadent [not in any good fashion at all] as the hair-metal bands of the '80s which i concluded was the nadir of all that is gawdawful in pop music.

well then, poet garrett caples is a true fan of hip-hop and being a fan of his poetry i just finished his collection of essays on the genre the philistine's guide to hip-hop [nin9volt; 2004] and immensely enjoyed it. i suppose it wasn't the subject matter that made it so readable for me but the fact that a talented writer composed pieces eloquently detailing his passions. that is the main criteria for my reading a particular writer: an intelligence passionate about the subjects at hand, whatever those subjects might be.

however, caples' canny ability to marry poetry and hip-hop by writing an essay about the poet philip lamantia and the rapper tragedy khadafi as well as quoting from the frost poem 'the road not taken' which is then quoted by rapper metaphysical in another essay and well caples had me at hello. this is a big reason why i love reading a poet's prose and as an aside why i am addicted to poet blogs.

and it is passion that fuels the fire i think for caples also devotes 4 essays to prince. of course having grown up with prince myself - i think his album purple rain and the movie of the same name are masterpieces - but losing track of the purple one in the early '90s i can groove to caples' love of the man and his music. in other words, caples has produced with this book a level of devotion to a genre that is usually neglected by poets. i could be quite wrong in that of course because of my own ignorance of the art but i've not read a whole lot either in blogs or published in paper form by poets about hip-hop. well, now i have and i am a whole lot better informed of an astonishing variety and richness of the art.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

a horror show even scarier than advertised!

i was a bit too young to see spook shows back when they were at their prime. i recall special events at local one-screen theaters - i saw santa clause conquers the martians at such a christmas event - during the halloween and christmas seasons but i don't recall seeing a spook show.

spook shows were live acts by a performer who usually did magic tricks and used a few props like mechanical bats that would fly over the audience during a black-out to try to scare the shit out of them. these performers would use stage names like hara-kum ot dr satan and his real gone show. they would also bring their own print of some cheesy horror movie to screen for the audience between acts.

i suppose that most were pretty cheesy. perhaps a few might've been scary. but i doubt it. i think the thrills were found anticipating the spook show. what freaky thing would be unearthed. how shall i scare thee, let me count the ways. well, these specific entertainments had their heyday from the 1930s to the 1960s. i think contemporary audiences would be bored out of their minds with a spook show. but then maybe the audience was bored back in the day too.

spook shows have gone the way of the betamax. i don't know if there are any recordings of a live spook show available. it would be cool if there are. it doesn't matter anyway, since we have copies of spook show trailers available. dig the clip below. i love the old monster movie music and the cheapy-ness of the trailers themselves. they are so halloween! also, groove on how the marketers of spook shows challenge and bait their audience by asking the girls to find out if their boyfriends are men or mice. i love this shit.

Monday, October 27, 2008

demons [1985]

in order to reach a broader market, particularly the u.s. market, italian maestro dario argento tapped the son of the great filmmaker mario bava to create a horror film that would appeal to international sensibilities. by that bailiwick lamberto bava succeeded in crafting a fast-paced, linear story, gore-fest with a soundtrack adrenalized by that pox of mid to late '80s cerebellum emulsifiers, u.s. heavy metal, which again tips the hat to argento in knowing how to market a film to a particular audience.

the ass-suckiness of the soundtrack does not detract from the film is a credit to bava who learned the art of spaghetti celluloid from conception. however, that does not mean the movie is a masterpiece. not on your life. there are so many holes in the plot you could drive arnie schwarzenegger's fleet of hummers thru it. the plot is this: two young women skip a class after they receive free tickets to an unnamed movie premiering at berlin's beautifully sterile metropol theater. the film they see involves a group of young people who open the grave of nostradamus and find a book which unleashes demons upon the earth. the twist is the action of the movie presages the horrors that are unfolding in the theater. demons are unleashed in the real world as the patrons of the movie become either possessed or a victim, and often both. this meta-fiction works only so far as the movie onscreen is soon given up as the gore heats up in the theater.

and there is plenty of the wet stuff. after watching this flick i felt i needed to go outside and scrape the muck off my shoes and pants. and then take a shower. but as for being scary, well, nada for the fear. there is no character development at all. i couldn't give a shit what happened to the protagonists as confusing as the movie became. the two young women meet two young men and during the course of their fight for survival there is a sub-story of four hooligans who are all coked-up and driving thru berlin in a stolen vehicle. when they ditch the car after being chased by the police they enter thru a door that just happens to open for them. guess where they end up. that's right, the metropol, where they then become victims of the demons and then turn into demons who are then chasing our four young movie-goers.

perhaps bava and argento, with the film-within-a-film and its victims-cum-survivors trapped in a movie theater, attempted to describe the horror-genre audience who often seem to regress into the cliches of scary movies. certainly nothing is more terrifying than rabid fandom. but that would be too easy a target and after all this movie lacks any kind of ironic posturing that was so vivid in wes craven's stock of horror movie cliches explored in his scream pictures. rather, bava and argento have given us a straight-up gut-muncher. i should feel guilty for enjoying this movie but i don't. but if there is a hell i don't think it is populated by demons such as these. no way. for hell would be an eternity of listening to '80s metal bands like saxon and motley crue.

keep it simple: can i have yr inglish?

okay then, anna is at work and nicholas is at daycare and i am waiting for their return watching stephen king's the stand on the sci-fi channel and reading this wonderful e-book by the german poet stefan hyner this time-bound toy again. hyner writes in inglish with texts of simplicity and wonder. some what. which relates to my own reading lately and writing practices.

a bit at least. because reading an essay by the british poet hugo williams - a writer i've read very little of - where he wants a poetry of simplicity rather than the drunken wordiness of say, um, rimbaud. a poetry of tea, williams opines, rather than a poetry of wine. such an opinion of writing is partly because of age. one tends to get mellower as one grows older.

but i don't know about that. i love how hyner complicates his simplicity with unusual spellings and purposefully bad grammar. certainly hyner's texts is not a of the tea-drinking variety. but to use the shorthand of the texting-generation, wtf, indeed. i want a poetics of the slightly buzzed. it's been years since i had a hangover. i stopped drinking to heavy excess when i was 27 and knew that a 2-day hangover was too dear a price to pay. but i've not given up drinking at all. and i love reading poems when i have a slight buzz.

i don't believe in the ecstatic seer high on chemicals. nor do i believe in hard sobriety either. moderation, but only in small doses please. for i am developing the poetics of the slightly buzzed. have a beer on me.

taking the long way to the pumpkin patch

only a few days before halloween and 8 days before the election and this time it is scary. or so it seems. tho i have hope like i've not had in a long time regarding the election. i'll just leave it at that and try to brace myself for whatever comes.

we are officially on holiday, our annual 2-week vacation, but staying home and doing some minor home projects with a few day trips interspersed. and taking it real slow. i advocate the poetics of doing very little but thinking, reading and writing. why not. nothing is more pleasurable to me than a strong cup of coffee, my laptop, the newspaper, a few dvds, and some poetry and movie books.


take from it what you will.

so then anyway, anna and i spent the weekend in san jose. we took the halloween flashlight tour at the winchester mystery house. we got to keep the flashlights. when i was a wee lad my parents and brothers and i lived for a while in san jose. my dad has stories about me running around the mystery house like an antelope but i don't remember. i've not been in san jose for decades. when i told my old man friday night we were heading for san jose he told me he remembers the mystery house as an old, dilapidated victorian maze. well, it remains a victorian maze, a monument built by a woman starting in the mid-19th c. who believed in spirits who instructed her on the construction of her house. thus there are doors that open unto walls, crazy flights of stairs that lead to the same floor they start on, rooms within rooms and a single seance room where she took her instruction. plus sarah winchester was into numerology, the number 13 was her special number, many rooms had 13 windows and the ceilings were put together with 13 panels, and spiderwebs so that windows were cross-hatched with spiderweb designs.

it is said that the house is haunted. i can't vouchsafe that information but being the nut that i am for the paranormal when anna told me last month that she bought tickets for the flashlight tour i was beside myself in anticipation. what surprised me about the house is its location. the mystery house is over 6 acres but it is now in the center of a huge shopping mall and movie theaters. and it is touristy as hell. but once on the tour, and the flashlight tour is just that, lights turned out with only a flashlight for illumination, you lose your bearings. the rooms are tiny and the ceilings are low, while the staircases wind and wind into a veritable no where. the sensation is often one of vertigo. unlike most houses, where you know exactly where you sit or stand in relation to its construction, the mystery house has your mind reeling in confusion.

we had a blast. the night tours were small and the crowds very light. afterward we wandered thru the gardens where we were able to orient ourselves in relation to the massive size of the house. it was easy to forget the city right outside the gates. no, i didn't see any ghosts, but that wasn't because of lack of trying. whenever possible i would enter a room alone without the aid of my flashlight. i discovered i can scare myself pretty well, but not because of the presence of the paranormal. in the end, the house is the residue of a vanished era that believed the dead were always among us.

perhaps, they still are. it is after all halloween and dias de los muertos.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

the rocky horror picture show [1975]

that's right, i remember doing the time warp too, however, i first recall this pic when it was first released i think around halloween in 1975. back then sac was full of one-screen cinemas as well as drive-ins and if you wanted to see a particular flick it was probably playing only at one or two theaters and you had to get there fast to see it before it disappeared from sight.

halloween in my memory is always warm and smudgy. the local rice farmers could burn their fields rather indiscriminately and the city would become utterly drenched in thick, acrid smoke. it was on such a warm, smudgy day in october that my family and i were driving past a one-screen theater located in a fairly rough part of town called then and now, the heights. and there was a long queue for this pic that sounded real scary. the marquee read simply the rocky horror picture show.

well, i was just a pup and didn't see the movie. but i remember that long line of people and the way the marquee literally screamed the title of the movie. perfect for halloween. later, i don't remember if it was the same year or a couple of years on, my family and i were at waldenbooks and i found a coffee-table book with a lot of photos from the movie. looked real weird to me. very new wave and punk, terms i wouldn't learn until the late '70s. all i knew was that the movie appeared strange and was populated with a cast of weirdos.

which of course was confirmed later still when i was 15 years old and a screaming punk. my friends and i just caught the only showing - again at a long defunct one-screen cinema [the building still stands and the basic structure of the cinema, marquee and all, remains virtually unchanged, but now it is a convenience/liquor store] - of penelope spheeris' documentary on the hardcore l.a. scene decline of western civilization. the late singer of the germs, darby crash, featured prominently in the docu and we were nuts about the idiot savant. so then afterward we emerge from the theater to the street all snarls and shit-talking, wearing our wrist spikes and biker boots, hair super-short, dyed unnatural hues, jeans ripped and written on with a magic marker the symbols for anarchy and names and logos of bands. we were freaky-looking ourselves back then and we exit the theater and see a line of people waiting for the midnight movie. the first person i see is a huge man with pancake make-up, very red lipstick, and wearing fishnet stockings with garters. the movie they were waiting for was the rocky horror picture show. each differing camp of movie patron gave the other side this look then moved on. i thought they looked weird, but i can imagine that the guy in drag saying to his buddies,' hey get a load of those freaks'!

the life moved at the pace of the living and i forgot about the movie. until i was working as a dishwasher and the busboy who became a buddy asked if i wanted to see a midnight movie after our shift. sure, i said, why not. i was, um, 20 going on 21, and it was the first time i watched the rocky horror picture show. i learned to do the time warp that night. the movie became a favorite and i believe i saw it nearly 20 times week after week. i think i've watched the film at least over a hundred times by now. the film is so much part of its time, the swinging 1970s, yet its libidinous energy and campy attitude is i think ageless. it is fun, goofy and sweet-natured. and it rocks. there are no more midnight movies and you can watch this flick on tv now. yet, every now and again i fish out my fishnets, turn this flick to 11 and do the time warp again.

Monday, October 20, 2008


a new split chap from windowpane press by richard lopez and jonathan hayes is now published and ready for sale, trade, swap, gifts, you name it. these are poems about the california area codes 916 and 415. dig these texts:

will take you will not take you

invisible spirit
said angel g.
humped over
his field of
the blessed
matrix claims
ufology can
travel without
leaving his body
hola he cries
to everyone
california is
not here
tapping the
tapping his
head sound
like hardwood

richard lopez

* * *


as i light up the cigarette,

after using it as a stick
to push

the tenderloin fried chicken
to the back of the cardboard container

toward its bones
to make room

for this cigarette’s ashes –

crack, crizzle, crawl
goes the chicken’s grease

soaked into the cigarette’s paper,

when the cherry kisses it.

jonathan hayes

contact me at len200athotmaildotcom

or jonathan hayes at jsh619atearthlinkdotnet

for copies.

word to yr mutha

Saturday, October 18, 2008

oh i could just eat you all up!

i've no idea what and how some things hit the imagination just so. some things simply do. last year daniel f. bradley linked to a story about a mexican poet who was just arrested for cannibalism. jose luis calva zepeda was a real freak who killed his girlfriend and when the police arrived at his mexico city apartment to investigate her disappearance found zepeda with a bowl of what appeared to be human flesh flavored with a bit of lemon juice.

now, i'm quite aware that there is a real victim and zepeda is the source of an unbelievable amount of pain for her friends and family. murder is a base, unforgivable evil period. and yet, the story of zepeda i find compelling. he's a poet and horror novelist who earned pesos by hawking his self-published books on the weekends. photos of him show a hauntingly good-looking man with greying hair. he was interested in the occult and identified with the character hannibal lector as portrayed by anthony hopkins.

here is an english language wikipedia article about zepeda:

Calva's childhood was traumatic. His father died when he was two, and his mother used to bring men to his home whom the boy had to call "dad". When he was seven, he was raped by a 16-year-old friend of his older brother.[3]

He met the woman who would become his wife and mother two of his children, Aide, in 1996. They divorced and she moved to the United States with their daughters. He sunk into a deep depression.[3]

In October 2007, forces of the Federal Preventive Police went to Calva's home to arrest him under the suspicion that he was responsible for the disappearance of his girlfriend Alejandra Galeana, who was last seen on October 6.[2] He was found eating a dish of human meat seasoned with lemon. Calva tried to escape by jumping through the window, severely injuring himself, but was captured.[4]

Inside his flat, the police found the mutilated body of his girlfriend, human meat in the refrigerator, a frying pan with cooked human flesh and human bones in a box of cereal.[2] Aside from that, an unfinished book titled Instintos Caníbales o 12 días[4] (Cannibal Instincts or 12 days) and a picture of Anthony Hopkins portraying Hannibal Lecter were also found.[2]

Calva's is the first case of cannibalism reported in Mexico for almost 500 years.[4]

In the early morning hours of December 11, 2007, the body of Calva, who apparenty had committed suicide between 6:00am and 6:30am, was found hanging by his belt from the roof of his prison cell.[1] No suicide note was found.

perhaps i find this story so interesting because he is the OTHER and a poet who made the metaphor of 'the word made flesh' literal. utterly disgusting and fascinating.

a very informative spanish-language blog about zepeda is here.

thinking of writing a series of poems about zepeda i asked jim mccrary to help in my project. he wrote a couple of poems and i wrote a couple of poems then the project went flat. here is one of my contributions:

sketch of zepeda as dr hannibal lector as played by sir anthony hopkins

the mind is a mask over the face
desiring and possession upon the threshold
writing the novel of the flesh

love quits its stations
i will watch you increase
the dreamer dreams of dreaming

you will make me cum without heat
i am hunger without knowledge of hunger
instruments sharpened into a tune

i can make you shift into shapes
become heat and nutrients
flesh of the novel read by candlelight

quietly now no one can hear us
open your heart
for you are sweet to the taste

why i find this story so compelling i haven't a clue. i can try to factor them out i suppose. instead, i find myself thinking of zepeda again and my project of a series of poems about, among other things, poetry, metaphor, the OTHER, identity and so on. like many of my ideas some become fact while many others remain as ideas in my moleskin.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

the ruins [2008]

the greatest offense a movie, any movie, but especially a horror movie, can do is be boring. when stupefying boredom settles on me as a viewer i don't get pissed or even slightly annoyed at the makers of the movie in question, i just have a single question, why? why bother at all if the production is at a level just above having a nap.

i don't know why i rented this movie. i don't know why i watched it either. nothing compelled me to. maybe just idle curiosity. maybe it was simply because when i came home last saturday night after watching a pretty good horror movie, quarantine, and eating a late dinner i thought maybe i'd make the evening a double-feature.

well, i can't say watching the ruins was a mistake, but it sure was a waste of time. no suspense, no gore, no interesting characters or even annoying characters that i can take pleasure in watching being killed off. okay, that sounded a bit misanthropic, but man! this movie was like staring in the abyss without finding your character. just emptiness, nothing, zip, nada, a yawn.

the gist of the movie is two twenty-something couples on holiday in mexico who hook up with a young german tourist as the couples recover poolside from a night of serious partying. the german invite them to some ruins his brother, an archaeologist, is studying in the jungle. ready for an adventure our young charges go. when they find the site they are suddenly surrounded by some locals who force them to the top of the ruin. the reason, and i'll tell you what that is and spare you the horror of investing ninety plus minutes of your life watching, 90 plus minutes that will be sucked out of you, never to return, and leaving you that much older, that reason is the plants on the ruins are carnivores with the ability to grasp and move and mimic the ringing of cell phones and human voices. you see, these kids are now set up to be sacrificed!

but to whom and why is never made clear. it wasn't even made murky. instead, we get a joyless study of human stupidity and an object lesson on how to avoid making a bad horror film. this is no plan 9, no campiness at all, nor is it so grim to be refreshing in its pessimism. i was curious about the character of the german. i thought he was set up to make it like that he had a sinister design such as working with the locals to provide young people as sacrifices to the plants. nothing doing. he was the first victim. after sitting thru this turd of a flick i think he was the lucky one.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

the big round

jean posted a beautiful photo of the moon here. it's the same moon that i see out my window even if it is a different sky. i turn around and look out my window which faces east and right now the moon is high up. last night nicholas and i watched it as it started low just below the tree-line then saw it rise this lovely luminous round. an october moon. jean and i both live in california but my california is different in that it is land-locked - the great central valley - while jean lives nearer to the coast. the eco-systems are different, the air smells different, the temperatures are different, yet it is the same lovely moon.

anyway, had a great 3-day holiday. not much to add to the cacophony but my favorite activities involve doing very little. the walk home from work, even if work is crazy nuts at the moment, is just as i like it. dusk, cooling off, the light a dusty gold, slatted, and soft. houses are decorated for halloween, the smell of candy corn permeates and either could be a figment of my imagination or be simply the product of the time of year. and it is probably both.

at any rate, time, what writer does not think of time, how rapidly it passes, how soon our mortality slips from us. was watching a program hosted by theoretical physicist and popular commentator on science michio kaku last night on the subject of time. tho we know the past and look forward to the future kaku pointed out that we live in the present. how long does the present last? as long as we are able to form a sentence or remain sentient, i suppose. but as i age, and i don't mind aging really, not yet at least, i've long thought i'd do okay being the older, jerry garcia-type, of poet. well, shit, whatever that means, but i really don't mind getting older. and i can't help it. neither can you. getting older is something everyone has in common. even if we live only in the present we are deeply cognizant of our past and as we age we begin the process of loss. our abilities, our loved ones, our friends. and yet . . .and yet i find life to be so rich and beguiling, its madness and beauty, and all so wonderful to bear under all of it, the horror and the sublime.

so then back to poetry, and the reading and writing of it. one for the ages? i doubt that, but life is life and death is life too. i dig poetry and a life spent in its thrall is a fully lived life. i hope so at any rate. maybe i'm just buzzed from all the candy corn. still, when i read kasey mohammad's piece about poetry and stupidity i got that buzz i get when i read something that embodies life's rich pageant. i agree we have to have a degree of stupidity for us to find amazement, but only some, otherwise we'd fall for the same tricks over and again and become gullible sheep. ah yes, cultivate your stupidity. i mean that. reminds me of something raymond carver wrote in the essay 'on writing':

Writers don't need tricks or gimmicks or even necessarily need to be the smartest fellows on the block. At the risk of appearing foolish, a writer sometimes needs to be able to just stand and gape at this or that thing - a sunset or an old shoe - in absolute and simple amazement.

amen, brothers and sisters.

Monday, October 13, 2008

quarantine [2008]

going to the drive-in movies saturday night didn't pan out. for one thing, the weather turned down-right chilly with a strong, cold wind that subsided finally last night, whereby b. and i agreed that sitting outside and freezing our asses off just wasn't a palatable experience. instead, i took myself to the movies to see the newest hollywood remake of a european horror flick. quarantine is a redo of the spanish movie [rec] released last year. i've not seen the original so can't comment on it at all but the remake, tho it covers no new ground, was certainly an enjoyable halloween piece.

the set up is simple: a woman reporter and her camera-man shadow two firefighters on the nightshift in l.a. following a routine medical call the crew and the firefighters, including two police officers, and the occupants of an apartment building suddenly find themselves sequestered by the quickly gathering authorities outside. inside, fear and paranoia build as the reason why they are quarantined makes itself manifest in the increasing number of victims and bodies. the gimmick the filmmakers use is the p.o.v. of the camera-man as the horror enfolds.

it's a credible job and the principles are good in that oh shit, we're all dead sort of way. the use of a single hand-held camera to tell the story was once a revolutionary technique a decade ago but now is common enough to be un-spectacular by its use. like cgi, which was once the selling point of features [think jurassic park], now that the technology and techniques are commonly available for many, if not all, filmmakers, what is needed is, as always with any kind of movie, a good story. and i'm a sucker for stories that involve a small group of people stuck in desperate circumstances of life and death.

well, it was saturday night, and it was second saturday too, when midtown and downtown come alive every second saturday of the month with a huge arts and music fest so when i drove home i had to contend with the streets literally choked with people and venues bursting open. the theater was half-full of young people, i was i think the oldest one in the audience, and tho the movie itself wasn't so scary it did have its moments of shock. i found that fun because the audience jumped out of their seats and screamed. i forget that watching horror movies with a group of strangers can be such a cathartic experience. instead, i'm usually ensconced in my room watching these flicks alone. there is normally no one around to hear when i scream.

but for the movie, i'll have to check out the original to see how it matches up. a quick glance at youtube and i see that the remake and the original nearly mirror themselves. all to the good? i'm not sure. at any rate, the remake is a solid effort at a scare pic even if it wasn't so scary and the novelty of p.o.v. camera work isn't so novel. again the movie is not so scary as the trailer leads one to believe, except in one detail that is scant in both the teaser trailer and the full-length trailer. and it is this one detail that made the movie almost too hard for me to sit thru. that detail - SPOILER ALERT! - is the fact of one of the firefighters. he sported a monster of a bushy moustache. it had a life of its own and i won't be surprised to see that moustache as the creature in the sequal.

Friday, October 10, 2008

hellraiser [1987]

even when i was in my late teens i considered myself a veteran of horror, both as a reader and as a viewer. i wasn't a kid who read fangoria magazine religiously nor did i have gore posters posted on my wall. my love of the genre was more circumspect and found its expression in late-night tv and hanging out at matinee movie houses and drive-in theaters. but by the 1986 i had discovered the british writer clive barker's collections of short stories, the books of blood, and i would literally haunt the horror section of my favorite bookstores. barker was a revelation, a gifted writer who wrote fluently with one of the most perverse imaginations i ever encountered. also, and this is no small thing, he was the first writer i saw, from his dust-jacket photos, that wore an earring. i mention this insignificant detail only because at the ages of 18 and 19 i knew i wanted to be a writer and i began gravitating toward poetry, but i didn't know any writers at all and it seemed from the bios of dead writers and in the pages of the varied lit mags available that serious writers didn't have their ears pierced nor were they tattooed, as i was and still am. discovering a writer that is even remotely dressed like you is incredibly bracing to the spirit. these small details are deeply important, at least for me. so in barker i found a kindred spirit both in dress and in a little way the imagination.

so then anyway, barker's first movie hellraiser was kind of an event in my life but i don't recall getting real jazzed about seeing it. i think i was skeptical that a writer can also be a good filmmaker. i don't quite remember if stephen king's awful, yet enjoyable, venture into directing a feature film, maximum overdrive, was yet released. but i remember interviews by king before his movie was released where he described it as his own plan 9 from outer space. in other words, my expectation for barker was at a very low threshold.

i find myself writing about my first experience watching this movie, i think because it was seminal in my viewing life. i watched the movie at the drive-in, the sac 6 which i'm heading to tomorrow night with my dear friend b. because the drive-in is hosting a classic car show, and i was not in the best of mental health. it was released in the summer and i figured the movie to be typical drive-in fare. yet, barker's ability behind the camera broke my prejudice of the writer trying to be a director theory. it literally freaked me out.

for the first time in my life i watched a horror film that used elements of s/m imagery and sexuality. the perpetrators of the violence are three very creepy masters called the cenobites. they behave in a perverse religious order as they meet out a harsh sensuality to their victims. and it is this sensuality that has the biggest creep-out factor. the story concerns opening a puzzle box that if opened successfully summons the cenobites. the cenobites, lead by pinhead - a man with hundreds of pins stuck to his head and face - assume that you called them for some serious play. in barker's world however there is no such thing as vanilla bdsm. if you call forth the cenobites then you are going to be torn apart in the most sexual fashion.

the direction for a first-time director who is using his own novella 'the hell-bound heart' as the source material, is solid. some of the fx are rather cheap but doesn't distract from the story. the photography achieves a rather smouldering blue tint that recalls porn films and '70s era exploitation. yet for all that the movie is neither gritty in look or feel nor slick as in some euro productions. this flick is a solid tour de force of horror.

still, i'd hesitate to call it a masterpiece of the genre. not that i'm a fair judge of what a masterpiece looks like anyway. i will say that the movie freaked me hard and it took many years before i could watch it again. perhaps that has more to do with my own mental health at the time as i sat on the gravel on a hot sac summer night at the drive-in watching a difficult flick. perhaps it hit me on a deeper level as barker uses the religiosity of certain sorts of sex drives. whatever the cause of my being freaked by this flick it has held up to repeated viewings over the years and i consider the movie to be a perfect halloween horror film in look, tone and attitude. pinhead is one scary monster, but even scarier is our own complicity in our destruction, which is the subject the film skirts around. pleasure and pain dressed in leather carrying a whip and chains crying out, i am my own destroyer. such is the source of this movie's power yet it also behaves as a very good b-grade horror flick too. i find this film to be powerful with whatever lens i choose to watch it. but be warned it could freak you too.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

extreme halloween

another pleasure of halloween i find is on television. not movies but programs about haunted attractions found across the u.s. the travel channel specializes in such fare, such as the best burger joints and ice cream shops that i enjoy because these shows are mini romps thru geography and popular culture, but for specific holidays such as halloween, programs about the best haunted houses and giant pumpkin competitions are shown thru out the month of october, the best month of the year.

and the show extreme halloween is just that, the largest and scariest traditions, competitions and haunted attractions in the country. the largest corn maze, according to the show, is located in lathrop which is about an hour drive south from where i sit now. i don't want to quibble with the producers of the program but another extreme corn maze is located in dixon, about a half hour drive east and the site of a giant pumpkin patch we plan on visiting later this month.

still, what i liked about this tv show is how it allows one to be an armchair traveller as i can relish the imagery i so love. but i favor armchair travel shows anyway, such as no reservations with anthony bourdain or pole to pole with michael palin. i also used to read travel essays like crazy and one of my favorite writers remains pico iyer so i'm already biased in favor of the travel channel what was fun about extreme hallowen is that it is about halloween. doesn't get any simpler or more fun than that.

below is the last, and most extreme, attraction of the show, an intense haunt called house of shock located in new orleans. well, who am i to quibble with the producers, it looks pretty damn extreme to me.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

the happening (2008)

this might be my shortest review of a film. not because of the film but the fact that sometimes as a viewer of cinema and as a writer i must learn again to enter the viewing experience with no expectations. get zen i suppose and just let the movie be what it is. and then see what happens.

which i suppose i had done last night upon watching m. night shyamalan's first r-rated venture. i really expected the movie to suck big time, really suck, hard big donkey dicks. sure i'm a masochist who gets all hopped up when i learn of an obscure william shatner flick spoken in esperanto [there really is such a flick called incubus] but to willingly give over 90+ minutes of my life to another of shyamalan's lousy concoctions then surely i need therapy to cure myself of self-loathing.

okay, the movie is rather clunky in parts and the dialogue bordering on the atrocious but mark whalberg is such a likable fellow that even his bad acting is just this side of tolerable. whalberg plays a popular high school science teacher caught in the midst of what appears to be a terrorist attack. some sort of gas or agent breaks down the self-preservation instinct so that the sufferer does physical harm to him/ or herself to the point of death. zooey deschanel portrays his estranged wife.

but it's not the work of terrorists. whalberg believes the attack is the result of the trees and plants. such eco-minded horror is not unprecedant in the history of the genre. and the reviews i've read last summer disparaging certain scenes, such as whalberg and deschanel trying to outrun wind which is how the poison is administered worked fairly well. they don't outrun the wind. like many of shyamalan's set pieces he does a good job creating suspense but there is little pay-off in execution. outrunning wind is impossible but the panic of the protaganists is palpable to even try. the buildup of the wind was however rather goofy.

and that's the problem with shyamalin's film. there are moments of real creepiness, in all his movies, but he seems unable to connect those moments into a satisfying whole. also, the overall tone of the movie is bombastic and preachy. we done fucked up the planet and nature is giving us a little warning to shape up or it will take us out. how exactly is nature carrying out these attacks we don't know, but shyamalan has his characters continually repeat that nature is miraculous and utterly unknowable. there are more things in heaven and earth. . .which sounds more like a cop-out from the filmmaker rather than exploration of the twilight zone.

still, the movie surprised me. even though some of the language spoken in the film hurt my ears and the chemistry between whalberg and deschenal was at zero the film was provocative enough to keep me watching. the filmmaker would do well to have another writer clean up his scripts i think. as for the r-rating the movie was really not very bloody or violent. but the few set pieces, such as the lion attack, the jumpers off a roof and the music recital [which didn't make it into the final print but is included as an extra on the dvd] were beautifully choreographed. well, so much for making this review short. now to look for that shatner disc.

Monday, October 06, 2008

hayden carruth

last summer when geof huth was visiting here he mentioned that one of his former professors was hayden carruth. i didn't have a chance to grill geof about carruth but i would've loved too. because carruth is one of those poets who matters a great deal to me. i was not surprised to find he died late last month, he was after all 87 and lived quite a life, but that he managed to survive and write so very well thru his long years.

unfashionable and crabby carruth's poems range from formalist staccato to the bop of jazz. a list of dedications read like a who's who of 20th c poetry. sort of. but is there another poet who wrote poems to and about raymond carver, adrienne rich, galway kinnell and gregory corso? well, perhaps, but when i read his collected shorter poems published by copper canyon press i discovered a poet who eschewed schools and styles and took them all in while minding his own store.

what was most important to me was parsing his poems such as 'I Tell You for Several Years of My Madness I Heard the Voice of Lilith Singing in the Trees of Chicago' and 'They Accuse Me of Not Talking' which concludes with the lines

You're literate, so words are what you feel.
Then you're struck dumb. To which love can you speak
the words that mean dying and going insane
and the relentless futility of the real?

that here was not just a kindred spirit but also a poet who might suffer from the same malady that struck me with such force at age 19. i don't mean simply depression but my own illness when it strikes literally strikes me dumb. i can't speak or use words during the worst of it. and there is little more terrifying to me than not living in the world of words.

carruth seemed to understand that and wrote his poems no matter the fashion as he holed up in rural vermont away from not simply the madding crowd but the crowd that can trip one into madness too. i would've loved to meet the old poet and hear him read. i think he was one of those poets where the life and the poetry were seamless. that he survived in the midst of his madness while writing his incredible poems is astonishing and is a source of wonder and hope for me.

carruth also wrote eloquently on his attempted suicide. that he failed to die was for him not a failure but a source of happiness in living life as it was granted him. i've nearly worn out my copy of his autobiography reluctantly also published by copper canyon press. and it is in this book where he talks about his illness and how it hit him with such ferocity one night that i know we suffer from the same thing for he was describing my symptoms as well. finally i found a poet who like me suffered from a similar illness. if it sounds that i am making a great deal of it i am because to know someone suffers the same as you is to know you are not alone and that you are not a freak. it matters a great deal in that knowledge.

finally, i'll end with a fragment from carruth's autobiography regarding the happiness he discovered after his suicide attempt.

As we say, I'm lucky to be alive. But the most important result of my new luck is that I am enabled to perform acts of virtue once more. I have moved out of the isolation and alienation of my former life and back into the world, which is where acts of virtue occur. Because of this I am a better writer, whatever the artistic quality of my work from now on may be. Writing is first of all a way of being in the world, a functioning nub of relatedness. Hence, my happiness, that frothy feeling, is now with me almost all the time[. . .]I've reached the time of my life when one's friends begin shuffling away, usually in pain and humiliation, and saying goodbye is a sorrow I find simply overwhelming; yet it is not incompatible with my happiness. I do what I can, everything that I can, so that other people may have good luck and may know it when they do, and in this I'm an average decent sort of a guy.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

oh nothing much, just hanging around

what - i'm in that huuuuuuuuge anthology issue 1 and i didn't even have to write the poem or - gulp - submit to it!? oh boy, over at silliman's blog some of the poets are all riled up. i'm with ernesto priego on this one and i got a charge when a couple days ago he quoted dj spooky on connectivity of art in our century. the words i use in english are the same language, even if they be in french or italian, as yours. as thom gunn wrote 'we are the same in different ways / we are different in the same way'. i'll say in my own crude way fuck yeah i've got an ego too - i think all writers do - but i'm not one for copyrights and i'd encourage anyone to republish or make bootlegs of my work in any fashion they wish. the only condition is that - because i'm a big dumb poet with an ego - my name be attached to my work. that's it. plus, it's only poetry after all, so get a fucking sense of humor.

as for anthologies, please do please submit to dj senor priego's tattoo poetics. ernesto and i are working on a piece for the anthology and i know a few of you who stop by here are tattooed. i love the subject of tattoos in our culture in general and in writing culture[s] in particular. i want to read about your tattoos and see pics of them. so contribute a text or two and some pics, goddamit.

oh yeah, i also support the candidacy of eileen tabios/michelle bautista. quite a ticket, indeed. but, ms chatelaine, since i've neither read your poem nor mine in that huuuuuuuuuge anthology, i'll say i wrote the BEST poem. why not. it's just words after all.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

and doggone it people like me
[so saith stuart smalley - back in the day]

and sometimes people don't

do see michael lally's hilarious send up

of palinese

oh the humanity

after a very long and insane week at work i find myself hanging around and doing nothing. just as i like it. it rained last night and this morning, the first rains of the season and man is it gorgeous out right now. anna is working in the garden and nicholas is out in the back digging for gusanos [worms - nicholas is being taught a little spanish at daycare and that's what he calls them - but you probably knew the translation - right?].

well then okay, anyway, i watched a bit of the vp debate and was only whelmed. no commentary from me at all. i mean, what the fuck. so then in the spirit of the upcoming election i present to you a clip from the movie captain america accompanied by the song 'america - fuck yeah'. i found it last night on a pop culture blog and laughed so hard i nearly had to go the emergency room from almost splitting my spleen.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

no matter where you are i can hear you when you scream

that's right, suckas it's october 1 - and it's so on! hyperbole, i think not, since we are in the midst of some very weird and very fucked times. economy tanking and with the polls open in just over a month maybe we should be scared, very scared.

instead, let's just go smashing pumpkins and enjoy this fall and this time we have on earth, okay. so fill up on orange slices and candy corn and danse macabre. and whatever else let's do keep our heads above water and try not to drown.