Some Interesting Free Music...

I've meant to mention this before, but never got around to it... Sorry for my slackery. Anyway, in my constant search for interesting music, I came across a band I really like called Charts and Maps, whose odd-time- + saxamaphone-laden stuff sits nicely in-between jazz + post-rock.

Further digging turnd up their record label's blog, where (a huge chunk of, if not) the entire catalog is available for free download, under the aegis of the Creative Commons licensing agreement.

I cannot stress how very cool + important Creative Commons is to creators; clear-cut language that cuts thru any bullshit to the core of creators + their ability to retain their inherent rights to their creations...

So, Wise Owl is the record label + they seem to be a very cool + forward-thinking one...

I haven't had a chance to properly listen to all of these bands, or even most of 'em, but so far I've really enjoyed Charts and Maps, cssc, Lost Reverie (which is a bit more metal), Petrograd in Transit, + Taiga Blues...

(Here's a Charts + Maps vid - sort of... for 'Pearl Divers of the Arabian Peninsula' off their newest, Dead Horse)


yeah, yeah, yeah...

...more movie reviews out of a can. Hey, they're new to you, right? And it gives me an excuse to be lazy. I'm wrote you guys a scary-ass ghost story for Halloween that's in the touching-up stage, and I may even write another one, so, I'll make it up to you in the coming weeks. I'll also probably be writing a ton of horror movie reviews, because I'm going to make a half-assed attempt at the http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif (which you are also invited to attempt). I will fail at that in a spectacular way (my narcoleptic tendencies wouldn't let me stay awake for that many movies even if I wanted to devote that kind of time to trying, and I don't - I wanna read, too - but I should at least get some watched. For now, there's these...

Black Lemons (C, 1970) aka E venne il giorno dei limoni neri, Mafia Connection. Antonio Sabato stars in this Italian mafia fest. A hit man tries to dump Antonio, our anti hero, into a rock crusher (getting an innocent co worker instead) and ends up being thrown off a cliff. This makes Antonio even more bitter against the mob, who had killed his wife over some inner family business. He's on parole for carrying heroin (they used him as a fall guy to distract the cops from a bigger shipment) and the cops want him to help them gather evidence, but he doesn't play that snitch stuff. He starts a trucking business, but the mob interferes and murders one of his friends. Another mob guy gets killed at the funeral by a guy who wants to work with Antonio. Antonia has a file incriminating all the mob leaders that will be released if he dies, so the mob is over a barrel, and Antonio's helper proves to be a little too psychopathic, and almost carves up a gangster's son they kidnapped. The conflicts between Antonio and the mob inevitably lead up to some shooting. Plenty of action even though the plot isn't really all that enthralling. As for the obvious question "What in the hell does that title mean?" I'm sorry, but I still have no clue. But I bet the strangeness of it probably dragged a few people into the theater in hopes of finding out, so I guess it makes sense on that level, anyway. On DVD (shitty print!) as Mafia Connection.

Black Moon Rising (C, 1985) Tommy Lee Jones is a big time thief who steals a computer disk. When some thugs come after him for it, he secretes the disk in an experimental car called The Black Moon. It can go over 300 miles an hour, runs on water (by processing the hydrogen out of it), and basically appears to be a Lamborghini that somebody bondo'ed all the character out of. Problem is, someone promptly steals the Black Moon, and Tommy's disk is still in it, and it's his ass if he doesn't recover it. Of course, that's not going to be easy or we wouldn't have much of a movie... not that we do, anyway. There's a decent cast Robert Vaughn, William Sanderson, Bubba Smith, Linda Hamilton, and Fear's lead singer Lee Ving with his hair grown out and a suit on that still somehow fail to hold your attention, and it was co scripted by John Carpenter, yet it's still pretty mundane. Not awful enough to avoid, not good enough to seek out.

Trailer available here.

Black Sun : The Nanking Massacre (C, 1995) aka Hei tai yang Nan Jing da tu sha, Men Behind the Sun 4, Black Sun Sequel of sorts to the very, very infamous Men Behind The Sun, depicting more Japanese war atrocities. Occupying Japanese forces commit hideous acts against the Chinese city of Nanking. The Japanese command declares a "killing competition" to encourage the execution of as many civilians as possible, and claim that all Chinese women are "comfort women," free to be raped by Japanese soldiers. Use of action historical photographs and film footage is intercut to add an uncompromising sense of authenticity to the proceedings, which are both historical dramatization and propaganda (there's even a scene with a Japanese soldier ripping up an American flag to outrage viewers in the States, too. Those World War II era Japanese bastards!) There's lots of hatefulness and mass killing, but it's not as focused on gore as Men Behind the Sun, limiting the real nastiness to a few incidents, such as a pregnant woman being bayoneted in the belly and the fetus pulled out and held up (the DVD company used this picture for a full page ad in Fangoria! Talk about crass), a baby being thrown into a vat of boiling water, some decapitations, and burning bodies. There's a subplot about an uncle trying to keep a couple of kids safe during the massacre, but mostly it's without any real plot beyond showing how cruel and depraved the Japanese were. It's pretty well made but, needless to say, not too pleasant.

Blonde in Bondage (B&W, 1957) aka Blondin i fara, Narkotika, Nothing But Blondes. A newspaper reporter is sent to Sweden to report on "Swedish morals" and finds a pair of sisters who are all too eager to teach him all about 'em. After a minor car accident he meets a show business couple, Krueger the manager and his singer, Mona Mace, who acts a little strange. He learns that she has a drug addiction that Krueger is using to control her. The reporter decides to help Mona out and ends up wandering sleazy streets full of drunks and prostitutes, looking for a dive called The Golden Calf, where he tries unsuccessfully to strong arm info. This doesn't work so he goes to a cabaret club where Mona's doing her song and strip act (just down to some fancy lingerae it ain't that kind of movie) and gets himself beaten up by Krueger and some hoodlums, who cause a lot more trouble before the reporter can make any real headway toward helping Mona out. It's tame but probably pretty exploitative for its time, and manages to look really cheap even though most of it was actually filmed in Sweden. There's some decent action and good sleazy locations, but it could have benefitted from some tightening up; at 90 minutes it's a little overlong. Pretty obscure doesn't appear in any movie reference books I've seen. The final chase through a funhouse is pretty interesting.

Blood of the Beast
( C & B&W, 2003) After massive biological warfare in 2012, one third of mankind is killed and nearly everyone rendered sterile, so the human race has to reproduce itself via cloning. Nineteen years later, problems start showing up in the first strand of clones; they go nuts and start biting people like George Romero zombies. And that's basically it, which would be okay except the movie doesn't do much with the concept. They don't show many attacks (basically just some campers and a compound of religious nuts) and they didn't seem to be very interested in the possibility for gore, either -- there's just a little blood unenthusiastically dripped around and that's about it. And it's not scary in the least. So, what you end up with is a lot of attempts to be clever with style that come across as wankage (the film turns into a silent movie at the end, after trying hard to look like the Blair Witch Project) and substance is kept to a minimum. It's not badly made overall and gets points for trying to be different on a budget of zero, but fizzles because it would have been so easy to make it so much better.

Couldn't find any video on it, but here's Exodus doing "Strike of the Beast." Completely unrelated, but it's good!

Brain from Planet Arous
(B&W, 1957) John Agar and his buddy go into the desert to investigate some radioactivity, and in a cave they find a giant brain with eyes named Gor. Gor possesses Agar's body and uses him to enact his will on Earth. This gives Agar freaky shiny black eyes (contact lenses that were very uncomfortable, but Agar was a trooper) and super powers: he can make things blow up just by thinking about it. That'd be a bad power to have, just because of the "hippopotamus factor" (you know, if somebody tells you, "Don't think of a hippopotamus!" then that's all you can think about. Well, try to not think of "blowing up everything I see" sometime, if you're John Agar). Another alien brain named Vol shows up, hunting for Gor, who is a criminal on Arous. Vol possesses the body of a dog to be able to surprise attack Gor. Meanwhile, Gor is getting off using Agar's body to cheerfully blow up airplanes and make out with Agar's girlfriend. But he has much bigger ambitions; he gathers leaders from all the major countries on the planet (promising that if they don't show up he'll level their capitol cities) and lets them know that he's enslaving Earth so he can use humans to wage war on his home planet. Agar's great over the top performance and some funny floating giant brain effects (did they even think about trying to, I dunno, hide the wires in some way?) make this one classic.

Broken Skull
(C, 2000?) When a Chicago gangster finds his wife cheating on him, he hangs her and crushes her lover's head in a vice. Twenty years later a repairman doing some work finds the guy's busted skull hidden in the basement wall of a building, then promptly rams a brick wall with his head until he's mangled. But then he gets up off the autopsy table, dripping brains, and goes on a killing spree. One guy gets stabbed while he's peeing and starts pissing blood... pretty sick. The undead killer's family, friends, and a lady cop try to figure out what happened to him. Meanwhile, the killings continue: a guy's bashed with a rock and has his head crushed by a train, another's killed with a drill. The detective discovers a reanimation virus was produced as part of something called "The Headcrusher Project." Then there's a crazy Cambodian lady who married the G.I. who murdered her family just so she can torture him every night. No -budget, shot -on -video horror isn't as bad as some, but even though the first half is fairly engaging, it starts to run out of gas after that. The gore effects are weak, but at least they're edited so fast that you don't get a very good look at 'em (use your pause button and you'll end up laughing), so they're still effective enough, which is good because the movie relies pretty heavily on them. Not bad among shot on video horror flicks, but that's kind of damning with faint praise. Available super cheap as part of the Night Chills 10 movie set.

Bug (C, 1975) William Castle's last production is a sci fi/horror film based on The Hephaestus Plague by Thomas Page. An earthquake opens a deep crack in the earth, from which emerge three inch armored cockroach/beetles that eat carbon, which they acquire by setting fire to things by rubbing their legs together. Due to pressure differences on the surface of the earth, the dangerous insects are quickly dying off, but entomologist Bradford Dillman is so intrigued by them that he can't let that happen, and unwisely finds a way to breed them, creating a new generation that eats meat and are intelligent enough to communicate by spelling words with their bodies. And they're intent on mutating further... It's unique among nature on the loose movies since these bugs not only bite but also burn their victims, which include several people and a cat. The special effects are pretty impressive, and the movie's well done and holds your attention, and will probably even scare you if you have an insect phobia. The climax is a little disappointing, though. This used to show up frequently on the USA Network, before they turned into complete crap.

Burn 'Em Up Barnes (B&W, 1934) This 12- chapter Mascot serial is one of the most action -packed old things you're likely to find. In fact, the cliffhanger endings are almost anticlimactic, given that the plot is a constant string of one tough scrape after another, with Murphy's Law in full effect for our heroes. Young Marjorie Temple is trying to run a small transportation business, but unscrupulous car manufacturer Lymon Warren and his henchman, Mr. Drummond, want to buy her land because they know there's oil on the property. Top race driver "Burn ?Em Up" Barnes (they actually call him "Burn 'Em Up" as a name throughout) and his teenage sidekick Bobbie help her out, battling Drummond and his hoard of badguys. Drummond frames Barnes for murder but Bobbie has film that proves Barnes's innocence, so they fight over the film for a while, with it changing hands repeatedly during one fight and high speed backroads chase after another. Then they fight over a signed confession for a few chapters, and then they try to wreck the school bus that Marjorie needs for her business. Barnes saves the day by getting a job as a movie stuntman, which leads to still more hairy situations. The plot quickly becomes superfluous to the action, but it delivers plenty of that, with only a few cheats on the cliffhangers. Solid stuff for serials fans or those who like watching antique vehicles going full tilt.

Bury Me An Angel
(C, 1971) The day this comes out on DVD I'll be a happy fella, 'cuz I live in fear of wearing out my VHS. In fact, one of the reasons I'm considering buying a DVD recorder is to transfer this to DVD -R.
(Since this review was written, it has come out on DVD as part of the Best of the B's Collection 1, but I'm still not thrilled because my 2nd-gen VHS dub looks better! Somebody needs to put out a more primo disc of this one.) Dixie Peabody is Dag Bandy, a six foot tall shotgun wielding biker chick riding the vengeance trail on a chopped hog, gunning for the scooter trash who blew away her brother. If it wasn't for an icky psuedo Joe Dirt hairdo, she'd be just about perfect. Dag is emotionless and ice water veined, fixing up her bike and thinking of nothing but revenge. When she's ready she loads up the ?gauge and hits the road with two maile bike buddies and some cool suede pants (which reminds me Hannie Caulder needs to be on DVD, too). For some reason, the suede pants usually turn into other kinds of pants whenever she gets off the bike, but I think they just shot all of the road scenes at once and we're not supposed to notice that. So forget I said anything. On the way to the final vengeance, she intimidates a midget deputy, hustles pool, trashes a bar full of rednecks (or at least causes it), skinny-dips, meets a mystical woman living in a ghost town, has lots of flashbacks of her brother's head exploding, does a lot of riding to a fuzz rock soundtrack, and meets modern artist Dan "Grizzly Adams" Haggerty. Then she scares the hell out of a high school principal and his secretary, has a love scene with Dan, and finally catches up to the little weasel, where some dark secrets are revealed. This is possibly the only biker movie directed by a woman, Barbara Peeters, who later gave us the original Humanoids From The Deep. So, the film has a feminist slant Dag's male compadres are definitely subservient and look to her as the Alpha. Humanoids from the Deep has a feminist statement, too the monsters actually do the raping that was just implied in all those '50's flicks. Barbara Peeters is a sneaky (and possibly brilliant) woman. This one moves pretty fast and Dixie has loads of screen presence even if her acting leaves a little to be desired. One of the best biker flicks, and sports classic poster ad copy that Quentin Tarantino did a lousy job cribbing from in Kill Bill "I'm gonna get my gun and... BURY ME AN ANGEL. She took on the whole gang! A howling hellcat humping a hot steel hog on a roaring rampage of revenge!" Dixie only showed up in one other movie, Night Call Nurses, which is a shame because she could've been drive -in gold with the right push behind her. And if I ever have a daughter, I hope somebody stops me before I name her "Dag," because I'd be tempted.

Go, Dag, Go!


A Reason to Live... til at least December, anyway...

Rejoice, humans... Raise your voices up in praise... 'cuz Scratch Acid is doin' a reunion tour!!!

Scratch Acid was a psych-punk / noise-rock ensemble from Austin, Texas in the mid-80s known for the wacky antics of frontman David Yow + the crazed rhythms of drummer Rey Washem + bassist David Sims (+ for having handed out LSD to the crowd prior to at least one of their shows...). Yow + Sims were to later be half of the Jesus Lizard, easily one of the best bands to play American underground rock ever. And with Scratch Acid were those raucous musical seeds sown...

College pal Matt hepped me to this band in 1987 + I've been a fan ever since. Of course, they'd disbanded by then... d'oh... so here's my chance to see 'em play! And yours, too!

Scratch Acid 
2011 Tour Dates
Scratch Acid: (UPDATED 24 Sept with ADDED DATES)

  • 11-01 Atlanta, GA - Variety Playhouse
  • 11-02 Carrboro, NC - Cat's Cradle
  • 11-04 Washington, DC - 9:30 Club
  • 11-05 Philadelphia, PA - Union Transfer
  • 11-07 New York, NY - Webster Hall
  • 11-09 Boston, MA - Paradise
  • 11-10 Montreal, Quebec - Il Motore
  • 11-11 Toronto, Ontario - Lee's Place
  • 11-12 Chicago, IL - Metro
  • 12-08 Dallas, TX - Trees
  • 12-09 Houston, TX - Fitzgerald's
  • 12-10 Austin, TX - Emo's East
  • 12-13 Los Angeles, CA - El Rey Theatre
  • 12-14 San Francisco, CA - The Fillmore
  • 12-16 Portland, OR - Crystal Ballroom
  • 12-17 Seattle, WA - Neumos


    To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak The Truth

    Welcome to an all-documentary edition of Uncle Z's movie reviews! All the following purport to be collections of true actual-factual materials, and in some cases they are. In others, though, eeeeehhhhh, not so much.

    American Grindhouse
    (C, 2010) The history of sleazy exploitation films and the way they were distributed is charted in this well-done documentary. If you're a real fan of this kind of movie then you're not likely to find much that's any big news to you, but you'll still enjoy seeing clips from hundreds of these movies and hearing interviews from filmmakers like John Landis, Hershell Gordon Lewis, Larry Cohen, Joe Dante, Walter Hill, and others. An important part of your education as a worthwhile human being if you're not familiar with such films.

    Trailer available here.

    American: The Bill Hicks Story
    (C, 2010) If you're a fan of genius, ground-breaking comedian Bill Hicks, then you've probably read biographies on him and everything in this documentary will be familiar to you. Hicks is one of those figures that those of us who are into him are reaaaaally into him, so we tend to want to know everything we can. But, even if you're familiar with the info, it should still be a very welcome and overdue production, covering the full extent of Hicks' career and featuring segments from his friends and family. Much of the film is animated from photos, and it's effective but overused. There are enough clips from Hicks' act to provide a fair representation (and hopefully spark any newbies to seek out more), and the second DVD contains some more rare clips. Very informative, well done, and a must for fans (which should be everybody).

    Bigfoot: The Mysterious Monster
    (C, 1976) aka Mysterious Monsters. One of those Schick Sun Classics documentaries from the '70's that you either love or hate. I love 'em, and this is one of the best. Peter Graves narrates the exploration of the existence of Bigfoot. He starts out talking about the Loch Ness Monster and showing photos and films which he claims proves Nessie's existence conclusively. This neatly dispensed with (and if you disagree with him you just SHUT UP because it's REAL, it JUST IS!), Graves interviews witnesses and scientists, and numerous Bigfoot encounters are re-created by a guy in a pretty good Bigfoot costume. We're shown plaster casts of footprints which Graves says should be proof enough ("Footprints should be permitted to establish the existence of a creature if fingerprints can be used to hang one!"). He also presents audio tapes of Bigfoot babble, and consults psychic Peter Hurkos. The climax is, of course, the Patterson film, which graves accepts as proof, case closed, and goes on to determine what kind of animals they are. The science here is specious, but it's entertaining if you're interested in the whole cryptozoology thing, and it has a definite '70's charm. "Bigfoot is as much a part of our life as the gorilla or the Loch Ness Monster."


    Whole thing starts here:

    Big Rig (C, 2007) Fascinating documentary on truckers that will change the way you look at the trucks you share the highway with. Dozens of truckers are featured talking about their business and how tough it is to make a living doing it, even though the service they provide the country is crucial; it'd be hard to find anything in your house that wasn't carried on a truck at some point, yet hardly any citizen gives the job the respect it deserves. The truckers interviewed are male, female, black, white, young, old... but most are very likeable and all worth listening to, and even though they don't spend a whole lot of time with any one driver, the filmmakers have chosen their footage well and you get a good sense of the personality of each subject, and therefore what seems like a good sampling of the profession as a whole. The DVD has lots of extras, too. Recommended.


    Whole thing starts here:

    Blonde Captive (B&W, 1931) Silent anthropological footage narrated by Lowell Thomas; I hope they paid him well to read off all the horribly strained, laborious jokes and the racist comments. Explorers search for evidence of surviving Neanderthals in Australia and the South Sea islands. Mostly they check out which girls are pretty and which aren't (it's clear they don't like black girls). A lot of dancing natives are shown no matter where they go. They find a lot of sea turtles, steal their eggs, and butcher one of the turtles so they can watch it's ripped-out heart keep beating. They watch a boomerang-maker and then there are boomerang jokes for the rest of the movie. A dugong is butchered and its severed head examined. A chief knocks out a boy's front teeth as a rite of manhood. And they finally find an ugly guy and declare him to be a Neanderthal. Plus they discover a blonde white woman who got shipwrecked there years before and became part of the tribe; she doesn't seem to be a "captive" since she has no desire to go back with them. Interesting, but badly dated mondo-type film full of embarrassing racism.

    Death: The Ultimate Mystery
    (C, 1975) Speculative documentary in which a guy (the voice of Cameron Mitchell and the glimpsed-from-the-back body of a guy who looks like Muammar Gaddafi) has a near-death experience and becomes fascinated with death and what may lie beyond it. He goes around interviewing people and visiting sites like the tombs of Egypt and the mummies of Guanajuato. He talks to people who've supposedly died and visited Heaven or Hell, and sits in as people recount past lives under hypnosis, and then goes on to verify details they've given as "proof" of an afterlife. It's all very scam-laden and pretty dull, and isn't any kind of "Faces of Death" -- there's nothing graphic in it other than a couple of slightly-gruesome war photos. It all comes across as phony and manipulative, and is unconvincing as a "documentary" when the conclusion is so obviously contrived.

    Hearts and Minds (C, 1974) Powerful documentary on the failure of the Vietnam war is packed with images that have become iconic (an execution in the street, a little girl running naked down the road after being napalmed). It's almost bizarre to see how wrong-yet-convinced some people were about what was happening now that time has added perspective. You see people nobly motivated to do wrong things by what they honestly felt was patriotism. At the time this was a controversial, possibly-troublemaking film, but time has borne things out and now it's more of a moment in time... and maybe a document that says mankind never really learns anything, because we're still making the same mistakes, chasing the same delusions. Lots of footage of bombings and testimonials from soldiers (both pro- and con-) are mixed with what American officials say and what Vietnamese villagers say.

    I Am Comic (C, 2010) Documentary on stand-up comedy interviews dozens of comics to analyze what drives comics to do what they do (it's apparently another drug), how comedy works, and what happens when it doesn't work. Much of the film centers on Rich Schiedner, a big comic from the 80's (you'll remember him when you see him) who gave it up for years and got the bug again while helping with the documentary. His new material's pretty weak but he gets by on being really likeable; you want him to do well so you pull with him through some bum jokes. You see a ton of comics but don't spend enough time with any of them to learn much about them, but you do get to see Carlos Mencia finally admit he's a joke thief. No major insight but very interesting if you're interested in the stand-up thing.

    Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown (C, 2008) Very informative and entertaining documentary on the life and work of H. P. Lovecraft, edited together from interviews with Lovecraft experts and writers and filmmakers who were influenced by him. It's interesting just to see these writers, some of whom are favorites of mine, such as Peter Straub, Ramsey Campbell (who's very engaging and bounces up and down when he talks), and Caitlin R. Kiernan. Other interviewees include S. T. Joshi, Neil Gaiman, John Carpenter, Guillermo Del Toro, and others, all informative. Stephen King is sorely missed in this. The documentary runs about 90 minutes, but the DVD includes over 70 minutes of other interview excerpts which are as interesting as the rest, so it's really nearly three hours of knowledgeable discussion, which should make any Lovecraft fan very happy.


    Whole thing:

    (C, 1972) Expose of the evangelist racket with famed preacher Marjoe Gortner, who'd been preaching since age four even though he never believed a bit of it. He explains that it's all showmanship geared toward getting the rubes in the audience to give more money (which he gets by the sackful). The whole tent revival thing is shown to be little different from a traveling carnival, running emotional con games to make as much cash as possible. Marjoe made the movie because he wanted to get out of the racket (and he did go on to act in a lot of low-budget horror and sci-fi movies) and was feeling a little guilty about fooling people, but he doesn't come across as a bad guy, really, or to have contempt for his audience -- he's just an entertainer providing a specialized form of entertainment (which is all religion really is), ad the audience is getting the good show and the catharsis they were paying for, even if it's not sincere. People are only fooling themselves with religion, so it's hard to have much scorn for Marjoe when he's helping them do what they want done. You have to wonder if a lot of the audience isn't just playing a role, too, because it's fun to be part of the show. The film would be better if they spent more time talking to Marjoe, because it's too padded with "performance footage"; even though it's interesting to watch audience members acting crazy and flopping around in spiritual fits (doing their own acts, methinks), it gets old after a while. Overall, though, this is nicely made and worth watching. Glory je to Besus!

    Mau-Mau (C, 1955) Exploitative documentary on the efforts to stop a violent secret society that was set up to resist white cotton growers in Kenya. The Mau-Mau terrorists raid both white farms and native Kikuyu villages which have refused to join the Mau-Mau cult. When captured, the Mau-Mau force the natives to swear to a magic oath that will result in a terrible curse if they disobey the laws of Mau-Mau, which includes being sent to kill people. Since the natives believe in the magic, they dare not break the oath. Wisely, the anti-Mau-Mau faction works out their own counter-oath to break the curse. Mau-Mau atrocities are documented, complete with burned and hacked corpses that are pretty gruesome for the time. The natives don't get great treatment from the whites, either, however; they're pushed around, their villages are bulldozed, they're overcrowded, and they're fed cheap, non-nutritious balls of wet cornmeal and used as labor. And, of course, Christianity is pushed on them, which isn't a lot different from what the Mau-Mau were doing. But they also help them develop their industry and fight off the also-oppressive-but-much-more-violent Mau-Mau thugs. This was originally made as a sociological-type documentary and got nowhere, but sleaze merchant Dan Sonney put it on the exploitation circuit, playing up the nudity (of which there's very little) and "sex rites" (none) and thus finding an audience. NBC's Chet Huntley narrates and gives it extra legitimacy.

    Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project (C, 2007) John Landis directed this documentary on famed insult comic Don Rickles, and it's more of a celebration than anything meant to be informative; Rickles' past and career is discussed but more as incidental stories than any carefully-charted-out timeline. Lots of people in the stand-up business and from Rickles' movie career give soundbites, such as Clint Eastwood, James Caan, Sarah Silverman, Jay Leno, Billy Crystal, Joan Rivers, Bob Newhart, Chris Rock, and others. They talk about working with Rickles and how he's actually a really nice guy. Most interesting, of course, are the clips with Rickles himself talking, clips from roasts and The Tonight Show, and bits from his current nightclub act. It's good but leaves you wanted to see more of Rickles' material, which is hilarious.

    Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue (C, 2010) Documentary covering the history of horror films from the silent days to modern torture porn, nothing the most important films and what motivates people to make and to see these films. For any real horror fans there won't be much new here, but seeing our favorite thing discussed by the likes of Roger Corman, John Carpenter, George Romero, Larry Cohen, and others, is lots of fun, and it'll serve as a teaching aid for anyone who isn't familiar with the genre, if you can get them to watch it.

    The Real Cannibal Holocaust (C, 1974) aka Nuova Guinea, L'isola dei Cannibali. Gruesome Italian mondo documentary on tribes in New Guinea and their bizarre, gory, and all-too-often incredibly stupid practices. The tribesmen get extreme piercings and crude tattoos, jam sharp clusters of grass up their noses to incite bad "purifying" nosebleeds, and practice cannibalism (one scene starts to depict this but abruptly cuts away, apparently due to missing footage, which is frustrating in a movie promising such scenes). We do get shown the bludgeoning and butchering of a dozen or so pigs, which is pretty tough to watch. Then we see wedding ceremonies, ritual scarification, and primitive mummification practices in which corpses are smoked. A couple of tribes war over a fake battle enacted for tourists, which got out of hand. A widow has a finger chopped off as a mourning rite. Despite the exploitative English title, there's not really a "cannibal holocaust" -- the cannibalism is implied and, I suspect, misrepresented. Despite that, this is a worthy find for fans of mondo movies or those wanting to see real-life gore (which is tamer than the stuff shown in its infamous fictional namesake). Scenes of maggot-eating later showed up (in a much-degenerated condition) in the cheap rip-off Death Faces, and scenes of a bloated corpse being given a funeral (also degenerated as if filmed off a screen) were inserted into the weirdly-padded Night of the Zombies, aka Hell of the Living Dead.

    Shoah (C, 1985) The title means "annihilation." This is a massive nine-hour documentary on the Holocaust by Claude Lanzmann, who doesn't use any atrocity footage, just talks with people who lived through it and visits the sites of the camps as they were at the time of filming. He interviews Jews who survived the camps (including the only two survivors of Chelmno), Polish people who lived in the area and witnessed what was going on, and a couple of Germans who were camp guards. Those last two were cheated into appearing, filmed with hidden cameras after being promised their identities would be kept secret. Lanzmann lies to their faces, but it's hard to have much sympathy for them. Lanzmann interviews one of the only survivors of Chelmno, who was a little boy at the time, and all the locals still remember him because the Germans used to get him to sing military songs. Some of his Christian friends, standing with him in front of a church, enthusiastically explain to the cameras that God punished the Jews for killing Christ. The survivor stands among them, enduring it; he's endured worse. A barber (who reminds me of Eli Wallach a bit) at first seems unflappable but breaks down crying as he recounts cutting the hair of victims (some of whom were friends and neighbors) as they went into the gas chambers. You hear eyewitness accounts of children and old people being taken to the "infirmary" where they were shot in the neck and thrown into a body pit. Again and again it's emphasized that the Germans took great pains to keep the Jews from knowing what was going to happen to them, because a panic might lead to chaos or resistance, which would slow down the efficiency of the death factories they were running. They explain that in the gas chambers the Zyklon-B would rise from the floor and the Germans would turn the lights out in the chamber, and the people would climb on top of each other to get to the better air. The ones on the bottom would be crushed in a puddle of blood, shit, and vomit. Even though just hearing these things are horrifying enough, I still recommend supplementing this with Night and Fog or PBS's Memory of the Camps to get a real look at what happened; as detailed and dogged as Lanzmann is at demanding details, you won't fully get it until you see those piles of bodies, which Lanzmann foregoes in favor of a lot of footage of trains. He also visits the sites of the camps as they were at the time of filming; Chelmno looks like an empty field, and Treblinka is just a few huge abandoned stone gas chambers like giant mushrooms in a field. The cameras go into the Auschwitz ovens, and follow train tracks. In a chilling moment an old conductor makes a cut-throat sign as the train pulls into Treblinka, just as he used to do to try to warn the Jews of their fate there. The last hour or so deals with resistance fighters in the Warsaw ghetto. It's a grueling film, both in subject matter and in length, but an important one.

    If you wanna try sitting at your computer for 9 hours, go for it...

    And now, just a lil' note: next month is Halloween month, and, while this is a blog about nothin' and everything, you may have noticed we tend to have a fondness for horror. So, there are plans to post some original horror short stories here for Halloween, so you can look forward to that. And I encourage all our readers to try to get a horror short story written for Halloween, too. Writing is good for you! So, do it! I've got about half of one written, and it may end up being kinda long. If it works like I want it to, though, it'll be creepy as dreaming a rotting clown is crawling around your bedroom floor in the dark and waking up to find muddy hair and teeth all over the place. Yeah!

    Meanwhile, for much shorter writing, you can follow me on Twitter, and Kicker of Elves as well, and we will tell you funny stuff, promise! Or at least we'll try... I flub a few now and then, or so Favstar leads me to believe.

    Newt Gingrich dry-humping a dead Philip K. Dick

    ... the post title is the shortest review I could write for this novel that actually imparts any kind of information about it...
    I saw the newest Dan Simmons novel - Flashback - at the local bookseller a few weeks ago + pickt it up for my wife ( + me, too, eventually). We're both long-time fans of his, back to Song of Kali which was incredibly disturbing + uncomfortable (great debut horror novel), so I thought she'd be thrilled, esp since the cover blurb promised a dystopic future-shocker...

    And it does read like Newt Gingrich grudge-fuckt Philip K. Dick's remains til a novel poppt out nine months later. The PKD-flavored future here includes mandatory armed service (with our conscripted teens rented out to India + Japan to fight their expansionist wars overseas), violent teenage gangs (who then relive their thug lives thru the ubiquitous memory-drug flashback), a Global Caliphate that has engulfed the Middle East + Europe (+ hit Israel with a multiple nuke attack) + has a major foothold in the US, new Jewish concentration camps (see, there's this Global Caliphate...), an active Mexican reconquista movement to take back the Southwest from the US, an independent (+ evidently rather white) Republic of Texas... So far, this is par for the course for a depressing + paranoid PKD-styled view of the possible near-future, but for the inclusion of Islam (PKD was a bit too focused on his personal, paranoiac spin on Christianity to spend much time on Islam back then + he ain't writing anything new since he died...). Well, that and the pervasive + disappointing Islamophobia + Obama-bashing. There's literally a line about how we trusted our young new president back at the beginning of this century + he led us down this road. There are also jabs ( + worse) at global warming, health-care reform + more hot-button topics of our day.

    So our hero, former cop Nick Bottom, is a flashback junkie who's abandoned his life (+ son) to mourning his wife's death in the throes of flashback, which allows users to relive their memories, til he's hired by a Japanese political-bigwig to solve a 6-year-old murder that he was the original investigating detective back when his life was OK, which adventure leads him to details about the death of his wife, a chance to reunite with his son (whose own adventures are pretty interesting) + an opportunity to discover some heavy truths about this brave new world he's living in. And it's an interesting world, except for the overbearing editorializing about how Obama's gonna lead us into the downward spiral that destroys the US as a world-power.

    I really wanted to enjoy Flashback, but the politics that pervade this novel just continued to distract from what would have otherwise been a great read...I would've included a slightly-backhanded recommendation of this book for fans of the political Right, but we all know that most of those folks can't read ( + the ones who can just don't, cuz Fox News is on...).

    To sum up: fuck your politics, dude... just write!


    Earth Strikes the Bottletree Cafe!

    ...which sounds only a little more apocalyptic than it actually was...

    What it was: Earth on tour to support their newest release,
    the excellent + atmospheric Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light (Pt. 1)...

    So, Earth's line-up this time around was Dylan Carlson on guitar, with cellist Lori Goldston, longtime collaborator Adrienne Davies on drums, and Angelina Baldoz on bass... (sorry, no pix from the show, cuz neither of us that attended had a camera worth a shit on us).

    Surprisingly, the volume was not overpowering, though as songs progressed the dynamics certainly included some increase in volume that workt quite nicely to help with the songs swelling to epic proportions...

    If you haven't gotten the chance to check em out yet, do so at your earliest opportunity! Like, now, motherfucker! Even at a reasonable volume, this is some trance-inducing stuff... not so much drone as spaghetti-western instru-metal, played in slow-motion...

    Along with a few others, the setlist included:
      Blackwater Slide (a cover of a tune by *Ann Riggs*?  - sorry, I wasn't listening so well to words when they started... had me musick ears on!)
      Old Black
      Father Midnight (both from the new one)
      The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull (from the 2008 album of the same name).

    Click here to watch an earlier show of theirs at the same venue here in Birmingham, memorialized on our local PBS station on their We Have Signal (Live at the Bottletree) series. (Also archived on the series' site are shows featuring Tortoise, Pelican, Man or Astroman? + tons more... check em out!)


    More Miracles in Modern Flooring/ Gropin' with the J. Geils Band/ All The Boys Love Thundering Fungus

    If you've been following me on Twitter like you're supposed to, you've probably seen the icon next to my handle and thought, "What is that delightfully stylish orange thing in the square next to all the charming and witty things that this fellow keeps saying?" Well, if you're a frequent follower of this blog (and our stats say there may not be any such thing) then you probably remember this post which explains all about that. And if not, I just linked it, so I saved you years of faithful diligence!

    Yes, Jesus lives in my floorboard. Since I look a little like Jesus (or at least Vlad The Impaler without the funny hat, which I think is basically the same thing) I figured that was an appropriate icon to use. And I'm gonna stick with it 'cuz I've figured out there aren't many orange icons on Twitter. It makes my stuff easy to spot in a stream, and that's handy if you need a pooping-zombie-midget joke in a hurry! Y'know, like, if your Grandma wants to hear one or something. Anyway, this week I discovered that something even more sinister dwells in my flooring. I had to move a rug to help some guys bring in a freezer to replace the old one that had the door held shut by duct tape, and lo and behold, I saw what had been hiding below that rug. And it was...


    Click it and it'll get really big (or at least that's what I keep telling the ladies! (see why you should follow me on Twitter now?! Jokes like that! Wheeee!))

    Now, if that doesn't fill you with terror such that your butthole puckers, then your butthole has no soul.

    He's maybe not quite as clear as Jesus Parting the Waters, but it's still eerie. He's got a lonnnnnng funhouse mirror chin and chubby cheeks, with Emmet Kelly whiskers around the clown-paint around his mouth, and he's got a big, sinister, smirky kind of smile, there. His clown nose is kinda smooshed down under that, what is it, part of an inverted cross or something between his eyes? The burn-scar where a priest pressed one trying to exorcise his malevolent spirit? The eye on the left is all squinty, while the eye on the right is leering malevolently at ya from under his arched Jack-Nicholsonian clown-eyebrows. His forehead is even shaded almost perfectly.

    Anyway, I'm totally covering that thing back up with the rug 'cuz I'm tired of the vile shit that he whispers to me at 3 a.m. in that hoarse squeal of his.

    Anyway, I figured this week I'd just throw random shit at ya and try to make everyone happy. That always works out so well! First up, I was going through a drawer and found some old Super Rock magazines from the 70's. Super Rock was a sleazy trash mag that I mostly bought for articles on Kiss, but they covered lots of bands and also included smutty gossip from groupies. Amidst articles on bands nobody remembers, like Starz, Piper (one article on them included a photo of Bon Scott mis-identified as Billy Squier, whose name was also misspelled throughout), Deaf School, NRBQ, Player, Flame, Rex Smith, the Babys, etc. and other nobody-cares-anymore stuff like Rick Wakeman, Pat Travers, The Marshall Tucker Band, Peter Frampton, Johnny Winter, Hall and Oates, etc. I can probably mine these for more amusing pictures later on, but one picture of the J. Geils Band always struck me when I was a kid, because... what the fuck kind of band gropes each other?

    Hey, when your baby is the centerfold, I guess ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

    A few other funny things, while I'm scanning. I should get a Tumblr account for this junk, but, until I do, might as well put it here. Here's Tom Petty of the triangular head and mouth, ready "melt your jeans off," girls!

    And here he is sitting on some dude's lap. Good thing it's not a member of the J. Geils Band or he might be getting molester-ed.

    Ever wondered what Alice Cooper looked like sitting around at home in his shorts? Probably not, but you get to find out anyway:

    (And remember, all the ladies agree - Foghat is one handsome band!)

    Here's some of the groupie sleaze, with a rather nonsensical story about somebody or other - I *think* it's somebody in Rex Smith's group but the writing doesn't make it clear, probably to leave a litigation loophole:

    Anyway, enough of that, on to some other stuff. I was glad to see Kicker of Elves putting up some book reviews. I haven't read any Simmons since The Terror, which I thought was good, although kinda overlong. I'm hoping Igor's going to review Flashback, which I understand's pretty awful. Simmons is a good writer, but oh hell yeah he needs somebody to yank his chain when he goes past 300 pages or so. His best book is definitely Song of Kali, which is maybe his shortest. That one's a masterpiece, one of the best horror novels I ever read. But he also wrote Carrion Comfort, which was one of the worst pieces of shit ever slapped between two covers. He took an (overrated) short story he wrote and expanded it to 800-some pages, and it was fucking *excruciating.* Seldom have I hated a book as hard as I hated that one. So, he's a wildly-variable author. And apparently he's lost his goddamn mind and turned into some kind of Glenn Beckerhead, so I dunno how likely I'm gonna be to buy any more of his stuff. But, we'll see.

    I did read a good book lately, though, and you should seek this one out, monster kids...

    - Beth Massie (Berkley, 2007)
    Creepy old-school haunted house novel done with Massie's genius style has an artist, Charlene Myers, moving into her great-grandmother's dilapidated house in the Virginia backwoods to try to paint some family history before selling the place. She has enough trouble with her desperate financial situation and the decrepit conditions of the mouse-filled house, but soon discovers worse problems. She has reoccurring nightmares of a hag feeding her worms, hears noises in a boarded-up room, and deer and rabbits batter themselves to death at her door (and keep moving even after they're dead and burned). The townspeople fear her because her ancestor was a notorious witch, and the only friends she can find are an old lady who tends a graveyard and a lawyer/would-be-novelist with whom she forms a romance. The hauntings, witchcraft, and possession intensify and Massie comes up with some very chilling stuff that will get under your skin. There's Southern gothic atmosphere and a pervasive sense of dread that make this one a heavy hitter, despite a finale that could be stronger. Horror fans should seek out all of Massie's work.

    And, just to cover all the bases, here are a few movie reviews, in case I feel like slacking again next week or somethin'. I'm paid up, yo!

    Thundering Mantis (C, 1980) aka Mantis Fist Fighter, Dian Tang Lang, Mantis Fist Boxer. One of the best kung fu movies ever made, more for its powerful overall effect than the fighting (which is really good) or for the filmmaking (which is crude). The charismatic Leung Kar Yan (affectionately known to fans as "Beardy") stars as Ah Chi, a hot-tempered but good-natured fishmonger who's come up with a unique "shrimp fist" kung fu style by catching fast-swimming shrimp in a bucket all day. He stays in trouble with his boss, and forms a friendship with a street urchin scam artist and his kung-fu master grandfather. Local merchants are being picked on by a dangerous local gang, and Ah Chi can't stand to watch anyone being bullied so he gets in fights with them even though it's ill-advised. Sparring with the grandfather, Ah Chi picks up a little mantis fist technique, which gives him an edge against the gang. Eager to learn more, Ah Chi tries to get the grandfather to teach him, but he's refused until an old enemy of the grandfather almost kills him. Then Ah Chi starts training and the movie goes through a lot of diarrhea and drunken-child humor, but that's just setting you up for a plot turn so tragic that happy-go-lucky Ah Chi will be driven completely insane from the cruelty he'll witness. You won't be ready for it. The sudden change in tone is powerful and even though this film should be just another low-budget kung fu flick, it ends up packing a punch like few other movies I've ever seen. The audience is not prepared for what they're finally hit with, and the finale is crazy. Even revenge is just more tragedy because of what it costs our hero. It's like the end of a comedy getting replaced by the final act of a Shakespeare tragedy... Titus Andronicus, even. You're gonna be walloped. Grindhouse gold.

    You really should watch the whole movie and not cheat yourself of the effect the rest of the movie will set you up for, but if you just can't stand it, here's the end fight craziness. But it really won't mean as much to you if you haven't gotten to know these characters and understand how tragic this is.

    Cut Throats Nine (C, 1972) aka Condenados a Vivir, Bronson's Revenge Being remade even as we speak, this notorious spaghetti western provided viewers with "terror masks" so they could shield their eyes from the gore, which is of a Lucio Fulci level. But no mask could stop the extreme nihilism. An army sergeant is guarding a chain gang of seven of the most vicious killers in the country. In a very unwise move he's brought his daughter along for the ride. The wagon carrying them crashes and the sergean is stuck with trying to march them all the way to a fort that's three days distant, but the killers are all planning to give him an ugly death the first chance they get. When they discover that the chains connecting them are actually a disguised gold shipment, the predicament gets even worse. Also, the sergeant knows that one of these men -- he's not sure which - murdered his wife, and he wants revenge. Because this movie is so misanthropic and transgressive, it hits you with some heavy, unexpected surprises that I haven’t seen any other movie dare to pull off. The meanspiritedness of if should make it a standout even without the gore, but that’s there, too, and the effects are nasty, including smashed heads, slashed throats, bullet-shattered faces, burned corpses, hacked-off feet, stabbings (with protruding intestines), and, thanks to a hallucination sequence, there’s even some zombie action. And then there’s a meathook-hanging before Texas Chainsaw. As sick as the gore is, though, it’s the relentless nothing-but-evil-scumbags tone of this thing that’s likely to get to you. And the ending works perfectly. The music score bears an extreme similarity to the one Werner Herzog later used in his Nosferatu remake.

    Matango: The Fungus of Terror
    (C, 1963) aka Attack of the Mushroom People, Curse of the Mushroom People. This ain’t no Godzilla film. This Japanese variation on William Hope Hodgson’s “The Voice In The Night” will surprise you if you’re used to old Japanese horror films being goofy. A small yacht full of partiers is torn up in a storm, and the passengers and crew take shelter on a misty island. They find an old ship that’s been covered with a nasty fungus. An exploration of the island uncovers lots more fungus and huge mushrooms... some of which walk. And there are other former-humans on the island who’ve become knobby (and brittle) with fungus. After a while everyone’s so hungry that they start eating the mushrooms, which give them psychedelic visions and cause them to start sprouting. This one gets creepy quickly and only becomes more nightmarish as it goes, sporting amazing sets and special effects. Extremely weird and effective horror is a must-see for fans of scary stuff, this deserves a much bigger reputation and would make a great double feature with Goke: Body Snatcher From Hell.

    All The Boys Love Mandy Lane (C, 2006) Pretty highschooler Mandy Lane (pretty actress Amber Heard) is the object of every asshole teenage boy’s lust, but she’s not a shallow drunken druggie idiot like everyone around her, so, bad as they want her to, she doesn’t fully fit in. Mandy’s only real friend is an unpopular kid who became even more unpopular when he tricked a drunken jock into killing himself while showing off for Mandy. She’s trying to distance herself from him and make some new friends, so she accepts an invitation to a party on a ranch, and all the guys there are conniving to be the first one to get with her. She’s not very comfortable with what her new friends are doing, though, and she seems more interested in the mature ranch hand... even though he’s a bit strange. And then it becomes a slasher film and people start dying unpleasantly. This film has gathered a big reputation mostly by being unobtainable for some stupid reason. It hasn’t been released theatrically in America and there are no DVDs, but luckily the British BluRay discs will play on American BluRay players (although the special features are in PAL, so we’ll miss the trailer and Amber Heard interview, but you can see parts of those on YouTube). Even though this really isn’t all that surprising or different from most slasher films, it is very well done and involving, and Amber Heard’s performance is great (it’d be hard not to like her nice-girl-in-the-midst-of-a-bunch-of-assholes character, though). And the end does pack a big twisted twist for you. Deserves a legit American DVD release already and worth tracking down on UK BluRay in the meantime -- Amazon marketplace can hook you up fairly cheaply.

    (I hope the links work this time... something apparently has changed and fouled up the code on here and made getting anything done even more frustrating than usual... which, lately, is almost more than I'm willing to put up with anyway...)


    Behold, I Make Three Things Reviewed

    Summer of Night – Dan Simmons (1991)

    Dan Simmons needs an editor, or a tough-love friend, or a tough-loving-editor-friend, or some shit. He’s an inarguably great writer, but his books tend to drag on longer than the reign of that Libyan dictatortot whose name is too difficult and disagreed-upon to even bother spelling. The first Simmons book I read was The Terror, his partial-fiction account of an ill-fated Arctic expedition that, despite its length and occasional bloat, is a badass book weaving microbiologist-level historical detail, Inuit mythology, and ice. I plan to reread all 700-800 pages of it. Then I read Drood, Simmons’s what-if about the last days of Charles Dickens, the general unreliability of Wilkie Collins as a decent human being, and a haint named Drood who perhaps inspired Dickens’s unfinished final novel and who I, for some reason, picture as looking like Al Lewis after a head-on collision. The Drood concept is fantastic, and some of its scenes are masterfully rendered, but – and I really think Simmons tried to emulate Dickens here – the whole affair just takes too goddamned long. If it were maybe 300 pages – you know, if it had been edited AT ALL – I think it’d be wonderful. Hell, if someone would omit half the instances where Dickens says “My dear Wilkie,” the book might sink below 200 pages. Plus, I wanted to bludgeon the omnipresent Collins with a pipe wrench before the book even really got going; Simmons’s portrait of Collins’s delusional, jealous ass makes Salieri look like Deepak Chopra (BUT! Guillermo Del Toro is set to turn Drood into a feature film. Exciting!). And then I read A Winter Haunting, which, turns out, is a sequel to Summer of Night. It’s slimmer and less bloated than Terror and Drood, and it was a fun, quick read.

    Which brings me to Summer of Night, and it mainly just pissed me off. Simmons’s penchant for minute detail and complex plot skeins is on full display in this book, but I swear it seems like he got tired, oh, around page 499 and just brought the motherfucker to a deus ex machina-style close. All the crazy shit that goes on – an oozing ghost soldier, putrefacted holes in the ground, disappearing fatties, shadows that push against closet doors, preteen kids enduring lifetimes of physical and mental anguish in a few days – builds and builds and builds for hundreds of pages……and then none of it gets tied together except by small-town association with the too-desperately named Ashley-Montague family and their Borgia Bell that hung in the old school and apparently caused lots of the aforementioned crazy shit. How did the bell accomplish this? What was its psycho-mechanical makeup? To what end were kids killed or rendered undead? Whence that funnel-face the antagonists apparently got while on the attack? Simmons answers none of this, even obliquely. That old school gets pages and pages of exposition, which was fine when I thought it had a payoff, but it didn’t. Now, I’m no Grisham reader. I don’t need everything to fit together perfectly in the end. Ask anyone (affiliated with this blog) – I like messy, pomo, avant-garde stuff aplenty. Not that Scott Smith is any of those things, but I read The Ruins recently and liked it very much specifically because it has no tidy closing explanations, no overt ugly-Americanism, no global-warming-related mutations. The vines were evidently just evil motherfucking carnivores, period. Good. But killer vines in a relatively slim novel are worlds away from a long and intricate plot that endeavors to paint an entire community’s population in dusty, often mottled closeup. Imagine Stand by Me mashed up with Hellraiser minus the existence of anything substantive and creative enough to link the two – that’s what Summer of Night was for me. I reacted the same way to this book as I did to King’s It: a number of promising elements and a handful of genuinely scary moments that pussy out lazily in the end. (Remember that long sewer scene near the close of It? What the FUCK, Steve? A giant organism growing underground gives the town a patina of evil? Try mescaline next time, man. GOD.) Lest I leave the impression that the whole book sucks (it doesn’t), I should add that one scene in Summer of Night is so effective it almost makes up for the bullshit ending: page 339 in my copy, where Mike O’Rourke watches Father Cavanaugh get attacked by the ghost soldier in the cemetery. HO. LEE. SHIT. Otherwise, meh. Still, it’s better than…

    The Turn of the Screw – Henry James (1898)
    I started writing a long, verbose review of this novella, but fuck that. The Turn of the Screw, like all of Henry James’s writing, sucks donkey balls and is a waste of space, time, and synaptic firings.

    Eyes of the Mothman (2011)
    I love Netflix, but a pox on them for suggesting that I’d like this documentary about a West Virginia legend. It’s not offensively bad, per se – it’s just that you’d have to be dumber than a bag of hammers to believe in a seven-foot man-bird with glowing red eyes and a ten-foot wingspan. I want to believe in unexplained, potentially spooky phenomena, but, alas, I’m cursed with a thirst for evidence. Faith? I have faith in the nurturing bonds that exist between my wife, my kids, and myself. Everybody and everything else is gonna have to show me some state-licensed ID. Ghost stories are compelling, but how come they’re never accompanied by substantiated, repeatable, incontrovertible evidence? Paranormal activity is fascinating and thrilling, but how come the people involved always seem to have some flirtation (if not out-and-out prison sex) with mental illness? I think that UFOs almost mathematically have to exist, but where the fuck are they? Possession and exorcism? Awesome! Except that they’re inextricably tangled with religious belief, which by its very nature neither requires nor seeks any “proof,” and they too are subjects always seeming to involve the least psychologically stable people imaginable. Such is the predictable fate of this Mothman legend as portrayed onscreen. I’m going to sound like a shallow grump for saying this – fine, whatever – but one look at/hearing of the people in this film really kind of tells you all you need to know. Why are eyewitnesses in these accounts always rural folk who speak in garbled, unkempt dialects? I’m not saying that the filmmakers should also show crisply spoken Wall Street brokers, museum docents, and university chancellors telling spook stories (although, come to think of it, I’d watch that in a heartbeat, and to be fair Mothman does show interview clips with some reasonable-seeming academics who toe the legend’s party line) – I’m asking why the documentarians always seem to interview people from the same rungs of society and regions of the country. It’s either (a) supernatural phenomena by their essence/psychic energy cannot exist near large population centers and so occur in rural, sparsely populated areas, or (b) people from these sparsely populated areas tend to be less educated and more reliant on sentimentality and fantasy, thus providing a fertile breeding ground for nocturnal bumpings. Option (b) is easy and has the cold, slicing feel of Occam’s Razor; option (a) has two problems: (1) it’s just too damn convenient by half that all this shit would need to take place away from the very beings who could observe and document it, and, of course, (2) EVIDENCE – whether weird shit takes place in Times Square or in an abandoned West Virginia mining camp, someone, somewhere has got to find and show actual proof that the weird shit happened.

    I also, though, blame the documentarian for my failure to enjoy this film, because the fodder is there, including Native American folklore, curses brought on by 18th-century U.S. imperialism, toxic waste, and even the possibility that a larger-than-normal Sandhill Crane is the real red-eyed Mothman. All of this dissipates, sadly, in a stew of cheesy sound effects, even cheesier visual effects recreating alleged sightings, and interviews with eyewitnesses less credible even than the Burkittsville folk in The Blair Witch Project. You can see it streaming on Netflix, but I wouldn’t bother. (Trailer here.)

    By-the-by, I say smart-assed and politically liberal stuff on Twitter, and if you’re gonna look me up, the trip’ll be a waste without also visiting the always-brilliant Zwolf. Other people on Twitter are also hilarious and nasty.


    Short + Sweet: Recent Bad-Ass EPs + Singles

     So, here's a handful of recent EPs, singles + demos that I found to be particularly interesting...

    And So I Watch You from Afar

    7 Billion People All Alive at Once 

    :: This single remix of one of the better songs off the newest ASIWYFA Gangs, gets into a very trip-hoppy synth-heavy spot early on, but shifts to a more Errors-style mix of synth-pop + electronica + post-rock. Neat, but only a must-have if you already have + like the full-length... which you should give a listen.

    Arms and Sleepers


    A Man, A Plan, A Canal: Panama
    :: A pair of EPs of sumptuous sorta-loungy trip-hop. The full-length - The Organ Hearts - is really tasty + perfect for coming down...
    Cosmonauts Day

    Live Demos
    :: Russian space-rock-tinged post-metal. Nicely done demo tracks. Don't guess they'll be touring anywhere near the American South, though... dammit. For fans of Russian Circles + Red Sparowes.
    Empty Space Orchestra

    Dark Matters
    :: Heavy, distorted bass... tasty guitar-figures dancing over the top of some intense + stop-laden drumparts... and a saxophone. It's heavy, it's instrumental... Musically, it's somewhere, somehow, in a strange soundscape between Pelican and Mr. Bungle... Check it out + see what you think.
    Felipe Arcazas


    :: Two long desert-metal tracks, stone-y + psychedelic, with some lovely neck-pickup-toned leads. If you like Brant Bjork or Kyuss, this is waiting for you to crank up while you smoke up...

    There'll be some more cool musicks spotlighted here over the next few weeks as I start to put together my Best of 2011 recommendations, so peek back soon + let me know what you think of the stuff I've brought to your attention...