Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sketch - #24 (September 13th, 2014)


Dear Technology,

          I will hijack and ride
          your invisible inevitable paths and
          long undefined fingers
          unto both of our ends.

It all started with
pen on paper as my
back was up against
a wretched wheel.

            I have the ability
            to cast myself free
            of your crystalline
            digitized vortex
            and slavery suck hole

And I leap up from it
to sing myself hoarse
in an attempt
to urge others to
           do the same.

(September 13th, 2014)



Monday, September 15, 2014

Ramshackle Notes - #2

August 3rd, 2014

Sitting in the kitchen right now watching Jesse and Lowen eat their blueberry breakfast bars.  Teletubbies chimes and warbles off from the kitchen island counter as outside the sunlight gives off a tinted shine over all, leaves now showing the first signs of the fall season to come, the luster of this summer’s twinkle-green losing its emerald shine.
    I was talking to George a bit about how the Rolling Stones need to turn it in and Dylan is still cool despite his age.  George has since meandered back up to his room on the third floor, walls of which bedecked in memorabilia such as old advertisements and band flyers.  A tiny insect AM radio-scratch emanates from some secret location in the room.  
    Ash and the two oldest kids Zoey and Max are out and about running a few errands and paying Ash’s grand father Bryce a visit as well as a swim in his pool.
    I received a call from my mother this morning that my eldest cousin from Dallas TX died of complications he was having due to HIV.  He grappled with the horrors of this disease for the last twenty years or so and finally succumbed to it. I figure it’s about time I visit the Texas Trenhailes.  I’m flying there on Wed. and returning Friday evening.  I feel terrible for my uncle, my dad’s brother.  
    A few minutes ago, Lowen was making long wet sounding fart noises on his arm with his mouth before I gave him a handful of dry cheerios to eat.  Also gave both boys sippy cups with water.  Ash and the rest will be back shortly.  I want to get dressed for guests tonight, particularly Kendra will be coming over to record a Baberaham Lincoln’s song - Kendra and my wife Ashley as well as Alicia from The Love Technicians have formed a band called The Baberaham Lincolns and they have a gig on the 15th of this month.  Ash and I also need to set up a schedule for The Doneofits practice and will get on with that well before our CD release show on Aug. 22nd.  
    This last Friday night, I performed a solo gig at a desultory bar on 90th street just before the Fort street intersection.  Ninetieth is a bland four lane that smoothly curves through neighborhoods fronted by lost shopping mall parking lots and fast food restaurants.  In a midst these giant buildings is the Library Pub, a place where certain Benson music icons have taken a liking to recently and set up shop.  It was far from an excellent place for me to play but did little to stop me from doing as good a job as I could.  The sound guy was a stocky older gentleman filling in for Hoshaw who was absent.  All in all, a bland forgotten portion of the musical world, a place where classic rock hobbyists go to compare blues licks, a hopeless pointless matter, yet I feel no more hopeless or pointless for playing there.  Besides, they gave me 100 dollars cash and I’ve been driving around in my Chevy Cobalt with my glove box filling up with the change as I use small portions of the hundred dollars to buy latte’s when in need and lunches for my work.  Not a complete loss therefore.  

What Makes a Great Horror Movie?

What makes a great horror movie? Throughout the ages long essays have been written about and in defense of poetry, tragedy, verse, so I figure why not scribble a few words about the horror movie genre.  But considering what makes a great horror movie suddenly puts me on the defensive.  Different genres of horror movies come to mind and I wonder if comparing one kind of horror movie to another kind is like comparing apples on the moon to oranges on Jupiter.  Discomfort hits me too when I realize in the middle of mentally sorting through different genres that the question itself, what makes a great horror movie, is a question referring to a film genre seldom if ever taken seriously by popular award ceremonies like the Oscar or Emmy awards.  Further more, horror movies are automatically put on ‘cult status’ because the content makes some people squeamish or uncomfortable, that is until the movie is lauded as a ‘cult classic’.  When this happens suddenly everybody and their dog knows every nuance of Leatherface swinging his chainsaw through the dirt fog of a Texas dawn all without the benefit of having to take the film seriously.
   I’m a huge fan and regular watcher of horror movies.  Nothing pleases my wife and I more than snuggling down to watch a series of eerie events spiraling into darkness, pith, unpredictable fury, unexplained phenomenon and how characters on the screen handle these bizarre situations and oft times gory disturbing intrusions.  But the question itself is hardly worth spilling ink over if not for people like horror director Eli Roth, who during an interview with an audience, held to his views so passionately that he was almost yelling by the end of his appeal.  “You waste hours of your time watching a movie thinking you’re going to get the real deal in the scene, you know, the real shock and chill because the director has guided you this far for a result and fuck it!  What happens!  You can sure as shit tell its a fake, a prosthetic, or the actors haven’t properly readied themselves for the moment or even WORSE is when the EDITING completely lacks ANY IMAGINATION WHATSOEVER!”and Roth shakes his hands to the firmament.  
    Some at the convention he was speaking at must have naturally supposed he was crazy but I felt he was speaking for my wife and I who have fallen victim time and again to being lead on by a movie only to find it’s ending or middle is steering every poetic creative thing into complete bullshit.  When forced to see movies like this, like The Conjuring for example, a high budgeted second rate attempt at a paranormal horror film, I can feel the production team in the background grunting statements like ‘Well, if you make it too real you miss the working class hero populous and we NEED to hook them, you know?’  
    Just last night we watched a movie that fell into the aforementioned category.  Like so many horror movies, the idea or premise of the film seemed worthy, in this case it was a movie about the final days of an exploration of Mars by a small team of explorers.  Not a bad premise at all and when I checked out the trailer and saw that the special effects were at least worth giving the movie a fair shot, I took a chance and rented it.  The movie was The Last Day on Mars.  It cost me 6.99 to rent off of Amazon, pricey compared to the usual 2.99 or 3.99 since it was ‘still in theaters’ according to the disclaimer.  And what a fart in the wind this movie proved to be.  
    At one point the main actor goes through an underground tube to make it safely from one Mars station to the next hearkening back to Tom Skerritt in his classic run in with  Ridley Scott's horrific manifestation in the movie Alien.  The scene also mimics a lesser known underground crawl-fest depicted in the horrible movie Maximum Overdrive directed by Stephen King, of all people.  As I watched The Last Days on Mars, I even thought of Emelio Esteves commenting on how he could taste ‘pee’ as he crawls along.  
    The ‘ground trucks’ they rode in make it possible to go out onto the Martian surface through the back of the vehicle (each vehicle containing it’s own air lock) (yeah - wtf) and the cause of the chaos and run in with a Martian bacteria talked about as if bacteria works like a virus, was accidentally brought to the crew through the mishaps of the most Romanian looking member of the crew, an actor resembling the Russian comedian who starred in that dismal failure of a science fiction 2010 / The Year We Make Contact.  The Russian pisses on everyones parade by having found an active bacteria just below the surface of Mars and somehow, like all Russians, kept it secret from everyone until the day of departure only to go back to the site against the wishes of ‘the man’ (?) and somehow, with the help of a fellow crew member along for the ride, accidentally unleashes hell on the entire crew.  
    Once the bacteria is in place like an amateur actor waiting eagerly for their que to enter the stage like a fucking Broadway ham, the Mars crew start turning into mega-thirsty space zombies, not thirsty for human blood, but for, uh, water.  Or was it anti-freeze.  I don’t know.  It seems like the idea wasn't fully developed and if there was an adequate explanation as to why the zombies drank water, I can only assume I was sleeping during that scene.  Perhaps the director thought he was directing Total Recall depicting a Mars where all the inhabitants are thirsty.
    These coal faced Martian zombies, who in reality looked quite scary during a Martian dust storm were creepy enough but the problem is that as you’re watching this movie you’re wondering what this picture is really about.  Is this is a horror movie about a disease, or maybe interstellar zombies, or better yet, a ‘marooned’ horror genre like The Abyss, The Planet of the Apes or even Castaway.  When I flick through genres in my head like playing cards in the middle of a movie, this means that I’ve lost interest and regret the 6.99 I spent, thankful that I wasn't dumb enough to try and see this lemon in the theaters at more than double the price.
    Think of how much time and money is spent on a movie and you can see why Eli Roth wines so vehemently about it.  Even the cheapest movie seems to be in the millions. Truth is, the returns are always decent in the short term when you have a big budget and Hollywood names.  So even if directors and screenplay writers have brilliant ideas to work with, all it takes is an over prideful group of ‘executive producers’ to hack the living shit out of it since their only intent is to triple their cash returns on the movie’s opening night.  World War Z with Brad Pitt falls into this hole, probably one of the worst movies ever made period, let alone one of the worst zombie flicks, and yet I’m sure this giant shit that Hollywood took on the horror genre grossed more in its first week than most horror movies make during a full year of existence.  
    Bad horror movies are like going on failed carnival rides.  As you approach the ride you picture yourself in the seat of a compartment high in space swirling at light speed above the fairgrounds and distant glow of the town and being able to see and feel it all.  But as the ride starts reality settles in.  You find yourself in a congested cage where you can barely see anything and the safety harness is so tight under your armpits that its turning the tips of your fingers blue. This is what a bad horror film does to the psyche.     
    There are of course horror movies that lend something incredible to the genre, that while other aspects of such films might be weak, like plot and believable characters, other factors are executed and filmed well enough to deserve mention.  
    I felt this way the first time I saw Re Animator, (1985) an H.P. Lovecraft classic directed by Stuart Gordon.  The film obviously lacks Oscar winning performances and most of the dialogue was overtly dramatic and canned.  But when all the bodies in the morgue started twitching violently on command, I knew I was still witnessing something so honest, so vivid and beastial, that the fear and repugnance of what I was seeing never left my imagination.
    Contrary to many horror purists, I believe a great deal of art has been accomplished with the Paranormal Activity movies.  Now five movies in to this real time ghost / poltergeist home movie nightmare, I have to admit that with the exception of the first boring unseasoned Paranormal Activity, (I nodded off into my popcorn) these movies have unexpectedly taken me to the darker secret breathless corners of typical suburbia America and they do it well enough to make everyday household items absolutely terrifying.  Already there are many copycat ‘home movie’ horror films, some of them amazing like Zombie Diaries and VHS 1 and 2.  But only the Paranormal Activity movies, written and sometimes directed by Michael Landon’s son Christopher Landon, bring with it such a bottom toll of funeral bell blackness while making a parody of everyday yuppie American culture - a rare achievement.  
    So what makes a great horror movie?  I suppose it would be the same thing that makes a great horror novel.  There had to be a good story to tell.  Otherwise you’re entering a disorganized fun house with one scare after another leading absolutely nowhere.  Therefore, it seems to me that if you’re on set directing a horror film you best know something about making movies in the first place, know what the hell it is you want and how to get it, have an eye for the real and unreal and figure out how to film scenes that bring a viewing audience to a profound reaction without insulting their intelligence.  More than any other genre, horror demands that the story be told well or not at all.
    A great horror movie relies on timing, not just BOO factor timing.  Anyone and anything can make a person jump out of their skins.  The kind of timing I mean is knowing when to present certain information to the audience, that is, in Paranormal Activity, (for example) had I known the poltergeist was connected to a witches coven the whole time I was watching, a lot of what made the Paranormal movies disturbing and hard to shake would have had little or no impact whatsoever.    
    Horror and science fiction might very well be America’s present day mythologies and somehow sensing this, the avid defenders and fans of horror care very much for honesty in presentation.  Three hundred years from now I’m almost positive audiences will remember our tendency towards the zombie myth as opposed to analyzing what action adventure comedy drama everyone was watching on their computers whilst falling asleep on the the bus to work.  And by loving the horror genre the way that I do, I avoid the whole action adventure comedy drama kind of life that I know would otherwise be shoved down my god damn throat.

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(January 11 - 13th, 2014)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Sketches - 23 (September 6th, 2014)


My wife Ashley figures out her
plant business from the
dim down late day

Musicians will come over
and play tonight - The Baberaham
and I take whatever I've learned
from past dark shuffles in
the corners and stages of
full and empty bars and
night clubs I've played in

      (in these times a full or empty
           room makes no difference -
               maybe it never did)

until I have to raise up the whole
blessed thing from scratch and
start the process over
        again and again and again
to make it fall the right way.

More work follows to the point
where I can only judge myself by
how well I survive the
          angry swelling currents
          of this unknown belligerent

Such is being an American artist
in 2014.

(September 6th, 2014)

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sketches - 22 (September 6th, 2014)


Up in bold strokes
foot on gas
up Saddle Creek Road
to Center then right
past  Hi-Vee grocery
and fuel, usual
stop for coffee / tiny
bit of lunch for work
and drive further west
up Center Street over
the viaduct above 72nd street
on further past the
Catholic Cemetery
then right turn on
80th through a quiet
aging neighborhood,
larger houses and generally
quiet semi-forgotten lives
then work, and I take
these series of streets
every morning 5 days a week
few holidays and
few real complaints
except I’d rather be
navigating mysterious
highways and playing

(September 6th, 2014)

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