After the tongue-up-cheeks post below I thought I'd get serious for a second and tell you that I'm hoping and (yes) praying that both of these Orleananders, Barry Goubler and Russell Desmond (of CAN'T BUY A THRILL "fame", although I've been trying to boost his stature amongst you heathens for years to little if any avail), not to mention any other person in harm's way who's good people, survived the recent hurricane that devastated the gulf area and with flying colors to boot. I know that Desmond is not connected to the internet, but Barry, if you're reading this and can get in touch, please write and tell me you're still in one piece, OK?
Anyway, here's hoping that not only these two proud Sons o' the South are safe and sound after this catastrophe of 19th century proportions, but also that both Dave Lang and Jay Hinman were on their respective holidays right in the heart of Katrina as she set ashore! But we can't wish for everything, can we?
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
VOTE FOR YOUR LEAST FAVORITE, IN FACT (if you so desire) MOST HATED BLOG TO COMM POST!
1) DAVE LANG DELIVERS THE FANG!
2) POST-AQUARIAN JOURNAL
3) FOURTH TIME'S THE CHARM
4) THE TEN BEST EPISODES OF LEAVE IT TO BEAVER
5) MONOSHOCK. or DOES SORIANO RHYME WITH GUANO?
6) ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST
7) IT WAS A VERY BAD YEAR
8) BLOG TO COMM DREAM INTERPRETATION
9) IT WAS THIRTY YEARS AGO TODAY
10) VELVETS ROCK
11) AN UNFINISHED INTERVIEW WITH PAUL MAROTTA OF MIRRORS FAME
12) A GUIDE TO THE FILMAGE OF RICHARD MELTZER
13) ONE OF THE HOTTER RELEASES OF THE YEAR AND IT ORIGINALLY CAME OUT IN 1975! GEORGE BRIGMAN'S JUNGLE ROT
14) THE TEN BEST EPISODES OF GOMER PYLE, USMC!!!!!
15) WHY I LIKE H. L. MENCKEN
And of course your ESPECIALLY SICK WRITE-IN VOTES ARE WELCOME, although (naturally) even a casual observer will take note that the above fifteen entries are a pretty sick collection of horrid scribings in themselves exhibiting a rather poor display of critical acumen which is obviously the product of an especially underdeveloped, diseased mind. Anyway, if you wish to cast your vote (which you are heartily urged to do), please click on the pound ("#") sign at the end of this "post" to be taken to the PROPER PAGE where you can let your decision be known. (Fuggit that stoopid "comments (104)" thang at the bottom the page...I'd get rid of it asap if only I didn't fear screwing up the entire template!) Anyway, you all have been champing at the bit to tear into yours truly and let your disgust be known, so here's yet another chance...GOT TO IT!!!!!!!!!!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 7:57 PM
Sunday, August 28, 2005
Not quite a "High Six" or "New Und Noteworthy," but a p'haps not-so-quick rundown regarding a coupla things (musical and not) that I've come across over the past few weeks which I'm sure that you rabid readers (all THREE of you) will want to know about given how much you care for me and my artistic well-being. And frankly, what else is there for you to do other'n osmose to my every breath and significant music listening experience...I mean, thrills are getting hard to come by these days and I should know! Believe-you-me my ever-syntax-crackling mind is thinkin' up some new and dare-I-say short-story-length blogposts for future fun-and-games and I've been getting hold of (either by purchasing or because you loving fans actually send me things out of the goodness of your heart) more CDs than one can shake a stick at which I hope to relate to you in typical BLOG TO COMM detail, and to get the balls rolling let's commence w/these slabs of gulcherally-significant wonders both old and new (w/some bookage tossed in) that I just felt like writing about and nothing more...SO THERE as Chuck Eddy used to say.
Von Lmo-TRANCEFORMER CD (Munster)-Yeah, I know that I've reviewed the 2-LP version of this mega-spinecrushing epic in BLACK TO COMM #25, but since only a small portion of the people this fanzine is aimed at have actually read the thing I might as well get some mileage out of this compost disque version that's also been making the rounds for the past few years. Anyway I was in a heavy metal mood yesterday and since TRANCEFORMER was handier than my other heavy metal disques it, er, got "elected" to help satiate my high energy cravings a lot more than had I pulled out most any other metallic foray languishing somewhere in my collection.
The FUTURE LANGUAGE portion of TRANCEFORMER needs no introduction, or further praise and glory from at least this overdeveloped fanboy since I've been championing this platter every since PFUD! #4 hit the back alleys sometime in the mid-eighties (I was yearning for seventies rock aesthetics even THAT EARLY IN THE GAME!!!). The unreleased material dating from sessions spanning the seventies to nineties satiates just as much as Lmo's extraterrestrial familiar treatment of early-seventies metallic moves reshaped into late-seventies New York no wave, complete with two numbers from the one-off Von Lmo's Refrigerator (w/ex-Kongress chanteuse Iolsa Hatt, then nearest and dearest to Lmo's heart and pocketbook!) sounding about as close to Red Transistor as is allowed until the actual artyfact gets re-released, and there's also a truly MX-80 Sound-styled hard rock monster called "Transformer" that's bound to give your so-called metal friends a true taste of sonic overload they never could get from Poison. A nice smattering of Lmo's talents in different settings from those crankers we already heard on SONGS OF THE NAKED CITY to what purports to be a 1970-vintage Funeral of Art wowzer, and you even get an '80-era outtake entitled "Nobody Wants to Play With Rose" which sounds like Lmo trying to go commercial with the sensual NYC new wave schmooze! Biggest gaffe...the exclusion of the ultimate metallic smash-up cover of "Purple Haze" which you can get on the elpee but if you went this far I think you deserve the entire kahuna!
Voivod-RRROOOAAARRR CD (Combat)-Tim Ellison broke the bad news that bass-player Piggy from Montreal thrashmetal-cum-progsters Voivod died Friday PM, and while the death of the Porcine One means about as much to me as that of Dagwood Bumstead's it at least gave me an excuse to spin more heavy metal (Tim wished us to listen to some 'vod in Piggy's memory, and who am I to argue?). Since it was late at night I played debut (s)platter RRROOOAAARRR at a low level so's not to disturb the neighbors, and even without busting eardrums this quartet delivered enough crangacrang to get me through the early-early morn hours of classic comic book reading (more on that later). Like a lotta things in my short-attention-span life this could get monotonous, but then again I've come to like monotony when done right and maybe Voivod did it better (before trying for the crunch-prog sweepstakes) than their comrats-in-arms. It's kinda like boredom...as a kid it drove me insane but now I can even groove to the vast vapidness of it all even outside some intellectual zen level. And considering what was passing for heavy metal in the early-eighties (either British "new wave of metal" doldrums or commercial HIT PARADER Andy Secher fluff), Voivod and their thrash brethren were the saviors of the entire metal movement no matter how much the FM rock early-eighties leftovers will deny it.
Hackamore Brick-ONE KISS LEADS TO ANOTHER CD-R (originally released on Kama Sutra)-A familiar one here, and why not? Y'see, Jon Behar burnt a whole load of CDs for me including one of this infamous 1970 Richard Robinson-produced disque by these came-and-went New Yorkers, and it oughta sound familiar to me because Jon burnt his copy of this using THE EXACT SAME TAPE I MADE FOR HIM OVER FIFTEEN YEARS AGO!!!! I just knew I heard those pops and crackles before, and the drop-outs do lend an air of---seventies/eighties cassette listening memories which I guess will spell nostalgia for some! Well, until an actual legit re-release comes out this will come in handy. Tagged at the end is an even-lower-fidelity take of the "Searchin'"/"Radio" single also dubbed for Mr. Behar by yours untruly long long ago.
White Heaven-OUT CD-R (originally released on PSF Japan)-Another Behar burn. Of all the new Japanese underground bands out there in "hear me!" land, White Heaven was one I may or may not have wanted to give the time of day to. My ambivilent attitudes toward this band stem from my general finickiness...I mean, I love Les Rallizes Denudes because of their late-sixties roots and adherence to an early-Velvet Underground credo similar to a handfulla similar bands across the globe at the time. I also love the groups that came out in their wake because of their connection, no matter how tangential, with the core of it all. White Heaven on the other hand do not seem to grasp at any of these hardcore roots and in fact sound just about as far removed from it all as many of their compatriates on the Japanese newpsych scene. Of course when I HEAR more of this band and the other Japanese noisepsych wonders I've ignored for so long (Behar also sent along some Fushishuta and Taj Mahal Travellers) I might change my opinion, but as of today there seems to be little of that music "in the raw state of becoming" (to quote Wayne McGuire) that makes a whole lotta difference between music that is firmly planted on terra and music that continues to move and shape this far down the line.
FIGHTING AMERICAN by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (Marvel, 1989)-Jack Kirby's been a long-standing fave (at least during my obsessive comic book collecting days circa ages 11-14) ever since I discovered his DC-period "Third World" comics and Marvel superhero/monster reprint titles of the same strata. Not being as rabid a comic book encyclopedia as many other kids of my time-frame (perhaps because I didn't have the money, brains or encouragement as many of these fellow fanatics had) I wasn't familiar with this early/mid-fifties title the duo did for the soon-to-capsize Prize Comics line, a patriotic hero reminiscent of the rash of similar characters who permeated the World War II scene transported into the anti-communist fifties. But I am now, and after reading these sagas of Soviet subversion being bang-slammed into oblivion by Our Hero and his youthful sidekick (more'n reminiscent of that original Simon/Kirby creation Capt. Ameriga 'n Bucky) all I gotta say is...I thought it was gonna be funnier in a Plastic Man vein esp. after reading the hype surrounding these stories for years. In fact, the funniest part of this book is Simon's foreward which backpeddles the fact that Fighting American was a fervid response to the rise of left-wing aggression inside and outside the halls of govt., though after McCarthy fell from grace he felt kinda sheepish about it all as if he was betraying his New York Liberal roots or something like that. Not so surprisingly, Marvel themselves did pretty much the same thing in the mid-seventies when they explained that their fifties variation on Cap America was really some evil android-esque dupe of a communist-hating reactionary, a fellow who certainly WASN'T in vogue with the wave of comic book writers or even readers for that matter!
The Ramrods-GIMME SOME ACTION CD (Young Soul Rebels, 4152 Woodward, Detroit MI 48201)-At first glance I thought these Ramrods were yet another batch of new kiddies trying for the sixties/seventies garage band merry-go-round brass ring and decided to give 'em an immediate spin because of that. Hmmm...good enough post-Groovies hot-pop, nice especially next to a lotta the stuff that apes the same scene and usually comes off middling for all the effort you'd think they'd put into it such endeavors. Turns out (after reading the enclosure) that these guys ain't some moderne bozos with the goods down pat but none other 'n Bob Mulrooney a.k.a. Bootsey X hisself's late-seventies band! Pretty good job there Bootsey, and hey, if there are any other now-famous underground rollickers out there who had bands like this way back when, how 'bout (re)issuing some of this stuff and milking your past for all it's worth? If you're still around and a nobody and you had a band like this inna past release it anyway...maybe you'll become a somebody at least retroactively.
Aural Fit-LIVESTOCK CD (Slant Eye Archives, available through Forced Exposure)-Jury's still out on these Japanese noisemakers who claim everyone from local saints Les Rallizes Denudes to the Velvets, LaMonte Young and Kim Fowley as influences. Too much sonic reduction here signifying too little I guess, not quite zoning me into orgiastic throb-thrills of past glories like a lotta this music used to but I think I hear "something" (ever so miniscule) in here. And no, it doesn't reach the sacred heights of the Rallizes let alone Up-Tight at their best or LSD March at Vincebussing their Eruptums, but then again, it may become a top spin for the year for all I know. Better let this one gestate a little bit...
Metal Urbain-ANARCHY IN PARIS CD (Acute via. FE)-Good enough in small doses as is most of this late-seventies squall these days. Fine enough electronic punk made by people (mainly the French) who everyone thinks can't play this stuff (only appreciate it), which makes it all the better especially in the face of people who are supposed to pull off playing punk-oriented/rooted music but can't.
CHARLIE BROWN AND SNOOPY; STICK WITH IT SNOOPY paperbacks (Fawcett)-I really dunno why I picked these up at an antique mall last week, other than to give this once-fave comic strip another try after years of neglect and downright hatred (I mean, just take a gander at that "spoof" I did entitled "Peanads" in issue #24 of my own fanzine which mocks just about everything wrong this strip had become). Perhaps one of the reasons I quit reading PEANUTS was because it was rapidly losing steam after years of pretty much being too big, too popular and maybe too self-conscious of itself to be allowed to exist. Heck, I even recall wincing when I'd happen to chance upon the strip on rare occasion seeing the obvious loss of quality and viscosity on Charles Schulz's part, and in many ways viewing these later PEANUTS was just as painful as seeing what Al Capp's LI'L ABNER had turned into after years of high-quality and truly engrossing sagas that continue to please thirty/forty years later which is more than you can say about the comic strip fare we're offered these days!
CHARLIE BROWN AND SNOOPY contains strips from 1963/64, a time when PEANUTS was already one of the top funnies on the page and a few years away from out-of-control superstardom thanks to a series of TV specials still being aired and the mass-marketing of PEANUTS paraphrenalia run amok. These strips still show a bit of the fifties charm and verve that made me go (at age seven and eight...I started my fifties appreciation EARLY!) for those old paperback titles more than I did the actual new strips (but that's probably because I believe I would have enjoyed things more had I been a fun and rollicking kiddie in the late-fifties/early-sixties rather'n a decade later in the middle of all that hippie drek!), with a neat pre-"relevance" sense of smart snazz to 'em and some rather entertaining guffaws that almost reach a NANCY sense of mid-class bliss. This collection is probably most notable at least fer me because not only does it feature the debut of "5" (perhaps my fave "lower-case" PEANUTS character who I actually used to get confused w/Charlie Brown due to their follicly-deprived nature), but the very strip that ran on the day John Kennedy splattered his cranium all over Jackie's Christian Dior original (though you didn't notice any "era's end" in PEANUTS at all which has gotta account for something!)...y'see, when I was a kid I used to go into my grandmother's attic and read all of the old newspapers that she had saved over the years NOT for any stodgy historical purposes but to read the comic strips and see what was on TV at the time! And I clearly remember (age nine or so) reading the funny page from that fateful day in order to see what Charlie Brown and my other fave comic characters were up to...it's funny, but at that time the assassination wasn't really THAT long ago, but to me it was about as much a part of classic, deeply-inbred historical American History as the Civil War! Interestingly enough, those very same newspapers I loved to plow through way back when reside underneath my bed, but I have very little desire to comb through them like I did during my single-digit days...go figure!
STAY WITH IT, SNOOPY features comics from the 1976/77 cusp at a time when I was more concerned with MONTY PYTHON and Amon Duul I than dumb comic strips. However it seems as if I was missing a lot, since these strips despite being from the lame Ford/Carter days are downright enjoyable and worth reading over and over despite their airs of mainstream humanist blah. But even though not one of these comics could approach a NANCY (even one ghosted by one of Ernie Bushmiller's assistants) or FERD'NAND (ditto albeit "Mik" drew that 'un) suburban schmooze I find them far more entertaining than a good portion of the competition that was clinging around on the funny page at that time. By now the strip had evolved into even flightier flights of fancy, with Woodstock the bird and his relationship with the now biped Snoopy taking up much of the action. The unfunny Sally/Linus love angle was just beginning to be milked for all it was worth as well, and of course everyone's favorite dykes Peppermint Patty and Marcie were beginning to take over the strip much to the detrement of the earlier, long-standing characters who were soon to get the ax. And although there are "signs" of an intellectual air of snoot that rears its ugly rear at times, these are a zillion times better'n many of those eighties/nineties PEANUTS which looked and read as if Schulz was undergoing a severe case of mental breakdown. Much better'n I would have given 'em credit for, perhaps because there might have still been a little bitta gasoline left not only in the strip, but in Schulz even at this late date.
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 9:52 PM
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Kenneth Anger-1947-1965 DVD
At least for me, Kenneth Anger was one of those seventies names that, like those of William Burroughs and Jean Genet, seemed to hover around in the outer realms of the "nasty new youth culture" getting heavy putsch in the pages of CREEM and maybe even ROLLING STONE. Naturally he was rather well known (at least in rock circles) for his associations with the likes of Mick Jagger, future Manson shock trooper Bobby Beausoliel and of course Jimmy Page not forgetting his own tale of Film City decadence HOLLYWOOD BABYLON (which continues to earn the ire of moom pitcher buffs worldwide this far down the line), but what Anger's undoubtedly best known for are the variety of underground flicks that I guess are of such legendary status that Anger is often considered the second best underground filmmaker of the sixties (behind Andy Warhol), but like Hertz I'm sure he's tried harder at least in molding the image of Kenneth Anger just as well as Warhol created his own.
Anyway I just got hold of a DVD-R of dubious legality featuring a few Anger films (taken from video) that I thought you might or might not want to know my opinions on (howzat for my pat catering to a wishy-washy blog clientele?). And although these films don't have as much of an oomph w/regards to my own sensa wonder as they might have had back when I was sneak-reading Parker Tyler's UNDERGROUND FILMS at the library during my young'n wanna know everything about this mad throbbing world's er, seamier side, I can still relate to 'em just as much as I would have back when I was sixteen and it seemed as if everything out there seemed so "gosh-it-all." And NOT because of any special, deeply psychological understanding of what Anger was saying trying to convey with the use of his "magick lantern"...it's just that I am mentally retarded at the age of sixteen anyway and these things still seem downright gosharootie and oh-so mysterioso!
FIREWORKS (1947)- This ain't Anger's first film, he'd done a buncha other ones earlier but destroyed them all at the 1967 Pentagon Exorcism in an act of protest (though since he sold prints of his ESCAPE EPISODE starring John Derek back in the late forties maybe that one survives in someone's collection), but FIREWORKS is thee one that catapulted Anger to fame at least in the realms of forties avant garde enthusiasts and Californian psychiatrists. Here Anger (who was either seventeen or twenty, birthdates differ, when FIREWORKS was filmed in his own abode while the folks were away for the weekend) plays a man wandering in a dream world after waking up (perhaps still sleeping a la that DICK VAN DYKE dream-within-a-dream episode, a phenom which even I had encountered on a few occasions!) who meets a men's room fulla sailors out for blood...ANGER'S, amongst other things! FIREWORKS is filled to the brim w/a lotta shocking (read: cool for every teenbo wannabe hipster who likes to see the squares squeal in agony over this stuff!) imagery, my fave being the part where the sailors start ripping into Anger's flesh layer by layer only to come across what looks like a gas meter of some sorts. The whole thing benefits from the primitiveness, with FIREWORKS at one time looking like (and having the feeling of) one of those crank-out quickie forties/fifties girly films SOMETHING WEIRD sells, and on the other hand all of the craft and energy of thirties avant garde shorts such as LOT IN SODOM, a film I'm sure influenced Anger's works to a point. And to really slam the whole sailor message home we get a brief pan shot of a buncha urinals which I'm sure must've agitited a lot more people'n Anger's parents at the time. (And I didn't even mention the scene with this sailor romping around with a lit roman candle sticking outta fly, which reminds of this time when I was in first grade and one of the older kids who happened to be black was walking around in the cafeteria during lunchtime with a king-size Baby Ruth sticking outta his own unzipped crotch yelling "Hey, look at me!!!") Underground films were really milking the whole Freudian imagery scam for ages (just take a gander at ECSTASY sometime with all of the rising guardposts and the key struggling to slip into the lock!) but Anger did a pretty good job at not making these shock scenes look as hackneyed as they could have been in the hands of any other teenager trying to be "hip" making underground films whether it be in the forties, sixties or today for that matter.
PUCE MOMENT (1949)-My fave of the batch. A color fragment of what was to have been an extended project entitled PUCE WOMEN dealing w/the imagery of twenties Hollywood and its soon to be silenced by sound stars, PUCE MOMENT begins with this great shot of various flapper-era dresses complete with spinning tassels and bangles being jostled and lifted up as if they were curtains on and on until a black sequined evening gown is shown out of focus, looking somewhat like an old Pink Floyd album cover. Then we see actress Yvonne Marquis slipping this gown over her head and putting on high-heeled shoes, then at her dresser dabbing perfume before lying on a daybed where she seems to be traveling in it onto her terrace which overlooks the Hollywood Hills (Marquis' character is based on that of silent star Barbara La Marr, whose now long-gone villa was used for the setting). The film closes with Marquis taking her wolfhounds for a walk in typically graceful Hollywood style. A nice evocation of Hollywood Past (and HOLLYWOOD BABYLON) of which Mike Snider brought up maybe obvious SUNSET BOULEVARD comparisons, and since PUCE MOMENT was made around the same time as that Gloria Swanson/William Holden wowzer, I wouldn't doubt him.
What's most amazing about PUCE MOMENT is the soundtrack by one Jonathan Halper (a fellow who I couldn't find anything about on the internet other than his association with this film). Whoever this Halper person is, he's one pretty good unsung hero of the 1967 Los Angeles Folk Rock Movement, up there with such stalwarts as the Byrds at their spaciest and perhaps other luminaries such as Love and the Factory. There are actually two songs used on the soundtrack, the first this pretty fierce psychedelic scorcher complete with backwards guitar and the second a more sedate folk-oriented thingie about a hermit who gets his nourishment from what the birds bring him that sounds like a Byrdsian rough draft, or maybe even a Syd Barrett lost near-masterpiece. Either way I'm stunned!
RABBIT'S MOON (1950)-Shot in Paris after being discovered by Jean Cocteau (who somehow escaped criticism for not only being a one-time supporter of Hitler but being endowed with a privledged lifestyle in Vichy France...perhaps his being gay made him immune to such scrutiny on the left?), RABBIT'S MOON features French and Japanese myth sorta combined together, as the clown Pierrot attempts to grasp the moon falling flat on his butt at every leap. Meanwhile Harlequin appears to taunt Pierrot before we finally figure out that the moon is a metaphor for Columbine whom Pierrot really desires. Kinda arty but neat-o looking as Anger recreates his own past when he appeared as the Changeling Prince in A MIDSUMMER'S NIGHT'S DREAM back in 1935 (the set is a pretty good approx. from what I can gather). Tinted in blue, at times RABBIT'S MOON reminds me of an old silent film, and although the oldies soundtrack (w/electronic music, perhaps outtakes from Jagger's INVOCATION OF MY DEMON BROTHER score, interspersed in spots) takes a bit to get used to, I can ooze a tad of enjoyment out of this one perhaps due to its homage to the classic past. However, what I wanna know is, are the animated shots of the moon and the big dipper pouring milk taken from some old HARVEYTOON? I seem to recall something very similar eyeballed during my very young AM cartoon-watching dayze.
EAUX D'ARTIFICE (1953)-Interesting shots of fountains and water gushing as some woman dressed in a 17th century gown plays hide-and-seek with the camera. The least-entertaining film in the batch though with the Vivaldi soundtrack and the black and white imagery I kinda got the same feeling that I do when watching one of those twenties avant garde flickers that GRAPEVINE VIDEO used to sell ten years back.
KUSTOM KAR KOMMANDOS (1965)-Another fragment of an abandoned project, KUSTOM KAR KOMMANDOS was more or less supposed to be a fun-filled, teenage-oriented (at least judging from the cartoon-y opening title) take on Anger's previous film SCORPIO RISING. What does survive is footage of some typically early/mid-sixties kinda teenaged guy complete with pre-Beatles pompadour named Sandy powder-puffing his chrome-laden hot rod while the Parris Sisters' version of Bobby Darin's "Dream Lover" purrs from the soundtrack. (And although I don't know who these sisters are, the song is so simpy that I didn't even bother trying to find out anything about 'em via my favorite search engine!) Not surprisingly, the arty look of this "segment" reflect what just about every car commercial in the early-eighties extolling the luxuriance and upper-class snob appeal of an Oldsmobile attempted to, which just goes to show you just how much people have been swiping from Anger all these years and making bazillions w/it all as well. Nothing to brag about, though I have the feeling that a complete KUSTOM KAR KOMMANDOS (at least judging from a surviving script) would have been a good encapsulation of pre-hippie Amerigan Youth fun and games, at least filtered through the lens of Anger.
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 6:05 PM
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
WHY I LIKE H. L. MENCKEN
If there's anything I've got to be grateful to my high school history teacher for, it's for her introducing me to not only the writings and ideas, but the man who went by the name of H(enry) L(ouis) Mencken. Now frankly, I really didn't get that much outta Miss Walko not because of any fault on her part (y'see, I am a stoop and while I' m at it I can also tell you some wild stories about her on request, though she was a nice enough dame since she used to paste up old newspaper stories about Alfalfa's murder and Bill Harris a.k.a. WYTV's Barney Bean getting arrested for attempted rape on the side of a closet that was near the entrance to her classroom) but at least she should be credited for planting the seed o' Menckenism (no matter how feeble it may be) into my cranium. Years before concepts such as libertarianism and thinking outsides the realm of the usual old-timey liberal birth/school/work/marriage/death (and don't ask any questions that may upset the applecart) kadiddle began infecting my beanie, here was a dad-blamed history teacher of mine telling me about a guy who was perhaps one of the more subversive entities for a young 'n impressionable bowl of polenta to get introduced to, and thinking about it from the haze o' many years later all I gotta say's that this epiphany was probably about as eye-opening an experience as being introduced to the Velvet Underground or the inner-workings of movies (seeing more into 'em whether they be old-timey silents or low-budget wonders), in all helping to form the well-developed entity that is known as memeME!!!! If I hadda do any ranking, H. L. Mencken would be up there with such other luminaries of the twentieth century as John Flynn, Wyndham Lewis, Westbrook Pegler and Father Coughlin, and if you can't see the IRONY in such a statement may I say that the doctor threw your own sense of irony out with the rest of the afterbirth???
Naturally, my teacher hadda get the entire gist behind this long-venerated (and loathed) newspaperman wrong. Here she was, telling us lumpen sons-of-proles (with a few sons-of-entrepreneurs thrown into the mix) about what a gosh-it-all swell guy Mencken was, coming out against the injustices and boobery of the 1920s and championing the poor and ignorant peasant immigrants all us dolt kids were descended from while demonizing all of the baddie kluxers and blue-bloods who stood against us (or our forefathers at least)! For a smart lady she couldn't've gotten it wronger. Oh true, Mencken did attack the stupider aspects of his times whether it be prohibition or the Bible-belt mindset that brought forth such idiocy, but his wrath was far-sweeping, like a machine gun that mowed down anything in its path. Maybe this is one reason I dig the guy so. True he had it in HUGE for the fundamentalist protestantism of the times (which is why every adaptation of INHERIT THE WIND seems to make the Mencken character look more like the radical village athiest when he more or less considred himself an agnostic who had the sneaking suspicion that maybe there was a God after all!), but Mencken didn't seem so hot on a lotta the other types who made up the Amerigan Scene during the earlier part of the previous century. He tended to think (or so one would get from a slew of writings) that blacks were violent thugs, Jews were arrogant leeches and the Euro/Irish Romanist population a buncha dumbos who just got off the boat and couldn't find their way around unless there was a priest to guide 'em! But then again he was saying very positive things about all these people when the mood struck him. He was published by a Jew (Alfred Knopf) and co-edited THE AMERICAN MERCURY with one, championed classic Catholic writer G. K. Chesterton at a time when most of his colleagues were cozying up to Chesterton's socialist rival George Bernard Shaw (and counted many of the priesthood in home town Baltimore amongst his friends), and believe-it-or-not but he probably was praying that the Catholic Church wouldn't go liberal like too many mainline protestant denominations have! Heck, this venerable newspaperman even earned an honest-to-kleagle fatwa from the Klan for some extremely caustic criticisms regarding their, er, attitude towards blacks as well as for some pointed insults aimed at the womanhood of the Confederacy that I'm sure rankled the entire region! (And although I'm one fellow who thinks that the South earned more ire than its deserved over the years maybe I can wallow in the joy I'm sure Mencken felt at being the recipient of such an honorable vendetta!) The thing is (a point which somehow missed all those pointy-headed limousine liberal types who consider Mencken a rabid anti-semite, or anti-black or whatever it is they're anti about these days) that true, Mencken said bad things about just about everybody, but if he didn't say anything good about you then you hadda worry!
The truth remains that Mencken was just "thee" perfect enigma for not only his times, but ours. And yeah, I know that such a phrase like that and in fact this entire post reads like a reject from some sophomore book report, but given the utter lack of truly hard "commentary" on the right (even from people who claim upfront allegiance to Mencken) and left (which either seeps into overly-emotional heartfelt comfiness or hate-filled attacks on the same mid-class values and the people they claim to speak for) someone like Mencken rings all the more truer. Which is why I hate it when I see a good portion of the columnists on the conservative side for wont of a better term seep into their stern admonitions of what they see as decadence, while I equally cringe upon seeing leftists quote Mencken either out of context (such as when they trot out one of his pat anti-Republican saying of the twenties not realizing just how much he rued such statements once FDR got hold of the reigns!) or in order to make a "point" in which they themselves are about as much the targets as their dreaded right-wing counterparts. Like, I remember this one time when some leftist type (I forget who he was offhand, but you can find out who if you want to scour the Ann Coulter columns of a few years back) actually quoted Mencken's relatively-famous comment regarding the scourge of puritanism, people out there on the American Scene who dread, even shudder at the fact that somewhere on this fruited planet there are folk out there actually enjoying themselves! Now I dunno if the person who made this statement knew that it was the enemy-of-the-left Mencken who made this rather on-target statement which was actually once championed by the great libertarian Murray Rothbard (a fellow Jay Hinman actually paid lip-service to in one of his emails to me regarding his own burning hatred of yours truly!), but doesn't such a quote as that apply more to all those people on his side of the aisle who are chomping at the bit to make sure life is about as exciting as it was for the people who landed on Plymouth Rock (rather than the other way around)??? I mean, it ain't exactly them mean ol' right-wingers who are trying to ban smoking altogether. And those libertarians speaking out against drug policies and anti-prostitution laws aren't exactly part of the freewheeling liberal cocktail party circuit these enlightened ones revel in! And while I'm at it, are the righties really trying to ban "sexually-oriented" reading material from firehouses? No, leave it to those guys who are more or less the New Puritans once again proving just how NEEDED Mencken is here at the dawn of a new millenium.
One thing that kills me is just how many people like to compare their favorite writers (on the left and right) to Mencken, when they're not trashing him for some infraction that is! Like, some people have had the unmitigated audacity to compare Molly Ivens to Mencken which kills me because she seems nothing more than some brash hussy who doesn't burn her bra anymore but is about as statist as Mencken wasn't, while some like to think the late Mike Royko (who was more or less a grouchier Erma Bombeck) was Menckenesque as well (and frankly, I never forgave Royko for his putdown of Handsome Dick Manitoba in some vintage '77 anti-punk column of his). It also kinda makes me laugh when others mention R. Emmett Tyrell as being a Mencken devotee because maybe he was at one time back when he had some Mencken paper mache dummy at typewriter stuck in the old AMERICAN SPECTATOR office, but the guy more or less has evolved into the same simpering neocon so in vogue on the right these days that I'm sure Mencken's spirit is puking in the afterlife! Saying that these people are the end result of the Menckenian spirit is like saying that Chuck Eddy is the logical end result of what Lester Bangs doth wrought.
If you wanna ask me who the logical successor to the whole Mencken phenomenon is, it would be "The Poor Little Greek Boy" Taki, who is neither poor nor little but is Greek, in fact the son of a shipping magnate who's not only notorious for his extravagent ways (even getting arrested with a bitta the powder on him) but has an eye for the ladyfolk despite being married to an actual titled woman who probably doesn't care one bit about her hubby's philandering ways. Taki is quite the figure of controversy saying things that most so-called truth-seekers are too afraid to even to the point of being branded "racist" (just because he castigated some British hoods who happened to be black and murdered some girl) and getting sued for saying some of the most uncomplimentary things regarding a certain femme fartelle (shades of John Schmitz's ATTACK OF THE BULLDYKES which earned the ire of none other than Gloria Allred). He even got kicked out of England (though he still appears regularly in the long-running SPECTATOR) for writing that while his ancestors were building parthenons and writing literature and generally helping to further the cause of civilization, the Brits were standing around scratching their scones and burrowing for roots. He's a good pal of Pat Buchanan and writes a column for his AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE magazine which is sometimes available on-line, but since the two don't agree on the subject of abortion it's one topic the duo carefully avoid. (Although Taki is firmly against stem cell research and has threatened to punch the lights outta Daniel Goldhagen for all the nasty stuff he said about Pope Pius XII!) I kinda get the idea that Taki is more or less the kinda guy that Mencken would come off like had ol' H. L. somehow miraculously been transported to the here and now...well, Taki is more of an extension of what Mencken was than Eddy is of Bangs, that's for sure!
A few people have even drawn comparisons between Mencken and Ayn Rand, and though I was one fellow doing just that a decade back I have the feeling that both would be at each other's throats had they appeared on one of those real-life desert island survival shows that are all the rage these days. Whereas Rand was strident and shrill most of the time and not that engaging a writer (though I do like the final chapter of her novelette ANTHEM) who repeated facts and points even more than I tend to do, she also didn't cut that much of a figure either. What was her 'cello-playing and chain-smoking next to Mencken's girly-show watching, oyster pie eating and general curmudgeonness anyway? If anything, the only thing worthy that Rand did was influence Steve Ditko and his personalist heroes such as MR. A. and THE QUESTION.
What I like best about Mencken is that both of us hated the same kinda people, mainly idiots! I mean, true Mencken might have had bad words to say about people of certain "protected" classes you just can't say bad things about anymore, but like I said he also had good things to say about these same folk, leaving his best ascerbic barbs for the same do-gooders and civilization-wreckers that continue to plague us even to this day. Yet still the misguided anti-Mencken screeds come, with articles carrying such wrong-headed titles as "The Anti-Semite of Baltimore" getting published day in and day out (or at least when some new Mencken-related book hits the stands) which attempt to paint the man (and people who ascribe to much of his philosophy) as the big blockade standing between today's on-the-go urban freethinker and total karmic gooshiness. And y'know, it's all nothing but misleading and downright unfair yet totally expected especially in these emotion-driven times which I don't even think a pundit like Mencken could've predicted. I mean, if anyone still has this image of Mencken as some elitist (in a modern sense) boor who was a raving Nazi racist (though he railed against Hitler and even urged arch-enemy FDR not to send Jewish refugees back to Europe, which the benevolent one did!) just take a look at the snapshot to the left taken in 1929 showing Mencken and a buncha black kids he was actually pals with! Y'see, these children had been playing in the alley behind Mencken's house and whaddya know but the ol' guy befriended the whole lot of 'em and used to take 'em out for ice cream and candy! Now, really, would you expect a racist to behave in such a manner? Oh yeah, there may be some who would do something like this in a totally condescending way to act out their airs of superiority sorta like the way Ian Paisley might give a Catholic kid a tuppence for his First Communion, but you don't see any of 'em writing these beautifully ascerbic and cutting articles on the evils of the klan or ending their careers railing against the segregation that was still in force in early-fifties Baltimore.
And really, could you see someone like Dave Lang posing with a buncha black street urchins for such a prized photograph as the one above? NOT ON YOUR NELLY, or if he did he'd probably rush home right afterwards and bathe in a tubfulla Pinesol 'r somethin'!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 10:40 PM
Monday, August 08, 2005
Lost Aaraaff-1971 CD (PSF, available through FORCED EXPOSURE from whose website the pic on the left was swiped from!)
Gotta admit that for years the name Keiji Haino meant about as much to me as that of J. Neo Marvin's. I mean sure I've heard all of the rhapsodic wispiness hoisted upon the man and his works by a whole lotta writers I'm sure you've skidded shorts over for nigh on two decades, but these very scribes were the same nabobs who promoted some of the worst piddle to pass as muzak creeping under the postpunk/alternative banner (and the same guys who usedta razz the living daylights outta me for championing such still-wowzer after all these years musical acts as David Roter and Binky Phillips) so really, what stock should I have put into their empty rhetoric anyway? It's like when yer a kid and some elder gives you the biggest load of turds as advice either to play you for a fool or evade the original (probably sex-related) question posed upon 'em...after getting hoodwinked once why bother listenin' to 'em ever again??? So frankly, when it came to all of the talk regarding the talents of this guy Haino, you might as well have been Dave Lang telling me the proper way to retract koala bear foreskins...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Well, after listening to Haino's track with his early-seventies avant garde jazz group Lost Aaraaff on the GENYA CONCERT 2-CD/DVD set (which I got for the tres-Tyrannosaurus Rex-ish numbers by the oft-lauded Zuno Keisatsu recorded before they developed into a full-sized rock band) I hadda latch onto their sole album which thankfully is available through the PSF label which has released more than its share of Haino booty o'er the years. And (as you'd know after reading my postings on the now-deceased "Freestyle Jazz" series at the CBGB Lounge this past year) I'm a big fan of the form and in many ways consider the avant garde of jazz a legit branch of the punk continuum and yeah I know that a statement like that is bound to rile the ire of more'n a few pudsicles out there laying low for me to make one of my frequent "unwise moves," but I gotta say that pledging allegiance to the free jazz gulcherflow sure means a lot more'n trying to be yer typical young and precocious self rattling off endless sputum over the latest product to hit the alternative void these days. (I can recommend a whole bunch of blogs out there in case you're interested...really!!)
Lost Aaraaff were a strange case...their reason-for-blaring was a shattering post-Ayler riffage with Haino's maddening caterwauling coming close to the third prize winner at the Patti Smith Memorial Hawg Calling Contest while a pianist pounded out these scatterchords and drums go berzerk as feedback from some source (guitar? microphone???) squeals in abject horror. However, by the untitled (as they all are) 38:37 track it seems as if Haino is singing actual Japanese wordage amidst the atonal vocalese while imitating a marmoset in heat (kinda sounding like Wayne Newton getting his biscuits crunched in some Nipponese comic book bathhouse scene) as the uncredited pianist clanks out some Call Cobbs-inspired pseudo-gospel blues ragamathing with equally-uncredited drummer kinda barely keeping up and for some reason the whole kaboodle reminds me of a weird cross between (or is it dissection? of) Terry Riley/John Cale meeting Cecil Taylor/Sunny Murray at the Apostolic Holiness Church of Anthrax. It's not that hard to moosh avant garde jazz and punk rock...the Big Three did it with relative ease and so did a whole buncha people who read about the "new thing" in jazz when it got even newer in the seventies...but here's one record that could be considered the earliest example of jazz/punk interlocking on jazz rather'n punk terms. If anyone has any other early examples they'd like to share, please let me know.
I didn't even mention the final, 14:49 track which starts off with weird guitar scrape/drumsplat before the piano comes in with more of that Cecil Taylor classical spookiness and Haino's faggot of the opera wail. Of course that's before Haino starts talking Japanese (probably some communist-inspired drivel which makes me glad I can't understand the language!) in this weird Walter Brennan voice (kinda) as the drummer goes into loft jazz free play and the piano continues with the Taylor epiglapeggios or whatever they should be called to the point where you're flashing back to 1975 and dad's yelling at you to get that racket (Xenakis) off like he did to me!
I'd be lying if I told you this was one of those totally-engrossing and can't stop playing it kinda disques. Anyway those come only once in awhile and nowadays I'm lucky if I can come across maybe one or two musical endeavors of obsessive worth per year. (Though I should note that most if not all of the latest obsessive-spin items that have captivated my psyche have been Japanese product...Doodles, LSD March, and of course our dear Les Rallizes Denudes.) However, given that I try to avoid junk with a passion I can safely say that Lost Aaraff definitely are NOT of the subpar musical sputum plague that has infested the musical world ever since the likes of Chuck Eddy (as opposed to such anti-Chuck mavericks as I) began calling the shots. Anyway, Lost Aaraaf's 1971 may be one of those strange sleepers to crawl up the rungs in my tops of '05 list once this year is put into its proper perspective, and hey, I may give it a little mention or two once December 31 rolls around.
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 7:41 PM
Monday, August 01, 2005
THE LAST FREESTYLE JAZZ NIGHT AT THE CBGB LOUNGE, JULY 31, 2005
It wasn't like I was cryin' or anything, but it was sure sad to see this series of avant/freeform music end. Especially ending the way it did, under the cloud of the entire CBGB empire crumbling due to the threat of a huge rent increase thanks to a buncha do-gooders who hadda turn a flophouse into a "homeless shelter" (mainly a higher-class flophouse with tax dollar funding) and sorta "lord it over" alla the businesses on the block. But enough sour grapes, it was sure great seeing Dee Pop onstage between sets talking about the times and acting a little more composed than Soupy Sales on his last day on the air (even trotting his son out just like Jerry Lewis used to do!), and it was greater to see such a big turnout especially when some of these shows seemed so sparse they might've well been happening in your basement, and it was even greater seeing some of the Freestyle Faves of the past four years playing their hearts out for one last time on the Lounge stage. And it's sure gonna be hard for ME finding another way to get over the Sunday night blues.
Got to check out the first four "special groupings," the first featuring steel guitarist Susan Alcorn with a cellist whose identity I didn't catch and a clarinetist (whose name also eluded me though I think it was Mark Whitcage) putting out a wild atonal free-play yelp ending with the cellist (who I originally thought was Zusann Kali Fasteau but she "looked" black from behind the pole where she was positioned) emitting some great Linda Sharrock-styled yelps and moans. After that was a setup with the underappreciated Dom Minasi "leading" yet another improv bunch whose names I forget offhand (I'm sure someone will fill me in) putting out some avant-guitar sound that ain't totally atonal but kinda reminds me of the lines John Scofield laid down when he sat in with the Social Climbers at CBGB back in '82 that you can hear on the STATE OF THE UNION album if you're lucky enough to have that. Afterwards was a grouping featuring not only guitarist Joe Morris but tenor saxophonist Roy Campbell Jr. that also continued on with the hot stuff (I got that line from Albert Goldman if you can believe that!), and following all of that was this trio featuring a black woman on vocals and hand drum, Matana Roberts on alto sax and yet another unknown-to-me player whose name I hope will come to light eventually on tenor. Roy Campbell's mother had died just this past week so in memory of her these three did a freeform take of "May The Circle Remain Unbroken" (audience members urged to join in!) bearing no resemblence to the Thirteenth Floor Elevators' with Roberts and the other sax player doing some mighty out-there moves on their instruments. Didn't catch the rest and I hope the entire shebang was recorded for posterity (and imminent release along with everything else of worth this series produced).
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 7:37 PM