Archive for the 'underground culture' Category

RIP Thom Jones (1/26/45-10/14/16)

I saw him speak at Powell’s in PDX in 9?… let’s just say late 90’s. Looking back over the info, I guess I’ve ready all of his published collections, though I certainly hope there is more stuff coming posthumously.

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One aspect of his life you might glean from some of his stories, but not mentioned in Wikipedia he shared with us at Powell’s that night. At one point he was living in Africa, possibly through the Peace Corp or similar, and possibly acting as a medic. Anyway, he had access to this like…oil barrel of morphine, and as one can imagine, some of the down time of village life… Anyway, not a good combo, but he came through to tell about it.

If you can imagine enjoying short stories revolving around themes like boxing, philosophy, medical school, naughty partying, the Vietnam war I highly recommend him. Crazy to see also he might have adapted Larry Brown’s The Rabbit Factory for film, as I happen to be reading it right now. One of those synchronous things. I also add, and this is so selfish I’d be appalled to admit it, if I didn’t know this was just my lil’ blog and of no more consequence: it’s strangely refreshing that this gem of a writer didn’t get “huge” and blown out, have his work turned into mediocre films, have quotations and impression bantered around by coffeehouse philistines etc. I’m sure the $ would have been sweet, but have started it’s own unknown path. And who knows what cult status maybe be yet to come, because he deserves it. Wait am I contradicting myself here? Anyway read and find out for yourself…

Monsterama 2016

So while at Dragoncon last month I sort of came to a realization: in addition to being more a scifi than fantasy guy, I’m also a very classic and older b horror movie guy. I also heard about Monsterama, a small con in ATL in it’s 3rd year, and right at the Perimeter Marriot, very close to where I grew up.

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This year’s special guest was Caroline Munro. I had her sign a 7 Golden Voyages of Sinbad poster I got at Dcon for the occasion and had a pic with her. She was very swell and relatable, but unfortunately, when I asked about a biography admitted my wild imaginings of behind the scenes debauchery with co-stars like Christopher Lee, Tom Baker, Hasslehoff, or monster master Ray Harryhousen did not exist – at least not including her. Though she did meet David Bowie when he was little known and she yet to hit Bond girl status.

C SM and Caroline Munro

In addition to her panel, I attended one from a GA Tech lit teacher researching “real” vampires, i.e. those who drink blood for a feeling of power and fulfillment from willing doners; one on pulp writer Manly Wade Welman; and another on a subgenre some folks are trying to get going called Dreadpunk. My nieces came by briefly, since kids got in free, and we took pics with some of the monster statues. Also got some things from the merch room.

SpaceCat in light

Then waiting in line for the Spook Show before the screening of Star Crash (Spook show being a shlocky thing involving Jim Stacy and others, that at various times has gone on at the Plaza Theater and Drive In on Moreland), I took a pic of a kid in a space suit with a cat head. Her mom came over later to see the shot and I found out she was actually an 8 year old Special FX wiz, also speaking at a panel I had missed. Marvel the modern age! As mom was part of some Shining Twins cosplay, I got a pic of them too.

Shining Twins

In all, Monsterama was less organized than Dcon, thankfully smaller, and I’m not sure I missed anything by only attending one day instead of the three, but I’m not sorry I went and will look for it next year if I’m in town.

Dragoncon 2016

Several years I’ve gone down just to take pictures, but as the event has grown, security and the fire marshal have become more of a drag for free roaming. So I told myself the next time I was in the country over Labor Day, I’d get the pass and do it right. And even cosplay!

Steampunk Jedi

Uncle Iroh finds the missing piece

Staying at my friend's in nearby People'sTown, I biked down each day. I only dressed on Saturday, and in addition to people thinking I was Uncle/General Iroh, which I was, people also guessed Kung Fu Panda and Raiden. Saturday was the main party night and I was well rocked. Over the course of the con I saw Battlebots fight (smaller/lighter versions than on the show: #Season 3) and went to panel about that show, one on space colonization, the history of Sci fi, effective writing of SF, a collection of animated shorts, two panels on Hammer Horror films (one just the 70's), one on metal and horror, a short Korean film, and a live reading of a lesser known Tolkien work.

anime character with huge gun

DSA girls take aim

Shining Twins

The entire event has grown, the merch area now taking two full floors of the Merchandise Mart. I got a few goodies at the end, D+D artifacts and small movie posters. It was a blast and I'll do it again right if I'm in town next year. And also start my costume a bit earlier, so I'm not running to CVS hours in to try and save it with safety pins. Shout out to the Cosplay repair squad who hooked me up.

Six months into latest contract

I temporarily have a Freegate VPN, which sort of works, and when Irma, my girlfriend, came to visit from Indonesia, she set up some sort of portal which other wise allows me around The Great Firewall. Neither are ideal. Meanwhile one of shift keys, in addition to my “t” and “y” have crapped out on my keyboard. So updates are difficult at best. But nevertheless… Despite only being halfway through my contract, and as they love to state on GoT “Winter is coming”, I’m doing OK in China. Had some more health freakouts, but when hospital tests didn’t reveal much, I’ve settled on the old culprit excess weight making my bp climb. But my boss has bought me a membership to a fairly fancy gym, and I got this French anti-snoring mouthpiece, I’m generally sleeping and feeling better.

What to mention? Sadly, it seems not so many important things have happened apart from Irma’s awesome month long visit. I’ve had the apartment mainly to myself after taking over the big room with Marc’s departure. Some folks have come through, I guess technically five, but none have stayed more than 5 nights and most far fewer. So the place mostly to myself since June. Classes and work are OK, but I’m loving 6 days off right now and don’t exactly see how I’ll do six more months but I don’t want to waste time with work bitching.

When Irma was here I did some classic Beijing things I hadn’t since m first visit here in ’06. M god, how will that be 10 ears this coming January? The Chaoyang Acrobat show is still choice, if not expensive. Had BJ duck again, saw the Summer Palace, and out to The Wall, though she did the Forbidden City on her own. I was great to experiment with living together, if only for the month. It’ll be a hard road for us mostly based on other sides of the Earth and neither having much money, but life is long and we’ll see how the next steps go. I’ve all but quit drinking, maybe only 4 or 5 times a month for a while now and will keep it so until I’m thinner and healthier. I mus say: China without the whores, grass and booze isn’t nearly as appealing. But thus is the path on which I find myself. Nose to the grindstone, get thinner, in better shape, keep paying off debts and save some money for the future.
Watching lots of series (Hannibal, Narcos, The Knick, Fortitude, Mr. Robot, Shameless (US and UK), Fargo etc etc) as China is still a torrenting worry free haven.

Singapore visa stop-over en route to Bali

Somehow the trans-pacific flight gets less dramatic each time, despite the 30 hrs and my insomnia the night before I left, completely starting off on the wrong foot. Connections in Houston, where I witnessed at least one obese, white, asshole, male cowboy type getting lippy with low paid restaurant help for no reason at all; and Tokyo. That’s four layovers in Narita airport now and still don’t say I’ve been to Japan…getting absurd, need to stash the cash and do it right. During that layover chatted with a reasonably hip Grandma from Tampa also on the way to Sing to see her two generations of younger family, first time in Asia. It’ll be just her speed.

I need to quit bitching about Singapore, esp as I’ll have to return around Xmas time. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just expensive and dull but the standards of SE Asia. Stayed right by Little India again, cool staff, decent little windowless room. Got my visa that first day, despite arriving just after midnight and only having crashed a few hours. Now the agent meets in his office, not on Orchard Road like before, so I cabbed the first time, then did MRT for the other three trips (return to hotel, plus come/ go to pick up document the end of the work day).

Felt I needed to check out the sexpat scene in Sing, leery I’d dig it too much, but something to look forward to on return trips if it was all good. Strolling Orchard Road before I’d seen ho’s, xiao jia of various nationalities, but not really “shopping” then, hadn’t paid much attention. In one mall (and is there anything else in Sing?) while looking for another cheap phone, as my old one from the last China stint had a smushed screen when I pulled it out of storage; I saw and was solicited by an obvious group hanging out in an exit corner by the stairwell. The, I believe she was Filipino, girl who called out wasn’t too tempting, but I was still getting my bearings at that point. Then when I returned, after getting some tasty Ba Kwa in another place, I saw security on an obvious sweep and they’d all cleared out. Missed that window. My hotel had a sign saying “no guests after 11” and as it was early, I was thinking I might just take a temp-buddy back there. The weird hotel had it’s lobby on the 5th floor and no common areas beyond hallways at all. We’d be on elevator camera etc, but figured that was no biggie. Wandered on to another mall with “bad girl” bars (I think that was the actual name of one) but I’m not drinking as much these days, and the house is obviously gonna take a big cut of that transaction anyway. Settled for the second massage jack shack I happened by and was won over by “Coco” from Shenzhen. Got to bust out my pathetic Mandarin, but I guess it had some charm, as she let me take a picture. In retrospect, maybe I should have just gone the extra $ to do the deed, as I’d pay the house fee, but at that point I still had a second night to go, and my buyer’s remorse had yet to kick in… I was just so spoiled in China, where such things were $11 after a genuine one hour massage in my little 3rd tier city, at least the first year I was there. It had gone up by 2012, but not by much. Coco just sort of played ethereal keyboard on my thigh and stomach while we haggled about what else might or might not happen.

The over-priced handjob, sort of an offering to St. Bukowski, as I wasn’t really drinking and smoked no cigar, was accepted and he still smiled down on me out at the racetrack – the Singapore Turf club, the next evening. Hit a few, didn’t break even, but total amount spent was worth a few hours entertainment and education in foreign terminology and different betting styles.

And when I got back intown, met a cool, arty style Vietnamese chick who’s living there, and based on correspondence since, will either be showing me around Sing upon my return, or I will her if she can get back to Bali, as she liked her previous visit and wants to see more. A local always makes for a better visit. Cultural penetration – no pun.

So still way beyond sleep deprivation, I made it on to Bali and did 3 nights hotel, during which I found my new apartment, or kos as they say, and started teaching. It feels good to be back in the classroom after 1+ years away. More to come. Bali ya, same same – but different.

HR Giger RIP (1940-2014)

How did I miss this? I just realized today though he died about a week ago. And after I’d just re-ignited my interest in him after the Dune doc. Researching that post, it’s funny to realize I thought “oh, he’s still alive” but didn’t think “and could die any day…”. And from complications of a fall – seemingly an inglorious geezer’s demise, and yet the second most common form of accidental death.

I was gonna embed a great Slovakian doc I tubed recently, but it’s become private. I guess the intellectual capital on that one just went up. But in reading up on him, you quickly realize the influence of muse Li Tobler long after her suicide.

I still plan to make the pilgrimages to Chur, Gruyeres and Yverdon-les-Bains at some point. At some point I’m holding a surplus of cash, as Switzerland is never cheap, a Giger bar certainly wouldn’t be, and I’d want to come away with something substantial. So make that a SURPLUS of cash. Would have liked to see the bar in Tokyo too while it existed, though apparently without full permission. He’s certain to be sending dark ripples into the cultural pond for ages to come.

R.I.P. Philip Seymour Hoffman

Shocker.

And in a discussion about “true actors” without conventional good looks, I just referenced him less than a month ago. Two of his films I recommend that won’t get as many mentions in recent obits: The Savages and Love Liza.

On the Road – film and 50th anniversary audiobook

Kerouac gets a lot of shit. The cliche young male reader, using this novel as blueprint for all sorts of half-baked and irresponsible behavior and rambling conversations. But it had a big influence on me. Judge if you want.

This Summer/Fall I’ve sort of rediscovered the tale through film and audio-book versions. It’s funny how skewed my memory of it all was. For all the “positivity”, there is also a lot of friends letting one another down, child abandonment, etc. Some of it makes more sense now in my 40’s. I think the film does a decent job. I’m glad Walter Salles got to direct the project. It’s interesting a Brazilian can capture late 40’s America so well, also that so little of it was shot in the US. Sam Riley (British) is a solid Sal Paradise, and Garret Hedlund a solid Dean. I thought Viggo was having fun doing Bull Lee and worked great, maybe not quite ectomorphic enough, but certainly fitting in tone. Kristen Stewart was a perfect Marylou (I also really enjoyed her as Joan Jett). Tom Sturridge doesn’t quite do justice to Carlo, but perhaps as Ginsberg was more of a neurotic nerval who hadn’t fully come into his own at that point, it works. I also find it interesting Buscemi chose to do the small role he did, but is as perfect as most all he does these days.
With my first viewing, I wasn’t floored with the film. But repeat viewings of bits of it on cable having it growing in importance in my mind. A slow powerful burn. There are subtle details you might not fully appreciate the first time.

But Will Patton does an amazing job in his reading on audiobook for the 50th anniversary! His Dean IS Dean Moriarty, in all it’s manic babbling brilliance. He does justice to all the other voices, and hardest of all switching between. If for some reason you found the reading unpalatable, or just want to re-visit the story yourself, I definitely recommend a listen. As an actor, you’d recognize Patton, but his history doesn’t show him really excelling in lead roles. But after hearing this, I’ll definitely seek out more of his readings.

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