Monday, December 24, 2012

Ramblings On Xmas Eve 2012...

I've been enjoying a few days of doing absolutely no writing. When I go through these (intentionally) fallow times, I always remember Harlan Ellison's conviction that real writers HAVE to write.  I guess he's on to something, since I'm taking a break from sorting my music collection to bang out this blog entry... does that count?

It's probably just a mental thing, but I love the sense of peace that sinks in over the holidays.  I took a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway last week, just doing some errands, and it was an absolutely perfect day.  Sunny.  Not much traffic.  I stopped for a cup of coffee and the folks at the shop seemed smiley-er than usual.  As I left, a lady wearing a Santa cap looked over at me and smiled.  Dropped by a magazine stand, picked up the new issue of "Mojo" and thought to myself, well, isn't this grand?  I can bitch and moan and whine up a storm when the gloomy feelings hit, so it seems only fair to acknowledge and appreciate the world when things are actually okay.

Of course, after my drive, I made the mistake of watching the NRA's unctuous spokesman pontificate on "Meet The Press." There went all those good feelings.  This guy's idea of dealing with the ridiculous proliferation of guns and high capacity ammo magazines remains to a), put an armed officer in every school in America and b), create a national database of "the mentally ill" (whom he generously refers to as "lunatics" and "monsters") which will allow the always unidentified someone to do the always unspecified something which will theoretically end these shooting sprees.  If this medieval list ever does come to pass, I look forward to the squeals when the clinical paranoids who think more guns are the solution to our nation's gun problem find themselves classified among the "lunatics." 

Nothing more to do after that than to thread up director William Friedkin and writer Tracy Letts' "Killer Joe", a fine picture that I'm sure fits onto the NRA guy's third to-do list, which is to clean up all the violent movies and video games.  I've said my piece on that particular subject in an earlier blog post, and anyway I rather doubt "Killer Joe" will send anyone out on a murder spree.  Rated NC-17 for reasons I don't quite understand, "Killer" tells the sad story of a family of Texas cretins who hatch a plan to kill "Mom" for the insurance money.  They make the mistake of recruiting "Killer Joe", a Texas cop who moonlights as a hit-man, played by Matthew McConaughey.  Joe takes the family's sweet little daughter as down payment for the murder and things go downhill from there.  If you get the feeling this entire clan would wind up on Mr. NRA's "Mentally Ill" list, you'd be right.  But despite the description, "Killer" is an extremely black comedy that actually generates some genuine laughs from the grotesque situation(s).  If you ever wondered what it would look like to be bashed in the face repeatedly with canned pumpkin, this movie is for you!

Now back to doing nothing... except enjoying the holidays!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On Violence In The Media...

Another horrible mass shooting, another round of pundits raising the specter of "violent video games and movies" and suggesting curbs, restrictions and limitations.  On games, of course, not on guns, because we've got to have our guns. 

Not to be too simplistic about it, but unless you smash an X-Box over someone's head, video games will never kill anyone.  An "accidental discharge" of Grand Theft Auto will never blow someone's head off.  No one will ever be cut down by a Matrix blu-ray disc with a 100 round magazine.  Does violent media contribute to the coarsening of society?  Probably, but then so does cutting funding for public schools, eliminating mental health programs, making it difficult-to-impossible for people to maintain medical coverage and a host of other societal factors.  The mother of the shooter in the Connecticut massacre was evidently stock-piling weapons out of fear of a coming financial/societal collapse.  I doubt she got those ideas from watching The Transporter. 

So can we please call this for what it is?  That it's a lot easier for these pious hand-wringers to pick on "Hollywood" and/or video games than it is for them to buck the N.R.A.?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Fear Record VS Fear The Record

THE FEAR RECORD:  Singer Lee Ving has re-recorded the truly amazing first album by his band Fear and now the updated 2012 results are now available from the fine folks at "The End" records.  I was lucky enough to catch Fear back in the day (late *cof* 70's), when for some reason punk crowds showed their appreciation for a band by spitting on them.  My own Fear experience was memorable less for the endless expectorations, and more because my pal and I arrived so early for the show that we found ourselves sitting next to Lee at the bar.  Where we proceeded to "have a beer with Fear" (also the title of their second excellent album).  Lee seemed like a good guy... good show, too.

A little A/B comparison between old and new recordings make it clear that the 2012 version is true to the spirit of the original, but has a much fatter sound.  The ever-critical reviewers over at Amazon hate this release with a passion, but what the heck.  The glorious thing about our media-savvy world is, you can still have both versions.  Now if Lee would only release a few more live shows...

Sunday, December 09, 2012

What th -- ? Mark's Back!

This "posting every week or so" thing has got to end.  Well, it doesn't HAVE to end... but you get the drift.  I continue to be busy with the ever exciting HEMLOCK GROVE (from Netflix, probably next Spring, keep watching the skies!) and various other entrepreneurial enterprises, but between that, there's always time for some NEW MUSIC and MOVIES...

ARGO: Finally caught this the other night (thank you, WGA screeners!) and count me among the film's many admirers.  Exceptionally well made, great cast, great script -- just a blast.  Even though considerable liberties were taken with the actual historical story, when a movie's this good I don't really care.  (It's only when the movie blows AND totally misrepresents history that I get testy.)  I also very much enjoyed the fact that besides being an edge of the seat thriller, it also offers a very funny peek "inside Hollywood" riff via the (fictional) producer played by Alan Arkin and the (non-fictional) John Chambers make-up artist played by John Goodman. The droll way Arkin's character makes a deal to option the Argo script is hilarious and, sadly, probably not that far from thousands of similar exchanges.  Not sure the "Warren Beatty" power broker gambit would work every time, but it was still funny.  Anyhow, the Hollywood side of the story (which I have to imagine was probably a smaller part of the overall rescue effort than the film suggests) gives Argo some bonus fun points.

FLIGHT: I'm halfway through, but wow, that's some flying, Denzel!

KILLING THEM SOFTLY: I don't publish bad reviews very often... I know what goes into making movies and TV shows, and even a misfire represents a whole lot of hard work by everyone involved.  But this Brad Pitt vehicle just doesn't come together, and that's too bad, because everyone here has done excellent work in the past. SOFTLY aims (I think) to be a examination of how the criminal world has become as regimented and dysfunctional as politics, but in fact it's a rather tedious series of conversational interludes punctuated by (admittedly well staged) extreme violence.  Adding up to... well, not much. Oh well.  Looking forward to the next one!

INFINITE CRISIS OMNIBUS: Diving into the world of comics, I picked this monster of a book up because I heard one of my Superman stories was reprinted therein.  Sure enough, a Superman/Wonder Woman crossover I did -- which evidently kicked off some massive DC-wide storyline -- is featured inside. It's a very well produced book, but I hope it's not a sign of early-onset Alzheimer's that I literally can't remember writing this story.  I remember the CIRCUMSTANCES of the crossover, but that's about it.  Anyway, if you have an extra $99 lying around and a very sturdy bookshelf, this is one big helpin' o' superhero action.

SPACEHAWK: I love Basil Wolverton, actually spoke with the man back in the early 70's (as recounted in an earlier blog post, my Uncle knew Mr. Wolverton through some long forgotten connection) and so any new collection is on my "must buy" list. Fantagraphics has done BW proud with this over-sized volume, full color with excellent reproduction. I've heard Wolverton compared to Fletcher Hanks, which, I'm sorry, is like comparing Orson Welles to Ed Wood.  Both had idiosyncratic styles and their work could be enjoyed in various ways, but Orson was a genius and Ed was just out there sluggin'.  Wolverton was a true genius and deserves every ounce of acclaim being heaped his way.  We live in a golden age of exquisite reprint volumes and YOU NEED THIS.