January 24, 2012

This Cartoon Life


Spinning Mad Tunes
The Needle hits the wax
and the party starts
Homer J. in the da house
Here's George Jetson
His son Ellroy
Jane his wife
Daughter Judy
Flinstones, Meet the the Flinstones
There a modern stone age family.
Lester B. Goodman already drinking salutes you
Dense Milt up and writing
and me- off to work I go, Hi Ho Hi Ho.

January 22, 2012

The Beaver

"This is an ongoing debate that boils up around people like Phil Spector, Roman Polanski, and Michael Jackson: Can we—and should we—enjoy the art of people who are personally morally reprehensible? If they make amends and try to redeem themselves, I would say yes. But Mel Gibson doesn't seem interested in doing any of that. "  
The preceding quote is from an article in The Atlantic magazine explaining why the reviewer did not bother to watch the movie The Beaver.  Hi review of the movie became the three reasons he chose not to watch it.  He had already made up his mind  and could not separate the actions of the Mel Gibson, the actor off camera with Mel Gibson, the actor playing a role on camera.  
There is a strong wave of judgement in our world today.  From the fundamentalists in the Middle East to the fundamentalists in our own backyard, some people just like to judge.  In fact, they feel it is their duty to judge.  And anyone deemed to be morally reprehensible is simply not eligible for any kind of review, attention or evaluation of their art- if their personal actions are so unacceptable.   
So we condemn Mel Gibson because his actions have ben described as "sexist, racist, anti-semitic, verbally abusive and perhaps even physically violent toward women."  And we condemn him because he is an admitted alcoholic.  This we do  even though we encourage him to come forward and admit his issues, and deal with them.  Just because alcoholics or drug addicts admit they have a problem, and may even be getting help, there are those who say we should still boycott their work, and shun them publically for their private lives, what little we know of them.
Are we setting up our celebrities to a higher standard of conduct just because we consume their art in a pubic forum?  Should any alcoholic deserve a free pass for their harmful actions, or  ill behaviors that may have resulted because of their alcoholism or because they could be mentally ill, or because they may claim that  they suffer from depression?  
 Because Pete Rose gambled on his own sport, ( and we know gambling can be a form of mental illness) should he be banned from the sport he loves, and shunned from the Hall of Fame, even though he clearly belongs there based on his record as a baseball player?  Is this question complicated if the individual is generally not a nice person to be around?   
What about the genius of Phil Spector or OJ Simpson or Michael Jackson?  Should we devalue their accomplishments in music, football and entertainment because of actions that proved to be criminally actionable, or    a form of suicide by celebrity?  Who do you despise more- OJ "The Juice" Simpson, who set countless records as a running back in college and the NFL, but who later may have murdered his wife, among others or someone like Barry Bonds, who broke Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth's home run records, but who allegedly cheated by Juicing himself with steroids to assist him in achieving those results?
Is it possible for someone like George Bush or Stephen Harper to actually do something that may have been good for something?   Or should we blanket hate them for all the other nefarious actions that so offend our good consciences?
I happen to like the skinhead art of Attilla Richard Lukacs, even though the subject matter makes me uncomfortable.  I respect his vision, and his sophisticated talents, even though his work seems to celebrate this violent, racist sub-culture that I abhor.  I think the music that Burzum created in prison, serving his sentence for murdering another heavy metal singer, is beautiful.   Does that mean I support his Nazi views?  
Getting back to the Beaver, I was moved by Mel Gibson's portrayal of a middle aged man who suffers from depression and anxiety.  The movie premise seemed to be silly at best, but he makes it all seem possible.   Some critics have said that his change of personality is too sudden when he "adopts" the Beaver persona.  Have they never seen someone who is in a manic phase of their depression?  
I have a friend who lives with this, and he would often come around and say, I'm much better now. He would say I"m better now so many times, that you knew he was not better, but just in a different phase of a complicated illness. 
Can someone who is mentally ill appear to be inspiring to a young child- yes.  They can also scare the living daylights out of them, causing the child to wonder if they would someday also fall victim to this illness.
Is it believable that a wife would try to do anything to keep her family together, even having sex with a hand puppet?
People do much worse all the time.   The sub-plot with the son who writes term papers for other students for money, who falls in love with the young girl who became a graffiti artist to deal with the trauma of an older sibling's death all seem very plausible to me.   
In the hands of less talented actors, or director, this story would have been a failure, but instead, it is an allegory of families dealing with mental illness, and families dealing with grief, and families dealing with a loss of their own voice or art.   And it is a movie in which a deeply troubled celebrity gets to show the world that he is still an actor of immense talent capable of creating a performance that goes far beyond expectations to reach redemption. 
Here is a review of The Beaver that pretty well nails it in my book. 
http://www.filmschoolrejects.com/reviews/the-beaver-review-sxsw-mel-gibson.php

January 21, 2012

Punch in the Eye

I was 4 years old.  I remember my older brother Kelly was there.  I can't remember why I did it, but I punched another kid in the eye.
I remember feeling triumphant, then feeling bad, then being taken home by my brother.  I don't remember any repercussions for punching the kid in the eye.
What did I learn from this incident?  A sense of power?  Knowledge that the best way to settle an arguement is to fight?  I do not even remember the other boy or his name.  I don't remember anything about him, except that I punched him  in the eye.
The feelings that lingered for the rest of my life was that punching someone is not the way to deal with your anger.
I developed a fear of my own strength.  A fear of the harm I could cause.  I felt bad because punching him made me confront a side of myself that I did not want to indulge.  A side of me that I did not want see come out.   This is the lesson of holding your temper.

My father had a reputation for a temper that preceded him.  I don't mean that he inherited his temper from his father, although that is the usual course of development of our tempers- how we express our feelings of anger is not inate, but is a learned behavior.   Obviously I learned this from a young age.  What other memories do I have that precede the one of punching a kid in the eye at age 4?  
I remember falling down a stairwell to a basement in North Vancouver when I was two.  I lost one of my front baby teeth. Later the same permanent tooth was chipped when I was 8.  For years I had the indignity of a silver cap. I also remember running naked out the front door of our house in Port Alberni when I was either 3 or 4, running down the street until my mother caught me, spanked me and lectured me on decency.  And then the punch in the eye.  
I bring this up to explore what are our earliest memories are.  Why do some memories stick, when others  disappear?   I think it is because these memories were important in our development in some way.  The punch in the eye at age 4 lead to the development of a temper, and a consciousness of anger, and how we choose to express ourselves.  
I was very conscious of my father's temper and the way he expressed his feelings.  I was also conscious that when he exploded, it  did not make me feel good.   I made the decision at an early age  not to express myself in a similar manner.  So where was my anger to go if I could not just let it out?  I was afraid that if I let the genie out of the bottle,  I would not be able to control it.
As a result, I spent my early years withdrawing from situations that might result in violence.   Yet violence was all around me.  At age 5, I saw JFK shot, and then Oswald shot.  Later, Martin Luther King Jr, and Robert Kennedy.   Every night on the news, we had violent reportage from Vietnam.  Naked children running down the street, except in her case it was after being bombed with napalm.  
The Sixties were a particular violent time to grow up in.  At home, my father was not a violent man; he was just loud. He said what he felt, when he felt it, and seemed to forget about it once it was over.  But I felt the reverb, I could hear the echo, I could sense the bounce back.   For days after, I would stew, and simmer on a low boil, doing what Hank Hill (on King of the Hill) famously said was the time honored tradition of sucking back your own rage, swallowing it down until you feel that lump in your throat, and that sick feeling in your gut.  That's how you hold in your feelings.
But there would be times I could not hold the anger inside.  It would burst forth.  I remember kicking a locked door open in the gym, surprising the gym teacher who pegged me as the quiet kid.  I remember getting into a fight with a kid, grabbing his underwear and giving him a 'brownie".  But I also remember when he retaliated by kicking me real hard in the crotch.  The pain was unbelievably painful, and even though it left a mark on me to this day, I refused to tell anyone.  Anger and shame kept me quiet, but along with the pain, I seethed inside.
Once I was mad at a girl in drama class.  She was kind of cute, but was actling like a brat.  She did something resulting in me getting a little wet.  The real damage was to my ego, as  I felt humiliated, so I left the classroom and deliberately went down the hall, grabbed a bucket, and filled it with water.  
I then proceeded to dowse her with an entire bucket of water.  Well, all hell broke loose, as she was connected with the jocks at the school, and here I was, a drama nerd, humilating this jock's girl.  For weeks, I was on a kill list.  
Later my anger found its release in acting.  I watched Taxi Driver about 15 times, and A Clockwork Orange about 10 times.  I became the 'go to guy' for the psycho parts.  In an acting exercise, I was asked to show "status" over another actor in an improv, and basically, I made him grovel, forcing my fellow actor to cry.  Another time, I kicked a girl in the head. (an accident)
I was angry and all that pent up anger and rage that I had been suppressing for about 17 years started to explode.  All around me, other kids were going through the same thing, and all these rejects moved from the suburbs to Vancouver.   This was the start of the punk scene in Vancouver.
My anger poured into my writing, and after finding expression in acting, I finally made the decision to combine my love of primal theatre, poetry and music.  This was the start of AKA.
AKA helped me to express my rage, to vent my anger, to rail against the injustice around me.  This is why  punk as a movement, and as a community,  as an outlet for my rage and anger was a such a personal turning point.   There was a lot of screaming with my first band, AKA.  My first non AKA act on the Smilin' Buddha stage was to run on while another band, the Shades were playing Psychotic Reaction. When the band sang, And it goes like this,  I  grabbed the microphone from thge singer and screamed AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!, and jumped off the stage backwards into the crowd, who caught me ( as they did that in the early days!)  
A few months into this new punk life, I was attacked after a show.   I had left the show at O'Hara's early ( a show that later became famous for its own violence), and went home to my new apartment in Kitsilano.  It was pretty much a bed, a table and some chairs, and not much else.   Bored I went out to the Chinese fast food joint down the street.  While I was waiting, some French Canadians were playing songs on the jukebox.
At one point these three kids came in, proceeding to harass first the French Canadians, then the Chinese people who ran the place, and finally make gestures toward me, the token punk.
As I left the place with my food, I turned and said- and forever I will wonder if this was the best line I could have come up with- Why don't you go home and listen to your Foreigner records! ( with a sneering "Foreigner".
I was half way down the block when two of them came out of the restaurant, and shouted " What did you say?"   I said, Why don't you go home and listen to your Foreigner records?   Well, then the two of them starting running toward me.
Now remember, I'm not the violent guy.  I'm the lover, not the fighter.  But I wasn't a coward.  I stood my ground as they came upon me.   I like Foreigner you fucking punk!  He kicked the bag of food out of my hands.  Stupidly, I bent down to pick it up, and he sucker punched me, right in the eye.
Blood was running down my cheek as my face kind of melted.  His fist perfectly positioned so the smallest knuckle broke the skin of my eyebrow, and the brunt force of the rest of the fist broke my nose.
Blood was everywhere and at that, they took off.  Just one punch.  The third guy in the trio who was actually the biggest of the three, then came running down the block toward me.
I'm thinking, what now?  He says, Oh my god, I'm really sorry for my friends- do you need me to call someone?  No Fuck off! I mumbled through the blood, picked up the luke warm Chinese food and went back to my apartment.
Later that week at the Buddha, I saw Wimpy, who was and is my favourite of all the punk singers, and he asked me what happened.  I told him and he said, well, I guess you're a punk now.
All it took to be reborn as a punk was a punch in the eye.  That and 17 years of holding inside all my feelings of anger and rage.    

January 15, 2012

Bowl of Sick for the Soul

Remember the good old days? Waking up in a pool of your own sick? Oh, those were the days. I pride myself on my ability to forgive. Especially my ability to forgive alcohol.  Alcohol, which has done me so wrong over the years, that I should hate it and never enjoy it again, but instead, I forgive. And forget. And rinse and repeat.
There is a love/hate relationship with Alcohol.  I never met a bottle that I didn't want to kill.  With alcohol, you can have your cake, and eat it too.  Just don't be surprised if the cake comes back up in the morning.  As you wake in the crumbs of the Devil's Food, it looks you in the eye, and says," you thought you could have me, but it was only a rental. "
We salute the hungover Jerry McGuire's of the world, who say, You had me at bottom's up! Then you had me again at face value, facedown in a bowl of sick.   
Ah, the hangover.  The morning after.  There is something about the hangover that we need to hold and treasure.  It is the return of our investment, the kick in the head, the point after last night's touchdown, the penalty shot right between the eyes.
My misadventures with alcohol could fill a book, but don't worry, I'm not going there.   That would be wallowing in the wasted.  We called the Jazzmanian Devils, The Hardest Drinking Band in Show Business.  It wasn't a musical endeavor, it was a Private Member's Drinking Club.   I remember enjoying a beverage at the Railway Club with the iconic Steve Taylor, who looked to the end of the bar, at the guy who was there every night, rain or shine, and said to me with all sincerity," If I ever look like that, promise me you will shoot me?"   
Judgement is another hallmark of alcohol.  A measurement of the man.  How many?  How much can you drink?  Can you handle your drinks?  Can you hold your liquor?  Can you drive home?
Now we get to the dark side of alcohol.  It can kill you.  Many things in life can kill you.  Getting up in the morning can kill you.  Sometimes even bad luck can kill you.  
I've known people who drank themselves to death.  It is not a pretty sight.  It is incredibly sad, especially to family members who watch this process.  I say process because rarely is it quick.  It is gruelingly long and progressive, and it draws in those around, wounding them as well.   Alcoholism, like other forms of addicition, has many causes.  
There are  as many reasons a person develops into alcoholism as there are reasons to drink.  Usually, there is an underlying genetic disposition.  More likely, there is an underlying cycle of pain or abuse or tragedy or a betrayal of trust.
Often love was involved.  But we say drink kills.  We don't say love kills.  We don't say life kills.  But everyone who has life will one day have death, so it follows that life kills.  We are born to die.  I want to Live Fast, Die Young, and leave a beautiful memory, or so the song says.  
There are traditions of romancing the bottle, romancing the relationship we have with booze.  Booze.  What a great word that is.  Makes it sound like it is.  Easy.  Breezy. Beautiful Boozy cover girl.  
But we likes our drinks.  We likes our whiskey and we likes our wine.  Our highballs, our 3 sheets to the wind, our slow comfortable screws.  We likes our Harvey Wallbangers, Tom Collins, Gin Fizzes, Martinis, our girl drink drunks,  Pink Ladies, Greyhounds, and Sidecars.  Booze has fun names, a rich history of mixology, associations with crime, bootlegging, the Mob, Al Capone, the Seagrams, the Bronfmans,  a verifiable Canadian history lesson.  
I consider myself a bit of an expert when it comes to alcohol.  I have extensive knowledge of bar lore.  I have more stories and jokes and bits of useless information relating to alcohol than much else in my life.  Oh yeah, I'm not a lawyer, but I've been called many times to the bar.  I went to the doctor, and he found traces of blood in my alcohol stream.   I got a million of them.





January 14, 2012

WHAT DO WE FEAR MOST?



FEARS THAT WE HAVE THAT ARE BASED ON RATIONAL TRUTHS:
Unemployment, poverty, wars, warts, loss of freedom, loss of football, loss of memory, loss of children, financial loss, losing your pen, rampant greed, rampant eco-destruction,rampant global warming, corrupt politicians, Republicans, Democrats, Conservatives, socialists, socialized medicine, Social Networks, social diseases, Stephen Harper, Stephen King, King Stephen Harper, diseased religious fanatics, corrupt religious fanatics, lone gunmen, one gunman, gangs, gangs of gunmen, police, police with guns, mental illness, mental cruelty, cruelty to animals, cancer, dementia, genetically modified foods, food shortages, water shortages,  short people, short tempers, fingers on the button, fingers fingering your button, not being able to button, the industrial military complex, industrial music, borders, doctors, doctors without borders, doctors with borderline personalities, shopping for books at Borders, Amazon, Google, Apple, Apple after Steve Jobs, having no jobs, look ma no hands, mothers, fathers, bad mothers, bad fathers, evil chickens, evil children, snakes, rakes, rape, apes, the Dutch, the Bomb, Obama, the Oprah, the restless natives, the Chinese, the Russians, the Jews, the Americans, the American Jews, Woody Allen, having a woody in class, having no class, having no woody, the pine beetle, pining for the Beatles, Christmas, Christians, Mitt Romney, mittens, kittens, money, monkeys, melons, felons, feelings, freedoms, condoms, prose and cons, prose or poetry, poetic license, love, luvs, uvulas, vulvas, viruses, vulvas with viruses, bulghur, Bulgarians, Hungarians, going hungry, going crazy,clog dancing, blogs, logs, joggers.


FEARS WE HAVE THAT ARE  BASED ON IRRATIONAL FICTIONS:
Vampires, ghosts, werewolves, Soylent Green, Martians, marshmallows, mellow hippies, hipsters, brains clouds, Hag's disease, soul suckers,Ripley's (1) , Jack the Ripper, bodice rippers ( no, that is real), men whose stomachs are ripped,men whose brains are ripped, men, ( in general), zombies, The Pulse (2), The Pulse (3), the Undead, the Grateful Dead, dinosaurs, Michelle Bachman, eyes of newts, Newt Gingriches eyes, Ron Paul, the White Plague (4), the Gold Standard, giving up the Gold Standard, Goldfield Syndrome (5). 

1. Ripley's: alien parasitoid macrovirus. The adult aliens resemble deformed potato beings with legs, while the younger aliens — nicknamed "shit-weasels" because they can be created in a host organism's stomach and escape by eating their host's body between the stomach and anus — are legless, smaller versions of the adult alien. Both adult and young aliens have a mouth consisting of a slit on the underside of the head that goes down the length of the worm. The lips separate to reveal hundreds of teeth that can bite through steel.1

2. The Pulse: A powerful virus which lies dormant inside mobile phones and which requires a powerful signal to set off. The exact unleashers are unknown, but are implied to be a terrorist group due to numerous theories in the novel. The virus is implied to have been released just after September 11th, and lain dormant in cell phones ever since. Once the right signal is transmitted and leaked into incoming phone calls, the caller's brain cells immediately disintegrate and they are unable to recognize friend from foe; they are even unable to recognize other people infected with the virus. Inevitably, the infected callers become psychotic and start killing each other, the chaos of which lasts approximately two days before the infected callers have become "stable" enough to cooperate and recognize each other.


3. Band from the 80's featuring various non-descript future bankers.

4. The White Plague: A genetically engineered virus that kills only women. Released only on IrishEnglish, and Libyan populace.



5. Goldfield Syndrome: A form of anterograde amnesia in which the sufferer begins each day with no memory of the events of the previous day. The person believes every day to be same day on which they acquired the condition.


1. Stephen King 2. Stephen King 3.dense milt 4.Frank Herbert 5. 50 First Dates ( see also Groundhog Day, Independence Day, and Dog Day Afternoon)


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fictional_diseases

January 10, 2012

HOUSE OF CURTAINS

Today's challenge: write an instant song/poem with the title House of Curtains, and using the words quilt and patchwork.

HOUSE OF CURTAINS

What is that shape behind the drape? 
A baboon's ass or a man with a grape, 
In the house of curtains they draw the blinds
Invoke words like quilt and mess with your minds.

Who is the doll behind the curtain?
Flicking her sash with a dash of flirting?
She dances like an Egyptian behind the Venetian
Limbos under the valance to bring us to completion.

So it's drag and swag over rod and pole
Work the japery of her drapery like a patchwork soul.
Then we nod to the valance while catching our balance,
And the shape behind the drapes reveals her talents.

densemilt 2012.
 

January 9, 2012

BALD LIKE ME - A SNEAK PREVIEW OF THE COMING EXPOSE!!!!

 In the flood of light against the yellow wall, the face and shoulders of a stranger - a fierce, bald, a very bald man glared at me from the glass. He in no way resembled me.  I told myself that I was tired, that I must not judge these men who  for the price of a ride submitted me to the swamps of their fantasy lives. They showed me something that all men have but seldom bring to the surface, since most men have hair over their skulls. At this time, D was picking up rides from balding males off of the highway. They asked him various question regarding his sex life and asking stereotypical question about a bald man's sexual activity. D had to realize that these men would never ask him such questions in the day, but only in the private time in those cars. D realized as well that every bald man was different from the inside than what his actions showed on the outside.

"I have never been more moved by a non-fiction book since “A Million Little Pieces” by James Frey. "
Blogger Dense Milt decided, in 2012, to risk his life in the shadowy world of male pattern baldness to investigate what life was like for balding men in the days when the “b” word was used as lightly as “the.”
His goal to be an objective observer was blown almost immediately. By using what he called his medication and the love of good hair stylist, he  exposed  enough of his skull to be considered a Bald Man. Already sympathizing with the people still considered 2nd class citizens at the time, Milt (a 53 year old with a full head of hair) emotionally became a bald man. He experienced what it was like to be on the receiving end of the “hate stare,” being pushed to the front of the line, walking tens of blocks to use a “bald” bathroom, and others. No normally haired  person, no matter how sympathetic to the plight of bald men in their early fifty to sixties, could understand what it was like to be oppressed and hairless for life.
For six weeks Milt traveled the back country of roads of New York's Catskill Mountains and suffered the treatment from the hirsute young of the day that was a daily occurrence for a bald man in 2011. He began his journey by stopping at a hair salon several times in his natural disposition and then in character. The stylist who ran the salon was delighted when he, Milt revealed himself and with his help Mr. Milt was smoothly embedded in the Bald community. He learned how balding men were kept by women for their money, and how they said they "loved to rub the skull." 
He immediately discovered that his common beliefs about 'baldys" were absolutely false. In fact he found them to be very little different from the average beautiful person with hair.
It’s also interesting that Balding North Americans are referred to as “Society of Skulls” , or simply as "SOS" dozens of times throughout the book. The epilogue is almost as interesting as the journal that makes up the book. Mr. Milt was rocked by the response to the series of articles he wrote on the subject of baldness  and other than a few personal attacks the response was positive. He became an active go-between for bald and non-balding community leaders all over the country, even working with Howie Mandel, who asked him to wash his hands. He continued to fight the good fight beside his brothers, both bald and non-bald to work toward equality. This book will make you search your soul no matter what the color of your skull is. And if this review does anything, I hope it makes you run, not walk, to my contest featuring this book and for those who don’t win, run to the library or bookstore to GET THIS BOOK.
It should be required reading for EVERY North American over the age of Forty.

January 8, 2012

No Beast So Fierce

I watched Straight Time last night, a movie from the late 70's starring Dustin Hoffman, Theresa Russell ( her second movie), Harry Dean Stanton, Gary Busey, Kathy Bates and  M. Emmett Walsh.
This film is based on the book No Beast So Fierce, written by outsider Edward Bunker, ( Bunker has a cameo in the movie).  Hoffman apparently wanted to direct this filmn as well as act, but  decided during the shoot that his temperment was better served on the other side of the camera.  He brought in his friend Ulu Brosgard ( who directed The Subject was Roses on Broadway and on film with the great Jack Albertson) to direct.
Straight Time is the story of Max Dembo (Edward Bunker), who was a real criminal who spent most of his life in prison, but recounts one of the times he was "free."
Freedom is a strange concept for someone in prison, as the career prisoner often finds life in prison more comfortable than life outside.  Comfort comes from community.  I once asked a family member who was living on the streets how they could live down there, saying it that way, down there like some kind of hell on earth.  Their answer was that it was the only place where they felt community, where they felt they could live without judgement of who and what they were.   I know a lot of that was the drugs talking, but there was also a truth that resonated.  One of the so called pillars that needs to be respected when we try to 'fix' the drug problem is providing community.
We watch the scene in the visiting room at the LA County Jail when Theresa Russell comes to see Dustin Hoffman, who did not show up for their date, as M. Emmett Walsh busts him back to jail on the unproven assumption that he is using. This scene is a master class in acting.  His eyes won't look at her straight; they can't as his emotions are balled up inside him like a caged animal.  His face is the face of rage, anger, but it is all internal.   He is the lifetime criminal, the guy more used to life on the inside.  You can also sense that he doesn't want her to get too close, knowing that she risks more than her innocence being with him.  M. Emmett Walsh is  Frank,  the parole officer, a corrupt porcine oaf who holds the keys to the handcuffs and Hoffman's freedom.  All I'm going to say here is that you will enjoy his comeuppance on the highway.  It is a scene that will burn forever in your head.
We also get to see very young Gary Busey ( pre motorcycle crash), Kathy Bates (pre weight), and Harry Dean Stanton, who always has had that face, that hangdog loser face.  His character is a perfect companion to the John Cazale character in Dog Day Afternoon.  Sal you can go to any country in the world, where do you want to go?  Is Wyoming a country?
Dustin Hoffman meets up with the character played by the film's real life author Edward Bunker in a bar.  Bunker's forehead, greasy hair and 70's moustache is as brilliant casting as Hoffman's fish out of water jitters.
 
 Straight Time is based on Bunker's first person account of life on the inside and outside of prison No Beast so Fierce.  As the cover to the left proclaims Quentin Tarantino call this book "The best first person crime novel I've every read".
Bunker enjoyed some fame  after getting out of prison as a writer and actor- he played Mr. Blue in Resevoir Dogs.  His book Animal Factory was also made into a movie, with Willem Dafoe and Edward Furlong.  This is the real hard-boiled stuff.
Interesting that they change the name of the  movie to Straight Time.  As I was googling Straight Time, I forgot the title for a second and typed in Straight Life.
I got the schmaltzy Bobby Goldsboro song ( Leaving the straight life behind, I'm just playing a game in my mind ), and hardcore heroin memoir The Straight Life by the jazz great Art Pepper.
Pepper's autobiography is one of the best autobiographies that I have read.  When he talks about how he felt shooting up for the first time, you can actually understand how that lifesyle would have the attraction it does.
Most people do not fall into the down and out lifestyle of an addict for kicks; dope is not the gateway drug to injecting heroin.   Pain is the gateway drug to heroin.  Abuse is the gateway drug to heroin.  Being raped by family members you trust can be the gateway drug.  No, Pepper spells out his life story of pain and tragedies that bring a person to heroin.  When he describes in detail the pain, and then how for the first time in his life, he did not feel pain, he did not feel anything, and the absence was such a relief from a lifetime of hurt, it doesn't make you want to go out and score.  But it does gives us empathy for what drives people to addiction, to practices that can kill themselves a little bit everyday.  It does what the film Straight Time does: it shows us how some people who cannot fit into our society do not feel comfort in this society.  For the addict and the hard core criminal,  the concept of being out, or Straight Time,  or living the Straight Life is a  false dream that doesn't fit the cards they have been dealt.
I am reminded here of a person I will not name who was very close to me.   She was an alcoholic, which is a label we give to people who prefer the company of a bottle.  Her alcoholism did not define her, but her alcoholism killed her.    Contrary to the opinions of some people very close to me, it was not her moral failure or lack of control or her inability to say no to a drink that put the metaphoric gun in her hand.    It was the demons inside that grew from a world of deep pain and hurt, that come from an abuse of trust of some kind, the kind of abuse that drives a person to feel they are worthless, to devalue their life, to seek the solace in something to kill the pain.
In the end, the pain is killed, but so is the patient.  We hope  their peace in death provides a comfort that they could not enjoy in life.   But every death marks those left behind, and we are left to grapple with the unanswered questions to what we perceive as an unfinished life.  

January 2, 2012

John Gilmore: Laid Bare

John Gilmore 1954
2012 and my goal is to watch less TV and read more.  And write more.
I've always been interested in many things, and usually have a few books on the go.
Which has come to mean, I have a few books that I am trying to read, but nothing that has grabbed me by the balls and forced me to turn pages, tuning out the rest of the world.
Because that is what good writing does: it inhabits you, it intoxicates, it drugs you into believing you are in another world.
About a week ago, I started reading Laid Bare by John Gilmore.

Gilmore was an actor back in the 50's.  He "knew" James Dean.  In the Biblical sense.  He doesn't hold back; you will probably learn more about various Celebs than you bargained for.
Gary Indiana says," I read Laid Bare straight through with stunned fascination...The opening chapter is really a masterpiece all by itself, it recreates an entire era.."
Genesis P-Orridge says" This is a graphic vision of Hollywood- a dark, new existentialism full of grossly compelling characters whose self respect, sincerity and sense of identity are as thin as the slime that seems to cover their every activity.  Magnificently necessary!"
In his chapter Confessions of an L.A. Son, it starts out with " 'I've had my cock sucked by five of the big names in Hollywood," James Dean said to me one night on the set of Rebel without a Cause.....How long could it go on? That's what I wanted to know. The answer was it could go on until nothing was left, until they had what they wanted and nothing was left."
Gilmore talks intimately about Hank Williams, Janis Joplin, James Dean, Marilyn, Lenny Bruce and other icons of American tragedy.  He was there in the front seat of that particular time of myth making.
America eats its young, and Gilmore gives us the straight up restaurant review of each meal.  It's hard boiled, and boiled down to its very essense, which is more than just gossip.  He captures what seems to be the sense of the time.
Gilmore has also written quite a few true crime books.  One is called Severed about the infamous Black Dahlia case.  Does he get more into it than James Ellroy, and his mother/whore fascination with Elizabeth Short?  We will have to read it and find out.  He also did a book on the Manson Family, and other lurid tales of Californication and madness.
Does he remind me of anyone?  Our own John, John Armstrong, who's book Guilty of Everything is about to be made into a Hollywood movie with Jay Baruchel as the young Buck Cherry.
Will they "ruin" the truth of the memoir?  Who knows.   Is any memoir all true?  I've explained my thoughts on this subject many times, most recently just this last month in another blog post.  What binds them is the fact that you can't put this stuff down; it almost reads itself.  The honesty and revelations are simultaneously presented in a way that invites the reader to have an eye witness window to times that will never repeat themselves.  "I can only give you everything," John Armstrong exclaims in one of his songs.  Who are we to ask for more?

January 1, 2012

Buried in the Past but Still Pissin' in the Wind

Ambulance Blues

An ambulance can only go so fast 
It's easy to get buried in the past 
When you try to make a good thing last.  
I never knew a man could tell so many lies 
He had a different story for every set of eyes. 
How can he remember who he's talkin' to? 
'Cause I know it ain't me, and I hope it isn't you.  
And I still can hear him say: 
You're all just pissin' in the wind 
You don't know it but you are.
And there ain't nothin' like a friend 
Who can tell you you're just pissin' in the wind.

Neil Young


This is the first post of 2012, and I can proudly report I am still pissin' in th wind.  
As the man says," It's easy to get buried in the past". For me, this is especially true and apt. 
In 2007 I nearly buried myself. In the five years that have passed since my cardiac adventure, I reconnected with my creative self. I started writing Condensed Milt and other blogs.  
I have unsuccessfully tried to initiate some musical projects. I reconnected with friends from my creative time of the late 70's-80's.  
One of those friends was Lenore Herb, who left us in October 2010. Along with a few other 
friends, we formed a group called VDOC to promote her work, to help preserve the reportage and art she had created, work that was corroding with time.  
It became so important to try to bring attention to the potential loss, as so much vitality was 
tied up in these videos. The Lenore Herb collection captures my youth revolution, 
chronicles the creative process, and bursts forth with a vitality missing in my life today.

"It's easy to get buried in the past." I have tried to claw my way out of the grave. I have tried to
reinsert myself in the history, dusting off the memories, telling the stories that have yet to be 
told.  
I believe the work we created still sparkles. AKA was one of the best bands of that time. 
Musically, lyrically, presentation, execution, performance, politics.
We were left out of the official record of that time, Bloodied but Unbowed.  
We were not the only group left out.
But the void still rankles.
No mention, no one interested enough to include any music, footage, opinions.
Not in the film, or the extras.

The film is a vital piece of work that jumps right out of the television screen. It works much
better on the small screen than the big screen. It is not lessened by AKA's absence.
It stands on it's own as a great film. The more I see it, the more I enjoy it.
The filmmaker has no obligation to put us in the film, only to tell her story.
And yet....."it's easy to get buried in the past."

So as this new year begins with hope and trepidation, I may be buried in the past, but I will 
continue to write about what interests me. I hope it interests a few of you.
Writing is different than music. Music gives you an immediate reaction to your creation.
You can feel it, hear it, and see with your own eyes the truth of the reaction.
Writing offers more freedom. I don't need to have a band to write.
I don't need to pin jello to the wall in trying to schedule grown adults for rehearsals.
I just write it and post it. Put it out there.  I try very hard not to overthink or overwrite it.
I want the truth of the moment. I don't want to give myself the opportunity to second guess.
This helps to make the writing as immediate as the music was.
But at times, it seems I am just pissin' in the wind.
Sometimes, I get blowback. Sometimes, I get wet. I get sent to the showers.
Feel free to be the friend that says, Dense, you are pissin' in the wind.
Because I take that as a good thing.
Because I would rather keep pissin' in the wind instead of being buried in the past.

So it's time to move on, past the jealousy and anger. It's time to tell my stories.

Gather round. It's going to get weird.