Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Fish Eye

When I was young I remember when fish eyes lens album covers were a big deal. Generally meant to depict the effect of a distorted, drug-induced hallucination, the fish eye lens was developed in the early 20th century but didn't become available on the marketplace until the early Sixties.

The popular fish eye lens is the circular lens, best explained by Wikipedia:

The first types of fisheye lenses to be developed were "circular fisheye" — lenses which took in a 180° hemisphere and projected this as a circle within the film frame. Some circular fisheyes were available in orthographic projection models for scientific applications. These have a 180° vertical angle of view, and the horizontal and diagonal angle of view are also 180°. Most circular fisheye lenses cover a smaller image circle than rectilinear lenses, so the corners of the frame will be completely dark.

By the mid to late Sixties it was de rigeur for every popular band to have a cool fish eye lens photograph of themselves. Several bands released iconographic album covers employing this exciting new look.

Three album covers which immediately come to mind are Are You Experienced? by the Jimi Hendrix Experience (shot by Karl Ferris), Safe As Milk by Capt. Beefheart & His Magic band (shot by Guy Webster), and Mr. Tambourine Man by The Byrds (shot by Barry Feinstein). These particular shots expand on what would have been considered average stock rock photos.

The fish eye camera lens craze enjoyed its heyday in the Sixties and its use in the decades to follow slowly dropped into obscurity. I think we're due for a revival any day now....


Speaking of a revival I've been listening to the Edgar Broughton band a lot lately. Talk about your overlooked geniuses, they were so far ahead of their time they couldn't even catch a break in their own home country.

The band's first album Wasa Wasa inaugurated their sound in 1969. While it recalls classic stoner rock like Black Sabbath, it sounds more like what would be considered The Birthday Party's signature sound over 10 years later. Case example: Love In The Rain, shown here on Beat Club.

Although the Broughton Band was more song-oriented compared to, say, the more freeform Deviants, the lyric content from Broughton was far more outrageous. One of the more extreme examples is “Psychopath”, the recalling of the rape/murder of a young teenage girl. The track unsettled rock fans with the way the crime is recounted with more than a trace of humor. This twisted sense of humor earned the band more than their fair share of enemies and made the band fairly reviled in a scene that accepted just about everyone. The Edgar Broughton Band stepped over the line and fans were not amused.

Nor did they endear themselves to the vegetarian hippie corps by posting a photo of a line of slaughtered cattle in an abattoir on the cover of their second album. They were pushing buttons far ahead of the punk rock bands of 1977, but nobody was ready for it yet.

While the band weren’t about to unseat Donovan in the peace and love sweepstakes, they still managed to be as eclectic as possible. One of the earliest bands to cover a Captain Beefheart song, they merged Dropout Boogie with Jorgen Ingemann’s instrumental hit Apache.

But if you want to hear the proper precursor to The Birthday Party, I recommend tracks like Evil (“Evil, evil, black as night…”), Crying and Love In The Rain, where the trio play distorted acid rock with swinging jazz time signatures. And for those of you who like ballads, you may never hear a ballad more gorgeous about suicide than Hotel Room.

On the other end of the spectrum is Elysian Fields, a band led by New York couple Jennifer Charles (vocals) and Oren Bloedow (guitar and piano). Their sound is very slow, moody and torch song influenced. For the past twenty years they have produced a line of albums that sound like Julie London transmitting messages from the dark side of the moon.

Bearing an uncanny resemblance to Sixties-era Jane Birkin, Charles sings in a low whisper while the band, a revolving group which included members of Jeff Buckley’s backing group play behind her. Bloedow and Charles write haunting melodies that are both erotic and romantic, Songs for Really Modern Lovers.

Some of their more haunting torch songs include The Moment, When, and Climbing Up My Dark Hair. If you go for more of a rock sound, they do rock out in a Romeo Void-kind of way with songs like Timing Is Everything, Jack In The Box, and Bend Your Mind. You owe it to yourself to discover this great band. You won’t be sorry.

Friday, September 30, 2016

My Goat Can Totally Beat Up Your Goat

A few decades ago I attended Los Angeles City College to study the art of screenwriting. The teacher wasn’t very good, in fact he was rather lazy and instead of instructing us how to write for film he merely had us write our scripts and then have us read it to the rest of the class. Groan. This wasn’t screen writing, this was a bad creative writing class.

What kind of scripts did my classmates write? One graying pipe-smoker of a fella wrote a coming of age tale which took places in the Fabulous Fifties and included slow motion scenes of wrist cutting and other suicidal rituals. There was also tedious dialogue between man and woman about “going all the way”.

Another classmate wrote about a plucky woman trying to make it in the food catering business. It wasn’t very funny and it almost read like a diary of her working day. While she read I stared at her metal braces and concluded she looked a bit like a shark.*

What’s the point? Well, sometimes when I read social networking sites it reminds me of that screenwriting class. Everybody’s got something to say but they’re not saying it very well. The irony is that everyone has a great story to tell, but they usually need someone else to tell it for them. Illiteracy breeds inarticulation.

I enjoy watching videos of writers discussing how they plot their story. I like the ones from Harlan Ellison, Kurt Vonnegut Jr, etc. I skipped the one from Joyce Carol Oates because her stories take forever to get going and her advice meandered just as badly. Stephen King’s advice is better than his actual writing. Paul Auster was drawn out and boring I had to turn him off after five minutes. He just took so long to get to his point. I wonder if he ever took a screenwriting course.

Charles Bukowski inadvertently gave advice in his German TV interview when he criticized other writers, saying that very sentence should move the action further and that overly describing things was deadly. A similar remark was made by Alfred Hitchcock when he was interviewed on The Dick Cavett Show. Films should be about action, not second unit footage of the scenery and the sets. Keep things moving!

I’ve always been accused of writing too briefly and not being too overly descriptive. This is good. This means I lie in the Buk/Hitch camp of storytelling. Keep things moving! Do you really want to read three hundred pages of this:

“You know, I was contemplating the early years of my life, those summer years of red sky dawns and cold frost forming on the windows of my Northeastern home. The newsboy pedaled by our house in his new Schwinn, throwing the paper with his expert right hand. Father read the news at the breakfast table as Mother prepared a hearty American breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, erc………………” The scary part is reading books where this prattle goes on for pages and pages. You want to cut your throat reading it.

Yes, my writing is very tight and spare. People want you to get on with it. Time is tight. If I ask you to describe an automobile accident nobody wants to know what everyone wore or how big their noses were. I want to know who did what to who and how did one car hit the other one. The name of the game is action. As in movies, so in writing.

*By the way, my screenplay was pretty bad, too. Six months after I wrote it I burned the stupid thing, but I do recommend you try writing one to get a fine appreciation of dialogue and scene staging. It will help your writing.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Antonyms and The Homonyms

I was at the pet store yesterday and I was chewing gum like Sterling Hayden, when I looked down and this fucking Pomeranian stared at me with his little button eyes and started imitating me, making chewing faces, snapping his jaws open and closed. What a clever little fucker.

Thought I was having a bad day at work until I saw Larry King walking alone down Rodeo Drive. Larry looked short and frail as if someone washed him in hot water instead of the cold. He was talking into his cell phone to Caller #000 with his shirt buttoned up to the collar in 82dgr weather. He walked as if it was a harder job than spitting into a prop microphone.

This old guy was complaining about the heat to me today.
I told him there was nothing wrong with the heat, there's too many people and too many fucking cars and if you took them all away you'd love the heat.
Well, when Pop heard this his wrinkled eyes got real big and he screamed, "YOUNG MAN YOU'RE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!"

Thanks to a site called Creepypasta ( I discovered the work of a great performance artist from Belgium named Olivier de Sagazan. He utilizes clay and other media to distort and modify his appearance. Here's a pretty wild sample of his work:

I like the way he mumbles to himself a lot while he works, like he's really possessed. He can also be seen in a movie called "Samsara".

Just saw Paula Abdul standing in front of Pepperdine U for the 9/11 memorial. She wore a cowboy hat, a mini-dress, with cowboy boots (matched the hat). She was alone and looked very happy. I never liked her until I saw her then. What made it so great was that the expectation is for her to be surrounded by a large, annoying entourage, but there she was, hanging out by herself and smiling, taking pictures of the breathtaking 100-flag display on the front lawn of Pepperdine University. Her cowboy outfit and the 100 flags gave me a true Myra Breckenridge poster moment.

Wow, what a find. Shortly before she passed away from cancer Sandy Dennis wrote her memoirs, and it's every bit as weird as she was. The star of such bizarre films as Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Fox, and That Cold Day In The Park, Dennis was also the inseparable girlfriend to cool jazz juggernaut Gerry Mulligan. The book was written while she slowly succumbed to her disease, surrounded by her 30 cats. Yes, Ms. Dennis was a Cat Lady and goes into great detail about her cats. Highly recommended.

Getting back to Creepypasta, it's funny how the younger kids these days are creeped out by videos of clowns and weird people romping around in mannequin masks with weird, droney electronic music. None of these videos really scared me, and I wondered why. Then I remembered I grew up on a diet of Devo and Residents videos, all of which put a lot of these dumb videos to shame.

I once went shopping with this woman one afternoon in the Wilshire District. She took great pride in everyone in the store calling her on a first name basis; it was a frighteningly big deal to her. Bored with her making a big show of how popular she was in the store, I walked out to the sidewalk to check on my car.
A car loaded with black teenage boys drove slowly by me.
'YO, OZZY OSWALD!" "SUP, OZZY OSWALD?" They yelled at me from the car, laughing. I laughed right back.
Now there's a great hip-hop name, Ozzy Oswald. Make me a cross between Ozzy Osbourne, revered metal singer of Black Sabbath with Lee Harvey Oswald, notorious killer of the great President John F. Kennedy. Those kids had spunk. Those kids had genius.

I stood around five minutes more and then a car of white teenage girls pulled up asking me all kinds of questions. Talking to teenage girls is a lot like being abducted by aliens: once it's over you have no recollection of what just happened. I think they were asking me about my 7-star tattoo sleeve (by Ace Farren Ford of Purple Panther Tattoo fame), but then again I might have imagined that as the topic.

My friend came out of the store and asked me where I went.
"Oh, a couple of cars full of kids pulled up to talk to me".
"I used to be famous".
I smiled and said, "But this isn't Facebook, this is real life".

Did you ever see the black version of Roxy Music's Country Life album? I thought i was pretty amusing. Here it is:

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Cracked Knuckles (Hot Wire MY HEART Chapter 4)

Dante Sterno was beside himself because he racked up more dish than he could ever imagine in his wildest dreams. He just heard the story about Gil Hickey, the king of the scenesters who doubled on bass guitar for The Ever Populars. If memory serves he laid down under a pile of coats at a party while he overhead two punk girls drunkenly laughing about what a dud “Sicky” Hickey was.

“Well, you know every time I go out I see him with a different girl, so I just HAD to find out what made him so hot”.
“Oh, sweet sufferin’ Jesus, he couldn’t get it up!” Both girls laughed uproariously.

The laughter finally stopped, and then the friend asked, “Did he get mad?”
“No, he just brayed like a donkey ‘I HAD TOO MUCH TO DRINK!’ His thing was all cold and damp like a piece of wet spaghetti!” They both busted up laughing again.

“I wish I could see who’s telling this story”, thought Dante, getting hot under the blanket of coats. “I don’t recognize her voice at all. Damn it!”

“Well, I’ll be honest with you. When I see him with his dates they just stand around and never hold hands or cuddle or shit like that. It’s almost like he just hangs around them to make himself look like he’s a big ladies man”.
“Oh, hell no. He probably just pecks them on the cheek after a date, like he’s their kid brother”.
“I don’t have time for that”.
“Fuck that”, the voices faded out of the room. Dante cautiously poked his head out a little bit. The two girls had left the room. He crawled out from under the coats and jumped off the bed.

He opened the door just a bit and poked his head out to make sure nobody caught him creeping out of the bedroom. The last thing he needed was to be spotted by the two girls after exchanging such hot gossip.

The coast was clear so he darted quickly out, quietly closing the door. He walked by a guy scamming on a girl in the corner of the hallway.

“This is pretty hot stuff”, thought Dante. “I have to go home and write this shit down. You remember what happened that one night when you heard some wild shit and then got so drunk you totally forgot what you heard. Didn’t even get a chance to write it down, you dumbass!”

He kicked himself for totally forgetting to go to the drug store and buy a little pad with a tiny pen so he could carry it around ion his leather jacket. Working from memory was a hard task for him.

The Vibrators were booming out of the cheap stereo. YEAHYEAHYEAH! Kids were jumping around d the room, crashing into Dante as headed towards the door.
“Hey, Dante!” someone yelled. “Don’t go! Party’s just getting started!”
“I’ll be back”, he lied. “Just going out for a 12-pack!”

He raced down the stairs, dodging kids with packs of beer and wine bottles stomping upwards towards the party. He weaved his way past packs of kids just milling around the sidewalk acting tough and goofy.

Half drunk, he jogged the gossip over and over in his head…Gil Hickey, ladies’ man, can’t get it up…bass player…The Ever Populars, ugh! Stupid name for a band, never could stand them…this ought to hurt them. Well, fuck them, never did like that power pop shit. They’re not punk enough.

He walked down a steep hill, the sidewalk’s grade shifting up and down from the trees ripping out the asphalt. Once or twice he nearly stumbled from the asphalt sticking up.

He turned down a few less steep corners and finally reached his apartment building. Walking up a tiny stoop and then going up the stairs, he could hear Animal nervously yelling, “Hello?”

“It’s me! Who the hell else is it going to be?”
He came in to find Animal in a tiny tee shirt and panties lying on her stomach sketching on her pad. Sketchy quickly ran up to him and stared at him.

“Wow, Animal, I heard some really volcanic shit tonight!” he smiled.
“Oh Dante, why can’t you just go out and have some fun, instead of always sniffing for bad shit on people?”
“What? That’s fun. I think digging up dirt on assholes are always fun”.

“Ugh! Whatever!” She lifted up a leg and twisted around back to her pad. “If you’re going to write, try doing something creative instead of destroying people”.
“I can write a novel later”, He grabbed his lucky writing tablet. “In the meantime I have a few bullshit castles to burn down”.

The evening ended with Animal sketching on her pad and Dante scribbling gossip on his lucky writing tablet.

The truth of the matter is that Dante’s petty hatred towards power pop bands seems to neglect the fact that most pop bands are largely run by rich kids, even richer than folk heroes The Working Class. And they didn’t come any richer than Gil Hickey.

Hickey didn’t want to compromise his family’s reputation by broadcasting all over town that he came from the Hickey family, head by his father, Hamilton Hickey, owner of The Hickey Concern. The Concern had interests in property management, realty, and a large, convoluted jumble of contracting, investments, and commercial insurance ventures. They had offices all over the Bay Area with plans on extending into Southern California.

It could be said that the most mysterious thing about Gil Hickey was that he insisted on playing rock star instead of simply staying home and enjoying his father’s money.

It could even be said that Hickey’s impotence might be the product of a bizarre inferiority complex. His masquerade as a down-on-his-heels punk could never compete with the real struggle that the street kids honestly faced every day. Living a sham made him feel less real and less than worthy in his eyes.

Animal brewed her usual bitter coffee – “Battery acid” and burned toast for herself and poured a bowl of Lucky Charms, which disgusted her, for Dante.
“Breakfast is ready!” she yelled. “Eat your colored foam”.

Dante slumped in his chair at the kitchen table, coughing and clearing his throat. “How many lumps of sugar do you want today?” she asked, shaking her blonde bangs out of her eyes.
“Um, four!”
“Four? Yuck!” She scooped four heaping spoonfuls of white sugar and dumped them in his coffee.

He sipped his coffee thoughtfully. “How do I phrase this item? ‘That supercool, ultra-foxy bass player from San Fran’s hottest pop band is too pooped to pop in the sack’. What do you think?”

He frowned. “’Someone might be Ever Popular, but they’re definitely not ever ready for the ladies’. Is that better?”
Animal bit into her burned toast and it crumbled into black chunks. “Not good. They might all be duds in the sack. Too much guessing”.

“Um, okay”, he watched his cereal get soggy. “’Someone might be ever popular around town but they’re not dishing hickeys or anything else’”.
Animal stopped eating. “Not bad. You just mentioned the name of the band and the guy in the same sentence without pointing fingers. You’re getting better”.

“Okay!” He jumped up in his chair. “Now we’re getting somewhere!”
Minutes later Dante banged out that one line over and over on his typewriter, thinking he had just composed the most brilliant sonnet ever written.

Several hours later he delivered his typed copy to the battered storefront known as Ripoff Magazine. It was even more beat than he remembered the last time he was there: the linoleum tiles were either cracked in half or kicked out completely. Roaches ran around, emboldened by the indifference of the squatters.

“I want this to be included with my orgy scoop. We can call the headline ‘The Haves And The Have Nots’. What do you think?”
Warren scratched his head. “There’s a whole lot of sex going on in this column. We’re trying to run a punk mag, not a porn mag, man”.

“Just this once. Hang in there with me. Sex sells, you know that. So what if we use sex to sell a few magazines? They’ll like it, everybody”.
“What did I tell you last time? Go out there and make nice with bands, kiss more ass, drop more names. More names in print, more bands buy the zine. It’s like free fucking advertising”.

“Okay, okay, but sex first, ass kissing later”, Dante pleaded.
Warren’s body turned rigid and stood back a few feet. “Just this time and after that, no more”.


Two weeks later at the I-Beam Warren, Raggedy Ann and Keith Crime passed out copies of the new Ripoff Magazine. The first stack was freebies which everyone pounced on, including the bass guitarist for The Ever Populars, Gil Hickey.

Warren offered a free copy to Hickey, which he predictably snubbed, but then turned to Raggedy Ann, offering his best boyish charms.
“Ann, baby, how about a magazine and seeing me a little bit later?” he asked slyly, giving his best trademark smirk.
“Here’s a copy, Gil. I’m seeing enough right now, thanks”, she said. She shook her red dreads away from his face to emphasize her indifference.

Pissed off, he walked over to his band mate, where they both thumbed through the ink-smeared Xerox disaster called Ripoff Magazine.

“Hey!” the band mate, a cheesy looking rocker with a big quiffle on top of his pock-marked face, said. “There’s a gossip column. Check it!”
“What?” Hickey whined, practically pushing his friend away. “’Ever Popular’? ‘Hickey’? Who the hell wrote this shit?”

Hickey ran over to Keith Crime and grabbed him by the throat. “DID YOU WRITE THIS SHIT, YOU FUCKIN’ ASSHOLE?”
Crime shoved him away. “No way, asshole. I’m just giving this zine away. I don’t even write for it”.
“Who wrote this and where the fuck can I find him??”

“He ain’t here and don’t grab me like that again”.
“Or else what?”
“You’ll find out. But you don’t want to know!”
Hickey screwed his face up with confusion at that last convoluted remark.

“Tell me one more time, and this time make sense”, Hickey pulled out a twenty dollar bill, waving it in Crime’s face. “Who? The Fuck? Wrote? This?”

The man who wrote it was goofing around Chinatown in a store looking at some barley hidden firecrackers laid out for sale. Dante looked around weighing his options at lifting a small handful of the tiny explosives.

He reached his hand out and picked up a batch of firecrackers, about to shove them in his pocket.

“Nuh-uh-uh! Don’t even think about it, pal!” a girl’s voice rang behind him.
Dante, embarrassed with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar, turned around and saw a punk Chinese girl with short, spiky blonde hair staring at him. She wore a leather mini-skirt and fishnet stockings with high heels.

“There’ll be no stealing here on my watch. Put those little fuckers away, and then get out”.
“I’ll buy them, okay? How much?”
“Five dollars. Are you from out of town?”
“Hell, no”.
“So why are you buying tourist shit?”
“Do you always dress like that in the store?”
“No, not that it’s any of your business. My mom’s home with a cold”.
“If she saw you dressed like that, she’d kill you”.
“Are you done?” she asked, lighting a cigarette.
Dante picked up a bar of jade-smelling soap. “No, I’ll get this too”.

“Two dollars. A steal”, she rang his sale up on the register. “You can relate to that, can’t you, thief?”
“I’m going now”, he sneered. She followed him out of the store. She stood outside on the sidewalk stretching her shapely legs and puffed away, giving back dirty looks from old Chinese women who didn’t approve of her loose appearance.

“Well”, she yelled with a cigarette dangling from her lips. “Thanks for shopping, Tourist. Like I said, DON’T COME BACK!”

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Now Playing ABSOLUTELY FREE On You Tube: Erotic Euro Horror!

While I would never claim to be the toast of all social networking sites, far from it, I can claim to have a fairly robust following on old You Tube. I have a following of 5,500 faithful followers who want to be entertained by my posting of rare films unavailable on DVD or even on TV. Unfortunately, the brain police at You Tube have been pulling down many of my posts at an alarming rate, claiming that I have violated the laws of intellectual property.

What this means is that if James Toback can't make a cent off his wobbly 1983 suspense film Exposed then I cannot even post it for people who want to view it. Other films that provoked near-suspension included the noir classics Desert Fury and The Gangster as well as the Brigitte Bardot-Louis Malle potboiler A Very Private Affair.

Meanwhile, sites like Spotify and Pandora are doing more to rip off artists than my movie posts on YT. The priorities are getting dodgy. I've had so many of my posts pulled down that I've gotten leery about posting more movies. But I will persist. Besides, there's always Vimeo.

While all this drama is unfolding other Tubers are posting an exciting stream of classic erotic Eurohorror films. Many of these films have floundered on the VHS gray market for years, and now beautiful prints can be seen on YT. Unfortunately, half of them aren't in English, but hell, it's time to brush up on your high school French and Spanish!

Movies I have seen in their complete form in the past two months on You Tube:

1. The Female Vampire - Jess Franco starring the great Lina Romay
2. Shiver of the Vampires - Jean Rollin with a cool death metal soundtrack dubbed in, and it works
3. Kilink! - great Turkish series about a supervillain dressed like a skeleton
4. Lisa And The Devil - classic Mario Bava with Elke Sommer and a lollipop sucking Telly Savalas, as the devil
5. Evil Eye aka The Girl Who Knew Too Much - more Bava with a classic haunted house theme
6. Four Times That Night - Bava doing a bedroom sex farce with some real sex for a change
7. All The Colors of the Dark - psycho giallo starring Edwige Fenech
8. 99 Women - women in prison classic starring Edwige Fenech, Rosalba Neri, Luciana Paluzzi, and more
9. Virgin Among The Living Dead - more Jess Franco insanity with more nudity (not from him!)
10. The Nude Vampire - Jean Rollin with vampire laboratory rituals with animal masks and hoods! Creepy!

There's also lots of American exploitation in their complete form, like Russ Meyer's Cherry, Harry, and Raquel and Jack Hill's The Big Bird Cage. There's also tons of Laura Gemser sleaze to feast your eyes on. I also caught the Japanese film classic Onibaba. There's no limit to what you can catch on You Tube these days.

And just to compliment all the wild European horror films watched you can also catch an English TV documentary mini-series about the whole genre called Eurotika. Eurotika has segments devoted to the previously mentioned Jess Franco, Mario Bava, and Jean Rollin. It's pretty cool seeing starlets Brigitte Lahaie and the reclusive Pony Castel talking about their mentors.

Eurotika is almost touching in the way it celebrates freedom in sexual and artistic expression, eventually folding up towards the conservative early Eighties (the Moral majority-AIDS-Thatcher-Reagan years). But that's what makes these films so precious: just like the films from the silent era they show us a society that almost resemble aliens form another planet, a much, much freer planet.