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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Paperback Criers

Many people have been applauding the decreasing popularity of the eBook and the return of the paperbound book. Hipsters and Baby Boomers alike have been thrilled to read that Kindle reader sales have been dwindling, eReader library rentals are dropping at a rapid pace, and paperbound books are on the rise.

These very same people were the same ones that demanded on "going green" and bemoaned the brutal murder of thousands of trees to produce a Harry Potter blockbuster or Victoria's Secret catalogue. It didn't matter not a bit that eBooks are more economical money wise and space wise for both readers and writers.

The economy of space with an eBook is that you can store hundreds of books on your Kindle or iPad. If you had to stack hundreds of the same books in paperbound format you would have to rent out a separate apartment, one that didn't smell like stale pulp.

The economy of money with an eBook for the reader is that more and more vintage novels are available at rock bottom prices of $1.99 or $2.99, on average. You can't beat those prices with a stick! Thanks to the digital revolution you can buy short stories in digital format, sold separately like an old time 45 RPM single*. Dig it, Baby Boomers!

If these very same books were produced in paperbound format they would have to cost at least $9.99 a copy just to cover production costs, distribution and promotion, as well. Plus many publishers will release an old Gil Brewer or Vin Packer potboiler at a $1.99 price tag, but selling same novel in paper format brings a large risk in their investment costs. Smaller cult writers stand a better chance of being published in eBook format than they ever would in paper, for the simple burden of publishing economics.

The economy of money with an eBook for the writer is that they're much cheaper and cleaner to produce. If you design your own cover and format your own work in PDF form (not hard), it will only cost you somewhere between $100-300 to have the book released, distribution and all. If you took the same book and released a paperbound edition it would cost you at least $1,500 for production, editing and distribution. And! According to BookBaby you would only get one copy to keep. That's all you get just to see your book wrapped up in paper. Wowie zowie.

It should also be noted that the release of an eBook is a lot quicker, because once it's properly formatted to fit all eReader screens it can be released within days, whereas a paperbound book will take on the average a few months. Do you really want to wait that long for your masterpiece to come out? I don't.

I wonder how many hipsters and nostalgic Baby Boomers understand that going green is economically and socially better than schlepping a ton of unwanted paper around. I also wonder how many have had a hard time making the adjustment to reading an eBook. Some claimed the light bothered their eyes. I don't know, if people can make the transition from vinyl to CD and VHS tape to DVD then they should weather the changes that eBooks bring.

On a personal level, I hate seeing hundreds of books I can't get around to reading this week sitting on my bookcase staring me in the face, waiting to be picked up. They would look a lot happier simply sitting in my Kindle with a cool thumbnail cover illustration.

To be perfectly frank with you, I have no intention of converting my novels to paperback, and in addition plan on releasing the next few efforts in that plagued, beleaguered, and much threatened format: the kind, defenseless eBook. And don't forget to tap the right corner for the next page, the left corner for the previous page, and always remember to tap the About The Author page at the end to take a look at me.

* I recommend "I'm Dangerous Tonight" by Cornell Woolrich.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Now Playing ABSOLUTELY FREE on You Tube - Mauro Bolognini Edition

Lately in my sojourn across You Tube I happened upon a channel that has so many goodies lined up that I'd be a wretched creep not to share it with you. It's called Belles Actrices and if you like French & Italian films from the Fifties and Sixties you're going to hit the motherlode. There is such an embarrassment of riches in terms of great obscure foreign films that you won't be able to decide which movie to watch first.

Every film features a great European actress in some obscure movie you've probably never seen before: Catherine Deneuve, Elsa Martinelli, Claudia Cardinale, Jane Fonda (during her French period), and a whole bunch you've never even seen before. While some of the films I viewed were directed by Julien Duvivier, Claude Chabrol and Roger Vadim, many of them were directed by an Italian I've never heard of before: Mauro Bolognini.

How Mauro Bolognini flew under the radar for so many decades without attracting the attention he deserved is a mystery to me. His films are provocative, intelligent and have some of the best visual composition of any films I've ever seen.

And The Devil Leads The Ball, 1962/dir. Grisha Dabat - A French teen noir starring a very young Catherine Deneuve, Devil is the tale of Eric, a very spoiled, arrogant teenager who racks up an expensive roadster which naturally doesn't belong to him. The garage he borrowed it from gives him 48 hours to come up with the cash to pay for the damages or have his legs broken.

With no money to pay off the debt he runs off with his rich girlfriend (Deneuve) to a teen party pit where two other couples get high and trade partners. The usual teen movie sex play goes on until Deneuve's rich daddy shows up and tells Eric to dump his daughter or, you guessed it, he'll break his legs. It's easier said than done because Deneuve clings on to Eric like a new born puppy dog. It's not easy being a kid! Also starring Bernadette Lafont.

La Notte Brava (The Big Night or Bad Girls Don't Cry), 1959/dir. Mauro Bolognini - Working with a script co-written by Pier Paolo Pasolini, you can bet that this film will be gritty and sleazy. The film begins with two prostitutes (Elsa Martinelli and Rosana Schiaffino) brawling on the street, only to have it broken up by three joy riding yobs who pick up the two hookers and take them to a fence who'll pay them for stolen war rifles (?). Yeah, it's pretty weird.

More guys and hookers get picked up until the yobs decide to ditch the hookers in the middle of nowhere, not realizing that the hookers have snatched the fence money behind their backs. Realizing this, the boys hurry back to the empty countryside to find the sneaky hookers and get their dough back.

Careless (Senilita), 1962/dir. Mauro Bolognini - Based on an Italo Svevo novel, Careless stars Anthony Franciosa taking a break from his normal spoiled playboy roles to play Emilio, a plain, dullsville office clerk madly in love with Angiolina (Claudia Cardinale). Angiolina is all sweetness and virtue at the beginning of the film, until 20 minutes in she does a complete 360 and becomes progressively more and more slutty with all the men in town. Every time Emilio goes out on the town he catches Angiolina with a different man, acting looser and looser as the film progresses. Sounds like most of my ex-girl friends!

Bolognini's compositions are really outstanding in this one, esp. a scene where Franciosa's agonizing behind a stone column with a ridiculously steep stone staircase descending to the left of him in utter darkness (dig the heavy symbolism). Where the fuck is The Criterion Collection when you need them? Highly recommended.

The Game Is Over, 1966/dir. Roger Vadim - Made around the time of Barbarella, Jane Fonda plays the spoiled, over-pampered horny wife to Michel Piccoli who flirts just a wee bit too much with her stepson Peter McEnery. This film is about as bad as most Roger Vadim films and Fonda's ridiculously uptight about her body, too uptight to play a Bardotesque sex kitten, but the mod/psych fashions are eye-popping and Peter McEnery is always fun to watch.

Wise Guys, 1962/dir. Claude Chabrol - One of Chabrol's earliest efforts, this is a sort of malevolent Jules & Jim about two guys and a girl running around reaping anarchy wherever they go. Comedy doesn't really suit Monsieur Chabrol and it shows: the humor is mean spirited and poorly staged. It's still worth a view for its strange morality play - the climax is too weird, and the performances by Jean-Claude Brialy and Bernadette Lafont (yes, her again) are top notch.

Highway Pick-Up (Chair De Poule), 1963/dir. Julien Duvivier - Based on a noir novel by James Hadley Chase, the Robert Hossein movie is about an escaped burglary suspect who hides out in a beat gas station run by a friendly fat guy and his hot, banging wife. Faster than you can say Postman Always Rings Twice, the sticky wife finds out Hossein is the escaped safecracker from the newspapers. She blackmails him into busting the gas station safe and proposes they run off together. Guess what happens?

Three Faces of a Woman, 1965/dir. Mauro Bolognini & Michelangelo Antonioni - Three Faces of a Woman stars Soraya, former Persian princess divorced by the Shah of Iran in the Fifties for her inability to bear him any children. Following the divorce, she fled to Europe in hopes of becoming a hot Italian starlet, which obviously didn't take off much. While she isn't very pretty and can't act too well, she appears well suited for the trilogy of stories presented in this picture.

The Antonioni segment is about a Princess who's about to give her first screen test and she's just a bundle of nerves and having second thoughts, etc. This is notable for the wild set design and angular composition, which is really a feast for the eyes. The Bolognini story fares much better in that she's married to Richard Harris, who can't deal with her stardom or the constant barrage of paparazzi accosting them wherever she goes. There's a wild scene with a fashion photo shoot which has to be seen to be believed.

The third segment is some weird comedy thing with Alberto Sordi that doesn't really go very far. It's a bad sex comedy type thing, a dime a dozen back in the Sixties. Although the film is called Three Faces of a Woman, I have never seen so many hair and costume changes on one woman in any film that I've ever seen (more than What A Way To Go!), so if you hated the way Soraya looked a minute ago, don't worry, she'll look better in the next scene. This movie's definitely 100% weird!

What's surprising about all these movies is their lack of DVD release or even TCM/Sundance broadcasting. These are all pretty decent films that are worth a watch, and even the lesser ones deserve a view. Just remember that you have to click on the "CC" Closed Captioned circle on the far right of the play slider to get your language preferences. You can even choose your subtitle color and opacity controls. And don't forget, Mauro Bolognini lives!

Friday, September 4, 2015

America Drinks And Goes Home

Dizzy Dean played guitar in a Guns & Roses tribute band and my wife Ruthie made stage wear for him, so he put us on the guest list for an all-tribute band show at the House of Blues. Ruthie plus one; I was the plus one. We were going to see three tribute bands, curious to see who would look the most and sound the most like the real thing. There was a Poison tribute band, the other was a Judas Priest tribute band, and then there was the aforementioned Guns & Roses tribute band.

We were going slowly down the Strip towards the club, the traffic sludgy being that it was Friday night. All seemed to trudge along well until we had to stop at a red light across the street from The Star Strip, a notorious strip club.

In a vain effort to entice potential patrons to drop what they were doing and go across the street, a big-assed stripper in a halter top and ass-baring shorts in sky-high heels strutted onto the crosswalk. Lucky for her she still had the green light.

She went into a little dance, no a twitch, the kind an antelope does when stuck in a bear trap. Then she began twerking, pumping her big bubble butt ass up and down faster than a Dupont paint can mixer. The light changed to green for me, red for her. Still, she twerked in our faces.

“She’s not going to get out of the street”, Ruthie groaned.
“Oh yeah?”

I slammed my size 11 on the accelerator headed straight for Little Twerk. With absolute terror in her cheap blue contact lenses she jumped out of the way from my Murder Chariot. I missed her by that much.

It was a good thing we got to get on the guest list because we didn’t have enough to get in, not enough to drink anything, and just enough to pay for parking on an expensive Sunset Strip parking lot. The House of Blues sat on the Sunset Strip, with an old Mississippi Delta wooden shack frame house and old country porch sitting atop the massive concert hall. There was nothing country about the building – most of the customers were the same old gaggle of coke sniffing Porsche riding cosmos haunting the Strip since time began.

When we entered the club Thorny Rose, the Poison tribute band, were already up and playing loud enough to make an airport jealous. I nudged Ruthie and pointed up.
"Let's go upstairs!"

We walked up the stairs to the balcony with a few chunky girls dressed to the nines falling into us running downstairs.
"Excuse you!" Ruthie yelled. "Bitch".

We pushed through the crowd in the balcony only to find an Olympic sized bar with patrons waiting three deep for their drinks. I looked above me and smiled.
"Hey, check it out!" I yelled. "There's a higher level and it's pretty empty!"

There was a higher level practically kissing the rafters of the barn-roofed club and there were a few scattered night clubbers here and there. Not crowded at all, so we made a bee-line to that level.

"I wish I had a drink", Ruthie complained. "It might make this place a little more bearable".
"Yeah, I know".
I looked below me at the ground floor of the club and there was a dense crowd of fans rocking out to the placebo looks and sounds of Thorny Rose. The guitarist was short and fat, looking more like Buddy Hackett with a wig than like C.C. Deville.

"I've heard of Unskinny Bop but this is ridiculous", I yelled into Ruthie's ear. Ruthie turned to me with some chewing gum.
"As long as we can't have anything to drink let's have some gum. Maybe it'll make things better!" she said. I guess it did.

We hung from the railing enjoying the show, and it was alright. Well, alright until more people began racing up to our level with their drinks in tow. Thorny Rose played their big Cat Dragged In song or whatever the hell it was and after a failed attempt at wringing an encore, got the boot from the sound man, who burbled over the PA, "THORNY ROSE, EVERYBODY....THORNY ROSE. NEXT UP, APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION!"

A big howl from the crowd and I looked down at the lower level to see the bar now five man deep.

A blonde girl with a drink in each hand snuck in next to us with someone who didn't look like a boyfriend. Her hair stuck up from sweat and her skin looked clammy. Her glasses were fogged up like a midnight harbor.
"HEY!!! IT'S MY BIRTHDAY!" she yelled, her eyes rolling up in her head. "WASN'T POISON GREAT? THOSE GUYS CAN REALLY ROCK THE HOUSE WHHHOOOOOOOO!!!!"

We both smiled with her and at her. Her male friend grabbed at one of her drinks.
"Let me have some of your drink, Marcy!" he yelled.
"Just a sip!"

Randy practically tore the plastic cup out of her cold, nearly dead fingers and took a rather long, generous sip from her drink.
"Oh, okay! What the hell!" Randy was getting kind of drunk clammy himself.
"You got two drinks, girl!"
"I - SAID!" Her eyes began closing down like she was ready to go to sleep. "GET YOUR OWN COCKTAIL, RAN-DEEEE!"

Finally the lights turned down again and the crowd cheered. The Wizard of Oz voice from the PA wryly yelled, "GIVE A WARM HOUSE OF BLUES WELCOME TO....APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION!"
"WOOOOO-HOOOOOOO!" Marcy hooted loud enough to split my already broken ear drums.

Appetite For Destruction came out to low, cold blue lights as the band cranked up the highly dramatic beginning to "Welcome To The Jungle". Dizzy Dean wore a top hat, black curly wig, dark sunglasses with an unlit cigarette dangling from his lips.

They slammed into that perennial metal classic when the fake Axl Rose went into his patented Jimmy Cagney soft shoe shuffle, swaying back and forth with the mike stand. Marcy lifted up her drink in the air and one-sixth of it sloshed on us.

"It's no problem", Ruthie smiled. "We have to freshen up!"
"Let's get the fuck out of here!" I yelled in her ear.

Illustration by Derek Yaniger.

We quickly went down one level, the one by the bar, but the steps to the ground level was jammed with people and took a lot longer. For one thing one guy was pushing and shoving his girlfriend on the staircase.
"DAMMIT, MISSY, WHAT'S IT GOING TO TAKE TO MAKE YOU BELIEVE I LOVE YOU????" He then shoved her so hard I thought she was going to fall on me.

Ruthie was about to step down to the ground floor until I saw something grotty and yanked her by the arm back up on the stair case. "LOOK OUT!!!!"

We both looked down at a deep puddle of bubbly orange vomit with spiky white speckles sticking up from the mush. As soon as anybody stuck their foot in that sickness they would surely slip across the floor with their pants painted in that puke.

"YUCK!" Ruthie grabbed her nose and mouth. We traversed around the vomit puddle and walked around the heavily packed ground floor.

In the dark all over the club we could see overweight men in their thirties and forties wearing their best black tees bearing the emblem of their favorite band. Aging groupie faces were marching around in fishnet stockings and short skirts, sized too small for most of them.

We found a small area by the sound board and club goers jealous of our discovery kept trying to stand in our spot. The room stank of stale beer and the floor was sticky of not so dry drinks. There was even a faint stench of wee in the club, which greatly enhanced the drama of "Paradise City".

Because of our unintentional sobriety everything appeared clearer and sounded more vivid than ever. We processed people with disabled motor skills, pissed to the gills, and it crackled with a disturbing electricity. I took a look around and saw grotesques worthy of a George Grosz caricature.

Above the noise and smell of Clubland I started thinking: When I drank, did I ever act like this? Was I really that bad? I must have been the most unbearable asshole in the world. This is so bad I just want to call up everybody on the planet and apologize for ever getting drunk and obnoxious. This is the hardest wake-up call I've ever been handed.

The topper to the show was the acapella section of "Sweet Child O' Mine" WHERE WILL WE GO? WHERE WILL WE GO-OH-OH???? AYE-AYE-AYE! when a few club-going commandos began swinging at each other and the bouncers dove in like a pair of firefighters putting out a blazing skyscraper.

"I think I've heard enough", I yelled over the loud music. "How about you?"
"Yeah, let's go", Ruthie agreed. We spat out our gum in the bin, done with the show. As we exited the club I took one last look and swore I saw a cloud of steam rising in the air around the room.

When we got outside the stars popped from the dark might blue sky with harsh punctuations of glaring street lamps every few feet. The air was comparatively fresh and clean from the night club's olfactory cocktail of stale beer, urine and vomit. We got to the car, I pulled out of the lot and looked at Ruthie.
"So that's the House of Blues. I not only heard everything, I smelled it, too".
"Yeah, we got a lot of bang for our non-buck. Well, Dizzy was great!"
"Yes, he was". I drove down Sunset Boulevard thinking about club soda on ice with a splash of lime juice. Straight, no chaser.