The Lack of Obsolescence: The FOUND FOOTAGE FESTIVAL, 10th Anniversary Tour

FFF_Tour_Poster_Vol7

As a moving image archivist and profound fan of VHS tapes, when I heard about the Found Footage Festival I grew very excited.

For many, I think the comic factor is attractive. And that is understandable. But that’s not why I was thrilled. I didn’t get excited because the on-coming works to be shown seemed cheesy or ironically “awesome, dude.”

I wasn’t ready to support this show simply because it featured thousands of work-out tapes of the 80s that had been rediscovered in thrift-shops all over the United States, or because it was ready to seemingly exploit weird and wild home-made after-hours “Buy this! It’s only $99.99!” Mr. Popeil-style programs.

The Found Footage Festival, founded and curated by Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher got me because it was a film festival generated by the same confidence and love for visual media that San Francisco Guardian critic and Castro programmer Jesse Hawthorne Ficks has discussed at length when he has railed against the modern viewer’s concept of “neo-sincerity” and the damage that this has done to pure enjoyment of the visual text. It is what I mentioned when I talked about the uniquely new concept of non-ironically loving what others seem to consider “Bad” media. When I was asked to do a list for Rupert Pupkin Speaks on Bad Movies We Love, this is what I wrote:

 

 

I believe that the term “bad movie” requires a great deal of unpacking. Tragically, when I was first in film school, * mumblemumble * years ago, it did not. “Bad” simply meant the opposite of good. It meant that you did not like the film. It was a poor choice at the video store or the box office, you wouldn’t do it again, you had to go off and knock back a bunch of beers with pals to wash out that “bad movie taste” and that was that. No recommendations for that cinematic failure. The movie sucked.
Somehow, in the last 15 or so years, “bad” has taken on all sorts of different meanings to people. Now we all remember what Michael Jackson meant when he asked, “Who’s bad?” but that’s not exactly what I mean. Although, in a way, it is. When we go around to look at people’s collections at their houses and we agonize that they have the most “amazing VHS collection evAr” because it has a few dozen films starring your favorite wrestling stars, what does that mean? Does it mean those are good films or does it mean those are good films to you? Please note that I do not use the term “bad” here. I do not believe that it comes into play. I absolutely hate when people use the “so bad its good” descriptor. That, to me, is like saying “but he only hits me because he loves me.” IT MAKES NO SENSE ON A LOGICAL LEVEL. 
 So let’s get a few things clear right now:
1)    There is no such thing as SO BAD IT’S GOOD.
2)    Very few films are ever perfect. Sometimes, it is in their imperfections and in their relentless references to time, place and cultural objects that you can find absolute glory.
3)    Polarizing terms applied to art (which, by its nature, exists in a gray area) are likely to change in time. How many films can you think of that were once completely shunned and are now considered “masterpieces”? Be careful of hyperbole. It’ll bite you in the ass.
All that said, when Jesse Hawthorne Ficks (of the MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS film series at the Castro Theater in San Francisco) came down to L.A. one night to present ROCKULA, he spoke about a thing called neo-sincerity, and that hit home. He said that we don’t watch these movies because we want to make fun of them, or because we think that they are stupid or so that we can, somehow, feel more superior by knowing that we dress “better” or some such. We watch these films because something in them actually appeals to us and we do actually dig them. So, with that, I give you a few films that other people may index underneath the genre of “bad movie” but I love the HELL out of.

As an archivist, I have learned that all media has a certain importance and this festival seemed like one that would not only be entertaining (being fronted by comedians and men who genuinely love both the VHS format and the comic craft) but also fascinating to my own work as a preservationist. It spoke to me on many levels since their approach mirrors the work of Rick Prelinger and Dan Streible in certain respects. Perhaps not the same tone, but like those respected archivists, these young men have taken the Home Movie Day approach with collections of old VHS works and they have most certainly become not only connoisseurs of the craft but experts in their field. To be frank, these men can reasonably do what any archivist does with a given set of elements: assess the collection, catalog the works, then provide access.  In my eyes, the Found Footage Festival is a unique and new kind of traveling archive. Yes, they give humor alongside the visuals. But these works are also reflections of an era that (most likely) many audience members now were not alive for.

Most people in the audience never owned a VCR. I OWN THREE. YES, STILL. Also, these clips, much like home movies, are like time capsules and windows into another region or era that none of us ever were part of. I will argue that this Festival is an important one. And these guys can make you laugh while you ingest important things that you didn’t even realize were important. Because it just looks like a crazy lady with an unfortunately feathered hairstyle doing yoga.

I highly recommend that you attend one, two or all of their events, as listed here. The link to where you can ACTUALLY BUY the tickets is HERE

I WILL BE AT BOTH OF THE NEW BEVERLY SHOWS. LET’S DO THIS THING!!!!!!!!!

Wed, May 7, 2014 @ 8:30pm Meltdown The Meltdown
Thu, May 8, 2014 @ 9:00pm New Beverly Vol. 7 in Los Angeles, CA
Fri, May 9, 2014 @ 9:00pm New Beverly Vol. 7 in Los Angeles, CA
Sat, May 10, 2014 @ 7:00pm The Loft Cinema Vol. 7 in Tucson, AZ
Tue, May 20, 2014 @ 8:00pm Spegeln FFF in Malmö, Sweden
Wed, May 21, 2014 @ 7:30pm Cinema Neuf FFF in Oslo, Norway
Thu, May 22, 2014 @ 8:30pm Bio Rio Vol. 7 in Stockholm, Sweden
Thu, Jun 5, 2014 @ 8:00pm E Street Cinema Vol. 7 in Washington, DC
Thu, Jun 19, 2014 @ 7:30pm Colonial Theatre Vol. 7 in Bethlehem, NH
Tue, Jun 24, 2014 @ 8:00pm Regent Square Vol. 7 in Pittsburgh, PA
Fri, Aug 1, 2014 @ 10:00pm Leicester Square Theatre Vol. 7 in London
Sat, Aug 2, 2014 @ 10:00pm Leicester Square Theatre Vol. 7 in London
Tue, Aug 12, 2014 @ 8:00pm Fine Line Music Cafe Vol. 7 in Minneapolis, MN
Thu, Aug 14, 2014 @ 8:00pm The Bishop Vol. 7 in Bloomington, IN
Thu, Sep 11, 2014 @ 8:00pm Lesley University Lesley University
Sat, Sep 20, 2014 @ 9:00pm University of New Hampshire University of New Hampshire

 

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It’s Been 20 Years: The L.A. Riots…This Revolution WAS Televised.

Today is the 20th Anniversary of the L.A. Riots. 20 years ago I was sitting in a classroom, wearing a Catholic school uniform.

In my personal life, I was listening to Guns’n’Roses, Metallica, Queensryche and Nelson, about to be 14 years old (my birthday is in May), and things were…well, as good as they can be when you are an adolescent girl with a heavy metal-loving and high culture obsessed personality. That is to say, I was a normal kid with abnormal interests and thus…miserable.

But that day I was just like everyone else. I was an Angeleno, and I was terrified, angry, confused and hurting. At that age I had no ability to break apart the confusion of the news footage. And when I say “confusion” of the news footage, I mean CONFUSION. When the verdict was announced, and Los Angeles blew the hell up, these white, privileged reporters had no clue how to handle it. As a certified media scholar and media archivist in-training, I am beyond grateful that they went nuts on live-camera. We now know WHAT NOT TO DO and who not to hire in a city as diverse as the one that I have been born and raised in. Did I consider this at the time? Not a stitch. I was just scared. I had a baby brother. I had a family that I loved (still have both those things, although the “baby” brother is WAY taller than me now, so…maybe not so “baby” anymore). I had a city that I revered and…It had just erupted into pure, unadulterated chaos, and….THAT was NOT supposed to happen. Only was supposed to have that happen. I was the one with the adolescent whacked-out hormonal shit going on. My city was supposed to be my ROCK. What was going on?

The interesting thing is that as the 1992 “Civil Unrest” (and as an aside- I’ve never understood that term- who came up with it? It was not civil in any way, shape or form. Sure, it was unrest, but…these were RIOTS. Pure and simple. Is it more politically correct to candy-coat them? Is “civil unrest” an academic term for what occurred?) is one of the best examples of the term “this revolution will be televised.” Every breath taken, every person pulled out of a car, every store looted, every shop owner who fought back…was displayed in full color on our screens at home, at work, at university, where ever we might have been, 20 years ago today.

Even more fascinating, in looking back on this event, the footage I wanted to find for this, I was unable to find. I could not find any footage from news reporters from that first day and the initial announcement, when everything went crazy and they didn’t know what to do. When they were “off the script” as they say, and things were not exactly going according to plan. I’ve seen that footage twice- once live, when it was happening and then again when I took a class on television studies, and we discussed the racial make-up and transitions of newscasting in Los Angeles post-April 29, 1992.

If you weren’t watching or didn’t see it, it took on a beyond ridiculous architecture. Some people could argue that people in the middle of an emergency simply handle situation poorly and say things that they, perhaps, do not actually mean. However, it soon became ragingly clear that the sheer WHITENESS and economic disparity of the televisual news medium was ultra-present and to have that be the link to what was happening in South Central Los Angeles? Wow. The individuals and authority figures who had been chosen to give The People the information about an emergency situation were, quite obviously, so far removed from anything like this or, quite frankly, from Los Angeles herself, that it was a media disaster. No wonder I couldn’t find any of the footage when I was looking for it today.

It changed soon after, but that was the revolution of this situation on television. After this happened, we saw more reporters of color, we saw more documentation of different economic situations and we saw a different news-reporting engagement. While the ethnic situation still reflects this, news has gone back to fluff and fodder, but for a minute, we had some real “news” events. Now, not everyone reflected this. Certain reporters have always managed to be reasonable. But the vast majority of Los Angeles news reporting collapsed in upon itself and had a crisis, some of which can be reflected in this video here:

Or this one. This reporter’s discussion of her relationship to the Watts Riots really underscores the huge distance that these individuals have from the communities that they are reporting on. While the act of looting is, indeed, illegal, is it not of interest to her that quite a few of the folks they were just looking at were carrying out diapers?

Anyone who was in Los Angeles on April 29, 1992 remembers the smell, the sights, what they were doing, everything about it. Everyone from Los Angeles remembers what they were doing as well, even if they weren’t here. I can’t speak to the rest of y’all. I was in my science classroom with my teacher Ms. Michaels and the rest of the girls. Ms. Michaels had a crazy buzz-type haircut with a rat-tail and spikey-ness in the front. She was pretty cool. She wheeled out the TV, and we sat there, totally silent as things unfolded and we waited for our parents to come and get us.

I didn’t feel so tough then.

I remembered my mother telling me about the gas lines as a result of the 1973 Oil Crisis, so I forced her to get a full tank on the way home…just in case we had to leave town. There was a curfew enforced, and the looting and fires didn’t remain contained to South Central. They were a few steps from my front door, in Hollywood.

But that stuff didn’t disturb me. I watched my city burn, sitting atop a ladder in my backyard. I smelled the smoke, I listened to my girlfriends talk about “looting at the Beverly Center” and shook my head.

I was, quite literally, glued to the television. And I didn’t remember that until I sat down to write this. We were watching every little thing. I can’t count the number of store-owners I saw sobbing outside their property on live-television. I can’t fathom all the people I saw discussing how wrong they thought it was that people were burning their own damn neighborhoods. I think if I had a nickel for every time I had heard something about burning Beverly Hills or Simi Valley, I’d have a better chance of paying off my student loans faster!

Realistically, seeing Reginald Denny getting pulled out of a truck at age 13 made my skin crawl and I will never ever know what it’s like NOT to have that feeling and image and experience now. It wasn’t like a horror movie, it was something beyond a horror movie. It was the horrors of the real world. That is something that you will never come back from. The remainder of my time spent watching the television and watching the footage only exacerbated that situation. Like the Vietnam War footage (another salient example of how visual media has revolutionized our eyes, ears, selves and souls), the live Los Angeles Riot media work really created a new realm for many people like me.

My first experiences with action footage, really. I watched people with guns. Many many guns. And not the  police, either. I do like a good action movie. But when action is mixed with reality with injustice? I’ll take that in my fictional media, but not in my real life. Revisiting these instances has been not only difficult but enlightening. This video was a doozy.

The L.A. Riots was an incredible event that centered on the visual and what was being watched. It was catalyzed by a video (the Rodney King tape), followed up by the court case (I have distinct memories of a goodly sum of photographs from the trial decorating every news station and paper in town) and completed by the event itself with the voracious coverage, from every angle possible. Not only were the helicopters filming, people were filming, photographers were snapping pictures constantly and every news channel was rabidly running around every strata of the city to get it all covered.

The media archivist in me loves this. We have footage of a historical event, and tons of it (provided it has been archived and preserved properly).

The Angeleno in me doesn’t give a shit and thinks it’s all exploitation anyway. How many of the reporters even cared? This was our city; these were our people. They were hurting, angry, in pain. Justice was not done and everything went to hell and people were just trying to pass judgement and get a good story. People died, lost their homes, jobs, physical and mental well-being. People were scarred for the rest of their lives because of this and half of our news media was simply there to TMZ-it, pre-TMZ. No one gets on top of their roof with a gun, prepares to shoot people and comes out of the situation in a happy place, mentally. Well, not unless they’re in an action film. And how many of those guys are truly “stable” when you think about it?

The revolution has been televised. It was done so via the televised events of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago  , it was done by the broadcasting of hours upon hours of the bloody Vietnam War. This event was no different. What was different was that with certain figures who were involved, they were able to synthesize their situation, both event and media-wise, and reflect it back to those who would listen.

This example has a few pretty interesting pieces in it, and a great deal of discussion about the Riots from the social and internal perspective of people within the community.

However, the best example I found within my research was an interview that was conducted by Ted Koppel with two opposing gang members.

There’s a song by Iggy Pop and Kate Pierson. It’s a duet on Brick by Brick  called “Candy,” and it has a line in it that keeps running through my head, “The big city, geez, it’s been 20 years…” While that song is technically about a lost love, sometimes I feel like my innocent affection for Los Angeles was lost that spring day in April when I climbed to the top of the cafeteria steps at Immaculate Heart, high up on the corner of Franklin and Western; that cafeteria that meets the American Film Institute campus, and watched all the fires start with the rest of the girls I went to school with. It doesn’t mean I no longer love my city (that would be impossible), it simply means that this set of experiences forced my hand a bit. Instead of a gradual development, I had to open my eyes really quickly and see the “big city” (and its media) for what they really were.

As it stands today, I look at what everyone else is remembering, and it’s fascinating. I look at what I am remembering and I think that is interesting too.

How far we have come in 20 years and yet…we have not come very far at all. Many of the places that were destroyed during that time are still vacant lots. The dead are still dead and…Rodney King? Well, he is still unimportant. He was only the masthead to the boat. Let it fall, and the larger vessel remains. What will never disappear is the power of the media to change everything and as technology progresses so will the power of the media. A film like KICK ASS (Matthew Vaughn, 2010) used the same Rodney King-DIY-video-principle only constructed it via the internet, having a video made on a cellphone go viral within an extremely short span of time. This is the world we exist in now.

Not much different from the video camera of yesteryear. Just different formats and tools. As we move forward, perhaps we can remember this and try to keep that in our thoughts as we deconstruct both our media and the tools that we use to create it. The more it changes, the more it (and we) stay the same. If we did not take the time to fix ourselves and the problems that we had 20 years ago, how do we expect to move forward with proper and responsible media now? Do we? Can we realistically expect to have a diverse and representative media world if we were unable to rebuild the Los Angeles that broke itself apart almost a quarter of a century ago? Or do we continue to ignore the empty lots?

Los Angeles is a place where you can walk down the street and hear a multiplicity of languages, taste a variety of foods, see a gutload of moving images in different languages. This is a beautiful thing. But awareness is a key feature of any intelligent person and if you think that things have changed much in the last 20 years, you’re dead wrong. The interview that Koppel took with the gang members could’ve been done yesterday. The L.A. Riots changed the landscape of our fair city, but did they solve the problem? Not quite.

To me, the idea that the role of the responsible news media is slowly dying out scares me more than anything else. It means that not only are they no longer being demanded but they are no longer wanted.  When something like this occurs, we are that much closer to Los Angeles Civil Unrest 2: Electric Boogaloo, once more with feeling. Let’s try not to go that direction. I don’t have an answer for what to do, I only know that the first step is awareness and y’know, maybe that’s enough for now.

So This is Christmas…–#6

I figured that for Christmas Day I would do a potpourri of sorts. See, alongside all the seasonal-related films that I adore, there are a whole bunch of TV shows, specials and songs with music videos. So this one is a little different from the others.

6) Holiday Audio-visual Mixtape

The first in all of this madness is a song I cannot go without hearing at Christmas time. It’s by one of my favorite bands, The Pogues, and features vocalist Kirsty MacColl. I have a special memory around this song, actually, related to the holidays. Sad, but Christmas-and-song-specific. I was in Ireland in December of 2000, spending my holiday break there. I was at University in England at the time, but I figured, “Hey- Christmas in Ireland, New Year’s in Scotland, sounds good to me!”

As I was walking around (I believe I was in Kilkenny at this point although I may have been in Galway– when I relocate those journals, I will correct this part of the blog), I was hearing a goodly amount of Christmas music and every place I went to seemed to be playing this particular song. While I didn’t think much of it, when I went into Supermac’s (the Irish McDonald’s, essentially), it seemed a little odd that these places were all playing the same exact song at the same time. At first I shrugged it off, and then, upon passing a newsstand, I saw the front of the newspapers: Kirsty MacColl had been killed in a very tragic swimming/boat accident in Mexico. I was devastated. Thanks to a friend I’d had since an early teen, I’d been a fan of her solo work as well, so this was just awful news. But at least I understood why every place was playing this song at the same exact time.

On the other hand, it was December, it is a Christmas song, and it has always been pretty popular so…who knows? It may have been playing anyway. In any case, I love Fairytale of New York, and you should too.

Another piece of music that I am highly tied to is one that came out in 1984, at the very height of when I was buying most of these individuals’ albums. It was a collaborative effort put together to combat famine in Africa and it was released around Christmas time. I remember that they blasted the living hell out of it when it came out and, hilariously enough, they still do. I remember being insanely excited about the video primarily (burgeoning archivist that I was, even then) because I wanted to make sure that I could name every single person singing in the video, and if I couldn’t (ie I didn’t know who it was), I wanted to find out more about them. Aurally I could identify almost everyone when I first heard it on the radio. Then matching it up visually was so. Much. Fun! At that age, I’m not sure if I was overly concerned about the kids in Africa as much as the fact that I owned an album from almost everyone on the Band Aid team (except, strangely enough, U2).

So, if you haven’t seen it before, welcome to the video that started them all…

On the Band Aid tip, there was a video that one of my favorite bands did that, while not Christmas-themed, was meant to parody this, and I would be remiss in my efforts here if I did not include it. I listen to this song every year around the holidays due to the video and its relation to the Band Aid video and also because it’s just a damn good song. Warning: if you hear the recorded version, it will not sound at all like the version you are about to witness, due to the fact that the recorded version is done by the band, and this version?? Well, you’ll see. It’s pretty fabulous.

So aside from the music video stuff, there’s a whole televisual side of Christmas that I dig on, and no, it’s not the Star Wars Christmas Special. While I’ve seen that and it’s…got its points, there are much better things you could be watching. If you want a little bit of the kitsch, I personally think that Peewee’s Playhouse Christmas Special (Wayne Orr, Paul Reubens, 1988) is probably one of my favorites. Anything that involves the Del Rubio triplets, Annette Funicello, Peewee Herman, and Grace Jones singing “Little Drummer Boy” automatically has me, no questions asked.

I’ve always been a Peewee fan, so a Christmas special from the Playhouse will always get my vote, but this one is especially fun. When it came out on DVD, I was thrilled to my eyeteeth. If you haven’t seen it, and that taste of Grace Jones whet your appetite, I would highly recommend it. It really is all that and a bag of chips.

On a more serious note, my favorite television episode having to do with Christmas comes from the mind of Rod Serling. If that didn’t clue you in, it is a wonderful episode of The Twilight Zone starring Art Carney entitled, “Night of the Meek.” Carney plays a man named Henry Corwin who is, for all intents and purposes, a seemingly “bad Santa.” As we meet him, he has just gotten fired for his drunken lateness to his job (playing Santa), and he is at the end of the line.

But, surprisingly for The Twilight Zone, this is an episode that has more of a redemptive stroke than normal and much more optimism (although for Serling, his kind of optimism is not everyone’s optimism). This episode is about what the season is truly about: holiday spirit. And no matter how grim I may seem at times about the holidays, and no matter how Grinch-y I might get, The Night of the Meek renews my soul.

But Rod Serling is the man who truly makes me think. About many things. So, while I love many of the other Christmas specials and films, it is truly Night of the Meek, Season 2, episode 11 of The Twilight Zone that truly makes the holidays a holy and sacred occasion. If you haven’t seen it, I beg of you to give it a chance. It will air this holiday season. Watch out for it. It’s what it’s all about, at the heart and soul of it.

Thank You For Bea-ing a Friend…:RIP Bea Arthur,1922-2009

I will be the first to admit that my gay sensibilities are ostensibly heightened and terrifically off-the-charts much of the time when it comes to…well, almost anything. Go ahead and point it out. I will shrug at you. I will shrug quite loudly at you, in fact. I have recognized that there is a very large possibility that I was a gay man in my last life. But that is neither here nor there, really. Because while Bea Arthur was arguably a much-loved and cherished icon in the gay male community due to her participation in one of THE MOST beloved shows in all gaydom, Golden Girls, Bea Arthur was a woman that spanned far beyond that, and boy howdy did she know it!

beaarthurBea Arthur was a woman who, through her deadpan vocal stylings, sly grin and animated eyebrows exuded a confidence that any woman would be lucky to have on her good day. Or any man for that matter! She had an enviable career to be sure. From her beginnings in Kraft Television Theater in 1951, to the roles she made famous: Vera Charles in Mame or the roles she created like Dorothy in Golden Girls or Maude in Maude, Bea Arthur was nothing if not the consummate professional and always, always, always Funny As Hell.

Being 5’9″ and broad shouldered in an industry constructed for the petite of frame couldn’t have been easy, but she seemed to have risen to the challenge and worked it with all she had, and truly cut her own place for herself. To be honest, that may have been the reason that she made out as well as she did. There are a thousand and one sweet’n’petite blonds that can sing and dance up a storm, I suppose, but how many of them can turn a line of dialogue into something so dynamic, so alive, so pulsating with energy that when it drops from their lips (even when said in the most deadpan-esque manner) you want to scream and howl with laughter?

Not many. And you know what it was? Bea Arthur was born with a watch in her blood stream. She was born with a sense of timing that even many of the very BEST comedians have to train for years to achieve. But for some reason, and I think her consistent work in Golden Girls is the best proof of this, Bea Arthur had it. She knew exactly when it was “right.” And the most wonderful part is that you could see the confidence in her face, at all times.

When I woke up today, and I found out about her passing, I spent a great deal of time looking for Bea Arthur Awesomeness to post on my Facebook. To share with my friends, to share with my little cousins who may not know who the hell she was, or just to basically remind folks how wonderfully talented Bea was and how multidimensionally talented. Let me tell you- one of the best Saturday afternoons I have had in a long time was today, eating lunch, and watching a bunch of fan-clips of “favorite  moments” from the Golden Girls. In pajamas, and then getting to write. Really lovely. But aside from that, there were 2 pretty extraordinary YouTube videos that I found, and I will post them here:

Rock & Bea discuss the “good old days”

Angela & Bea…Bosom Buddies forever.

As someone who studies/works with fan culture quite frequently, I have to say that one of the things that I found interesting was the evolution of the comments over today on these videos. The response from people showing the impact that Bea Arthur has had on their lives is simply remarkable. A few examples:

I dreaded this day too. When I was diagnosed with an uncommon illness i had nothing to cheer me up for day until i turned on the television and it just so happen that the Golden Girls was on tv and my mood changed and till this day I pop in a GG Dvd and i laught with Dorothy yelling at her mom and Rose — from Atitoinnyc, from the “Sniff Swig Puff” video

One of the most talented and classiest actresses ever to grace the stage or air waves. She brought so many years of happiness to so many; my parents adored watching her in everything, and they were tough to please. A tremendous loss! –from Frymet, from the “Bosom Buddies” video

I would encourage you to go and look at more of the comments on more of the videos, as they are fascinating and they show a real sense of the power that Arthur’s career has had over so many people’s lives over the years, not to mention a real intriguing look at the fan community as well. But that is bordering on my own interests and so feel free to disregard. However, I do feel it to be an important part of someone’s final passing to see how the community as a whole grieves and how they take it together; the fan community being one of the most strong and creative in certain media respects. For example, in the next 2-3 weeks, there will be no less than 100-200 new fan videos based on Bea Arthur and her career in the Golden Girls. That is a bet I am totally willing to make. Tribute videos, mixes, everything. It’s one of the greatest parts about fan culture. Their creative impulse is so strong. Sure, half of ’em may live in mom’s basement, but does that really matter at the end of the day?

At any rate, at this point I would like to raise a glass to the woman she started out as, the woman she grew up to be, the woman she became, and the woman she was. I would like to raise a glass to Vera Charles, to Maude Findlay, to Dorothy Petrillo Zbornak, to Amanda Cartwright, and just, plain and simple, to Bea Arthur- what a woman! Here’s to you, and thank you for being MY friend and gracing me with the opportunity to be so thoroughly entertained for most of my lifetime!

May you and Estelle be up there sharing laughs together as we speak…..The earth is lonely for you both, but the heavens are made more glorious with laughter upon your arrival!

goldengirls

This is the way, step inside: Joy Division and Me, pt. 1

The silence when doors open wide
Where people could pay to see inside
For entertainment they watch
his body twist
Behind his eyes he says I still exist
This is the way, step inside

And with these lyrics, Joy Division begins their album, Closer. The song? “Atrocity Exhibition.”  The aural impact? INFINITE.

Released 2 months after Ian Curtis’ suicide, and recorded just before his neurological dysfunctions reached the height of their horrors, this album is nothing short of brutally brilliant. And it is brutal, make no mistake about it. Emotionally, aurally, sensually, and erotically brutal. Whether it is Curtis’ plaintive but angry voice growling, “I put my trust in you,” or the dark and dingy basslines that make you feel like you’re existing in a chasm of nothing but pure, unadulterated shadow that has been physically manifested, this collection of songs is the unintentional culmination of a band that no one has seen the likes of since. Fuck the Interpol comparisons. One good, PROPER listen to Closer, and your world will be forever changed. But it has to be at the right time.

A while back, I was having drinks with an old friend, and we hadn’t seen each other in a while. We were catching up over beers and such, and discussing things we had seen or were currently working on. Both being media academic-types, that was the primary focus of much of our conversation. However there was one key part of our conversation having had its origins in an online encounter (great term- online encounter- Sounds almost naughty, doesn’t it?) from a day or two previous.  This was not your run-of-the-mill critical theory conversation (although I suppose that that is not quite “run of the mill” bar chat for most of the world, but I digress…). Oh no. This was a discussion of the most masterful YouTube video that I had seen in a very long time, which I had recently posted on my Facebook, and had illicited quite a response from a few choice people I knew. A clip I will now submit for your own viewing enjoyment.



At any rate, while we lamented the fact that not everyone seemed to enjoy the video as much as we had, I mentioned that, for me, it was quite possibly one of the most intelligent pieces of YouTube-ist fare around today, primarily, because the video had used the song “She’s Lost Control,” one of my favorite Joy Division songs.

While he agreed that it was indeed a good song, he seemed to feel that there was better work in the Joy Division oeuvre. In my defense, as I related to my companion, this song has always had a special meaning to me, as Curtis wrote it about a girl having a seizure and I, myself, have seizures. Thus, “She’s Lost Control,” has, in effect, been “my jam” since I first heard it, in college. However, as we continued our conversation, I thought about it more intensely. In fact, I took this opportunity to re-exam my relationship with Joy Division, Ian Curtis, and my seizures with a much more discerning eye. The results of my contemplations and my residual experiments were almost as intense as the music itself.

When did I fall in love with that song? What made me do it? And why that song over all other Joy Division work? Why did I want to play THAT song over and over, negating the possibility of me appreciating or learning about the breadth and depth of their work? Surely the simple fact that I had a seizure disorder (which was so very minor at the time, and did not ACTUALLY become a real issue until the most recent few years) wouldn’t have affected my critical judgement? The conclusion that I came to was that it very well might have.

See, having epilepsy isn’t fun. I remember my first seizure (well, not the actual seizing part) as clear as day, and it was one of the worst experiences of my life. I was 13 or so years old, brushing my teeth before bed. As most teenage girls of that age do, I had locked the bathroom door. When my parents heard loud banging sounds, they had to break the door down. I was wearing underwear and my Max Headroom t-shirt. I miss that shirt. My life as I knew it, as a normal kid, ended that night. From that point on, my life has always involved MRIs, blood tests, sleep deprivation tests, and a whole slew of different neurological meds…and this was before I could even DRIVE.

This was also when they told me it was probably going to go away, and I would probably be off medication by me early 20’s.

“You don’t have epilepsy,” they reassured me while prescribing me Phenobarbitol, a drug that turned me into a early 90’s metal-head version of Linda Blair from The Exorcist, minus the cross-fucking (hey-I’m Jewish!) and head-spinning. Needless to say, not only did I get off that medication pretty quickly, when it became perfectly clear that a barbiturate was NOT good for a highly emotionally raw and sensitive 13-14 year old, but I believed them and felt confident that by my 20’s, I would be a normal kid. Just like my friends.

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Never once did they explain to me what seizures were. How they worked. What was fucking wrong with me. So when I continued to have them in a highly muted form (ie not doing the dying fish routine with my body, aka grand mal seizures), I never told anyone. Hey- I wasn’t talking to my parents anyway- just one MORE thing not to tell them. Not once did I realize how bad all this was. Until they got worse. And I had a few more. But then they found a good medication after a few failed attempts (one they had to take me off immediately, as it was killing people by anemia, ooo fun!) and I was safe at last. Seizure free. Basically.

It was approximately at this point that I found myself living in Santa Cruz, and that I found Joy Division.

Let me preface this by saying, I have never been “cool” or up on things the way I would like to have been, except perhaps in the worlds of literature and film. I may have read/seen some stuff ahead of other folks in that particular area. Other than that, I spent a good long time trying to play “catch up,” mostly because all of my friends were a great deal older than I was. They were probably drinking beer and singing TV Party while I was still getting through the Narnia books. At any rate, I had heard Joy Division, never got “into” them, but knew that a lot of people I liked really liked them. So the day that my housemate who worked at the corporate record store downtown next to the Santa Cruz 9 (was it the Wherehouse?) brought home the 4-disc collection, Heart and Soul in order to sell it to the other record store in town (he’d stuffed the box set down his pants on his way out the door), I knew it had to be mine instead. And it was.

b00005mkhq01lzzzzzzz1Unfortunately, what this prevented was the first cohesive aural experience of a Joy Division album. True, I did get 4 discs of pure, unadulterated amazing music, but I did not get an album.

See, here’s the problem with that. In this day and age, albums do not carry a whole lot of currency for most people, or so it seems. However, with the musics that I happen to love, albums mean a whole lot. Sure, you can listen to “Pinball Wizard,” from Tommy, and it’s a great song on its own, but without the context of the album it loses a great deal of its power. The same goes for most of my favorite albums, to be honest. They are albums.

But within this context, having only really had intimate familiarity with “Love Will Tear Us Apart Again” (as anyone who has spent ANY time within 50 feet of a goth or goth club does), I was immediately drawn to “She’s Lost Control.” Once I read about the background story….even more so.

Sure, it was ego. I wanted to find myself in there. I was that girl. Because also, at that time, I was in my late teens/early 20’s (aka Second Adolescence, only gotta pay your own way this time ’round!), and so many other things seemed…out of control. In fact, the only thing that was not out of control was what I was studying, because I had fallen so deeply, madly and passionately in love with film and media studies that every pore in my body, every hair on my head, every beat of my heart seemed to exude it. I lived for it. But that song……

Confusion in her eyes that says it all.
She’s lost control.
And she’s clinging to the nearest passer by,
She’s lost control.
And she gave away the secrets of her past,
And said I’ve lost control again,
And a voice that told her when and where to act,
She said I’ve lost control again.

I must have listened to that song 10,000 times. It was kinda like the song “Swamp Thing,” by the Chameleons, UK. I heard it and I simply. Could. Not. Get. Enough.

And that was it. My story. That was how I met Joy Division.

Things have changed now. But that’s another story for another time. Part 2.

But I wonder if my world would have altered had I been introduced to a full album instead. Was my musical maturity level at the time up to par? Could I have understood it? Would it have done anything for me? More inportantly, does it mean I am less of a fan because I have done my listening in such compartmentalized doses that were so separated? And what is fan-ness of this individuated and personalized genre anyway?

To me, this song meant a great deal. Little did I know how much the band and its singer would come to mean when my own illness became more advanced, 10 years in the future. Stayed tuned, true believers, that part comes up next…




Happy Birthday Bill!!!

Right-o, since I’m still a-workin’ on somethin’ bigger, and the inimitable James Tiberius Kirk/Denny Crane/Man who had the Nightmare at 20,000 Feet/Priceline Negotiator, etc CLEARLY takes precedence ANYWAY….Have at it.

Happy 78th birthday to the one…the only….William Alan Shatner.

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Plus I shall give you Henry Rollins on his experience recording with Bill….

And some puppets singing the recorded song. Because the song? Fucking rules. And….so do puppets. In general.

ENJOY!!!!

A taste of things to come….

So I’m working on something really interesting and personal and wonderful. I am very excited about it.  It’s totally in the editing process, & it’s saved as a draft here on my “dashboard” and it will be getting published up here by the end of the weekend.  That is my plan, anyways.

BUT, as a little precursor……here’s a hint at what you’ll be reading about next. Sorta.

And thank god for 8mm film & people who took/take care of it, cuz MAN…this is amazing looking footage….