One day I'm gonna sit down and open up the manual and figure out how to use my camera. I swear I will do this. Until then, I'm happy experimenting by pushing buttons and settings at random. Sometimes the "accidents" are far more interesting than the reality they seek to capture.
Yesterday I went to Sunset Junction, a massive (and massively fun) outdoor music festival. There are tons of people and lots of great food and art vendors. Here's a typical crowd shot:
That crowd looks pretty nice and civil. But later things got crazy and they showered me with beer and Silly String and layers upon layers of sweat. Other people's sweat -- it fills the air like a greasy haze. I got slimed in the mosh pit. Am quite filthy and contagious as I type this. These words alone will infect you.
I caught the Drive-By Truckers' set. They sounded good and loud and raucous. There was still good light in the sky, so these pictures look okay:
I especially like this one, because it's a scientific rule that adding palm trees to any photo instantly improves it (and look carefully on that horizon line for the dome of Griffith Observatory):
As Hank Williams III got started, it was getting pretty dark. I got one decent photo with the flash:
But after his traditional country set, Hank goes hardcore punk. The lights go hellish red and he brings out a new lead singer, this screaming fireplug of a guy who smashed himself in the head with the microphone until blood was gushing down his face. I thought these warped pix definitely capture the insane mood of this music:
Check out the great stretchy-face Francis Bacon effect on the bass player in the next one:
That's bizarre as all get-out. If I saw that in a movie, I'd be freaked and unnerved.
Of course, to take such close-range photos without using a zoom lens means I was right up front. Before I knew it, a serious mosh pit erupted with me right in the middle! Holy crap! I like watching mosh pits from the side but being in the middle of one sent me into panic mode. I snapped one wild picture before slamming my way to safety:
Ah, then it was time for The Cramps, one of my fave bands of all time. They are denizens of Los Angeles and they draw huge crowds whenever they perform. To see them is to witness divine rockabilly with a gothic flair.
True to form, Lux Interior's vampiric soul fought to evade my shutter. But I think these accidents actually capture the vibrant spirit of their gig:
The cops shut the show down at 10 pm (the previous night had gone to 11, in true Spinal Tap fashion). The crowds were pretty orderly. Some people flipped birds to police helicopters as they circled overhead, pinning us with their spotlights.
This week will be light on updates. Friends arrive from out-of-town, and a trip to San Francisco ensues.
Folks from Alabama usually have a love-hate relationship with the state. They just fucking love to hate it.
Take me. My name's Clark and I'm from goddamn Alabam. Reckon I'm lucky I got named after a comic book character and not somebody from The Andy Griffith Show or one of those freaky, obscure books of the Bible.
Nevertheless, once or twice a year, it just so happens that I wake up in an Alabama state of mind. That means I'm cussin' up a blue streak before I'm even out of bed. To kick the day off rightly, I drink no-brand bourbon for breakfast and stand in the yard in my tattered underwear yellin' at the neighborhood dogs. I play old Hank really loud and stomp around rantin' about all the dumb-ass things that come outta Alabama, knowin' deep down that my own name is probably somewhere on that list.
This righteous anger comes on hard because there's a lot of shit to hate about that sad, backwards-ass state, whether it's racist fucks like Bull Connor or Christian fascists worshipping false idols or that whole embarrassing "South's gawna rise agin!"war cry. I swear to gawd, sometimes I just wanna high-tail it back home and start whuppin' some redneck ass. And if that includes your mamma, well hey, she's probably your sister too, so I'll get to kill two critters with one rock
However, thanks to the calming effects of anusara yoga, colonic cleansing and the sublime joy of doing hard drugs in a Blue State, I can sometimes contemplate the really good things about Alabama. Seriously.
There's the amazing Alabama Shakespeare Festival, one of the best in the nation (folks on Broadway think they discovered Norbert Leo Butz -- fact is, he spent many seasons in Montgomery honing his chops, much to the delight of Alabama theater-goers). There's the Alabama School of Fine Arts, an incredible performing arts high school from which I graduated (amazingly, it's still tuition-free, with support coming from the otherwise unfairly-allocated state tax base). There's Maya Lin's incredibly moving memorial at the Civil Rights Institute in Montgomery (also home to the invaluable Southern Poverty Law Center). There's Harper Lee, God bless her, still alive and sittin' on her porch down in Monroeville, listening to the soul-shattering echoes of her sole novel still reverberatin' around in America's heart. And there's the thirty-six percent of voters who fought the paranoid Bible-totin' redneck tide to vote against King George in the last election.
There's Ava Lowery, an awe-inspiring teenager who expresses her political awareness through powerful videos she edits on her home computer. Using nothing but her mind and her mouse, she's already pissed off lots of Republican grown-ups, not just because of her Bush-bashing messages, but because these idiots are truly ticked to realize their own fundamentalist wacko kids don't know jack-diddly-dick about computers or being creative (hint: it's your primitive education standards, you backwoods creationist dipshits). When Ava appeared on CNN earlier this year to discuss death-threats that right-wing cowards have made against her, she was incredibly poised and eloquent as she defended her views. Can you imagine threatening to kill a kid because they made a video, even if it was something you vehemently disagreed with? Through it all, Ava's kept her cool in way that blows my mind.
Here's a new video Ava has produced to mark the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. You remember that, don't ya? When our government failed to save one of its crown cities from drowning? I cannot wait for this talented young girl to start producing her own feature-length documentaries.
Technically, the hell-raising band known as the Drive-By Truckers may hail from Athens, Ga., but most of the members are from my hometown. In fact, the leader of the band, Patterson Hood, wrote record reviews for me when I edited the student newspaper at the University of North Alabama. Back then, Pat dressed like a preppie and was in a fraternity and we honestly didn't hang out much, but he was into all kinds of great music, from Joan Armatrading to Dylan to Captain Beefheart. I'd ask him to review some shit like the new Frankie Goes to Hollywood and he'd just stare at me like, Naw, man, we don't need to do that. Now he's shed the pastel button-down shirts and loafers, grown some serious hair, and is churning out some of the best, most blistering Southern rock you'll hear.
And I'm not talking about that thinly-disguised racist conservative bullshit Southern rock. You know the kind, how some Skynyrd fans always wave the Confederate flag and join in on the "Sweet Home Alabama" lyric" "Well I hope Neil Young will remember/a certain Southern man don't need him around anyhow." Well, if you rednecks can find somebody to read this blog to your ignorant asses, you'll learn that Neil Young was singing about a corrupt government and institutionalized racism, which means Alabama and George Wallace and Richard Nixon and black children being blown up in a goddamned church and cross-burning and how wrong all that shit is, so the rest of us do need Neil Young around. We need an army of Neil Youngs. Besides, the joke's on you, ya cowshit-huffing country dumbfucks: Ronnie van Zant actually approved of Neil Young's views and was using that lyric to make fun of your idiotic whoopin' and hollerin' ass.
The Drive-By Truckers carry on in the great liberal tradition of Hank Williams, Sr. and Woody Guthrie. They sing about the little man getting screwed by the system -- and that "little man" can be black, white, male or female. And that system is anything that creates an unjust world. Like Republicans.
Here are the Drive-by Truckers singing Never Gonna Change from their epic album The Dirty South. If you're in LA this weekend, you can see them at Sunset Junction on Sunday.
I love Alabama. Seriously I do. It's my home, and if I've made anything worthy in this life, that's where I got my start. But there's plenty of days when all I wanna do is kick its red-state ass till it turns blue. When it does, there will be more people there like Ava Lowery and Patterson Hood, and far fewer like Richard Shelby and Judge Roy Moore.
Now if you'll pardon my uncouth manners, I do believe I hear them mangy fleabag dawgs pawin' around in my yard agin. It's time to crank up the Hank and dish out some Southern justice here in urban LA.
An acquaintance has seen Darren Aronofsky's sci-fi epic The Fountain twice now. He proclaims it the most visually stunning, emotionally affecting film he's seen in years.
Well, the trailer alone blows me away. If you've got a good screen and killer speakers, load this up and see for yourself. I guarantee that your heart will be pulsing faster by the time it's over.
The Fountain is apparently one of those pictures that doesn't fit a pre-cut marketing model. It's sci-fi but it's not stupid (sadly, that's a rare thing these days). It's unabashedly genre, and yet arty (the future doesn't always taste like pulp cheese). And the storyline contains equal parts spectacle and emotion (paging Darth Lucas, ahem).
To my mind, these are good things. But according to an insider source, the marketing division at Warner Bros. is having a hard time trying to figure out how to sell this one.
I'm sure one of their big questions might be: Gosh, are audiences ready for sci-fi that doesn't rely on cliched space battles, clunky dialogue, and freeze-dried servings of Joseph Campbell for Dummies? Of course they are! They're starving for such manna. A mindblowing epic love story that spans centuries, starring two hot actors who, from the trailer alone, obviously have a very real chemistry? What exactly are the marketing folks pulling their hair out over?
Right now, The Fountain is slated to play a few film festivals (Venice, Toronto, maybe others), and that should generate some good word-of-mouth. But I'm sad to see that WB marketing is already stumbling out of the gate. Vague, derivative posters like this don't exactly get the pulse a-poundin':
Gee, the future sure looks ... amber. Throw in a cheapo CGI dragon and you could be looking at an ad for a lackluster SciFi Channel B-movie.
This sad graphic design is one born out of fear. It literally moans: we don't know how to sell this thing, but we wanna show you it's transcendent or something ... please, won't ya buy a ticket?
My suggestion: posters showing three killer shots from each timeline. Aronofsky's obviously constructed this tale as a mind-blowing tryptych, so use this as a selling point. On the first poster, we see Rachel Weisz as the radiant Spanish queen, the modern-day wife and lover, then her ethereal presence in the future. The same with Jackman: heavy conquistador armor, contemporary researcher, and starship pilot of the far future.
Then simply show this amazing trailer over and over and over. Not on TV, where the scope of everything is lost, but in theaters, where the sweep and power of Aronofsky's imagery can best be felt.
Along with Pan's Labyrinth, The Fountain is the movie I'm most anxious to see this fall.
I just hope WB marketing can figure out how to get asses in seats. If their campaign is driven by fear, they're doomed. But if they will just use this movie's obvious strengths as selling points, it will find its audience.
I'm sure this public admission had Cheney flailing about for his jumper cables. Meanwhile, King George then proceeded to lie about his administration's previous lies about the real reason for invading Iraq.
BUSH: The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East.
QUESTION: What did Iraq have to do with it?
BUSH: What did Iraq have to do with what?
QUESTION: The attack on the World Trade Center.
BUSH: Nothing. Except it’s part of — and nobody has suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a — Iraq — the lesson of September 11th is take threats before they fully materialize, Ken. Nobody’s ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq.
Did somebody order an extra large helping of bullshit? 'Cuz we got a big pile right here, and it'd be mighty helpful if somebody stepped up and got it out of our sight. Because, um, it's costing us $250 million a day to keep it fresh and warm. And a few thousand American lives. Not to mention tens of thousands of Iraqi lives. And, gee, it seems to have completely and utterly trashed the image of our once-great nation. But hey! Take your time! There's no hurry!
And in case ya missed it, here's MSNBC's Joe Scarborough asking a very relevant question: Is Bush an Idiot? (When a right-wing slimeball like Scarborough runs a montage of damning video clips against this idjit Prez, you know things are lookin' mighty hopeless).
It's video week here at clarkblog. And why the hell not?
Joe Carnahan's new movie is called Smokin' Aces. I picked up the script last fall intending to scan the first act. But the damn thing grabbed me and would not let go until I'd finished. This is one of the funniest, most violent, and frenetically-paced stories to come down the pike in a while. A friend recently caught an advance screening and confirms that this is a big bloody bucket o'fun.
Dunno when it opens, but Universal's just released the teaser trailer. Don't expect it to make much narrative sense. Just crank up those speakers and groove on this imagery.
Gary Numan rocked so hard last night on the Sunset Strip they might wanna change the name of the venue to the House of Black and Blues.
Gary who? Shame on you! Best known for his 1979 New Wave hit Cars, Numan's been cranking out tons of music ever since. Granted, not much of it has heard airplay. That's too bad, as he's written some amazing songs. I consider his albums Replicas (released under the moniker of Tubeway Army), The Pleasure Principle, and Telekon -- known among fans as the Metal Trilogy -- to be three of the best albums to emerge from the British New Wave. Even today they sound ultra-modern, chilling, and definitely ahead of their time.
Not all of Numan's work rises to such heights. To be honest, there's a solid 12-year stretch, 1985-1996, that is best left unmentioned. It involves white tuxedos, champagne, and derivative, unconvincing dance beats. Er, did I mention this phase shouldn't be mentioned?
After much soul-searching and a stunning creative breakthrough, Numan has recast himself as an industrial goth-rocker. Does that sound crass or hollow, a marketing ploy by an aging musician desperate to reach a younger audience? Believe me, this transformation couldn't work unless he was sincere about it. And he is. Here's a recent review from the Boston Globe that hits the nail on the head. Numan's a musical chameleon, and after many years of trying to find his colors, he's landed in a lyrically rich, sonically sensible place. Folks like Beck, Marilyn Manson, and Trent Reznor are paying proper tribute not just to Numan's early pioneering work, but to his dark and ear-shattering new stuff. Maybe you should, too.
I could go on and on about Numan's songs -- those early, eerie futuristic tales of lonely robots and neon cityscapes that prefigured the radiation-blasted ennui of Bladerunner, or even these modern goth throbbers about angry gods, sinister angels and inhuman aliens (modern apocrypha that seems especially salient, given the daily dread found in our current world news). But take a look for yourself and see the journey this amazing musician has made.
Here's Numan doing Cars in 1979 (click for larger version). Even when synthesizers were in their infancy, Numan was creating innovative and unforgettable bursts of almost unnerving techno-lust that sounded like nothing else on the scene. This happy synth hook masks a paranoid view of alienation caused by car culture, and the video pushes the primitive limits of the time. It's a song I imagine J.G. Ballard very much liking:
And here, 26 years down that same metallic highway, is Numan approaching the age of 50 (!) and raising his voice even higher with his latest single, In A Dark Place (click for larger version):
For die-hard fans, here's the set-list from last night's show: Pressure, Rip, Metal, Halo, Films, Slave, Down In the Park, Jagged, Are ‘Friends’ Electric? In A Dark Place, Pure, Haunted, Prayer for the Unborn. Encores: Cars, Dark, Blind
There are many excellent writers in the comics field today. I could fill a month's worth of blog entries listing 'em all. It's safe to say that comics, graphic novels, and manga have more talented writers practicing the craft than ever before.
Towering above everyone, as he has done for decades, is Alan Moore. This is the guy that all the other writers follow closely, because he's the one who blazes the new paths. With seminal, groundbreaking works like The Watchmen and Big Numbers, Moore has not only stretched the boundaries of the art form, he's practically erased them. Does that sound like fanboy hyperbole? If you said it about anybody but Moore, maybe I'd grant you that. Moore's latest, Lost Girls, dares to recast three literary heroines -- Dorothy, Alice, and Wendy -- in an explicit, erotic fantasy set during World War I.
By all accounts, it's challenging, breathtaking stuff. The sort of innovative narrative that, like Maus and Ghost World and A Contract With God, reminds us that comics are just as grand and expressive an art form as any other. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy.
Yes, Hollywood's paucity of imagination often drives it to adapt comics ("They're just movies drawn on paper!" you can practically hear numbskull executives scream with glee), and often it does the job badly. The reason often is not the source material, but rather the industry's inability to differentiate one form from the other. What works in comics doesn't always work in movies, and vice-versa.
No movie to date has come close to matching Moore's singular, extraordinary visions, although I'd say that V for Vendetta comes closest. After the disastrous celluloid butcherings of From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Moore bitterly removed his name from any further adaptations, and donates his cut of the money to the artists that worked on the respective projects. That's a cool, cool, cool thing for Moore to do. He not only takes a defiant and principled stand, but does so in a very generous and noble way.
Here's a terrific, thought-provoking interview with this mad master.
He was one of those guys who'd pop up in movies and make you slap your head and say, "Oh yeah ... that guy!" In films as diverse as City Slickers and The Godfather II and This is Spinal Tap, Kirby created hilarious, often neurotic characters with a minimum of effort. (On the small screen, he contributed memorable performances in shows like Entourage, Homicide: Life on the Streets, and even played himself to hilarious effect during a run on the still-sorely-missed Larry Sanders Show).
Kirby was one of my first celebrity sightings when I moved to LA early last year. Upon entering the Whole Foods at Santa Monica and Fairfax, I heard a very distinctive voice saying, "Thank you, thank you, aw, thank you!" Two aisles down, Bruno Kirby is in the check-out line. Apparently the cashier had recognized him and said something. He was effusive, gracious, and, I recall sadly, really young-looking.
I remember telling a few friends, "Hey, I spotted Bruno Kirby at the grocery store!" And they had no idea who I meant. Then I'd imitate his voice and say a few of his more famous lines (I'm fond of his much-mocked "And if you dooOOOO..." from Good Morning, Vietnam), they'd peg him instantly.