Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Now you can read PLEASE DON'T BE WAITING FOR ME anywhere!



Rejoice bibliophobes, for the last physical impediment to you reading my new novel, Please Don't Be Waiting For Me,--by which I mean actual books in all their loathsome, paper-based tactility--has been removed. In other words, an eBook version of PDBWFM has just been made available on Amazon for the perhaps-too-reasonable sum of $4.99 (you see, you have to make eBooks less expensive than print books because they kind of suck--hey, just my opinion!) If this is you, head on over to Besos' place and download that sucker.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Friday's best pop song ever

PLEASE DON'T BE WAITING FOR ME is GO!


Last night's launch event for my novel Please Don't Be Waiting For Me, held at Oakland's A Great Good Place For Books, came off swimmingly. Books were signed, questions asked and answered, pictures taken, booze consumed... in other words, a good time was had by all.


I want to thank Nancy Davis Kho for being such a great interlocutor (and for asking me a few questions I really hadn't expected) and Kathleen from GGPFB for so generously making her store available to us. But, most of all, I want to thank all of you who came by to show this grizzled old hack some love.




With this event out of the way, the book's release finally feels official. The next big step is it's release as an eBook next Tuesday. In the meantime, if you would like to hold a signing and/or reading and/or orgy of unrestrained adulation in your home town, contact us via the book's website: pdbwfm.com.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

BOOK EVENT TONIGHT!


That's right; it's time to stop waiting for the PLEASE DON'T BE WAITING FOR ME launch event, because it's goddamn TONIGHT! Stop by Oakland's A Great Good Place For Books at 7pm tonight to HEAR a hand-picked selection of classic punk tunes, a reading by yours truly and an interview with Nancy David-Kho. You will also DRINK the provided libations and SEE a bunch of old people who used to be cool (or just really sweaty and obnoxious--see above.) Oh, and also: you can BUY my book, which I will SIGN at your discretion--forced book signings being something that this repentant author has put long behind him. The surviving record will reflect that a good time was had by all who survived. (Photo by Erik Auerbach)

Monday, July 17, 2017

A great good place to start


I apologize for exposing you to the above image. It's harrowing, I know. But, you see, my book launch is this Wednesday, and I wanted to promote it with an image that would be memorable. And what's more memorable than something that causes you PTSD?

So the launch event for my new novel, Please Don't Be Waiting For Me , is coming up this Wednesday, July 19th at 7pm. The venue is A Great Good Place For Books, which is located at 6120 Lasalle Avenue in Oakland's Montclair District. And yes, I know that you'd love to come if only you didn't live in Podunk Holler or one of those awful cities in the middle and bla bla bla--but come on! You know you've been wanting to take a trip to the Bay Area, and Oakland has many... um, things to recommend it. Like trees and stuff. Oh, and a lake. We have a lake.

Events for the evening will be a reading by yours truly, and a chat between me and Nancy Davis Kho of the wonderful Midlife Mixtape blog. Alcoholic refreshments will be available, as will copies of my book for you to purchase. And yes, I will sign your book, if you so desire, but please heed this warning: no matter how obviously shellacked you appear, I will not sign your boob. That is a solemn act of statesmanship that only our president is qualified to perform.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Son of Ingagi (United States, 1940)


Son of Ingagi is one of approximately five hundred “Race” films made in the United States between 1915 and 1950. For those who don’t know, these were films with all African American casts that were made for primarily African American audiences. They were typically made outside the Hollywood studio system by small independent production companies—in the case of Son of Ingagi, by Alfred N. Sack’s Sacks Amusement Enterprises.

As the products of a segregated America, the Race Films, quite ironically, present us with a vision of America that can be seen nowhere else in the commercial cinema of the time. This is an America where blacks are doctors, lawyers, police detectives, scientists and a wide array of other urban professions. There is not a white face in sight, nor is any white presence even implied, and so the black actors are free from having to react to the oh-so-important doings of Caucasians and can instead relate to each other as equal inhabitants of an all-black milieu.


Of course, the presence of so many African American faces in front of the camera didn’t guaranty the presence of any behind it. Like most Race Films, Son of Ingagi was directed by a white man. Richard C. Khan directed a number of all-black pictures over the course of his 27+ year career, with a predilection for Westerns (Two Gun Man From Harlem, Harlem Rides the Range) and also a few straight-up exploitation films, like the lesbian expose The Third Sex, aka Children of Loneliness (“Every normal person should see this, an amazing motion picture!”) The writer of the film, however, was a black man, actor Spencer Williams, who wrote himself a part in the film as Detective Nelson. Though it has to be said that Williams’ portrayal of the detective draws somewhat on the jittery, bug-eyed shtick of the then-popular black comic actor Mantan Moreland.

Son of Ingagi has earned its place in the cult cinema canon by being one of the only—and, by some accounts, the only—race film in the horror/sci-fi genre. Its title might lead you to think that it is a sequel, but that title is only meant to forge a vague association with Ingagi, a popular exploitation film from 1930. Ingagi sounds as if it was a forerunner of the Mondo genre; a fake documentary that used its putative jungle setting as an excuse for lots of footage of topless native women (this at a time when National Geographic was the closest thing to pornography that a randy young lad could get his hand on.)


What Son of Ingagi and Ingagi do have in common is that both prominently feature an ape man as their central boogey man. In Son of Ingagi , that ape man is N’Gina (Zack Williams), a creature brought back from Africa by Dr. Helen Jackson (Laura Bowman), an elderly scientist bent on creating a wonder drug that will be “the greatest discovery in medicine since Louis Pasteur!” Jackson has trained N’Gina to respond to a Chinese gong, and uses him to get rid of her conniving brother when he threatens to report her hidden fortune to the feds. Unfortunately, when N’Gina accidentally drinks her potion, he becomes violent and kills her.

Enter Bob and Eleanor Lindsay (Alfred Grant and Daisy Buford), a newlywed couple who, despite Bob’s position as a foundry worker, are presented as the portrait of middle class rectitude and marital bliss. We meet them at an impromptu wedding reception where they are serenaded by the vocal group The Toppers, who also appear in the same years’ Mystery in Swing. Like the rest of their town’s residents, Bob and Eleanor simply regard Dr. Jackson as a cranky old hermit. That is, until an emotional Dr. Jackson reveals to them that she had a relationship with Eleanor’s father when they were both missionaries in Africa. If you are blind to the veiled implications of all this revelation , all will become clear when, upon Jackson’s death, Eleanor finds herself the surprised heir to her considerable fortune, as well as her creepy old house avec basement-dwelling ape man.


Once Bob and Eleanor move in, the rest of Son of Ingagi plays out like a classic “old dark house” tale, with various shady individuals—including Bob and Eleanor’s crooked lawyer, Bradshaw (Earle Morris)—trying to get their hands on the hidden treasure while N’Gina slips in and out of the house by way of a series of secret passages. Throughout, Zack Williams’ mournful expressions and stooped demeanor tell us clearly that we are meant to regard N’Gina with a degree of pathos, like Karloff’s Frankenstein. And when N’Gina abducts Eleanor and spirits her away to his basement cell, his tragic arc is nearly complete. As you’d expect from any classic monster movie, there will be fire and lots of screaming, as well as a chance for young Bob to emerge as the square jawed hero of the story, rising from the ashes with the damsel in distress draped across his arms.

What is immediately apparent about Son of Ingagi is that it was made on an almost impossibly low budget. Its flimsy looking, miniscule sets call attention to the stiff, theatrical manner of its staging and make some of its action scenes awkward. In addition, its monster make-up has been the target of derision by some, though I think it benefits the film by making so much of the actor’s face visible. I’d also venture that none of the actors here have anything to be ashamed of (especially Bowman and Williams) although their performances do conform to the highly stylized manner of acting that was the standard of the day.

These problems aside, it’s impossible to dismiss the impact of seeing a film like Son of Ingagi for the first time. If there was a racial version of the Bechdel Test, this film would pass it with flying, um, colors. Unlike the blaxploitation films of the 70s, which would usually include at least one crooked white cop or venal white slumlord, Son of Ingagi presents an enclosed world of blackness, where all forces, be they good, evil, comedic, or indifferent, wear an African American face. Admittedly, I may be idealizing it a bit, but I doubt that I’m the only one who feels that all of us, regardless of race, could benefit from seeing a few less white faces on our TV and movie screens these days.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Punk Offensive?


I'm going to call Wednesday's all-punk episode of Pop Offensive an unqualified success. Jeff Heyman and I, along with our old friend Matt Harvey, had a great time reminiscing about the old days--police raids, broken jaws, and all--hopefully without stultifying our audience. If we did, they had the playlist of wall-to-wall punk classics to rouse them from their torpor. Check it out for yourself by downloading the archived version of the episode from the KGPC website. And if you can't hear the song titles over all that guitar distortion, you can read the full playlist here on the Pop Offensive Facebook Page.

Oh, and by the way, the book is called Please Don't Be Waiting For Me and you can buy it here

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

WEDNESDAY! POP OFFENSIVE punks out!



On this week's Pop Offensive, Jeff and I will be joined by our old pal Matt Harvey to rock, reminisce and remember those punk rock days of yore--this, of course, in connection with the release of my new novel, Please Don't Be Waiting For Me, which you can purchase here. The playlist for the evening will be wall-to-wall punk rock classics, from the Clash, to the Buzzcocks, to the Weirdos, to the DKs and beyond. The whole sordid affair can be streamed live from http://kgpc969.org starting at 7pm this Wednesday, July 12th. Don't miss it.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Yes, you can get it on Kindle...


WARNING: Parts of my new novel, PLEASE DON'T BE WAITING FOR ME, are so shocking that it might be dangerous to read while driving, walking, operating heavy machinery, or, of course, texting. Needless to say, that has not stopped me from making it available as an eBook so that you can do all of those things while reading it on that infernal mobile device that is probably glued to your nose at this very minute. You can pre-order it now by going here. Keep in mind, though, that you will not be able to download it until July, 25th, so try not to wander distractedly into the path of an oncoming locomotive until then.

Monday, June 26, 2017

PLEASE DON'T BE WAITING FOR ME is HERE!


I'm ecstatic to announce that, after a long series of hurdles that ended with a surprisingly generous proposal from the Sex Pistols' publishers, my first novel, Please Don't Be Waiting For Me is finally available to the public. In fact, you can at this very moment buy it for the very reasonable price of $7.95 by using either the link at the top of the sidebar, or by following this one here:

https://www.createspace.com/6971097

I'm asking you to purchase the book from Create Space because, while it is available from Amazon and other online retailers, I receive a larger percent of the proceeds if you buy it from there--and you get your book just as quickly. Brother got bills, people!

Of course, you're not obligated to buy it at any particular place, or at all, for that matter. Nor are you obligated to write a review of it on Goodreads and/or Amazon once you've read it. Although, you know, it would be nice.

For those of you who live in the Bay Area--or who are inclined to travel great distances for obscure reasons--a launch party for Please Don't Be Waiting For Me will be held at Oakland's A Great Good Place For Books on Wednesday, July 19th. I'll fill you in on details as they develop.

In the meantime, enjoy the book!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Friday's best pop song ever

Novyy Gulliver, aka New Gulliver (Russia, 1935)


Director Aleksandr Ptushko’s Novyy Gulliver was Russian cinema’s first feature length film to combine live action and stop motion animation. Of course, Russia was a few years behind Hollywood in performing that feat, as special effects pioneer Willis O’Brien had accomplished it as early as 1925 with The Lost World and would repeat it in 1933 with King Kong. Neither of those films, however, could be said to present as clear a condemnation of the exploitation of the proletariat as Novyy Gulliver does—which is of course what you would want from such a film.


Ptushko began his film career at Moscow’s Mosfilm Studios, where he started out sculpting puppets for use in other animators’ films. He quickly moved into making films of his own, starting out with a series of animated shorts featuring a character called Bratishkin. More shorts followed and, by 1933, he had assembled a large enough team to begin work on the ambitious Novyy Gulliver.

The film concerns an upstanding Russian youth named Petya (played by 15 year old actor Vladimir Konstantinon) who, while on an outing with his communist youth group, falls asleep during a reading of Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. As he sleeps, Petya sees the novel play out in his mind, but, because his head is so full of communism, it turns into a weird Marxist parable. This is not too surprising, as, when we meet Petya, he and his fellow scouts are marching in lockstep while singing a jaunty song about the joys of labor in which they call themselves "flying Leninists.”

Now inhabiting the role of Gulliver, Petya awakes to find himself prisoner of the tiny Liliputians—or, more specifically, of the Liliputian royals. In depicting Liliput’s ruling class, Ptushko draws heavily upon the court of Louis XIV. There is no mistaking this rogue’s gallery for what they are: a collection of spoiled libertines who are living lives of idle extravagance at the expense of the common folk. The king is clearly a simpering idiot, and can only address his public by lip synching to pre-recorded speeches. The real power in the kingdom is held by the King’s chief of police, who uses the military to keep the laborers and general populace in line.


The Chief’s leadership style is, of course, a paranoid one, and so his greatest concern, upon the arrival of Gulliver, is that Gulliver will side with the workers. His answer to this is to recruit Gulliver, whom he refers to as a “human mountain”, to the capitalist cause. This works only until Gulliver sees the chief whipping one of the laborers, at which point he rises to his full, enormous height and regales the crowd with a booming version of the happy working song from the beginning of the film. It is at this point that the Chief determines that this meddling Socialist giant must be killed, but his initial attempts are foiled by the wily Gulliver.

It could be said that Novyy Gulliver‘s combination of live action and animation is more sequential than it is simultaneous. After a live action prologue, it is with the introduction of the Liliputians that the film’s employment of stop motion animation begins, and that it indeed starts to consist of almost nothing but. Ptushko and his crew take a lot of editorial license with the puppet sculpts, making the royals a grotesque lot with bulbous eyes and tremulous, gaping mouths. On the other hand, the workers are portrayed as colorless and almost identical in appearance, like a bunch of green plastic army men given life.


The craft evident in Novyy Gulliver’s execution may be its best argument for the virtues of collective labor. Employing many hundreds of puppets--some with as many as a hundred or more different heads to portray different expressions--it was clearly a massive undertaking. Even more so given that few of these puppets were allowed to remain idle, as Ptushko and his crew took pains to create movement in every corner of the frame. As many of the scenes in the film are crowd scenes, that amounts to hundreds of tiny manipulations per frame. It is perhaps for this reason that, when Vladimir Konstantinon is required to act in close proximity to one of the Liliputians, the filmmakers give themselves a break and use an actual doll or hand operated puppet.

The gears of the royal’s downfall are set in motion when the Chief puts the laborers to the task of building a weapon that will kill Gulliver. Unknown to him, the workers have decided to throw their lot in with Gulliver and stage a revolt in the weapons factory, killing the foreman in the process. This scene, which owes a heavy debt to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, is aided immeasurably by a nightmarishly phantasmagorical miniature set in which the bizarre looking factory machinery looms over the workers like malevolent giant insects. More clever staging is employed by the climax that follows, a spectacular puppet battle royal that sees more toy tanks blowing up than a Showa era Godzilla movie.


One of the most fascinating things about Novyy Gulliver is how it employs a medium so often used toward more whimsical ends to depict the grim, life-and-death stakes of class war. In other words, Baby New Year this is not: if all the caricatured puppets and cartoon sound effects lull you into thinking that the end that awaits the King and his chief of police will be in any way pretty, you have another think coming.

Then again, at the end, all of Novyy Gulliver's events turns out to have been a dream—and we are returned to a world where militarized children sing about how awesome it is to work in a factory.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Podcast on Fire's Taiwan Noir episode #24: Master of the Guillotine. and Shaolin Invincibles


On this latest episode, Kenny B and I discuss Master of the Flying Guillotine and Shaolin Invincibles,      two low budget Taiwanese Kung Fu movies featuring oddball elements that you might think would make them ripe for ridicule. Sounds like the makings of a fun, lighthearted episode, doesn't it? Except, in the event, I found myself defending Shaolin Invincibles, a movie most remembered for featuring a pair of sloppy looking, Kung Fu adept gorillas. Check it it out, won't you?

Friday's best pop song ever

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Name the fictional punk rock band


In honor of the upcoming release of my novel PLEASE DON'T BE WAITING FOR ME, I've been holding a little contest. The idea is that the person who comes up with the best old school punk rock band name wins an autographed copy of the book. The original deadline for entries was May 15th, but I'm now extending it to June 15th. The truth is that too many of the best entries so far have been from friends of the blog, and I want to be able to award the prize without the appearance of playing favorites. So come on, all you beautiful strangers, step up to the plate!

You can submit your entries here (please don't leave them in the comments.) I only ask that you try to keep your band names era appropriate (circa 1977 to 1981), which means no current cultural references--as tempting as "Covfefe" may be. I'll announce the winner on July 1st.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Help! Help! The Globolinks (West Germany, 1969)


Help! Help! The Globolinks may be a weird film, but it is also a weird film with a pedigree. Commissioned by the Hamburg State Opera, it’s a television film of a children’s opera written and directed by Gian Carlo Menotti, an Italian-American composer who was American composer Samuel Barber’s librettist of choice. Menotti’s most well known work is another children’s opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors, the filmed version of which, commissioned by NBC, became the first television Christmas special to be aired on American TV on an annual basis (this was obviously quite some time before the advent of Rudolph and Charlie Brown.) That it is not quite so well known is perhaps due to the fact that, while Amahl had clear biblical overtones, Globolinks is about psycho-surrealist space aliens whose spoken language sounds like Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music.

The film begins with an alarmed news reader shouting the warning that the Globolinks have arrived on Earth and have completely taken over “parts of” Germany. We are then delivered into a lengthy sequence during which the Globolinks undulate to random electronic noise amid a psychedelic play of light and colors worthy of an Iron Butterfly show at the Filmore West. It is a credit to this film that I find myself at a loss for words when trying to describe the Globolinks. Essentially, they look like segmented upright windsocks that constantly telescope up and down in a Slinky-like motion. You could almost imagine them being employed as wind dancers outside a car dealership. There are also a bunch of humanoids in brightly colored head-to-toe body stockings who appear to be suspended from the heavens, marionette-style, by multiple scarves--whom I think are supposed to be humans in the process of turning into Globolinks. To tell the truth, the whole thing was overwhelmingly reminiscent of that bizarre sequence in the Starman movie Invaders from Space in which the malevolent aliens pose as a modern dance troupe—and almost as strange. Yes, I said it.


At the risk of spoiling Globolinks for those who plan to only pay half attention to it, it  early on reveals itself to be a parable about the power and value of music. Thus we are informed in the opening announcement that the only thing that can destroy the Globolinks is music. This would seem to suggest that the industrial noise that the Globolinks groove to is intended to be the absolute opposite of music—a notion that might have some Music Concrete fans up in arms. That is, until you consider that the specific “music” being referred to here is opera, which is unarguably the most easily weaponized form of music on Earth.

To that end, a busload of schoolchildren on their way back from Easter break find themselves stranded in the creepy forest in which the Globolinks have set up camp. The handsome young bus driver, Tony (William Workman), seeing that his charges are sleeping peacefully, is the first of many in the film to express his feelings through bone rattling song, opining about how strange and scary everything is. And it’s a further credit to Globolinks that, despite my distaste for opera, its visual strangeness was enough to keep me engrossed for the whole of its brief running time.


In keeping with its operatic roots, Globolinks’ action is limited to two indoor sets, one representing the forest and another representing the office of the school’s headmaster, Dr. Stone. The forest set, in particular, is creepily evocative, giving the scenes set in it the feel of one of the old Hammer horrors, or, when bathed in multicolored lights (as it often is), a Mario Bava film. I also couldn’t help being reminded of set-bound low budget sci-fi films like Devil Girl from Mars and Edgar G. Ulmer’s The Man from Planet X, two films which no one is likely to have ever considered turning into an opera.

It’s apparent that all of the singing in Globolinks takes place in some separate sphere from where the Globolinks are, because none of it has any effect on them. It is only when an instrument is played that they cower and flee. Unfortunately for the schoolchildren, none of them have brought their instruments along with them for the holiday—save for Emily (Edith Mathis), an older girl who plays the violin. Because of this, Emily and her violin are tasked with hiking back to the school in search of help. This she does while sawing out an appropriately mournful tune (presumptive title “You Guys Are All Assholes.”)


Meanwhile, back at the school, Headmaster Stone (Raymond Wolansky) is getting an earful from the music teacher, Miss Euterpova, who threatens to resign in response to her students’ indifference. Euterpova is played by Arlene Saunders, a Cleveland-born soprano who found fame with the Hamburg State Opera in the mid 60s. For some reason, Saunders is fitted with a putty-molded proboscis worthy of Cyrano. While the other teachers are simply given ridiculous names (Professor Turtlespit, Mr. Lavendar-Gas), she is the only one caricatured in this manner, which seems odd, given that she is the primary bearer of the film’s “can’t stop the music” message (one song, in which she details the roles of various instruments, comes across like a staidly Teutonic version of “Turn the Beat Around’.) Once she leaves, Stone is ambushed by a Globolink, after which he begins the process of turning into a Globolink himself, which starts with him being able only to speak in random electronic sounds.

Globolinks announces itself as “an opera for children and those who like children.” And, like all of the best children’s entertainment from the Sixties, it contains elements that would certainly terrorize many among the younger set. Chief among these is Stone’s transformation, which begins with him being sheathed in a face-distorting stocking mask and ends with him being suddenly yanked into the stratosphere. Also potentially scarifying are the Globolinks themselves, who are terrifying by virtue of their inexplicable nature—a far cry from the face painted, floppy-antenna-wearing actors in Santa Claus vs. the Martians. As a tot, I was similarly petrified by the marionette aliens in Fireball XL5, because, being neither cartoons nor people in costumes, they were entirely unrelatable to my undeveloped little brain.


Globolinks’ final act is set in motion when Miss Euterpova, taking control of the situation, forms the other teachers into a marching band and sets off to rescue the children. I won’t spoil what happens next, other than to say that the film ends with Euterpova admonishing the children to “keep music anchored in your souls or the chords of your hearts will freeze.” This tenet is given heft by the fact that the story’s only casualty, Dr. Stone, had earlier announced that he didn’t sing or play an instrument. You hear that, tone deaf people? You are doomed. That chill you’re feeling in your heart is the icy fingers of non-musicianship claiming their due. I think this also applies to drummers (ouch!)

In the end, I really enjoyed Help! Help! The Globolinks¸ mainly for how it combines so many familiar genre elements into something so unlike anything I’ve seen before. It also has a certain visual allure, thanks to its psychedelic color scheme and fanciful set design. Also of note is the level of commitment of its performers, who belt out those high notes with so much gusto you might expect their faces to explode. Of course, I feel safe saying all of this because I am fairly certain in the knowledge that no other literal space operas like it exists.