Saturday, July 30, 2005

The Ramones: Blitzkrieg Pop?

The other day I made a pit stop at a bar I don't regularly visit to get a couple of pints on the fly when, just as my first oat soda was served, a commercial flashed across the wall of TVs behind the bar. It featured slam-dancing soda pop cans who were partial to the classic Ramones tune "Blitzkreig Bop." I thought: "somewhere, some kid is thinking that this is a jingle written specifically for this crappy airspace." I looked around and wondered if anybody else felt as used by Madison Avenue hacks but as I looked around, nary an eyebrow raised which quantifies my belief that one should pick his watering hole and stick to it because you never know...Below is a little bit that might've gotten lost. Sometimes you gotta beat on the brats with a baseball bat. Oh yeah...oh yeah...oh-oh-oh, yeah!... Laters...

-- Ramones Timeline --

1975>> The Ramones are one of the first punk bands signed on the budding New York City scene.

1976>> The Ramones record and release their debut album, Ramones, which yields such cult classics as “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Beat On The Brat,” and “Judy Is A Punk.” Later in the year they release the album Leave Home. It’s a bona fide hit in the U.K., leading to a tour of the isle.

1977>> After placing in the U.K. Top 40 with “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker,” the Ramones release the album Rocket To Russia.

1978>> Drummer Tommy Ramone quits the band to go behind the scenes and produce as T. Erdelyi, and Marc Bell of the Voidoids becomes Marky Ramone. The Ramones release the classic Road To Ruin, which is helmed by Erdelyi.

1979>> The Ramones release It’s Alive, a live show album, and later the group performs the title soundtrack and have guest roles in Harvey Corman’s youth-oriented parody Rock ’N’ Roll High School. In their never-ending quest for commercial success, the Ramones also release an album named after the movie.

1980>> The Ramones had begun working with legendary producer Phil Spector on Rock ’N’ Roll High School and continued to do so on the following album, End Of The Century. The public response is mixed—the album charts at #44—and the group goes on a rigorous tour.

1983>> The band goes on a sabbatical after years of constant world touring.

1984>> The Ramones return to the scene with a new drummer, Richie Ramone, and release Too Tough To Die, which is produced by T. Erdelyi.

1987>> After releasing Halfway To Sanity, Richie Ramone leaves the band and is replaced by Marky Ramone (who had quit in 1983).

1989>> The group releases the single “Pet Semetary,” which is used in the film rendition of the popular novel by Stephen King and included on the album Brain Drain. Dee Dee Ramone, the most hardcore of the punk rock band, quits and is replaced by bassist C.J. Ramone.

1992>> After Joey and Marky get treatment for alcohol addiction, Loco Live is recorded and released and immediately after comes Mondo Bizarro—both are commercial failures.

1994>> Releasing the all-cover album Acid Eaters and Adios Amigos in the same year, the Ramones declare that if the latter fails commercially, in the wake of the success of acts like Green Day, they will disband after a farewell tour. Adios Amigos charts for only two weeks.

1995>> The Ramones go on a farewell tour for most of the year and are prepared to disband at its end when they are asked to perform at the sixth-annual Lollapalooza.

1996>> The pioneers of punk rock call it quits after 20 years of performing.

2001>> Jeffrey “Joey Ramone” Hyman dies due to lymphoma complications in New York.

-- Mo' Ramones Facts --

-The first incarnation of the Ramones (Joey, Dee Dee, Tommy) began to play in New York clubs in 1974. The group's “uniform” of torn jeans and leather motorcycle jackets started as an homage to the greasers (punks) of the ’50s.

-After playing at the Performance Studio in Manhattan, the Ramones developed a loyal following that won them house-band status at CBGB’s, which was New York’s premiere live-band club at the time.

-While the New York City punk scene began taking root, there were many popular bands like Patti Smith and Talking Heads who took a more cerebral approach to the genre.

-The Ramones created their sound by taking the pre-Beatles ’60s sound of rock ’n’ roll ( the chord structures that were the standard pop fare), trimming it down to the bare minimum of chords, and using extremely simple progressions and inane lyric content. Strangely, it seemed “revolutionary” in the context of the disco age. It’s plausible that the novice musicians were hiding their lack of skill (at the time) behind simple structure, a noteworthy feat nonetheless..

-The Ramones recorded their debut album with vocals on one side of the mix and the instrumentation on the other side, like the Beatles did.

-When the Ramones visited England in ’76, they played a show at The Roundhouse in London, performing for then-unheard of punk rock royalty in the audience like Siouxsie Sioux, members of the Clash, and the Sex Pistols. The Sex Pistols quickly rose to fame with a violent take on the genre and just as quickly self-destructed and faded off the punk radar.

-The album Too Tough To Die was produced by former Ramone T. Erdelyi and Ed Stasium.

-Animal Boy, which was released in 1983, won the group a best album award in 1987 at the New York Music Awards.

-Bassist C.J. Ramone came out of the U.S. Armed Forces, heard from a friend that the Ramones were looking to replace Dee Dee, and promptly went to audition (he had three hours to find the band after he found out). He auditioned a couple of times and got the gig.

-The 1985 album Bonzo Goes To Bitburg was a conceptual spoof of President Reagan’s visit to Germany.

-In spite of a poor reception domestically, the Ramones’ cover of “Baby I Love You,” produced by Phil Spector, was a Top 10 hit in the U.K.

-Peaking at #44, End Of The Century did better than any other album of the Ramones career.

Albums by Year - Title - Label

1976 - Ramones - Sire
1977 - The Ramones Leave Home - Sire
1977 - Rocket To Russia - Sire
1978 - Road To Ruin - Sire
1978 - It’s Alive - Sire
1980 - End Of The Century - Sire
1981 - Pleasant Dreams - Sire
1981 - Rock ’N’ Roll High School - Sire
1983 - Subterranean Jungle - Sire
1985 - Too Tough To Die - Sire
1986 - Animal Boy - Sire
1987 - Halfway To Sanity - Sire
1989 - Brain Drain - Sire
1990 - Pet Semetary - Sire
1991 - Loco Live - Sire
1992 - Mondo Bizarro - Radioactive
1993 - Acid Eaters - Radioactive
1994 - It’s Alive (Import) - European Import
1995 - Adios Amigos - Radioactive
1996 - Greatest Hits Live - MCA
1997 - We’re Outta Here! (Live) - Radioactive

Compilatinos by Year - Title - Label

1979 - L.A. And Aberdeen - Dragonfly
1979 - High School Confidential - Sire
1988 - Ramones Mania - Sire
1990 - All The Stuff & More, Vol. 1 - Sire
1990 - End Of The Decade - Beggars
1990 - All The Stuff & More, Vol. 2 - Sire
1999 - Hey! Ho! Let’s Go: The Anthology - Rhino
2000 - Ramones Mania - EMI
2000 - Life Goes On - Sire

"Blitzkrieg Bop"
Hey Ho!Lets Go!Hey Ho! Lets Go!
Hey Ho! Lets Go!Hey Ho! Lets Go!
You're fallin' in a straight line.
You're going through a tight wind.
The kids are losing their minds.
The Blitzkrieg Bop!
We're piling in the back seat.
We're generating steam heat.
Pulsing to the backbeat.
Blitzkrieg Bop!
Shoot'em in the back now.
What they want, I don't know.
They're all reved up and ready to go.
They're forming in a straight line.
They're going through a tight wind.
The kids are losing their minds.
The Blitzkrieg Bop!
They're piling in the back seat.
They're generating steam heat.
Pulsating to the back beat.
The Blitzkrieg Bop!
Hey ho, let's go.Shoot'em in the back now.
What they want, I don't know.
They're all reved up and ready to go.
Hey Ho! Lets Go!Hey Ho! Lets Go!
Hey Ho! Lets Go!Hey Ho! Lets Go!

The Second Coming -- W. B. Yeats

...I'm sure that you've read about Sandra Day O'connor's resignation from the Supremes and the partisan shift of legislative parity implied therein. (I wrote this a week or so ago so bear with me). This might be that "worst-case scenario" that got people's skin leaking last November but all that's in the rearview mirror; the Rubicon's been crossed...Move along...nothing to see here...or is it? The former and the piercing shriek of hundreds of political daggers getting sharpened in D.C. in preparation for the impending "court room wars" reminds me of a piece by Yeats that typifies the heightened sense of forboding many are starting to feel...


Turning and turning in the widening gyre,
the falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart;
the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed,
and everywhere. The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions,
while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming!

Hardly are those words out -

when a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi troubles my sight:
somewhere in sands of the desert.
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
a gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, is moving its slow thighs.
While all about it reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again;
but now I know that twenty centuries of stony sleep
were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle.
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?, now the falcon has circled back to peck the eyes out of the falconer with such fury that the mighty Sphinx, himself, may soon arise from its millennia-plus slumber. While I deem the concept of "Judgement Day" questionable, and I'm certain that I'm not the religious type, I won't rule it out either. (I could be all kinds of wrong, yo.) The first time I read this piece as a child in the 70's I hadn't a clue of what the author was implying...but the macabre feel and that closing sentence gave me goose-bumps anyway -- still does...Years later, I got the zap on my dome when I "really got it." In reviewing Yeats' piece more recently, I started to wonder what the Sphinx, that mythical beast of stone W.B. refers to, might embody if it chose to just get up and go; start moon stomping all over us humans like Godzilla in downtown Tokyo. What would he embody? The good guys or the bad guys? Them or us? Would he stop and ask what our political affiliations were before doing so or would he just hulk-out indiscriminately? Guess we'll find out...I gotta run...yeah, I'm running out of's getting dark, Uncle Fester's stuck in the chimney and Rod Serling's knocking on the screen door trying to bum cigarettes -- again...Laters

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Remember This When Times are Tough:)

Christian Bale: Talks About the Machinist & Batman (Q & A)

I transcribed this interview back when Christian Bale was in town to support The Machinist. In this, dude touches on getting skeletal for the one role as well as the (then) upcoming Batman flick too... I never got a chance to use any of this Q & A for anything I'll put it here...

Q: Did you freak anybody out with that weight loss. Did you seek any tips on how to do it the way you did?

Christian Bale: Just the nutritionist, whom I just visited one time, beforehand, just to inquire about kinetic thought, probably I would become deficient, in terms of vitamins and minerals and everything, so I got those pills. And after that, I just kind of, was my own guide about how I felt. I just figure that as long as I was feeling okay, then, I must be okay.

Q: Was there ever any worry that you could do any lasting damage to yourself by trying to pull this off? Other actors have hurt themselves, Matt Damon got some liver damage -- you ever think about anything like that?

CB: I had, what could be called kind of stupid, feeling of invincibility -- like oh, you know, I can do it. I can manage it-- and I certainly did feel like if I was going to do this the one time that I could. That I would, for a certain time [??] for anything. But also, kind of the novelty of it. Because, for me there was the challenge of was I able to do it. Was it possible? You know, I managed it moreso than I expected , I feel that I proved that point to myself; that I could do it. But I didn't actually [start to] feel bad until I started eating again. It was when I started putting the weight back on, that I did it somewhat too rapidly, and apparently had the cholesterol level of a 90 year-old man and had have to really begin getting fit, eating properly - because I gorged too much. I didn't take the advice of everybody, which was: take it slow. You know, putting the weight back on I just wanted to consume pizza and donuts...

Q: How did it feel? What did you eat?

CB: Initially, the first things were just - it was apples. That was what I really loved which doesn't sound that intriguing but was what I really loved, not the most indulgent food that you could be craving perhaps after that amount of deprivation. But for some reason it was. I'd literally dream about mountains of apples [laughs] All of the time it was apples -- there were trays of Spanish apples and the crew would bring me apples and, you know, I was "the Apple Man." [laughs]

Q: Were you pissed off while losing all the weight? I could imagine that it couldn't have felt that great. Spain has some of the greatest restaraunts in the world...

CB: Yeah, yeah. I went to them as soon as we finished. I stayed for a week, just to because -- I had to. Once I'd been there, I'd read about all these different restaraunts [laughs] and by the time we were leaving I had a notebook and I had restaraunts' addresses; the best dishes in each restaraunt because I just wanted to go around systematically and eat everything that I missed out on that anybody had mentioned that was good in any place which I did. My wife and I went from - it was breakfast, lunch, dinner [and] everything in between as well. I would get tempermental at times at the beginning of dieting, when you're still not...before I realized that I really had to change my entire life and, kind of, social life. Whilst I was trying to pursue that, I would get very annoyed because you really felt how much you were missing out. Because you were seeing friends drinking and eating and you suddenly realize just how dependent you are on that. To socialize with everybody and [meanwhile] you're just standing or sitting there -- you just feel like you're no fun. You know, you're not taking part anymore, in anything that's supposed to be pleasurable. So those times would be annoying and when my stomach had not really adjusted was just groaning and you would feel weak from not eating but you get to a point where you do get past that. And you've gotten so accustomed to a real minimum of intake. And at that point I really did feel like I hit this, kind of, point of enlightenment, you know, mentally. I could understand very much why you hear about monks fasting, etc. for enlightenment. It changes your mental outlook completely and I found myself almost unable to become angry or frustrated at almost anything. Perhaps because I didn't feel that I had the energy to be able to do that - but I was a very happy person during that period. Although people probably didn't see me smiling too much because I was like, "Ahh, I don't want to waste the energy." [laughs]...I was smiling a great deal.

Q: Where you living alone in that time or...?

CB: No, I was living with my wife the entire time. Out here [L.A.] for the initial four months of prep and then in a hotel in Barcelona.

Q: ...and was she was going...??? [what in the hell are you doing to yourself?]

CB: Well, she - I kept saying to her, "Look, you can't follow me on this." You know, it's just nothing to do with what you have to do. This is my choice and I don't want to make you feel like you can't enjoy yourself. But, bless her, she still couldn't feel right about eating in front of me. I would occasionally catch her out in the back yard chomping food [laughtes] and acting like it hadn't happened. And then I would actually have to try to convince her to have dinner right in front of me. But she felt pretty guilty.

Q: Looking at the movie, was the sacrifice worth it?

CB: I feel that it was, just as long as I don't ever find that there's been any permanent [bodily] damage because then I would really, really kick myself for it because at that point it would've just become stupidity and it certainly wouldn't be worth it. But I feel fine. And so right now I do feel like it was worth it. And I feel that it also was an endeavor that I wanted to see for myself, beyond the movie itself. I kind of just wanted to see if I could present myself a challenge and achieve it. You know, and have the mental discipline not to waiver from it. And the way that I thought of it was, this was actually just eight weeks of filming. I've got the preparation beforehand but I've had many six months of my life where I almost can't remember nothing particularly that I did during that time, you know? It's fairly unremarkable, so I felt, "well if it's just six months, why not really do something that defines that time?" And it would've been ridiculous had it just been for a movie that didn't seem that it was worth it. That it was essential for playing this part. And I do think that it's turned out exactly as I really hoped that it would. I think that everybody involved did a fantastic job with it. And I understand a number of people, a number of people have said, "Well if you're thinking of a mainstream movie, you're not going to get a lot of people to go and see it. So why'd you do it?" Well, you know, it's not for that. For me a movie doesn't become better just because a lot of people go and see it at all. And my primary satisfaction for making movies is actually in the making of the movie, you know? So, in those terms, absolutely. I feel that it was worth it.

Q: Would you do it again?

CB: I'd be very cautious about doing it again. Firstly because I got no plans on being "the guy that loves losing a lot of weight." Only if it was for something that -- I would never do it to that extreme because I just can't imagine something that would be necessary to do it to that extreme again and also, I feel, by that point that -- it's very weird trying to make it into a "gimmick." And if you do it for a second time, then maybe it can't but be seen as kind of a gimmick. But some parts do require a physical transformation. Some don't but I think that this one really did. But I really wouldn't want to do it any time soon, certainly. And I think the second time around, I would be much more cautious just about any bodily damage that I might be inflicting on myself.

Q: How much research did you do for the transformation?

CB: I got a number of videos I looked at and -- Insomina [By Stephen King] I watched. I was still here in Los Angeles. I just stayed up for as many nights as I could, just to see what it made me do, that sort of thing.

Q: How did you feel?

CB: Oh, I felt just awful - I love my sleep. [laughs] Just few nights, but you get a sense of it. But it actually became a different thing after losing the weight. Because I found that even though I was in a state of almost being on the verge of sleep, right throughout the day, that actually falling asleep, was very difficult. I just couldn't really do it. I was just couldn't do it. I would lay there for hours with my eyes closed or staring at the cieling and that was, kind of, how I rested. But many nights I would sleep no more than 2 hours whilst we were shooting. I'd sit there in bed but I just couldn't sleep, so I'd just stare at the wall or reading a book or something. I didn't need a whole lot to keep me entertained at the time. I could just basically sit for hours basically doing nothing. [laughter] And that was often what I did during the night time but it wasn't -- except for some scenes which I really detested having to do, where I had to run in the movie. You know, it was okay that I looked exhausted the next day or whatever. I kind of hit a constant level of energy, or rather lack of energy, so that it really wasn't any "ups or downs" it was just a constant level of "I'm here. I'll do it in my own time, thank you very much and when I'm there I'll be there and that's it. So it wasn't like I was really doing tremendously tiring endeavors during the day to make me need to collapse at the end of the day.

Q: ...So...How did it affect your...romantic life?

CB: What romantic life? [laughs] Who was I involved with? My wife...It was a good insight, I thought, for her as to what my ass was going to look like when I'm 90. [laughs]

Q: Did you find it difficult to let go of that character? Especially when you're staring at this emaciated person...did you find it hard to let go of that person emotionally?

CB: You let go of the emotional burden of the character, the paranoia etc. I let go of all that quite easily. It was truly the physical aspects that dictated my mental state that remained with me for quite some time.

Q: You mentioned that a lot of people who see the movie might not put a lot of value into movie-going. What would you like your audience [coming to see this movie] to know?

CB: What to know beforehand? I mean, ideally, I'd like to tell them nothing because I love going to movies when I know absolutely nothing about them whatsoever and to be completely surprised by them. I understand that, obviously, we have to try and entice an interest -- perhaps that...For me, I don't know if this means anything to anybody else, but it's, for my experience, quite rare that there's a group of film makers who absolutely are making a movie solely for their own viewing pleasure. We all want to watch things for masturbatory exercises, you know the indulgences, you know this is how we want to work. This is what we want to see. And, thankfully, working with a production company that absolutely put no demands on Brad or myself, or anybody whatsoever, just said "whatever, you guys just make exactly the kind of movie that you want to make" and that doesn't happen that often. I mean to varying degrees, you usually have some outside influences that you may have to bow to to a degree to make beforehand and that could have happened here with The Machinist. Because we were offered financing from other companies but they all had demands, there were "changes that must be made to the script." I think that just the dark [-ness] and, what some might think, the pointlessness of it [laughter], as in the traditional, "hey we want a 'pick-me-up' somewhere in there along the line." But I think for me, the "pick-me-up" in that is there is already present because I find it very humorous as well, this movie. I know that not everybody necessarily shares my sense of humor...

Q: You've been acting since you were a young kid. Have you been able to keep a sense of annonymity the whole time that you've grown up?

CB: I think that I was struck by losing it very quickly after, in a very small scale, just in general being in school. I didn't enjoy that...I didn't try to avoid it. However, I do kind of dream of the day when it may be possible that movies can be made and no interviews be necessary whatsoever purely because of that wonderful feeling when you see an actor, that you've never seen before in a movie, and so you can do nothing but believe in their character. I understand, of course, that we don't make the movie to just put away on a shelf and get dusty. We want people to go see it and I feel a great loyalty to film makers that I'm working with. But, generally, the actor becomes the point man, when it comes to the publicity for the movie. I'm getting more accustomed to it, but I can't say that...I have a lot of trepidation about any potential changes to my life with Batman coming up. I'll kick and scream against it if, indeed, it does change it in any way...just, you's not the kind of life I'd want to lead at all.

Q: You have a cult following on the Internet. What is it, you think, that makes people have that cult [-ish] interest in you?

CB: I don't know. I think that, unfortunately, that that internet thing kind of went awry. I had nothing to do with it. The original intent of it was that I really wanted to attempt to be an actor who could work - but without ever having to do interviews, right? It hasn't worked. [laughs] It seemed like a possible option. A way of doing something. Giving away some information about me, etc., so that I wouldn't have to do interviews. But unfortunately, I never monitored it very much...

Q: I don't understand. What really happened? Did you create your own Website or something?

CB: No, I didn't -- somebody else did. They said to me, "Look, this is a way that you could potentially be able to get information -- in terms of what you need people to know that you have movies coming out, etc. -- so you know, without having to do interviews which, at a certain time in my life I had "phobias" about, and it just didn't work out. And...I think that there's certain kinds of movies that I have chosen to do...and I see it more as movies having cult followings than, rather, myself having these "cult followings." Because I've done different kinds of movies and you can't just look at someone in like Reign of Fire [sp?] and say like "yeah, that one's going to have a cult following" or "Batman is going to be BIG" as picture, yeah, certainly, sure but if you look at Velvet Goldmine or American Psycho or lesser known movies like All the Little Animals, you know, they tended to amass a small, but very much appreciative, crowd of people. I imagine that The Machinist will probably amass that same kind of feeling in audiences... I think that it's, inevitably, not going to be everybody's cup of tea by any stretch of the imagination. But I do hope that the people who do appreciate it really appreciate it. I see in myself, in comparison to many movies that I've made [in] which I've been disappointed with and everything is, obviously, a leap of faith -- it grew better...with The Machinist [however] I just adored it. To me, it's really some kind of a classic movie - to me. It'll be interesting to see if anybody actually shares that opinion or not... if they'll have a cult following of me.

Q: Batman is the bigger movie and I was just curious; you think audiences can expect to follow along the lines of the more recent characters [actor's interpretations of the character] of him? You know what everyone else said about Spiderman 2 as far as character and action?

CB: Right, I haven't seen that but yes, we're doing the "pre-quel," really. So it's really looking at Bruce Wayne and how he came to invent and carry this character and how he got to be this nutcase who runs around dressed as a bat [laughs]

Q: Can you talk about stepping into the costume and cape? Does it feel cool? Or did you walk around grumpy all the time?

CB: The first couple of times it was great because it really helps you to get how to play it [the role] because, to me, I always had a question about...I found it kind of laughable [that] this guy thinks he's going to be scary by walking around dressed as a bat? I'd laugh at it [in reality], you know? I'd be like: "what kind of nutcase are you? Get out of my face!" And so I really thought, "okay, how could you really take that to a point where he has to sincerely have this rage and this focus on this dispising of criminals and this promise that he makes to his parents to rid the city of them [the crooks]" And, in a way, I saw it as how it's really difficult in life to make a promise to yourself and then really keep that clarity of thought that you may have had in that lucid moment of making that promise and keeping [it] and maintaining that intensity and actually adopting this different persona that helps him to maintain that kind of intensity...and in donning the suit and everthing, I also felt that he couldn't be anything else but a creature. You know, that I no longer wanted to present this as "Bruce Wayne dressed as a bat," that he becomes a different creature himself. Partly out of necessity of disguise but also out of his own necessity of an attempt to keep himself sane in his own life. So it really helped, with me I just felt once I put that on, that "if I don't play it this one certain way, then I'm just going to feel like an idiot standing in a Bat-suit the whole time. [laughs]

Q: So you really feel like you've brought something fresh to the character?

CB: "I" do, [laughs] so often you hear actors saying that and you're like "Ohh! I want to go check that out" and then you look at it and you go, "what did you really do? Is there really anything different there?" So, I do feel that and we'll have to wait and see if I managed it, you know? If I didn't, then there'll be somebody else in there for Number 2 if it ever happens.

Q: Do you listen to, read or listen to music or something like that to get into the type of character in The Machinist?

CB: Yeah, actually I do find music to be very helpful. As well as having this picture of Hank Williams which was always my motivation of physically where I wanted to get to - a very deteriorated picture of him that I have. But I also did enjoy listening to his music as well at the same time that we were filming. Neil Young's stuff as well, I liked a great deal too. And then also there's this other group called Global Communications - this group is fantastic; kind of a trance-like music which I felt really fit...

Q: Will we ever see your musical roots come forth in a film?

CB: You know what? I don't like musicals very much, really. I wanted to try that one and I swore that I will never do it again but I'm not so sure. I just hate the idea of ever becoming predictable to myself and [in] the things I want to try and attempt. And, certainly, if there was some fresh take on a musical, that I felt would be an interesting endeavor and a challenge to try, then yeah I definitely would or could.

Q: What kind of genre?

CB: I didn't get it. I wanted to try it to see if I could get it, you know? I didn't. It didn't happen for me. I could see other people getting it and I thought, "yeah, I really see that they can enjoy that." But it didn't happen for me, really. I look back on it and I enjoy watching that movie but, purely like a trip down memory lane kind of thing...

Q: You have any projects lined up for after Batman?

CB: I'm doing a movie right now, that I just started, called New World which is with my favorite director, ever, who is Terrence Malick. And then I have something planned for December, if Terry ever manages to finish this movie on time [laughs] which is a fantastic script that I actually read a couple of years back. I met with the writer and the director, which at that time it was pretty much said that "it was impossible to be made with me." Which now is possible but is going to be with a $1 million budget, most likely shot on video and done in 20 days [after] coming off Batman, which was like seven months and however much the budget was -- something like $200's really such an interesting piece. What I really want to avoid is being in a movie like Batman and then feeling like "I have to continue doing big movies." Like somehow that's the mark that my career's still going well. I want to be able to make small movies that wouldn't usually be able to get made or see the light of day. But hopefully, hopefully...because they're not done yet...I mean you can get excited about a lot of movies. Who knows? Batman might BOMB like crazy and I can't get anything made. [laughs] But hopefully things will go well and I will be able to get other things made that never would have [been] before.

Q: What were the differences [on set] being in Barcelona and then in Iceland?

CB: Cold. [laughs] And they eat whale meat - a whole different kind of diet! They eat anything. It was beautiful architecturally, the people were very friendly and everything being about socializing in Barcelona. In Iceland we were in a little hotel that was just miles away, there was just nothing. I mean we'd go running and running and there was nothing! But there were these incredible glaciers. It's an amazing country, the actual structure; the mountains, the sea and how rough the whole place [terrain] is and these really beautiful glaciers which had this incredibly blue coloring to them that we were filming on. And also, it seems, the very first day we actually had to rush ahead to start filming because a lake that we needed to be frozen suddenly, one day, was frozen over. And so we had to get out there and run around on it and we were out there and it was splitting while we were on it. As we were on it, there'd be big cracks and we'd all have to stand right next to it and then the next day it was all water again, you know? So it was a very nice, enjoyable beginning to Batman because it was something very different from what I think of, traditionally, when you're making a movie like that...

***italics were not mine...dude's very emphatic when he's conversating...Laters...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Sedna Speaks to Another Generation

I bought a taco the other day at one of those roach coaches that dot the major pedestrian thoroughfares all over L.A. -- it was across the street from the subway station at Wilshire & Vermont. Riding home through the large intestines of Tinsel Town, I wrote down my thoughts in a journal to post later...Coincidentally, when I checked out a home-biscuit's blog he'd beat me to the punch...bah-stuhd...The first two paragraphs was the reply I was going to send to his post but I just kept on going...sometimes my rants turn into raves...

You're preaching to the choir, my son. I didn't watch the documentary about Tommy Smith and John Carlos' black-gloved stand in Mexico City...I didn't have to as I have an uncle who pulled my coat about that turn of events way back in the 70's.The pace of life has become practically impossible to keep up with so we've got to make, so, unfortunately, our generation does not have the luxury of time to think on its side. Our generation, like abused children, need to redirect its attention to the turmoil within before we can focus on the state of the world without. Our generation needs to get-born-again-hard about reclaiming its birthright. Our generation needs to the cosmic sense of it all: our generation got some "splainin' to do".

Our generation is a hodge-podge of values heaped on us by "the Greatest Generation" --- a self-styled description that I find suspect based on the sweep of its finality. The latter, children of the Depression, whelped the baby boomers of the 50's and the civil rights strivers of the 60's. The trippy-dippy-hippie-ness of the late 60's into the 70's served as the mid-wife which slapped the asses of the latch-key kids who harbor, to this day, an apathy that consumed us all during the "me decade", the Reagan era which brings us to the now; a time that's fiscally devolving into the world that the so-called "Greatest" came bawling into. A time when political officials and industry insiders keep their constituents/ clientele tethered to their re-election/money-making schemes...$2.50 a gallon? Ah, the circle of life...we all get together and partake of this truth...

Our generation believes in building more prisons to house non-violent drug offenders but sit by in an idle stupor while white-collar criminals divest honest people out of their life savings only to get the kid gloves treatment when they're a group we've been inculcated with the mindset that resistance is futile and that, yes, the end all be-all is to own a house...out in the suburbs...miles away from the sturm und drang of living in a crowded city...Whenever I hear some humunculus try to justify why they won't leave the job they hate with the latter as a preface, I become dispeptic...contrary to what your prezz-nitt exemplifies, you can't always have your cake and eat it too...forgetting it all and shopping is not, in fact, good for what ails you. So white/ brown/ black/ yellow flight into the protecitive bosom of gated communities in the exurbs is out of the question; an antiquated concept that sooner or later we're going to have to get real a whole. The manifest destiny, homesteader-thang was once considered an irreplaceable ingredient in the glue that inextricably bonded every member of this society -- that American dream has become a never-ending night terror. Remember the Norsemen/ Vikings' cultural expansion model? The forces of entropy have been busily at work as it seems everything has begun to decay into another marketing angle for those who ply their trade in the real estate and petroleum futures games...we're just pawns in a world rife with powerful flaks that keep our collective priorities in an endless cartwheel...a constant spin cycle...

..."they envy us because we share the gift of freedom", the mantra of denial that many of us have been hoodwinked into believing because it was beamed in on the cathode rays emanating from their TVs...a gift?...The Inuits (Eskimos) have a proverb that goes something like this: "Gifts make slaves just as whips make dogs." Indeed. I also think of another, homier, sled dog colloquialism that holds truest in today's world: "if you're not the lead dog, the view's always the same." There's always some asshole directly in front of you, going in the same direction. Ouch.

Above is a picture of Sedna, the Inuit goddess of the sea; goddess of victims. Like the truth itself, she was once a beautiful woman. Flawless. She was courted by men far and wide but became wary of the army of suitors trying to woo her away from her father's hearth, that is until she was courted by a sea gull -- a consumate liar. See if any of this sounds familiar. After regaling Sedna with vows of an endless supply of food (promises of economic surplus?), a house filled with servants (tax-cuts for the wealthiest of the top 1%?). The erstwhile goddess of the briny deep was forced to live in poverty and squalor (record unemployment?)...At one point Sedna's father visits her and she beseeches him to take her back home with him with which he complies (the search for WMD/ corroborating evidence to wage pre-emptive war?) but the gull's tribe gave chase. To save his own life, Sedna's father threw her overboard into the icy waters (tort reform?) and when she tried to get back in, he cut off her fingers (social security regulation?) which morphed into the very sea mammals and fish that the Inuit depend on to sustain their way of life -- as things tend to do in creation mythologies told all over the world (a rib, anyone?)...

The lesson of Sedna's saga is quite simple: life's too short to live like a victim, so don't be one. Back in 1937 Eleanor Roosevelt wrote, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." Sing it, sister! I couldn't agree more. If you want a revolution, you've got to be ready (and willing) to fight through the miles of concertina wire stretched across the frontlines of your heart and mind. For your very soul. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Anything less makes you complicit in the big fat lie that my homepiece was railing against in his piece. Stop asking the "Why" question. Ask the "How?" as in "how in the fuck can one learn to unlearn what they've been indoctrinated to do from kindergarten forward: shut up, sit still and look to somebody else for edification. Quantify your station from the perception of others who will define you by your purchases, your job, your zip code...

Having said all of this, I still retain a modicum of hope...I have no choice -- niether do you. I try to keep walking my path. Continue to walk down yours. Embrace whatever conclusion results from your journey because everyone's struggle is simultaneously prosaic and quotidian. This shouldn't get your nickers in a twist though because the living of a full life can be inspiring too. Some want a revolution and they want it now but, from what I've seen, that's not the way things always work takes time which is difficult to accept when you really don't have much of it to sit around waiting for those that are "lost in the wilderness" to catch up...sadly, I'm in that last I'll continue to bide my hours... all the while gathering information to pass on to those who come behind me...perhaps someday we'll all be able to look back in the rearview mirror of our wind-powered vehicle and breathe a deep reflective sigh of petroleum-free air, realizing that that was, in fact, our generation's revolution; parsing out what's going on in our world, not for money; just for the sake of doing so. That people yet to be born might want to keep shaking the trees and think for themselves instead of waiting to be told by "trusted brands/names" in the media...perhaps that day may never come...I'm certain that it won't in my lifetime, still, I don't let that dissuade me. Despite all of the weeping and gnashing of teeth, we should remember to keep our eyes on the goal, what we're all really here for: to pass the baton. I know that that's worth fighting for: on the road of the messenger, it is always night...Laters...

Sidenote: Below is a rap/ poem I wrote back in the day ...I used it in a past reply to a comment but I think it truncates the sentiment above too...double Laters...


...Could you continue on in earnest while you're living the lie?
A vicious circle in which men die -- in the streets;gang bangers,
"oh the lead them shoot!"
(I think) we all get together to partake of this truth.
The struggle's over POWER and the heat is real.
Dividin' up the youth with precision and skill.
It's torture.
The Massives.
Deep in your foxhole when the enemy hits ya.
Should you be peaceful or do what fits ya?
Aggression is easy, compassion is harder,
'cause you can't forget How the system scarred, ya.
Fast and furious, with plans to smite us.
Strategically planned and inhaled like crackdust.
Arms akimbo I stiffen my jaw. I feel enforcement-
But where's the LAW?
My guard is up whenever I walk down,
The streets and boulevards where he can be found
-in vicious packs I'll dive., a black Kamikaze --
I'm incognito so none of the cops see.
My weapon repels them.
My brains are snipin' .
So later for racists, 'cause I ain't hypin'
A situation.
Keep doing the right thing.
The words are brimstone with a message of lighting and...
1, CeeP

Sunday, July 24, 2005

MARLEY-MAN Posted by Picasa

O.J. Simpson or Jim Brown: Throw Away the Key?

...Is it hot enough for you? I know it is in Los Angeles. Too hot. This town is too hot! Last night I ignored my better judgement and switched on the TV to see what the meteorlogical tea leave readers were forecasting. Following an expose on illegal, unlicensed building contractors using predatory tactics to drum up a little under the table action, Susan Hirosuna announced that O.J. Simpson was back in the news spotlight again because of some cock-up: another blonde forecast:100% chance of bullshit with scattered showers of glib social commentary from a reporter in the field wearing a questionably placed toupee..."fool me once, shame on you," I groaned...cut to commercial...

Following a barrage of glossy advertisements shilling beer and greasy fast-food, the newstainment resumed as Doogie Howser-like, synthsizer laden breaking newsmusic chimed in to reel in any sucker within earshot...dissolve into grainy footage outside O.J.'s crib..."okay, I'll bite." As the featured segment maintained, on July 4th, a guest visiting the ex-footballer called 9-1-1 emergency response to report that O.J.'s 25 year-old girlfriend was slapping the over-the-hill athlete around...did I mention that this was another one of those blonde trophies? "Dude's got issues, yo." Cut to: swarthy picture/ mugshot of Simpson as the voice-over reportage breathlessly reveals that the official emergency response tapes of the incident have been "acquired" as a transcription of the call (not a typo) rolls up the screen like a tele-prompted message to the masses...

The caller -- another one of those caucasian schmucks that seem to float around Simpson like pilot fish -- was a neighbor who said he was calling the fuzz on O.J.'s behalf because she was drunk and getting "slappy" on "The Juice," hence his telephone call to the po-po. (that's word, son...did I mention she was blonde?) "Why don't he just sit the fuck down?" I found myself echoing a bit in a Jaimie Foxx routine from a couple of years ago..."Why won't he just sit his ass on down somewhere and go gracefully?" O.J. can get memberships to every single country-club on the planet and it still won't change one immutable fact: he's going to be on de facto house arrest for beating the rap for his ex-wife's murder. He'll be wearing a symbolic handlebar mustache until the day he's placed six feet deep in the ground and even then, to a grip of people, he won't be dead enough...

Cut back to the "newsteam" in the local affiliate's studio: "Although the incident has been logged into Dade County's police records, Simpson did not press any charges...," the correspondent in Florida closed, sounding a trifle dissappointed with the way things panned out, "back to you Susan..." O.J.'s 60 years old yet it still appears that he's fond of throwing rocks at bee hives -- but decades before the "O-ster" was running through airports, Jim Brown had been there, done that and bought the soundtrack -- by simply playing a role in a western...

I remember well, when I'd watch Jim Brown movies as a kid, back when he began to take a stab at acting with starring roles in shoot 'em ups like Rio Conchos and The Dirty Dozen. I also recall hearing stories from my uncle about the controversy that ensued in the press; precipitated by a couple of open-mouthed smooches with the buxom, raven-haired bombshell Raquel Welch in the film 100 Rifles, a western in which he co-starred with Burt Reynolds. Never one to mince words, my Granny -- who was sitting in her TV chair across the living room -- saw an opportune moment to crack wise. "I wish I was in Mississippi right now!" she exclaimed as Brown and Welch sucked face onscreen, "Because I could open up a Radio Shack with all the color TV's getting thrown out of white folks' windows right now." Welch, born Raquel Tejada, and fine as she might've been/remained, is Chicana...I guess, said fine-ness got her appropriated by default...quick cut to the deep south: "How dare that cornfed field-hand sully our sex goddess..."

Although she was poking fun at the racial climate of the America that she was raised in, my grandmother's bon mot spoke volumes about how little things had changed by the 70's. That's what makes jokes funny, yo. They're reality and the ridiculous thrown together in equal parts -- add juxtaposition, shake and serve. As O.J.'s latest televised contretemps began to recede from my mind, I started to wonder what the "Brown Bomber" was up to these days. A couple of years ago, the then 66 year-old Brown got pinched by L.A.'s finest, tried in court and dragged off to "the Stony Lonesome" for half-year bit due to a marital dispute with his wife in which things got heated and he said he'd kill her. He inevitably paid the price for his histrionics, hyperbole or no. Instead of admitting guilt, J.B. opted to do the time for his own reasons...

The scenerios mentioned above drip with irony -- at one point niether Simpson or Brown could get arrested, then it seemed that that's all they were doing: getting perp-walked out of courtrooms. "Don't forget your place,son" the jury appeared to be saying in the halls of "just-us." Lucky for them they had the scrilla to get the kind of high-priced legal representation that most of us don't have access to -- Michael Jackson's tragicomic mini-series of a life is a textbook example of the latter in more recent times. "Nothing recedes like success," the "newsman"/ Joseph McCarthy supporter Walter Winchell once wrote -- while biting the hand that fed him: the public thirst for celeb-crucifixions on the center stage...

When asked my opinion on O.J., J.B. or M.J. I always plead the fifth because, to be honest, I still don't know...I wasn't in the court room in either instance, so why play fast and loose with conjecture beamed in from the sidelines? That said, if I solely based my thoughts on the way that our judicial system has had an historic tendancy to throw the book at defendants with melanin (especially the black ones) I'd have to say..."just because you don't see them coming, doesn't mean that they're not after you." All of this makes pulling what has been called "the race card" plausible when one considers how disproportionately the deck's been stacked against the duskier-hued citizenry. And don't let them have something to talk about other than jump-shots and touchdowns (just ask the ghost of Paul Robeson about that last item, B)...

If you add to the hyper-reality that being famous (or infamous, as it were) in America brings to the equation, you get a whole other kind of craziness that's unfathomable, unless you've been there. It's hard to empathize when you couldn't ever know for sure what all the angles are. I couldn't know. I have met a grip of these "stars," however, and I've seen the wart 'n all lunacy up close, albeit tangentially, and I can honestly say that I don't think I'd have the sack to deal with that shite on the regular...In Simpson and Brown's case, being black was the newsroom equivalent of a cherry-on-top. The hullabaloo over Jackson doesn't count because who knows what color he's going to be in a couple of months (I kid because I love) but suffice to say if he does fall off the proverbial wagon, the newgathering cyclops will be there to capture it all on tape...

Conversely, the OJ snafu that took place a few weeks ago was DOA in American blood, drugs or drag marks so nobody heard about it on public TV out here until last night -- though I easily found articles that ran weeks ago from as far away as Australia when I looked. I guess that's just the way it is...some things never change. Believe it. We've got a 24/7 news cycle and cell phone cameras are always at the ready. With all of that being as it is, if you know everybody's watching you to catch you with your pants bunched up around your ankles...waiting for you to slip -- so they can treat you like a King..a Rodney King that is -- then it would behoove you to cover your ass...Come to think of it, that might've been what "the Juice" was getting around to when his white neighbor got Miami's "5-0" on the blower. You know, just in case..."fool me twice, can't get fooled again." But then, there's no fool like an old fool...Laters...

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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Scrapple from the Apple

I went out for a couple of beers after work the other day when a waitress called in a service order for a couple of Absolut White Russians and a flurry of memories came rushing back into my head. I caught myself thinking of this bartender I hooked up with back in the NYC -- Sharon. She poured a some of the smoothest White Russians in town - or whiteboys, as I called them. Not too much of either ingredient but her cocktails would "get you wherever you were going." Sharon didn't cotton to me initially because, like the 1000's of club crawling schlubs she'd, no doubt, served before me, I mistook her beauty and occupation as a means to a prurient end. Not all first-impressions hold water -- the first time I really heard her laugh at one of my jokes, though, the hook was in me. I've been told that, "one of the quickest ways into a woman's heart is to find out what makes her laugh" so I killed her with kindness and tipped her far beyond my means - an ill advised tactic for struggling artists no matter where you are...sometimes, however, the gamble pays off -- to me, the experience of the journey is what life's all about, yo...

For whatever reason Sharon decided to drop her "Cold-Meiser Veil" of indifference one night and we started talking about our favorite scotches and then music. One glass of Glenfiddich led to others as our topic of conversation shifted to the sorry state of affairs that the corporate music biz had gotten to and the conundrum that lovers of "hip sounds" were mired in when it came to finding any. We stumbled on the topic of jazz, specifically hard-bop and how the intentions of artists like Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Miles got lost in the sauce. The latter took us into a debate about John Coltrane whereupon our perspectives diverged...

Sharon's beef was that the saxophone god didn't really get godly until he decided to leave Miles Davis' crew and strike out on his own, with which I concurred to a degree and I told her as much. In my estimation, 'Trane had, in fact, found his voice before he officially jumped ship and went his own way. I continued and summed up my bullet point by revealing to her that I could pinpoint the exact moment that Coltrane, like the biblical Paul, started really preaching his gospel on record. Of course, she disagreed, "Coltrane didn't get real on acetate until he cut the Giant Steps LP. " The force was strong in you, young Skywalker...but you are not a a Jedi yet," I deadpanned while impersonating Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back. "One might be inclined to think that if they don't do their homework," I retorted, reeling her in. "But I got a liner note or two up my sleeve that say seem to have forgotten who you're talking to in your youthful froth... As Billy Strayhorn would say, let's take the A-Train over to my place and I'll show you a thing or three," I punned. She laughed at me in mock derision. She got the joke -- cool points for her, yo -- Strayhorn wrote the tune but everybody thinks it's a Duke Ellington composition. "Knows her shite, this one," I thought, grinning like a cat with his teeth filled with yellow feathers, as I watched her reach behind the bar and grab her coat. We were off...

Back when I was in New York City, I walked everywhere. The antithesis of Los Angeles (even Atlanta, for that matter) it's the most pedestrian-friendly city in America, in my opinion. There's really no need for a gym membership if you stick to putting one foot in front of the other and use the subways. Whenever I headed home full of courage, after a night of carousing around lower Manhattan -- and I was on a solo flight back to home base -- I'd walk off a couple of pints with a brisk trek by cutting over on St. Mark's Place, hooking around Washington Square Park and catching the A, C or E line back to the Upper West side from the West 4th Street Station over by NYU -- believe it or not I've never been mugged...knockwood. Easy Peasy, Lemon-Squeezy...

In the spirit of keeping everything on the real side, I suggested that we take my traditional path and she was into it. Sharon and I started to stroll it but by the time we'd gotten in front a throng of trannies streaming out of Lucky Cheng's -- great cuisine/ floorshow, BTW -- the fact that we were both shellacked began to obviate itself, so without further discussion, we quickly hailed a cab to truncate our late-night cross-Village hike. We got out a couple of blocks North of Yoko Ono's pad at the Dakota; on the corner of 103rd Street and Central Park West as a dusting of snow began to fall -- just in the nick, yo.

We walked back up my street and then five flights up to my studio (called a room on the planet outside of Manhattan Island). Our conversation continued and we began to compile a set list for the tunes to check once we arrived. We settled on cuts like Rahsaan Roland Kirk's " Handful of Fives," Dizzy and Bird's "Salt Peanuts," Thelonious Monk's "In Walked Bud" and Ellington's "Second Line Step" with a sidecar of "Black and Tan Fantasy." Charlie Parker's "Relaxing at Camarillo" was a no-brainer, we both decided because, "Round Midnight" got way too much press in cinematic yarns and inclusion on tribute-movie soundtracks made it too mainstream to be hep. Soon, our palaver revealed that we shared a grip of other faves like "Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am" (Charles Mingus) and "Parchment Farm" (Mose Allison) on and on. When we got to my door I was immediately reminded of how small my "bed sitter" actually was with two people in it - to her credit Sharon didn't appear to be fazed, so I nixxed taking the off-ramp that went into Negative Town...

"What you are about to witness is one of the greatest moments in music history caught on tape," I explained in my fakest Casey Kasem impersonation. "Unlike the Miles Quintet at the Plugged Nickel," I continued," where everyone knew the musicians could and would improvise on the fly (and Davis clicked the metronome up a notch with high-speed renditions of his classics). This cut contains the precise moment that John Coltrane found his voice, in the Spring of 1959." "You're so full of yourself, she groused, "let's hear it then. We can dot i's and cross t's later." Without missing a beat, I put the needle in the groove of the first track on Miles' Kind of Blue. The lightness of the whole evening took on a germane, more intimate feel. Miles and co. began to infuse my cramped crib with azure clouds of deep-blues that one always finds tucked between the notes of "So What?" I could tell by the way her shoulders relaxed, as she peeked outside through the curtains at the falling snow, that she was finally feeling me for real. Now was not the time to pull any clownish, half-assed moves and give the whole circus away, so I pulled a "Stanislovsky" and stayed in the moment...

I began to support my case about 'Trane's breakthrough moment in time with the "so, what" brass refrains "Okay,the moments coming," I noted. -- so, what -- Paul Chamers, Bill Evans and Jimmy Cobb (bass, piano and drums, respectively) have begun setting everything up," I continued between the horn licks that lead up to John Coltrane's solo. "Now the vamping begins...everything's slinking along," At this point I was whispering the play-by-play into her ear. "Now Chambers rides into the mix and starts to lay his foundation...then, after Miles' first solo - about two minutes in - he closes out with that languid and shrill rhetorical question." -- so what -- Everything was in it's right place...Sharon sipped from the glass she held in her left hand and I from behind her, from the right, while we shifted into a "standing spoon" -- with her head resting in the crook of my neck; her back on my chest. Things were definitely looking up...

"Here's where Coltrane slides up in it with a tone that oozes all over you like tantric honey," I noted. "Here's where he tucks into the harmonic gliss that would become his trademark in the years to come," I whispered. "This is where you'll first hear the Coltrane voice that you thought you recognized on Giant Steps which he recorded a little later that year after he left Davis' outfit to go solo at a label around the corner: Atlantic Records. "Speaking from a chronological standpoint, The Kind of Blue recording is the first on which he began to preach to the choir with what became his signature style." Sharon agreed. "I'd forgotten all about that -- you win." By the time the LP got to "Flamenco Sketches" we'd forgotten the list, statistics -- the world shrouded in white outside my window sill too -- and started discovering other things instead...Sharon turned out to be everything I'd imagined...sometimes things work out for the better...we never hooked up again after that night though we stayed tight up until I left Manhattan for the Left Coast. Haven't spoken to her since...and it's been a minute. Some things are best left unsaid -- I like that. She'll remain forever cool on that basis because time, as they say, marches on...Laters...

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Selma Blair: A Dirty Shame Redux (Q & A)

While cleaning out the files I stumbled across an interview with Selma Blair I did during the junket for John Waters' film A Dirty Shame in which she played Caprice Stickles/ Ursula Udders. Like most of Waters' films, this one quickly faded from the mainstream public's view -- despite the fact that he had a whole heap of things to say vis a vis the current state of affairs in America's sexual repression. The flick was quite funny, yo. I've posted my interview with Waters and wrote a review about the film here (at the bottom of the page). At any rate, I never published the face time I got with Selma anywhere else and she was quite cool...Waters called her "the female Johnny Depp because she's one of the few actresses who'll play against type and take creative risks...I thought I'd post what she had to say right here....

Q: So, do you miss those prosthetic breasts or what?

Selma: No, God.

Q: Could you keep them/ [for posterity]

Selma: You know, I guess I could've but I had a different pair every day because to take them off they'd get ruined. Because you'd have to put on this oil to break the seal on the latex. So not only did I look like I had leprosy at the end of this movie from taking them off everyday [laughter] -- I'd like rip my tits off at the end of the day because I couldn't wait for Connor [the makeup guy] to take them off. So no, the last thing [that] I wanted was to keep a soggy, oil-filled latex, over-sized pair of breasts. [laughter] But I did hear that some people -- some real fetish collectors -- were going through the waste bins looking to take home "a little piece" of movie magic.

Q: Did it make you feel different? [to wear huge breasts] Did you feel sexy?

Selma: You're so sweet to think that for one moment that they might've looked sexy. (laughs) No, in real life, there were titters behind me -- no pun intended -- but people were tittering like [with a rural accent] "oh, that poor girl. Oh, she must be deformed." You know, people that had no idea that they weren't real... I think, MAYBE, one person in the whole world would think that they were attractive. But they were really perky! [laughs]...they stuck out a lot, you know, because they were latex. So they didn't quite have the "swing" that that size of breasts might've -- that, I think, would've been more fun -- but they were kind of fun. I gained all this weight from eating all of this really delicious fried Baltimore food -- a lot of crab cakes and all that stuff -- and you couldn't tell at all because in comparison to my breasts, everything was small. [laughs] So I felt the same.

Q: So you'd go walking out in the streets of Baltimore with them still on?

Selma: No, it was funny because John was like-- "no." I wore a bathrobe around them all the time -- John was like "don't let anyone see them" and " I don't want anyone to catch wind that you have such big breasts - I want it to be a surprise" and there's just no way that that could be a surprise. I mean I'm wearing a bathrobe and you could that I have these gi-normous tits underneath. So we could hardly keep them under wraps. But I did (go walking around B-more) one day -- I would get the prosthetics put on at four in the morning, the makeup artists would come and the prosthetic maker, and I'd lay there naked and [afterwards] they'd get to work and four hours later they'd be done. I'd have all the makeup done and I went outside -- and there's a big construction crew outside -- and one morning, I couldn't help myself. I just thought, "You know, it has to be done." I'm wearing the bathrobe and the tits underneath with the nipples, like the real ones -- I had sets, I had some that didn't look real, some that had perfect nipples - depending if I had to be nude that day or not. So I just said, "Hey boys!" And it was like," They just cleared out -- I mean, truly. There wasn't a laugh -- nothing! They were just horrified. They [the prosthetics] weren't "really hot" at all. It was not like, you know, sexy.

Q: Where did they find the prosthetics maker for A Dirty Shame? Probably not something that there's really a market for.

Selma: Well I don't know, I think -- I know when we started with the prosthetics, I was doing Hellboy at the time when I was cast in this movie. And I was talking to Jay Garber, who was Hellboy's makeup artist for Ron Perleman, and he said "oh, I want to do the tits. I want to do them so bad [ly] that would be such a fun project. Because it's never really been done before because it's hard because you have movement in the armpits -- it seems so simple but it's really difficult [to believably pull off]. So they wound up going with Tony Alterion the guy that did -- this doesn't make me feel much better, but -- the guy that did the "saggy breasts" on the lady in There's Something About Mary. [laughs] He did the dog's cast in There's Something About Mary -- that's who I let make nude body casts of me. He did Gwyneth Paltrow's fat suit for Shallow Hal. I guess, you just figure it out -- movie magic...

Q: Do you go out of your way to find stuff that's "different?"

Selma: No. I don't go out of my way. My work finds me -- I'm really lucky. It's when I decide to do something, you know, the sunnier, cuter actress would want, that's when I'm really fighting. I definitely kind of get the "off" roles. [pitched] But, you know, I'm an actress. I like to play all different types. Guillermo [del Toro] came to me for Hellboy, John came to me also...Legally Blonde came to me too, so yeah, I think the [characters] that I play are kind of off, the directors just have that sensibility thinking that that's something I do -- I don't know.

Q: You were doing Hellboy and you got offered Ursula/ Caprice's role -- what compelled you to take this "titular" role?

Selma: [laughs] Aww, bravo.[for the pun] I think, well I was friends with Johnny [Knoxville] -- we're kind of pals -- and I wanted to work with John [Waters] years ago but it didn't work out, because of my schedule -- I don't remember exactly what I was doing at the time. So, we had met and really got on and he knew that I was ridiculous [about working with him] and I'd auditioned for him years ago and was just screaming like a banshee -- just making a fool out of myself. So, he knew I was game and then Johnny was meeting with John about this movie and [Knoxville] called me -- and I was in Prague -- and I said "oh my God, I want to do it! I want to do it too." And he said, like, "hey, okay, I'll talk to him" and that was it. So then I just got the part and did all this research -- what a joke. I was with dancers and working with choreographers -- I wanted to be the best go-go dancer. I wanted to really make people think that I was a hot, talented little lassie. And then I got the boobs on and they all went to pieces [laughing] because I couldn't move! Go-go dancers are tiny, you know, Goldie Hawn framed girls. You can really do all this stuff [waving arms in front of herself], it's all about the movement in front of you. And then I have these [prosthetic boobs] and all I could do was move like an ape instead of all the stuff I'd planned to do.

Q: What was it like working with John -- as a director, in comparison to some of the other directors that you've worked with?

Selma: Well John, like so many other directors that I'm so fond of, is so specific about what he wants. You know, there's a few you work with, these new directors that I like to give a chance to because I'm starting out also, and they just don't know yet. It's just not an exciting experience but with John -- he's been making movies for forty years. And he's so specific about the tone and the voice that he wants, I mean they all kind of sound the same -- John's films -- I think. Like a similar rhythm and cadence of all the actors. I think it's because - maybe he doesn't realize this -- but he's in the background mouthing every single actor's words as we're going. So I couldn't tell if we were trying to mimick him or he was mimicking us but we all sound the same because we're all on the same rhythm of John's mouth moving -- you can't help it when someone's doing that. He's a pleasure. He's a very dignified gentleman and he's terribly intelligent, so that's always an inspiration. I mean, maybe, for laymen it wouldn't look like it when you're watching his films, you can't tell how smart he is but I mean they're coming from such a place of innocence and joy.

Q: How was it working with Tracey Ullman? Was it fun?

Selma: Yes. We've become very dear friends. She's probably my closest friend now, definitely my closest friend in the business. She's one that I like to talk to as much as I can everyday. She's working right now, in Vancouver, on The Princess and the P, Once Upon a Mattress. I'm terribly sad that she's not here right now - loved [working with] her. To me, there's Madeline Kahn, Gilda Radner and Tracey Ullman - those are the three women that I idolized and was inspired by growing up and thank God she's still with us and will be forever. She's young and beautiful and wonderful, so I'm lucky I got to start working with her now. I hope I get to again.

Q: So what's in the future?

Selma: I have a few movies coming out, I have Synergy coming out -- with Scarlett Johanssen, and Dennis Quaid -- I'm Topher Grace's wife in that. And then I play Sam Elliot's wife in a movie called The Alibi, I play a nice Mormon wife. {one Mormon wife?} Yeah, I play one of many. I think I have four other wives in my family. [laughs] But, of course, I put a really realistic spin on it -- I'm like a Mormon slut-wife. [laughter] I know, it's impossible. I don't know what I was thinking and then I have another movie where I play a wife. I play Ron Livingston's wife in Pretty Persuasion with Evan Rachel Wood -- so, now that I'm married I guess it's just wife roles [jokes]

Q: What do you think the message in A Dirty Shame is?

Selma: [laughs] I don't know, I can't find a clear message other than: I think it raises some really simple and amusing questions about tolerance and why do so many people find this movie, or John Waters movies, so offensive -- because plenty of people do. I mean there's teaching on the internet about the Christian groups blah-blah-blah that are just thinking that [Waters' movies] are the devil's work. You know, these movies should never be seen or made or whatever and why is this so offensive to people? I'm not saying that it's not or it is, but it's pretty joyous and harmful. And I think, for me, it raised the question of "why with this one issue [sexual preferences] do people get so wound up?" You know, people talking about sex or making sex goofy. Why is it so scary for people to be different or loud if they're not beautiful?" I don't know what it's about - John's the director. I have no idea what he's saying [laughter].

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Jaguar, The Tattoo & the Three Stooges

I've heard that the images you see in your dreams are symbolic of other things going on in your life. I've also read that when we're at the Rapid Eye Movement stage of slumber our brains are just getting rid of psychic flotsam and jetsam -- a mental wiggling of the sub-conscious commode handle, if you will. Personally, I think there might be a little truth in both of these positions but that's neither here nor there. Sometimes reading/trying to decipher the yarns that your mind conjures up is about as easy as understanding the prose imbedded in one of those "Rockie Horoscopes" -- sometimes you get it straightaway and sometimes you don' this dream I had last week...

For some strange reason I got a vision of my deceased grandmother with totally white hair but she's walking (one of her legs got amputated because of her diabetes). She informs me without speaking that she left me something in a secret location yet I inately seem to know exactly where it is- it's a parking structure. When I get there I'm given a stub to a parked car that's been left there for me (the piece of paper is dated the year my grandmother died). The vehicle is in a space on the fourth floor so I start for the elevator to go up. When I get to the doors, I realize that the lift is broken, so I must walk up via the automobile corridors. The structure is crowded but nobody's leaving so I make it upstairs without incident. When I get to the fourth floor the grade in the passageway steepens until I can barely walk up (like reaching the peak of a very tall mountain, but it's only four stories up). I reached in my pocket to get the ticket and reverify the numbers on the ticket. The top level is barely occupied and at the other side of the deck I notice the car. A new model silver/grey Jaguar...

Even though there's only a smattering of sunlight, the hood ornament shines brilliantly once I notice the huge silver cat- I remember reading somewhere that the Aztec name "jaguar" loosely means "the cat that kills in one leap." It's been nearly a decade since my grandmother passed on but this car is this year's newest line. Peculiar. I get in and it starts as smoothly as if it had just been rolled off the assembly line. I look down the corridor shaft and the slope of the passageway doesn't appear as steep as it had just a few seconds ago. I drive down to street-level and smoothly merge into the traffic. I know I'm in California because the sun is broadcasting rays with that intense yellowish-white tint it has out here in L.A....just after the smog dissipates...

When your plane touches down at LAX, and you've never been out here before, you'll find that the weather is the first thing to sneak up on you and after a few months you let your guard down. Your umbrellas get rusty as your old rain slicker calcifies in your closet. I'd taken a red-eye straight out of La Guardia on my first trip out here. I got picked up by a friend who'd been living out in North Hollywood for a minute. Early one morning while talking to him over the phone back in my Spartan digs back on the Upper West Side, he eventually conviced me to convince myself that Hollywood was where I wanted to be - and I bought it, yo. I'll pick curtain number two, Monty. For a while the palm trees and pretty women made me believe that I'd made the correct choice but time has a strange way of working on you out here. Like any other large city, Los Angeles is stacked to the rim with burnt-out dreamers from all over the country, primarily middle American rubes from out in the thick sticks of the heartland; places where the buses don't run -- coastal dwellers call them "fly over people."

After a while, the feeling that everything and the people around you are contrived from some alternate reality will either absorb or repulse. One either realizes that he can't make it, tucks tail and runs on back home or he learns "to accept the things he doesn't have the power to change" as that little folk prayer goes. By nature, the human animal is a migratory beast. Our ability to adapt to changes in climate -- and a wander lust hard-wired in genes -- is what made our Australopithecine ancestors walk out of the Olduvai Gorge and across the entire planet. We need variety to grow, its in our DNA. While the climes in most other geographic locations offer varied and sundry forms of precipitation, Southern California is dry and warm for 10 months out of the year on average. You'll be hard pressed to recall a story of a fruitcake who's killed everyone in his building because he's been snowed in his apartment for 2 weeks. As quiet as it's kept, out here only washed-up sitcom actors do that. Essentially, the weather's so sweet out here that people are forced to act happy by default - no point in "appearing" to be an asshole when it's 85 degrees with mild cloud coverage. But I'm digressing...back to the dream...

...I don't recall how I get there but although the weather at the parking structure's ground level tells my senses I'm in L.A., my brain feels like I'm in Atlanta, Georgia. I realize that I'm sitting perched up in one of those 3-legged stool-chairs on the patio outside this yuppie bar across the street from the Euclid Avenue Yacht Club in Atlanta's Little Five Points that I rarely patronized- even though I lived less than a block away. As I sat beneath the fronds of fake potted palm trees, I stared blankly across the parking lot into the Zesto's feeling way too old to be kicking it amongst the pink-hair and pierced nipple crowd that have overrun the place like cockroaches. I laugh to nobody in particular. I check my watch and still don't know what time it is. I haven't ordered a drink because, apparently, I'm waiting for someone, I just don't know whom...yet...

Although it is still legal to smoke indoors in the southern states, the practice has been banned in NYC and L.A for years now, thus I have been conditioned to sit outside whenever I do smoke, like a leper. I notice that more and more yuppies are starting to flock onto the patio, in that prattle-on-your-cell-phone-so-everyone-the-room-can-hear way that they nauseatingly tend to do in cities everywhere. I just try not to inhale the second-hand conversations blowing in my face. I didn't bring anything to read, as I normally tend to do, and the Creative Loafing kiosk was empty - only remnants of the one in the little display cage had been ripped out. After reading the menu from appetizers to wine list twice I look up and Tanya, young woman from another episode walked up to me from the sidewalk and launched into a play-by-play on negotiating the traffic on the 101.

Tanya continued to reflect on how she should've cut through town on the rarely SIG alerted 2 "freeway" and shot over on Franklin Street instead. - "Wait a minute, hold the phone," my brain interjected, "aren't we in in Hot-lanta, where the interstates are properly called highways?" Whatever, yo. As Tanya's tale unfolded, she wrapped a napkin around a glass of melted ice and water that was covered with beads of condensation and downed half of it in two gulps-- sometimes, even in REM sleeps, I'm awed by how effortlessly sensual a woman can be even while doing something as mundane as taking a swig of tepid water while sitting across the table from me in a bar. Relaizing that the Julie on on the other side of the table might soon crave a beverage with some "stank" on it, I offered to buy a pitcher. "I don't believe they serve pitchers in here," Tanya says as I rise to walk over to the bar to order a bucket of suds. Sure enough, the bar tender (who's sporting an eye-patch), informs me that they don't serve pitchers of draught beer -- only pints -- because the yuppies stopped spending as much money and left as soon as the happy hour ended. I got two bottles of Grolsch lager instead and thought -- "I didn't realize that it was that late in the afternoon."

When I got back to the table the yuppie herd had expanded and annexed my table in the name of conspicuous martini consumption and they've started placing empties on it. Tanya had absented herself but somehow I know that she hasn't gone far because my smokes, Zippo and her suede jacket are still waiting for me to return with the oat sodas. It's at this moment that a busser in a beer-soaked apron comes over and begins to collect green and brown empties while wiping off the dozen or so curly-cues of water on the tabletop. "The chica went for the inside," he informed me through a Pancho Villa-sized crumb catcher. He gestured toward the door leading down to the basement lounge with his head. "Gracias," he nodded while tucking the tip I handed him into his apron's pocket. Once inside, I took off my sunglasses and after my eyes adjusted I walked in further...

I continued on toward the back where I found Tanya waiting. She beamed a smile in my direction -- a 1000 mega-watt blast of polarized warmth. I noted that she was wearing a tight, sleeveless, cleavage-hugging T-shirt with a picture of Larry, Curly and Moe. The Three Stooges never looked so happy -- especially Larry and Moe. Tanya reached for the beer that I'd placed in front of her and took another one of those wood-inducing sips. As she drank, the sides of her Tee yawned open a little and I noticed that a blue and red ink painting was peeking through the gape in the fabric around her shoulders. "I didn't know that she had gotten so many tattoos since I'd been with her last," I thought. I asked her to show it to me and she informed me that to do so would be too revealing for such a public place. "However, you could take a gander through the arm holes," she offered with a naughty curve of her lips while suggestively stroking the mole on her neck with manicured fingernails. Right. I did as I was instructed after she pulled her limbs through the straps of her brassiere to unveil the art inked onto the skin on her back...

The tattoo's design spanned her entire upper torso from shoulder blade to shoulder blade and down to the outer sides of the dorsal flanks of her rib cage. The section of artistry that immediately drew my gaze was the curled edge of a scrolling banner underneath a huge black and white eagle clutching arrows in the talons of one foot and a laurel sprig in the other - like the Federal seal on the backside of a U.S. dollar bill. Instead of "E Pluribus Unum," however, in all-capped 3 inch tall blood crimson Roman letters, the scroll that appeared to crackle in the implicated winds just above the screaming beak of the raptor's immense head read: KING OF BEERS..."You've got mail!" that AOL dude yelled from somewhere behind me...I bolted upright in my bed; I'd fallen asleep and left the computer running with the speakers on the night before. The L.A. Times had just delivered my morning news update through cyberspace - it was 3 o'clock in the morning... I couldn't go to sleep for hours after that... What in the hell did all that mean?...Somebody zap Carl Jung on the blower...Laters...

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Eating for Two by The River

I was on the Gold Line yesterday coming from Union station when I looked up from the book I was reading and noticed this young couple sitting across the car from me. The girl was a pregnant teenager and -- based on the constellation of acne scars on his face -- her bespectacled boyfriend wasn't much older than she was. It was obvious that both of them were still in high school, maybe in their junior year. They held hands and stared into the depths of each other's eyes as if life itself depended on it, sometimes whisperiing into each other's ear, sometimes cuddling in that lock of love which shuts out everything else except whomever's gripped within it which projected an "us against the world" aura that anyone who's ever been young and gobsmacked by cupid's bow could spot from a mile away.

As the train continued to pull north -- I couldn't help but feel for them...oh, the many twists in the road ahead of these two. The girl reminded me of that 10,000 Maniacs tune "Eat for Two"and her baby-daddy (no rings on their fingers yet) invoked images of what the protagonist in Bruce Springsteen's "The River" was going through in the middle of the song -- at around the time that he and his girlfriend had to get hitched when "Mary" got, that was all she wrote. One could see through the buttoned-down sides of the farmer johns that the young woman wore that she was probably in the middle of her second trimester; her stomach wasn't huge yet but she was a small girl and he was still working on a caterpillar of peach fuzz. I wondered if they were ready, about the way many have been culturally coerced into thinking that the right time to "get pregnant" isn't until at least our mid 30's -- after our respective careers were well underway, if we held to society's "master plan" and if we started a family before that, we'd be asking for a world of hurt. Where did this idea come from?

In any other time in human history, this "girl" would've been a woman -- and the further back in our evolutionary past that we go, the younger the culturally acceptable age of child-bearing woman gets. While considering the latter on the subway, it jogged my memory of Jane M. Auel's fictional Earth's Children series which followed the life of a pre-historic heroine named Ayla which began with the book Clan of the Cave Bear -- it was adapted into a B-grade Movie back in the 80's. As the first installment held, the orphaned Ayla, a homo sapien, was adopted by a tribe of homo neanderthali (Neanderthals) and the storyline follows her through the travails of trying to fit in where she wasn't really meant to and surviving, against all odds...

The last struck a chord in me when I read it years ago and although it was set in a fictional past thousands of years ago, the foundation of the novel was built on current themes of racial separation. The thrust of the whole series was the young woman's will to survive in a cruel environment and how she did it by coming to terms with the realities of her surrounding while working with what she could control. I hoped that the kids on the train were made of stern stuff, for both their and that baby's sake. These two were far from any suburban backdrop -- she was Mexican, he was black and I guess their kid would be considered "Blaxican" as they say out here. Though their offspring couldn't be considered a genetic anomaly these days, he/ she would definitely be considered one who lives "between the lines of race" that many have had trouble traversing unscathed in the past...

Last week, coincidentally, I shot over to the library and went around the horn in the new books section and found two great books that are, coincidentally, relevant to the above. The first is called The Race Myth by Professor Joseph L. Graves which points a scientific lense at the whole concept of race and reveals it for what it is: an outmoded ideology/ social construct created by a handful of people who knew better but went along with it for varied and (mostly) unsavory reasons. The second tome is a novel called The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific, a recollection of one man's journey with his common-law wife to the "end of the world" (or the remote South Pacific island of Tarawa nestled in the Republic of Kiribati, as it were) -- where he finds that his halcyon images of Tiki torch l'u'aus and laid back island life are figments of a mind unwittingly warped by too much TV and Robinson Crusoe yarns...

Professor Graves, an evolutionary biologist, plainly states his case with appendices, charts and references that span scientific journals, news articles and text books -- which I expected from an educator. But then he does something that I didn't see coming: he then melds all of his statistical findings with examples from critical moments in the ever-changing American zeitgeist to drive his case home, sometimes bouncing from Charles Darwin's Origin of Species to Alex Haley's roots to explaining the possible combination of chromosome arrangements that the union of one human egg and a sperm can create during the fertilization process -- 8,388,608 before you ask. Graves sort of retreads where Christopher Stringer and Robin McKie went with African Exodus at times but he also goes in some newer directions making the newer book, the anti-thesis of The Bell Curve, a compelling read...

Troost's outing, on the other hand, is a hilarious recollection of how an MFA does not necessarily mean that you know everything, especially about the world of politics, race and how they apply to everyday joes in American/ European society and in those that are less known. I'm reading them both at the same time -- when the first starts getting heavy, I pick up the latter, lighter faire to balance it out which makes me circle back the kids on the train. When I observed the way these two youth were interacting with each other, it was apparent that they were quite taken with one another; it seemed as if they were in on some juicy secret that nobody else on the train was privy to which warms the spirit -- in my book optimism trumps societal/ cultural pressures when you're standing for what you believe in but that's not the whole ball of wax, either. In "Myth", Professor Graves wrote "...we slide closer toward hell on a road paved with our racial misconceptions. We will continue to pay until we reject the notion that there are biological races in the human species, and that race determines an individual's worth." I think those youth on the train were taking a path less travelled by and for that, although they 'll never know it, they get buckets of dap from yours truly...I hope they can weather the storms that will, no doubt, come their way in life but maybe, like with that prodigy kid in the Oracle's living room on Matrix who could bend the spoons with his mind: there is no storm...Laters...

The River

I come from down in the valley where, mister, when you're young
They bring you up to do like your daddy done
Me and Mary we met in high school when she was just seventeen
We'd ride out of that valley down to where the fields were green

We'd go down to the river
And into the river we'd dive
Oh down to the river we'd ride

Then I got Mary pregnant and man that was all she wrote
And for my nineteenth birthday I got a union card and a wedding coat
We went down to the courthouse and the judge put it all to rest
No wedding day smiles no walk down the aisle
No flowers no wedding dress

That night we went down to the river
And into the river we'd dive
Oh down to the river we did ride
I got a job working construction for the Johnstown Company
But lately there ain't been much work on account of the economy
Now all them things that seemed so important
Well mister they vanished right into the air
Now I just act like I don't remember
Mary acts like she don't care

But I remember us riding in my brother's car
Her body tan and wet down at the reservoir
At night on them banks I'd lie awake
And pull her close just to feel each breath she'd take
Now those memories come back to haunt me -- they haunt me like a curse
Is a dream a lie if it don't come true
Or is it something worse -- that sends me down to the river?
though I know the river is dry
That sends me down to the river tonight
Down to the river my baby and I
Oh down to the river we ride

*Bruce Springsteen, 1982