Los Angeles Plays Itself

This is a video essay by a chap named Thom Andersen about how Los Angeles gets a raw deal when it is portrayed in Hollywood films.

At 2 hours and 49 minutes it is quite a slog, I actually watched it in two parts over two days. It uses a lot of clips from films that were filmed in L.A., some of them go way back to the thirties.

Thom talks in a monotone, and sounds like a real sad-sack as he laments how Los Angeles is depicted in films. He doesn’t like films like L.A. Confidential because of the buildings used in the film, he claims their designs are…actually I didn’t really understand what in heck he was going on about, I guess I need to go to film school as well as get a degree in post-modern gothic art-deco modernist cubism or something.

He did like Chinatown though, which was a relief. He also likes the Hollywood sign.

He showed us parts of Los Angeles that he thinks are the real city, as well as parts of the city shown in old films which have long since disappeared, and gave his thoughts on the Bradbury Building which you will recognise from Bladerunner.

There was also some very interesting history of the city including the Watts riots, the building of the waterway system, the trams, and about the freeways. The story of the waterways depicted in Chinatown was largely fictional even though some people think it is true, the real story is different and not quite as corrupt. The story of the disappearance of the trams was interesting too.

Another interesting fact I learned is that Culver City, in Los Angeles County actually makes more films than Hollywood itself.

So, it is a bit mixed. How Los Angeles (Thom does not like it to be shortened to L.A.) is portrayed in films doesn’t bother me at all, and what buildings are used just doesn’t matter either, but Thom got pretty wound-up about it. But then again, I can kind of see his point in some ways. Then again, it is Hollywood, where nothing matters except having perfectly white teeth, and making the next billion bucks.

Date watched: July 6th
Score: 7/10
Film count 2018: 38

An Enneadic Fusion of Omnifarious Tunes

The music purchasing has slowed down somewhat in the last few weeks, if not months, but a sudden spurt in the last week or so has yielded an assortment of CDs and downloads. So here they are in no particular order.

Gazelle Twin – Hobby Horse

I stumbled on this while perusing through Bandcamp’s catalogue, and liked what I heard. Gazelle Twin is the stage name of Elizabeth Bernholz, who likes to perform on-stage in a blue tracksuit, and a kind of stocking over her head. She says it is a version of her P.E. uniform that she wore in high school.

This purchase had only two songs which are quirky, but I quite like it.

3TEETH, Ho99o9 – Lights Out

Another Bandcamp purchase, and again only two songs. It is a collaboration between 3TEETH, who I have never heard of before, and Ho99o9, who I had just recently discovered. Good stuff, kind of hardcore/metal/electronic music with a bit of The Prodigy thrown in.

NOFX – So Long And Thanks For The Shoes

I went to a place way across town called “Hard Off” (a sister company of Book Off) that sell used stuff like furniture, clothes, games, cameras, and all other kinds of things, quite often over-priced. There is a decent CD selection there, and even a small vinyl section. And there is a CD bargain shelf with everything costing only 100 yen. So I had a good look through and came away with three albums, this one and the next two.

NOFX are not a band I am particularly fussed on, and this album does not change that. It is standard California punk stuff and quite forgettable. For 100 yen though I am not complaining at all.

Terrible album cover.

Ice-T – Home Invasion

An album from the O.G. for 100 yen…score!

Pearl Jam – Riot Act

As I mentioned a while ago in another post I seem to be collecting Pearl Jam albums, even though I am not really a huge fan, just slightly interested. So when I came across this in the bargain shelf I could not pass it up.

The music is quite standard stuff, I am listening to it as I type and are just waiting for it to end so I can listen to some Ian Brown.

Betty Boo – Boomania

I remember getting this way back in the day, 1990, and buying it because it was a catchy novelty thing. Listening to it now though I feel that this really should have stayed in the 90’s. It is still catchy, but not really something that I needed to listen to again.

She is still in the music business these days, but seems to be writing songs for others, and has not released a song of her own since 2007 (her last album was in 1992).

Arctic Monkeys – Fluorescent Adolescents

This is an EP of four songs, with the title track coming from their Favourite Worst Nightmare album. Good stuff, I like it a lot.

The Cooper Temple Clause – See This Through And Leave

I just bought this tonight after work on a very hot day (a high of 37 degrees today), I just felt like buying some tunes. I spent a while looking through the 280 yen section at Book Off and was about to give up due to the paltry choices, but determined to get something I settled on this.

I have not had a good listen yet, but a quick sampling of some songs gives me the impression that this too is going to be a bit mediocre.

Charlie Parker – Bird Symbols

I dropped by my fave used vinyl shop again to see what I could find, and settled upon this for only 680 yen. The cover is a bit worn, but the record itself is good. The music though did not grab me as much as I was hoping.

I can’t put my finger on why exactly, but I think I am just not a fan of the saxophone, which is probably all Kenny G’s fault. After a few more listens it might grow on me, but I am now wishing I had bought a Stanley Clarke album I saw there for the same price. I may go and get that sometime soon.

So most of the music I have bought recently has been a bit disappointing. I think I am going to have to be a pit more picky, and maybe stay away from the bargains. I still plan on blowing ten grand on vinyl sometime. I might just do that next time I am in Tokyo, which will hopefully be sometime this summer (Tokyo is bananas hot in summer though).

Music count 2018: 68

The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band

I want it to be known that I am in no way a Mötley Crüe fan, not in the slightest. But, the reason I read this was because it was number 32 in the 66 most important moments in metal history according to Loudwire (my fave music website along with NME). It sounded like a worthwhile read.

The book is a history of the band, with each chapter being told by each band member, which was a great way to tell the story. After reading one band member’s account of something that happened we would move onto another band member who would tell a similar story, or sometimes a different story.

The author used some of the dirt he got on a band member to good effect. He would get some information one band member had never told another member before, go off and tell the other guy, then use his reaction in the next chapter. An example is when in one chapter Vince (the singer) slept with Nikki’s girlfriend, and in the next chapter we got Nikki’s reaction after the author told Nikki about it. All very high school gossip stuff, but quite entertaining.

Calling Mötley Crüe the world’s most notorious rock band is probably quite an accurate label if this book is anything to go by. They did drugs and alcohol to the absolute limit and two of them came very close to death from their excesses. They also liked the ladies a lot, and even during the middle of a concert the lead singer would disappear from the stage during the guitarist’s long solo to “meet a lady”.

Hair spray was of course an important part of glam metal

Some of the stories were quite disgusting as they were quite terrible human beings at times. Three of the band members just did not have inhibitions, they would do anything for sex and drugs, but not necessarily for rock ‘n’ roll. However, the stories that Nikki told about some of the antics of Ozzy Osbourne were quite nutty, including the time he snorted a line of live ants. Sharon Osbourne though was great, she kept Ozzy strictly in line when she was with him on tour, and she even had Mötley Crüe under her thumb when they toured with him. When she was gone though, Ozzy reverted to quite an animal.

The more I read this, the more I wondered about the accuracy of the storytelling. Each member seemed able to recount in great detail events that happened in the eighties, despite being either totally drunk, drugged out of their minds, on an ego high, or any combination of the three. A lot of was corroborated by their managers, assistants and others, so it is probably accurate in most accounts.

The one band member that seemed to be a decent dude was Mick Mars, the guitarist. He was drunk a lot but that was mostly due to a rare condition he has called ankylosing spondylitis which is an extreme form of arthritis. He got it at a young age, and by the time he was in the band he was in a lot of pain and could only stand still on stage while playing. He also seemed to be the most musically talented.

So it was a well-written book with lots of juicy rock ‘n’ roll excess and personal stories about four guys who as teenagers became a huge band, made lots of money (staggering amounts), lost a lot of that money each time their short marriages ended, and by the time this book was released in 2001 realised that they had better start growing up.

In a way this book is a guide on how to start a rock ‘n’ roller band. It teaches you that in order to be successful you have to be willing to do anything, be very single-minded, and to do all of things that the fans expect you to do like setting your pants on fire with lighter fluid and throwing TV’s out of hotel room windows (there was a great story about Keith Moon leaving the hotel in a limo on the way to the airport and asking the driver to turn the car around and go back to the hotel so he could throw the TV out of the window). What I learned though is that being successful is not a lot of fun if you can’t handle it, so I’d just rather remain somewhat normal.

Certainly one of the most important events in metal history.

The next book on my Kindle is “Star Maker” which so far is good reading.

Book count 2018: 4

Life On Earth

As I said at the end of my The Ascent of Man review, the next documentary series I wanted to watch was this one. Well, I blazed through it, enjoying every minute of the thirteen episodes.

As with The Ascent of Man, it is the narrator, Sir Dave, who makes the series what it is, no one can tell the facts like him (except for Jacob Bronowski of course). And Sir Dave does it all from scuba diving, spelunking, walking into a shallow pond getting his shoes and trousers wet, sitting incredibly close behind a rattlesnake, and all manner of other tasks to explain to us the story of nature.

The most enjoyable scene was to see him in a mountain forest in Rwanda, lying down next to a large female gorilla with it’s child gorilla practically lying on top of him, and he had a huge grin on his face. From Wikipedia:

The best remembered sequence occurs in the twelfth episode, when Attenborough encounters a group of mountain gorillas in Dian Fossey’s sanctuary in Rwanda. The primates had become used to humans through years of being studied by researchers. Attenborough originally intended merely to get close enough to narrate a piece about the apes’ use of the opposable thumb, but as he advanced on all fours toward the area where they were feeding, he suddenly found himself face to face with an adult female. Discarding his scripted speech, he turned to camera and delivered a whispered ad lib:

There is more meaning and mutual understanding in exchanging a glance with a gorilla than with any other animal I know. Their sight, their hearing, their sense of smell are so similar to ours that they see the world in much the same way as we do. We live in the same sort of social groups with largely permanent family relationships. They walk around on the ground as we do, though they are immensely more powerful than we are. So if there were ever a possibility of escaping the human condition and living imaginatively in another creature’s world, it must be with the gorilla. The male is an enormously powerful creature but he only uses his strength when he is protecting his family and it is very rare that there is violence within the group. So it seems really very unfair that man should have chosen the gorilla to symbolise everything that is aggressive and violent, when that is the one thing that the gorilla is not—and that we are.

When Attenborough returned to the site the next day, the female and two young gorillas began to groom and play with him. In his memoirs, Attenborough describes this as “one of the most exciting encounters of my life”. He subsequently discovered, to his chagrin, that only a few seconds had been recorded: the cameraman was running low on film and wanted to save it for the planned description of the opposable thumb.

And another example of Sir Dave’s bravery was a shot of him in a large plaza, it looked to be St Mark’s Square in Venice. The camera was set up quite some distance away high-up in a building. It started off with a medium close-up as he talked about modern man with a huge crowd of tourists casually wandering around him, doing what homo sapiens usually do on their day off and giving him quizzical looks. Then the camera pulled back quite a way so that we could see he was quite alone with no film crew around him, so seemingly talking to himself like a nutjob, not something I could do. To Sir Dave we are all animals too, worthy of observation in our natural habitat.

One of the most fascinating things I learned is that the whales evolved from a land-based mammal similar to a shrew, but over time it decided the sea was a good place to be, so lost it’s rear legs, gained a tail, got a whole lot bigger, and started munching on krill, amongst other changes. Makes you wonder what we will look like in several million years, although I doubt we will last that long. Actually, I hope we don’t last that long, the other animals that have lived on this planet, such as the dinosaurs, have behaved responsibly, and the animals that currently share the planet with us are getting a bad deal.

The filming techniques in this were obviously very tricky, and very well done. The cameramen also must have spent a lot of time getting the shot they wanted. From Wikipedia again:

One cameraman spent hundreds of hours waiting for the fleeting moment when a rare frog, which incubates its young in its mouth, finally spat them out.

If there is one criticism though it would be one aspect of the sound. Overall it was good, but at times it was clearly a Foley adding in the sounds post production. The sound of a monkey munching on a plant for example sounded a lot like a person munching on a celery stick in a studio. Of course this was probably the only choice they had, getting the sound of these things happening in a happening forest with all of the other sounds around was probably a tricky thing with 1979 sound-recording technology, so I can forgive it for that. Mostly though the sound was done on location.

After watching this I have a whole lot more respect for animals and natural scientific research, but most of all for Sir Dave who is a top television producer and narrator, as well as an excellent spokesperson for animal and plant-kind. He is 92 now, but is still working in television and writing books. Tonight I ordered a book of his from Amazon called “Life of Birds” which I am looking forward to reading.

I of course will add him to the MBMS Page of Fame, with highest honours.

Sunset Murder Case

I felt like watching an old noir film last night, so I chose this 1938 crime story on YouTube.

Not sure what is going on with the film title in this poster

The story was muddled, but basically it was about a showgirl that had returned from Europe where she was the toast of the town. But her father, a police dude was moidered while investigating the murder of a woman on Sunset strip. She wanted to get revenge on the rat that did it, so with the help of her police beau and another cop, she cooked up a plan to find the killer by posing as a singer in a nightclub where she suspected the crims were hanging out. There was also a reporter involved, a blonde bimbo (played by the excellently named “Sugar Kane”), and several other characters which really made following it all quite confusing. There were no car chases, although there was a nutty crash where a guy pushed a car in the path of another slow-moving car which then promptly fell over onto it’s side, seriously injuring the dame inside…cars in those days were death-traps.

There were plenty of fedora hats.

The main actor was Sally Rand who back in the day was well-known as a dancer who specialised in a dance routine with a giant bubble-ball. She was also known for her “fan dance”.

Doin’ the Bubble

So of course the director or Sally herself just had to include her doing her thing in the film. But, for some reason the whole bubble dance routine was completely silent, so I skipped over most of it (it lasted a while). She sang a couple of tunes later on, which I also skipped over.

The story as I said was muddled and confusing, I gave up trying to figure out who was whom, and what the heck was happening, and just waited for it to finish. At only 59 minutes long I was glad I didn’t have to wait long.

The final scene wrapped up the climactic ending in less than a minute, I guess they ran out of money, or film.

The acting, directing, and cinematography was all very B-grade stuff, I can’t think of anything going for it.

Date watched: June 24th
Score: 2/10
Film count 2018: 37

Terminal Cheesecake – Unhealingwound 7 inch

I bought this quite some time ago, at least 15 years, but I can’t remember how I got it. It might have been on Yahoo Auction Japan, it could have been eBay. Dunno.

I was quite chuffed to get it as I like Terminal Cheesecake lots, and it is a neato disc to have. There is just the one song and on the reverse side is some artwork which you can kind of see in the image above.

Terminal Cheesecake are still around, and after a 22 year hiatus they released a new album in 2016 called “Dandelion Sauce Of The Ancients”, which is fab stuff. They are still an obscure band, and are deffo not to everyone’s taste, but they have always tickled my cochlea and vestibulocochlea nerves…nuff said.

Grace Jones – Nightclubbing

I finally converted this to MP3 yesterday, so I thought I would add it to the Vinyl Vault as well.

This was purchased at the recycle shop I mentioned in a previous post. It was very cheap, but it is very minty, not a mark on the cover and the record is perfecto.

It includes her hit songs “Walking In The Rain”, “Pull Up To The Bumper”, and “Nightclubbing”. The other songs are all good, no filler here. There are only nine tracks though.

Grace is 70 now, but still going strong. Her last album though was back in 2008. A film was made about her recently, so I would like to see that.

Great cover, it says it all about Grace really.