My Grief

So anyway, I’ve been transferring these old tapes of mine from back when I was a kid, recorded with my partner in crime at the time, Gabe. I’m surprised and happy to say that these tapes are still in pretty good condition, at least listenable. I have about 35 or so and hold them very dear to me, as you might expect.
But last night I flipped over a tape and found that one side was completely blank. It somehow had been erased…when? I couldn’t figure it out. The tabs were popped out to protect against that sort of thing, so this must have happened years ago. But how? If I had done it, I surely would have remembered my complete stupidity and chastised myself accordingly. But I didn’t or haven’t.
What can I say? I just lost another 30 minutes of my childhood. Weep! This makes me nervous to go through the rest of the tapes. What other surprises lay in store?

“Jacques” “Derrida” “Dead” “at” “74”

I was quite surprised at the comments in the Guardian over Derrida’s death. A few writers have some interesting things to say about him, but most come off as flip or ignorant. Why bother?
Deconstruction was the part of literary criticism that I least understood in college, and was the one I could never write. It was a sort of quantum physics of literature and meaning, and seemed to require much more background knowledge going in than even New Historicism. Our instructors brought it up, and made us read an essay or two, but didn’t insist too much on it.
One day, Derrida came to speak at UCSB and we all felt the obligation to go hear him, as one would a rock star or a poet. And he certainly did look cool in his suit and his brilliant white hair.
He spoke on the Balkan war, in his heavily accented English. I began to take notes, to try to help me make sense of what I knew would be a dense talk. By minute 15 I was lost. Was he even talking about the Balkans any more? I looked over at my instructor, whose critical faculties I admired, and even he was nodding off. People started to yawn, give up, walk out.
Derrida made no effort to connect to the audience, did not offer up analogies for us to grasp. He just plowed ahead. It was lit theory as performance art, as atonal feedback music. He must have seen these walkouts all the time and knew he was onto something. He couldn’t preach to the choir. There was no choir. And what do we mean when we say “choir”? He was a man unto himself and I suspect most people who admired and followed him only understood 15% of what he was laying down.
I had class and had to leave after 30 long long minutes. And that’s all I remember about Derrida.

Bullet in the Head

Dir: John Woo
“Bullet in the Head” is often hailed as one of John Woo’s best,
because it springs from his own memories of growing up rough on the streets. And after he sends his three heroes off to Saigon in 1967, determined to lay low from the police and make some money in the process, the film turns into his own version of “The Deer Hunter.”
The leads are Ben (Tony Leung), Frank (Jackie Cheung), and Paul (Waise Lee), and their character types are wistful/sensitive, well-meaning/unhinged, and realistic/selfish respectively.
All three, we see in an opening sequence that combines dancing with fighting (Woo’s tribute to West Side Story), are good at fighting. This comes in handy later when they go up against a crime boss and his minions with all sorts of firepower, from sub-machine guns to exploding cigars (!).
The three are poor, but Ben seems to be starting off well, getting married to a rather drippy girl in the neighborhood. But soon Frank’s problems with a local gangster cause all three to have to leave the country. Will they make a drop off of pharmaceuticals in Saigon while they lie low? Easy!
In the first of many well-executed set pieces, the three have just barely arrived in Saigon for five minutes when they wind up in the middle of an assassination attempt and have their important package blown up. Desperate, they decide to team up with a CIA op called Luke (Simon Yam) are wipe out the crime boss.
Another great set piece of ridiculous violence follows as the three take on the entire building.
So far we are safely in Woo territory. Then the three get captured by the Vietcong, who know nothing of gangland honor, and the movie gets very dangerous, refreshingly so.
At the center of the tale is a US army box full of gold. Paul insists on keeping it at all costs, destroying the friendship. There’s also a substitute for Ben’s drippy wife, a similarly drippy Canto-pop star turned captive druggie whore who Ben tries to rescue. Woo, who is never really that interested in women except when they are abstract plot elements, does away with her too.
I was with the film up until the final act, when Ben returns to Hong Kong to see vengeance on Paul for what happened to Frank. (What happens to Frank results in one of Jackie Cheung’s scenery-chewingest performances. He even got nominated for it.)
The ending, it turns out, was not the original, though that survives on the expanded, remastered DVD as an outtake. Like so many Hong Kong action films, any strides made by the drama are ditched for absurdity. The missus gave up on this film when the skull appeared.
Still, the transfer looks wonderful on this FortuneStar remaster, and is exciting for much of its length. But for those who want to build a case against Woo, there’s plenty fodder here too.

Boris Artzybasheff

In a recent Jim Woodring interview, the artist names two art books that changed his life. One, unsurprisingly, was on Surrealism. The other was a book called As I See by Boris Artzybasheff. Before you could even say “Google”, I found a page on him. Not only did he do 200+ covers for Time Magazine in the ’50s, but his style is similar to Basil Wolverton and others. In fact, his range is very wide, from cartoony to realistic, from oils to woodcuts.
Other examples are here and below:

Laura – Diary of a White Trash Girl

The always non-awful Something Awful has a long-running thread I’ve just noticed. Essential reading for this afternoon…

Working at Goodwill, one procures not only a loathing for the greater parts of their local community, but a great many interesting oddities as well. I came across one of my more curious souvenirs today as I cleaned out old drawers: A diary detailing the depressing life of perhaps the most white-trash girl I have imagined. I have been in possession of said book for about a year and a half, and I read through it once at work to give my boredom a kick. However, it wasn’t until I further analyzed the journal that I realized how utterly depressing and hopeless the track of her life was/is (this diary is from the ‘93 period, of which time she must have been a teenager). However, despite all this, parts of this journey into Laura are nothing short of utterly hilarious. Part of me feels bad about posting all this, but then again, I don’t know this person at all and someone donated it anyways. For the time being, enjoy the shenanigans of this complete stranger. I’ll be typing entries as well as linking to the actual journal, and if people like the first bits I’ll definitely do more. This stuff just gets better and better, and it’s LONG. Plenty of hilarious details. On with it. I am making no spelling or grammatical corrections. Everything is as written.

You can continue the diary on page 20, as the in between pages are comments. There’s even an audio book being made, read in a posh British accent, along with an accompanying Flash cartoon. Ah, the Web.

Vinyl Junkies by Brett Milano

Following on from my earlier post about rare record dealers, here comes what looks like and interesting book on record collecting.

Paste Magazine :: Review :: Vinyl Junkies
Every guy with a record collection and a girlfriend should read Brett Milano?s Vinyl Junkies with her as relationship therapy. The book follows die-hard collectors from different walks of life?from R. Crumb?s country and blues 78s to several vinyl addicts in Milano?s native Boston, where he writes for the Boston Phoenix and the Boston Herald. The book presents an engaging look at a diverse subculture?from the rabid nerd completists to the musicians and industry types you would expect to have a serious relationship with their records (including R.E.M.?s Peter Buck and Sonic Youth?s Thurston Moore). But Milano also writes about ?normal? people with jobs and relationships and whose fashion choices range outside jeans and obscure punk T-shirts.