Friday, July 10, 2015

Maybe They Should Reboot Hollywood

I love movies. L-O-V-E love movies. Schlepping to a theater, handing over my money, and taking a seat in a darkened cavern to take in a two-hour-or-so-long story is a lifelong ritual I have indulged in practically all my life. I worship at the house of cinema, pretty much. For me movies can be a great source of inspiration, a gateway into another world, or simply a short-term means of escape from reality. Movies have proven, over last 100 years and change, to be artistic achievements in their own right. At the very least, movies are profound documents of humanity's ever-evolving existence, be on a global, galactic or inter-personal scale. Add to this, movies are simply incredibly fun and emotionally stirring to watch.

But lately, the sliding standards of modern movie making has left me feeling a bit depressed. Over the last decade, Hollywood, in an effort to maximize profits and stave-off competition for eyeballs and impending obsolescence, has given the movie-goer a raft of mediocre faire to ingest. Groundbreaking and thought-provoking film achievements have given way to shoddy, mass-produced mediocrity. And two of the main culprits for this movie-going malaise can be rested squarely on the shoulders of the dearth of Tinseltown's twin bottom line,  number-crunching gambits de jour: the reboot and the remake.

It's not as if Hollywood hasn't remade great films from the past over the decades. The legendary film noir The Postman Always Rings Twice was treated to an overtly-sexualized remake starring Jack Nicolson and Jessica Lange during  that genre's resurgence in the 1970's. King Kong has been remade several times over with varying degrees of success. And then there is Gus Van Sant's perplexing shot-for-shot remake of Psycho.

But it wasn't until the last decade or so that Hollywood really ramped-up the remakes and the reboots with blind gusto. Not a day goes by now that one doesn't hear about the latest reworking and re-imagining of once great-to-marginally-good films. Just the other day, I read online about a potential remake in the works for Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. Haven't Hitch's movies and memory - the sequels to Psycho and the aforementioned Van Sant remake - suffered enough indignity already?

In the last several years alone, audiences have bore witness to Hollywood mining their memories of film-going experiences in the form of updated versions of such 1980's titles like Total Recall, Red Dawn and RoboCop. Upcoming reboots include GhostbustersPoint Break and a supposedly planned live action version of the masterful and legendary Citizen Kane of Japanese anime, Akira.

No line seems uncross-able to Hollywood. I wouldn't be surprised if there is indeed a Citizen Kane reboot in the works; the catalytic Rosebud now being a motorcycle or flash drive or a potentially world-destroying McGuffin.

Slap-dash a new coat of computer generated special effects, cast aesthetically pleasing "talent," and tune the script to our dour contemporary world view, and voilĂ ! Wash-down that shoveled-in handful of popcorn with a river of Coke from your big gulp, movie goer, and just be dazzled by state of the art 'splosions! Who needs to be engaged by what they're seeing on the screen, anyway? Shut off your brain and let these movies just happen to you!

It's not as if your average, every day movie attendee isn't just as much to blame for this deluge of reboots and remakes as Hollywood is. They are handing over their hard-earned cash to watch this disposable schlock, after all. And when not planted in seats, they are taking to YouTube's comments section, pontificating on who Hollywood should cast in the remake of the "vintage" movie trailer they're watching (stop motion special effects they can't tolerate, but continually recasting different actors in the same roll time and time again or fakey-fake CGI passes the smell test?)

But what's missing in these countless reboots and remakes is the heart of movie making; the heart of why stories need to be told in the first place. The original movies had what these re-imaginings never will. They left an impact with the viewer and gave them memorable moments, scenes and lines of dialog that meant something. Movies actually had an impact, of one sort or another. These things resonated with the audience.

With these remakes and reboots, those moments of wonder, awe and imagination are wiped away, and all we're left with is the new, slick digital facsimile of another generation's nostalgia. There's is only a meager, tangential connection with to those classics of yore, and no tangibly emotional impact. Watching these remakes is akin to eating cotton candy for Thanksgiving dinner; tasty, perhaps, but not substantive.

And there's the rub: by retreading the memories and nostalgia of previous generations - and their initial movie-going experiences - Hollywood has robbed this (and future) generations of their own movie-going experiences or impacting memories. Iconic moments and lines of dialog have been distilled into tossed-off lifeless line readings and emotion-dulling call-backs, rendered listlessly in an effort to recall better, more imaginative times. It's almost as if (I dare say) that these titles are being recycled not because of the initial impact they made on audiences, but rather to cash-in on the vague memory of these movies instead.

At present, there is a new Terminator movie in the theaters. Panned by critics and audiences alike as simply marginal at best, the latest installment (the fifth sequel to be exact) of the dystopian man-versus-machine franchise is less a sequel, and more a reimagining of sorts. James Cameron, the creator and original director of both The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day has gone on record as being dazzled by this film, somehow. All those things you loved and remember about his previous Terminator films, he says, are referenced in this film. No mention is made of the original moments Terminator: Genisys provides on its own, besides a ruined surprise twist. No, the crux of this film relies on those moments you remember in the better films from the past.

It's like a pair of great sneakers someone else wore. They've put in a new pair of shiny, state-of-the-art laces, and now it's your turn to wear 'em!

Look, these original movies were (and very much still are) pretty damned great. Perhaps a bit dated and scruffy-looking, but entertaining nonetheless. Groundbreaking and highly enjoyable movies will live on long after these cash-grab remakes are forgotten about and relegated to "embarrassing curiosity" status if ever uncovered again in the future. The emotional impact of these previous films cannot be replicated; only copied. And given Hollywood's track record at doing so, rather poorly and shallowly, at that.

I will admit, sometimes a property, if re-imagined correctly with enough attention and reverence to the details and inertia of the project and character, can prove to be a success (Batman, Mad Max and James Bond, for example). But for the most part, these cinematic facelift projects are groan-inducing trivialities. Need I mention the charming and lovable Chris Pratt wedged into a discussed remake of the Indiana Jones franchise?

Perhaps the worst part is that we, the audience, are missing out on potentially great, undiscovered movies from visionary and daring filmmakers and screenwriters. Truly groundbreaking stories or an age old tale retold with imagination, invention and splendor. But then you begin to wonder if Hollywood hasn't been in this remake tailspin too long when producing original, yet abysmally executed properties such as Jupiter Ascending, John Carter or A Winter's Tale. Even when they try, it seems, Hollywood fails.

Look, Hollywood, I have a novel idea for you. You're sitting on a slate of previously-made horrible films with great premises. Take the theatrical bomb that was Waterworld for example. Sure it was a flop, but the idea was there. It's a dystopian tale of struggle, adversity and pee-drinking. Slap on some new CGI, cast a few CW face masks, throw mounds of money at  Orci and Kurtzman to write a script hinging on a bad guy whose master plan hinges on getting caught, and there you go. Polish turds like this into gold, instead of the other way around. Hey, it worked for Judge Dredd.

In all seriousness, though, I want movie moments again. I want to be wowed by a story. I want to leave the theater satisfied, and to later recount what I've seen on-screen to friends, family and co-workers. I don't want to see the seams of CGI cartoonery taking the place of real emotion. I don't want to watch disposable pretty faces mouth breathing through their lines. And I don't want to reminisce about the movie I just witnessed only to discover the voluminous plot holes and narratives that, when you really think about them, make no sense at all.  I want a good story, characters I can believe in and subtlety in computer animated special effects (if they are even needed at all).

But above all, Hollywood, I want you to leave your accomplishments alone. Let these movies remain classics. And if you really feel the need to trot them back out again, restore the original prints and release them back into theaters. Movies are escapism, sure. But they can also tell some of the best tales imaginable. We can see, hear and feel them all at once. That's the power - the  magic - this medium possesses. Instead of re-telling the same (sometimes great) stories, perhaps concentrate on telling us something new; something bold; something original.

I mean, God knows we don't need to see, say, Anton Yelchin and Liam Neeson in a remake of Back to the Future*. Now that would be truly depressing.



*Hollywood, please don't actually do this.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Review: Neutral Milk Hotel, Live - Seattle, WA, 6/4/2015

Neutral Milk Hotel, Robert Schneider and The Minders
June 4th, Paramount Theater
Seattle Washington

A short three-hour sojourn from Rocket Science Alliance headquarters in Portland to the sun-soaked streets of Emerald City was all it took to finally be in the same room with genius recluse Jeff Mangum and his collective merry myth-makers - known to you, me and everyone as Neutral Milk Hotel

Never having seen this band play live prior to this (I have absolutely no excuse, I know), I furiously pounded my credit card pertinents into the website touting this as the very last time anyone will ever see Neutral Milk Hotel play live ever again. This, I was told, will definitely be the last time Mangum and co. will be touring their beloved and inspired music around for eager ears. Hell if I'm missing this!

And thank gawd I didn't, since this show - taking place at the equally awe-inspiring and georgous Paramount theater was quite possibly one of the absolute best live music performances I've ever been lucky enough to witness. Not even sitting in the Paramount's cramped nose bleed section (more on this later) could dim the hyper kinetic electricity this band is capable of creating.

Portland-based Elephant 6 vet's The Minders took the stage first. No sooner had the first been strummed than it quickly became evident that lead master-Minder Martyn Leaper still very much deftly commands mastery over melody and harmony. Powering through songs old and new, The Minders closed out their opening set with the rollicking "Needle Bomb," getting the crowd on its feet and whetting it's appetite for the main event to come.

Soon after, Apples in Stereo's Robert Schneider took the stage with a cohort I didn't entirely catch the name of thanks to a Chatty Cathy behind me regaling her male companion (((loudly))) with tales of vodka, blackouts and emergency room visits. From what I understood, the guitarist to Schneider's right was instrumental in many an E6 recording and was now playing with in Schneider's new musical outlet, Ulysses. The two played a collection of mostly mellow acoustic guitar-based ditties between Schneider's nebbishy and humorous on-stage banter (centering mostly on Collective history).

A photo not taken at the show.
After Schneider and accomplice exited stage left, techs darted in and about, setting up last minute instruments for the show the capacity crowd was here to see. The lights eventually dimmed and a voice overhead reminded the audience to, as a favor requested by Jeff Mangum himself, not to use their cell phones to photograph or videotape the performance they were about to see. Judging by the HUGE flare flash later in mid-performance from one balcony-situated audience member's cell phone, a couple of people didn't get that message.

As the lights came up onstage, a lone figure shuffled out, army green cap slung low on his long-bearded face. The crowd cheered rapturously. As Jeff Mangum slung his acoustic guitar over his shoulder and strummed the opening bars to "I Will Bury You in Time," the crown clapped and cheered jubilantly. As the rest of the band ran on stage and the Mangum's solo blended into "Holland, 1945," the crowd went apeshit. Neutral Milk Hotel had us in its thrall.

Note-for-note, spanning two albums (and one in particular which made this band legendary), Neutral Milk Hotel's performance this night was absolutely spot on. The energy filling this volumonous cavern of a theater was infectious, to say the least. Mangum's high-register yelp sounded as glass shattering and precisely in-tune as it did on his albums, and that crazy collection of musicians along side of him were fuckin' amazing; Neutral Milk Hotel were fuckin' amazing.

So, back to those nose bleed seats: Taking the stage for the encore clapping hands and lack of house lights commanded, Neutral Milk Hotel blazed through a In The Areoplane Over The Sea's "Ghost." A couple of rows in front of me stood a guy in a puffy 1970's-esque ski vest with blue and orange stripes darting down the middle of his back. The power of the swirling, raucous music compelled him to take to his feet and dance with fists pumping piston-like in the air, his energy uncontainable. One, two, then three fellow audience members sheepishly joined him and faded-in to standing dance moves of their own. As his ranks grew to seven, a security guard stepped in all John Lithgow from Footloose-like to break up the celebration, ushering these rabble-rousers from their perch to the walkway above.

As "Ghost" swelled, the dancers, undeterred, started dancing again. This time, they were legion, joined by more and more audience members. People scurried up and down the steep incline of the balcony's stair to join them. A girl in a sleek green dress shimmied next to guy in glasses doing the shake. Here they were, a crowd of predominantly white people shaking their asses off without a care in the world.

As "Ghost" melded into "Two-Headed Boy Pt. 2," the mood soon became somber and meditative; the dancers once furious now swayed in the band's contemplative breeze. All the way back in the section of theater many bands ignore, Mangum and company had us - hearts, minds and bodies - under their spell.

THAT's the power of Neutral Milk Hotel.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Hello, Seattle! You're Listening.

Fig. A, Ref. Para. 1
Chances aren't that you found one of the 20 mix CD's (See fig. A) I littered your fine, damp city with and trundled over to this blog after being prompted to do so upon opening said mix CD's expertly hodge-podged together collage cover and seeing this blog's name on the inside flap. Congratulation! You may be the first and only person to do so.

Either that, or you picked up this mix CD, pondered it a good long second and said to yourself (or someone close to you), "Hmm. A mix CD..." and placed it back where you found it. Or you're probably using it as a coaster as not to leave rings on your precisely-weathered salvage coffee table and most likely are not reading this missive because you never saw the prompt on the flap inside. So really, there is no point to this paragraph at all.

But for those of you (whom I most assuredly would be able to count on one hand of a lifelong illegal fireworks enthusiast) who found one of these mix CD's and looked up this blog, welcome! You are as adventurous as one can get these days, and you took a chance and discovered something new today. You discovered ...this blog.

I'm in your wonderfully soggy city to catch one of the final Neutral Milk Hotel shows. I've never seen 'em play live, so this should be something special. Woo-hoo!

Speaking of things I've never seen: The Space Needle. Well, not up close and personal anyway. Nor have I had a chance to see that one parking structure that looks like the front of a sinking ocean liner. And Pike's Place? I'll be meandering slowly through it soon enough. Yes, I'm about to tourist the shit up outta your city.

Anyhoo... Enjoy the mix CD and the corresponding collage artwork it's housed in. I don't know you (like, at all), but I'm going to go ahead and say that you've earned it. Well, actually, you've earned two things today: a handmade mix CD and my trust in you that you are a person who deserves good things.

So good on ya!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Wants/Needs: Lilys' Eccsame The Photon Band (LP)

Internets, to me!

Lilys are my absolute favorite band of all time. They have been for the last 20 years, and will very much be until I shuffle my obsessive ass off this mortal coil. I have pretty much every record this wonderful, chameleon-like band has ever released on vinyl, save for one.

Eccsame the Photon Band was the record that introduced me to the band. At the time (1996, or sometime thereabouts), this was the album I was looking for , but didn't know I was looking for. Quite, serene, turbulent, challenging, and beautiful, Eccsame the Photon Band spoke to me in a way only a few records have. It's a meditative record, vastly different from anything the band produced before or after (and for this ever-shifting band, that's saying a lot). I don't trust the listening tastes of anyone who says this is their least favorite Lilys record, since it's pretty much a godamned fuckin' masterpiece. It still, to this day, remains my favorite record by Kurt Heasley and co.

It's also the one record by Lilys I don't have on vinyl. I want it. I need it. I've begged friends who own it to sell it to me at ridiculously inflated prices with nary a taker. I've scoured the darkest corners of the Internet, put in alerts on both eBay and Discogs, and no soap. The fact that I can't and don't have this record makes me want it that much more.

So, if you - or someone you know - has a copy for sale, hit me up in the comments section below. All reasonable prices considered.


Please and thank you.




Monday, April 20, 2015

Cybercide Is Painless

I recently gave up a huge chunk of my social media web presence. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Yelp, etcetera, etcetera; all chucked right out the window and landing with a splat next to a misbegotten Dell laptop purchase from years prior. I got tired of my iPhone being my de facto eyestrain device to alleviate the boredom and tedium of being out-and-about in actual reality. Mountainous data charges notwithstanding, the Pavlovian need to engage with people and things virtually lost all of its meaning for me. And you know it's time to unplug when you find yourself asking "What's the point to any of this?"

Pre-Internet (around 1994-ish or so), I was a fairly productive person. I wrote more and much better that I am even struggling to do here now, and I made things - tangible things like, zines and artwork - that filled me with a certain sense of pride and accomplishment. Things a virtual existence simple can not. 

Social media is, I'm sure, great for other people. But it's just not my bag. Whenever I'd run across a picture of a loosely affiliated friend mugging the light fantastic with a group of what appeared to be close compatriots at a dinner party, backyard cookout, or whatever, I'd find myself becoming envious and bitter of their gleaming good times. Or I'd look up exes just to, you know, see how their lives where getting along now without me (totes healthy behavior!) Or maybe I'd try putting myself "out there" on the Internet, promoting my artwork or writing, and becoming frustrated with the lack of attention my hard work and creativity was garnering. And fuck me if my clever little jokes and astutely bitter observations weren't bringing down the house on Twitter, with nary a "like" or repost to feed my flagging ego.

I started to seriously dislike the person I became due to engines designed to fast track the social engagement process. I had become an even more desperately narcissistic and needy individual than I was before. I mean, seriously loathsome energy output, if I'm being completely honest (and I am, for the most part).

Eventually, I got fed up with my whiny bullshit routine, so I decided to cut the series of tubes connected to my own private misery machine. I woke up one morning a couple of weeks back and simply "unfriended" most, if not all, of my social media accounts, laying waste to a bevy of apps on my phone in the process. And I gotta tell you, it felt pretty damned liberating.

It's nice not receiving friend requests from people I haven't spoken to in 20-or-so years. Someone else's European vacation pics? I'll take my own when I get over there. Bugging a semi-celebrity's yackity-yack account as to when the next episode of their podcast is coming out? Perhaps it's better to slow my roll and just maintain.

Indeed.

Committing what I like to refer to (but am not 100% positive I made up) as "cybercide" has given me a lot of free time to go out do... well, things. I'm skateboarding again. I'm making collages and sketching in my Moleskin again. I just bought a new bike and have been slowly shedding the sack-of-crap pounds I've gained while moon-eying the Internet all those years before. And though this very blog your reading now has suffered from infrequent updates, I'm writing again for fun (screenplays, music reviews, and the like). And when not doing any of that, I'm discovering new things in my town I never knew existed. It's been pretty sweet.

I don't mean to bag on social media. I'm sure it's a great outlet for a large majority of the Earth's population. I mean, mazel tov, you crazy, inter-connected kids! It's just not for me. I know I'm socially retarded and crowd-graceless to begin with, but I don't need a virtual microphone advertising that fact. And banking my dreams and expectations on the hope that "friends" and strangers alike will lavish me with undo an un-earned attention is pretty weak sauce, no matter how you slice it. 

I got into this social media game for all the wrong reasons, but I got out for all of the right ones. So, there's that.



Below are some recent collage pieces my lack of Internet prowling has afforded me:

"Veritable Quandry"
c. 2015, collage on paper

There's a restaurant here in Portland called "Veritable Quaundry" and that's what I named this piece after. Of course the definition of this phrase is much more contextually apropos -  a state of perplexity or uncertainty - but honestly I just thought the name of the eatery sounded cool and named this collage after (or rather, in honor of) it. This piece was made using mostly images from a 1936 edition of Better Homes and Gardens and a freebie local skin rag advertising our town's plethora of titty-n-tattoo bars. There's a feminist message going on in this one. See if you can decipher it.


"Yesterday's Jam"
c. 2015, collage on paper

I don't remember exactly how I came across Australian collage artist Kareem Rizk, but the moment I did, his work had a profound reawakening effect on me. Of course, Rizk's stuff is fuckin' amazing, and you just want to look at it all day. Anyhoo, this piece is kinda, sorta "inspired" by looking at his work. So yeah: derivative. This one is made from the scraps of an old collage I made, but wasn't entirely happy with, mixed in with images from a Nordstrom's lingerie catalogue addressed to the previous tenant of my apartment. The title comes directly from an episode of The IT Crowd, which I was watching while putting this piece together.


"Night Shift Hecules"
c. 2015, collage on paper

This piece corresponds with what I called my very last physical mix CD ever, ever. You see, I used to make mix CD's to hand out to complete strangers or leave at freebie tables of local business, but recently I've gotten the impression that actual mix CD's - physical compact discs that hold music on them - are a bit played out. Handing someone a free mix CD containing artwork and meticulously compiled music was usually met with a shrugged "Oh, they still make Compact discs?" response. Yeah, so anyway: last one. This one was built around that gold leaf Mary n' Jesus card someone handed me on the street one day. The title came about while working a night shift courier job. It sounded clever at the time.


"Overcast Romantigues"
c. 2015, collage on paper

I've been kicking around this mix CD full of 80's gothic-ish/new wave (The Cure, The Smiths, Echo & The Bunnymen, etc.) for a while now, but the covers I'd come up with for it never quite did it for me. Then one day as I was putting together some items I sold on eBay for delivery, I saw this sticker on the side of one of the boxes. I peeled it off, affixed some lettering to and *VIOLA!* It's not a great cover by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm satisfied with it, so that's good enough for me for now. I kind of like the simplicity and starkness; perfect fractured visual for music listening on an overcast day. Oddly enough, the back cover features colored stripes from a bag my friend Billy brought back with him from one of his trips to Japan. Yep. Pretty Much.


 "Neglect 'Em All"
c. 2015, collage on paper

I was recently digging through an old box of cassette tapes and came across this mixtape I made back in the very early 90's. It contained a treasure trove of crunchy-guitar cynical rawk in a vaguely industrial vein, featuring the likes of Big Black, Naked Raygun, Nomeansno, Painteens, The Revolting Cocks, Lords Of Acid, and so on and so fourth. Eh. What can I say? I was a mixed up and petulant kid and I liked my music angry and jaded back when. This piece is a re-appropriation of that mixtape's artwork, with extra bits added to it. I'm particularly proud (?) of the Wite-Out Metallica-esque font for the title. Um... Fuck yeah!?!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Entertainment On-The-Cheap-O-Vision

Today I turn 40 year old. Instead of boring you with "I'm too old for this shit"-isms (which, of course, I am, but I repress...), I've decided to post five online entertainment outlets I'm currently enjoying, instead.

I gave up cable TV about eight years ago and I can't say that I really miss it, like, at all. Hulu, Amazon Instant, Netflix, and a plethora of YouTube channels have since provide me with endless (and cost-effective - if not absolutely free) entertainment options. And for those moments when the moisture from my eyes has been dully depleted from hours of binge viewing, there are a treasure trove of podcasts to alternately cram into my ears.

With all the great content floating around the Internet, it's a wonder anyone would pay over $100 a month for a thousand channels of questionable content and a kagillion commercials to go along with it. Someone has to keep up with those Cardassians, I guess...?

Anyhoo, here are five of my favorite recent finds. And, as always, screw you, outside!


1. RetroBlasting (YouTube)

There are a slew of single cam, heavy breathing YouTube channels devoted to 1980's toy reviews, but none come close to the meticulous levels of production, research and execution that Retro Blasting continually provides. Created by husband-and-wife toy aficionados and collectors Michael French and Melinda Mock, RetroBlasting delivers uncompromising  (and sometimes hilariously brutal) reviews of 80's playtime plastic. In addition to reviewing toy lines such as Transformers, G.I. Joe and He-Man (and the corresponding cartoons that went with 'em), RetroBlasting also features unboxing, convention panel discussion and toy restoration videos. Mix in a dash humor, a shit-ton of nostalgia and on-the-money expertise, and RetroBlasting is your go-to source all things 1980's toy nostalgia.




2. Ron "AAlgar" Watt Reviews (YouTube)

I could watch Seattle-based Ron "AAlgar" Watt's hilariously meta-comic retro cartoon reviews all day. In fact, I have. It was one of those rare sunny day most Portlander's prey their rain-soaked hearts out for, and there I was, in bed with my MacBook in my lap, plugging one AAlgar Transformers and G.I. Joe cartoon reviews after another into my fuzzy fond  memory cortex, like some sort of Gen-X junkie vainly trying scratch an eternal fix for my youth. AAlgar's smart aleck charm is the perfect amount of Mystery Science Theater 3000-ing these ridiculous old cartoons so lovingly deserve.




3. Daredevil (Netflix/Marvel)

Everything the 2003 cinematic disaster that was Daredevil, the new Netflix series of the same name is (thank gawd) the polar opposite of. Binge-watching this amazingly written, acted and produced series, you get the idea this is what the folks over at Gotham thought they were making. Gritty, action-packed and engrossing, this practically flawless Daredevil television series hits all the right marks, while also serving to remind you how truly amazing television can be when done perfectly. Don't believe me? Here's the trailer that actually delivers on what it promises:




4. I Was There Too (podcast, Wolfpop)

When he's not James Bonding, Superego-ing, selling Volkwagons, or teaching college kids what's what, Matt Gorley takes time out of his hectic schedule to produce a podcast where he interviews actors who have starred in some of the better movies Hollywood has produced (Groundhog's Day, Aliens, Better Off Dead, etc.) It's called I Was There Too, and gawdamed if these chats herein aren't some of the best behind-the-scenes conversations to clean your apartment to. Gorley is an engaging host who never seems to ask a wasted question, and the guests he's interviewed so far all seem happy to discuss openly their experiences on-set. Film buffs, take heed! These are the discussions you live for, so get to it! And if this podcast doesn't have one of the best theme songs, then I dunno. (Actually, it does and I do.)




5.  Throwing Shade (podcast, Funny Or Die)

"Homosensual" Bryan Safi and "feminasty" Erin Gibson are dynamic divas behind Throwing Shade, one of the absolute best, highly entertaining and informative podcasts podcasting today. Each week, Gibson and Safi lay the catty smackdown on society's ills, be them homophobia, sexism, or general ridiculous and seriously silly bullshit like, oh, say, Glenn Beck's hipster clothing line (yes, this is actually a thing). Filled with hilarious banter, skits and interviews with equally witty behind-the-scensters, Throwing Shade is wickedly funny podcast your enlightened ass/ears have been waiting to hear. Now go make a Sunday night chicken while listening to Nine Inch Nails, and then this podcast!

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Total Eclipse of The Eclipse


For as vast and convenient as the digital age has become, having immediate and readily available access to information can kind take a bit of the mystery out of life. In an age where nearly every question is Google- able, the charm of not knowing absolutely everything about a previously unknown subject can be a bit deflating. The thrill of the hunt – removing the mask for the big reveal – has been replaced with instant gratification that somehow leaves the curious among us oddly unsatisfied.
In audiophile circles, the mystery of song discovery has nearly been swiped away.  Figuring out who performs an up-until-that-moment-unheard song (or even what the name of this said song actually is) is now a Soundhoud or Shazam smart phone app click away. Discovering a new band also comes with the added bonus of discovering all of their albums, EPs, B-sides, and rarities. It’s almost too easy to know everything you want to know about any given band and musician these days.
Then, every once in a while, life hands your ears a song by a band you will never, ever be able to discover everything about in a discernible capacity beyond its original, hazy, lo-fi source.  Such is the case with a band of bedroom rockers from Carlsbad, California named The Eclipse.
Ocean Howell
The Eclipse came to my attention through a skateboarding video put out by Santa Cruz Skateboards' Speed Wheels division in 1990 titled Risk It! Featuring a near armada of highly talented skateboarding luminaries (Jason Jesse, Mike Vallely, Tom Knox, etc.) over its 83 minute plus running time, this video was a varitible embarrassment of skateboarding riches. It was the parts for two of H-Street Skateboards' at-the-time young gun ams, Ocean Howell and Markus Wyndham, however, that struck a chord with me.

Markus Wydham
At this moment is skateboarding history, Wyndham and Howell were seemingly joined at the hip. Beyond skating for the same team, these two skateboarders were like two sides of the same coin, with Howell's tick-attack technical precision and Wyndham's fluid board control.  The curbs, benches and rails of Southern California could do nothing but oblige these trippy, hippy raver assassins.

Beyond the emerging technical wizardry on display, Wyndham and Howell's parts were notable for the inclusion of songs by The Eclipse, a little-to-unknown band from Carlsbad, California. In an era where punk, metal, hip-hop, and funk were de rigueur for skateboarding videos, it should be noted that featuring dreamy, slightly new wave pop soundtrack-ing your part was pretty ballsy. "These guys rip, but these songs are faggy," was a not-so-uncommon and idiotic remark (for so, so, so many reasons I leave up to you to figure out) upon viewing Risk It with my friends.

I took a different tract with these two songs by The Eclipse. Having just discovered The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen and Psychedelic Furs, The Eclipse's music was something I instantly gravitated to. The two songs featured in this video ("Frogs" for Howell, and "Loves Last Whisper" for Wyndham) had an easy breeziness to them, featuring sedately dramatic vocals over surf-inflected progressive new wave, with just the perfect amount of bass and lead guitar noodling. 



It made sense that both Wyndham and Howell used what, one must surmise, was their friend's band's music for each of their parts, since these songs essentially bridged these hot shots together amid a sea of rippers and legends.  

It's important to remember that at the time (the early 1990's), we didn't have all-encompassing access to the Internet, and accessing any information at all about, say, a very obscure band and what must have been their demo tape, was essentially nil. Trying to obtain a copy of The Eclipse's music was to be my first foray into Holy Grail-ing a band and their music. As I would eventually learn, not even 25 years of online connectivity would put these ever-elusive songs in my hands.




I wrote to Santa Cruz Skateboards inquiring about The Eclipse, but never received an answer. Go figure a skateboard company would have better things to do than track down leads on a band for some goofy kook kid from Sacramento. Eventually the determination to obtain a copy of this band's music dissolved, and the mystery of their music was returned to being just that: a mystery.

But the bug of this band was still there somewhere nearly two decades later, and one day, in a bout of nostalgic wanderlust, I took to the ol' YouTube to watch old skate videos (Video Days, Useless Wooden Toys, Shackle Me Not, etc., etc.) when I stumbled upon both Howell and Wyndham's Risk It parts, along with those good ol' songs. My gawd, those songs! They had aged, but somehow managed to sound timeless at the same time.

Now, here's where the flight of fancy part of my best-intentioned brain took hold, imagining that of course the digital age had caught up with The Eclipse, pulling the curtain back and revealing a treasure trove of material ripe for reissue on an appreciative record label like Captured Tracks or Burger Records. Just dial the band's name into Google and...

Bupkis. 

Well, not bupkis exactly, but rather a handful of dudes just like me, all inquiring about the whereabouts of this band's music and where copies of it could potentially be obtained. There is a very informative blog entry, but nothing concrete leading to a grand unearthing of the band's music. Even Howell, now an assistant professor at the University of Oregon, couldn't immediately put his hands on the original recording. Perhaps the demo tape was in a crate somewhere in his parents home. Who knows? That was the most promising non-lead lead those of use wanting to get our hands on this band got. And it, to this day, has led nowhere.

And this is where I must, as an audiophile archeologist conclude my search for The Eclipse. Their songs - the only two the world may ever know - exists in their present forms within those two lo-fi, grainy video transfers lasting a less than a combined five minutes,  floating atop some of the most innovative and groundbreaking skateboarding to help change the course of events and inspire generations of skateboarders to follow. So, at the very least, we have that.