Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Start the day right with POP OFFENSIVE!


That's right, tonight sees the airing of a brand new episode of Pop Offensive on KGPC (live streaming at 7pm Pacific from kgpc969.org).  But that's not the only news that's fit to print in Pop Offensive land.

For starters, there's the fact that, for the next few months, KGPC is going to be streaming episodes of Pop Offensive at 9am every weekday morning. That means that you can have power pop with your Sugar Pops, drum loops with your fruit loops, ABBA with your avocado toast and... well, it was a good conceit when it started. Anyway, yay! Amirite?

The other news is that October's episode of Pop Offensive will be it's 50th (!!!!), a landmark that I will be celebrating with a deluxe three hour episode stuffed full of music, guests and shenanigans. To accommodate it's girth, this episode will air at a special date and time: Tuesday, October 30th at 6pm. Please mark it on your calendar, because I might get too busy to remind you.

And if you want to hear more about either of these items, just tune into tonight's show , because I'll probably be talking about them.

Monday, September 10, 2018

You can't burn an eBook


The eBook version of my new novel, So Bad It's Good, has just been made available on Amazon/Kindle. This means that it is that much closer to being downloaded directly into your brain, making it, once all of the books are burned, your solemn obligation to travel from household to household, disseminating its contents. This means that you will one day be responsible for creating a new society based entirely on So Bad It's Good, making life like one of those Star Trek episodes where they didn't feel like spending money on futuristic costumes.

But, for now, I'd just like to mention that the eBook is priced at a very reasonable $4.99 and you can download it here.

Monday, September 3, 2018

American Hunter (Indonesia, 1989)


If there were ever an action movie hall of fame, I imagine that there would be a hall dedicated to the humble microfilm, that tiny macguffin that has served as the catalyst for countless car chases, fist fights, acrobatic heists, and scenes of prolonged torture throughout film history. So long is its shadow that nothing in our current technological age has come close to replacing it. The flash drive was a brief contender, but lost its sexiness once people started making them in the shape of teddy bears.

Take, for example, the first scene of American Hunter, in which the mere mention of a microfilm causes a man to pilot a jeep through a top floor window of a high rise office building. From there begins a squalid free-for-all in which various competing interests try to get their hands on the film by any means necessary. Among theses are Adam, played by kick boxer Bill "Superfoot" Wallace, who is later revealed to be a criminal mastermind by the name of Judas, an identity shift that is accomplished simply be people calling him Judas instead of Adam. Then there is mustachioed muscle farmer Frank Gordon, played by Mike Abbott and, finally, "Mr. Selleck" played by The Stabilizer star Peter O'Brian.


If a star with as thin a filmography as O'Brian can be said to be cast against type, the snarling uber-yuppy he plays in American Hunter is definitely that, standing as it does in sharp contrast to the stonily inexpressive engines of justice he plays in other of Rapi Films' Indonesian actioners like The Stabilizer and Rambu, the Intruder. Any cognitive dissonance you might suffer as a result will be shortlived, however, as Selleck is among the first of the baddies to be gorily dispatched by one of his competitors.

In fact, so chaotic is the activity that erupts around the microfilm that no one ever manages to give us a satisfying explanation of what is on it, other than a reference, in one scene, to it's contents allowing its owner to "rob and blow up Wall Street." This is something I am wholeheartedly in favor of, because, honestly, who gives a shit? As long as we are a supplied with an endless parade of over-the-top-action sequences, that microfilm could contain a recipe for kombucha or a collection of "babies scared by their own farts" videos for all we care.


And given this film is well served by the "all machine gun fire all the time" aesthetic of Stabilizer and Special Silencers auteur Arizal, an endless parade of over-the-top action sequences is exactly what we get. This despite the fact that most of the car chases--which, I'm assuming, were filmed without permits on the busy streets of Jakarta--are markedly sedate, as if the participants were driving their parents' cars. Of course, this lethargy does not present these chases from ending in cars going airborne and erupting in flames. It should also be noted that a lot of the machinegun fire on display is used toward practical household ends, such as opening drawers and cabinets.

And what vaguely defined hero stands at the center of all this mayhem, you may ask? Well that would be Jake Carver, a principled everyman played by the perpetually acid-wash clad Chris Mitchum, who starred in many of these low budget Asian-backed action films during the 80s. Mitchum is, of course, one of the actor sons of noir icon Robert Mitchum, and he bares a striking resemblance to his dad--with one crucial difference: While Mitchum senior's laconic exterior tended to belie a smoldering inner intensity, Mitchum the younger's laconic exterior doesn't appear to belie much of anything beyond an equally laconic interior. Yet, despite this muted charisma, Mitchum has a good natured vibe that makes him nonetheless appealing. This everyday Joe quality is underscored by the dad-joke quality bon mots he spouts whenever faced with danger, such as when, faced with two goons fitting live electrodes to his temples, he says "I don't think I'm gonna like this." Such a gambit would probably confound any central casting supervillain, whose only reply could be, "No, Mr. Carver, I expect you to... well, yes, you're not going to like it, are you?"


Among film enthusiasts, American Hunter--like other of its brethren in the Indo-action genre, such as The Stabilizer and Lady Terminator--is the kind of film that really separates the scholars from the pleasure seekers. By this I mean that it is totally meaningless, yet yields great rewards to anyone who comes to it unburdened by demands for coherence, thematic content, or character motivation. As a director, Arizal trades a lot in the lizard brain pleasures of seeing motor vehicles where motor vehicles are manifestly not meant to be, such as when a motorcycle hops onto a train car and continues down the center aisle as passengers frantically scramble out of the way. There's also a lot of joy to be mined from the exuberant back flips executed by the somewhat slouchy Chris Mitchum's stunt double, as well as the actually competent brawling of heavies Wallace and Abbott.

Would it be a spoiler to say that, at the end of American Hunter, Chris Mitchum's Jake Carver rescues his love interest, played by Netherlands-born Indonesian starlet Ida Lasha, from the villain's fortress, which is then consumed by a spectacular explosion? It would? Okay, well let's just say that this film will leave you satisfied, though perhaps with the type of vaguely undernourished feeling that might lead you to binge watch BBC historical melodramas in its wake.

Friday, August 24, 2018

It's the FRIDAY'S BEST POP SONG EVER Podcast Episode #10: Fox on the Run


The latest episode of the FRIDAY'S BEST POP SONG EVER podcast is live.
Anybody who knows me won't be surprised that I finally got around to Sweet, one of my favorite bands,. In this case I cover "Fox on the Run", a quintessential nugget of 70's AM gold that also marked the beginning of a career second act for the band.


Saturday, August 18, 2018

Featured Review: 3 Supermen vs. Mad Girl, aka Cilgin Kiz ve uc Super Adam (Turkey, 1973)

Originally published 8/10/2014

If you’re like me, you’re first thought, upon being confronted with 3 Supermen vs. Mad Girl, is going to be, “Just what exactly is this girl so mad about?” And if you’re answer is “the unchecked proliferation of 3 Supermen movies throughout the 60s and 70s”, you could be forgiven for thinking so. Of course, blame for the near viral accretion of unwarranted 3 Supermen sequels, remakes and knockoffs over the years can be laid at the feet of various combinations of the Italians and the Turks, with 3 Supermen vs. Mad Girl being one of the entries that is apparently purely Turkish in extraction. As is so often the case, the Turks bring to the franchise that certain, ineffable magic that only they can.

Simply put, if you’re a fan of Z grade comic book movies, the first five minutes of 3 Supermen vs. Mad Girl will make your head explode. It is here, against the backdrop of sets made to the cardboard and construction paper standard now so familiar to Turkish pulp cinema enthusiasts, that we meet the titular Mad Girl (3 Dev Adam’s Mine Sun) and her army of minions in emerald green Klansmen’s robes. She is a vision in bloated bouffant wig, chunky cats eye domino mask, and Vampirella one piece. But, despite her prominent billing, she is just another subordinate, in turn taking orders from a guy whom she calls “Seytan” who sits on a throne and wears what looks like a drugstore Halloween devil mask. Without subtitles, and within the context of a movie like 3 Supermen vs. Mad Girl, it is, I hope, understandably impossible for me to say whether this is supposed to actually be Satan or just a guy in a mask. In any case, it is also in this scene that Seytan and Mad Girl introduce us to their secret weapon, a cardboard box robot with a very phallic disintegrator gun.



Again, without subtitles, it is difficult for me to determine exactly what the above described freak show actually wants. There is a briefcase that switches hands a couple times and appears to be highly coveted, yet what is in it is unclear. A mad scientist named Dr. Zarkon is called in and the robot is employed to disintegrate a train, but again to mysterious ends. Indeed, watching a Turkish action film like 3 Supermen vs. Mad Girl without subtitles provides just about the best testament I know to just how superfluous the device of the “McGuffin” can be in such films, as it is here little more than a polite nod in the direction of narrative traditions and concerns of credible cause and effect that most people coming to 3 Supermen vs. Mad Girl voluntarily -- self included -- very likely don’t give a shit about. All that matters, really, is that it is this briefcase, that robot and the schemes of that mad scientist that set in motion all of the fighting, leaping, chasing and narrow escaping that will make up the meat, potatoes and creamy dessert of 3 Supermen vs. Mad Girl's remaining 60 minutes.

But before we can have all of that, we must have our heroes, the first of whom is played by Levant Çakir, not only the star of the Zagor movies, but also 1970s Turkey’s answer to Batman. With his scrawny body and big head, Çakir is exactly the person you want to see in a form fitting pair of superhero long johns. Here he is introduced in glorious buffalo shot, swim trunked and surrounded by beach babes as Tom Jones’s vocal theme from Thunderball plays on the soundtrack -- the single most audacious act of musical thievery I have yet witnessed in Turkish cinema (which is saying a lot). Çakir’s reverie is not to last, however, as his call to action soon comes in a Mission Impossible style cassette recording bearing his instructions. Soon after, he meets up with his fellow Supermen, one of whom, in unfortunate emulation of the series’ Italian iteration, is a babbling, deaf and dumb simpleton. It is here that the red super suits come into play, those garments that render these normally abled secret agents both bullet proof and able to perform feats that suggest the positioning of a trampoline just off screen.



From this point, the film’s action proceeds apace, with “apace”, in Turkish action cinema terms, meaning that everyone on screen proceeds as if their hair were permanently on fire. A love interest for Çakir is introduced, in the agreeable person of his Bedmen Yarasa Adam costar Emel Özden, and no time is wasted in having her trussed up suggestively in the villains’ lair, awaiting rescue. As in Bedmen, the various acrobatics -- backflips, somersaults, cartwheels, etc. -- that the Supermen perform in the course of the many, many fistfights that follow appear more cosmetic than to have any strategic value, and require a lot of patience on the part of their green hooded opponents, who must wait for them to complete these antics before being punched by them. Also, since this is the 70s, there’s some nudity.

I long ago predicted that I would eventually run out of things to say about these old Turkish pop movies, and it is likely that I have said very little new in discussing 3 Supermen vs. Mad Girl. Yet I now realize that it is sometimes just good to be reminded that these movies exist and of the wonders they contain. After dutifully slogging through the worthy event movies of this past Oscar season to scant reward, I found welcome respite in this film’s swirl of color, movement and violence, virtually unmoored as they were from traditional narrative justifications or meaningful subtext. Yes, that robot’s disintegrator gun looks like a dick, but, beyond that, sometimes a cardboard box robot is just a cardboard box robot. And sometimes that’s all you need.

Friday's best pop song ever

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Pop Offensive is TONIGHT!


Yes, that's right; just when you thought your legs had stopped jitterbugging uncontrollably from my last episode, here I am to start you frugging anew with another collection of catchy and danceable tunes from around the world and throughout pop music history. It all starts at 7pm tonight, Wednesday August 15, streaming live from kgpc969.org. BE THERE!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

It's all on video.

I am well aware that I am a slouchy, soft spoken monster, a point that is mercilessly driven home whenever I have to watch a video like the one below, which chronicles my book event at Oakland's Great Good Place for Books last Friday evening. However, once your revulsion at my misshapen form subsides, you might actually glean some useful information about my new book, So Good It's Bad; for instance, that it is full of "rape, incest, torture and murder", a point that is brought up several times, and that it is in no way appropriate for your precious little bundle of joy, as it might stunt him or her and prevent them from growing up to be the unique and very special person they are destined to be.

All moribund humor aside, I owe a debt of thanks for what was truly a wonderful event to Midlife Mixtape's  Nancy Davis Kho, as fine an interlocutor as one could ask for, and to Kathleen Caldwell at A Great Good Space for welcoming us into her fine establishment--all of which is evident in the video.

Enjoy it, won't you? And if it makes you curious enough about either of my novels to actually read them, just click the cover images in the sidebar to buy the hell out of them.

Monday, August 6, 2018

A great good place to meet me


Now that my new novel, So Good It's Bad, is out and on its way into your sweaty little hands, it's time for me to hit the road and start pinching backs, slapping cheeks, kissing hands, and shaking babies in an effort to convince people to read it. And that process begins this Friday, August 10th, in that little slice of Narnia that is Oakland's Montclair District. The venue is A Great Good Place For Books, which, as you might recall, is the same venue that hosted the launch event for my first novel, Please Don't Be Waiting For Me, about this time last year. As then, I will be interviewed by Midlife Mixtape's Nancy Davis Kho, who has promised to ask the hard questions. Aside from that, I will be reading portions of the book while all the while being shushed by people afraid that I am going to reveal spoilers, answering audience questions, accusations, and prayers, and signing books--as well as showing off my ability to respond to simple commands.

This meet and greet will commence at 7pm, and, yes, there will be refreshments. All ages are welcome, though I can't guarantee that your child won't hear things that will scar him or her for life.

A Great Good Place For Books is located at 6120 La Salle Ave, Oakland  They can be reached by phone at (510) 339-8210 and by email at books@ggpbooks.com.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

It's the FRIDAY'S BEST POP SONG EVER podcast episode #9


On the latest episode of FBPSE, I cover a Pop Offensive perennial, "Italopop" by Ally. An infectious anthem celebrating the unifying power of pop music, it debuted on the world stage at Chile's Vina del Mar song festival in 2014.  This factoid affords me the opportunity to also delve into the phenomenon of international song competitions. In other words, yes, there will be Eurovision.

You can stream the episode via the link below. If you then want to hear more, you can stream any of the previous eight episodes of Friday's Best Pop Song Ever from either Stitcher or Soundcloud.


Friday's best pop song ever

Friday, July 20, 2018

Pop Offensive: All this and Kylie, too


I know I've said it before, but this time it's true. (After all, why would I lie to you -- wait, did I say would?) Wednesday's Pop Offensive was by far the most at once wildly eclectic and compulsively danceable episode yet. We literally played it all. From The Fall to the 5th Dimension, from the activist South African pop of Juluka to the apocalyptic polka pop of Israel's Teapacks, from a France Gall cover sung by a Japanese porn star to a breathy tribute to Wham's Andrew Ridgley. And, of course, we played Kylie Minogue. Why? Because Pop Offensive is one place where you never have to pretend that you don't like Kylie Minogue. I mean, seriously, dude. Everybody likes Kylie Minogue. What the hell is your problem?

Anyway, you can now stream the episode from the Pop Offensive Archives, so tuck in. And if you want to see videos of almost every song I played, check out the Pop Offensive Facebook Page.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

POP OFFENSIVE is TONIGHT!


You've been waiting for Pop Offensive episode #47 for so long... and now, here it is, sneaking up on you like a thief in the night. And as much of a hassle as it is to change your schedule at the last minute-- to postpone your wedding, heart bybass, or what have you--it's always worth it.

Because, as unpredictable as Pop Offensive's schedule is, there is always one thing about it that is completely predictable. Yes, I will endlessly plug my new book and podcast, but that's not what I mean (though I would bookmark those links, if I were you.)

What I mean is that, whichever episode of Pop Offensive you listen to, you are guaranteed to hear a meticulously curated selection of some of the most catchy, danceable and melodic pop music that this crazy world has to offer, be it released last week or harkening back to the dawn of the rock era. It's a bastion of stability in chaotic times, really, even though it itself can come off as pretty chaotic, and I can come across as pretty unstable.

So, to sum up, you owe it to yourself to live stream Pop Offensive tonight--that's Wednesday, July 18th--at 7pm from http://kgpd969.org. If you succumb to your worst impulses and go on that date with that foxy movie star instead, fret not; you will still be able to stream the archived version of the show, along with the archived version of all 46 (46!!) of the previous episodes, from http://www.kgpc969.org/pop-offensive .

Now get out of here, you little scamps, before I box your ears.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Podcast on Fire's Taiwan Noir Episode 27: Hello Dracula and The 36 Shaolin Beads


In the latest episode of Taiwan Noir, Kenny B. and I discuss Hello Dracula, Taiwan's casual, more friendly take on Mr. Dracula, and The 36 Shaolin Beads, a film I round in the dollar bin at Walgreen's and quite liked. Stream the episode now and be astounded by the rigor we bring to these arguably silly topics.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

SO BAD IT'S GOOD is GO!


Just about a year ago, I published a little book called Please Don't Be Waiting for Me. It concerned a bunch of teenage punk rockers who went to Berkeley High School by day and went to punk rock shows in San Francisco.by night. Hey, that sounds like me and my friends back in the early 80's, which is when the book is set. Then one of their friends gets brutally murdered and they end up getting chased around by homicidal Hells Angels and meth addled, racist skinheads. Ok, that never happened to me and my friends... but it could have.

Anyway, it turned out that people who read the book liked theses made up people of mine, as did I, so I decided to put them through their paces again, this time in a book called So Good It's Bad. This book starts out with a disastrous DIY band tour (something I know a lot  about) that leads to our protagonist Scott and his band mates being held hostage by a family of dangerous loonies, one of whom is a serial murderer popularly known as The Jackpot Killer. Chaos and bloodshed ensues.

Plot synopsis aside, what's most important about So Good It's Bad is that, after months of me teasing you with it, it is finally available. In fact, you can purchase it right now from Amazon by going here (though you don't necessarily have to fuck off.)

It's also important--and dreadfully so--that the book's release will kick off a flurry of promotional activity on the part of your truly. This will include a launch event that will take place in Oakland on August 10th, at which I will read from the book and write my name in your copy of it whether you want me to or not. There will likely also be interviews, podcast appearances and publicity stunts involving varying degrees of public nudity. Watch this space to keep pace, because I'm sure you'll want to witness them all, no matter how much cross-country or international travel it involves.

That's all in the future, of course. For now, all I would like for you to do is read the book', hopefully enjoy it, and recommend it to a friend or two. (Also, Good Reads and Amazon reviews are always nice, but I won't ask for those outright, because that would be unethical.)

Finally, if you are someone who likes to look at and touch things--and I mean that in the most innocent way imaginable--I think that you will find the book to be a pleasing physical artifact, as it was once again designed by my talented friend Andrew Nahem. Then again, if you find the idea of confronting an actual book in all its stark physicality utterly nauseating, there will be an eBook version, though you will have to wait a few weeks.

In summation: MY NEW BOOK IS NOW AVAILABLE. PLEASE BUY IT. I HAVE MADE THIS ENTIRE PARAGRAPH AN AMAZON LINK SO THAT YOU CAN DO SO MORE EASILY. THANK YOU.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Creature (India, 2014)


Last Monday, I went vinyl record shopping with my nephew in the East Bay, and ended up in an Indian DVD shop on University Avenue, where the voluble sales clerk talked copies of Baahubali and Ek Tha Tiger into my hands. I was grateful for this guidance, because it had been a very long time since I had seen a Bollywood movie of even remotely recent vintage—since before I started writing Funky Bollywood, to be honest—and also because I ended up liking both films.

But there was one more film that I walked out of that store with, one that I had chosen myself by virtue of the cover alone, which advertised a CGI monster movie in which beauty-turned-scream-queen Bipasha Basu faces off against a horrific part dinosaur/part man. The film’s title: Creature (also known as Creature 3D, if you are watching it in 3D—or if you are one of the characters in the movie, who is experiencing the creature as part of their natural field of vision.)


Like its title, Creature is a pretty on-the-nose affair, as are most of Indian cinema’s first stabs at a particular genre, taking the modern day monster movie, as presented by Hollywood, and stripping it down to its basic machinations. All of the expected tropes and plot points arrive right on time, from the jump scares down to the ironically portentous dialogue (“I’m glad we honeymooned here, rather than in London or Paris,” says one newlywed immediately before being torn into pieces.)

All of this is woven into an engagingly slick little package by director Vikram Bhatt (Raaz) who, armed with a budget of Rs. 18 crore (roughly 2.7 million U.S. dollars), even comes up with CGI effects that rise above passable quality. This latter makes Creature a must-see for anyone (like me) who has ever made fun of Jaani Dushman: Ek Anokhi Kahani, a film whose only purpose seems to be to make Mega-shark vs. Giant Octopus look like Jurassic Park by comparison.



The creature in question bears a slight resemblance to Ray Harryhausen’s Ymir from 20 Million Miles to Earth, and benefits considerably from the obviously great care taken in designing its movements. This is a monster whose personal mantra appears to be “Always Be Hunting”. When he is stalking his prey, he moves in a slithering crawl that is almost sickeningly visceral, then breaks into a loping gallop when it’s time to strike. Less care was taken, unfortunately, with the sound design; we’ve all heard about the ingenious combinations of sound and technique that were combined to fashion Godzilla’s iconic roar. In the case of the creature from Creature, what we are obviously hearing is a gruff voiced man yelling “ROAR” into a microphone, perhaps with his hands cupped around his mouth.

The film also seems to be holding its nose a bit in its presentation of gore, but it does give us one shot of a severed leg and, in another scene, a severed arm. And, if it is at all possible to over-react to such a sight, the actors do their earnest best to pull it off.



Of course, in addition to special effects, Creature also has a plot, and that concerns Ahana Dutt (Basu), a fiercely determined young woman who, in the wake of a family tragedy, moves to Northern India’s lush Himachal Pradesh region to realize her dream of building and operating a “boutique hotel”. This, in defiance of everyone else’s characterization of the surrounding area as a “jungle”, she names the Glendale Forest Hotel, and true to that name, it is a very Western-looking, almost chalet-style construction that could just as easily be in Northern California as the Swiss Alps.

We join the Hotel’s grand opening party in progress, where Ahana meets and immediately makes googly eyes at Karan (Pakistani dreamboat Imran Abbas), a man who shows up with an acoustic guitar despite later claiming that he is only posing as a musician, even though he has just made that one acoustic guitar sound like an entire orchestra. This was in one of only four songs in the movie, just two of which are picturized on the actors. On the DVD, each of these songs is accompanied by a super title announcing where you can download them as ringtones (you stay classy, T-Series.)


Sadly, by the time of the party, we have already been privy to the two newlyweds and one hapless maintenance man being slaughtered by the creature. Ahana is soon privy to this, too, and as the killing continues, attendance at the hotel drops, leaving her prey to another monster, the profit-hungry bankers who threaten to repossess the hotel from her.

It has to be said that the best part of Creature is Bipasha Basu’s portrayal of the very well-written character of Ahana, an admirably rugged heroine who insists on taking the lead in every battle, be it against the monster or her creditors, all while fiercely holding on to her dream of entrepreneurship. In this way, Creature sort of comes off like a sci-fi retelling of Once Upon a Time in the West, in which, rather than Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale’s Jill must protect her ranch against the predations of Godzilla. Casting Basu against Imran Abbash in all his emo-ish frailty goes even further toward establishing her as a total boss.


As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, one of the joys of watching Indian takes on genre cinema is in seeing how the chosen genre’s tropes collide with the idiosyncratic traditions of Hindi cinema. Sadly, no such joys are to be had with Creature, as the film tamps down on its Indian-ness as furiously as Ahana tries to put a Western face on her endeavors in the hospitality industry, doing so in open defiance of the wilds that surround her. This is true from the locations, which could be literally anywhere in Europe or the Northern United States, to the dialogue, roughly 40% of which is spoken in English.

It is suggested that Ahana’s actions have unleashed the monster, and that it is somehow the personification of some past sin of hers. Is Creature, then, a cautionary tale about post-diaspora Bollywood’s ever-increasing Westernization? If so, what is the monster that has been, or will be, unleashed? Until we know the answer, Creature merely comes across as a slickly engaging, though pretty generic creature feature.