Friday, January 12, 2018

Podcast on Fire's Taiwan Noir Episode #26: Nine Demons and Shanghai Thirteen

Overseeing our respective media empires takes up a lot of time in the lives of Kenny B and myself--so much that we allowed six whole months to pass between episodes of Taiwan Noir. I would say that this was inexcusable if I did not so desperately want you to excuse it. Because, if you didn't, you would miss out on this latest episode, which I think is one of our finest.

Under discussion is famed martial arts director Chang Cheh. Now, as I say in the show, I am no great fan of Chang's, but I am willing to give him props when he gets it right. And I think he pretty much gets it right with the two film we're talking about in this episode: Nine Demons (right, the one with Gary and Joey) and Shanghai Thirteen. To my mind these are two of Chang's most enjoyable films. Check it out, won't you?

And if, by the time you finish the episode, you find that you have not had quite enough of Ken and I, check out Podcast on Fire's jumbotronic Christmas episode, in which fellow co-hosts Tom K-W, East Screen West Screen's Paul Fox, and myself compete for Ken's approval in an Asian cinema-themed pub quiz. (I don't want to spoil it for you, but, if you're the gambling type, I wouldn't lay money down on yours truly, who came in a respectable fourth out of four.)

That should satisfy you until next time, which I promise will not be that far off. We're already planning episode #27 as I write, and it's going to be super boss. Believe it!

Friday's best pop song ever

Monday, January 1, 2018

Looking toward the future

It’s no understatement to say that 2017 was a year that few of us will ever forget—and whose forgetting will be welcome for those of us who can achieve it. Fortunately, among all the stuff that the year contained, there were those rare distractions that buffered our descent into, in some cases, denial and, in others, a sort of tense, provisional resignation.

In my case, I found succor in the usual dusty corners of obscurity while at the same time making occasional, paradoxical appeals for public acclaim. The most momentous of these latter endeavors was the release of my second book, and first novel, Please Don’t Be Waiting For Me, which came out in June and continues to elicit kind words from every corner of the internet—as well as in the world of actual humans in all their nauseating tactility. If you enjoyed my first book, Funky Bollywood, I think it’s safe to say that you might enjoy the new one, even though, rather than describing crazy old Bollywood movies, I am instead describing the early days of the San Francisco punk scene as seen through the eyes of a picaresque group of fictionalized teenaged ne’er do wells. Also, there are murders.

In addition to this, there was the departure of my co-host Jeff Heyman from Pop Offensive, which made me the sole host and producer of the program. While I have struggled to master the couple of extra buttons I have to push, I think that I am settling into my new role pretty well and hope—in the show’s fourth year—to continue bringing you the best in overlooked world pop. Somewhat augmenting the good work I am doing at PopOff, is my brand new podcast Friday’s Best Pop Song Ever, which, while taking it’s name from one of 4DK’s recurring features, is in no way intended to replace that feature. I see FBPSE as being somewhat pioneering within the context of podcasts that I am involved in, in that it’s episodes are only 10-15 minutes long, rather than lasting as long as its hosts’ overstrained voices can yammer on before giving out.

As for my consumption of culture, I have spent the past two weeks trying to check off the remaining entries on my “must see” list for the year, which means that, in a very short period, I have watched Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri¸ Lady Bird, I, Tonya, and The Disaster Artist. Given this was one of the most exceptional runs of my moviegoing career, I feel compelled to say that 2017, while being a shitty year for so much else, was a very good year for movies—and considering other favorites of mine like Kong: Skull Island, Atomic Blonde, Get Out, and Baby Driver, genre movies in particular. Meanwhile, the fact that I was somewhat less thrilled by Wonder Woman than literally everyone else is more an indication of my being burnt out by superhero movies—especially those of the DC/Zack Snyder variety—than it is the fault of the movie itself. Of all the costumed hero capers on offer this year, only Dr. Strange awakened within me some sense of why I continue to dutifully attend these movies like some kind of bitch slave of Stan Lee.

Ah, but don’t think the scant gratification I have achieved as a member of the moviegoing public means that I have turned my back on the thrills to be found in the cobweb enshrouded archives of world pop cinema. To wit, this year has seen me cover everything from an all-black cast horror film from the 1940s to an East German beach party movie, in addition to revisiting such reliable founts of filmic ecstasy as 1960s Lebanese pop films, the Punjabi punch ups of Sultan Rahi, and Soviet space opera. You see, like that wad of gum you stick under the couch, I see those films that fell through the cracks in official film scholarship as simply being there for later enjoyment. Thinking now about all the odd movies that are currently passing below our notice as we fret about the future of the world and try not to touch each other inappropriately, I get the spine-tingling sense that comes with anticipating pleasures delayed. It’s enough to make me want to muddle through this current mess with both my humanity and capacity for joy intact.

Hey, man. Whatever it takes.