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


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 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 .

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


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 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.


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.