Tuesday, January 24, 2006

51st Anniversary (Every 1's a Winner!)

This my 51st Blog? Well then I have the pleasure of ushering in the next 50, at least (I'm just getting started!) by announcing that Webster Hodges--Webster Hodges! (an Ellingtonian if ever there was one, apparently) of Stamford Conn. wins a copy of my new Film and TV Soundtracks DVD in grateful acknowledgement of his timely punchline in the service of the Lucy Chase Williams anecdote as related in my last posting:

To recap, riflewoman Lucy sez to the otherwise exclusively testosterone-fueled Yale Rifle Team, "For you guys, this is masturbation...but what does that make it for me?"

"Manliccher bolt-action!"

A hearty wiggle of the wozzle to Webster for waxing witty..a DVD is winging its way to you as we speak!

"This is the 51st State...of the You Essay"
-- from The The's "Infected" album...thanks to Matt Johnson--the Other MJ--and Stevo for sharing with us...




Anonymous Nom De Plume said...

Spam Blue Around The Rind...

1/25/2006 9:12 AM  

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Winchester '71

From the NY Times yesterday comes the sad news of the closing of New Haven's beloved Winchester rifle and shotgun factory--sad for the 200 or so employees to be laid off by the U.S. Repeating Arms Company, makers and merchants since 18 ought something of ye famous Winchester repeating rifle, the How-the-West-Was-Won weapon ' o choice of the eponymous Duke in John Ford's "Stagecoach" (in fact a bizarre 10 foot tall bronze statue of John Wayne stands in the lobby of this landmark Conn. firearms factory--the very same Big Bad John who repeatedly squashed Zappa's haut chapeau at the Whiskey a Go Go many many years ago, according to "The Real Frank Zappa" tome). JW's not the only Duke out there of course, but as Joe Williams & Lambert Hendricks and Ross so elegantly put it on "Sing Along With Basie"--"Real Royal Blood/Is In Real Small Amount!"--you got Duke Wayne, you got Duke Ellington, you got Duke Snider, you got the Duke of Earl (and the Duke of Prunes, pace Frank)--and you got Duka Delite a/ka/ Julia Heyward, my former Gods and Monsters vocalist (the Duka moniker stems from her Downtown Diva days) with whom I recently buried the hatchet (but not in her head!) after many years incommunicado (these divas sure are a sensitive breed)...and Brian Wilson claims in his "Wouldn't It Be Nice" autobiog that Elvis called him "Duke" repeatedly upon first introduction, as if to ever so gently put the King's leaden imprimatur on just Who Was Who in the Royal Rock Order of Peck(ers), mid '60's U.S. division. And Beach Boy Brian (a royal name if ever there was one, a la Brian Boru, go ahead and google it) reciprocated to El in his lyrics to "Do You Remember (All the Guys Who Gave Us Rock 'n Roll)", to whit--"Elvis Presley is the King!"

Anywho, thought I would share with you a 100% genuwine little anecdote (no James Frey-ish dissembling from this boyo) about the Winchester-Olin factory (Olin's the co. that makes the, uh, ordnance...a word we're sadly all too familiar with here after what seems our endless Iraqi misadventure). Return with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, namely; my moment on the firing line of the subterranean rifle range of the said soon-to-be-shuttered Winchester plant--a decaying, slate-grey industrial mausoleum (the Northeast is littered with 'em) devoted to the manufacture of antiquated killing implements (for sport and for blood sports, Gatsby old sport), nestled in the high hills of the bucolic Elm City...

'Twas in the early fall of '71, I had just moved into my cramped single room in Yale's Jonathan Edwards College (the so-called "Music College" back in the day).

I had joined the Yale Rifle Team as a Freshman the year before--hell, I was an actual Yale Letter Man, having established myself as a crack shot at various summer camps in my youth, my fixation on riflery the result of a congenital indifference to most contact sports ('cept one)...So I was more than ready to ride roughshod with my rifle team rowdies over whatever ruffian riff-raff dared riffle our rifles. (Oh yes, there was one woman involved in my second season with the team name of Lucy Chase Williams, who not only was a good shot, but a gal after my own heart, possessor of an encyclopedic knowledge of le cinema fantastique...in fact Bill Moseley and I handed over the reins of our ongoing Things That Go Bump in the Night midnight movie operation to sweet Lucy upon graduation,,,and damn if the girl didn't later go on to write a biography of witchfinder general Vincent Price). Lucy also possessed a saucy, acid tongue (the way I like 'em) and once made a pithy comment on the (generally considered) masculine propensity for pumping lead, shooting irons, and blowing things up reeeeal good; namely: "For you guys this is masturbation...but what does that make it for me?" (Pop Quiz Time: the author of the funniest punchline submitted to me here at gary@garylucas.com will win a DVD of excerpts from my film and television soundtracks for ABC News, HBO, Showtime etc.)

So yes I was on the A-Team, on constant call to compete at shooting matches against all collegiate comers with my Yale Rifle Team confreres.

Then one crisp Saturday night in the fall of '71 I ingest about a half a gram of black Afghani hash, for experimental research purposes only (the custom of my kinetic kind in those days--kids, don't try this at home!), and then venture forth to Woolsey Hall to check out the Yale Symphony Orchestra wrassling with Schoenberg's "Gurre Lieder", a monumental neo-Wagnerian pre-12-tone old warhorse featuring massed batallions of singers, balalaikas, 137 kettle drums (just kidding)--and midway through the evening I start experiencing wave upon wave of nausea from the hash I had eaten...coupled with a steep, rapid, vertiginous ascent into the aether as the THC-laced dromedary dung kicked in and began surfing my blood stream... and damn if I wasn't high as a mofo--so high, in fact, as to risk passing out amongst the tony audience attending on this high art ritual gawk...and so excusing myself, I exit rather hastily and rather shaky on my pins, pursued by a bear, or perhaps a phantom bulldog...bulldog...bow wow wow ('sfunny to recall this now, as the most famous coffeeshop franchise in Amsterdam is--but of course!-- The Bulldog)...and somehow I woozily shmoozily ooze my way back to my little crib in JE, a room which had been painted a bilious shade of day-glo, Funkadelic Green by the previous occupant (Kurt Schmoke, the actual future Mayor of Baltimore, who--and this is where it REALLY gets cosmic--has been an avid proponent for the legalization of cannabis! So my little room, "an everywhere", had kind of a history to it...hence those day-glo walls).

Anyway I pass out on my kingsize Posturpedic "palette on the floor" into total blackout oblivion... and then the next thing I know is:

Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrng! Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrng!

The phone pops off and it's 8:30am Sunday morning and a distant voice on the other end galvanizes me into bleary-eyed wakefullness, hectoring me with "You idiot, where are you?? Don't you remember we're shooting against the Navy today??? Get your ass up the hill to the Winchester rifle range pronto--we start shooting at 9am!"

So I lurch up out of bed, jump into yesterday's duds without nary a rinse and a comb out, and stagger up Science Hill in a blind stupor to the Winchester-Olin joint...grab a bag of potato chips and a Coke in their cafeteria for sustenance (my typical breakfast fare in those days--Carvel Vanilla ice cream interlarded with Carmel Corn was a good 'un too)...

and next thing I know my buddies are surrounding me, literally carrying me downstairs to the basement rifle range. They kit me out with the de rigeur padded shooting jacket, and then place a .22 in my hands...

I assume the prone position, with the nose of my rifle swaying in my shaky grip...stare down the barrel...peer through the site...and zero in on the distant target...

and in a Zen Beatific Rush, I hold my breath...steady myself...and squeeze off 12 rounds just like one two three...

And then it's over...

the target comes hurtling back towards me on its wire pulley...

and upon close examination--I'd shot 12 out of 12 perfect Bull's Eyes.

What they call a "Possible"...Something hitherto totally Impossible for me.

And there but for the Grace of etc.

"Winchester Cathedral...Yer lifting me UP!"

ps. we beat the bell-bottomed trousers off the Navy that day!




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Sunday, January 15, 2006

More Kicks Than Pricks in 2006

Gary, Bruce Springsteen, and Caroline Sinclair at the after-party for the NY Guitar Festival's "Nebraska Project" show, The Wintergarden, NYC, 1/14/06

photo by Bob Jacobson | Click to enlarge (hosted by flickr)

Played this humongous tribute to Bruce Springsteen's "Nebraska" album in front of 2-3000 folks at the Wintergarden in the World Financial Center here last night, as part of the opening of the NY Guitar Festival--and man, what a great night! I played this space before (right across the road from Ground Zero) as part of a Tribute to the late great Arthur Russell in '92, and also played "The Golem" there a few years later--it is an elegant space, a giant fishbowl-like atrium with real live palm trees shooting up to the rafters (kinda like Atocha Station in Madrid)-- but this concert was something else again!

Organized by creative whiz-kid and accomplished guitarist himself David Spelman, the night boasted a wonderful lineup of performers: Michelle Shocked, Vernon Reid, Jesse Harris, Lenny Kaye, Dan Zanes, Martha Wainwright, Marc Ribot, Chocolate Genius, Laura Cantrell, and many other luminaries, and it was nice to see old friends like WFMU's Irene Trudell and NY Times scribe Peter Keepnews there (they first met by the way on the subway en route to the shoot for my "Skin the Rabbit" video on Jan. 2nd 1993, and married a couple years later). Also in attendance were artists John Bowman and Anne Shostrom, plus my old pal Johnny 99 who was at my wedding to Caroline 21 years ago here, whence David Johansen performed with his Buster Poindexter band for free as his wedding gift to us. For my number last night I did a tres psychedelique solo electronic version of "State Trooper", the very doomy, (Charlie) Stark(weather) Suicidesque track that was used as the closing music in a Sopranos episode some time ago, and I pulled all the stops out (like E. Power Biggs) and then some--and the Boss himself showed up to the astonished delight of the assembled multitudes to put a capper on the evening. Bruce sang a Woody Guthrie song with the ensemble en masse at the end, and was extremely complimentary on my performance backstage (told me at the Stone Pony a couple years ago that my guitar playing and arrangement of his music was "phenomenal" when I had Gods and Monsters there to perform "Ain't Got You" from his Tunnel Of Love album for his Light of Day charity event--which really made my year!) Caroline was over the moon to finally meet the Boss as Bruce is one of her faves, and I have a nice picture of Bruce, Caroline and myself snapped by my guitar tech Bob Jacobson which should be booted up here imminently soon as web mistress Tanya gets back from Maine at the end of this week, along with some other miscellaneous folderol...I'm back at the NY Guitar Festival on Jan. 25th at Merkin Hall in Lincoln Center to play at the Tribute to Skip James show, this time I get a whole set to myself and will bring Gods and Monsters and special guest Felice Rosser along for the show.




Anonymous Steven Pease said...

Hey Gary,

Caught you during sound chek on saturday at the financial center. Nice interpretation, enjoyed the use of effects. Were you using a phase recorder? What other gear/pedals were you using? Didn't think to ask when I met you briefly. Regardless, enjoyable.

Thanks. Steve.

1/16/2006 12:38 PM  

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Friday, January 06, 2006

A Bunch of 5's for 2005

The obverse of the preceeding end 'o year encomiums...encompassing some of the worst trends and developments I've observed and/or suffered through (Poooor Gary!):

1. Bush--had a whack at his daddy and his Iraq interventionist policies on my first Gods and Monsters album in '92 in the form of a jaunty little number entitled "Whip Named Lash" (sung by Rolo from The Woodentops, who I hear tell have reformed--wot, with Benny Staples and Alice?) Thurston Moore put it up awhile ago on one of his agit-prop sites, so now I'm gonna boot it up into the free mp3 downloads section on my homepage soon as it's needed now more than ever (or not, UB da judge, yah boooo)...as the Last Poets so eloquently put it: THIS IS MADNESS, people...geopolitical world historical events spiraling so ugly out-of-control that if it weren't for japesters like Jon Stewart, Larry David, Ali G, Dave Chappelle and a coupla boxes of old SCTV clips to provide me with a few nourishing, life sustaining guffaws on a daily basis, I'd...I'd... (just kidding).

2. Lifeless cultural artifacts abounding 'oer the greensward of life--freeze-dried, second-hand simulacra of the numinous...on close inspection 'taint it true that very, very, VERY few current films, plays, musical tunes, novels, cell phone ringtones (even) (apart from the Crazy Frog of course) provide one with that certain pleasurable, involuntary spinal ting ting tingle that Nabokov maintained was the thinking person's own inner bullshit detector registering the relative artistic worth/merit/longterm duree of the objet in question. Perhaps Nabokov's Spinal Tapian principle is where Rob White, William Castle's inventive scenarist/wholesale appropriator/retailer of whatever horror film thema swirled about in the early 60's zeitgeist, lifted his creative creature concept for "The Tingler"--perhaps. A great underrated Castle film (not an actual Castle Film--remember them? Used to project all the Universal '30s horror greats in edited 8mm Castle Film prints in my basement, to the delight of my chums), "The Tingler" features fellow Yalie (yes) Vincent Price injecting himself with LSD-25 in a locked room in a mortuary in order to best arouse his innermost demons to fester bester tester his theory that the (one would have thought somewhat intangible) quality of human fear can actually transmogrify itself into a large, scaly lizard Price here very scientifically dubs The Tingler (yeeha!), a phantasm that lurks, somnambulant and miniscule (kinda like phlogiston) within one's spinal column, growing larger and more ferociously palpable as one becomes progressively more frightened--and that a person's ability to scream cathartic screams will (but of course!) shrink the lizard back down to nothingness...and should (for the sake of a silly plot point, if nothing else) one be unable to scream if one was, say, tragically born a mute (lotsa mutes and faux mutes populate the dark side of Hollywood, spilling over into non-horror genre fare such as Preminger's great "The Man With the Golden Arm"), said inability to sing like a canary would result in The Tingler growing so large within one's spinal column as to snap one's vertebrae like dry twigs. Life tingles ...and then you die. A proto "Alien" concept, actually. (The Enemy Within). Cronenberg fans take note. There is nothing to fear but fear itself...

Sorta the inverse of the innermost workings of Vlad the (Butterfly) Impaler's spinal seismograph, where the work in question--let's posit Terry Southern's mythic "quality lit" genre, for the nonce--would automatically register itself as actual Quality Lit PER SE upon perusal by the reader, courtesy of a pleasurable spinal frisson, rictus, or spasm. As Wyndham Lewis wrote: "Laughter is the mind sneezing". The headbone connects to da--backbone!

3. The ongoing destruction of my nabe by greedy realtors--I refer to the extreme west village of Manhattan, north of Christopher Street, below 14th. You may well know the area, and the story ('s an old story). Here the Village Green Preservation Society may yet prove a little too toothless, and a little too late, in their valiant attempts to roll back, King Canute-like, the rising tide of development, but really, how can one stop the under-the-table exchange of coin that fuels such urban renewal scams? If there was true love afoot for the beauty of the past, perhaps 'twas possible. But not in this gilded age. Sic transit gloria blah blah. Resulting in the semi-destruction of the character of the very neighborhood that enticed me to live here for some 29 years. Sturdy old nineteenth century warehouses at the edge of Perry and West Streets replaced with 3-count them-3 hideous Richard Meier designed steel and glass luxury co-op towers that look like out of context updates (barely) of 50's Park Avenue corporate highrises (think of the frigid futuristic city built specially for Jacques Tati's "Playtime"-- which ultimately bankrupted him--and you wouldn't be far off the mark). And please don't start me on the Gansevoort Hotel (in beautiful "Heinekenplein"). And to their utter surprise (and the schadenfreude of le guttersnipe internationale), many of the folks who leaped in to occupy said multi-million dollar co-ops (Martha Stewart, Calvin Klein, and--hey hey hey-- Vinnie "Neocon" Gallo) have found their brand new apts. plagued with much faulty plumbing, wiring, leaks, and floods...perhaps the ghosts of the many long departed souls who once frequented the very same westside docks that these highrises have replaced are restless, and enjoying themselves... on the plus side, the new pedestrian piers, playgrounds, and riverwalk that have replaced the old docks are delightful to stroll. A chachun son goute. Like Guy Debord, who apparently used to literally roll and revel in the mud of obscure parts of old Paris in an alcoholic swoon ( nostalgie de la boue actuelle!), or Jonathan Richman, for that matter-- "I still love the Old World".

Forward :-)



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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

5 for 2005

l to r: Linda Shanson, John Stewart, Baluji Shrivastav, Gary, unidentified fans, Leela Shrivastav, Caroline backstage at the 12 Bar Club, London

singer/songwriter Timothy Parkes and Gary at the 12 Bar

unidentified fan, Gary, and singer/songwriter Lucy Kitt

Gary on stage | photo by Alan Rowden

Click a photo to enlarge (hosted by flickr)

Sorry for the long hiatus from my last posting, but, well, sometimes it's best to keep schtum until the thing in itself rears up Alien-like, erect and bristling and demanding a ritual sacrifice of time and energy with a burning desire to establish friendly contact with the outside world again (Are you receiving me? Over to you...)

...which is to say, I have been insanely busy, back from London now where the old year was wrung out and hung to dry on a hook on a houseboat in Cheyne Walk in the company of Caroline and my Russian friend Yuliana and her houseboat confreres, who broke out copious amounts of Taitinger and cartons of fluted glasses and we all made merry as I jammed with several female musicians in the hold of the houseboat, including an ace bass clarinet player (had a really nice jam with Baluji Shrivastav, master sitar player, and his lovely wife Linda at their palatial digs in Highbury the night before)-- and now with the New Year flying in on wings of song it feels good to be back in NYC again, o yes...my pal Dick Heath made it all the way down to London with his lovely daughter from the University of Loughborough (Nottingham) with a special guitar designed by Owen Pedgley for me to road-test at my 12-Bar gig last Thursday night (sounded good too). Night before Caroline and I celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary (oy). And mad Scotsman John Stewart had a loverly New Year's Eve knees-up at his Hammersmith abode immediately before our houseboat hijinx, graced by 3 lovely ladies (one imported from his University of East Anglia days, Caroline's alma mater as well--she majored in Anarchist Philosophy :-)). Special mention should be made of my pal Mike Barnes, Beefheart biographer and music critic formidable, we spent a splendid evening together sipping Bailey's and regaling each other with tales of the music wars, Mahler's Ruckertlieder ("Mitternacht" is my favorite) and Mike gifted me with a superb version of Mahler's Second Symphony in a new recording by Claudio Abbado...special mention should also be made of masterful high art photographer and dear old friend 'o mine Anton Corbijn, with whom we dined Monday morning at Cafe Violette in England's Lane, and who is hard at work preparing a film about Joy Division lead singer/suicide Ian Curtis, which he will direct...he's already got Samantha Morton lined up for this one--Go Anton! His b&w expressionist video for Propaganda's "Doctor Mabuse" track is one of my favorite clips (and not just because he included a photo of me in his "Star Trak" book. That inverted photo, the cover of my 1992 "Gods and Monsters" album, with the World Trade Center in the background reflected in a muddy pool of water on the Christopher Street docks, haunts me still, and in fact is one of 2 shots with the Twin Towers in the frame taken during my ongoing escapades--check the back cover of The Du-Tels album "No Knowledge of Music Required"...Peter Stampfel and I looking most congenial in front of you know what ). Mention should also be made of the celebratory dinner we had with Propaganda singer Claudia Brucken and OMD vocalist Paul Humphreys at Jimmy's, a great Thai joint on Finchley Road hitherto unknown to me--Claudia and Paul were on their way to spending New Year's holiday in Mallorca with Andy Bell of Erasure. Their fabulous new Onetwo album is nearing completion, and as a fellow collaborator on the project with them I can't wait to hear the final mixes...

Big big thanks and major props are in order also here to indefatigable web-mistress Tanya who has helped me over many many years with the ongoing website maintenance, including this here blog--and may I direct your attention dear people to the new free mp3 downloads section she has created at the top of my home page--there should be a few more choice tracks/works in progress put up there soon (and if you got ears, you gotta listen...)

and now we come to the payoff mix...

off the top of my head, here's my Top 5 of 2005 list (maybe I'll get around to limning another 5 soon-- but geez, these things take time):

1. "The Brazilian Girls" debut album (Verve)...Has provided me many many hours of pleasure, especially rewarding close listening (epic and precise use of sampling from disparate sources, including the great Astor Piazolla, intermeshed with dance-floor grooves from all over the map) as well as making great ambient background party music (also a wonderful adjunct to sex) . The multi-lingual gamine Sabina Sciubba has such great erotic charm, personality, and, well, verve, hypnotically compelling in concert with her stylish/over-the-top threads and persona, and only a churl could resist the silly singalong reggae chorus of "Pussy Pussy Pussy Marijuana" and the 4-on-the-floor orgasmic rush of "Don't Stop"...saw them at Joe's Pub last year, and SXSW this year, and they keep getting better and better. A perfect paradigm of the polyglot new yawk melting pot, with, appropriately, no actual native New Yorkers in the band. They make effective civic ambassadors to the word, encapsulating the cosmopolitan thrust and parry of our city better than any other band I can think of right now.

2."My Hustler" and "Chelsea Girls" DVD bootlegs...the Warhol executors are sitting tight (haha) on the celluloid output from the Golden Age (mid to late 60's) of the Factory, but these 2 boots somehow escaped from the vaults with love and definitely bring it all back home (special thanks to Bob Strano for his sourcing and sleuthing). I remember viewing the first film at Yale in the early seventies around the time Paul Morrissey came up to New Haven, and this Chuck Wein/Morrissey/Andy throwdown hasn't aged at all badly. Featuring a stunning tour de force by Ed Hood as the motor-mouth jade who imports blonde stud Paul America to Fire Island through the agency of the mythical Dial-a-Hustler. A stationary camera parked midway between Ed's summer house and the beach turns 180 degrees on its axis throughout the first half of the film, alternately lingering lovingly on Paul and his older hustler friend sprawled out on the beach greasing each other up, and then swiveling back to clock Ed chatting with his female companion--and all the while the Hood-ed one carries on a running monologue (exquisitely campy and loopy) on the care and feeding of hustlers (my bass player Ernie Brooks and Talking Head Jerry Harrison--soon to be Modern Lovers-- were pals with Ed up in Cambridge in the late 60's, when the 2 musicians were roommates at Harvard. Danny Fields introduced them to Ed.). Second half of this amusing folderol is a static shot of the 2 hustlers grooming and lovingly anointing themselves apres la plage in the brightly lit interior bathroom moderne of Ed's pad, studiously applying (without a trace of irony) various moisturizers, perfumes, oils and unguents for over 25 minutes in an orgy of narcissistic abandon...Yeah!

"Chelsea Girls" was new to me, and this boot a really sharp print of it...unfortunately the dual side by side vignettes do not keep both sequences' soundtrack volume levels up and bleeding into one another, as the film was originally meant to be screened in theaters, but rather keeps one vignette's audio track all the way up at the muted expense of the other--so it is frustrating indeed not to be able to hear Rene Ricard's wry witticisms in tandem with the always amusing repartee of the aforementioned Ed Hood, with whom he shares a scene--malheureusement, whoever dubbed this DVD off the film prints decided to keep that particular vignette silent. You do however get to hear the very commonplace (read vulgar) adenoidal palaver of International Velvet (Susan Bottomly) in all her glory playing off the domineering charisma of the great Mary Woronov--and Brigid Polk blazes throughout. The opening scene of Nico cutting her bangs for 20 minutes and the closing sequence where that other great Warhol motor-mouth Ondine impersonates the Pope and then viciously throws a drink in the face of his female scene companion (reportedly Warhol's favorite sequence) are worth all the other silent frustrations.

3. Michel Houellebecq's "H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life" (Believer Books)--An intense book length essay on why Lovecraft endures, now more than ever, with the added bonus of "The Call of Cthulhu" and "The Whisperer in Darkness", 2 of the master's "great texts". Hate to say it but Houellebecq's new novel "The Possibility of an Island" was a disappointment after the pleasures of "Platform" (although his first person account of his radical comedian protagonist--an obvious stand-in for Houellebecq--and his hit show "We Prefer The Palestinian Orgy Sluts" brought a smile). But after dissing Joyce and Nabokov in the early pages of the book as mere wordsmiths and not acknowledging them as the great enchanters that they are, I was waiting to see what MH had up his sleeve, and am sad to report it appears not a whole hell of alot this time out. His riff on the scary Raelians (here re-christened the Elohim--not that far afield from HG Well's Eloi, come to think of it) never really catches fire, and he seems more than ever to have adopted Lovecraft's technique of lots of faux-scientific technical exposition ("Platform" was full of this, concerning the intricacies of the French mass tourist trade) alternating with autumnal, elegaic riffs concerning the wistful mortality of his aging melancolique radical comic-- whereas Lovecraft concerns himself with the imminent takeover of the world by the Old Ones, dovetailing lush pastoral descriptions of Arkham, Miskatonic University, Antarctica, and so forth). And here, MH fails to enchant. Houellebecq's book on Lovecraft book though is something else again (and by the way, I noticed Lovecraft's mention in the second tale of "the Atlantean high-priest Klark Ash-ton" during a role call of Lovecraft's monstrous mythical gods--a veiled reference no doubt to Lovecraft's good friend, the fantasy author and painter Clark Ashton Smith). And I would add that anyone with more than a passing interest in fantasy, horror and the supernatural could do no better than to score a copy of the Library of America's cool compendium of the best of H.P. Lovecraft. Like all of the LOA's output (their compilations of Isaac Bashevis Singer, Saul Bellow, George S. Kaufmann, and Phillip Roth are must-haves) the text is elegantly laid out in handsome, hardback bound editions. In fact I would put their Lovecraft "Tales" book right up there alongside Houellebecq's polemic in my Top 5 of 2005-- definitely.

4. Jack Clayton's"The Innocents", finally out on DVD--with a script by Truman Capote, based on Henry James's "Turn of the Screw", this proved to be one of the scariest ghost stories ever witnessed by yours truly, I'd rank it right up there with the late great Robert Wise's "The Haunting" (sad to hear Wise passed away this year. Fantastic director--and did you know he was the editor on "Citizen Kane"?). Deborah Kerr is totally affecting as a possibly mad nanny whose two youthful British charges may or may not be possessed by the ghosts of the great house's former murderous occupants. Beautifully shot black and white cinematography, sweeping interior and exterior tracking shots of the foreboding and eerie old house, and phenomenal ensemble work. They just don't make them like this anymore, sad to say (and please don't tell me about "The Ring"). Capote rules. Check this out pronto.

5. The original "King Kong" on DVD--excellent sharp transfer from a pristine London film archive print that retained the original censored 35mm footage--Kong sniffing his fingers while disrobing Fay Wray, Kong grinding natives underfoot--now restored as an integral part of the film instead of the grainy 16mm clips that were cut into a not so great American 35mm print by Janus Films in their 1969 "restored" version. This double disc includes a wonderful bonus DVD with a long (couple hours) documentary by Peter Jackson on the making of the original "Kong", which contains a hardcore recreation of the infamous deleted spider-pit sequence, reputedly destroyed by Merian C. Cooper after audiences at the preview of his test reel found this footage too strong to handle. Jackson actually used some of the original Kong models (and built others after x-raying the mouldering old things) and also applied ye olde frame-by-frame stop motion technique instead of the (to this reporter) soulless and lackluster CGI process to create an intense little frisson of giant spiders and tentacled insectoid creepy-crawlies devouring the hapless sailors at the bottom of the ravine-- Jackson pulls this sequence off with such aplomb you'd swear he'd found the actual mythic lost footage. Haven't seen his new Kong yet (which I hear is a turkey). but will check it out sooner than later.

bye for now!




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