17 Pygmies Rare LA showcase

You are hereby advised under threat of grave regret to come out and see 17 Pygmies in a rare live appearance as part of the International Pop Overthrow West Coast festival. Also on the bill, the delightful Prix!

August, 7 2007 at Spaceland
1717 Silver Lake Blvd., Los Angeles, 90026
Cost : $8.00

IPO Los Angeles
www.clubspaceland.com 323-661-4380
8:30 Io Perry
9:00 The Unbearables
9:30 17 Pygmies
10:00 The Red Button
10:30 Astra Heights
11:00 The Prix

Life In Berlin By The Numbers

As we all know, statistics lie, but sometimes not. While it’s true that I take a pretty dark view of life in Berlin, I was quite amazed at what I consider the accuracy of this survey, done by the European Commission’s Directorate-General of Regional Policy, measuring people’s happiness with the city they live in.

75 cities in the EU, plus Croatia and Turkey, were surveyed by Gallup-Hungary, and the results tabulated into some very nice graphs. Maybe it’s because the results match my prejudices, but I think this is a fasciating document.

Between 75 and 95 percent of the responses indicated that people were happy to live in the cities they lived in. First four places went to Groningen (NL), Krakow, Leipzig, and Alborg (DK). Berlin came in 57th, just below Rotterdam and Torino and just above Brussels, Warsaw, and Ankara. Even so, the results look like about 80% were happy.

Less positive were the responses to “It is easy to find a good job,” with Berlin scoring over 75% in “somewhat disagree” and “strongly disagree.” It’s 68th from the top in this, below Dortmund and Leipzig and above Kosisce (Slovakia) and Bialystock, Poland. It looks like only about 10% strongly or somewhat agreed with this statement. Given the local unemployment figures, this is hardly a surprise.

Also unsurprising was Berlin’s high rating in “It is easy to find good housing at a reasonable price,” what with the current real-estate glut. We wound up near the top in this one, number seven under Leipzig, Aalborg, Braga (Portugal), Dortmund, Oviedo (Spain) and Bialystock, and above Newcastle Upon Tyne and Oulu (Finland). At the bottom? Again no surprise; Paris, with close to 100% of the respondents somewhat or strongly disagreeing. Other bad values are Dublin, Luxemburg, and Bucharest.

Next up was “Foreigners are well-integrated,” and again Berlin dwells in the cellar, 73rd, above Stockholm and Malmö. A little over 50% disagreed here, and only a little over 25% seem to have agreed. On top? Cluj-Napoca, Romania; Miskolic, Hungary; Pietra Neamt, Romania; and Burgas, Bulgaria. I’ve never even heard of these places, to be honest, but I think it shows that the melange of cultures in these countries, absent the kind of tensions that tore the former Yugoslavia apart, plus the poverty that all inhabitants are likely to share, will bring people together, rather than apart. Certainly that was my experience in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria, in the four or five days I spent there. Shortly after my arrival at the American University, where I did some journalism workshops, I was up on the roof of the building with two students waiting for my professor-friend’s class to end, and the dark, swarthy one turned out to be Bulgarian and the red-headed freckled one turned out to be Turkish, and they pointed to the distant mountains and said “That’s Macedonia over there, where people are killing each other over this. It just doesn’t make sense to us.” And, indeed, the rest of my time there bore that out splendidly. Berlin’s poverty in the middle of a nation of affluence, though, plus the well-documented urge to blame the Other, doesn’t bode well for this sort of unity.

“Air pollution is a big problem” is one where Berlin might have scored higher not very long ago, but here we wind up pretty much smack in the middle, with a little over 50% agreeing and about 30% disagreeing, wedged inbetween Ostrava (Czech Republic) and Glasgow. The continuing reduction of coal heating and (yes, Ostalgics, get over it) the disappearance of the Trabant have a lot to do with this, I’d say.

Next up is satisfaction with the public transportation system, and, flash strikes notwithstanding, Berlin’s ninth-place position only makes me wonder how great getting around top-rated Helsinki must be. Do they have stewardesses serving refreshments? Vienna, Rennes, Hamburg, Munich, Leipzig, Dortmund and…Frankfurt on Oder?… all beat us out, too, but all this says to me is Germany’s pretty good with this stuff. I’ve never had any problem getting around any German city I’ve been in, which is more than I can say for Copenhagen or London, which are well below Berlin.

“Green spaces such as parks and gardens” is another place I’d expect good numbers for Berlin. We allegedly have more green space per square kilometer than any other city in Europe, thanks in part to huge forests like the Grunewald and Berliner Stadtforst being included in the city limits. And oddly, we only score 22 in this, perhaps because the rest of the city’s so grim, but atop us are such hard-to-beat places as London, Vienna, Munich, Brussels, and Glasgow, who relentlessly promote their parks to their residents, which Berlin doesn’t really do. Athens, Naples, and Sofia (without doubt the ugliest city I’ve seen on this continent) are the cellar-dwellers here.

“I feel safe in this city” was one I was curious about, given the fact that there’s so little serious crime here, yet Berliners generally are paranoid beyond belief: do they lock the front door of your apartment building at 8? They used to where I lived, and it was a pain in the ass. Yet there we are at 47, although it looks like close to 80% agree with the statement, and something less than 20% disagree. But if you look at the chart, it seems that Europeans overwhelmingly feel safe, so the ranking isn’t so important until you get to the very bottom, with significant fear being registered in Bucharest, Athens, Sofia, Naples and especially Istanbul.

Given Germans’ hypochondriac tendencies, I wasn’t overly optimistic for the graph of people satisfied with the health care offered by hospitals, but here’s one where (knock on wood) I have absolutely no experience whatever. Berlin is at 28, which makes me feel better for all those folks who scream past in ambulances down Torstr. on their way to Charité.

And, finally, the one you’ve all been waiting for: “The city spends its resources in a responsible way.” A whopping 75% negative on this, a 71 chart placement above such models of fiscal rectitude as Sofia, Naples, Bucharest and Frankfurt on Oder. Only a very tiny number seem to strongly agree with this, and if you’re one of them, I suggest you get out of the house more often.

I certainly don’t have the training to decipher What It All Means in any truly scientific way, but I do love charts like this, and was just astonished at the sort of intuitive accuracy I observed here.

Anyway, I guess I should be off to Alborg to look for some excuse to live there. Naaah, too cold. Maybe Groningen? Naaah, I hate how densely-packed Holland is. Hmmm, wonder why Montpellier isn’t on this list…

Actually, I’m glad it isn’t. Don’t want the secret to get out before I can move there and find a nice apartment. And last I looked, I’m only $12,000 and change away from that…

Wow.

Been a while, huh? I promise to write more posts. I promise. My eleven readers deserve it. I’ve been busy.

Ramping up on the freelance front, I’ll have a small handful of reviews (three, to be exact) in the September and October issues of Spin Magazine. Might have something in Vice soon, and two large comedy-based features in either the August or September issue of Harp Magazine.

I made a crucial mistake in the current issue of Magnet Magazine. In my metal-themed installment of Where’s The Street Team, I referred to Death Angel’s Pepa brothers as “Latino” when in fact, they are Filipino. Whoops. Perhaps I got confused, seeing as how Spanish is the dominate language spoken in the Philipines. Naturally, I was called out in the letters section. Magnet and Death Angel fans. Makes total sense.

Tonight, I’m writing a travel piece for the September issue of Memphis Magazine, even though I’ll be working from memory and it’s been three years since I’ve done any actual travelling pertinent to this feature.

A fourth remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Appropriate that Nicole Kidman stars, as she did in the godawful remake of another great 70’s horror film, The Stepford Wives. The new Invasion is PG-13 (strike one), and if you care enough, check out both Philp Kaufman’s ‘78 version and Abel Ferrara’s Body Snatchers from ‘93. Both are great.

So let’s end by rating some Ferrara films.

Driller Killer (1979) – Hilarious. Essential if you need another Grade D horror fix.

Ms. 45 (1981) – See above.

I cannot pick out the two episodes of Miami Vice that Ferrara directed.

King of New York (1990) – When someone spoofs or riffs on Christopher Walken, this movie represents a good reason why. Good crime flick, though.

Bad Lieutenant (1992) – See it if you haven’t. So over-the-top, laughable, and tragic that it’s amazing this film didn’t make more of an impact in the long run. This scene should push you to the rental store. Most of the other memorable scenes are also available on YouTube.

Aside from The Funeral (1996), it goes a little downhill in recent years. Or maybe I’m just lazy.

Tom Snyder (1936-2007)



Anyway, my doctors assure me this is nothing to worry about, and I have to accept that, I guess. They say this kind of leukemia is not fatal, that people can live with it for thirty years…. I ain’t looking for thirty years, but fifteen more would be nice!

— Tom Snyder,
April, 2005

Alas, his doctors were wrong, as Tom Snyder passed away last night in San Francisco at the age of 71.

In 1973, I was bedridden for several weeks with a torn-up knee and, unable to find a comfortable position in which to sleep, plagued by insomnia. Tom Snyder on The Tomorrow Show became my late-night pal. His interview style was artful in its artlessness and, unlike other talking heads who pretended they knew everything, Tom was unafraid to let on when he just didn’t “get it.”

Just as David Letterman was Warren Zevon’s music’s best friend, Tom Snyder was Harlan Ellison’s writing’s best friend, inviting the writer on his show (and its various permutations) many, many times over the years. And while it’s these memories I’ll cherish most, I’ll never forget the good humor and class with which Snyder handled John Lydon and Keith Levine of Public Image Ltd. in 1980:

I loved the music of PiL, but Lydon and Levine came across as feckless dicks in the face of Snyder’s pure class.

I’ve missed Tom Snyder ever since he went off the air in 1999. Today, I miss him even more.

VAMPS VS. VORES

You want to hear two total killers from late in the first punk era? Right here, right now? OK, first I’ll grant access to THE VAMPS’ “Carving Knife”, a great NY Dolls-like stomper from San Antonio in 1980. It missed all the Killed By Death comps somehow but it’s as raw & unhinged as anything on there. These guys opened for the Sex Pistols at “Randy’s Rodeo” down there – remember those scenes from “D.O.A.”? Second up is “Amateur Surgeon” from Buffalo, NY’s THE VORES, a 1978 high-tempo scooter with some nutty lyrics about medical accidents. Both unheralded classics. Download them for your homemade “KBD alternates” CD-R comp.

Play or Download THE VAMPS – “Carving Knife”
Play or Download THE VORES – “Amateur Surgeon”

The Eggy- You’re Still Mine

The Eggy- You’re Still Mine/Hookey-Spark SRL 1024 (1969 UK)

The Eggy were formed by ex-Sorrows guitarist Roger Lomas and possibly included Pip Whitcher (also ex Sorrows). You’re Still Mine is an amazing Proto Glam/ Late Freakbeat number with incredible over the top Wah Wah guitar effects and a superb twin lead break. It bridges the 60s and 70s perfectly and is a top tune as well. The B Side Hookey is also great, reminding me of The Smoke at their best.
Roger Lomas would later re-appear with Renegade (A Little Rock ’N’ Roll/My Revolution on Dawn) and The Dodgers before taking on a producer’s role in the late 70s/80s.

Click on title for edits of You’re Still Mine and Hookey

The Dutch Falconi Orchestra

                   

 Dutch Falconi and His Twisted Orchestra was one of Sacramento's most popular live acts during the 1990s. Taking the big band dynamic to its logical extreme with up to 32 members performing onstage or on the sidelines, these guys and dolls really knew how to put on a show! I happened to mention Dutch Falconi in passing while talking to former co-worker Dean Alleger during a lunch break, and he responded that he had not only played trumpet for the group but also co-produced its masterpiece Crimeboss Hootenanny (1997). I was absolutely awestruck to discover that someone I'd spent so much time shooting the breeze with had largely been responsible for piecing together a musical mosaic I had admired for so long. On Crimeboss Hootenanny, Dutch Falconi drew inspiration from Cab Calloway, The Andrew Sisters, Tom Waits, and various other sources, but what really stands out besides the consummate musicianship is a satirical bent that recalls Firesign Theater at its wackiest. (Alleger was kind enough to give me a CD documenting a mock radio production that confirmed the Firesign influence wasn't just a figment of my imagination.) There are the few expected showstoppers here like "Jerry the Junker" and guest vocalist Countess Kitten Fontina's Bavarian mobster saga "Lepke Finger Gang," but to truly appreciate this album, you really need to listen to it from beginning to end. In an attempt to fill the compact disc format with as much entertainment as the technology would allow, an 8-minute skit serving as an intermission was inserted at the appropriate interval. Alleger informed me that the basic tracks took only five days to lay down but that the album as a whole took two years to complete due to all of the nuttiness that was included in the final product. Falconi's out-of-print debut album The Shoes of Despair (1994) remains a holy grail for me, but I've managed to download all of the songs off the group's official website, and I think it's safe to say that Crimeboss Hootenanny easily stands as their towering achievement. If you think you might be interested in checking out what I've often referred to as "The Sgt. Pepper of Swing," you can find used copies for sale on Amazon for no more than a buck-and-a-half. As for the macabre tale of The Penis Guillotine, I'll let the DF website take it from here: www.magick-land.com/dutchfalconi

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You can find Dutch Falconi's Crimeboss Hootenanny for sale here.

RIDICULOUS HARDCORE, PART 1 – CIRCLE ONE

Man, the laffs I’ve had over the years making fun of CIRCLE ONE, a second-wave Los Angeles hardcore band famous for being one of the very first bands to inspire their own gang. I mean gang as in Surenos and Nortenos, as in Bloods and Crips. As in the LMP’s, the FFFs and the Suicidals. Then I put on their hit song “Destroy Exxon”, and all laughs are temporarily ceased. What a ripper! This 1981 classic came out on Smoke Seven records comp LP called “Public Service” (pictured), a collection that also featured RED CROSS and BAD RELIGION and a couple of lesser lights. This is ripped-jean, muscle-flex bandanna hardcore of the highest order. Of course it’s still totally ridiculous – but you’ll learn to love it!

Play or Download CIRCLE ONE – “Destroy Exxon”

KNIGHTS BRIDGE – BOTH SIDES NOW

It won’t be hard to tell you much about this incredible 45 from 1966 Texas psych/garage band KNIGHTS BRIDGE, particularly when I can cut & paste their entry from “Answers.com”! :

Made up of sophomores from high school in Odessa, Texas, Knights Bridge was an astonishingly adept and hard-edged garage band. They were signed to Sea Ell Records of Houston in 1967 and cut a debut single, “Make Me Some Love” b/w “CJ Smith,” that oozed punk defiance on a level that would’ve been more appropriate to a group five years older. The record only ever had a few hundred copies pressed, and reportedly changed hands for prices of up to $500 in the 1980’s. In 1994, both sides of the record, plus a demo of “C.J. Smith” and a fourth Sea Ell-recorded track, “I Need Your Love,” turned up on Collectables Records’ History of Texas Garage Bands In the ’60s Volume 1: The Sea Ell Label Story. ~ Bruce Eder, All Music Guide

Sophomores! Correct me if I’m wrong, but sophomores typically are 15 or 16 years of age. Whoa. The 45 has been comped many other places as well, most notably on an amazing CD series called “Texas Flashbacks”. It’s absolutely one of the great ones, and now you get it for free.

Play or Download KNIGHTS BRIDGE – “Make Me Some Love” (A-side)
Play or Download KNIGHTS BRIDGE – “CJ Smith” (B-side)

Potpourri for Twenty, Alex

There have been several things I’ve wanted to blog about these last few weeks, but, because I’ve been happily occupied with this and that, the opportunity just hasn’t presented itself. So tonight, in one fell swoop, here’s what’s been on my mind:

How good Rescue Dawn is and how, true to form, Werner Herzog never allows the truth to get in the way of telling a good story (neither here nor in his documentary treatment of the same story, Little Dieter Needs to Fly

How disappointing Fox’s new reality series On the Lot turned out to be, so much so that it sent me back to my DVDs of the first two seasons of Project Greenlight

How much I’m enjoying Monsters HD — “TV’s First Horror Channel Uncut in Hi-Definition” (according to their website, they “dare you to watch!”). Where else can you catch Tarantula, War of the Colossal Beast, and The Monster that Challenged the World all on the same day — and the same channel?

How much I enjoyed Frederick & Steven Barthelme’s Double Down: Reflections on Gambling and Loss, which proves just how much Frederick’s fiction draws from his real life… 

And lastly, for now, just how fine a film Match Point turned out to be, growing richer with each viewing. Who would’ve thought that, for all the great films Woody Allen has created on his native New York soil, he’d have to go to England to deliver what very well might be his best movie? Elegantly pulpish and poetic at the same time, it mines the same territory as his classic Crimes and Misdemeanors with very different results.