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July 29th, 2022

12:00 am - Belligeretron: Son of the Belliger-O-Matic

My google+ account has plenty of photographs and videos.

Bandcamp hosts much of the unusual music I've been making for the past five years.

I still receive mail regarding an essay I wrote about Henry Miller and Hoki Tokuda, a short piece about Dan Truman, of Truman's Comics, and a pack of lies regarding a Taipei gaming show that was picked up by /..

Thank you for visiting!


April 4th, 2008

11:17 am - "Once you have given up the ghost. . ."
That's my old userpic, right there. When I first started journalling, back in July of 2002, I used three covers from Atari 7800 games--Xenophobe, Dig Dug, and Kareteka. I kept those until 2004, when I photographed the cover to Tropic of Capricorn, touched it up, shrank it, and pasted it down on another 7800 box scan. I was exceedingly proud of myself, at the time. I deleted the other three userpics.

"So what's the point of the game?" someone once asked. "You gotta boink some chick?"

That really irritated me, not least of all because she employed the word "boink."

As I put that little graphic together, the game I was imagining was very different. You played Henry Miller, sure; you've got a suit and tie on, a little fedora, you're wearing roller skates, too. In the main stage of the game, you rollerskate through various rooms of the Cosmodemonic Teleghraph Company's headquarters in New York City. You skate around collecting spare change and abandoned bottles of bathtub gin. You need to avoid colliding with desks, secretaries and intoxicated homeless men of all ages, colors and creeds. Your boss occasionally gets on your case like Evil Otto, so you need to avoid him. Hitting a chair, for instance, will slow you down--maybe even enough to allow your supervisor to lay his hands on you and drag you back to your desk.

Provided you manage to waste enough of your workday, you get to go on to a bonus stage. The bonus stage takes place outside the Cosmodemonic building. It involves drinking all of the contraband liquor and then pitching the empties through the windows of assorted banks, federal buildings, and police stations. Should you get more work than skating, done, you're forced to go back home, to your wife and kid.

I still think that's the best game I've never played.

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March 31st, 2008

02:07 pm - Funny How the Mind Works
The sun was still setting early, when this happened. I'd just finished up the first half of my day at work, and I hopped onto my bike and started my way down Addison. A decent enough descent through Berkeley's alleged Art District, maybe fifteen degrees at its steepest. I was just coasting along, down this little two-way street lined with failing businesses pretending to be culturally relevant. The sun had turned the sky pink and orange, and the clouds seemed to drift toward it, like purple barges. Homeward, westbound sunsets, that's one of the perks to my job.

And all this isn't to say I wasn't paying attention when I struck the little Japanese schoolgirl. I wasn't pedaling, I was fanning the break, keeping a nice straight line between the parked cars to my right and the idiots racing down to the stopsign to my left. There I was, midway past a stationary DHL truck, when she stepped right out in front of me.

She was taking in the sunset, herself. Her hair whipped away from me with the sound of my tires scraping along two feet of asphalt. She crumpled on impact. I know I hit her extra hard; I felt myself going over the bars. I pistoned myself back and leaped from my seat, swinging a leg over the guy-bar, dropping to my feet and catching my bike. I heard her whimpering as I pushed down the kickstand.

I'd heard her kind of whimpering before, working with kids back in Taipei, the kind that serves as a rev-up for a bawling. In fact, I initially thought I'd hit a kid. My joints stiffened, my neck felt brittle, I felt cold all over, anticipating a pair of parents--along with a horde of well-intentioned busybodies--screaming at me to take a look at what I'd done (...what I'd DONE!...) to the precious little tax write-off.

I was asking if she was alright before I even turned to look at her. Making that turn, I saw an empty sidewalk. No vehicles had stopped, either. No one had witnessed my lapse in attention, my crime!

I went back and forth from inquiries regarding her condition, to apologies. The whimpering never crescendoed into the hoarse, sloppy wails I'd been fearing. They'd subsided a bit. She asked for help up, and stood there next to me.

She kept telling me it was all HER fault, apologizing to ME. She kept holding her arm. When I asked about it, she said it felt "Dizzy."

I wrote down my name and number and where I worked and told her she should call me if she's inclined to sue. She looked at the little piece of red and white paper I'd given her and said "Hadda-San," which always sounded kind of sprightly to me, in Japanese airports. There, it sounded grievous and disconsolate.

She looked over to my bike, asking if it was okay. I turned to take a look, as well, and it was pretty far from okay. The handle bars were twisted thirty degrees counterclockwise, from the fork, and the wheel itself had a thigh-sized dent in it. Some of the spokes were twisted.

My bike had clearly lost a fight with a Japanese schoolgirl.

This happened months ago, she never called. Maybe I thought she would, for a day or so. Another day or two after that and I didn't think of her at all.

It occurred to me, a few days ago, that it really was her fault. She wasn't bullshitting me. In Japan, you drive on the left side of the road.

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March 28th, 2008

10:30 am - The Smooth Plastic Line Between Peace and Woe
I brought the dog along to a buddy's place, the other night. The three of us sat around, listening to music. We must've hung out for an hour or so, talking about breasts, drug-related mishaps, and war. We kept it dog-friendly. Topics for discussion that only seem important after eleven p.m. on a full stomach, with the prospect of a warm bed and someplace to go the next day secured. The kind of shit you shoot when there's an absence of want. Easy going and safe.

The dog and I left. Winter seemed long gone, the sky was clear. We waited on the corner of one of the town's larger roads. The dog watched for oncoming lights. I tried to find Orion over the treeline behind the park. The road grew dark and quiet, we crossed. A few miles away, at the marina, a bell rang every forty five seconds. That sound carries all the way to the Ashby BART on a clear night. That's the kind of peace that reigns, here. A lonely bell tolls and rolls over the streets, yards, rooftops and sleepy heads on a clear night.

I breathed in the flowers and weeds and vegetation that was making its way into the planter boxes and gardens that line the street to my house. The night air, here, gets damp. All kinds of fragrant on the better-cared-for stretches of town, but always a little chilly. We picked up the pace, the dog's claws clicked a little faster on the sidewalk.

It takes about ten minutes to get home with the dog, assuming he stops to piss every thirty paces, or so.

Maybe about five minutes into the walk, I spotted these red and blue lights up ahead of me. I see a lot of cops around my neighborhood. More often than not, they just creep along slowly with their lights off. Waiting for a reckless driver. An intoxicated homeless man. Someone who, to the cop-mind, seems out of place,

The flashers kept with their pulsing, and I realized there were more cars--cop cars--parked along the street. Some had their lights on, others didn't. As I got closer, I could see that they'd run tape across the street. And some flares had been lit, and set along the yellow line that divides the street. A sad and ghostly color, that. . . magnesium, I think, burning over asphalt. Sadder and ghostlier still are the reds and blues that appear on the fronts of houses and apartment buildings, rhythmically splashed against the dwellings by those cop-rides.

I pulled the dog closer, brought in the slack on his leash. Those yellow cop-ribbons seemed to be everywhere. . . streaming from the trees, even. On the other end of the block, two hundred meters on ahead, I could see two cop-mobiles kissing. A bumper to bumper barricade.

My chest was tight, the flowers smelled two strong, the air got colder, that bell from the marina seemed louder. I didn't see any cops for a few moments, I was nearly to the belly against the yellow "DO NOT CROSS" lone when one finally appeared.

He asked me if I lived on that block. I try my best to avoid talking to cops, and I don't like their questions. . . I don't like their modes of questioning. Do I live on that block? I told him no, then recited my address. My throat was dry. I did everything I could to keep my eyes on him, even though he probably couldn't tell what I was looking at from where he stood. He told me the block the cops were on was closed for another eight hours. I asked him if any of the neighboring blocks were in danger. "You mean, now? In danger NOW-now?" He saw me shake my head, I guess. "No," he said after a moment. And then the cop-speak seemed to soften a bit. Something like sadness, maybe, crept into his voice. "Anyone who was any kind of danger is in the hospital, now." I ran a short list of streets by the guy, and asked if that was an acceptable detour. He told me that it was.

So we made out way across the street, along the yellow plastic streamer, on our way home. "Hey," the officer called after us. "Is that a shiba inu, by any chance?" The dog looked over his shoulder, at the cop. He knows the word "Shiba." He knows it refers to him somehow. His side brushed up against my calf. His tail was down.

"Yes, sir," I mumbled. "Yes, sir, it is." And then a thank-you, when the cop told me how beautiful he thought the dog was.

I took my detour. Spinning and dizzy. Short of breath. Almost tripping balls. If I'd ingested a drug that brought on the ill body-buzz I was feeling, I'd be kind of scared. I'd be reaching for the goggles, crash helmet and diapers.

We made it back to the gate, the gate to our house. Those red and blue cop-lights were blooming, one after the other, on the little bulbs topping the bars to our gate. It's always a relief, when you return home, to find that that yellow, cop-tape isn't draped across your walkway.

I'm usually the type to spout off on how we live in a police-state. But, that night, I was grateful for the robotic cop-men that kept me away from the crying, the wounded, and the dead. And when I thought of this guy, whose job it is to keep the rest of us away from the sadness and madness of others, trying to make small talk about my little dog. . . he was trying to chill me out, trying to be human.

For the first time ever, I regretted calling that lonely, fat cop in front of The Dixieland Flea Market back in Michigan a pig, over ten years ago.

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March 21st, 2008

06:38 pm - Rock & Roll: Thy Name Is The Boredoms
The Boredoms played the Filmore, Tuesday night. Transformed it, even. In the round. Surprisingly, the show didn't sell out. Still, somewhere around a thousand people managed to converge on the floor before the darkened main stage. A thousand people, shoulder to shoulder, encircling The Boredoms. Yamantanka EYE and his crew performed on a circular riser, there on the dancefloor. Out of that thousand, I couldn't tell you how many people shared in a common religious experience as old as humanity itself. No doubt some were thinking about crouching down waist-level and sneaking another hit of those sweet, sweet Northern California Heads. Some were thinking about their chances of getting laid. Maybe some were even thinking about leaving.

I wasn't thinking, at all, and I don't think I was alone in my non-thinking. It was that kind of rite.

The show definitely had the air of a ceremony to it, there was an invocation at the very beginning; A man dancing and waving two sticks--two burning sticks. . . and he began chanting/howling/calling. . . whether it was in Japanese or some other language or some *other* language that originated somewhere from the world within his skull doesn't really matter. His call, as I heard it, was a naked one, semantically and syntacticly void. . . no lyrics, at this show, just *pure* singing. It seemed like the burning sticks were microphoned, and played as if they were instruments. "Whoosh--BIZZIT! Whoosh--BIZZIT!" as a rhythm, and processed vocals ringing out. Echo, chorus, flange. . . all of those little toys, I'll bet, he ran his voice through them all.

That call to prayer was finished with the laying of the hands on a keyboard, and suddenly The Boredoms--the four of them--took off flying with the collective attention they had easily collected.

The attention-span of each member of the audience was a flower (a curvy, yellow one, maybe) that sprang up from a seed beneath the scalp at the top of the skull, blossoming and twisting it's stemmy, shaky way toward the group. And as these quivering tulips made their way to the little, circular riser, there on the floor, the group seemed to get higher and higher off of the fragrance. The sea of people, waves and waves of heads and shoulders shifting from purple, to red, to yellow and back again beneath the houselights, never seemed to recede, from my bird's-eye-view.

But does the flower grow into or out of the ground?

The Boredoms, these days consists of Yamantanka Eye, Yoshimi P. We, Hila Y, and Seiichi Yamamoto. In their present incarnation, the driving force behind the music is the driving force that's always been behind the music, *all* music--the drum. There are keyboards, tape-loops, six-headed guitars and other electronic doo-dads, but it's basically a percussion outfit. At times, they sound like a Kurosawa film's soundtrack played at times two. Others, they sound like a trip into the sun.

I'm hesitant to say too much about how they sounded Tuesday night. They either tapped into the source and presented us with MUSIC in its purest form or totally transcended MUSIC altogether. The group asked that no one use ANY kind of camera, at the show. I'm sure there are a few videos taken from that show, on YouTube, but I'm not going to link to them. What went down that night can't be filtered through a cellphone mic and then piped out of a set of laptop speakers. When four supertight drummers lock into a groove, you pretty much need to be there.

Hell, I'd love a recording that reproduced the feel I got off that music, but I have my doubts even something tapped from the soundboard could ever hit me the same. I've seen cellphone clips of The Boredoms, and wouldn't encourage anyone to seek them out.

The show I saw attests to the fact that some things are still sacred. We all go to concerts hoping that we might catch a good one, but it's rare indeed to attend a truly great show.

They've got a myspace page, though, and although the music offered there sounds nothing like the performance I saw earlier this week, it does offer a glimpse of where they've been before. While looking for cellphone videos to bag on, I found this experiment they conducted beneath the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. Thanks to Some Day Fire Productions.

The remainder of their scheduled Spring 2008 Tour is beneath the cut.Collapse )

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May 28th, 2007

01:58 am - Hausu '77
Thanks to Five Minutes To Live and atomicgypsy, I had the opportunity to watch Hausu. This is basically a Japanese haunted house flick released in 1977. It was directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi. Obayashi had made one short film, back in '66, prior to this. Eleven years, by imdb's count! This is a feature-length debut from a forty-year old man, and by God, does it show! Does it even matter that he was born in Hiroshima?

There's an interesting shot of the h-cloud over Hiroshima, in Hausu. It's in the middle of a flashback. Dig this: You see footage pretending to be an old silent movie, black and white really sharp. . . it's a young woman and a young man. . . they're courting, falling in love, about to get married. You're basically watching a film within a film. Suddenly, the reel changes. . . dyed yellow, now. . . the country in mobilizing for war, the young man is caught up in the moment, he needs to leave. . . patriotic asshole. . . he goes. . . change reel, dyed blue, small squad of Japanese soldiers marching past a village, close up of the young man in uniform, zoom back out to the villagers standing by the side of the road. World War II is just beyond the outskirts of this village. The villagers wave their Japanese flags. A younger lady, better dressed than her fellow villagers, dashes to the young man's side when it begins to rain. . . in the background, the old young lady turns away. . . Change reel, red dye, total war. Planes everywhere, cut in close to a fighter, fuselage is blown, sparks and smoke, debris and bullets, the pilot is riddled with enemy fire, pull in closer to the cockpit, the young man sits like Buddha as the copilot. Exterior shot, plane flashes by and continues downward, the dead pilot and serene copilot plunge in the rocks. . . Change reel, black and white, panning up over rocks, to a cliff, to a headstone, to a woman in black. . . the young lady became the woman in black, holding a red rose, clenching it, bleeding. . . Change reel, h-cloud, cut.

That's a five minute flashback, right there. . . It was introduced by the cast's Brainy One reciting a passage from an old book to her awestruck, bedipshitted gaggle. The Brainy One is smart. She wears glasses, and reads. When she reads, a crucial piece of the plot is revealed, so everyone shuts up. When she finishes reading, The Musical One, The Buff One, The Pampered One, The Nondescript One, The One Who Always Eats, and the Deep One all go back to ignoring her. That's okay, because she never has anything good to say anyway. That's because she's a badly rendered archetype. She's only interesting to me because she's an archetype I'm only loosely familiar with, that is, a Japanese one.

Anyway, these schoolgirls mewl and cackle throughout the flashback. Real nice.

I can only guess that initial Japanese audiences found this movie insufferable, by and large. But I'm just as sure there was an 8%, back there. . . and as the end credits began to wind down, amongst themselves they muttered between the drags off their roaches "When is this playing again? Let's just not go home. . ."

Just keep reading.Collapse )

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May 27th, 2007

08:34 pm - Happy End
For city_of_walls

I first heard Happy End on October 2nd, 2004, somewhere in the dark p.m.. Actually, that's not totally accurate. I only heard the songs of Happy End, as performed by other musicians. This tribute to Happy End I heard, called A Happy End Parade, is a miracle in its own right.

But the cover you see here is from Happy End's first album. It was recorded in the summer of nineteen seventy two. And you can tell. The drums are mic'ed to sound like the Allman Brothers, the guitars are right out of Badfinger. Imagine Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young doing the Beatles, on the old CSN&Y equipment in the old CSN&Y studio. . . Only in Japanese. . . A relaxed, natural and pretty Japanese that's way beyond the bark and show of the sixties' fuzz and Rolling Stones covers. . . Sincere and plain, these vocals, unhurried and unstrained. The songs feature lots of backing vocals, as well, mixed right in there between Badfinger guitar and bright Columbia 78 basslines. big fat major chords in the key of A on a big old piano. All of it softly and warmly mixed. This record hits you like a warm gust of air.Collapse )

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April 23rd, 2007

06:21 pm - The Dharma Bums

I meant to read Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums this past fall. For ten years, or so, it'd been kind of a tradition to read that book every summer. Some years I'd read the whole book, others I'd just read a chapter.

Last August, I was packing up The Dharma Bums along with the rest of the R.J. Hudson Eastern Wing Library. I flipped through it, came to the part where Gary Snyder is dogging poor old Jack Kerouac about his alcoholism. "Dogging," is possibly off the mark. You can read the whole book as a tale of a monk (Snyder), trying to save a wayward soul (Kerouac). Their relationship seems to start on their appreciation of booze, but as the plot thickens, you quickly understand that Kerouac doesn't have his shit together. That is, his drinking isn't under control.

Kerouac had the idea of taking all of his work, standardizing all of the names, and then publishing it as The Duluoz Legend. Or something like that. If you read The Dharma Bums in the context of that sprawling mess, it's the sad tale of a monk losing a soul.

The book is also about one man's relationship to the void and Christ, and Buddha, and Han Shan. . . Jack Kerouac: Between Nothingness and the Mystics. How he toes the line—living with the knowledge that ALL IS ILLUSION must be hard work for most, and Kerouac wasn't too likely an exception. How did he manage? (Barely.) How did he sustain relationships with his family? (Tenuously.) How did he fare in society? (Competently.) Did he form lasting friendships? (Occasionally.) Much luck with the ladies? (Possibly.) Did he turn to drink? (Assuredly.)

And Kerouac was certainly aware of his faults and part of the pleasure of reading him is that awareness' presence in the story. You could say he's writing from a religious perspective on the topic of a man admiring things from an aesthetic perspective. Sad as Kerouac's life played out, within the confines of The Dharma Bums, we're given a happy end. . . as that aesthetic man transforms into a religious man. At the end, his failings in the world are shed. Unfortunately, he accomplishes this feat by becoming a recluse.

I don't have any biographical material on Kerouac handy. I don't recall when, precisely, he wrote The Dharma Bums. Seems like he'd sat on On the Road for a considerable period of time, got it published, and then followed up with something he'd put together a bit more recently—The Dharma Bums. On the Road and The Dharma Bums are as different from one another as Visions of Cody is from Visions of Gerard.

This cover to The Dharma Bums is from a Signet Paperback from 1967. It is the third printing. The back cover reads:

"The book that turned on the hippies. . . THE DHARMA BUMS. . . Jack Kerouac's barrier-smashing novel about two rebels on a wild march for Experience from Frisco's swinging bars to the top of the snow-capped Sierras. . . Here are the orgiastic sexual sprees, the cool jazz bouts, the poetry Love-ins, and the marathon binges of the kids who are hooked on Sensation an looking for the high. . . THE DHARMA BUMS.”

I remember reading in McNally's biography that Kerouac had a difficult time handling his success as a writer throughout his entire career. And after he struggled for decades to gain some recognition, he was disgusted with the following he had once he finally acquired one. He spent his later years avoiding the media, losing entry-level professorships, drinking in his home town, and generally doing everything but writing.

Chances are pretty good that he saw this paperback cover, and he was no doubt repulsed by it.

A few months ago, someone pointed out to me that a great deal of the “action” in this novel takes place in Berkeley. Apparently, he lived in a small cottage behind a house on 1624 Milvia Street.

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January 22nd, 2007

11:14 pm - Shinjuku Mad
*Shinjuku Mad* was one of
Koji Wakamatsu's
six films from 1970. Grim and gritty, stark and steady, burdened with anti-moralizing, generously padded with sex, and totally redeemed by a soundtrack that needs to be released NOW. I knew nothing about this film, loading it up on to my laptop, and every last one of this film's sixty-sixty minutes kept me riveted.

Bear with me. The film opens with the band cycling through a jazzy rave-up, the black and images depict dead Japanese throughout a modern city. From the alleyways of the slums, to center of the park, you catch glimpses of bodies everywhere. This introduction is capped off by a lingering shot of a blood-soaked naked woman, face down. By this point, the band has reached a sort of peak. There's a cut, the band changes the direction of the song a bit, and then we're treated to a series of exterior shots from downtown, the lunch hour, maybe. You see a lot of storefronts and stairwells, people moving about. All of the people in these splices are done in negative image.

Current favorite as an introduction, that.Collapse )

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January 7th, 2007

12:49 am - Early Years in Michigan 3
You can say "Shit," "Piss," "Bitch," "Damn," and "Hell," around my parents. That's enough to work with, I think. Although "Shit, piss on that bitch, dammit. She can go to hell," might be pushing it. One word that, to this day, has never been accepted around the house, though, is "retard."

I remember using it once in the kitchen. I said "Bill Bonds is retarded-drunk," and caught hell for it. Two years later, one Friday night, I watched an episode of 20/20 with my parents. I must've been six or seven. Dad made popcorn, I was playing with Legos, in front of the television set. My sister slept at the far end of the couch. 20/20 was all about children who'd sustained heavy brain damage due to a dentist's misadministration of nitrous oxide that night.

The correspondent introduced a montage showing a series of pictures. Subject was a healthy, smiling boy; posing with a baseball bat, sitting amidst dunes of wrapping paper, hugging the family's goldie. Snapshots from a life that appeared more normal than my own, in a way.

Then came the interview with the parents a few months after they'd taken their boy in for a filling. He sat next to them on his couch, his ear resting on his shoulder, his wrist to his chest. Another cut, this one to the breakfast table. The mother sets a bowl of cereal down in front of this kid: he's got a bib on, mumbles and squeals, reaches out and grasps for stuff that isn't there.

I watched absolute horror, marveling that I was but one trip to the dentist away from having to take my meals with a bib. The line was pretty damn thin.Collapse )

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