May 31, 2006
Some of you might not know that before Mysterious Skin was a film, it was also a stage production. The novel was adapted by a great playwright--who later became a great friend--Prince Gomolvilas (and if you click on that link, you can go to his very cool site; I also highly recommend his online journal). The show opened in the spring of 2003 at the New Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. (If you're interested, you can find a couple of archived reviews of the show here and here.) Arturo Catricala was the director of the run, and the play had the following (really terrific) cast: Taylor Valentine as Brian; Joseph Parks as Neil; Rebecca Fisher as Avalyn; and Megan Towle as various other female roles and Rich Dymer as various male roles.
As you might guess by that listing of actors and roles, the MSkin theater production is quite different in many ways from the novel and movie, especially in its structure. Michael and I went to SF for that opening week, and I thought Prince did an amazing job reinterpreting the story for the stage--rejuvenating the "mystery" aspects of the story, making the violence more confrontational in spots, boosting the character of Avalyn. So why am I telling you this three years after the San Francisco run? Because on June 2nd, this coming Friday, the show is opening at another venue--this time at the Rude Guerrilla Theater in Santa Ana, CA.
Above is the poster for the show. This time the production is directed by Dave Barton. You can find out more about showtimes, cast, and other necessary info at the Rude Guerrilla website. Both Prince and I will be in attendance on Saturday, June 17th, so if you're there, say hi.
PS--Tomorrow, I promise, will be my horror film follow-up. Oh, and PS #2--there isn't just one baby fox slinking around our back yard. Now there are three. And last week they left a disemboweled squirrel on our front steps.
May 30, 2006
Coolest US Stamps Ever
Tomorrow I promise a long "part two" to the horror movie post. Until then:
I've always thought postage stamps issued by the US were boring in comparison with other nations'. I get weary of all those flags and president cameos. But these new "Wonders of America" stamps are pretty great. I almost don't want to stick them on my utility and credit-card bill envelopes....
May 24, 2006
First off-- thanks to everyone for posting so much about the horror film stuff. I've written down all the films I need to go back and see again. Any further recommendations-- especially for more obscure, even straight-to-video films I might not have seen--please send 'em on.
I'm still waiting for my editor to get back to me with the editorial suggestions for We Disappear. Should be any day now. I think my publisher is gearing up for a mid-2007 pub date.
Also, I almost forgot--the benefit auction for the MixNYC festival, which I'd blogged about a little while back, is nearing its close on eBay, so if you're interested in owning a one-time-use camera with photos taken by various "celebrities," feel free to head over there and bid bid bid. As of this writing, my camera's gotten a measly seven bids (it seems like all the writer and literature folks are coming up short, big surprise). The most popular folks--at least at this point, with only a couple of days remaining in the auctions--are Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls, B. D. Wong, Gus Van Sant, Laurie Anderson, and Patti LuPone. (Personally, if I were bidding, I'd spend my money on the cameras from Mike Diana, Antony of Antony & the Johnsons, literary genius Robert Gluck, or Debbie Harry.)
Michael and I only have a month left on the Cape. June 20th is the day we'll move to our new house. This week we planted the summer garden for Michael's dad & stepmom, so there will be tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, radishes both red and white, carrots, and cucumbers waiting when they return. Then today, during our regular early-afternoon lull, we were lucky enough to spend nearly an hour watching a young fox scampering around in our backyard. (We'd seen an adult fox in this neighborhood many times before, but this was the first we knew of any kits.) The baby had somehow separated from his mother and siblings, and was having a grand time chasing butterflies. I ran for my camera; he was quite aware of us watching from the backyard deck, but didn't seem to mind. (He even attracted the attention, as you can see in photo #4, of Rascal the cat.)
May 22, 2006
13 Horror Movie Scenes That Really Scared Me
I'm a devoted horror film fanatic. After seeing hundreds of 'em, there are very few that actually scare (I don't mean "gross out," I mean scare) me anymore. But here are some films, and specific scenes, that did.
(1) Halloween--along with Suspiria, this is still my favorite horror film. The whole last 20 minutes, where the murderer just won't stay dead, is just perfect.
(2) The Evil Dead--So many great shocks in this one. But the scene where "sister Cheryl" transforms into a zombie, correctly guessing the playing cards, then swiveling around to speed-bury a sharpened pencil into Linda's ankle.... good god.
(3) Don't Be Afraid of the Dark--originally made for TV, this was the movie that terrified me the most when I was a kid. Any time Kim Darby sees those little creatures, I felt like I'd swallowed a knife. I lost a lot of sleep over this one.
(4) Carrie--it's always a near heart attack for me when that hand comes out of the grave at the end. But I'm also partial to, and scared by, the whole split-screen scene after the bucket of pig blood drops.
(5) The Blair Witch Project--that whole last ten minutes... that creepy house with the handprints on the walls... Heather Donahue's screaming... the jiggly camera... the guy standing in the corner.... The first time I saw this was a preview screening with my film-critic pal Dennis Dermody, months before the film was actually released; I had no clue about the storyline, and there wasn't any of the eventual hype of the movie to cloud our feelings about it. So it really, really freaked me out.
(6) Tourist Trap--any scene when those mannequins come to life. (I've always been horrified of puppets and mannequins and ventriloquist dummies.) Years later, after I'd moved to NYC, I was thrilled to meet the writer Keith McDermott who, when he was an actor in the 70s, actually starred in this film (and was "murdered" by the possessed mannequins like the one in the above photo).
(7) Phantasm--those scenes with the Tall Man walking down the street, or in the lead character's nightmares (as seen in the photo).
(8) The Exorcist--a few years ago, I might've listed a different scene (the head spinning around! the candle-flare in the attic! the torrent of green vomit!). But then--with Dennis Dermody again, by the way--I saw Friedkin's "restored, extended" version of the film. And that "spider walk" scene, where Linda Blair comes skittering like a deranged crab down the stairs with her tongue wagging... god, I had tears running down my face I was so freaked out.
(9) Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me--Bob, Bob, Bob. All his scenes scare me. Especially at the end. Or when Laura Palmer walks into her room and sees Bob emerging from behind her dresser, and she screams, and he screams, and the camera shows a close-up of the inside of his mouth... SHIT. By the way, Sheryl Lee should've won the Oscar for this movie.
(10) Communion--not an especially great movie... and I couldn't find very good stills from it... but when Christopher Walken wakes up and senses that someone or something is in the room, and then in the dark silence that alien head comes peeking around the cabinet, I was destroyed. In fact, I'm not even certain I'm describing this scene correctly--it paralyzed me so badly I've never watched it again.
(11) Suspiria--the entire first death scene. Amazing, gutwrenching, weirdly beautiful. I was just as scared by some of the scenes in my second-favorite Argento film, Opera.
(12) The Texas Chain Saw Massacre--well, really the whole film scared me, but especially when Leatherface is chasing Sally through the woods, and her hair's getting caught in the trees, and he's still flying full speed toward her...
(13) Psycho--this is such a huge cliche, but yeah, the shower scene.
May 20, 2006
Hey y'all--the wonderful Robin Guthrie has a new solo record out, Continental. You can get it at the Darla Records website (where you can also find bunches of other great stuff, ie, Mahogany, Auburn Lull, the Durutti Column, Knife, My Morning Jacket, those Lowlife reissues I recently blogged about, and Appleseed Cast, a band who just happens to be from my old stomping grounds, Lawrence, Kansas.
Robin is also playing the Seattle Film Festival next month with the equally magnificent Harold Budd, so I bet they'll be playing a smidgeon of the songs from their Mysterious Skin score. Should be pretty majestic. You can get tickets here. Wish I could go!
(Above: great shot of Robin Guthrie playing guitar, circa 1996; shot of Harold Budd, with me looking awful and puffy since I was on tons of painkillers from surgery, at the cast & crew screening of Mysterious Skin, August 2004.)
Since I'm talking about music as usual, here's a list of eleven CDs I'm currently listening to:
Scott Walker, Drift (image #1);
Film School, Film School (image #2);
Wilderness, Vessel States (image #3);
Dykehouse, Nostalgia Radar ep;
the well-named I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness, Fear Is On Our Side (image #4);
the aforementioned Appleseed Cast, Peregrine;
Trespassers William, Having (image #5);
Sunset Rubdown, Shut Up I Am Dreaming;
White Rose Movement, Kick;
Built to Spill, You In Reverse;
(still!) Mogwai, Mr. Beast;
and, perhaps most of all:
Ellen Allien & Apparat, Orchestra of Bubbles (image #6).
May 15, 2006
French Band Appreciation Day
Here are three bands I absolutely love. All three bands hail from France. Click on their names, go to their websites, and bask in the brilliance.
...I'm off to NYC tomorrow, then. I'll take my camera, and hopefully, if the "open bar" doesn't get to me first, I'll take some photos of the MIX NYC event (see below, yesterday's entry, for more info) and post 'em here.
May 14, 2006
Michael and I will be in New York this week, if only for a couple of days. I'm taking part in a fundraiser for MIX NYC, a non-profit media arts organization that runs the annual New York Lesbian & Gay Experimental Film Festival. On Tuesday they're having a kick-off party, which will jumpstart their fundraiser, "The Naked Eye Celebrity Camera Auction," presented by HEDWIG creator / filmmaker John Cameron Mitchell and Daniela Sea of that L WORD show I've never seen (since I don't get Showtime).
The fundraiser is best described by their press release:
"In keeping with MIX NYC's mission to promote, provoke, and celebrate artistic experimentation, the organization sent out brand-new disposable Kodak cameras to artists far and wide--maverick filmmakers, indie rockers, sci-fi novelists, Hollywood lights, East Village club kids, and porn auteurs--asking each of them to expose the film, but return the camera undeveloped. These unprocessed cameras--unique objets d'art created by dozens of the most exciting luminaries in the arts today--will be made available in an exciting online auction, starting at the launch party.
"Collectors, fans and friends will have the opportunity to bid on ebay for cameras shot by Gus Van Sant, Laurie Anderson, Alan Cumming, Lucy Liu, Debbie Harry, Scott Heim, Jill Clayburgh, Charles Busch, Todd Oldham, John Cameron Mitchell, Peter Berlin, and more than a hundred others!
"The launch party will be held Tuesday, May 16th, at 7 p.m., at the new Leslie/Lohman Art Gallery at 26 Wooster Street, in New York City."
I think admission is something like 20 buckaroos if you don't have an invite. But I think there's an open bar! If you're there, come up & say hi; if not, make a bid on ebay (starting on May 16th) if you want! (Some of the other photo-takers include folks like Martha Plimpton, Bruce La Bruce, Miranda July, Rick Moody, the dudes from Pansy Division, Mike Diana, Wayne Koestenbaum, Jake Shears of the Scissor Sisters, Lori Petty, Heather Matarazzo, Justin Bond from Kiki & Herb, and a bunch of porn stars and COLT models.)
And oh yeah, the shots in my 'Scott Heim' camera took a canine theme--I couldn't decide what to shoot, so I took guidance from a recurring dream I'd had about being a German shepherd. "Cape Cod in the spring, from a dog's eye level."
(Above: let me just add that I'm totally overjoyed to be named in the MIX NYC press release, especially since I'm listed right between Debbie Harry and Jill Clayburgh. Sigh.)
May 11, 2006
At last, at last: LOWLIFE, one of my all-time favorite bands, has released its back catalogue on cd, and have their songs available for download on iTunes. I never thought this would happen--I thought I'd forever be resigned to listening to Diminuendo (my favorite of all their albums, a gorgeous, melancholy, chilly-autumn-day sort of record, an album I played probably 300,000 times while in college) on vinyl only. Luckily I was wrong!
Recently I told a friend about this band, and when he asked me what they sounded like, I couldn't come up with adequate comparisons. They've got singer with a deep bass, almost gothic, sexy voice. Lots of guitar echo. Heavy, overdubbed basslines and great, tight-snare drumming. I guess if you like 80s postpunk stuff like Comsat Angels and The Chameleons, or some of the bands on early Factory and/or 4AD labels, and also if you're into the layered guitar sounds of 90s shoegaze bands like Ride and Chapterhouse, you have a slight idea of where Lowlife fits musically. I suppose they have even more in common with the Cocteau Twins, though, considering that bassist Will Heggie played on the GARLANDS album before forming Lowlife.
The band now has a detailed, nostalgic website created by folks obviously as swoony about them as I've always been. Here's the wikipedia entry on the band. And here's some (slightly misguided) reviews at the Trouser Press site. And they also have a myspace page. If you're inclined to check them out, there's a new "greatest hits" package called Eternity Road, but I'd recommend heading to iTunes for the individual albums. Some of my personal favorite tracks: "Swing"; "Ragged Rise to Tumbledown"; "As It Happens"; "A Sullen Sky."
May 09, 2006
...to my #1 and my one and only, Michael Lowenthal.
May 08, 2006
My trip to Belgium was A-OK. The Festival Livresse folks were good to me and the other participants, and it was swell meeting everyone and eating excellent food and drinking good beer, beer, and more beer, and taking part in the panel discussions. (Some of the other writers involved: Scottish novelist Laura Hird; French philosopher / writers Bruce Bégout and Sylvère Lotringer; Finnish graphic novelist Marko Turunen; French novelists David Bessis, Daniel Charneux, and Dominique Fabre; and the French editor & publisher Laurence Viallet, whose house produces books by the likes of Samuel Delaney, Dennis Cooper, Peter Sotos, and Kathy Acker).
Charleroi, the town south of Brussels where the festival was held, isn't exactly the most beautiful small city in Belgium, but the townspeople were exceptionally friendly. Nearby Brussels, on the other hand, was gorgeous, with a really amazing Place Royale, great secondhand CD shops, and sublime chocolatiers (ie, Galler was one of my favorites--curry chocolates! rosepetal and violet!!--but also very expensive).
Best of all, on the last day I was there, I met up with Christophe Grosdidier, my great friend and also my French translator, and he and his pal Guillaume whisked me (on a gray, drizzly day) off to Bruges--or Brugge if you're Dutch--which turned out to be almost miraculous in its beauty and charm. (That's G. and C. & their umbrellas, above, along with a picture of a rather soaked Me in the main Bruges square.)
In between eating way too much, drinking too much beer, and babbling about literature during the festival, I also spent some time in the stellar art museums, ie the Modern in Brussels, where I got to see lots of amazing Flemish landscape paintings and also stuff like James Ensor and Fernand Khnopff as well as Francis Bacon's nightmarish POPE WITH OWLS (above left) and Jacques Louis David's THE DEATH OF MARAT (above right) in the flesh, so that was pretty f@#$ing cool for an ex-art-history-major like myself.
So, yeah, Belgium was the reason for my silence. Below are a few more photos from the trip (including, photo #4, a shot of the interior of the Livresse festival space with its zillions of books on display... AND ALSO photo #3, the country's national symbol, a pissing child, believe it or not. MUCH more imaginative than a silly bald eagle). I'll write more tomorrow, because it will be May 9th, a particularly special day for me....