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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Buzzbomb (2001): One Last Bullet

Terror Organ, Buzzbomb (The Rectrix, 2001)

[originally posted 2Nov2001]

The members of the band, wearing gas masks and seated in back-to-back wheelchairs, adorn the album cover.

Pity they got section-eighted out of the military.
photo credit:

The day after receiving this album in the mail two months ago, I decided it had a strong chance of topping my year’s-best list. The intervening weeks have done nothing to dissuade me from thinking such.

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Genetic Chile (2010): A Hill of Beans

Genetic Chile (Christopher Dudley, 2010)

The title is superimposed over apicture of a pile of New Mexico chiles on the DVD box.

Wear latex gloves when cutting.
photo credit:

Christopher Dudley’s 2010 documentary Genetic Chile is at least honest enough to put itself out there as a “war on ideas” movie from the get-go. (Compared to, say, Hot Coffee, which starts out looking like it’s going to focus on the Stella Liebeck case before unreasonably broadening its horizons.) I mean, maybe it’s me, but it was impossible for me to look at that title and think anything other than “this is an anti-GMO movie.” And then I sat down to watch it, and I got exactly what I expected to get. As I am somewhat aggressively pro-GMO, I attempted as best I could to divorce my feelings about the subject matter from the presentation; after all, I have in the past been perfectly willing to approach movies whose subject matter I find distasteful with an open mind, and if they present their case well, recommend them, sometimes strongly. (The most recent example: Chasing Ice.) Still, I’d advise you to take what I have to say about Genetic Chile with a grain of salt, especially since (a) I also had the pleasure of watching this on a seven-inch phone screen, which is not a mode of playback for a feature-length film that I would wish on my worst enemy, and (b) I was floating in a wonderful dilaudid haze for about half the movie’s barely-over-feature-length runtime, as I was in the hospital when I saw it (viz. my review of Shank, above).

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mahamanvantara (2001): Je Ne Sais Pas/Je Ne Sais Quoi

kNOw, mahamanvantara (The Rectrix, 2001)

[originally posted 2Nov2001]

A shadow of a man about to be executed adorns the CD cover.

Deathbed kundalini.
photo credit:

The sixth release on New Jersey label The Rectrix is the debut CD from kNOw, a collaboration between Alex Anievas and The Hollowing veteran Matt Gibney. The six tracks here, in total, clock in at just under an hour.

The majority of the music here sits solidly in the dark ambient vein, sitting just under the pain threshold, but every once in a while (e.g. the climax of track 2, “Forever”), the noise kicks in and things get staticky and chaotic. Imagine listening to the soundtrack of a serial killer movie while suffering from bouts of tinnitus and you should have a good idea.

One track that truly stands out is “Lethe Parallel,” an almost minimal journey through what sounds like an endless, silent, cavernous tunnel of love with a nervous companion who keeps shifting in his seat and dropping pennies over the side of the boat to gauge the depth of the water (despite the darkness). Building of tension leads to the kind of payoff you just don’t see often enough from the Hollywood machine; might as well get it from a small CD label in New Jersey, right? ****

The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (1994): Darling, Its Better Down Where It’s Wetter

The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (Ray Muller, 1994)

[originally posted 2Nov2001]

A montage with Riefenstahl in the foreground, Hitler in the background, and the masses behind them adorns the VHS cover.

photo credit: IMDB

First, let’s get something straight. An artist’s intentions are secondary, to say the least, to the intentions of the viewer. (That’s how Jesse Helms can say “I don’t know what pornography is, but I know it when I see it,” I can say the same thing, and both of us can be accurate despite having thoroughly different subsets of what constitutes pornography in our heads.) That said, the “is/was Leni Riefenstahl a Nazi?” question is quite simply irrelevant all the way around, and is hereby dispensed with.

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Shank (2009): One Blunt Thrust

Shank (Simon Pearce, 2009)

Wayne Virgo and Marc Laurent are about to go into a liplock on the DVD cover.

Beneath the milky (and salty) twilight.
photo credit: Cheaper than Therapy: A Gay Perspective

I stumbled upon Shank while I was looking for a copy of Shanks, the infamous 1974 William Castle film starring Marcel Marceau. (Which I did eventually find, viz. my review on 2Mar2013.) This one looked interesting, so I threw it on my Netflix queue, where it joined almost four hundred other titles, and I promptly forgot about it. Fast-forward a year or more and, for various reasons, I wound up stuck in the hospital. It was the first time I’d been overnight in a hospital where I was the patient in over thirty years. Things have changed. They had to clear my friggin’ laptop with the electrical department, for pete’s sake. So that first night, stuck with a godawful roommate who spent the entire insufferable eighteen hours I was stuck in a room with him complaining a mile a minute to anyone who would listen (I kid you not, he did not sleep), the only way I had to watch anything other than broadcast TV, which I swore off a couple of years ago, was on a phone. And ESPN3 wasn’t showing any cricket that night, so I popped open the Netflix queue, spun the scrollbar, and then stabbed at the moving queue to pick something as close to at random as I could. And thus, as a result, I spent my first night in the hospital watching Shank and Genetic Chile [below]. (The next day, I got my laptop back, and I’ll tell you, I have never been so happy to see a fifteen-inch screen in my life.) None of which has more than the vaguest thing to do with Shank, other than that I was watching it on a painfully small screen and thus cannot make my usual comments about such things as cinematography, camera placement, and the like. Probably for the best, since that’s the day I was introduced to dilaudid, which became my best friend for the next three weeks. How fuzzy was I? I’d actually written down the wrong film (I had Mo Ali’s 2010 thriller in this spot instead of Simon Pearce’s gay romance; I have never seen the former). Thankfully, I came to my senses, because by all accounts that movie is a dog’s dinner. This one, despite a slow and confusing start and maybe a bit too much manufacture drama leading up to the big climax, is pretty good.

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Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike that Changed America (2011): The Winners Lose

Joseph A. McCartin, Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike that Changed America (Oxford University Press, 2011)

full disclosure: this book was provided to me free of charge by Amazon Vine.

Ronald Reagan's profile looms over a photo of a strike in the early 1980s on the book's cover.

The end of an era.
photo credit:

I was born in 1968. So in 1981 I was thirteen years old, and I was growing up in a staunch Republican family (though one who preferred to get their news from MacNeil and Lehrer; I still haven’t figured out how to reconcile that). I was not terribly politically aware, partially because of the atmosphere in which I was raised and partially because the entire idea of politics was something of a mystery to me and I didn’t really understand how Presidents were any different than kings or something like that. So at the time, when my parents, who are still staunch Reaganites, dismissed the entire ATC strike as something that needed to happen and was good for the country, it never occurred to me to question that, and by the time I did become politically astute enough to wonder about it, the entire incident had faded not only from my conversation at home, but from the media, and slipped into obscurity to the point where I had forgotten it even happened. So when this came across my Vine emails, I grabbed a copy because I had only the vaguest memories of the incident at all, much less how it might have changed America.

What a dash of ice water to the face.

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Fevre Dream (1982): A Song of Water and Steam

George R. R. Martin, Fevre Dream (Poseidon, 1982)

[originally posted 2Nov2001]

The faces of two vampires appear in the clouds behind a nineteenth-century riverboat on the book's cover.

photo credit:

It would be unfair to say that after reading A Song of Ice and Fire’s first three novels, Fevre Dream was a disappointment; it’s unfair to expect any novelist, with the arguable exception of Clive Barker, to live up to ASoIaF’s standards all the time. And to be fair, Fevre Dream is original from beginning to end and quite well-written.

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Dare You To (2013): The Revenge of the Lightpole

Katie McGarry, Dare You To (Harlequin, 2013)

Two rain-covered young-and-beautifuls lock in an embrace on the cover of the book.

Step up?
photo credit:

I read Dare You To, Katie McGarry’s sequel to Pushing the Limits, the week it was released. And now, for some unfathomable reason (that probably has to do with how far I am behind—it’s so bad now I haven’t even counted the number of review headers on this page that are currently blank in something like a year), I am only starting to write the review a week after Crash into You, the third book in the series, was released. Yeah, my backlog has gotten kind of ridiculous.

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A Wave (1985): Partikel

John Ashbery, A Wave (Viking, 1985)

[originally posted 2Nov2001]

A picture of ocean waves decorates the book's cover.

Looks like lots of them to me.
photo credit:

If you believe back-cover blurbs, it seems like every major poet in America is firmly convinced that John Ashbery is not only one of America’s premier poets, but at the top of that heap. Ashbery IS quite the distinguished writer on art, and so perhaps others are willing to cut his cross-pollination a bit of slack based on that. Wrongheaded as it may be, I’m not one of them.

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Head Trauma (2006): Clean, Unshaven

Head Trauma (Lance Weiler, 2006)

An X-ray of a head adorns the movie poster.

Where your head leads you.
photo credit:

Head Trauma was the seventh movie I watched on February 15, 2013. (I love days when I get to work from home!) Previous to it, the highest rating any of those movies has gotten was a star and a half; my choices today turned out to be phenomenally bad. I was quite thankful this ended up breaking the streak; it’s a fine, if flawed, little no-budget thriller that reminded me a great deal of Lodge Kerrigan’s cult hit Clean, Shaven. Save that Head Trauma has a plot. And actors who can actually act. You know, little niceties like that that can make all the difference between something well-meaning but insufferable and something watchable that just misses the mark. And even that may be putting it too mildly here; Head Trauma does not necessarily miss said mark as much as dance around it, spitting occasionally and poking it with sticks, thumbing its nose at what Hollywood has conditioned average American audiences to expect from a movie. To continue that comparison from above, Clean, Shaven took much the same approach to filmmaking, I think, but Head Trauma, in my estimation, surpassed its churlish older brother by every metric I can come up with. Simply put, this is one hell of a little movie that far too few people saw.

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