Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Movies of 2008

Sorry for the lack of a blog last week. I tried very hard to get my memories of working at the Hollywood record store, Vinyl Fetish, finished and put up on this site. But the last couple of weeks have been difficult to say the least. After paying $750 to fix a skylight in our kitchen roof that our ex-handyman put in badly, the rains came and it still leaked all over the house, ruining some records and books I had in shelves in the leaky room. It turns out that the new air conditioner we had installed on our roof ($9000) was installed badly. The idiots who installed it didn’t replace the old pan that held the thing up. It’s rusted and full of holes and the rain just pours in. The air conditioner guy refuses to take any blame and we’re looking into small claims court. In the meantime, it’s going to take another $1600 to fix the roof and we just don’t have that money now. I’m trying to get our insurance to pay for part of it, but that doesn’t look good. I think they’ll pay for water damage, which is minimal, but not for roof repairs. So for now, we just have to deal with water everywhere in our kitchen and guest bedroom every time it rains. Towels and pans will hopefully keep it at bay.

A little over a month ago, Skip got in a bad accident and totaled our primary car. He was okay, although quite a bit banged up and bruised. We got a nice insurance settlement for that and used a good chunk of the money to fix up our second car. After pumping several thousand into that, I thought it was good to go. Then last week I was raising the driver’s side window when it just jammed halfway up. Of course, the next day the rains came, but at least I had time to put plastic all over the window so it didn’t leak. Our mechanic fixed it and that cost us another $400. The problem is that the gears operating the window are now made of plastic and they wear out after a few years. They used to be made of metal, but things just aren’t designed to last anymore like they used to be. It’s a big scam, but the auto manufacturers seem to be paying for things like that now. Or they will be soon, hopefully, if the government doesn’t bail out their incompetency, greed and dishonesty.

We also have our upcoming trip to Italy in less than a week and a half and we absolutely refuse to cancel that, although we cutting it back greatly. We are still going to take a day trip to Naples, but planned trips to Venice and Pisa are now off due to finances. Making plans for this trip have taken up a good portion of my time as well.

When we get back, I’m going to have to start selling everything we own to try to make ends meet, including many collectables and personal items I got from my years on the road that I don’t really want to part with. As it stands now, it looks like we may run out of cash by summertime. So I hope Obama’s stimulus and homebuyers relief packages start working fast, or I may be writing future blogs from a cardboard box on a street corner in downtown LA.

I got too tangled up in all this crap to be able to concentrate on my writing. I hope you’ll forgive me. This will be the last blog until late March, when I return from Italy and get caught up with everything that will back up on me in my absence. I have a lot of things I want to write about, including those Vinyl Fetish days, a two-part record company blog starring all the bands I’ve managed, a story about the late Stiv Bators and many more road stories from the Thin White Rope days. You’ll get all of those in late spring or early summer.

But now it’s time for my yearly Oscar discussion. You all take care of yourselves and I’ll think about you while touring the ruins in Pompeii and eating amazing pizza with a glass of wonderful wine.


It’s time to talk movies again since the Academy Awards are airing on television this weekend. I saw a lot of movies this year and still managed to miss many I wanted to see. As usual, I thought there were many more good movies than bad, at least in the choices I picked to see. Most of the movies listed below I reviewed after I saw them, so I’m going to leave minimal comments about them here. If you’re curious, look them up on, where you’ll get comments, plots and a whole lot more.

The movies I absolutely loved:

Everlasting Moments,
Kung Fu Panda,
Patrik 1.5 (which hasn’t even been released in this country yet.),
Slumdog Millionaire,
The Baader-Meinhoff Complex,
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,
The Dark Knight,
The Reader,
The Visitor,
The Wrestler,
Waltz With Bashir

The movies I liked a lot:

Bottle Shock,
Burn After Reading,
Che parts One & Two,
Forgetting Sarah Marshall,
Frozen River,
Gran Torino,
Hancock ,
Hellboy 2: The Golden Army,
In Bruges,
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,
Iron Man,
I've Loved You So Long,
Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D,
Last Chance Harvey,
Love Songs,
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa,
Mamma Mia,
Paranoid Park,
Quantum of Solace,
Rachel Getting Married,
Savage Grace,
Sex and the City,
The Duchess,
The Incredible Hulk,
The Killing of John Lennon,
Vicky Cristina Barcelona,
Young People Fucking

The movies I thought were just okay:

Get Smart,
Horton Hears A Who,
Pineapple Express,
Speed Racer,
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian,
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,
Tropic Thunder

The movies that disappointed me:

Cassandra's Dream,
Flight of the Red Balloon,
Revolutionary Road,
The X-Files: I Want To Believe

And the movies I absolutely hated:

The Day the Earth Stood Still,
The Happening,
The Spirit

I saw these documentaries and loved them:

Encounters at the End of the World,
Man on Wire,
My Winnipeg,
Patti Smith: Dream of Life,
The Wrecking Crew

I saw these documentaries and liked them a lot:

Of All the Things,
The Polymath or the Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany Gentleman,
The Universe of Keith Haring,
Until The Light Takes Us,
You Weren't There

And I saw these two films in unfinished form and although I enjoyed them, I never felt the urge to see the completed films:

Flash of Genius (unfinished),
Ghost Town (unfinished)

As for the Oscars, here’s how I would vote. If I didn’t list a category, it’s because I have no preference for a winner in that one. I managed to see every major release this year, although I did miss some movies in the Foreign Film, Documentary and Shorts categories. I also missed “Defiance”, which was up for Original Score, so in this case I’m not going to comment on that one, especially since I liked all four of the other scores.


Best Picture: I loved all five pictures up, but for me “Slumdog Millionaire” was easily the best movie I saw all year. While it had moments that were hard to watch due to violence or just plain grossness, it still left me happy and loving life by the end of it. It was a wonderful film.

Actor: Again, all five actors in this category did amazing jobs. But my vote goes to the extraordinary job Sean Penn did in “Milk”. I won’t be too upset if either Richard Jenkins (The Visitor) or Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler) wins though.

Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker in “The Dark Knight” was easily the best acting job in this category and I think he would have been nominated even if he was still alive.

Actress: Yet again, there were five very strong performances in this category. I think Kate Winslet will win it for “The Reader”, but I’m secretly wishing for Anne Hathaway to win for her amazing portrayal in “Rachel Getting Married”.

Supporting Actress: I would have liked to have seen Rosemarie DeWitt get nominated for “Rachel Getting Married”, but in her absence, I think Marisa Tomei once again proved she really can act in “The Wrestler”. I wouldn’t be too upset if either Viola Davis (Doubt) or Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) wins it though.

Director: All were strong in this category and I would have liked to see Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight) get a nomination. But Danny Boyle’s joyous work on “Slumdog Millionaire” should win it for him.

Documentary Feature: I only saw two of these movies, “Man on Wire” and “Encounters at the End of the World”. “Man on Wire” was absolutely amazing and should win this.

Animated Feature: I loved all three movies in this category, but “Wall-E” was extra special and will hopefully win.

Foreign Language: I only saw two of the movies in this category, “The Baader-Meinhoff Complex” and “Waltz with Bashir” and I loved them both. But I think “The Baader-Meinhoff Complex” was the better film and my vote goes to that. I have to say though that “Everlasting Moments” was the best foreign film I saw all year and it should have at least been nominated. (I’ve been meaning to see “The Class” and just haven’t been able to find the time. I’ll get to it eventually, but not in time for the Oscar ceremony.)

Original Screenplay: I found “Happy-Go-Lucky” to be extremely irritating and I don’t even think the screenplay should have been nominated. Of the other four, I think that Martin McDonagh’s witty “In Bruges” should win, although I won’t be upset if either Dustin Lance Black (Milk) or Andrew Staton & Jim Reardon (Wall-E) wins it.

Adapted Screenplay: I loved Peter Morgan’s script for “Frost/Nixon” and the way it was adapted for the movie. David Hare (The Reader) and Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) are up there as well, though, so any of them can win and make me happy.

Cinematography: All five films were stunning to look at, but “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” just took my breath away.

Art Direction: Again, all five were beautiful to look at, but “Changeling” really transported me to the past and I think that should win.

Original Song: This is rare year where I actually like all three songs nominated. But “Jai Ho” (Slumdog Millionaire) closed the movie in such an infectiously joyous way that my vote has to go to that.


And that’s that. I’ll be watching the Awards and I’ll see how much the Academy agrees with me. In the meantime, I’m going to start on this year’s movies. I’ve seen “Coraline” in 3D and when I return from Italy, I’m really looking forward to “Watchmen”, one of the greatest graphic novels I’ve ever read. I hope the film does it justice.


I’d also like to make a quick mention of a few shows I saw this last week.

Thanks to my friend Gary, I was able to see the band Sparks ( & make their triumphant LA return. They opened the evening with a complete live rendition of their newest album, “Exotic Creatures of the Deep” and it was glorious. I think the album is easily one of the best albums of last year and the live version was even better. Then the band came back and did the complete “Kimono My House”, the album that launched their stardom both here and in the UK. It was an amazing evening that I would have missed if it wasn’t for Gary, so I will be forever grateful.

I also saw “Lovelace: A Rock Opera” ( with music by Charlotte Caffey (the Go-Gos) and Anna Waronker (That Dog). I wasn’t sure what to make of this musical telling of porno star Linda Lovelace’s life, but it turned out to be a great time. The music was fun, without cheapening the woman’s story. Hopefully it will go on to better things in the future. It’s a hit here in Los Angeles, but deserves a much bigger audience.

And I finally got around to seeing “Coraline” in 3D ( and absolutely loved it. (Director Henry Selick also gave us such classics as “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “James and the Giant Peach”.) It’s dreamlike and absolutely frightening, so very young kids should be kept away. But to tell the truth, I would have loved it when I was a kid, even through my tears of terror. It’s not just a beautiful job of animation; it’s a beautiful movie period. It’s already on my top pick list for 2009.


I talk to you in three or four weeks.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Welcome, Politics and Tour Stories

Hello and welcome to my new Blogspot! Over the next weeks and months, I’ll be tweaking this space, adding things here and there and changing others around. Eventually, I’ll settle on something that I’m totally satisfied with. Please let me know if you have any recommendations or ideas. I’m happy to be here. I have an “adult content” warning, so I can write what I want and how I want now. And so far, I have had none of the problems with posting that I had over at MySpace. I think this will be a good home for my ranting.

You’ll also find most of my old blogs from MySpace on the Archive. I edited out most of the reviews and a small bit of content that was no longer relevant, but the blogs are mostly the same ones I originally published.

I thought I’d start out this week with a couple of topics.

I’m really getting tired of listening to Republicans whine about Obama’s policies this close to the beginning of his administration and policies. These conservatives had eight years of mostly uninterrupted power plays to get the country where it is now, on the brink of collapse. Now it’s time for them to step aside and shut the fuck up and let someone else try to fix what they broke.

For eight years we heard how “un-American” it was to criticize Bush and his cronies. Less than a week into his administration, we have Republican conservatives like Rush Limbaugh telling the public that they hope Obama fails. And this drug addict had the nerve to refer to others as un-American? What an ass. Every time I turn on the TV or head online to places like Facebook, I see or hear some conservative crying about Obama. Get over it.

Look, I don’t believe that Obama’s Economic Stimulus Package is going to work. I think it’s too little too late. But you’d think these conservative voices would just leave it alone. It’s a win-win situation for them, I would think. If Obama gets his way and this package fails, then it’s a good chance the Republicans can take back the government in four years. Hell, they can start making inroads into congress in two years.

And if it does work, well then everyone in the country will be a hell of a lot better off and even Republicans should be happy about that. So maybe they should just shut their traps and wait and see. They can’t lose.

What I, and everyone else, know already is that tax cuts aren’t going to help. It’s just another thinly veiled attempt to make the rich even richer. We’ve had eight years of tax cuts and look where we are. And all this whining about “tax-and-spend” Democrats is just ridiculous following eight years of “no-tax-and-spend” Republicans. You can’t spend money you don’t have to fight your wars and reward your cronies. So once again, shut the fuck up. I’m tired of hearing it, and I’m sure most of the rest of the country is as well.

If anything, it’s just nice to have someone in office who takes responsibility for the mistakes of his administration. Bush, Cheney and their henchmen never did that. In fact, they’re still denying their mistakes and they’re still using their fear tactics to do so.

But I know that the above is just politics as usual. I’m really more upset about several music related events that happened of the last few weeks.

First, Los Angeles radio station, Indie 103.1, shuttered their doors and changed over to a Spanish language station, as if Los Angeles doesn’t have enough of those already. Indie was the home of ex-Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones wonderful daily broadcast, “Jonesy’s Jukebox”. As a station, it wasn’t perfect. There aren’t any that are. But Indie managed to play music I like probably 75% of the time, and that is a great thing. I would listen to the station constantly while driving around the city. I found out about a lot of bands I had never heard before and I became fans of many of them. Now we’re left with Oldies stations and KROQ, which bills itself as an “alternative” station, but is really nothing more than a “hard rock” station. They bore the hell out of me. I’ve stopped listening to the radio except for the occasional newscast. Indie will be missed.

RIP to Lux Interior of the Cramps ( & He blew my mind when I saw the Cramps at the first LA show at the Whiskey. I had never quite seen anything like it before that. He and his band’s music helped shape me into the man I am today, for better or worse.

I was also very sad to hear about the death of folk musician John Martyn ( & a week ago. He was an amazing musician and a great guy. I once spent an evening in Sicily with him drinking and talking about his life and music in general. I was there with Thin White Rope and we were playing a festival held in some ruins in the city of Syracuse. There were lots of bands on the bill, but the only two I remember besides TWR was That Petrol Emotion and John Martyn. I was excited about seeing both and after Martyn’s set, I introduced myself and told him that I was fan. He told me how much he enjoyed TWR. After the show, we went back to the hotel and I walked to a bar, where we talked for several hours about drinking, music and any other pleasures we could think of. It was one of the best moments of my life. Here’s to you, John. Your music will live on.

But since I started it, I should go ahead and finish the story. That festival was one of my favorite shows that TWR ( played. Before the show, the promoters took us up into the hills of Syracuse for dinner. We dined outdoors and on each side of us where beautiful Greek ruins illuminated on neighboring hills. These had been left over from the days the Greeks occupied the island. It was absolutely gorgeous and the food was great as well.

During the show, which I remember as being a great one, I also vaguely remember a big fall on my part. I usually stood off to the side of the stage when the band played. I was the tour manager, but I also acted as a roadie when it was needed, plus the side of the stage was a great place to watch the band. Halfway through the set, a problem happened and I ran out to fix it. As I went to return to my spot off to the side, I stepped back too far and all I remember is falling for what seemed an eternity. I landed flat on my back on the ground below the stage. Somehow, I managed to escape any injury, but it knocked the wind out of my lungs and scared the hell out of me. John von Feldt still laughs about it to this day. He told me he was playing and looked over to see me there and suddenly I just disappeared. Then he saw me climbing back on stage with this sheepish look on my face. All I know is that I was very careful to know the boundaries of the stage area after that.

I also mentioned that That Petrol Emotion ( & were playing the festival. They were a band made up of several ex-members of the Irish punk band, the Undertones, and I was a huge fan of both bands. I was very excited about seeing them live and they didn’t disappoint me. I think everyone played a great set that night.

After everything was done and all the equipment was packed up, we were taken to our hotel. This hotel was right on the beach. When I got back from my drinking with John Martyn, I noticed a bunch of people sitting on the lounge furniture on the beach. I walked over to discover some of the TWR and TPE guys drinking and talking in the dark. So of course I joined them. Most of the conversation was just talk of the kind that traveling musicians do when they get together. But I do remember TPE lead singer, Steve Mack, an American, complaining about touring Italy. He didn’t like it at all. He didn’t like the chaos. He didn’t like the attitude. He didn’t even like the food. He didn’t like anything about Italy and claimed that if he had his way, he would never tour there again.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that touring Italy could be a giant pain in the ass. They were always disorganized. We almost always arrived for soundcheck to find a club or venue with no PA set up yet and little knowledge about what was going to happen that evening. It was almost always impossible to get a show to run with any sign of organization. But I have never run into fans as enthusiastic and passionate. I thought the food was amongst the best I’ve ever eaten in any country and always looked forward to whatever restaurant we were taken to. And the place was just so damned beautiful, from the cities to the country. It was a pain, but we always had a great time there.

I said all this to Stave and then waved my hand to the ocean. I said, “I’m sitting here on the beach in Italy, drinking wine and talking to friends, and I’m getting paid to do it. I have nothing to complain about.”

And that seemed to shut him up.

(Steve and I later became good friends, despite this one disagreement and he later told me that he was just being crabby that night. Several years later, TPE broke up and he moved to Seattle, where I visited him several times. I even stayed with him once when I flew up to see Yoko Ono after I missed her here due to a show I was working. But we eventually lost touch and I haven’t talked to him in years.) *

We sat up talking all night long and watched the sunrise over the ocean. It was wonderful. The unfortunate thing was that we had a show that evening somewhere in the North of Italy. We had to pack up and leave for the airport very early that morning and then drive for several hours to the small town we were playing that night. (The name of that town escapes me right now.) That was a grueling drive, especially without sleep, but it’s also a story for another day.

We ran into That Petrol Emotion and Steve Mack several more times during our road trips. We saw them play in London once where we discovered opening band, The Young Gods, and became immediate fans. Steve insisted that we get there in time to see them or he wouldn’t put us on the guestlist. I’m thankful to him for that to this day. That was also the show were I ran into a very drunk Robyn Hitchcock after the aftershow party. He tried to take the cab I had stopped and I knocked him on his ass in the gutter for his attempt. (I love the Soft Boys, but I’ve never been much of a fan of his solo work and I’ve never been a fan of drunken obnoxiousness, although I’ve been guilty of it myself several times in the past.)

I just recently heard that That Petrol Emotion got back together late last year for some shows in Ireland and are now thinking of doing more shows elsewhere in the world. I hope so. I would love to see them again.

*(As of yesterday, I just made contact with Steve again through Facebook. He’s doing fine and the band is playing the South by Southwest festival. If you’re in Austin during that time, you should go see them. They’ve always been a great live act. I’m hoping they eventually make their way to Los Angeles.)

And that’s it for this week. I’ve got many more stories I’m working on at the moment and I’ll get them up in the space when I can. I’m working on more band stories, including one about the second band I ever worked for, BPeople, and I’m putting together a blog of stories of the days I worked at the one-of-a-kind record store, Vinyl Fetish. I hope to get at least one of them up here before I go to Italy in three weeks. As I said at the beginning of all this, if you have anything to suggest or comment on, please do. I can use all the help you want to give me.

Take care and I’ll see you all again soon.