Thursday, December 22, 2011

RIP Phillip Guilbeau

It’s interesting as you get towards middle age and friends start to die. Recently I’ve had three friends pass away. All were involved in the art scene in a variety of ways. They all were instrumental in shaping people’s lives, but they were also artists whose careers never achieved household name recognition. It makes me sad thinking about the number of artists toiling away for years whose work never reached a large enough audience.

I just wanted to shed some light on one of those. I first met Phillip Guilbeau shortly after moving to SF in 1987. I have no idea where I first saw one of his films. At Club Kommotion? The Firehouse? The Artists’ Television Access? I don’t remember where it was, but I certainly remember what it was. The Psychosis of Tony Lambert was a bizarre, no-budget, super 8 blast of anger and aggression. The legendary Gary Floyd (of the Dicks and Sister Double Happiness) played both quack psychiatrist and patient Tony Lambert, driven to psychosis by society’s lack of understanding of his homosexuality. There was bad language, cross dressing, and wild gesticulations and facial contortions courtesy of Floyd. The film was nearly unwatchable at a technical level, but so full of life, energy and attitude that I was hooked and couldn’t wait to watch the film over and over. And it turned out Phillip had a trilogy of Lambert films under his belt. When I finally met Phillip, I found him to be one of the sweetest, quietest, kindest people I’d ever met. And his gentle Texas lilt was always so calming.

I immediately identified Phillip as a kindred spirit. A nice, quiet kid making insane films full of punk rock energy. We did lots of shows together. I put out one of the Lambert films on my first video compilation and screened his films countless times throughout the 80s and 90s.

As life does, we drifted apart. The number of times I talked to Phillip in the last ten years is miniscule. At some point, Phillip moved to Michigan to go to grad school at U of M (my alma mater). He reached out to me several weeks back, asking me to give him a call. We never spoke. I left a message. Phillip called back and left a message on my phone. The message was riddled with dropouts and bad reception and I heard almost nothing. I called back and left a message. And that’s it. Cancer. He passed away at his home in Texas with his family this week.

Not sure when the last time it was that he made a film. Not sure how many people will remember him as a filmmaker. His name likely won’t be included in film history books, but I know his work had impact. It certainly had an impact on me.

Rest In Peace - Phillip Guilbeau.

Friday, September 9, 2011

New 8tracks Mix


I can’t begin to tell you how saddened I was to hear about the passing of underground film legend George Kuchar. George was a huge inspiration to me. I loved his films and routinely showed them to all my classes. Full of humor, joy and irreverence. And George was a great guy too. I loved seeing his gangling frame amble down Valencia Street. He always had kind words for me and always asked about my wife. Either a classy or lecherous move. But either way, endearing. The remembrances pouring out in the blogsphere and on facebook have been really heartening and touching. I was honored to be asked by to write an obit. Here’s a link to that.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Who Needs The Internet? The Revenge of Print!!!!

“Who needs the internet?” I ask. I recently have been included in 4 different print projects, which, I must admit, sends a delightful retro chill down my spine. I’ve had articles published in two fantastic zines—8 Track Mind and The Molten Rectangle, and have had my work dissected (or vivisected) in two new fantastic tomes, Destroy All Movies and Radical Light. Here’s the skinny.

8 Track Mind, hopefully won’t need an introduction to most, but since it’s been 10 years or so since it’s last issue, all bets are off. 8 Track Mind was/is a fantastic zine, put together by media archeologist and all around good guy Russ Forster. 8 Track Mind has been the foremost publication willing to dig deep into the 8 Track subculture. For purveyors of discarded and forgotten technology, the zine featured some of the finest reportage geared toward 8 Track collectors and cultural connoisseurs of media and concepts abandoned to the dust heap of history. As part of the Revenge of Print Challenge issued forth from Baltimore’s Atomic Books and Chicago’s Quimby’s Books, Russ is back with a print-only issue that abandons the 8 Track theme and focuses on the pros vs. cons of the blogs vs. zine universe that we live in today. Articles from Joe Carducci, Kim Cooper, V. Vale, Lance Laurie and other luminaries, including myself, grace the pages. Hop down to Tower Records or your local zine shoppe and pick one up. If that doesn't work, send Russ $4 via paypal to

The Molten Rectangle is a film lover’s mag that is the brainchild of Gene Booth. The latest issue (number 3) features heaps of good think pieces about film and film history. Pieces on The African Queen, Burn, Pleasantville, and Million Dollar Baby fill the mag. But the standout is the oral history of Chicago’s now abandoned Parkway Theater. As an awesome bonus, The Molten Rectangle comes with a bonus DVD. How’s that for old school! The 3 film DVD contains a film by yours truly (Dumbass From Dundas), Jet Evelth’s Our Last Session (a Maria Bamford-ish trip to the shrink piece) and Booth’s own absurdist collage Skillz, wherein a trio of urban dwellers head to a video arcade only to have their dialogue stripped away and reconstituted for comic purposes. You can pick up a copy here.

Destroy All Movies: The Complete Guide To Punks On Film (edited by Zack Carlson & Bryan Connolly).
Have you been hankering for a movie encyclopedia about punk rock movies? Well, if so, here you have it. Destroy All Movies is the real deal. It’s monstrous, it’s beautifully laid out, and it’s expertly written. The book covers it all, from the obvious like the Decline movies and Suburbia to the No Wave Films to The Cinema of Transgression to the no budget, sub-underground shenanigans of folks like Dave Markey, Jon Moritsugu, and myself. I had no idea I was even in the book until I saw a copy at the MOMA. Like the narcissist that I am, I thumbed through the index, found my name and quickly flipped to page 179 for the review of I’m Not Fascinating. Brutal and funny. Fascinating gets dubbed as “The least likely punk feature ever shot,” and labeled as a “self-loathing vanity project”. Backhanded compliments and outright disdain for the film ensue, but I must say this is one of the best/funniest reviews of the movie ever, so I’m down. But in all seriousness the book is fantastic. It is equal parts reverential and snarky. Amidst the onslaught of reviews, the book intersperses interviews and with players like Markey, Alan Arkush (Rock and Roll High School) and Slava Tsukerman (Liquid Sky). As for the reviews, every movie that ever featured a punk in passing comes under the microscope. No shit, Hannah and Her Sisters is in this thing. Now that’s punk!

Radical Light: Alternative Film & Video in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945-2000 (edited by Steve Anker, Kathy Geritz, Steve Seid).
Could there be two film books more different in tone than Destroy All Movies and Radical Light? I don’t think so, but I do know that I and am proud to be in both. I always contended that my films were a mixture of highbrow and lowbrow art. Being included in both of these books makes me feel, that perhaps, I’m not full of hot air on that account. I just picked up Radical Light at the library and am not that deep in yet, but I am blown away. Radical Light looks at the history of Bay Area experimental cinema from its roots in the 40s through the early part of this century. It’s a loving homage to the city, to its artists, and to the institutions that fostered the creativity within the Bay Area art scene. Interviews, essays and ephemera fill the pages. Reminisces and insights delivered by curators, art historians and the filmmakers themselves give the book academic and cultural heft. The book also connects the dots between the various art and cultural movements at play in the Bay. San Francisco has always exhibited a distinctive brand of counterculture, subversion, and pranksterism. The Bay Area has always been a place where experimentalism has often trumped careerism. Radical Light does much to unearth how and why that spirit of adventure has come to be and developed such strong roots. Can’t wait to really dig in.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Super 8: The Movie, The Medium

Just saw J.J. Abrams Super 8. I loved it. A group of kids making a super 8 movie witness a train wreck and then all sorts of paranormal hell breaks loose. The film is a loving tribute to early Spielberg classics, particularly Close Encounters and E.T. Having a 10 year old, we’ve actually watched those films a lot recently, so all the little references were hitting me just right. This is a great film and a great family film. Good filmmaking, good suspense, and sophisticated. Not enough of those types of films for the 10 year old set. So kudos for that.

Some random thoughts in the Super 8 afterglow.

* * * *
Two teens in the bathroom couldn’t figure out why the film was called super 8. I could only smile in bemusement.

* * * *

As the King of Super 8, I of course bring some baggage into a film called "super 8".

The irony of the weekend—I spent $120 just this week cleaning up audio hum from a botched super 8 transfer done 15 years ago by the very same lab that did the super 8 work on Super 8. It burns me up. That lab was always bragging about their work for Ollie Stone and Jimmy Jarmusch, yet whenever Danny Plotnick showed up they never seemed to properly know how to use their equipment. I’m still paying for their boobery to this day. Grrr….

* * * *

With my jaded eagle eye I was looking for some small gauge gaffes. One thought I had is that the Ektachrome we see throughout the film is the wrong Ektachrome for a late 70s period piece. I could be wrong about that. My super 8 knowledge is foggier than it used to be. But in the late 70s, wouldn’t the stock be Ektachrome G? Those certainly were not Ektachrome G boxes on display. Anyone have thoughts about that? I am actually curious.

* * * *
Lots of super 8 in the air this week. First Blank City extolling the no-budget, underground aesthetic of super 8, then Super 8 takes it to the big budget stratosphere with a look back at suburban teen home movie mayhem. All good stuff. Is there a new super 8 revival afoot?

* * * *

Let’s talk about Spielberg for a moment. As a kid I really liked him. Jaws, Close Encounters, ET, and Raiders are all films I saw and loved in the theaters when they came out. But I hit the college years sometime around the release of The Color Purple. I loathed that movie. Such a powerful, heavy, mind-blowing book, yet the film seemed so tame in comparison. Likewise I was shocked by how a book as harrowing as Empire of the Sun could be turned into a feel good Spielberg nostalgia trip. I felt Spielberg couldn’t handle anything with true grit. His world was all about 50s movie matinee escapism. At that point in my life I was diving deep into the world of underground and avant garde cinema. I was looking for some challenging Blank City type of material. I viewed Spielberg as a guy who was good at making greasy kid stuff. I saw that as a bad thing.

Now that I’m a parent and have a ten year old and have been revisiting some of those early works, the ones I liked in the first place, I absolutely have a renewed respect. Exciting fare for the whole family with much more emotional depth than I remember. Smart and well made. A world for kids and adults to share. Films like E.T. and Raiders are definitely aimed at the kid market, but are ones that adults can still be thrilled by. Films like Jaws and Close Encounters are aimed at adults, yet kids can still be fascinated and creeped out by them. That’s a nice balance. And I should say that Close Encounters is one of the all time greats. I’ve always thought that. So there. Steven Spielberg, I apologize for anything mean I’ve ever said about you. Hope you haven’t been waiting too long for that.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Source Code and Blank City

Super fun double bill at the movies yesterday.

It’s summer. And as at teacher, that means some spare time and lazy summer afternoons. What better reason to start seeing a lot of movies. I started it with a foray downtown for Source Code, which is surprisingly still showing in one theater in town and followed it up with No Wave doc Blank City.

Source Code

I was a big fan of the Kubrick-esque solitude of Moon and was interested in Duncan Jones’ follow up. Got to say I dug it in a big way. Several years back I talked about a new generation of intelligent sci-fi films emerging out of Hollywood, and Source Code fits that bill. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a soldier on a mission, traveling to an alternate time-line to change future events. I will say there are some questionable moments from a logic perspective, but Jones does a great job constructing a foreboding universe. For all the apocalyptic trappings of his mission, the film is really about Gyllenhaal’s isolation and his personal journey of trying to find trustworthy characters in a landscape he has little control over. As with Moon, Jones wears his influences on his sleeve. Hitchcockian suspense, Kubrickian solitude, Johnny Got His Gun creepiness, with a little Run Lola Run thrown into the mix. But, as with Moon he makes it feel fresh and exciting and brings enough of his own ideas into the mix to make it all hum.

Blank City

Absolutely loved Blank City, Celine Danhier’s documentary on NYC No Wave filmmaking and the Cinema of Transgression. Set against the backdrop of a dangerous, decaying, and bankrupt NYC, No Wave filmmakers like Amos Poe, Eric Mitchell, Scott and Beth B, Charlie Ahearn, Jim Jarmusch, Steve Buscemi, and others set about making films that owe equal debt to punk rock nihilism, French New Wave filmmaking, Warhol/Morrissey Factory fair like Trash and Heat, as well as the lo-rent mania of John Waters. Mostly shot on super 8, the films are no budget, no frills, featuring no real actors, let loose on the streets of NYC and lower east side apartments. The films often have a loose hold on narrative at best. In reality many of these films are barely watchable in their entirety, but still have an impact as we see a group of artists trying to make sense of their universe on the margins. Blank City does a great job interviewing many of the folks at the center of the storm and does a fantastic job of culling great clips that capture the sense of urgency, desperation, and fearlessness that fuel these films. I’m reminded of a collection of super 8 films from Berlin released on a dvd called Berlin Super 80. The films themselves are not so interesting, but as a collection the films paint such a stark and distinctive picture of the time, the place, and the people. You’re left with a better impression of that era than any narrative film looking back at that era could provide. Blank City and the films of the No Wave operate in a similar sphere.

Also, by watching how this film scene grows and changes, the film does a great job looking at the development of NYC from it’s bankrupt state of menace in the mid-70s to the bustling, monied universe of the late Regan era. This is a nice bit of filmmaking, to tell the story of NYC through the story and the experience of these filmmakers.

The film also does a nice job looking at the crossover between the NYC art scenes at the time. Fine Art, CBGBs, Max’s, No Wave music, and the birth of hip hop all come into play as the players from these scenes cross over. I never realized that Wild Style, in fact, came out of the No Wave film scene. And finally, the No Wave films ultimately pave the way for the more abrasive Cinema of Transgression, populated by the likes of Nick Zedd, Richard Kern, and Lydia Lunch, a scene that I’m certainly more familiar with.

The film is going to want to make you seek out some of these films. It’s a mixed bag to be certain, and the shorter films tend to be more palatable. I certainly am a big fan of the Scott & Beth B shorts. Regardless, any fan of outsider movements, NYC, America in the 70s or punk ought to love this film.

Trailer for Blank City here.

Monday, May 16, 2011

More Mixes

I swear I'll get back to writing real blog posts shortly. I've got some thoughts on tying together the jaded, cynical, politcal shenanigans of James Ellroy's American Tabloid/Cold Six Thousand/Blood's A Rover trilogy into the flooding on the Mississippi. But until then, enjoy these two recent mixes from 8 tracks.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Exquisite DJ Project #1: Don't Choose The Wrong Song

Hey Friends, welcome to The Exquisite DJ Project. This is the first installment in assembling a collaborative mix with a bunch of my favorite rock and roll aficionados. The mix is assembled exquisite corpse style—each DJ hears only the track that came before him.

This time through the crew features myself as well as:

Jim Granato, aka DJ Jim G. You can catch him DJ at The Cassanova and The Hemlock. Track him down and listen to his mixes on 8tracks at Jim_G.

Chris Xefos, aka DJ CRX. You can catch him DJ at the Lone Star. Next gig will be in May. It will be part of a VS. series. First installment, 80s vs. 90s. CRX has been archiving sets on 8tracks. Check those out here.

Russ Forster, aka The Rock’N’Roll Nurse, has a weekly internet radio show on FCC Free Radio called BACKSPINS (6-8PM PST).

Dan Buskirk. This guy has been making awesome mixes for years and years and djs on Princeton’s WPRB.

The mix is called Don’t Choose The Wrong Song. An appropriate enough title pulled from one of Russ’ selections. If you have a need to know who added what, the order was myself, Jim, Chris, Russ, and Dan.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Impending DJ Paranoia

The blog has taken a backseat lately as life has gotten too hectic. But I see a light at the end of the tunnel and some posts in the very near future. In the meantime, check out this mix I made on the 8tracks site. Click to ROCK. My buddy Ray is threatening to make me come DJ at The Edinburgh Castle and The Make Out Room. In that spirit, the mix is called Impending DJ Paranoia.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

2010: Old Farts At Play

When I was young and hip I always joked about being an old curmudgeon. I couldn’t wait to sit on my porch, eat some pickled eggs, and yell at the kids to keep off my lawn. Now that I’m older and increasingly bitter, I realize that, in fact, I want nothing to do with bitterness. I don’t mind being old, but I’ll pass on the bitter herbs. In that spirit, as I look back at the year from a cultural perspective, I think 2010 was a year to celebrate old codgers.

Let’s raise a toast to the folks aging gracefully.


The number one record of the year for me was Roky Erickson’s True Love Cast Out All Evil. The Rok is someone who has spent his adult life not aging gracefully. Drugs, mental problems, and a spotty post-13th Floor Elevators career were all encapsulated in the You’re Gonna Miss Me doc. That film came on the heels of a two cd retrospective release, I Have Always Been Here Before, which did a great job culling the nuggets from Erickson’s solo career. None of that prepared me for the beauty, the anguish, and the rock of the new record. On True Love, Erickson finally seems to have some perspective on the difficult road he has traveled. Instead of screaming about bloody hammers, Lucifer, and two-headed dogs, Erickson seems able to look back and comment on the difficult journey he has taken.

If you haven’t heard it, just listen to Please Judge, a particular moving piece where Erickson pleads with a Judge to not lock him away. Songs about finding salvation in family and friends abound and are set against the backdrop of a life derailed by incarceration and missteps. Given Erickson’s history, this is poignant and heavy stuff. True Love is a beautiful record, filled with beautiful songs. Hats off to the folks from Okervill River for helping Erickson channel these songs.

Best Live Shows

The number one highlight—seeing the GBV reunion at the Warfield. During the 90s I steered clear of all reunion shows. They seemed kind of sad to me. I didn’t want to be like a 50 year old Eagles’ fan shelling out big coin and reliving my youth. But now that I approach 50, I kind of get the appeal. It’s a pretty simple formula. Music that I love. Music that I know all the words to. All the while being surrounded by people like me. Hooray, I fit in. GBV ruled. My other favorite shows this year. Cheap Trick, Grinderman, and Sharon Jones. What do they all have in common? Old people.


Best Book of the year. Patti Smith’s Just Kids. I wrote about it here. This book won a National Book Award and is deserving. Smith was always a women of the letters, loving poetry more than any other rock and roller you could name. It’s only fitting then that this book is such a triumph. Her best moment since Horses? Maybe not, but then again, maybe so. Regardless, the book is a fond look back and being in love with the world. The writing shows wisdom and insight that only someone who has lived a full life could obtain.


One of the Best Movies of the Year: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. I wrote about this one as well. Is there anyone older than Joan still kicking out the jams? I don’t think so. This doc does a great job questioning why someone of that age still needs to kick out the jams.

In short, 2010 was ruled by old farts at play, and that’s all right by me.

Other Records I Loved:

The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night, Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings - I Learned The Hard Way, Grinderman II, Band Of Horses – Infinite Arms, Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - Hawk

Other Records I Liked

Black Keys – Brothers, LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening, Dead Weather –Sea of Cowards

Other Movies I Really Liked

Exit Through The Gift Shop, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, The Social Network, Get Him To The Greek, The Town, Toy Story 3, DTour, It Came From Kuchar, Black Swan, Winnebago Man