Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Past Of Completion

They all got heavier. Heavy with fear. Heavy with sadness. Bloated by bad food and drink.

Each had reasons. Solid reasons. Genetics. Fate. Age.

His was more complicated. Or compromised. Or whatever he chose to tell himself in early morning dark.

Awake the voices clashed. An awful din. Asleep the vistas burst aflame, crashing like cheap props.

Asleep he embraced all scenarios. These were limited tales, bent into fractured shapes.

He couldn't fly. Couldn't float. Possessed no special powers. Death was constant, laughing.

Nothing cruel. Simply fact. How every story ends.

Deserted buildings. Broken glass. Soiled fabric. Torn scattered limbs. Dust of neglect clouding dying suns.

Run along beaches of blood. Rock towers rise, block escape. Music falls, fades.

It's familiar. Warm. Loved ones smile in the distance. The closest furthest away.

He knows better than to run beyond his reach. At times he'll make a break. Climb the rocks. Drag the sand. Create false openings.

Slammed against rubble. Breath sucked from lungs. Clothes stripped and burned.

Faceless women appear. Offer wet promises. Part of his punishment. Ignore them, the ache is profound. Devour them, his regret is complete.

Four AM sirens under his window. Guzzle what's left of the wine. Light up, inhale, cough out blue smoke.

The day is over before dawn. The rest is just killing time. Murder by the hour.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sexy Yule Log

Spending Christmas in NYC this year. First time since my kids were little. Now they're grown and wise to the cynical manipulations of the holiday market. But I still believe. In Santa? No. In Dusty Towne.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bert Schneider

Anyone who shoved Vietnam up Bob Hope's ass on an international stage is okay by me.

When Hearts and Minds won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1975, co-producer Bert Schneider dispensed with standard showbiz thanks. Instead, he read a telegram from the head of Vietnam's Provisional Revolutionary Government delegation to the Paris peace talks.

Dinh Ba Thi conveyed "greetings of friendship to all American people," eliciting applause, boos and hisses. Francis Ford Coppola thought this was a beautiful gesture, especially in the wake of massive US violence in Vietnam. But Bob Hope was incensed and had Frank Sinatra read a statement deploring Schneider's behavior.

Hope had been Hollywood's biggest war booster. His annual Christmas specials from Southeast Asia tried to paint Vietnam in 1940s colors. But each year, Hope's message grew dimmer. His early upbeat commentary became sullen, resigned. To have some hippie producer celebrate American defeat while waving an Oscar was too much for Hope. He shot back, but history muffled its effect.

That was perhaps Bert Schneider's final victory. Up to Hearts and Minds, Schneider was New Hollywood's main engine. He, Bob Rafelson and Steve Blauner (BBS) produced Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, The Last Picture Show, Drive, He Said, and The King of Marvin Gardens. After producing Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven in 1978, Schneider faded from view.

The revolution in American film that he helped foster succumbed to mall movies directed by Spielberg and Lucas. But for such a brief window, Schneider got a lot through.

Schneider not only saw potential in underground narratives, he created the space for their development. He found an audience hungry for relevant films, open to experimentation in mood and structure. Business was conducted in weed-scented air. But when Schneider pulled rank, he did so decisively and without apology.

He gave Dennis Hopper tremendous freedom to direct Easy Rider. As Hopper flirted with a four-hour bike film, violently resisting any changes, Schneider stepped in and cut Easy Rider down to a releasable length. Hopper protested, yet there was nothing he could do. Hopper's then-wife Brooke Hayward observed, "Bert was the heroic savior of that movie. Without him, there would never have been an Easy Rider."

Heroics aside, Schneider could be loathsome. According to Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls (and its accompanying documentary), Schneider was a drug-fueled egomaniac, given to rants and emotional abuse. There was nothing revolutionary about his success.

Alhough he mocked his capitalist status, gave money to the Black Panthers, helped hide Huey Newton and Abbie Hoffman from the FBI, Schneider remained in his prime a Hollywood power broker. Since his father, Abraham, ran Columbia Pictures, Schneider was familiar with the role.

For me, it was Schneider and Rafelson's creation of The Monkees that still resonates. (Paul Mazursky claimed authorship of The Monkees, saying that Schneider and Rafelson stole credit for the idea from him and partner Larry Tucker. But, aren't ideas like butterflies free?)

Yes, The Monkees were Beatles knock-offs. True, some of their music stretched bubble gum to the snapping point. Yet Raybert, Schneider and Rafelson's production company, assaulted mid-60s television with jump cuts, social satire, long hair, and loud music. They fused French New Wave with documentary pacing, live action cartoon energy with media self-awareness. It may look tame now, but The Monkees rattled TV conventions. It wasn't like any other show.

In their second and final season, The Monkees dropped the laugh track, pushed their sound into new areas, setting in motion their destruction. This literally came to a Head in 1968, as Schneider and Rafelson, with help from Jack Nicholson, deconstructed The Monkees as a money-making distraction. Shallow, corporate, lacking in weight.

"You say we're manufactured/To that we all agree/So make your choice and we'll rejoice/In never being free" sang Davy Jones, just before the infamous footage of Nguyễn Ngọc Loan shooting a Vietcong suspect in the head. A girl's scream is heard, but it's in reaction to The Monkees taking the stage, not to the barbarism just shown.

You'd be hard pressed to find any manufactured teen brand since that juxtaposed war crimes with pop diversion. But then, none of them were produced by Bert Schneider. Imagine the film he'd make for Justin Bieber.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sugar Pop

Been traveling a lot of late. Nothing exotic. Post-divorce responsibilities and settling into a new city. Have some heavier posts in mind as I slip into the holidays. Until then, there's always my Twitter feed and Nancy Sinatra.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Nazional Pastimes

Sports gazers are bitching again about the BCS. As expected, LSU will play Alabama for college football's national championship. That Alabama already lost to LSU this season and didn't win its conference made no difference.

The Crimson Tide is a bankable brand. A known commodity. Oklahoma State, which has an identical record as Alabama and did win its conference, had no shot. Even if OSU had gone undefeated, there would be numerous voters who'd still pick Alabama over the Cowboys.

In a season marred by the Penn State rape scandal, SEC favoritism is the least of college football's worries. It seemed odd that Penn State kept playing after its franchise coach was fired, its school president forced to resign. But too much money would be lost, so the harshest penalty has been to banish the 9-3 Nittany Lions to the TicketCity Bowl in Dallas.

Come next season, maybe fans will believe that it was all a bad dream, an aberration, and we can get back to pouring money into corporate sports as the Constitution provides.

I was never crazy about college football. But at least the BCS is open about its avarice, the building of super conferences an honest expression of current power arrangements. The punch line -- that it's all about student athletes -- ceased being funny ages ago. It's still trotted out, but few bother to notice much less react.

Pro football is losing me as well. Cynics may point to the Jets' subpar season as the cause, but this is a long time coming. Ultra-violence is part of it, though for years this didn't bother me much. You can't enjoy the NFL without brain-rattling hits.

Mostly it's the nationalist/militarist tie-ins. The assumption that NFL fans naturally support imperial war and the pomp that sells it. This has grown worse every year, culminating in a Nuremberg rally called the Super Bowl.

The punch line -- that it's all about supporting the troops -- ceased being funny ages ago. It's still trotted out, but millions continue to love and applaud it.

The Occupy movement has clearly softened me. A generation that rejects violence in favor of justice fucks with one's football jones. That is, unless the Jets somehow make it to Nuremberg Indy. One more rally before renouncing the Reich, or Madonna at halftime if the game's a rout.