Thursday, December 16, 2004

I can only think that if you take all of the intolerable religious nuts from Europe, toss them out into a huge continent to kill Indians and mate with their cousins, and give them maybe a hundred and fifty years to turn a prairie into a shopping mall, you will come up with a culture that can marry cybertech and ancient ergot visions into something as totally insane as the Rapture Index.

Fortunately some can mock.

The secret word is Smite

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

I walk alone onto the stage, seriously wondering if, this time, I have gone completely too far. I am about to read unaccompanied poetry to a audience whose first language is Japanese. Also the show is running late and the drag queens who have the club for the midnight matinee are already reshaping their eyeliner and showing signs of the totally international (and maybe even interplanetary) Miss Thing-style "Oh p-LEASE!" The room is very crowded with what has to be neo-Furry Freak Tokyo, but the silence is complete. Small but elegant, purple covered booklets of Yukiko’s translation have been distributed through the crowd, but that hardly guarantees that everyone will follow the metaphoric bouncing ball. The first move in this piece of theatre is that my left hand, the one holding the blue binder of words to be spoken, has started to shake, and I must will it still. I have to fill the room with my voice and bend it to my pleasure. Or I disembowel myself with my sword, right?. Accordingly I put my voice on the tightest leash and lower it a deliberate half octave, letting gears grind to the max. This will be the last time and, if I can’t speak in the morning, it don’t mean fucking nothing.
"All his life he walked with the demon, from the Radium Room to the Palace of Mirrors, From the Place of Skulls to the Canadian Border..."
I growl and stagger the tempo. After four stanzas, I stop, because the first piece is short, and I drop a very non-Japanese, Three-Musketeers, bow-with-a-flourish, announcing that the first "song" is over. It’s an interesting silence by a room full of people who didn’t know what to do. They probably would have be-bop finger-popped if they had been so-instructed up front. Then someone (maybe one of my own crew) applauds. The room follows suit. I thank them and go into the second piece with all the method I can muster. At the end, I again lower my book and bow. This time the applause is instant and quite enthusiastic. Ha! I can get through this. I can. I can. The room has collectively twigged. Later, when we rocker poets have departed, there may well be a drag queen lipsyncing to Marlene Dietrich singing in German. Who knows? Who cares? This is performance art and my only responsibility is to perform and damn the consequences. I know exactly where I am. Off to the races. Didn’t Eddie Izzard assure me it was all about presentation. After the show a young man tells me my voice is "like electric guitar." He means it as a compliment. "Well thank you kindly and bless you, me old china*-san." (*For those who translate – Cockney rhyming slang; china=china plate = mate=pal.)

It could be that this is only working because it’s Blue Velvet Night in the Blue Chamber, which is unusual in any language. BVN is a weird performance homage to a culture thread that stretches from the Warhol Factory to Twin Peaks. It is run by Gaku Torii, the most forceful individual I have met in all of Japan and something the local – but far better organized and mortally adept – Lester Bangs. The Blue Room itself is owned by Madam Togawa, a famous and venerable Tokyo chanteuse and mystery writer. She is a grande dame in the grand manner, and her club has an old-school, gay-bar, cocktail-decor ambiance, and the dressing room is a sitting room with brocades, silk flowers, and huge pictures of Edith Piaf – instead of the usual cupboard under the stairs with some broken furniture and endless band graffiti. Madame holds court in surgical mask and Raybans. Her young assistant informs me Madame has a cold. She is thus drinking vodka today. I order a Jack and we toast, exchanging books and pleasantries. Then she leaves us musicians to our nerves and preparations, but returns at showtime in some flowing Lauren Bacall number. Exiting we embrace. This could be happening anywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires and is just so damned cool.

By a miracle of left brane-string Zen synchronization, I walk into the super-psychedelic UFO Club at precisely the moment I am required for sound check. It’s a little chilly out. The wind is off Godzilla’s famous Tokyo Bay, and I am wearing my ankle-length, Matrix-Welldressed, high showing-off coat with all the buttons. (See pic 09 in the Funtopia report.) Some wag on the soundboard inexplicably calls, "Good morning, captain." I step nimbly to the stage and Beefheart the vocal mike. (Straight stand, please.) "Good morning to you son. Do you need another mule skinner, on your mumble mumble." (So what is the fourth fucking line of Mule Skinner Blues on the spur of the moment?) Laughs in the room. Thus is international rock humor conducted.

I have whined about how I miss hotdogs, and the Japanese equivalent of a Tom Parker foot-long has showed up with the latest round of Kirin draft. Holy heck. Japan is turning me into some stoner Charlie Chaplin, and, in silent-movie mode, I slice the singularly phallic object into bite sized slices and offer it round as is the custom. The comrades find this cracking-up droll, including the fact that I seem to be addressing the sausage as Colonel Parker even if I’m not fully communicating the obscure historical connection. We seem to spend a lot of time in cafes across the street from clubs, drinking beer and sharing snacks in the abyss of hours between sound check and show. We also spend a hell of a lot of the time laughing. I eat everything that’s put in front of me, but shamelessly demand a fork. The Japanese spend much time eating, but small amounts and slowly, and I see no fat people. What I do see is a lot of musicians. Tokyo and Osaka cats, refugees from punk and glam and glitter and every past fad you care to name, but now tough or crazy and seeming checking out my apparently minor-legend condition. They show up at shows, but they also show up at the interim cafĂ©. Some are earnest and respectful and others are slapstick drunk like Crazy Motherfucker in Nagoya, a lunatic with Afro and goatee who was seemingly once in some famous bands, but now seems to be huffing cleaning fluid and drinking beer like a more survival-orientated Steve Took, but, of course, his girlfriend may be a t-shirt mogul. Who knows?

Another piece of rock humor. Ken and Nabeji have taken to breaking into Heartbreak Hotel at sound checks. At first it’s a goof and then we find that we really like playing it. It becomes an encore. Even though I’m singing it more like a monotone Howling Wolf than Elvis Presley, the tune has a real bulldozer of an impact. You can hear the first two lines as they the strike the audience’s conditioned and universal, rock & roll instincts. A new place to dwell. Musical mortar fire and damn but it’s fun. Plus it don’t need no stinking language.

I have to here thank Kanzawa, who was assigned to lift my bags and tote my bales and without whom I might have been wholly screwed in some of the more physically stressful, Dexter Gordon, getting-on-and-off-trains moments. Good looking out, bro. Thank you.

(A somewhat less subject account and loads of pics of my recent Japanese adventure are posted on Funtopia. Hit the link up on the right, and then go to the news page.)

The secret word is Breakfast

Check out this measure of madness.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The following comes from HCB...
Hi Mick
Nice report from Japan--looking forward to more. Thought you might like this business I sent to my producer in Ireland last week...

Hi Hugh,
Indecency Complaints Come from One Group, Says Report 6 Dec 2004
The startling rise in indecency complaints -- from fewer than 350 in 2000 and 2001 to 14,000 in 2002 to 240,000 in 2003 -- was attributed Sunday to a single activist group, the Parents Television Council, part of L. Brent Bozell's conservative Media Research Center. Mediaweek reported that an FCC analysis of the complaints dated Oct. 1, 2004 found that 99.9 percent of all indecency complaints had been brought by the PTC. The trade publication's report came only two days after FCC Chairman Michael Powell wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed article: "Advocacy groups do generate many complaints, as our critics note, but that's not unusual in today's Internet world...that fact does not minimize the merits of the groups' concerns." But Jonathan Rintels, head of the Center for Creative Voices in Media, an artists' advocacy group, told Mediaweek that its report demonstrates how "a tiny minority with a very focused political agenda is trying to censor American television and radio."

So I went to their site and found this stuff:

"Cable television is rife with the most licentious, decadent and perverse content imaginable. Our report shows that obscene language and graphic sexual content are readily available on advertiser-supported basic cable," said L. Brent Bozell, president of the PTC. For this report, the PTC looked at original series that aired during all times of the day, from early afternoon to late at night, on seven channels that are included in virtually every basic and expanded basic cable package: MTV, Spike TV, Comedy Central, TBS, E!, FX and ESPN. In recent years, these networks have featured explicit dialogue, scenes with strippers and nudity, threesomes, masturbation, anal sex, oral sex, statutory rape, sadism/masochism, bestiality, incest and forced sodomy/rape."

In other words, everything that makes life interesting. Here's some more:

FCC OKs Sexually Graphic Content for Families, But Newspapers Reject Same Content as "Too Explicit" for Ads.
Los Angeles, CA – Today, the Parents Television Council, the nation’s most influential advocacy organization protecting children against sex, violence and profanity in entertainment, reports that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved television content that is so offensive that virtually every major newspaper in America has rejected the same content for their adult readership. PTC members filed complaints with the FCC about the indecent content of FOX’s Keen Eddie and the WB’s Off Centre in 2003, and the FCC rejected both complaints last week. Thus, FCC Chairman Michael Powell, Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Kathleen Abernathy believe the following is suitable, decent programming acceptable for children:

Content from Keen Eddie (Aired June 10, 2003; 9:00 pm ET/PT, and 8:00 pm CT/MT) The plot featured a band of thugs trafficking horse semen and hiring a prostitute to perform a sex act with a horse, so as to extract the semen from it.
Prostitute: "No, that’s not natural!"
Thug: "Extraction for insemination. If you look at the picture on page 45 you’ll see how natural it is."
Second Thug: "You’re a 40-year-old filthy slut, you’ll do anything."
Prostitute: "With a human."
But the prostitute agrees to go through with it, except the horse suddenly drops dead, at which point she says, "I never laid a finger on it. I lifted up my blouse, that’s all… He needs to get aroused."

Content from Off Center (Aired October 10, 2002; 9:30 pm ET/PT, and 8:30 pm CT/MT)
Dr. Wasserman: "How are those penises? Mike, has the, uh, redness gone away? And what about the flaking and peeling? Are you still using the lotion twice a day?"Mike: "Yeah, yeah. Sometimes more. I broke up with my girlfriend."
Dr. Wasserman: "How’s uh, old ‘Snuffleupagus,’ huh? I hope you remember that the uncircumcised penis poses challenges to hygiene. I mean, smegma may be a funny word, but it's no laughing matter, believe you me."

PTC president Brent Bozell responded, "This is revolting. When did the concept of hiring a prostitute to have sex with a horse become an acceptable community standard? Chairman Powell, when did filth like this become decent? American families deserve more from the FCC in protecting our children from overtly indecent content." To prove how obscene this dialogue is, the PTC submitted advertisements that contain the newly FCC-approved content from both shows to USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. All of the newspapers rejected the ads. The Los Angeles Times called the ad "too explicit." USA Today said that, "Our newspaper is distributed in schools and we too believe children shouldn’t be reading such material." The Washington Post said that the ad is "not acceptable for family viewing." The New York Times said that, "there are a number of words and descriptions in this advertisement that we do not accept in this newspaper."
Nice of them to run the dialogue verbatim. Now if only they'd show us some fithy, unforgivable pictures as well.


A highly flattering report from Yukiko Akagawa and loads of pics of my recent Japanese adventure are posted on Funtopia. Hit the link up on the right, and then go to the news page. And thanks to Yukiko and Rick for all the hard work. And having seen all this, I feel totally beholden, and am already writing a highly personal self-revelation in response. It’ll post tomorrow. Please don’t miss it.

Maybe I’m perverse, but, if you have to have Homeland Security at all, I’d feel a lot more comfortable with a NYC, thug-lookin’, cop-discount SOB, with a Gordon Liddy haircut and two mistresses, one of whom is sexy power-publisher Judith Regan. (Although James Bond would never leave a note to the wrong broad in his assignation crib.) Better than some Midwest Jesus Nazi, f’sure.

The secret word is Ribbentrop

Monday, December 13, 2004

It’s taken a while to process what was going on during my recent trip to Japan. For a while, all I had was a wealth of powerful but disjointed images – Tokyo in the rush-hour, sitting smoking on a rooftop watching the crows circle and the cats sleeping on sunlit roofs below, the awesome spectacle of Mt. Fuji from the bullet train, the soaring neon of pachinko palaces like a cardio-vascular monitor for Godzilla, getting my first acupuncture from a guy who knew Wilko Johnson, but not really understanding it. Then I started to realize that what I ‘d accomplished was to at least rise to meet a challenge the extent which I still wasn’t really grasping. On my previous excursion I had been with the 1999 incarnation of the Deviants – Andy Colquhoun, Rick Parnell and Doug Lunn. It had been an experience and a whole lotta fun. This time round I was going totally on my own, and the ramifications of that were greater than I’d realized, even as I boarded the outward bound JAL flight from LAX.

A band provides it own capsulized sense of self, of nationality and identity. The experiences, the highs and the problems are shared. You are all inside looking out, cocooned in a common language, individual familiarity, Monty Python jokes and where’s-the-beer? You provide your own filter on the alien environment. To paraphrase Bono, Outside Is Tokyo – but inside is the Deviants making the best of it. To go out and perform solo, somewhere were you may not be able to communicate verbally is something completely different.

In an Osaka Hotel room, I watch a Russian production of Chekhov’s The Seagull, in Russian with Japanese subtitles.

There’s been an awful lot of nonsense talked over the years about the common language of rock & roll, and, indeed, I’ve talked a who lot of it myself. Suddenly I was in a situation in which it had to be true or I was done for. Of course, the musicians in Ken Matsutani’s band Marble Sheep plus guitarist Nabeji had done their homework in spades. Ken had wanted to play some of the old tunes, and, while not adverse to the idea and happy to go along, there was no way that could perform material that I had written thirty five years ago that same as it was on 1968. The metaphor for rehearsal was that where once the song had been that of a young man’s desperation to get laid, it was now an old man’s song about maybe getting laid one last time. Tempo was made more determined. I would have liked to have said like Lee Marvin’s relentless and dealy footfalls in Point Blank. Perhaps that was too much of a stretch, but the message got through, and all was eminently clear, including how rock & roll music really was means of communication that needed little verbal augmentation. Suddenly my Japanese friends and I were even evolving our own cross-language catch phrases. One of the new lines that I invented for the 2004 version of the 1967 tune "I’m Coming Home" was "I have the key to the masterlock". Nabeji would grin at me across his red Fender. "We have the key to the masterlock" and we fucking knew we did.

But was the idea of reading poetry on my own in Tokyo to anyone who paid and cared to listen pushing the envelope a little far? Hubris? Insanity? For that you’ll have to wait for the next instalment.

The secret word is Arigato.

Seems that the National Audubon Society are suing 927 Fifth Avenue to get Pale Male and his family their nest back. How the homeless hawks are faring has not been reported.

A great piece by Frank Rich on the movie Kinsey and more Christian fascist fuss.