IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #13.94
J Church / Honey Bear / Some Hope - Summer of Death ­ Death Bell Blues

 

I'M BACK

I had to take a little break from life there. My Dad died and while I mentioned before that we weren't that close especially as of late, it meant making a trip back to Hawaii and that was thought provoking to say the least.

First of all, I've sort of reconnected with my Dad's side of the family, which is nice. My Dad was very much a born again Christian. When I was young that would drive me up the wall but now I'm just too tired to fight it. He would send me tons of those Chick Tracts and I would just file them away. He would just talk about Jesus and God and I would just say, "yes, yes, yes". It just wasn't worth getting into. Still, I was a little worried that I was going back to Hawaii for a weekend of proselytizing and church type stuff. But it wasn't like that at all. I hung out with my two half sisters and two half brothers and they were cool. I mean they're young, all in their early 20's. But it was good. I really want to keep in touch with them. It was a bit of a relief because with my relationship so distant with my father, it crossed my mind that they might have blamed me. I honestly didn't even know that he was in the hospital for the past month before passing. But they were there with him every day and I worried that they might have resented me for not being there. But it was good. We were just happy to see each other.

The memorial service was strange for me. It was the first time for me to hang out with my sisters since they were really little and it was really the first time ever hanging out with my brothers. Over 300 people showed up for the services, most from my Dad's church work. But a lot of them were old friends that even I sort of recognized. It was strange. The photo of my Dad used for the memorial service was a recent one, so I was having a hard time connecting that picture to how I actually remembered my Dad. I still thought of him as the guy from back in the `80s, which is the last time that we hung out with any regularity. It was all very surreal and dreamlike.

The night of the memorial service, we all went over to my Uncle Harvey and Auntie Alice's house. We stayed up for hours talking just like when I was a little kid. It was very nostalgic and I had the best time talking with my cousins, Brookie and Kerrie, who I used to be very close to. Sometime I'd like to try and write more about them. For now, I just want to get back into the writing swing.

 

LET THE TRIBE INCREASE

My book is most of the way done. I'm in the final stages. I just don't have enough time with the band being busy working on a record and my stupid job. I don't know if any of you have been following the chapters as they appear in MRR. I think it will be a pretty interesting overview of the times. I just wish more people would start documenting less traveled veins of music history and not just rehashing stories about the bands we already know about. Anyway…

 

SUMMER OF DEATH

RIP John Loder

Lately I've been feeling like death is all around. It's got something to do with my Dad's memorial service. It's got something to do with planes falling out of the sky every couple of weeks. Now John Loder is dead.

I know a lot of people, especially anarchos, had some serious problems with him. He was the biz to a lot of people. But even at his most crass (pun partially intended) he was always decent to me.

I only met him a few times, so here are some of my memories.

The first time I met him, he was visiting the US and just sort of showed up at the Maximum Rock N Roll house. He just crashed on the couch and hung out for a couple of days. He was a really nice and upbeat guy. I couldn't understand why he didn't just get a hotel as he surely could have afforded it. I couldn't understand why he cared about MRR at all.

I met him again when he came with a couple of the Mudhoney guys to the Cringer/Citizen Fish show up in Seattle at the OK Hotel. They were all really nice even when we made fun of SubPop and SubPop bands saying we thought of Subvert, Aspirin Feast and Christ On A Crutch when we thought of the Seattle Sound. He was trying to get Dick to sign us to Bluurgh. He told Dick, "that's a band I can really sell".

I met him once again after that I think in London. If you don't know the man's legacy, I'm sure there are several obituaries easy to find that talk about how important he has been to independent music. John Peel last year. John Loder this year. Who is next?

RIP Piggy

Voivod may be my favorite of the first wave of crossover bands. War And Pain is, for me, the best of that generation beating even the first releases of Slayer, Metallica and Celtic Frost. That album (and the amazing demo if you were one of the nerds like me that used to trade metal tapes) is fucking insanity completely avoiding the teutonic structure of most crossover metal. The band really let loose and it came across on record like no other. Around that time, they did a tour out west opening for Celtic Frost in LA around Morbid Tales and fucking blew 'em away. Piggy, like drummer Away and singer Snake, had been with the band since the start and were in the process of recording their 14th LP when he passed of colon cancer. By the time he had been diagnosed, the cancer had spread to his liver and was inoperable. He was 45.

RIP RL Burnside

I don't know why, and I'm not at all implying any sort of mysticism, but for some reason on Tuesday I decided to watch Deep Blues at work just to see the RL Burnside footage. I didn't even know he was ill. He passed away on the 1st at St. Francis Hospital in Memphis.

 

IN THE J CHURCH VIEWING ROOM

CHAIN CAMERA (dir. by Kirby Dick)
DERRIDA (dir. by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman)
SICK: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF BOB FLANAGAN, SUPERMASOCHIST (dir. by Kirby Dick)

With the recent DVD release of Chain Camera, it's possible to look at three consecutive documentaries by Kirby Dick and get a better picture of what he's really been up to. With his most famous movies being about Derrida and Flanagan, there's an assumption that he's some sort of NYU film school trash or another shock schlock voyeur. He's really neither.

Sick: The Life And Death Of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist came out in '97 and is the title that most put Kirby Dick on the map. The world of documentary film making, while booming in recent years, is still brilliantly ignored enough by the American public to practically qualify it as underground filmmaking. As a result, it's possible to make a poignant film about performance artist Flanagan with the same panache and caliber as any of Ken Burns's McMentaries. It's wonderful because few people deserved this kind of tribute more than Flanagan and Dick seemed to understand that.

Flanagan was mostly known to America as a masochistic freak who would hammer nails through his cock and lie on a bed of sharp nails piercing his skin. The American public only wants quick answers. It's a nation of cliff notes and our whole identity has been reduced to, at best, a 90-minute infomercial. Sick doesn't avoid the shocking nature of the performance art. It just doesn't make it a priority.

Flanagan was born with the disease that killed him. Though a lot of people thought he was a junkie or something because of his demeanor, he suffered from cystic fibrosis and that was ultimately the basis for his art and masochistic lifestyle. As a child, he was often tied down to his crib as not to hurt himself. The illness also gave him excruciating stomachaches and the only cure he found was to hold his penis. Sexuality and discipline were more profound in his life like a Foucault-ean archetype.

In the final decade and a half of his life he signed a contract with Sheree Rose. As his mistress, she was given total control over his body. She became his collaborator in his performance art, which seems like the perfecting of art as life and not entertainment. Observing their relationship and focusing on key moments in Flanagan's early life, Dick manages to paint a challenging but sympathetic portrait. The perceived violence in their relationship has more to do with language than any type of deviance. They speak and communicate differently from normal America. But they are ultimately a loving couple facing his impending death humanly and as best they can.

If there was any question about Dick's understanding of this sort of non-existential though universal suffering, it was put in plain sight with Chain Camera. In a neo-Warhol-ian gesture, the director supplied ten cameras to a number of kids at a Los Angeles high school. Each kid was given a week to record something of a diary. In the end, the best moments were edited together forming this surprisingly powerful film.

Oh God, this movie is why I hate fucking shit like Laguna Beach. Man, fuck that weak shit! It's not enough that MTV ruins music, now they've gotta ruin what it is to actually be a teenager. Laguna Beach makes me wanna go Columbine.

Chain Camera is the complete opposite. Following a diverse bunch of kids, you get a painfully candid look at what kids are thinking. I found it to be totally surprising at times. I know I'm just some old guy now, but I was surprised that I came away thinking that, really, all of these kids are pretty smart. Even the ones who are fucked up (the girl whose life dream is to be a stripper, the kid who thinks all non-Mathletes are worthless, etc.) are just a little confused.

It's fascinating to hear frank discussions on race and sexuality from normal kids. Nobody is posturing in this film. There's an amazing discussion between a girl who was actually from Ethiopia and other African-American students on racism and their own racism. One obviously gay teen has a open and playful discussion about his sexual exploits and interests with his close friends, all of whom are straight. The lesbian couple isn't even concerned about gender politics anymore. They can now have the same concerns as any couple; the future, moving out, college.

One of the most moving sequences involves a kid who had to move to LA to get away from the gang violence around his home in Chicago. He misses both of his parents who are divorced, he's having girlfriend trouble, and it all becomes too much when he starts to talk about how he couldn't play football because his grades were too poor. To express his feelings, he starts to sing a painfully off-key rendition of I Believe I Can Fly by R. Kelly. It's that painful confluence of an otherwise hilarious situation with a broader painful realization that reminds you of Jennifer Jason Leigh singing Van Morrison in Georgia.

Almost like some corny ending, the film concludes with the prom. It's sort of cathartic to see these kids finally letting loose and not just digging into their deepest darkest corners. But even there, you get some real unguarded dialog.

 

Back to Article Index