Tuesday, February 07, 2006

New Wave Pics

Big thanks to Razorblade Grin for giving me the heads up on this very impressive collection of concert photographs of nearly all my favorite bands/performers. There are Nick Cave concert pics circa 1984 , a terrific set of Joy Division pics from 1979, and some incredible Bauhaus photos from a performance in 1980.

The site has many other great sets as well - Anne Clark, Sisters of Mercy, Clock DVA, The Cramps, Nico, Lou Reed, and many, many more. What a great find!


Site for the short film "9", directed by Shane Acker and currently nominated for an Academy Award. Acker reports that he has been given the greenlight to turn the film into a feature.

The Tides of History: Alan Moore's Historiographic Vision

The Tides of History: Alan Moore's Historiographic Vision, a very interesting analysis of Moore's approach to time and history.

(via Neilalien)

Monday, February 06, 2006

Opinion - Female Prisoner# 701: Scorpion

"Matsu (Meiko Kaji), known as "Scorpion," lands in prison thanks to the evil manipulations of an ex-boyfriend. Through her suffering at the hands of the jailers and other prisoners, director Shunya Ito creates a portrait of a woman is full of strength, beauty and an honor which outshines her peers and the cage within which she's contained. This first film in the series about the Scorpion remains one of the most famous and beloved Japanese exploitation films of the 1970s." - Summary

Female Prisoner# 701: Scorpion is 70's exploitation at its finest. With style to spare, director Shunya Ito directed this adaption of Toru Shinohara's manga. As one reviewer has described it, this film is "female prison movie as Noh theater." Wonderful use of color and dream-like imagery accents the sleaze and transforms it into something unique. There's plenty of gore and sex, and the usual unsettling S & M trappings you'd expect in a film of this genre and period, but the film is rather transcendent in its approach to the subject matter.

Given maybe eight lines of dialogue in the entire movie, central figure Matsu becomes a figure of undeniable cool. As portrayed by the beautiful Meiko Kaji (Lady Snowblood, Stray Cat Rock series), Mastu is both cold blooded and sympathetic, a woman betrayed who has become so ruthless and obsessed with vengence, she's nearly supernatural in her lethal cruelty.

Not even an hour and a half long, Female Prisoner# 701: Scorpion still manages to be more satisfying than it has any right to be. A definate must see for fans of 70's asian exploitation cinema.

Opinion - Kung Fu High School by Ryan Gattis

"Wear your gear. Bring your blades. Back your family. Fight for your life.

MLK High School has collapsed into Kung Fu High School--where Jen B. and her brother, Cue, belong to one of two gangs still standing against the puppet principal and the drug kingpin who pulls his strings. Cousin Jimmy--a world-champion martial arts master of mythic stature--arrives in town after swearing to his mother that he'll never fight again. His rep precedes him and everyone's itching to see him "kicked in"--Kung Fu's brutal initiation ritual. But he won't break his vow and defend himself, so Cue steps in when things go too far. Soon, a surprise counterstrike sends Kung Fu spinning toward one final, raging battle. Teachers flee, students break out full weaponry, and Jimmy must make a decision that will brand him a coward--or a hero.
" - Summary

Kung Fu High School reads like a hyper-violent urban remix of 70’s “Tough Guy” action manga. Novelist Ryan Gattis turns a sublimely over-the-top premise into a rock-solid and, yes, kick ass reading experience. I’ll even go on record as saying that I don't believe the inevitable film adaptation, no matter how well conceived, will be able to truly capture the sheer brutal apocalyptic rapture of Gattis’ fight imagery. The last hundred pages or so contain some of the most bone crushing, exhilerating descriptions of martial arts violence I’ve ever read – it’s “Fist of Legend” meets “Fight Club” by way of “Battle Royale.”

What surprised me, however, is just how poignant and touching the story ultimately turned out to be.

I finished the book two days ago, but still find myself thinking about Jen, Jimmy, Cue, Remo and drug lord Ridley. To Gattis’ credit, he manages to effectively balance the wicked martial arts combat and street fighting elements with a vivid portrayal of how such violence truly scars both the body and the soul. This isn’t a soulless celebration of sadism, but a truly uncompromising look at the consequences of this hypothetical combat heavy lifestyle. The last chapter, in particular, is particularly haunting and tragic.

This isn't trash literature by any means - there's far too much talent and thought on display here. I think many readers may be put off by Gattis' approach, however. He certainly does savor describing in lurid detail the carnage at hand. Still, I think it's lazy to write the book off as a trifle, something meant to indulge the bloodlust of a videogame generation. I ultimately found it impossible to dismiss the humanity of the book because of the savagery of the violence. Critics and readers failing to find fully developed characters in the book or who claim Gattis is simply glorifying violence have, I believe, really sold the author's accomplishments short. Gattis hasn't slighted his characters, but rather trimmed almost all the unneccessary fat from his narrative. This is lean, mean story-telling, but there's plenty of weight to it, as well.

Vicious, unflinching and far exceeding my expectations, Kung Fu High School turned out to be a really terrific little book and I look forward to seeing what Ryan Gattis does in the future.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

R Black

Seth Fisher Passes Away

J.H. Williams III has very sad news over at Barbelith Underground.

Illustrator Seth Fisher has died.

Fisher illustrated comic books, among other things. He had a style reminiscent of Moebius, Darrow, and Quitely – detailed, specific, and exacting. His line work was both delicate and confident, always in perfect balance, always deliberate yet artful.

Fisher graduated from Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado with a degree in mathematics in 1994.

In 1994, I lived in Colorado Springs.

I may have bumped into Seth Fisher at one of the local coffee shops or at the Underground. He may have sat in the booth behind my own at the Village Inn, where I routinely took my coffee and cigarettes. There’s no way of knowing if our lives ever intersected in such a fashion, but there’s a real possibility that they did.

Our lives intersect with one another every day. We have no way of knowing which encounter will one day gain some significance or resonance.

I look at Fisher’s work, so like some arcane filigree, and I feel it captures an elusive truth – that we are all connected by thin, invisible lines - delicate and precise, intersecting and parallel. Our lives are given full definition not by the broad strokes, but by the razor thin ornaments whose beauty and perfection we do not appreciate until they are brought into stark relief by some strange circumstance.

I didn’t know Seth Fisher, but today I miss him. A shared space and time links our lives, and I was a fan of his art.

  • Floweringnose - Seth Fisher's website