Hello Mom, How’re You Doing?

Mom photographing San Francisco

It happens about once a week, sometimes more often, that I’m struck by a sudden re-occurrence of Mom.  It happened earlier today as I was walking down the street in a residential area of some nicely built, cottage-like homes.  I was forced to stop and say to myself, “Mom would really like these homes and this neighborhood.  She’d think it was cute”.  She would probably want to stop to take a picture and I’d groan and say, “C’mon Mom, let’s go.”  And she’d say, “Well just a minute, I want to get a picture”, and then five minutes and fourteen photographs later we’d be back on our way.  That’s the way it worked with Mom.  She’d love to stop and admire those things that she thought were pretty and walk away only after having the best and most rewarding experience possible.

I’d often wonder if Mom ever wished that she had a daughter, someone else that she could share the same joy for mundane things.  I think I asked her about it once, but I don’t remember what she said.  She probably said, “Having boys is just fine. Besides, I’ve got nieces”.  I remember when I was younger we used to take road trips to Grandma and Grandpa’s house near San Luis Obispo and we would make special stops at some of our favorite stores.  Of course, poor Mom always had to shop alone because none of us ever wanted to go into the stores that she would shop at.  I remember that my father, brothers, and I would sit in the van, reading magazines and listening to mix tapes while waiting for Mom.  Finally, after a couple hours she’d return with her hands full and we’d be on our way.  Now, I wish I had gone in with her to those stores and spent time with her looking at all those little crafty things that she liked to peruse for hours at a time.

Mom & Kevin (Brother) on Haight St., San Francisco c.2005

When I see those stores, restaurants, or cottage-like homes I make an effort to stop and admire them and look for Mom.  Sometimes I even feel a sensation, like an electrical pulse, and I look over my shoulder or into the next aisle or at the table next to me and say, “Hello Mom, how’re you doing?”  And she would smile that warm smile and wave back at me and say, “Hi honey, thanks for thinking of me, but I gotta go.”  And I’d smile and understand and say, “Alright Mom, see you around”.  And then she would leave and I’d go on with the rest of my day, knowing that she’s doing just fine.

Mom, Kathy Calzia, passed away July 1, 2009.  Two years ago.  I miss her.


“Hannah” & those Brits that Make Films

Joe Wright directs Hannah

Those Brits sure know how to make fascinating and unique films.  Not always good films, but fascinating films that are certainly different from our American formula of movie-making.  My experience with British directors first started with Nicolas Roeg (Performance, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Bad Timing) whose kaleidoscope of imagery and fractured story-telling may have been responsible for the music video aesthetic of the 1970’s and 80’s.  Then I discovered Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire) whose dynamic camera angles and film manipulations give his motion pictures an energy that is unrivaled.  Now, I am pleased to have found the films of Joe Wright, whose Hannah is a magician’s adventure of lush imagery and spectacular editing.  The film is guaranteed to be a fun-filled adventure of visuals, but unfortunately not much more than that.

My first encounter with Joe Wright was in 2007 with his film adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement.  The first forty minutes of that film, with its clever use of editing and its re-telling of events from the perspective of different characters, had me captivated (and its ending had me heartbroken).  So it’s only natural that I would be very curious to know what film Joe Wright would take on next.  However, I wasn’t interested in seeing a journalist befriend a homeless, Julliard-trained musician in The Soloist (2009), so I passed on that one.  However, I am interested in a young girl whose trained to hunt, shoot, and fight by her father in order to survive, that sounds brutal.  And brutal and violent it certainly is, yet also so much more… magical.

Saorise Ronan is trained to kill as Hannah

Imagine Jason Bourne leaping into the rabbit hole to follow a white rabbit like Alice had done in her adventures in Wonderland, then you will have a better understanding of “Hannah”.  It is a blend of fairy tales and top secret branches of the CIA; magical, violent, and a little ridiculous.  From the the opening scene, to the moment that Hannah presses the big red button that begins her adventure, and even up to the climatic shoot-out towards the end,  you’ll be confused.  You’ll say to yourself, “How come she’s being chased? What’s so special about her?” But don’t worry, all will be revealed.  But is the movie worth sitting through to the very end?  No, not really.  Actually, the ending resembles the origin story of Captain America.  I think the whole film is Joe Wright’s attempt at making a comic book film, or something similar to The Manchurian Candidate.  It’s a fascinating and unique concept, but it just does not hit the mark that it aimed for.  “Hannah” is not the self-reflective glance at ourselves as animals learning to be human beings, like I think the screenwriter and director imagined it to be.  It is more similar to those other British films that I’ve seen; a stylish attempt at a great concept, just not very clear.

My overall opinion: Neat, but a little disappointing.

It’s a Fact: The Social Network Soundtrack Increases Body Awareness

Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross

It sounds like an electronic pulse wired to your brain via your ear holes;  sometimes up-lifting, sometimes haunting, but always mesmerizing.  That’s how I would describe the soundtrack to The Social Network by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.  And who gives a shit if I saw the movie or not, I’m talking about the music, standing alone and causing an effect, which it certainly does.

While listening to “The Social Network” soundtrack your body cells will expand, multiply and divide.  You will grow as a human being and increase those little neurological centers in your brain (synapses, I think is what they are called) that help with cognition and define you as “you”.  The sound will travel your blood stream and neurological network, flowing from your fingertips to your toes as it generates life inside of you where life never existed.  I hope that you understand that this is not just something you listen to on your car stereo as you drive from the supermarket to your apartment – no!  This album/soundtrack is meant to be listened to while sitting, preferably with a full set of headphones and no disturbances.  You are to experience it, and not like those unrewarding blockbuster movies that are released in 3D each summer, but like The Downward Spiral (1994) or Broken (1992), where subterranean nuances of sound are woven into the rhythm and your body and mind grows from listening.  However, this is a new Trent Reznor that we hear.  This isn’t the chaotic and paranoid, “I want to f*** you like an animal” Trent Reznor that we once knew.  This Trent Reznor is more simple, calm, and at ease.

What you should experience (if you properly listen to the soundtrack using the technique described above) is something beyond love-making or exercising.  It is a new physical act that can increase body awareness.  So, are you ready for it?  Are you ready for the experiments of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross?  Will you be ready for their future experiments?  I certainly hope so.

In addition to “The Social Network” soundtrack be sure to check out theses other Nine Inch Nails albums by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross that are similar in sound; Ghosts I-IV, The Slip, as well as a new collaboration that includes Reznor’s wife, How to Destroy Angels.

Where do ex-Bandmates Go? To “Lost Coves”

Where do ex-band-mates go after a band breaks up?  Some of them get jobs.  Some of them get married.  Some of them fall off the face of the planet.  But some of them start a new band and continue to explore their musical talents, like ex-band-mate and friend, Dylan Ricards of Brooklyn-based band Lost Coves.

Dylan & Bil a.k.a. Lost Coves

Lost Coves were on their way West, stopping at every big-little club and city that had a stage and electrical outputs (or more precisely; any club open to their unique “spacey” sound).  One such club was the Doll Hut in Anaheim, CA., where I re-connected with Dylan and got to see a live performance of his new musical act.  And wowee-zowee!  I haven’t ever been launched into outer space before, but I imagine this is what it sounds like.  It starts with a low, distorted rumbling from the bass and heavy pounding from the drums, then it transports into a free-fall that is both sweet and melodic.

I guess you could say Lost Coves’ sound is like that of a roller-coaster.  But more like a roller-coaster with loops, spirals, zig-zags, and whoop-dee-doos, rather than just the old-fashioned carnival roller-coaster that goes up and down.  But that’s Dylan for you, he’s always been an alternative thinker and intellectual and I’m glad to see that he’s forever expanding his musical talents… and the universe.  Here’s to you, old chum!

Check out Lost Coves at Saw Her Ghost Records, a killer independent record label based out of Michigan, and pick up their two single-disc EPs; Bookends and the self-titled Lost Coves.  They’ll send you out of this world!

The Smalltime Drug Peddler: “Asked Out”

Opening page to Asked Out

I’d like to take this opportunity to promote my first written issue to Misadventures of the Smalltime Drug Peddler, a mini-comic originally created by junior high and high school classmate, as well as band-mate and long-time friend, Dave Law.

Dave originally created the character of The Smalltime Drug Peddler as a class assignment at San Francisco State in 2002.  However, he received such a tremendous uproar from his friends at Isotope Comics in San Francisco that he continued to write and draw issues of the book.

In 2010, eight years and nine issues later, I elbowed my way onto the book and this is what Dave and I have to show.  This is the first part to a two part storyline about The Smalltime Drug Peddler being asked out on a date from an old acquaintance, Robbie, who first appeared in issue #1.

Page 2 of MSTDP: Asked Out

“Misadventures of the Smalltime Drug Peddler” is the story of a crude  20-year-old girl, who lives in the suburban town of Sunny Day, and sells drugs to her odd mixture of drug-induced fiends and friends.  Dave and I have already begun conceptualizing on a long line of stories to our smalltime-drug-peddling-sweet-heart and we can’t wait to share them with you.

You can find copies of the mini-comic at at these fine retail establishments:  Skylight Books in Los Angeles, Meltdown Comics in Hollywood, and Isotope Comics in San Francisco.