Archive for the ‘California’ Category

Good Vibrations

September 27, 2012


Good, clean, wholesome fun. Plus backstabbing.

Just when you thought that the long, tortured saga of the Beach Boys couldn’t possibly get any more surreal, they are back in the news. That’s right, everyone’s favorite dysfunctional California family is at it again. Just recently, Mike Love, who owns the rights to the band’s name, fired fellow band members, Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, and David Marks. The reasons are pecuniary. You see, the Beach Boys have planned an upcoming reunion tour. Love explains:

    You’ve got to be careful not to get overexposed. There are promoters who are interested [in more shows by the reunited line-up], but they’ve said, ‘Give it a rest for a year’. The Eagles found out the hard way when they went out for a second year and wound up selling tickets for $5.”

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t even pay five dollars to see the Eagles. Lyin’ Eyes was the most overplayed song of the 1970’s. Seriously, if I ever hear that song again, it’s possible that I might get violent. Anyway, you would think that Love would imagine the Beach Boys to be more popular than the Eagles. I guess he must be a self-effacing guy. He is still planning on having the reunion tour, although he will be the only original member of the band. That’s right, Love will be having a reunion with himself. Several years ago, I saw a reunion of Jefferson Airplane. It had two original members of the band, so I guess it qualified as a reunion of sorts. What Love is doing, however, strikes me as being the musical equivalent of one hand clapping.

Not surprisingly, there has been some sour grapes about all this. Brian Wilson said:

    I’m disappointed and can’t understand why he doesn’t want to tour with Al, David, and me… We are out here having so much fun. After all, we are the real Beach Boys.

So, all Brian Wilson wants to do is have fun, whereas his cousin, Mike Love, wants to make money. Clearly, Love is the more serious person. I suspect that Wilson belongs to that 47% of the population that Mitt Romney says is sponging off the other fifty-three percent. (It’s perhaps worth noting here that Love is a Republican.) You can’t stop progress, Brian Wilson. If you don’t like it, start your own band.

Oh, wait…

(The author is currently working on a biography of the Beach Boys titled, Those Wacky Wilsons. Look for it at a finer bookstore near you.)

Bellflower

November 9, 2011

Bellflower is one of the most remarkable films I have seen in recent years. Indeed, it’s not quite like any other film I have ever watched.

Woodrow (Evan Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson) are friends who have recently moved from Wisconsin to Southern California. There, they indulge in apocalyptic fantasies. They imagine that a war will one day destroy most of the human race. They will then form a gang called “Mother Medusa”, which will use flame throwers and other weapons to conquer the world. (They are both fans of the Mad Max movies.) To prepare for this eventuality, they build a flame thrower in Aiden’s garage. When they’re not tinkering with weapons and motor vehicles, they spend most of their time getting drunk and stoned. Neither one of them has a job, yet they have plenty of money to spend on weapons and cars. Although the film never makes it explicit, they clearly come from wealthy families. (Their names suggest that they are from upper class backgrounds.)

When I was young, I knew people like the characters in this film. No, they didn’t build flame throwers, but they did practice other types of obsessive behavior (such as forming untalented rock bands). These people didn’t have jobs, yet they seemed to always have money. They spent much of their time getting drunk and stoned (“partying” as they called it).

Woodrow meets a girl, Milly (Jessie Wiseman), who shares his inclination towards impulsive, reckless behavior. They go on a road trip to Texas, and when they get back, Milly moves in with him. One day, however, Woodrow discovers her having sex with Mike (Vincent Grashaw), which immediately leads to a fight. Afterwards, Woodrow is injured in a motorcycle accident. While he is recovering, he begins to have a relationship with Milly’s best friend, Coutney (Rebekah Brandes). There is a growing spiral of violence as Woodrow seeks to get even with Milly. I won’t say much else about the story except that this is one of those films in which part of what you are seeing is being imagined by one or more of the characters. Although some things in this film are far-fetched, the characters nevertheless come across as thoroughly believable.

Bellflower is a criticism of our society’s fascination with violence, with weaponry, with apocalyptic fantasies, and with revenge fantasies.

This film, written and directed by Glodell, has a unique look to it. This is partly because the cinematographer, Joel Hodge, used a new type of camera that Glodell built from scratch.

This is Glodell’s first feature film. It is a most impressive debut. It is the kind of movie that you just have to talk about after you see it. Glodell has a promising future as a director.

You can find a trailer for this film here.

Casey Anthony and the Price of Hysteria

July 14, 2011

In my earlier discussion of the Casey Anthony trial, I expressed my fear that the public hysteria over the trial’s verdict would lead to more unnecessary “tough-on-crime” legislation. Well, clearly my powers as a Nostradamus are vastly greater than those of Phil McGraw, for this has come to pass. In state legislatures across the country, “Caylee’s Law” legislation is being considered. These laws would make it a felony crime if a parent or guardian fails to report the death or disappearance of a child within a twenty-four period, regardless of the circumstances. So more people will be going to prison. All this just because people didn’t like one verdict in one trial.

The U.S. already incarcerates a larger percentage of its population than any other industrialized nation. California’s prison system is in crisis because it cannot adequately house and feed all its prisoners. Inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison have gone on a hunger strike to protest the inhuman conditions in which they live. This is how Wikipedia describes the place:

    Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) is a supermax California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation state prison near Crescent City in unincorporated Del Norte County, California. The 275-acre (111 ha) facility is explicitly designed to keep California’s alleged “worst of the worst” prisoners in long-term solitary confinement, under conditions of extreme sensory deprivation.

Uh, isn’t sensory deprivation a form of torture? Wikepedia also tells us:

    Pelican Bay was built with little legislative or judicial oversight. The California legislature delegated building and design decisions to Department of Corrections administrators. These administrators toured high-security prisons across the United States. They identified Florence, Arizona’s Secure Management Unit (SMU), as a “model” prison and collaborated with prison architects to copy its floor plan and high tech design for PelicanBay’s SHU [Secure Housing Unit]. (Pelican Bay was one of 21 new prisons built in California in the 1980s and 1990s.)

    Correctional administrators purchased land in rural Del Norte County, California, on the northernmost border with Oregon. Its lengthy distance away from most prisoners’ families was considered a plus. It is in a remote forested area 13 miles from the California-Oregon state line and far from California’s major metropolitan areas, 370 miles north of San Francisco and more than 750 miles north of Los Angeles. One of the few legislative comments recorded about the institution concerns whether to call it Dungeness Dungeon or Slammer by the Sea. There was no legislative discussion of the novel punitive design of Pelican Bay nor that it would be the site of indefinite SHU commitments. The original planners did not contemplate that some prisoners would spend decades there.

    Federal district courts in California first heard about the prison after it opened in the early 1990s, when they started receiving letters and legal complaints from Pelican Bay prisoners detailing the draconian conditions at the institution, along with the egregious constitutional violations taking place there. Originally designed to house 2,550 prisoners, as of 2006, Pelican Bay houses 3,301 prisoners.

Of the Secure Housing Unit, we’re told:

    The 8 x 10 foot cells of the Pelican Bay SHU, or Secure Housing Unit, are made of smooth, poured concrete. They have no windows. Instead, there are fluorescent lights, which stay on 24 hours per day. For at least twenty-two hours every day, prisoners remain in their cells, looking out through a perforated steel door at a solid concrete wall. Food is delivered twice a day through a slot in the cell door.

We live in a society that believes that locking people up is the solution to every problem. This inevitably leads to abominations like Pelican Bay.

The Edge

June 21, 2011


David Evans – a.k.a. “The Edge” – going for that “face in the police line-up” look.

It seems that rock stars almost always become bores as they get older. I’m not exactly sure why this is. It seems that rock & roll is a music of youth. As these guys get older, they inevitably lose the spark that initially made their music interesting.

The Irish band, U2, have carried this to a new level. Not content with being bores, they have tried to make themselves into a nuisance as well. Bono goes around posing for photos with war criminals, which is apparently their reward for flicking some dollars towards Africa. Bono and The Edge have written the music for a Broadway musical about Spiderman, which has resulted in several actors suffering severe injuries.

Now we learn that The Edge (whose real name is David Evans) wants to build a five-mansion compound in the pristine Santa Monica mountains near Malibu, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Peter Douglas, executive director of the California Coastal Commission, has said of The Edge’s proposal:

    In 38 years of this commission’s existence, this is is one of the three worst projects that I’ve seen in terms of environmental devastation. It’s a contradiction in terms — you can’t be serious about being an environmentalist and pick this location.

“One of the three worst projects that I’ve seen in terms of environmental devastation”. Mind you, this is in Southern California, where environmental devastation is practically a way of life. A project must be mind-blowingly stupid just to raise eyebrows there.

The California Coastal Commission has rejected The Edge’s proposal. However, Steve Lopez, of the Los Angeles Times reports: “Evans has made it clear he’s going to try to exploit a legal loophole by arguing this isn’t a single five-mansion project, but five separate projects.”

Now, the question I have is this: WHAT THE FUCK DOES HE NEED A FIVE-MANSION COMPOUND FOR? Is he going to start a cult? I mean, what else do you do with a five-mansion compound? If Evans – uh, I mean The Edge – just wants to enjoy the beauty of the Santa Monica mountains, why doesn’t he live in a trailer, like the guy who made that silly I Am movie?

Oh, did I mention that The Edge (I wonder, do his friends call him “The”?) says that he is an environmentalist?

Since The Edge can afford to hire a whole army of lawyers, it’s not impossible that he may find a way to build his Pleasure Dome. Some day The Edge and his followers may be drinking unsweetened Kool-Aid and giving a collective finger to people sitting in traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway.

This may be the worst thing to happen since Rattle and Hum.

Get Out of Jail Free!

May 24, 2011

Just when you were convinced that the Supreme Court is completely worthless, they surprise you. These mighty poo-bahs have ruled that because of inhumane overcrowding in California’s prisons, that state must release 33,000 prisoners. Well, that should be easy! They can start by releasing people who were sentenced under California’s unconstitutional (and insane) “Three Strikes” law. They can then begin releasing people convicted of non-violent drug offenses. Problem solved.

Of course, Gov. Jerry Brown (Alec Cockburn has a man-crush on him) won’t let that happen. He’s talking about transferring prisoners to county jails. Of course, we can’t let reason and logic (or the Constitution) get in the way of locking people up, now can we?