Friday, August 31, 2007

Signs of Hope

While it's encouraging to see generally balanced and rational Angela Merkel topping Forbes list of the most powerful women in the world, look at where the eighth and ninth women are -- at two of the five most evil, dangerous corporations in the world. Monsanto, Phillip Morris (though technically part of Kraft) and Haliburton would likely be the ones to flesh out that list. As always, it's hard to say whether Monsanto or Haliburton deserves the honor of the most evil of them all.

Personally, I would rank Michelle Bachelet, Chile's unmarried, pro-choice, agnostic President as the greatest sign of hope that a backwards country such as the U.S. could also muster the courage to elect a sane, visionary leader. (And, just to be clear, I am not implying that Chile is backwards, but the U.S. very clearly is.)

1. Angela Merkel - Chancellor, Germany
2. Wu Yi - Vice Premier, China
3. Ho Ching -CEO, Temasek Holdings, Singapore
4. Condoleeza Rice - Secretary of State, U.S.
5. Indra K. Nooyi - CEO, PepsiCo, U.S
6. Sonia Gandhi - President, National Congress Party, India
7. Cynthia Carroll - CEO, Anglo American Co., U.K.
8. Patricia A. Woertz - Chairman, Archer Daniels Midland, U.S.
9. Irene Rosenfeld -Chairman/CEO, Kraft Foods, U.S.
10. Patricia Russo - CEO, Alcatel-Lucent, U.S.

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The Curious, Compelling Cult of Vikki Carr

Maybe it's the approaching change of seasons. Perhaps its another sign of global climate change. Could it be a warning of the impending apocalypse? Whatever it is, I wish someone would explain to me why Vikki Carr's name has managed to weave itself into communications with at least five to six people completely unconnected to each other this week.

Vikki Carr? I have probably thought about her or heard her name mentioned two to three times over the course of the past quarter of a century. I mainly remember her as what always felt like a last minute replacement guest on talk and variety shows back when I watched them as a kid in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I could just hear Merv or Joey saying, "What? Merman cancelled. Get Vikki Carr. I'm sure she's available."

Like many people, I grew up thinking she was some gringa from Jersey, and was surprised to discover her El Paso, Texas, roots and huge Spanish language output since disappearing from the English speaking mainstream decades ago.

What I didn't know was that she made surreal music videos four decades ago. Okay, Vikki comes off pretty normal and cool in this little clip, but what the hell is up with that lone male dancer. He's actually not half bad looking and pretty obviously has been to brunch a few times if you gather my drift. But what's up with him and the girls towards the end where it looks like he's planning to knife them or something. His fence climbing stunt is pretty weird too. It's guys like this that fueled the fire for Anita Bryant and her ilk. I'd lock up my kids too if he came down my cul de sac.

UPDATE: I was checking email while shopping for Shelley Winters DVDs when I realized what was hovering below my Treo. Eeekkkkk! Yes, I resisted purchasing any of Ms. Carr's discs. But you just know some pathetic queen is gonna grab some of these.

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JunkThief: Nixon Youth Organizer

Did anyone else catch last night's appearance by Hillary on Letterman? Junk Thief is so ancient that he can remember when Presidential candidates did radical things like give interviews with journalists instead of comics and people got their political information from Meet the Press not The Daily Show.

Granted, it's still more than a year away, but I am still pretty ambivalent on all Democrats and wish I were a little less cynical. But, as evidenced in this actually reasonable dialogue in the clip, I felt unusually comforted after watching it since it did feel like sitting and overhearing a sane conversation with a couple of friends, not an inarticulate madman. Sometimes I scold myself for wanting to vote for her just on principle, but then what's so wrong for voting for anyone on principle. I remember living in New York in 1992 when all the "Hillary for President" button were worn with irony without much hope of that ever being a viable reality. I wonder what those 1992 buttons fetch on eBay these days.

I've coached a number of women of Hillary's age and sensibilities on public appearances and media interviews, and I could smell plenty of technique as she tried to catch the right vibe of humor that obviously not her natural style but something she did extremely well and appropriately while ultimately steering things back for the appropriate amount of message.

Mid-way through when Letterman quizzed her on her youth as a Republican, I wondered if that question was her own plant (I suspect it was to show that anyone can jump the fence), it really started feeling familiar. She qualified that she came from a privileged white suburb in the Midwest and did not have her eyes open until making visits into inner city Chicago. Although from a long line of left leaning Democrats on my mother's side, guess who was a regional Youth for Nixon organizer in 1972 and made a tumultuous shift to the McGovern camp in the 11th hour? That's a whole different post at another time, but it certainly made the interview feel even more as if it were with some family member.

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I pulled into the little shopping center at Brannon and 9th during lunch to see if there might be any last chance summer Penguin or Ben Sherman shirts at the Nordstrom Rack. (They had some, but none worth buying; I was pretty disciplined about not going overboard on other things, especially since I'd just been to the Colma store yesterday.) Then it was over to Trader Joe's to buy something for lunch and make sure I didn't make the mistake of being out of anything that would require a tortuous return trip during the holiday weekend.

There was one guy that I passed two to three times who caught my eye in the physically but not spiritually fetching mode. As in 95% of the cases with such males and about 25% with such females (I know, yeah, go figure on that second one), I did a mental undressing of him before getting back to more earth shattering matters such as deciding how much non-fat yogurt I wanted as opposed to Greek yogurt.

When I got to the check out lane (which in this store they give hokey names in honor of well known streets, Lombard in this case), he was unloading his stuff at the register, and a woman "about my age" was between him and me. He had eight packets of shrink-wrapped hams and three potted lavender plants. (Do the Freudian spin on that combo!) As I eyed his flip flops and skinny/lowrise jeans, I thought about some recent articles I've seen on both. There have been a number of opinion and etiquette pieces written about inappropriate venues for flip flops (most famously worn to the White House by a women's lacrosse team). More recently, I've seen a couple of pieces sharing warnings about the damage you may do to your feet by wearing them. Oh, that's such a revelation. I always sneer with condescension when I see some idiot wearing them while driving a motorcycle. Guess what, shoes and socks were invented not as a form of uptight restriction but to protect your feet!

More recently, I saw New York magazine's Approval Matrix giving a thumbs up to women in skinny/low rise jeans and thumbs down for them on men. "Yeah, obviously written by some straight guy!" I sneered when reading it. Just as that matrix flashed in my head, this guy bent down to pick up one of his hams and voila, there was 3/4ths of his crack flashing right in front of me. I tried to act like I was looking at the three flavors of Ricola cough drops on display next to me as I fought the impulse to clear my throat. Before I could even catch my breath, he was reaching back down and there was a 7/8ths view. This happened at least five times, with him reaching at least twice to pull up the jeans and staring back, almost as if to confirm if he had an audience.

On about the fifth squat -- the woman in between us who, like me would probably characterize her body type as "about average" in a personal ad as opposed to the "athletic and toned" showman ahead of us -- turned around and smirked at me, shaking her head. We shared a disapproving smile in a split second of over-45 bonding. The guy -- whose in-the-flesh attributes met if not exceeded my previous in-my-head view of the same part of his anatomy -- swiped his Wells Fargo platinum ATM card, picked up his bags and told the clerk to have a fabulous Labor Day.

As my turn came at the register, I decided that I think I do agree with the New York magazine assessment of men in skinny/low rise jeans. Or they should at least consider investing in a belt. There are some things I'd rather have just dancing in my head, not in front of my nose while I'm buying penne and Belgian crackers.

(Editorial note: I had my Treo with me, and I was actually checking email while waiting in line and could have sneaked a photo to verify that the above incident happened. This was one of those editorial ethical crises such as the tape mailed to the Today Show by the Virginia Tech bomber. Do you show it just because it's news and you have it, or do you show a bit of taste and restraint out of respect of your readers and the victims -- in this case me and Ms. Also-Over-45? I decided to take the high road and just show the much more benign stock photo above.)

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I'll Be Heading Off This Afternoon to .... annual pilgrimage to Burning Man.
JOK-ING! Though apparently Mothra will be there. Va-va-voom!
With all the hoopla over the closing of the Bay Bridge a 8 p.m. tonight, you'd think it was the last chance and only option to exit the city. I actually hope everyone leaves. One of the oddities of Labor Day is that San Francisco can often feel vacant. Not a bad thing.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Just Get on the Bus!

Not that I'd ever be one to follow the pack, but I thought I'd keep in line with my fellow bloggers and share this photo of my first day at school. It was...uh...a few years ago. Amazing how photos speak volumes. Just look at how that little twerp clutches his hands, waiting with such intent. That expression suggests he plans to try to keep the teacher in line and would prefer to be the one teaching the class (which he did try a few times). So intent, and amazingly I feel the same vibe today. For whatever dreams have been dashed, bumps and disappointments in the road, I really see myself as that kid under the tree waiting for the bus (actually my obsessive mother drove us, made sure I got to the right room, still had my lunch money...) It suggests that I've not learned a single thing all these years later or have retained much of the same optimism and verve or maybe a mix of all of it.

More touching to me is the photo of my dad (second from the left in the back row) and how much of him is still alive today.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Now in Production

Principle photography for episode 2 of Junk Thief TV has wrapped, with a few inserts still to be shot before we edit and upload. It won't be quite the big production of our premier (sorry no dance numbers this time, but music provided by our favorite singer named Nancy). Not to disappoint too many of our fans, but the Mothra episode has been delayed, but we hope to have it sometime in September. Just a few scheduling challenges in booking the talent. Junk Thief just hasn't been the same since the glory days when he relied on Sue Mengers and Swifty Lazar to handle such things.

This episode will be primarily a tour of the Mission District (which several of our viewers asked to see more of) and possibly a little reflection on the impact of gentrification (and the lack there of).

We hope to have it uploaded sometime over the holiday weekend, but no promises since we also have the big Noe Valley garage sale.

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72 Ounce Deity

I was on Skype and could only find my cell phone, not the good camera, just after he was walking out of my field of view...but the old buzzard to the left of the boat looked just like the God of Cecil B. DeMille movies, white beard, long white hair and all. He was carrying a cane and Big Gulp from 7-Eleven. Dern, and I was so close.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

One or the Other

By Friday, a decision is supposed to be made with work whether I'll be going to Ecuador or Nepal in March. I've been to the former three times, the latter five. So I am hoping it's the former. Though the latter would be fine, albeit not with a 20 hour flight.

However, I don't think I can negotiate my way out of those trips to Fresno and Wichita.

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The Disney You Don't See

When I first launched JunkThief TV nine months ago, I promised that it would feature "the unseen America". While I have been able to slip in some elements of that, I've not been able to take it on as fully as I'd hoped, wanting eventually to show some of the darker sides of American life that get swept under the carpet. With the second anniversary of Katrina nearing -- the event that really ripped open the unseen America -- I wanted to plug another great website of "Gavin Elster"'s. I recently mentioned his massive Sequoia Sempervirens, but also wanted to note his Majestic Butterhorn, which gives you a view of Disneyland that doesn't make the postcards. It's hilarious, tragic and thought-provoking all at the same time. You'll definitely pass on that Ben & Jerry's Cookie Dough Ice cream after glancing at it.

I wrote a short story this week set in Missouri that featured a character that lived on Butterhorn Lane and was obsessed with cockfighting. Afterwards, I kept wondering how the term Butterhorn got lodged in my creative conscience. Then it hit me. Thanks, Gavin.

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Feeling Nina Then and Now

Many days I curse myself and YouTube for the unholy alliance and waste of time the two of us have squandered away more often than I’d wish to reveal. Then I come across something like this post that was up for a few weeks about a year ago and then not available again until recently.

One of the things I feel blessed for in this life is having seen Nina Simone live three different times. Twice I felt cheated for her overpriced, obscenely short, indifferent performance. Exasperated, I asked myself: How could I have worshiped this woman who just put on the most trite performance I've ever seen? Then once it was a near religious experience. In many ways the same show, but something was just slightly different. Was she mad at the audience, America, life, herself, racism, the lack of progress in social change, the cruel joke of life, the fact that it was so short?

In this clip, she takes a song that many have called one of the worst pop tunes ever written, makes a stab at it, trashes it, deconstructs it, reconstructs it, and then rises with phoenix-like bombast to make you uncertain of the trip you’ve been on and where she is taking you is hard to describe. How she manages to hammer out so much from something so slight over the course of ten and a half minutes restores my faith in her and life. About five minutes into the clip, her vocal reaches its apex, when you go from laughing at the lyric to thinking, just for a second, that its truth and simplicity are so brilliant that no one to date had the insight she has to dive in and bring out the writer’s truth. In the few seconds there where the camera zooms in, she lets out the words "...feelings like I never had you..." you are experiencing a performance that is nearly equal to the summary of the entire career of Bette Davis or Meryl Streep. So much condensed, real emotion transported onto a shaky little lyric, reminding us that the words really don't matter as much as what you feel when you sense them through such an artist. Then she launches into a Keith Jarrett-worthy passage of keyboard invention before ending our journey, not quite sure where we’ve been but certain we’ll never be quite the same again.

Uh, I guess you might guess that I've forgiven Nina for those two bad concerts I saw. Were they really bad after all?

Special thanks to Lauren of Mindful Things whose own posts of other Nina tunes inspired me to search this clip out again and making me grateful in a deeper way to be alive and having been in the same room with Nina when she walked this earth.

UPDATE: Kusala's comment questioning whether this was really from the DVD 0f her 1976 Montreux concert or from the film the film Supreme Sorceress motivated me to seek out the two DVDs. I found the former, from which this clip actually originates, but not the latter which I'd also love to find. Having it on the bigger screen and superior sound sytem is a vast improvement but also saddens me that I'll never see Nina live again. Yet, I find myself singing out to the void and hoping that she know that I have "fellings like I never lost you..." Oh, I can't even say the rest since she makes me feel it for real in my heart.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Don't Interrupt the Sorrow

My most frequently recurring dream of the past 25 to 30 years is of racing ahead (usually in a car) on a bridge that I suddenly realize is completely submerged at the other end, and I am too close to stop or turn back. What happens from there varies. I have it at least ten to a dozen times a year.

I had a variation on it this weekend. The bridge is now standing but missing a few boards, and it is over a two foot creek, not the usual enormous river or bay. This time I was not on the bridge but on the shore, coaching people trying to get off. I'll be interested to chart the next chapters.

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Mostly About Martha

Two of my favorite '80s bands were headed by women named Martha -- the emblematic The Motels and the lesser known but equally good Canadian band Martha and the Muffins. Jane Wiedlin's late '80s output sort of continued that vibe (circa Rush Hour and Lost Inside a Dream), but she's a solo artist (despite her short stint with Frosted and duet with Sparks -- Cool Places anyone?), so I'll talk about her at some other time. All the same, I thought she always sounded like a prettier, more talented Madonna.

I was pleased to learn that Martha Davis and the Motels boys are making yet another come back next month with an album called Clean Modern and Reasonable with acoustic takes of their old hits and a second one of new material called Beautiful Life planned for later this year. Based on the tracks on their website, it doesn't sound half bad. My favorite Motels songs were Suddenly Last Summer and Art Fails. However I always hated Take the L Out of Lover if only on semantic arguments. Put a C on the front of Love and it's Clover. Change L to an R and it's Rover. What the hell does the L have to do with it anyway? A quarter of a century later, the song still sucks.

I can easily forgive Martha that transgression. She so closely resembled many of the women I hung out with back then, now for that matter. Wait, do I know Martha?

Suddenly Last Summer, besides referencing that southern Gothic movie, came out the summer after a pivotal summer in my youth. It and Romeo Void's A Girl in Trouble Is a Temporary Thing were playing on my soundtrack in order to survive the Reagan years. A Girl in Trouble Is a Temporary Thing is always the perfect mantra for adverse times. All of life is transitory.

(Sorry, no word on Martha and the Muffins' current whereabouts. Though I'm listening to Black Stations/White Stations this morning.)

(BTW, that's Martha's pet chameleon not a rat that she's holding. She was a bit freaky but not that freaky.)

UPDATE: I've been listening to the two acoustic remakes on their site -- Counting and Only the Lonely -- almost nonstop since around 7 a.m. Martha sounds so great -- vulnerable, a tad wiser but not trying for that hokum in the usual "unplugged" remakes. Something tells me this album is going to figure big for me during the last half of 2007! Man, this is one '80s band that holds up amazingly well in my humble opinion.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sunday Morning, Sunday Morning

The perfect Sunday morning, to me, involves getting up reasonably early (I've never done well with sleep in late types), devouring the Times, especially if it involves some thick arts preview section, the perfect coffee and a pastry I had the foresight to garner the previous afternoon and a favorite chanteuse of my childhood or before. Actually I've often been conflicted about whether I have a significant other that wants to share that time with me. If he sleeps in late, I usually immediately label him as a low energy loser. If he wants to chatter and get up in my space, he's considered too clingy since this time is about my news and my music not that annoying lovey dovey stuff. Life's too short, you know.

I've long outgrown the Billie Holiday Gloomy Sunday phase. A good example is
Margo Guryan, whose work I knew for years but discovered as a performer only recently. Being the author of Sunday Morning, she's obviously fits that bill perfectly. Male singers are more of a weekday, get motivated thing. I'm already planning to have Lee Hazelwood serenade me with "Some velvet mornin' when I'm straight..." first thing tomorrow. (Sadly, Lee left us on August 4 of this year, and we lost one of the most amazing voices of all time. When I was about six years old and heard his voice for the first time, it was the first time it hit me that I wanted to have men in my life as more than science teachers and baseball coaches.)

it was Friday's premier of Junk Thief TV - Season Two with the Dory Previn penned lyric for I'll Grow My Own Tree that has been trashed along with MacArthur Park as being the worst pop lyrics of all time. I'll agree that the metaphor of the solitary tree, not one in a row, and that poor soggy cake with its dripping green icing are pretty atrocious but still so compelling with their fearless bombast. So I started my morning with my three original vinyl issues of Dory's. Dory has gained recent hip cache as the titular subject of a Camera Obscura ditty. She really doesn't fit the mold of the quintessential '70s chick singer cliches. Carol King may have evolved from Brill Building pop, but Dory evolved from having written some of the worst celluloid tunes of the mid-1960s, or at least those in some of the most bizarre musical sequences in what were essentially big musical numbers in non-musical. Besides the aforementioned tree tune, that was represented by that enormous star-hiding mobile in Valley of the Dolls, she also wrote You're Going to Hear from Me from Inside Daisy Clover that has to be one of the weirdest faux musical numbers ever committed to the big screen. After a breakdown when husband Andre ran off with Mia Farrow, she wrote the prophetic Beware of Young Girls that was intended to chronicle their triangle but could more aptly be a foreshadowing of the Mia-Woody-Soon Yi triangle. As most people under 50 today would think of Mia as an elderly eccentric and would have trouble envisioning that she was ever a jail bait siren. Although I always knew Dory was a bit older than most of gals of the Joni-Carly-Carol era, I was really shocked to discover that she's about to turn 82. Dang, that makes cranky old Joni seem pretty dern young and spry by comparison. And I was also pleased to realize how non-characteristic her stuff is of the era. There's definitely no You've Got a Friend or Woman of Heart and Mind here. A woman that would have tunes with pretty self-explanatory titles like Did Jesus Have a Baby Sister? and The Obscene Phone Call on the same album has to be admired for showing even more audacity than she showed when writing about that dang tree that was not one in a row. Dory had an incredibly bizarre, tragic childhood with a father who suffered from Stockholm Syndrome, and she performed with a razor blade in her mouth as a child performer, all chronicled in her 1976 book Midnight Baby. She also suffered through electro-shock therapy.

Ultimately her latter work falls into the sphere of angst-spewing public therapy that I thought was really cool as a teen before I'd been assaulted by so much of it. Dory was the perfect soundtrack for my high school years when I thought I was really with it by hanging out with my cousin Ginger's proto-feminist, men bashing friends whom I probably followed just to sneak a peak at their copies of the original Viva magazine. Sadly, my fantasy of them feature a spread of Lee Hazelwood never materialized.

Sadly, most of the songs aren't ones I really want to hear on repeated listening, and I'll probably be fine if I don't pull those Dory discs out again until, say 2015 or so. I was also sad to hear that she's suffered strokes recently and is in poor health. I hope she has a good 82
nd on October 22, and I will always think of her when I hear the term "Reflections in a Mud Puddle."

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

But Then I Change My Mind

J, his pooch and I had a very pleasant brunch today down the street from their place in Noe Valley. Good food, coffee and watching the people in the 'hood go buy as we talked about bad pop culture, the past, the future and the meaning of life. We three have a little more history (ahem) than I am willing to go into on this site at this time.

We concluded that on Labor Day we'll combine some of my random, waiting to go out the door stuff in his garage sale (though of course, he doesn't have a garage). What distinguishes Noe Valley from the Mission is that they have illegal garage (or stoop) sales, and we have illegal fireworks going off much of the year. So much for the rumor of the gentrification of my 'hood.

Afterwards, I strolled up and down Church Street, stepping into the increasing number of upscale shops. Church used to be a fairly sparse corridor with only a couple of restaurants and shops, but dang has that changed. I stepped into the Lovejoy (tea room) Annex and picked up a bag of Darjeeling and was struck by the sign at the top of the post I thought about adopting that as the new moniker of this site, but maybe that's too much of a restating of the obvious.After that I stopped into Big Lots (is it just me, or do you think that would make a great name for a porn site or porn shop), a place that I step into very randomly and always find such random, weird things. Ninety-nine-point-nine of their stuff is utter garbage. Not worth its price at any price. Such as these oddities I found but did not buy. What gets me about this place is its parking lot. Yeah, they had a lot of Halloween stuff out, but their lot always gives me the willies. I don't know what it is exactly. It's so dark and dingy, sort of like the setting of some French Connection sequel. Anyway, it just doesn't look like the parking lot for some nationally advertised chain. It sure doesn't have the sunny, wholesome Target vibe.

What's really spooky is that you know somebody will actually buy this junk. It'll probably end up in some of next Labor Day's Noe Valley stoop sales.

Hey you guys (have I gone totally SoCal or what?), I am really blown away by all the sweet, encouraging comments about Junk Thief TV's second season premier. I can just hear my mom after I did one of my famed family gathering song and dance routines: "Please don't encourage him. He'll never stop now!" As those who know me, behind my meek, polite veneer lurks a began piece of near vegan ham, always looking for an audience to witness one of my hysterical song and dance routine,.

However, for the time being I'm planning to assume the guise of all hammy actors who plead, "What I really want to do is direct!" with a special guest star and working on some more tours of the Mission. So no song and dance numbers for just a while. But I'm sure there are more ahead. I was pleased to hear so many interested in seeing more of my quirky little neighborhood. Sometimes I forget that I live in such an amazing place. My old neighborhood of Park Slope (Brooklyn) has been coming up a number of times recently, and I'd be hard pressed to say which I prefer. My slice of the Mission is still a lot edgier than PS (which is much more like Noe Valley these days.) Sometimes I really miss the subdued colors and gravitas of the Brooklyn brownstones, but then on a glorious crisp, cool day like today, I have no regrets about living on the edge of the Pacific.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Some Day I Shall Be Released

Junk Thief just got in from downtown for drinks and dinner with a friend and did a little DVD shopping before heading back home. He was in one of those, "let's see what I can nab for under $35 at Virgin." Try these three: Cleopatra Jones, Mulholland Drive (even though I've yet to watch my copy of Inland Empire) and The Day of the Locust. See a trend there? All set in L.A. All feature strong, quirky women. All feature a certain calamity and cultural clash in the land of sun and fun. Junk Thief actually loves a lot about L.A. He has long said that while San Francisco is the most pretentiously unpretentious city in the U.S. L.A. is the most unpretentiously pretentious city of the nation. It celebrates and does not apologize for its gloss and glitz, yet some of the brightest and most sensitive people I have known are from there.

San Francisco on the other hand...Oh don't get me started. I even get into trouble when I say I am going "downtown." Well, there really isn't such a place here. I usually mean that when I am going in the general vicinity of Union Square to Embarcadero. I got into the same problem when I called Midtown Manhattan the same.

Nabbing (yes, I actually paid for them) three DVDs got me to thinking about a comment from someone the other day who said "You can get anything on DVD now." Sorry, not true. While you can find the first couple of seasons of C.H.I.P.S. on multi-disc sets, there is still a number of things that border on criminal for their lack of release. I could give a long list, but here is my current top five.

5.) Cruising (1980) directed by William Friedkin. I sort of cringe putting this on the list. I may or may not buy it when it's released on September 18. Yes, it's hard to watch but in a train wreck kind of way. I actually saw it just before it was released when I was working for a movie theater circuit. I saw it in a screening room with a group of 20-25 straight men in gray suits, grunting and smirking and making snide remarks. It's often very bizarre yet still captures the vibe and scene of a very specific time in a way that those who were there say for all its wrongheadedness is often accurate at capturing a long lost era and many people on the screen who likely died within a few years after its release. The flick's not without its laughs, such as the scene of the cop/Honcho magazine model bitch slapping Pacino who seems to have gone into denial that he ever made the film.

4) Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980) directed by Rainer W. Fassbinder. After a highly praised screening in New York this spring, this epic swan song of one of German's five greatest directors is supposedly being released by Criterion "this fall," but I have yet to see a release date. At five and a half hours, I can't imagine the price tag. Since many single disc Criterion's can fetch $36, I may need to take out a second mortgage for this one. But I can guarantee I will buy it.

3) Die 3groschenoper (1931) directed by G.W. Pabst. Okay, this one was likely to be my #1. Arguably the greatest pre-war German director (I put him far above Lang), the greatest piece of musical theater of the 20th century (Sorry, Sound of Music, Oklahoma!, My Fair Lady don't come close) and Lotte Lenya all in the same screen is more than I can stand. It's a flawed adaptation of the Brecht-Weill stage version, missing many key songs, but still often brilliant. I actually have a VCR to VHS to DVD copy of a late 1980s WNET-TV broadcast that is of surprisingly decent quality (even featured in an episode of Junk Thief TV), but I've longed for the day when a nice print might be available. If there were justice, KINO might take a crack of it. Knowing it will never happen, I did a quick search, and effing mother of god!!! A Criterion release is coming September 18. Eight days before my birthday. Thanks for considering buying it for me, but I've already pre-ordered it. There is a God after all.

2) Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977) directed by Richard Brooks. Okay, okay. This is almost up there with Cruising, but it too is a key product of its times. Keaton was brilliant in it. It was Richard Gere's first significant role. And Tuesday Weld was...well some say she should have played the lead. The soundtrack is pretty good too, certainly evoking the era, although already a bit dated (some going back to 1974) even when it was relased. I don't even have a VHS copy of it. Pity.

1) Play It As It Lays (1972) directed by Frank Perry. Alright. I have four words to say: WHERE. IS. THE. OUTRAGE. You can't find this on any format anywhere. It never airs anywhere. Tuesday Weld in the lead. Supporting work by Tammy Grimes and Anthony Perkins. Based on a book by Joan Didion. Never mind the lack of outrage about Iraq. Where is the outrage that we are denied this key important work of the late 20th century! I mean, you can get Mel Gibson in Tim, It's Pat, the Care Bear movies, but not this? Unite, take action, demand your rights. I refuse to leave this earth until I have a pristine print of this puppy to put in my highest definition, 70 foot wide, plasma, state of the art player. I just pray that it comes out before my eyesight and hearing give out.

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Junk Thief TV - Second Season Premier

Judy singing the words of Dory Previn that have been called the worst lyric ever written, a brief history of the shopping addiction movement, a 55 second musical tribute to Zasu Pitts, a Mothra sighiting. It's all here in the gala premier episode of the second season of Junk Thief TV. It starts somewhere in the 1950s and ends in Egypt in the year 2015. DISCLAIMER: The Vogue cover is not from the U.S. or French edition but the Finnish Vogue, circulation 385.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Further News From the Set

Exploring the hidden treasures of Egypt with Zasu Pitts, shopping with Mary Todd Lincoln, tooling around the dark alleys of the Mission. Oh, what fun we're having wrapping up the premiere of JunkThief TV's second season. We've had such a blast going through the archives at the JunkPlex pulingl out these old magazine covers from the glory days and wanted share a couple more. After all, they're on the screen for mere seconds during the opening and closing montages. The show is essentially wrapped, we just need to do some fine tuning on audio levels and keep our fingers crossed that its epic nine and three quarters minute length is able to load on YouTube!

We're about ready to shoot episode two with a special, surprise guest. (Think insects and sweaters.)

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The Mission Bells Ring for Me

Thanks to Gavin Elster (no, I don't think that he's really that Gavin Elster) of Sequoia Sempervirens for the heads up about the festivities in October at San Juan Bautista marking the 50th anniversary of the filming (it was actually released the following year) of Vertigo. This looks like too cool of an event to miss. I am already fairly certain I'll attend, making it at least my fourth trip there. When I am forced to take visitors to Monterrey/Carmel, I always demand that I be rewarded by a trip to San Juan Bautista and the outlet shops in Gilroy.

If you've never been over the Sequoia Sempervirens, it's worth the trip. Gavin must have the most amazing culture obscura gopher sense for YouTube and other strange corners of pop culture. A recent post of a Finnish version of YMCA is not to be missed.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Two Bay Windows, Two Heart Strings

Now that he has forgiven me for his stay at the cat hotel (which I promise never to repeat), Bunter and I have returned to a nice daily routine of peaceful coexistence. When I first returned a couple of weeks ago, he had to be physically next to me 24 hours a day which was touching in a way but pretty cloying by the third day.

Things are back to normal with him gravitating to the back (east) end of the house to sun in the bay windows in the morning and then we swap in the afternoon. So around four this afternoon when I heard this fragile, heart churning meow that came from the feline above (actually captured a couple of weeks earlier on a previous visit). I tried not to look, but this cat was such an excellent sales person, I had to go out in the garden. There was the initial stalking pause as he seemed poised to run, after which I crouched down meekly, and it approached me with attention starved purrs. Though it looked in good health I could find no collar, and the fur was definitely not the pampered silky texture of Bunter's.

No, I concluded, I'm not going to get sucked in and went to the now balmy front sitting room, where I peered out the window to see creature at the bottom of this post. I decided to wait a couple of minutes and noticed at least half a dozen people pass by, most ignoring him, some giving the most casual of unconcerned glances.

An old made for TV movie from the 1970s with Ed Asner about people in Manhattan witnessing a murder but refusing to "get involved" raced through my head, and I recalled that I pledged all those eons ago that I'd never become that sort of jaded urban dweller.

There were sounds emitting from this creature as well, but not the type that made me want to hover over him with a bowl of milk and say, "Aren't you a pretty baby?"

As I walked down the steps and opened the gate, Maria, the octogenarian Latina next door was already hovering over him with her cordless phone, babbling at him in far better Spanish than I could muster, though he was slurring so much that our mastery of the language was about equal. She was using a call to the cops just as a threat, and in moment he stumbled along, albeit having done a good number on my Elysium.

Fortunately when I returned to the back sitting room, the feline self-promoter was gone. But there's always tomorrow, and I feat that cat's got my number.

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Affirming Contradictions

In your journal list your contradictions. Don't try to justify or correct them just now, simply list them. ..

Ew, I always hate this exercise. I already know most of them.

Perfectionist -- Pack rat
Privacy obsessed hermit -- fame and attention whore
Perfectionist -- typo slinger, speed writing freak
Vegan -- sushi addict (and not just avocado rolls)
Perfectionist -- sloth
Pacifist -- foul mouthed, road rager screaming death threats behind the wheel
Buddhist -- Christmas schlock addict

Okay, the entire perfectionist thing is really getting at me this month as I am not travelling until after Labor Day and have been embroiled in both work and personal "time to get the systems in order" mode. July was strategic planning month at work and it sort of spilled over into real life, as in trying to answer the "what's it all about" question. I'd had that question answered once after a massage in Bali and on a mountain in Nepal, and it was that it was about being in that moment.

Now August is sort of the "tactile planning" month, mapping out specific dates all that I plan to accomplish between now and June 30 (work fiscal year end, and usually a personal turning point). So the perfectionist and slob are sort of crashing against each other right now since it requires having piles of projects and things to be sorted all over the JunkPlex. As single person abodes in San Francisco go, the JunkPlex is pretty spacious, but any pile of "to do" stuff is always crazy making for me. And it seems that the place is usually at its tidiest once I've packed my bags, ready to head out the door for a long trip. If I burn up on a plane crashing into the Rockies, the people walking into my place would be deluded into believing I led a decidedly orderly, perfectly organized life. Well, that's what I'm always moving towards, but the wheels required to turn it to that point move so slowly.

[The photo does not relate precisely to the post, but we'll say it's JunkThief about to be crushed by the churning wheels of perfection. Actually it's part of his latest experiment of channeling some of the works of Cindy Sherman. Needless to say, he's very dissatisfied with it since it's far from perfection, and he may abandon the whole project. Bleh, bleh, bleh.]

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Where Death Had Bloomed

It took a while for me to fully grasp why the past weekend felt so weird to me, but then it dawned on me yesterday that it was a year ago that my father died after a fairly brief journey with Alzheimer's. The past year has been an odd journey, and with both parents gone, I still anticipate another call with bad news, of someone who has gone into the ICU, the term "critical condition" being bandied about, relatives I've not talked to in years needing to be called and informed.

One of my co-workers has reminded me repeatedly that joy will return to my life, and I've felt glimpses of it now and again. And after a year of sorting out my parents estate, I keep toying with how many things I want to hold on to, to pass on to extended relations or put into storage.

As I hear about horrific weather in many parts of the country and the globe, I can see glimmers of the supposed joy likely to return to life in a couple of items brought across the country back in June during my famed U-Haul trek. These two flower pots belonged to my maternal grandparents, and I have seen them in photos from the house in Kansas City at least as far back as the 1940s, possibly even the 1930s. I don't know the story behind them, but for the past 20 to 25 years, they were fixtures at my parents' house but always empty. When I emptied them to bring across the country, the dirt was as hard as concrete, having not been worked for decades. Seeing them filled with life again is encouraging on a sometimes disconcerting Tuesday. August, always a month of preparation for some (me) rest and retreat for others (not me), leaves me in that mode of frustrated anticipation for the show about to open. I am trying my best to take a moment now and again to focus on the coleus in the pot, appreciating that they are here now and will likely be gone in a few months. In the meantime I am reminded to seek more life.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Concentric Circles of Zasu

When I was in middle school, a girl who worked on art projects with me had an obsession with the actress Zasu Pitts. I had no idea who she was talking about but acted as if I did. No slouch, the girl asked me, "So what are your favorite movies of hers?" Not missing a beat, I responded, "Oh, you know, the German ones." She responded back, "Oh, indeed, Von Stroheim and Greed." That ended the conversation, but the words Greed and Zasu stuck with me for years, years before we had and Wikipedia. There was just something about someone named Zasu that stuck with me, especially when paired with a moniker like Pitts.

Only in my college years, would I have my first opportunity to see Greed on a big screen, albeit in a very poorly preserved print. But her portrayal of Trina did not disappoint me in this rarely afforded opportunity to finally see that face and personality paired with such an odd name. The passing this week of Leona Helmsley harkened back to that image of Pitts' character Trina as well as the miserly Hetty Green whose bio I've referred to earlier here.

What is it about greed in men that is so repulsive but fascinating when embodied in a woman? Of course, Pitts would go on to play mainly comic, light characters, but her early career always fascinated me. Only recently did I discover that she was born and spent her earliest years in Parsons, Kansas, where I have several family members. How fitting that like Louise Brooks, Kansas with its flat, abstract landscape produced a disturbed and distrubing artist.

Stranger still while researching a piece on Zasu for my vlog that I came across this embodiment of the name Zasu in, of all places, Melbourne, Australia. Sometimes sweet, beautiful madness smiles down on a flat landscape and transports its bent poets into great places.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

News from the Set

We don't want to give away too much about what you'll see in the Junk Thief TV second season premiere, but we thought you might enjoy this still from a montage that appears early in the show, part of the madcap life of Junk Thief. It appears for just a couple of seconds in the show as part of a glimpse into what Junk Thief has been up to since he was last with his loyal viewers. Stay tuned for the exact air date, but we expect it sometime over Labor Day weekend with plans already underway for the second episode.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Junk Thief Luv Him Some Crime

Despite the name of this blog and its occasional tag line of being "your go to place for junk and crime," Junk Thief really hates crime, even the petty kind. You should just see him react to the frequent act of someone here in the Mission District urinating on the side of his 10-year-old Saturn. That's illegal, isn't it? Or at least a public health hazard.

However, books and movies about crime have always compelled it. Aren't gangsters sexy? Well, usually they're also Italian, so that adds to all of it. So last night while out for the evening meal on Valencia, as usual it was impossible to pass Dog Eared Books without stepping in. Junk Thief probably buys (yes, pays, not steals) 15-20 books a month from that place. There was a nifty little volume there by Giacomo Papi called Under Arrest (A History of the Twentieth Century in Mugshots). Junk Thief has always been fascinated by mug shots, though fortunately he's never been the subject of one, although he simulated one in episode 22 of Junk Thief TV.

What is it about mug shots that is so fascinating? Do they hold true the indigenous belief that a camera will steal your soul? Indeed, they are photos most would never want out on the net or media, but the more famous you are the more likely they are to be on covers than some artfully posed glamour shot.

Mr. Papi has compiled an intriguing array of shots. There are plenty of familiar and tacky ones such at the Hugh Grant/Nicole Brown, O.J. Simpson, Nick Nolte and other celebrities caught with their literal or proverbial pants down. There are a few that are a bit more unexpected such as Larry King and Bill Gates (for a routine traffic violation in New Mexico in the 1970s).

Plenty are political or document varying struggles for justice or social change, ranging from Malcom X, Emma Goldman, Jane Fonda, Jack Kavorkian and Fidel Castro. Of course, there are the outright criminals like Ben Siegel and really spooky ones like Jeffrey Dahmer and Timothy McVeigh. What's unexpected are some of the lump in your throat shots such as child prostitutes in China, Auschwitz internees and "homosexual criminals".

Since it couldn't be found on, Junk Thief felt compelled to bring the little volume to others' attention in case it shows up on a mark down table in your neighborhood.

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