Monday, April 27, 2009

Coming Soon: “VROOOOOOOOM!”


“Shit, all you gotta go is have long hair, ride a scooter and wear colors, and everything you do is illegal.”

The United Provinces of Ivanlandia is not sure how the rest of you do it, but with the indomitable Otto Mannix Report—and maybe Toestubber, if we can convince him to leave that South Korean bullfighting gig for at least one damn minute!—we’re planning a
BIKER MOVIE BLOG-A-THON
for the weekend of May 15th!
(That weekend is also Otto Mannix’s second anniversary on the blogosphere: awwwwww….)

In our usual (lackadaisical and nonsensical) styles, Mannix and Ivanlandia will be examining various aspects of the 1966-1974 (and sometimes BEYOND) Biker Movie genre (you know the one: a gang of long-haired, dope-smokin’ reprobate 1%-ers ride into town, and trouble-trouble-trouble).

“A motorcycle gang? I know all about you guys—I go to the movies!”

But we invite any and all entries regarding motorcycle movies. If you have a website and want to write something up, hit it, maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!

If you don’t have a website, don’t worry—leaving comments is like acid: grooooovy.

Write about any biker movie you want to, and as people send me their URLs and links, I'll update and post them here along with my biker-related randomness.

Ivanlandia doesn’t consider Scorpio Rising, Easy Rider or Electra-Glide in Blue to be “Biker” flicks—they’re movies that have motorcycles in them. But if you feel different, write something up.
Don’t listen to The Man: remember, you are free.

BIKER MOVIE BLOG-A-THON
The weekend of May 15, 2009!
Be there!


“These people were born misfits. They can’t even get along with their own kind.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

SOYLENT BIODIESEL IS PEOPLE!!!


Cannibalism is…never having to say you’re sorry…for belching…


I’m not sure if I’m fit to fill Chuck Heston’s shoes. Edward G. Robinson? Sure.

This post is something I wrote for my day job that I thought bared repeating:
There is something so ghoulish and distasteful in using human fat to power a vehicle that it’s not even funny.



Cannibalism—the actual consumption of human flesh, not that radical political theory that anyone working for someone else is being eaten alive—is the last of the great taboos, only broken by hidden primordial tribes or the rest of us under the most extreme circumstances—circumstances that sometimes can be caused by both external and internal factors.

Both Russian and German troops turned to cannibalism during the harsh winters of the Second World War, and the tragedy of the Uruguayan futbol team is so well known as to be the punchline of jokes.

Part of the transgression (and fun!) of the book and film Fight Club was the young men’s use of liposuctioned fat to make beautifully-scented 100% green, all-natural soap. But in the world of Fight Club, the protagonist(s), as part of their greater Project Mayhem series of pranks, sell the soap to department stores whose clients are the very people being liposuctioned.

But it is with horror that we usually consider ideas like people (or parts thereof) being turned into soap. Although discredited, the rumor that the Nazis turned concentration camp victims into soap was so strong that it took years to dispel.


THE GASTANK THAT DRIPPED BLOOD
It was with bemused horror that I read about Dr. Craig Alan Bittner of the ultra-swanky Beverly Hills, California, and how he is rumored to have used the siphoned lard of rich dowagers to fuel his Ford SUV and his girlfriend’s Lincoln Navigator.

Bittner wrote on his now defunct site, lipodiesel.com, "The vast majority of my patients request that I use their fat for fuel--and I have more fat than I can use. Not only do they get to lose their love handles or chubby belly but they get to take part in saving the Earth."

But is this really an extreme circumstance? Are we so attached to a lifestyle that’s rapidly being revealed as superfluous and wasteful, that we are willing to use the flesh of humans to fuel our vehicles? Is this the kind of savagery we must resort to simply to drive a car?






Bittner is under investigation by the California Department of Public Health for the improper disposal of medical waste, and engineers are questioning his veracity.

Meanwhile, the good doctor—who while having a license to perform liposurgical procedures, actually has a degree in radiology—has skipped town, to Colombia, a place notorious for its plastic surgeons.

I’m glad it seems as if Bittner’s a fraud. I’d be scared to think what would happen if he was on the up-and-up.

Regular readers of The United Provinces of Ivanlandia may already know that I’m a fan of late author Gustav Hasford.

In the 1970s, Hasford wrote a macabre short story about overpopulation and cannibalism. Titled “The Disneyland Man,” it can be found HERE; check it out, it’s good.

After my essay was printed (in a somewhat altered form, and with a different title), the magazine that pays my rent received some letters. One engineer (a man with about a decade’s experience with a major fuel additives company) wrote:

With great amusement I read your story. For years already, a number of colleagues and I have been joking morbidly about the possibility of HTL (humans to liquids) next to GTL, CTL and BTL (Gas to Liquids/Biomass to Liquids/Coal to Liquids).

We took the joke as far as calculating how long HTL would allow us to replace the current consumption of crude oil (86 million barrels/day).

Assuming a human population of 6 billion, an average human mass of 70 kilograms and 18% wt of C, further assuming all C could be transformed to hydrocarbons with an average C/H ratio of 1.5 and assuming that the resulting chemical mix would have a density and caloric value equal to gasoline, we calculate it wouldn't last more than 1 or 2 weeks.


In fact, my own body mass wouldn't allow my family to drive more than 200-300 miles in our moderately efficient car (Ford Escort station wagon from 1997). This calculation puts our current energy consumption in a rather shocking perspective I think.

Rather.
Hmmm…. What’s for lunch?

Monday, April 13, 2009

The 47th Minute Project IV: The Quest for Peace

The above is the 47th Minute of another one of my favorites: It was a big-budget, major Hollywood studio Christmas release (and because it was a Xmas release, that influenced some of the color scheme of this film: hint!) —that was torn apart by the critics—it only received 46% on Rotten Tomatoes, and big Roger E. gave the film only 2 stars on its release. This movie’s financial failure probably pushed its director on his current (in my opinion) lame streak.

This flick has a growing cult, though, that has always appreciated it, and has kept the flick’s memory alive.

The actor in this frame appears more than once in this film and not always under the makeup he’s wearing here. Maybe he’s planning a caper of some sort?
Maaaaayyyybeeee….

If you've got an idea (any idea!) of what this flick is, please leave any answers, comments or recipes in the comment section.

As For The Previous Entry of The 47th Minute Project…Sorry it took so long…

Gee-whiz daddy, what does full metal jacket mean?


The last entry into the 47th Minute Project was Full Metal Jacket, and YEEEE-HA! Y’all got your kill-faces ON.
It was neat to see all the comments, and to see how many folks have the flick’s dialog seared into their brains.

Private Snible commented first, “Sir... does this mean that Ann-Margaret’s not coming?”

Then there was y’all who recognized the proto-cultural cross-pollination where the dialog from nearly exactly the 47th minute of Full Metal Jacket winds up being, as reader Mary Wolf noted tersely: “2 Live Crew, As Nasty As They Wanna Be, Track 1:

“Me so horny.”

Otto the Mannix commented, “This scene has that rare distinction of having a phrase which has gone into the collective psyche, such as 'here's looking at you, kid,' or 'you can't handle the truth,' or 'hasta la vista, baby,' or 'i see dead people.' ”

After quoting these infamous bit of dialog—“I bet you're the kind of guy that would fuck a person in the ass, and not even have the god damned common courtesy to give him a reach around,”—Reader Tonya noted, “It was from this movie, as a teenager, I learned what a ‘reach around’ is.”

Same here! I’d never heard that phrase before I’d seen the flick—maybe I was sheltered as a child…


[Kubrick’s flicks have probably been the most parodied on The Simpsons, and I’ve always wondered what Stanley K. thought about that.]

Unfortunately, despite my pathetic pleading, nobody turned me on to a copy of Dark of the Sun, either.

I know I could go to NYC’s Midtown Comics—their bootleg DVD selection is extensive—but about 70% of the DVDs I’ve ever purchased there have had to be returned.
And whenever I’ve asked to have a DVD scanned before buying it, I get the most put-upon, depressive, unhelpful employee glaring at me. Gosh, is my karma that bad? Gosh, have these employees ever had to coat a dock in creosote or been a dishwasher at a greasy spoon? Because those are jobs to make you a put-upon, depressive, unhelpful employee.
Like the protagonist of the Killdozer song “Ted Key Beefs,” if business establishment has wronged me, “I am the fellow who never comes back.” Which is why I won't bother with Midtown Comics' bootleg DVD section.

So I’ll just have to wait to get my Dark of the Sun fix elsewhere. Sigh….


Ladysniff Black Vietnambazoor, Psychedelia Is Everywhere



The iPod was on random, and immediately after “Hello, Vietnam,” from the Full Metal Jacket soundtrack album, came the raucous and rude “Lady Sniff” by those Texas shamans, The Butthole Surfers. The two songs butt-up, heh-heh, against each other made me laugh and laugh.

Someone, please! Make a mash-up! I mean, I’ll try, but I’ve only got Audacity
Maybe the dudes at the stupendous and audio-riffic sites RIAA and DJ Lobsterdust know somebody? (BTW, RIAA and DJ Lobsterdust have fun sites really worth checking out.)


And yeah, I was at THAT Butthole Surfers show, the one at the Ritz, where 20 guitars were smashed in the first five minutes. Although I’m not certain if it was the July or April show….
But I was at the Butthole Surfers show where the encore was longer than the "main show." Superb. Sorry if you weren’t there. I missed Led Zeppelin when I was in 7th grade, and the Pink Floyd-The Wall Tour when I was 10, so you’re one up on me.

This is the band’s Mp3 page, with "Lady Sniff" very easily accessible. (Their site is a good place to catch up on the world of the Buttholes!)


Hello Vietnam,” written by Dave Dudley (who sang the classic trucker song, “Six Days on the Road”—although he didn’t write it), sung by Johnny Wright, best remembered from its use during the opening of Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket.








Here’s the first few minutes of the film, the song over footage of the recruits being prepped for lobotomy surgery.













I think Hello Vietnam and Lady Sniff go together well, and maybe someone as a radical act could replace The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It, Black” on the end credits for Full Metal Jacket with “Lady Sniff.”

Now hopefully this will be funny to you as a sort of mental exercise: If you’re unfamiliar with these songs, you should go to the respective links and first listen to “Hello Vietnam,” then “Lady Sniff.”

Now turn off any music and read down, keeping the respective tunes in your head. It should be funny! (I hope.)

Hello Vietnam:

Kiss me goodbye and write me while I'm gone
goodbye my sweetheart
hello Vietnam

America has heard the bugle call
and you know it involves us one and all
I don't suppose that war will ever end
there's fighting that will break us up again

Goodbye my darling hello Vietnam
a hill to take, a battle to be won
Kiss me goodbye and write me while I'm gone
goodbye my sweetheart
hello Vietnam


A ship is waiting for us at the dock
America has trouble to be stopped
We must stop communism in that land
Or freedom will start slipping through our hands
Goodbye my darling...

I hope and pray someday the world will learn
That fires we don't put out will bigger burn
We must save freedom now at any cost

or someday our own freedom will be lost
Kiss me goodbye and write me while I'm gone.

Goodbye my sweetheart, Hello Vietnam.


Lady Sniff by the Butthole Surfers, off of the awesome Psychic... Powerless... Another Man's Sac album:

Yeaaaaah bo!
Heh Heh Heh.

Lady sniff my Twinkie-liquor
Lady walk alone
Lately when I see you baby
Lord I gotta go
Walkin' down that stinky highway
Got to meet my man
Lately when I smell you baby
Woah, my God Damn
Cause I say No, yeeeah, an’ I mean NO
Yeah, and I said no-oooooooooooooo…


Take me back to Detroit, pie-hole!
yeah heh-heh-heh

Lady sniff my broken teabag, Lady walk the road
Lately when I see that teabag, I can't take no mo’
lady walk that greasy gravy, Lordy my good eat
Lately when I eat you baby, Lord I just can't see
An I say NO, NOOO, An I mean NO,
Yeah-eah, baby, no-oooooooooooooo…
—An’ I don’ do that

Pass me some of that dumbass over dere, Hey, boy I tell ya.

Hey-OOOOOO!

he he he heh


Lady walk with furry-burry, animal diggy din
Yeah
Lately when I see you baby, got to have my sniff
Lady walk that greasy highway, stinky holy whore
lately when I see you baby, walkin’ out my door
Cause I say no, yeah I mean no, No oh noooo oh oh oh
Murray! Bring me my bacon, Murray!!??



Lady bowl my wall-to-walls
Oh, what the hell you say?
walk 'em all, those roly-polys, each and every day.
Lady use my stinky pinky, rooty-dooty-doo
Lately when I see you baby don't know what I do.
And I say No—Yeah, no: Yeahhhh I mean No-ooooo—Yeah bo
Hey, wait a minute, Murray!!??


(But then, maybe you had to be there…)

If you don’t buy this product, you rotten little maggot, Ronald Lee Ermey is gonna gouge out your eyes and skullfuck you!

Since we’re on the topic (in a roundabout way) of Full Metal Jacket

Most people think that Full Metal Jacket is R. Lee Ermey’s first role, and while it is the role that made him a star, his first film (and he actually gets one of those “and introducing” credits in the opening) was The Boys in Company C (1978), finally released to DVD last summer.

Ermey’s a more human character in The Boys in Company C than he was in Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket—not to say that he’s not still a fierce beast, but his drill instructor here is a better rounded character, he’s not a wind-up monster: we know he knows that about half of these kids won’t be coming back, and it bugs him, but this is his job and it needs to be done.

Ermey’s scene with Stan Shaw (excellent also) in the D.I.’s office about the need for leadership and camaraderie in a squad are classic. I also love how, at the beginning of the scene, Shaw asks the D.I. to take off his Smokey-the-Bear hat before talking to him. Ermey's character understands, takes off the hat and talks to him straight.

Like Full Metal Jacket, this flick loses some steam when it leaves boot camp, but Full Metal Jacket, despite its flaws, is a more thematically and stylistically cohesive movie.

Unfortunately, The Boys in Company C is saddled with a narration that’s obvious and intrusive (I agree with whoever said 75% of all narration in films should be cut, and yes, I include Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket in that rule); characters with pathetically low learning curves (is the narrator supposed to be as stupid as he comes off?); and the sense that the movie is not sure if it wants to be cynical or cornball: John Boorman or John Ford? Stanley Kubrick or Stanley Kramer?
But Boys in Company C director Sidney J. Furie has had a somewhat schizophrenic career, so who knows? But whatever mistakes the film has made, the widescreen Panavision frame is used thoroughly and is always visually fascinating, with lots of details and eyeball kicks.


All that good camerawork had been lost in the VHS pan-and-scan version, and it’s good that this flick is finally available on DVD in letterbox form.

While not a perfect film, The Boys in Company C is certainly worth a look for any armchair scholar of Vietnam War movies (like me), as well as fans of the “boot camp” sub-genre of war movies.

Sharp-eyed viewers, though, can catch Ermey as one of the helicopter pilots in Colonel Kilgore’s unit in Apocalypse Now—I think Ermey’s actually a pilot, and was hired specifically for that rather than his acting skills.

Interestingly, Gustav Hasford, one of my favorite authors and the creator of The Short-Timers, the novel Full Metal Jacket was based on, did not like Big Stanley K.’s choice of Ermey in the role of the gunnery sergeant/drill instructor, and let the director know that.


Hasford felt that Ermey had taken a pro-war stance regarding Vietnam and didn’t like that about him, and considered Ermey a "fucking pogue lifer."

Meanwhile, R. Lee thought Hasford a goofball and the first part of his novel (set in boot camp) as gobble-dee-goop.





I disagree with Ermey and feel that The Short-Timers’ first section is a unique, sick twist on the usually clich├ęd vision of basic training, but I can also see where the old war-horse is coming from:
R. Lee’s conservative and very much the alpha-male, and a nihilistic, semi-surrealistic meta-textual reworking of what he probably feels are the most important part of a young man’s life is certainly not his cup of tea.

Personally I prefer the novel’s three act structure to the film’s two—although I understand what Kubrick is trying to do with a two act structure: reinforcing the duality concept, but also pitting the antiseptic controlled chaos of boot camp with the “real” world, where little girls blast a hole through your buddy, and all that training can become unraveled pretty darn fast.




The Short-Timers is one of my favorite books, and its sequel The Phantom Blooper is even better, more savage and anguished, where Joker becomes a POW and then fights for the VC. When Joker returns “home,” it’s just a nightmare. Great powerful stuff.

The books are out of print, but here’s a petition to try and reverse that.

You can also find The Short-Timers in its entirety HERE, and The Phantom Blooper (I’m sorry Mr. Hasford, but great book, awful title) HERE.
BTW, That uneasy gent above is the late Gustav Hasford, photographed in England on the set of Full Metal Jacket.

Random aside: When I watch a Vietnam-era Marine boot camp flick (and its subsequent scenes “in country”), I can't help but think about Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver: he was a Vietnam-era Marine, right? If you think of Bickle as one of the grunts from either The Boys in Company C or Full Metal Jacket, what he winds up doing “later” in Taxi Driver doesn’t seem so strange: it’s a continuation of the madness he’s already been a part of.

And speaking of Taxi Driver and the United States Marine Corps, what about the taxi dispatcher that interviews Bickle? He says, “I was in the Marines.” But I wonder when? Doing what? Was he in Korea? Or guarding sandbags somewhere?
BTW, the dispatcher in Taxi Driver was played by the late, great Joe Spinell, one of the greatest character actors ever.

But getting back to Ermey: His foolish dislike of Hasford’s novel doesn’t take away from his great performance, which really was a blast of profane air when Full Metal Jacket first came out. I remember seeing the movie at the 8th Street Playhouse a few weeks after it was released. Ermey’s performance was shocking then—but also incredibly funny.

Darius Whiteplume left a spot-on overall cinematic assessment to Full Metal Jacket in the comments of last entry into the 47th Minute Project: “I don't think I have ever found a movie so balanced in humor and depravity.”

I dig Ermey when he’s not on autopilot repeating his drill sergeant shtick: Movies like Seven and Willard, he’s better than decent in.

Supposedly, Ermey’s fantastic in Dead Man Walking—but I refuse to see that film: I’m no fan of Sean Penn, and every time I give that actor another chance, he goes ahead and ACTS. You cannot watch Sean Penn ever and not see a heap of ACTING going on. God, he’s so boring. He ruined Mystic River for me.

Hey, does anyone remember when Ermey was going around saying that Kubrick said Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman ruined Eyes Wide Shut?