Amoeblog

[Insert wordless visual here.]

Posted by Job O Brother, March 30, 2009 03:55pm | Post a Comment

Not to lure you away from the safe and nurturing environment that is the Amoeblog, but, for those of you interested in reading it with your eyes, here is a link to a recent interview I had with one of my favorites, Marianne Faithfull.

Now then, on to a topic that is not oft spoke of; that is, silent films. Amoeba Music Hollywood has a small but rich silent film section which, at this writing, is located on the mezzanine. I’m taking this opportunity to advocate a greater appreciation and exploration of this antiquated genre.

For many people, silent films are a known but ignored craft, as though the technological progress that married sound to film rendered the silent precursors an inferior product. While I do hail “talkies” as a wonderful invention, I still feel there is much joy to be had in silent cinema. If nothing else, knowing a bit about it can be enough to get you laid by art-school chicks taking a break from experimenting with bisexuality.


The first silent I saw that rocked me was the tragic drama Pandora’s Box [original, German title: Die Büchse der Pandora]. Released in 1929 and directed by Austrian Georg Wilhelm Pabst, it stars the gorgeous and gifted Louise Brooks in the lead role.


Another gem I treasure is Wings, the first film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture (and the only silent film to do so). Released in 1927 and directed by William A. Wellman, it stars Clara Bow, the quintessential flapper icon, and has a cameo by not-yet-superstar Gary Cooper.


Clara Bow emerged from a childhood fraught with poverty and abuse to become a top Hollywood box-office draw. Her brash manners earned her scorn among celebrity circles, however, and after retiring from the movie business, she was reduced to living inside a milk carton and selling her toes for Necco Wafers.*




Clara Bow, coupled with pop vocal singer, Helen Kane, was the inspiration behind Max Fleischer's beloved cartoon character, Betty Boop.


I would be remiss to write about silent films without mentioning the biggest star to come out of them, namely, Charlie Chaplin. It is convenient that, while I am often annoyed by the actors which are today hailed as great, contemporary stars, I am satisfied that Chaplin is absolutely warranted the admiration he’s bestowed.


Chaplin distinguished himself as an actor, director, composer, and sex machine. After a career on the stage, he found greater fame in film as an actor for the Keystone Film Company. He debuted his now famous character “the Tramp” in two films: Kid Auto Races at Venice and Mabel's Strange Predicament, both released in 1914.




Hold on a second – I’ve a powerful thirst… I’m gonna go get a frosty beverage. While I do, enjoy this performance by Petula Clark of a song written by Charlie Chaplin…


…Okay. I’m back, with thirst quenched. Going on…

Because his political views were decidedly left-of-center, he was targeted by pretty, pretty princess J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. When Chaplin returned to his native England for the premiere of his film Limelight, Hoover sabotaged the actor’s U.S. re-entry permit. Chaplin eventually made his new home in Switzerland, where he spent his time on his hobby, collecting teenage, blonde girls.


Next, let us consider the great actress Theda Bara. While Bara made over 40 films (between 1914 and 1946), only six of these remain available in their complete form. Cleopatra, one of her most popular films, is now lost; only 40 seconds of film footage and photographs of Bara in her costume remain. Bara’s aesthetics have gone on to inspire future artists, like Siouxsie Sioux and, less obviously, Eazy-E*. She eventually married a wealthy man who wanted her to give up acting in films, so she switched her format to the bedroom [insert drum roll].




Different From the Others [original, German title: Anders als die Andern], released in 1919, is important as one of the first (and, perhaps, the first) films to portray homosexuals in a compassionate light. A product of the Weimer Republic, the film was eventually considered “decadent” by Hitler and the Nazi Party, and copies found were burned.




One of the actors from Different From the Others, Conrad Veidt, went on to achieve fame for his role in another film I fancy: the early horror flick, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari [original, German title: Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari]. A neat-o example of the German Expressionist style, the film, with its eerie backdrops of painted-on shadows and warped stages, remains spine-tingling. It’s great for Halloween parties, or for snuggling and seducing art-school chicks taking a break from experimenting with bisexuality.


I am currently enjoying Die Nibelungen, director Fritz Lang’s cinematic version of the epic poem Nibelungenlied, written around the year 1200. I’m not finished watching it, so I’ll reserve commenting too much, for fear of making a fool of myself and reporting that it stars Sandy Duncan in her greatest performance to-date and is the only sex-comedy to be filmed using goat’s milk feta instead of the more traditional celluloid. I will say, however, that so far, it’s rather phat.


Most of the films mentioned here are available in the Silent Film section of Amoeba Music Hollywood. Next time you’re in the mood to challenge your ADHD and enrich your film viewing experience, be bold and give one of these a try. You can always pick up a copy of something starring Reese Witherspoon to watch afterwards, if need be. Tsk.


*Not actually true.

Jon Ginoli of Pansy Division Chats

Posted by Miss Ess, February 28, 2009 05:05pm | Post a Comment
Jon Ginoli is the beloved founder and lead singer of the revolutionary gay rock band Pansy Division. He has recently completed a book about his experience, Deflowered: My Life in Pansy Division, which is available now! To celebrate, Jon will be embarking on a book tour, crossing America and hitting everywhere in between! Check out the dates here. There will be a veritable blitz of Pansy Division in the coming months! Their 7" single "Average Men" is out now and features Jello Biafra; the band also has a full length album called That's So Gay to come very soon AND the release of a documentary about the band-- Pansy Division: Life in a Gay Rock Band. Information about screenings of the film can be found here. Following the book tour, Pansy Division will be touring as well! Dates will be up soon on their official website. Read on to learn more about Jon's fabled career, PD's future plans and what to expect from his book tour dates. For a past interview Jon and I did click here.


Miss Ess: How did this book come about?

Jon Ginoli: Over the years I'd tell people stories about my experiences with the band, and it was often suggested that I should write a book. Eventually, I did. I worked on it on and off for a long time before making a final push to get it done.

ME: Obviously you have a lot of writing experience when it comes to songs. What was the experience of writing a book like for you and what was your general approach?

JG: With song lyrics I try to squeeze a certain amount of information into a small amount of space, and make it rhyme. With the book, I could expand on things in a way a song would not allow.

ME: When you formed Pansy Division, did you have any specific dreams of how big you wanted to get?

JG: Our goals were modest. We wanted to make records and play in cities we figured would react favorably to us. We never expected to play arenas opening for Green Day!

ME: I think your band helped start the ball rolling as far as further evolving some people's perceptions of how diverse the gay community is. Did you hope to provide anything specific like that for the GLBT community or was your goal just to write songs, make music and live the dream?

JG: I was trying to make space for myself. I have always had issues with what is defined as gay culture. There is a kind of assumed set of tastes and experiences, and sometimes that was (is) an awkward fit. So I was conscious of trying to create some kind of alternative.

ME: Can you share maybe a rougher moment from when you were first starting touring and experienced homophobia?

JG : On our first tour, Chris, the bassist, called his roommate every day at a certain time to let him know we were OK. The wonderful thing about the experience of having this band is that there has been so little homophobia directed at us. It's out there in the country, and the world, but we've managed to avoid it pretty well. It showed us how much the country was changing for the better. The only incidents, and they're mentioned in the book, are minor. Sometimes we've wondered if certain opportunities were closed to us because of the gay factor, but the gay factor has opened up so many doors that I don't fret about it too much.

When you experienced that kind of prejudice, even if it was minor, how did you keep going and were you ever afraid?

We were afraid early on, and on the Green Day tour. But our fears turned out to be pretty unfounded; on the Green Day tour we had good security, which certainly helped.

Do you feel that Pansy Division has provided a legacy for younger, emerging gay rock bands? What has your legacy been?


I hope so, but I don't really know. I know our being out within a certain scene where being gay was unusual did help people, and some of them are in bands. Our legacy, I think, is that even as outsiders we were able to be honest and open and succeed at what we wanted to do. Because we're tenacious people, we've stuck with it for along time.

What can fans expect at your book tour dates?

A mixture of stories, funny and serious, and me doing a few songs on the acoustic guitar. I've never toured with an acoustic guitar, cause I'm a rocker at heart, so this will be different. I'm looking forward to that.

Tell me about your upcoming album -- where was it recorded and who produced it?

We recorded it in the East Bay with Willie Samuels, who has run a studio in Pittsburg, CA for over a decade. We all produced it together, with him as engineer. We call him an Aural Surgeon-- he makes us sound really good. The album is called That's So Gay, and it'll be out at the end of March.

Will you tour to support it and when?

2 weeks on the east coast in late June; 1 week & change on the west coast in mid-August. My book tour will go for as long as I can. My schedule is freer than any of my bandmates, so I'm visiting cities PD hasn't played in years.

How are you guys doing, all living in very separate cities but keeping the band together? How has it changed your creative process?

We communicate via computer and talk on the phone. When we convene, we are very efficient. This batch of songs went through fewer permutations than any batch of songs we'd ever recorded, in part because most were recorded without the benefit of playing them live. That's the opposite of the way we used to work.

How do you feel about gay rights today? Have things changed since when you first started making music?

Things have improved tremendously. The Jesse Helmses and Jerry Falwells are gone, and their successors seem far weaker. Not without followers, but less influential. But gay people still lack full rights in terms of achieving life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, though I think it's coming. I am sad Prop 8 won in California but I was under little illusion it would lose. One reason it was on the ballot last year is because its proponents know they are fighting the tide of history. We'll get there.

Any decadent, super rock and roll tour moments from the past you'd like to share here?

At this point I'll just say read the book, which is titled Deflowered: My Life In Pansy Division.

And I should mention that there's new 7" single out now, "Average Men," where we share the lead vocals with Jello Biafra, ex-Dead Kennedys. That song is on the upcoming CD, but the B-side is a cover of a Green Day song that won't be. I should also mention the upcoming DVD of the documentary film about us, similarly titled Pansy Division: Life In A Gay Rock Band. It's out at the end of March as well. We had all the stuff in the pipeline and decided to make it happen around the same time for maximum effect.

What has been the musical highlight of your life thusfar?


The Green Day tour. Being able to play for thousands of people each night, especially younger ears, was an opportunity I wasn't expecting to have.

Did you ever imagine in your wildest dreams you would become an gay indie rock icon? How does it feel? What is it like to meet fans who have listened to your music for 15+ years now?

It feels pretty good. We're not a huge band, but our music has affected some people who really needed it. I think we make great music, but if it speaks to you in a unique and deeper way, that's more rewarding. It's the kind of band we wanted when we were teens; the fact that we're out there for them to find (even though they'll have to dig a bit) makes us feel good.

Thank you so much for your time! Best of luck with everything.



AMOEBLOGAY MUSIC LISTS: PART V

Posted by Billyjam, November 24, 2008 09:03pm | Post a Comment

Welcome to the fifth installment in the Amoeblogay Music Lists series which was inspired in great part by the Out Magazine 100 Gayest Albums list. This final part includes contributions from Bootie USA's Adrian + Mysterious D and also from Amoeba employee/Pansy Division member Jon Ginoli, who wished to say, "Thanks to the Amoebans and others" for including Pansy Division in every Amoeblogay Music List submission to this series. (Note Pansy Division were clearly the number one most popular act, getting name-checked by everyone surveyed.)
jon ginoli of pansy division
Ginoli, who has had a busy and productive 2008 (including Pansy Division's tour with Penelope Houston and The Avengers), will be having an even busier 2009. In March Pansy Division will drop their next album That's So Gay on Alternative Tentacles, and around that same time, Ginoli's book Deflowered: My Life in Pansy Division will be published by San Francisco queer publisher Cleis Press.

Additionally the Michael Carmona documentary film about Ginoli's group, Pansy Division: Life in A Gay Rock Band, which has already previewed at various film festivals in cities including San Francisco, Austin, Chicago, London, and Dublin, will be widely released, "So next year will be a big year for us," said Ginoli. Below is a trailer for the Pansy Division documentary followed by Ginoli's Amoeblogay Music List. Ginoli suggests, "Seek 'em out! Dig 'em up!"
 


Single Ladies/Single Man Mashup

Posted by Miss Ess, November 19, 2008 12:41pm | Post a Comment

Beyonce announced that she has an alter-ego recently with the release of I Am Sasha Fierce. Well, in this YouTube clip, even her ultra-fierce alter-ego can't stand up to Shane Mercado -- Sasha Fierce got out-fierced! This has to be my favorite YouTube clip in a long while. It brings Beyonce's already flawless moves to a whole new flawless level!

CAUTION: FLAMMABLE!

Posted by Job O Brother, November 18, 2008 11:37am | Post a Comment

The view from my window. That store in the middle is Linda Thai - they have great food.

*Cough, cough!*

Hello! Greetings from *cough* Hollywood!

Sorry about the grey ash everywhere. It’s from the fires. And the heat. Strange, isn’t it? To be in the middle of November and planning your day around which businesses have air conditioning? (Amoeba Music, by the way, has air conditioning.) This is how we do winter in LA: pretend the blazing heat is an Arctic chill and those flakes of ash falling from the sky are snowflakes.

Also, that fat man laughing loudly on Sunset Boulevard is Santa. Nevermind that you’ve never seen Santa throw-up in the gutter and scream that the government put wires in his cereal. This is how we do winter in LA.

*Cough, cough* Word.

I must admit, I kind of like the way the air smells when Los Angeles is consumed in hell-fire. Kind of like everything’s hickory smoked. Kind of delicious, and reminds me of Christmas gifts of Hickory Farms, like you might find a smoked and dried Pasadena nestled in a box of fake grass, next to some strawberry candy. Sounds good, right? Who wouldn’t want to spread a little smoked Pasadena on a poppy-seed cracker? Maybe add a sprig of dill. Mmm!
The last seven days – we’ll call it a week for short – have been packed with all sorts of activities. Let’s start with the most improbable of them:

I, Job O Brother, have finally succumbed to that quintessential of LA subcultures; I have started taking yoga. I came to this by way of helpful suggestion from my boyfriend Corey. And by helpful suggestion I mean an incessant, high-pressure sale, wherein which yoga was presented as the cure-all for anything I didn’t like in life…

JOB: My back hurts.

COREY: Yoga would take care of that. You should take yoga.

JOB: Why is my eye always irritated?

COREY: Probably circulation. You should take yoga. It would help that.

JOB: Are we out of beer? Dammit!

COREY: Yoga would help take care of your craving.

JOB: That was my Mom on the phone. My Aunt Lois has died.

COREY: See? You should’ve taken yoga.

Etcetera…

It’s inevitable that, when Corey reads this blog post (in a few months from now when he has nothing to do at work) he will object and claim that I am exaggerating his approach, but I will have my final revenge. When he complains, I’ll simply remind him that yoga will soothe his sense of injustice.

Ultimately, it is he who is vindicated, because I am loving yoga. Honestly, it wasn’t the act of yoga that intimidated me – it was the idea of being in a classroom environment. I realize that I’m no longer a kid and I can’t be forced to do homework or go to anyone’s office, but I’ve always said that the best thing about being an adult is that I never, ever, ever have to go to school again.

I believe I’ve said this before, but I HATE SCHOOL.

Which reminds me, I’ve discovered that actor Wilson Cruz, who played Rickie on My So-Called Life is living in my apartment building. That’s kind of cool.

I’m not taking him any housewarming gifts, however. I hate knowing my neighbors, so I assume they feel the same.

I hate knowing my neighbors because once you’ve reached a point where you’re chit-chatting, it makes it impossible to pass them quietly in the halls when you’re finally home from work. I’ve been on my feet dealing with people for eight hours and I’m only five yards from peace and quiet, but yes, I would LOVE to spend the next 15 minutes talking to you about how hot it is right now and yes, PLEASE tell me about taking your dog to the vet. Heavenly! And they’ll knock on your door asking for sugar! Yeah, I have sugar. I keep it at the grocery store down the street. Help yourself.

This makes me sound hostile, which is unfair. I am hostile, but more than hostile I’m a warm and sensitive sex machine. Don’t let the negative eclipse the positive, mon ami.

Where are we? I sometimes lift my head up from blogging and discover I have no idea how I got where I am, and my original intent seems very far away. Let’s review the first few paragraphs and maybe start again from there…

Hmm… Lots of flippant remarks about the devastating LA fires… Gross tangent about Hickory Farms gift boxes… (Who reads this blog?) The state of winter in LA… Ah, yes! My eventful week.

Friday night, Corey and I went to the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, located in Franklin Village (or, as I like to call it, Hipsteropolis), for a midnight No-on-8 comedy show.

(Yes, we realize the 2008 elections are over, but the term No-on-8 has carried over and is no longer just campaigning, but a stand for marriage equality.)

One of the kerjillion ways Prop 8 sucks is that it hijacked my favorite number. I’ve had a crush on 8 since I first learned to count, and now I find myself saying “no” to 8 all the time. I hope, in four years, that the next Prop 8 will be for something I really want. Like, a “yes” vote for Prop 8 will mean every dude in his 30’s will get free massages and a Christmas gift-box from Hickory Farms. YES WE CAN!
 

It's not the photo - she's really this blurry in person.

Anyway, the performances at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre were hilarious. A long roster of performers, both famous and otherwise, did sketches and monologues in support of gay marriage. Highlights were Janeane Garofalo’s monologue, in which she somehow made her rant against men wearing sandals a strong argument in favor of marriage equality; a disorganized but nevertheless chuckle-inducing monologue by funnyman Steve Agee, whose role (as Steve) on the Sarah Silverman Program has unwittingly made him a poster-boy for the bear community...

...Also I loved a sketch by two young women who, with the idea that they would see what it would be like to be married to each other, basically screamed at one another with flawless timing (I don’t remember their names, unfortunately – anyone who does should say so in the comments below).

As a bitchy side-note, the barista who was working the Bourgeois Pig – some high-strung, fey dude – was awful, and caused me to leave before I could order. He spent almost 10 minutes filling the order of the two ladies in front of us (I timed it, yes) because he kept joking and performing for them. When it finally came time for Corey to order, he found that they didn’t have the flavor of tea he wanted. Faced with a last minute decision and an inability to easily see what teas were available (this café is lit with blue and red lights and no tea menu – just display boxes) Corey asked the barista what flavors they had, to which the barista snottily replied that he was too busy to read them, to read the boxes “yourself” and proceeded to help the next person in line! HEY JERKFACE! YOU ARE BUSY! BUSY HELPING THE CUSTOMER WHO JUST WAITED 10 MINUTES TO ORDER SOME TEA!

I’m really sorry about that last paragraph. I realize how indulgent it is to use my blog as a vehicle to rant about poor customer service, but it made me crazy. Ordering tea should never be a stressful experience. And it’s not like I want the guy to get fired. Just, y’know, assassinated a little bit.

Then, a few days ago, I had a phone interview with one of my idols, Sandra Bernhard. I’ll post a link once that’s up.

Yes, a full week. And mostly rad. I hope yours was as well, mon ami, and that the coming week is even better. Cheers.

*Cough!*
 
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