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FDL Movie Night: A Survey of Open Space

By: Monday September 22, 2014 4:55 pm

It takes a while to settle into watching A Survey of Open Space, the documentary by Austin visual artist Peat Duggins. Anyone looking for the filmmaker to impose dramatic narrative devices on this film about a cross-country bike trek will be sorely disappointed. There is no pumped up character conflict, no artificial suspense or second act reversals. Those willing to invest the time to watch it, however, will find a closely observed and very thought provoking film about the relationship of three people to what’s left of the once vast American wilderness as they encounter it.

Duggins makes a three month bike trek with his sister Michaela and his friend Zach Hall that begins in Brownsville Texas and concludes in the Alaskan wilderness. The film that documents this trip is no misty-eyed, sanctimonious environmental paean to the vanishing wilderness. Rather, it’s a very naturalistic travelogue in the tradition of Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley — and thanks to the presence of Duggins’ extremely colorful friend Zach, with a little of Kerouac’s On the Road thrown in for good measure.

Along the way the trio encounter Mormons, bears, mosquitoes, wild horses, snow and the righteous drive to consume enough food to bike between 50 an 80 miles per day. The filmmaker never shows himself, but his meditations on the trip provide a voiceover narrative to the action. And while like Steinbeck he worries about the choices being made with regard to nature, he doesn’t see man’s incursion into it as a necessary evil — but rather, sees a much more complex and animated relationship. “Who can argue with a well-placed bench?”  he muses at one point in the film (or something to that effect).

Duggins displays his skill as a filmmaker by setting up the parameters of the journey, and then having the courage to just let it play out. And probably his best and most important choice was having the aforementioned Zach along for the ride. From the movie’s opening scene of Zach singing Queen’s “Bicycle” wearing a white spandex sailor suit that leaves nothing to the imagination, you realize you’re in the presence of a unique American character who provides both the perfect lens for the filmmaker and counterpoint to the landscape. Duggins admits that without Zach, there would be no movie, and he’s probably right.

On a purely personal note, I would LOVE to see Duggins’ sketchbook which he made of the journey printed as a book. It’s absolutely gorgeous and I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

Late Night: The Endless Gothic Summer

By: Tuesday August 26, 2014 7:54 pm

In Southern California, it feels as if summer is a sun-proof vampire, immortal, a never-ending gothic summer of drought and car chases, punctuated by shootings, stabbings and beatings, heartbreak and horror.  In his blog The Westsider, author, journalist and Los Angeles native Rodrigo Ribera D’Ebre recalls:

People would hear more gun shots at night and gang members walked around their neighborhoods in the daytime wearing brown-colored gardening gloves to avoid fingerprints on their guns. The visual is so stark in my mind—bald heads, white t-shirts, shrink-to-fit Levis, white sneakers, and the ever-famous “brownies” on people’s hands.

My neighborhood had one (reported) shooting this summer. There have been nights of gunfire with no sirens ever heard, nights when cars race up our block and the neighbors call the next morning to warn me that unfamiliar vehicles are circling the block. Cops eat regularly at the red sauce joint just down the street and movie stars stroll the Sunday farmers market within walking distance of my house, within walking distance of thirteen houses of worship. A mile away, last weekend, a local guy was stabbed during a music festival.

The darkness of Los Angeles, of Southern California, cannot be chased away by sunlight. It is in our history–the missionary conquest first of the natives, then the conquest of the conquerors by “Americans.” It is in the history of the enslavement, land grants and curses on Griffith J. Griffith (who gave his name to Griffith Park) and the Doheny family, the Chicken Coop murders, the stretch of Sunset Blvd known as Deadman’s Curve, the Manson Family, the SLA shootout, the Hillside Strangler and the Nightstalker, Rodney King and OJ.

Raymond Chandler, Ross McDonald, Joan Didion, James Ellroy captured our darkness in prose; film noir held it to the projector’s light. But in art–well, the Light and Space movement and Cool School avoided it. Low Brow and Pop Surrealism toyed with it, dancing around with cartoons and big eyed girls in antlers. It wasn’t until Rodrigo Ribera d’Ebre that a specific nativist genre, Dark Progressivism, was recognized and defined.

This year, my own gothic summer officially began with Bats’ Day in Fun Park (aka Goth Day at Disneyland) and has moved through the release of Prayers‘ EP and video “Gothic Summer,” into San Diego tattoo parlors and restaurants with altars to the dead placed discreetly by the front door, culminating with “Devils’ Town,” a month-long art show in L.A.’s Chinatown, which I co-curated with d’Ebre, and artist Edwin Quiroz.

The choice of Chinatown was not an accident. Los Angeles first rose to international infamy not because of our film stars or orange groves. Known as “Los Diablos” the wickedest city west of the Mississippi, Los Angeles made worldwide news in 1871 with the lynching of 17 Chinese men by a mob of whites on the street known as Negro Alley. The Chinese Massacre remains to this day the largest urban lynching in U.S. history.

This was the jumping off point for our artists in “Devils’ Town” — the devils of our city’s past, the devils in our region’s present. And these artists brought it hard and strong and brave and bold; in black and gray, in glowing nighttime neon tones, in the reds of blood fresh and dried. “Devils’ Town” is a fundraiser for d’Ebre’s documentary, Dark Progressivism: On Rupture and Rebellion; while the artists are paid for the sales of their work, we are donating our curatorial fees to complete the film’s production. “Devils’ Town” closes this weekend with a party featuring a performance by Prayers.

I am proud of this show, proud of the artists, proud of living in this city in endless gothic summers And I am proud of myself for casting off societal expectation, stepping outside the stereotypes of where I was born, where I went to school, of how and who I am expected to be; proud to be able to move through many worlds with grace. That is my dark progress.

And gothic is the summer. Eternally

Top: Germs, Concrete Jungle.

Detail: Krush.

Top: Juan Carlos Muñoz Hernandez. Bottom, Jose Lopes.

L to r: Jose Lopes, Pablo Cristi, Ed Gutter.

Left, Ed Gutter. Top right, Tyson Pedrosa. Bottom, Jason Hernandez.


Late Night: Chris Kluwe Scores Win for LGBT!

By: Tuesday August 19, 2014 7:54 pm

Chris Kluwe

I don’t know a whole lot about football. In a pinch I will root for the Ravens because they are named for the quintessential Edgar Allen Poe poem (though one hopes their Super Bowl win will not live up to the poem’s refrain).

Up until a couple years ago I thought the Vikings were cool, too, because Loki is rad and so is Odin. And Valkeries! And Berserkers!!  I also bet ponies by color of silks and horses’ names. Yes, I am sports challenged. Actually when the Viking’s punter (that’s the guy who kicks the ball on fourth and long) Chris Kluwe spoke up for marriage equality in Minnesota as a private citizen, not as a Viking, it put the team on my radar. Goooo Minnysoooootah!

Kluwe was bucking stereotypes of thick-skulled football players, and setting a positive, inclusionary message since there are plenty of LGBT football fans, and every adult should have the right to get married.

Only Minnesota Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer repeatedly used homophobic language in Kluwe’s presence and spouted Biblical quotes as his justification for his bigotry.

After escalating hostilities as well as surgery on his knee, Kluwe was replaced by a draft pick. He sued the Vikings over their anti-gay behavior. Today the lawsuit was settled with the team donating a substantial amount to five charities, including several in Minnesota, over the next five years. In addition, tweeted Kluwe:

They are implementing enhanced training within the entire organization, and are committed to a zero tolerance policy on homophobia…The Vikings will be working to create a symposium to bring together sports and LBGTQ leaders in order to address this issue in sports.

Even better:

Priefer has been suspended the first three games of the 2014 NFL season and will donate $100k to LGBT charities.

Score! Thanks Chris Kluwe! And here he is playing bass with his band Tripping Icarus:


RIP: Lauren Bacall

By: Tuesday August 12, 2014 7:54 pm

Gods, I love Lauren Bacall — elegant, smart, witty, husky voiced, strong-willed. I loved her hair, her movies, her romance with Humphrey Bogart, her graceful ballsy aging. This elegant, intelligent no-BS woman has died at 89 of stroke-related complications, and with her passing a great deal of Hollywood history is gone. Her movies with Bogey were [...]

Late Night: Sometimes You Just Need Cute

By: Tuesday August 5, 2014 7:54 pm

Things all over the world suck pretty much. Hugely. And sometimes we just need a break from misery, war, death, drought, disease, fires, floods, and plague. And that’s why there are cute animal videos. I have friend who actually asked me to block him from seeing any cute animal pics and videos I might post [...]

FDL Late Night: Cameron, Wormwood Star

By: Tuesday July 29, 2014 7:54 pm

Muse, witch, magician, painter, poet: Cameron, born Marjorie Elizabeth Cameron in 1922, and one of the most inspirational figures of the last century, will be the subject of major exhibition at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art featuring art and ephemera. Opening October 11, 2014, “Cameron: Songs for the Witch Woman” highlights the the publication of [...]

Late Night: Grammatical Goofing

By: Tuesday July 22, 2014 7:54 pm

I could of maybe found some other video, but this one,  its really accurate about mistakes people make in there writings. Plus I drunk a lot of expresso and surprise!! Actually tonight  I’m prepping for ArtExpoSD — I leave tomorrow at 8am–where I’m showing five artists in my booth, plus wrangling another curator, an artist [...]

HBO Doc “The Newburgh Sting” Asks Terrorism or Entrapment?

By: Sunday July 20, 2014 4:14 pm

  In 2009, with television cameras rolling, the FBI triumphantly busted a domestic terrorist ring from Newburgh, NY. The men, known as the Newburgh Four, are each serving a 25-year sentence for plotting to blow up two synagogues and shoot down military supply planes. FDL reported on the story and case; read Kevin’s take on it for more [...]

Late Night: Baseball Fan Gets Nuts Busted Snoozing, Sues for $10 Million

By: Tuesday July 15, 2014 7:54 pm

Harps help Morpheus embrace us in his wings….zzzzz. But for Andrew Robert Rector, sleep came before the 7th inning stretch of the April 13th Yankee-Red Sox game. And now he’s suing. Not because the game was boring, but for defamation. In his $10million suit, Rector alleges that Yankees, ESPN and its announcers… broadcast photos of [...]

Late Night: My Ding-a-Ling

By: Tuesday July 8, 2014 7:54 pm

Chuck Berry just wants some of that rock’n’roll music while he plays with his ding-a-ling–and really who can blame him? In 1980 at height of punk rock Jet Lag magazine, a punk zine asked Berry for his opinions of some of the biggest punk bands around and the results are hilarious. Dangerous Minds unearthed these [...]

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