Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Sleepless Film Festival Presents - The Tears of a Clown Double Feature: Renaldo and Clara and Les Enfants du Paradis

Good morning, comrades.

Today - for your enjoyment - another chapter in our ongoing programming at The Sleepless Film Festival. Today's pick will be Bob Dylan's 1975 epic, Renaldo and Clara.

More than just a concert film, Renaldo' clocks in at nearly 4 hours and is packed with improvised scenes featuring Mr. Zimmerman as well as the revolving cast of characters that peopled the fabled Rolling Thunder Revue tour, including: Joan Baez, Scarlett Rivera, Roger McGuinn, Ramblin Jack Elliot, Allen Ginsberg, Ronnie Hawkins, Sam Shepard and others.

Shepard was brought on as a screenwriter for the film, but ended up spending most of the tour holding on for dear life, taking enough notes to pen his classic Rolling Thunder Logbook - a great companion to the film.

Dylan is ultimately credited with writing and directing the film, and the influence of Marcel Carne's Les Enfants du Paradis is evident throughout - particularly in Dylan's infamous use of whiteface, clown makeup.

As a special treat, we are also including Carne's classic for a kind of Dylanesque double feature. But first, here is the films synopsis from the good people at Film Threat:

BOOTLEG FILES 127: "Renaldo and Clara” (1977 Bob Dylan nightmare).

LAST SEEN: We cannot confirm the last public screening.




BOOTLEG OPPORTUNITIES: Scratch and it will surface.

Being a film critic, I’ve been able to see an awful lot of movies. And, also, I’ve seen a lot of awful movies. But when it comes to the movie misfires, there is always a nagging question: when do you hit the bottom of the barrel? Surely there must be one film that can stand out as being the very, very, very worst thing ever made.

Well, I found the bottom of the barrel. And it is occupied by “Renaldo and Clara,” the 1977 monstrosity that marked the film directing debut of Bob Dylan. Yes, that Bob Dylan. The one-time Robert Zimmerman put down his guitar, picked up a viewfinder, and brought forth something which could charitably be described as the single biggest waste of celluloid in the entire history of motion pictures.

Unlike classic baddies such as “Plan 9 from Outer Space” or “Manos: The Hands of Fate,” “Renaldo and Clara” does not lend itself to the so-bad-it’s-good charm. You cannot laugh along, MST3K-style, at its awfulness. Instead, you are left numb, dumb and completely baffled at the thorough incoherence and painful lethargy of this endeavor. If I could, to borrow a Cher lyric, turn back time – well, I would turn back the four hours (yes, four hours) of the “Renaldo and Clara” running time that I put myself through.

Four hours of what? Even after watching it, I have no idea what the f**k the movie is supposed to be about. Bob Dylan plays Renaldo and his then-wife Sara plays Clara. Who these people are and what they are supposed to do is never defined. Three-hundred-pound Ronnie Hawkins plays Bob Dylan and Ronee Blakely (fresh off her Oscar-nominated debut in “Nashville”) plays Sara Dylan. Joan Baez is also the Woman in White – if only because she wears white in the movie. Baez’s character and Sara are at odds over Renaldo’s love, or maybe not – this is not clear in Dylan’s mishmash of a screenplay.

Much of the footage was shot during Dylan’s now-legendary Rolling Thunder tour, although the reasons for Dylan’s eccentric on-stage appearance (wearing plastic masks or white paint on his face) is never explained or entirely clear.

In the course of the film, folk singer David Blue plays pinball alongside a swimming pool (huh?) while talking about New York’s Greenwich Village in the late 1950s and 1960s. A group of street preachers hector indifferent New Yorkers about the alleged end of the world. A belly dancer entertains the patrons of a restaurant by wiggling her solar plexus to “Hava Nagila,” and she is followed by a sleazy lounge singer performing “Wilkommen” from the musical “Cabaret,” who is then followed on stage by Allen Ginsberg. Then we cut back to David Blue at his pinball machine. Then we go to an Indian reservation. Then Ginsberg returns to read poetry.

It is not surprising that Steve Pulchalski, the editor of Shock Cinema, described the film as being “edited together with a Weed Eater.” Midway through the movie, the action switches into a concert benefit for Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the boxer who was framed for murder in a controversial and long-running criminal case. Some scenes later, Harry Dean Stanton turns up as a convict escaping from prison. Joan Baez and Sara Dylan later turn up in a bordello dressed like prostitutes. Dylan (the real one, not Ronnie Hawkins) sings part of “House of the Rising Sun.” Allen Ginsberg returns to recite his classic poem “Kaddish” while a woman in Gypsy clothing massages his head. David Blue comes back later to play more pinball (perhaps he thought he was filming “Tommy”?). Allen Ginsberg returns again to dance (to what?). The film closes with a black woman, who is never identified and who played no part in the previous four hours, singing about “castles in the shifting sands.”

Every now and then, Dylan sings something. Often the performances are magical (his cover of Hank Williams’ “Kaw-Liga” plus “Tangled Up In Blue” and “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” are standouts). But more often than not, he is a sullen and shadowy presence. A variety of oddballs ranging from Sam Shepard (in his film debut) to Ramblin’ Jack Elliot to Roger McGuinn pop up here and there, with no clear purpose.

(This brief description fails to take into account the endless and pointless symbolism of such objects as flowers, horse-drawn carriages, rooms full of senior citizens and Jack Kerouac’s grave – all of which figure prominently).

Dylan’s relationship with cinema was never entirely satisfying. He loathed the documentary “Don’t Look Now” that enshrined him as a 60s icon, dismissing it as “somebody else’s movie.” His acting debut in Sam Peckinpah’s “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” was widely considered to be a disaster and an earlier attempt at directing, the 1972 documentary “Eat the Document,” was equally egregious. Deciding to take the reins and be his own director and writer may have seemed like a good idea, but in fact it was a disaster since “Renaldo and Clara” turned out to be little more than a rambling wreck of a home movie.

In an interview with Playboy timed to the film’s release, Dylan blithely declared “Renaldo and Clara” to be a “very open movie.” He also acknowledged the film (much of it financed by himself) ran far beyond its projected $600,000 budget – Dylan told the Playboy interviewer that his previous two tours existed to raise funds for this project.

“Renaldo and Clara” opened to overwhelmingly hostile and bewildered reviews, although a few critics (most notably David Sterritt of the Christian Science Monitor) were charitably in praising its uncommon approach to linear storytelling. Audiences, though, stayed away in droves. Even the thousands who packed the “Rolling Thunder” tour wouldn’t pay to see Dylan on the big screen. Word of mouth proved so fatal that Dylan withdrew the film and cut two hours from its running time. But the trimmer “Renaldo and Clara” was still a hodgepodge horror and the film was withdrawn.

To date, Dylan has refused to allow “Renaldo and Clara” to have a commercial home video release. Bootlegs of shaky quality can be found, and their origins are traced to a single telecast on the British Channel 4 some years ago.

Dylan’s failure with “Renaldo and Clara” did not end his film work. He turned up in 1987 as the star of “Hearts of Fire” and co-wrote and starred in the 2003 fiasco “Masked and Anonymous.” Incredibly, Dylan eventually won an Academy Award – for his song “Things Have Changed” in the 2000 film “Wonder Boys.” The idea that the man who made “Renaldo and Clara” could possess an Oscar is enough to bring illness to anyone who loves movies..

And now - Renaldo and Clara...

Our second feature - Marcel Carne's Les Enfants du Paradis - also deserves an introduction. This one comes from our pal at the Chicago Sun-Times, Mr. Roger Ebert:

All discussions of Marcel Carne's ''Children of Paradise'' begin with the miracle of its making. Named at Cannes as the greatest French film of all time, costing more than any French film before it, ''Les Enfants du Paradis'' was shot in Paris and Nice during the Nazi occupation and released in 1945. Its sets sometimes had to be moved between the two cities. Its designer and composer, Jews sought by the Nazis, worked from hiding. Carne was forced to hire pro-Nazi collaborators as extras; they did not suspect they were working next to resistance fighters. The Nazis banned all films over about 90 minutes in length, so Carne simply made two films, confident he could show them together after the war was over. The film opened in Paris right after the liberation, and ran for 54 weeks. It is said to play somewhere in Paris every day.

That this film, wicked, worldly, flamboyant, set in Paris in 1828, could have been imagined under those circumstances is astonishing. That the production, with all of its costumes, carriages, theaters, mansions, crowded streets and rude rooming houses, could have been mounted at that time seems logistically impossible (''It is said,'' wrote Pauline Kael, ''that the starving extras made away with some of the banquets before they could be photographed''). Carne was the leading French director of the decade 1935-1945, but to make this ambitious costume film during wartime required more than clout; it required reckless courage.

Despite the fame of ''Children of Paradise, most of the available prints are worn and dim. It used to play every New Years' Day at Chicago's beloved Clark Theater, and that's where I first saw it, in 1967, but the 1991 laserdisc was of disappointing quality, and videotapes even worse. Now the film has been released in sparkling clarity on a Criterion DVD that begins with a restored Pathe 35mm print and employs digital technology to make the blips, dirt and scratches disappear. It is likely the film has not looked better since its premiere. There are formidably informative commentary tracks by Brian Stonehill and Charles Affron.

The film's original trailer (on the disc) calls ''Children of Paradise'' the French answer to ''Gone With the Wind.'' In its scope and its heedless heroine, there is a similarity, but the movie is not a historical epic but a sophisticated, cynical portrait of actors, murderers, swindlers, pickpockets, prostitutes, impresarios and the decadent rich. Many of the characters are based on real people, as is its milieu of nightclubs, dives and dens, theaters high and low, and the hiding places of the unsavory.

Carne plunges us directly into this world with his famous opening shot on the ''Boulevard of Crime,'' which rivals the ''street of dying men'' scene in ''GWTW,'' reaching seemingly to infinity, alive with activity, jammed with countless extras. This was a set designed by the great art director Alexander Trauner, working secretly; the credits list his contribution as ''clandestine.'' To force the perspective and fool the eye, he used buildings that fell off rapidly in height, and miniature carriages driven by dwarves. The street is a riot of low-life. Mimes, jugglers, animal acts and dancers provide previews outside their theaters, to lure crowds inside. One of the first attractions we see is advertised as ''Truth.'' This is the elegant courtesan Garance, who revolves slowly in a tub of water, regarding herself naked in a mirror. The water conceals her body, so that she supplies ''truth, but only from the neck up.'' This is also what she supplies in life.

Garance is played by Arletty (1898-1992), born as Leonie Bathiat, who became a star in the 1930s and was, truth to tell, a little old to play a sexual temptress who mesmerizes men. Like Marlene Dietrich, to whom she was often compared, Arletty's appeal was based not on fresh ripeness but on a tantalizing sophistication. What fascinates men is that she has seen it all, done it all, admits it, takes their measure, and yet flatters them that she adores them. Even cutthroats fall under her spell; when the criminal Lacenaire tells her ''I'd spill torrents of blood to give you rivers of diamonds'' she looks him in the eye and replies, ''I'd settle for less.''

Around Garance circle many of the movie's most important characters. The mime Baptiste (Jean-Louis Barrault) sees her from her stage, defends her in pantomime against a pickpocket charge, is rewarded by a rose, and falls for her. So does Frederick Lemaitre (Pierre Brasseur), as an actor who dreams of doing something good--perhaps Shakespeare. And Lacenaire (Marcel Herrand), who with his ruffled shirt, curly hair, villain's mustache and cold speech is the Rhett Butler of the piece. And the Count Edouard de Montray (Louis Salou), who thinks he has brought her but discovers he was only renting.

It is possible that Garance truly loves the innocent Baptiste, who triumphs in a bar brawl and brings her home to his rude rooming house, where he rents her a room of her own and retires separately for the night. But Frederick, who lives in the rooming house, has no such scruples--and, for that matter, Baptiste is no saint. He marries the theater manager's daughter, sires ''an abominable offspring,'' in the words of Pauline Kael, and cheats on his wife by still loving Garance. Lacenaire, who strides through the underworld like a king, basking in his reputation for ruthlessness, thinks he can have Garance for the asking (''you are the only woman for whom I do not have contempt''), but it is the Count whose money makes her his mistress. When Lacenaire pulls back a drapery so that the Count can see Garance in the arms of Frederick, so many men think they have the right to her that the actor observes, ''Jealousy belongs to all if a woman belongs to none.''

Most of the movie is frankly shot on sets, including exteriors. A misty dawn scene involving a duel provides a rare excursion outside Paris. He had ''an eye for the sad romance of fog-laden streets and squalid lodging houses,'' David Thomson writes. His characters live artificially in the demimonde, actors who are always on stage; if we meet a street beggar, like the blind man Fil de Soie (Gaston Modot), we are not much surprised to find he can see well enough indoors.

Carne's screenplay was by his usual collaborator Jacques Prevert; they not only set their story in a theatrical world but divert from the action to show the actors at work. Kael counts ''five kinds of theatrical performances,'' and they would include Baptiste's miming and a scene from ''Othello'' that provides oblique reflections on the plot. It is Baptiste whose art leaves the greatest impression. Jean-Louis Barrault (1910-1994), then a star at the Comedie Francais, is first seen in clown makeup, glumly surveying the Boulevard of Crime, brought to life only by his mimed defense of Garance. Later, he stages his own extended mime performance--only to see, from the stage, Garance flirting in the wings. No one's trust is repaid in this movie.

If Carne was France's leading director, Prevert was the leading screenwriter, at a time when writers were given equal billing with directors. They both continued to work for decades--Prevert into the 1960s, Carne into the 1980s--but never surpassed ''Children of Paradise.'' Indeed, it was precisely this kind of well-mounted, witty film that was attacked by the young French critics of the 1950s who later became known as the New Wave. They wanted a rougher, more direct, more improvisational feel--theater not on a stage but in your face.

If the Cannes festival were to attempt again today to choose the best French film ever made, would ''Children of Paradise'' win? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Just as American audiences prefer ''Gone With the Wind'' or ''Casablanca'' while the critics always choose ''Citizen Kane,'' at Cannes the palm might go to Godard or Truffaut, or Jean Vigo's ''L'Atalante.'' But ''Children of Paradise,'' now finally available in a high-quality print and ready to win new admirers, might have a chance. Few achievements in the world of cinema can equal it.


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Joe Nolan

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Oh, My My! Oh, Hell Yes! - Observations on a Music City Marathon

I woke up this morning to the sound of thunderous applause.

After a long, hard week of suffering with insufferable allergies to everything green and growing here in this spring in The Old South (as I type on my front porch this
illumined screen is beginning to glow like deep sea algae as it is slowly - but resolutely - covered in a fine mist of tree pollen) I spent the night sleeping on my living room couch.

Along with the green stuff, we have had an early heat wave that has seen temperatures pushing toward the 90's and - rather than crank up the AC in order to cool down my 100 year old, upstairs apartment - I opted to curl beneath the cool currents from my open windows, basking in the moonlit breezes, listening to the Internet streaming away some nonsense about reverse-engineered UFO technology, benevolent aliens, human DNA and intergalactic brotherhood.

I woke up this morning to the sound of thunderous applause.

The annual Music City Marathon was passing by my window this morning as it does every year here on this, The Street of Dreams. Annually, Belmont Blvd. is suddenly awash in a sea of sweaty strivings. Seemingly countless numbers of Teams in Training and Fitness Walkers and Hardcore Runners and Svelte Seniors and any number of otherwise sane individuals create any number of excuses to reenact the brave deeds of that ancient messenger at Marathon.

The Battle of Marathon (Greek: Μάχη τοῡ Μαραθῶνος, Māche tou Marathōnos) took place in 490 BC during the first Persian invasion of Greece. It was fought between the citizens of Athens, aided by Plataea, and a Persian force commanded by Datis and Artaphernes. It was the culmination of the first attempt by Persia, under King Darius I, to subjugate Greece. The first Persian invasion was a response to Greek involvement in the Ionian Revolt, when Athens and Eretria had sent a force to support the cities of Ionia in their attempt to overthrow Persian rule. The Athenian and Eretrian had succeeded in capturing and burning Sardis, but was then forced to retreat with heavy losses. In response to this raid, the Persian king Darius I swore to have revenge on Athens and Eretria.

Once the Ionian revolt was finally crushed by the Persian victory at the Battle of Lade, Darius began to plan to subjugate Greece. In 490 BC, he sent a naval task force under Datis and Artaphernes across the Aegean, to subjugate the Cyclades, and then to make punitive attacks on Athens and Eretria. Reaching Euboea in mid-summer after a succesful campaign in the Aegean, the Persians proceeded to besiege and capture Eretria. The Persian force then sailed for Attica, landing in the bay near the town of Marathon. The Athenians, joined by a small force from Plataea, marched to Marathon, and succeeded in blocking the two exits from the plain of Marathon. Stalemate ensued for five days, before the Athenians (for reasons that are not completely clear) decided to attack the Persians. Despite the numerical advantage of the Persians, the hoplites proved devastatingly effective against the more lightly armed Persian infantry, routing the wings before turning in on the centre of the Persian line.

The defeat at Marathon marked the end of the first Persian invasion of Greece, and the Persian force retreated to Asia. Darius then began raising a huge new army with which he meant to completely subjugate Greece; however, in 486 BC, his Egyptian subjects revolted, indefinitely postponing any Greek expedition. After Darius then died, his son Xerxes I re-started the preparations for a second invasion of Greece, which finally began in 480 BC.

The Battle of Marathon was a watershed in the Greco-Persian wars, showing the Greeks that the Persians could be beaten; the eventual Greek triumph in these wars can be seen to begin at Marathon. Since the following two hundred years saw the rise of the Classical Greek civilization, which has been enduringly influential in western society, the Battle of Marathon is often seen as the pivotal moment in European history. For instance, John Stuart Mill famously suggested that "the Battle of Marathon, even as an event in British history, is more important than the Battle of Hastings". The Battle of Marathon is perhaps now more famous as the inspiration for the Marathon race. Although historically inaccurate, the legend of a Greek messenger running to Athens with news of the victory became the inspiration for this athletics event, introduced at the 1896 Athens Olympics, and originally run between Marathon and Athens. (From our good friends at Wikipedia)

Unlike most years - when such enthusiasms rouse me to waking just before they lull me back to The Shore of All Dreams - I popped right up, started the espresso - His Name Be Praised - and jumped into what turned out to be an ice-cold shower. Must-call-landlord...

Dear Landlord, please don't put a price on my Soul...

I made my way down to the Street of Dreams in a green T-shirt and over-sized cargo shorts, only to find that I was wearing the exact same outfit as a four-year-old kid who was standing near the edge of the street, yelling with great enthusiasm - if not eloquence - slurping on a fugitive, orange popsicle that was making a break for it all the way up to his sharp, bird-like elbows. He continued to CAW like an alabaster crow beneath his neat, Aryan crew-cut. Whether in praise or judgment I will never know.

That's when I heard the music.

One of the built-in features of Nashville is the addition of Live Music to every event you can possibly imagine. Even a strenuous athletic event of ancient origin is not spared this sonic pairing - no matter how incongruous.

I strolled up the street, mug in hand, toward the Bi Rite grocery, registering more moments of people-watching gold than it is possible to enumerate in this desperate scratching. As I made my way south, the dull throb of the music began to get clearer as the shorter frequencies began to match the pace of their big-bottomed brothers and the rhythm of the racers began to move - slighty in, and then slighty out of - time with Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl". Suddenly I had a craving for a Natural Light and I had half a mind to go back and hang out with my co-ed neighbors who seemed to have taken to the lawn - along with more than one cooler - at the crack of the crack of the dawn.

That's when it happened.

As soon as I had recognized the old hippy chestnut it ended only to be followed by the most impressive feat of athletic fury I am sure to witness all day. As soon as Van The Man's "La La's" went bye-bye, they were replaced by the unmistakable strains of AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long"! Impossible! This kind of segue is the musical equivalent of pole vaulting over a small building only to nail a perfect landing after picking off a bird-on-the wing at 50 yards with a biathalon rifle on the way down. For the first time - in a long time - I could feel the presence of true glory.

Again, His Name Be Praised.

As I write this, the race is coming to a close on my street. One side of the Boulevard is filled with the straggling walkers who make up the happy, hopeful end of the line. There is a group of hula hoopers coming down the way, lead by my pal Raquel. I thought that I had missed them, but - now that I see this madness - that would've been impossible. I'm looking for familiar faces, but I can't make out anyone in that sea of white t-shirts, pink hoops and unbridled enthusiasm.

Godspeed, good women.

The band seems to have stopped now. The last song I recognized was Tom Petty's "Last Dance With Mary Jane". An appropriate ditty for the reenactment of the deeds of a heroic warrior from an ancient, brave age? Probably not. An interesting suggestion for a silly street on a sunny Saturday soaked in morning dreams and the sound of the little white trucks picking up the little red cones that won't mark another mile until next year?

Sure enough.

(Right on cue, the coeds next door crank it up loud...)

He came from somewhere back in her long ago
The sentimental fool dont see
Tryin hard to recreate
What had yet to be created once in her life

She musters a smile
For his nostalgic tale
Never coming near what he wanted to say
Only to realize
It never really was

She had a place in his life
He never made her think twice
As he rises to her apology
Anybody else would surely know
Hes watching her go

But what a fool believes he sees
No wise man has the power to reason away
What seems to be
Is always better than nothing
And nothing at all keeps sending him...

Somewhere back in her long ago
Where he can still believe theres a place in her life
Someday, somewhere, she will return

She had a place in his life
He never made her think twice
As he rises to her apology
Anybody else would surely know
Hes watching her go

But what a fool believes he sees
No wise man has the power to reason away
What seems to be
Is always better than nothing
Theres nothing at all
But what a fool believes he sees...

(What a Fool Believes, The Doobie Brothers)


Use this player to listen to my new CD. Purchase a song or two at your favorite digital outlet and help us stay awake here at Insomnia!

Find the archives to my Sleepless Film Festival, and more at my You Tube channel: Imagicon

Listen to my earlier releases, and enjoy free downloads here!

Please consider supporting this site by making a PayPal donation and check out our friends using the links on the right.

Joe Nolan

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Sleepless Film Festival Presents - Grindhouse Lotus Venoms: A Shaw Brothers Double Feature

Hola bueno.



It is SPRINGTIME in The Old South. This means I am strolling through a wonderland of tulips and other flowers I don't know the names of. There are these sorta droopy ones that come in both yellow and purple. They are also pretty - however - they lack the stately architecture of the simple, sensual tulip.

Another thing that the SPRINGTIME has wrought is a delightful Westerly breeze that I engineer into an Easterly one to discourage my neighbor's cigarette smoke from creeping through my kitchen window. This yangitty-yang flow also invests my daily SUN SALUTATIONS with that extra level of CHI that my ardent, firey posturings demand.

However, I've slacked off today, as SPRINGTIME has also brought allergy season. I have terrible allergies. They are so bad that I am never sure if I have a cold or just allergies when I feel this way. My head is so crazy stuffed and dizzy it is almost making me feel rather giddy...almost. In addition, my body aches badly enough that it requires effort to turn a key in a lock. Seriously. Those of you who know me well know that I am usually the type who'd be more likely to absent-mindedly pull the knob off a door, so you see the depth of my suffering.

Yes you can send chicken soup via PayPal...

Anyway, needless to say, I am down and out and just trying to rest and stay full of liquids. I caught up on all my NetFlix today and decided to share the wealth. Regardless of whether you are sick or not, you may be in need of a Grindhouse-style Kung Fu double feature.

While I was a kid in Michigan, I would watch "Martial Arts Theatre" late at night on Saturdays. I remember flipping back and forth between MAT and SNL. The late nights and bad dubbing served me well. Years later - when Shaw Brothers/Golden Harvest titles became a badge of hip - I was thoroughly educated and well-prepared to speak in great depth about "Pei Mei's vital nerve" the "animal styles of the Five Deadly Venoms" and that "kid with the Golden Arms".

Here are two Shaw Brothers classics for you to enjoy. If you've never seen these, I am jealous of the joy you are about to experience. If you're an old veteran, enjoy this trip down memory lane.

The Fist of the White Lotus

Originally titled Clan of the White Lotus, this 1980 Shaw Brothers classic was released as Fist of the White Lotus in the West. In Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill films, the character of Pei Mei appears as Kiddo's instructor. Pei Mei is played by Lo Lieh in Fist', but Lieh's Fist' co-star - Gordon Liu - reprised the role for the Tarantino revenge tale.

Five Deadly Venoms

Five Deadly Venoms is another Shaw Brothers Kung Fu Classic. Released in 1978, The' Venoms rather convoluted plot involves 5 warriors - each with a different animal-style of Kung Fu - who may or may not be attempting to steal a fortune from the former colleague of their dying teacher. The flick is referenced by the Wu-Tang Clan and World of Warcraft. Kill Bill's Deadly Viper Assassination squad is also a not-so-veiled reference.


Use this player to listen to my new CD. Purchase a song or two at your favorite digital outlet and help us stay awake here at Insomnia!

Find the archives to my Sleepless Film Festival, and more at my You Tube channel: Imagicon

Listen to my earlier releases, and enjoy free downloads here!

Joe Nolan

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Torres v.s. Mizugaki - Round By Round

Bonjour et bon soir, mes amis.

As you may know Miguel "Angel" Torres will be fighting tonight, defending his WEC championship against Takeya Mizugaki. This is how the fight is sized up on the Fox Sports site:

CHICAGO - Watching the way bantamweight champion Miguel Torres glared across his right shoulder at Takeya Mizugaki every time the challenger spoke at Friday's WEC 40 pre event press conference, you would have thought he wanted to tear the Japanese fighter apart right then and there. Maybe that's because he did.

"I want to fight him now," Torres (35-1) told InsideFighting after the press conference ended.

"I hadn't seen him. I don't know anything about him and to be able to stand three feet away from him I wanted to like jump over the podium and choke him while he was talking. I wanted to so bad."

Torres' menacing game face is quickly becoming the stuff of legend. It certainly had Reed Harris talking Friday afternoon. The World Extreme Cagefighting typically straps title belts on to the waists of champions after their wins inside the cage. But after a recent successful Torres defense he found the task more scary than routine.

"I went over with his belt after the fight to put it on him, tapped him on the shoulder and he turned around with this look," Harris remembered while recreating his own fear-filled expression from the moment. "He scared me and I took a step back. �Whoa!' One of Miguel's guys then came over to me and said, 'He'll be fine in a couple minutes.' He just gets in a zone when he's fighting."

As followers of this blog know, when I am not working on my short film of my one-act play about Charles Baudelaire in the Confederate South I can usually be found in various stages of undress, in my kitchen, slicing garlic with a high G piano wire or repairing one of my prized powdered wigs. Otherwise, there is a good chance that I am eating sandwiches in the tub, listening to the TV in the other room playing the Director's Commentary of Starship Troopers.

However, once I finally settle down, I like to build a nest out of antique jewelry in the middle of my living room and practice my wrestling bridging, keeping my form both supple and limber.

Nothing goes with this better than a double espresso and Mixed Martial Arts, and I believe tonight's fight will be the most important MMA contest before Uriah Faber rematches Mike Brown.

Brown took Faber's belt in a TKO at their last meeting. Check out Brown here in another contest:

Brown vs. Garcia - Watch more Funny Videos

Many people think Uriah is the best pound-for-pound fighter out there. Faber is fantastic, but Torres gets my vote as THE BEST FIGHTER IN THE WORLD.

The fight's about to begin.

I am going to blog as the fight goes on, so I can share my reactions blow by blow.

The fight will take place in Chicago. This is de facto home court for East Chicagoan, Torres.

Pre Fight:

Miz makes his entrance. He looks focused and cool. He has a beautiful face for a fighter, and he carries himself with the quiet confidence we see in many Japanese fighters: an elegant bravado.

The corner man applies a liberal coat of petroleum jelly to Miz' eyes and brow. Annointed, the Miz prays briefly before entering the cage.

Torres enters with an intensity that appears to find his dark, focused eyes on the verge of tears. Again, Torres seems ferocious. Mir just commented that "Torres is seriously looking to hurt you at all times." That said, this guy is a TOTAL CLASS ACT - and a mean motherfucker on The Octagon.

Tail of the Tape: Torres'reach is -as always- something to contend with. He has 8 inches on Miz. Torres also has insanely long legs. In fact MMA should consider length of leg in their tape stats. It makes a huge difference.

Round 1:

Round starts slowly. Miz begins to throw several fearless combos.
Torres is n't throwing his jab like usual. Torres complains of a low kick, but is unhurt. Miguel throws several knees in a clinch with Miz and gets slammed down on his back. Both fighters are throwing many punches, but both are slipping both with great movement, head/movement. Torres is leading with a left round kick, but to little real effect. Torres' trademark jab is nowhere to be found. I give the first round to Miz.

Round 2:

Torres slips an recovers quickly. Miz is the aggressor again. He's not doing a lot of damage, but he is running the fight. Miz continues to make points on the inside. Miz lands a great right. The best punch of the night. Miz starts eating punches. There is a sense of blood in the water. Torres pins him on the cage. Miz turns him out, but is quickly pinned again as Torres unloads knees to the Miz' midsection. Miz is tired. Torres loses his mouthpiece and the fighters need to start again. Torres is throwing knees in baroque arcs that are a kind of dance of damage raining down against the ribs of the Miz. Torres wins the round on a strong second half.

Round 3:

Starts slow. Torres looks like a cobra. Mir raves about a left hook that all but misses. Miz lands some good shots after Torres kicks his front leg. Torres misses a gullotine attempt. Miz continues being busy with his combo punching. Mir goes crazy for a lame punch to the top of Miz' head only to immediately have the fight stopped to investigate a nasty cut over Torres' right eye that seems to have come from a Miz' left. This could be a big deal. Torres pushes the pace and Miz answers back. Torres in beginning to pour it on as his elbows come into play. The Miz lands a great combo of punches and ends with knee to Torres face which is again awash in red. The crowd begins to cheer TORRES. TORRES. TORRES. The round ends. Miz wins another.

Round 4:

Miguel goes into round with huge gobs of jelly on his cut. Where is Torres' jab? Torres takes the fight to the ground, but Miz escapes. Mir suggests that Torres may need to take the fight to the ground. Torres is really losing this fight at this point. (3:09) Mir is saying that Torres is landing better shots as Torres bleeds all over Miz. Torres is owning this round. Keeping Miz against the cage indefinitely. Knees and punches. Miz almost takes Torres back after Miguel misses an elbow but Torres drops for kneelock and the pair divide. Torres continues to get the worst of these largely ineffectual exchanges.

Round 5:

I can't believe I am saying this, but Miz has this fight won if Torres can't knock him out in this round. Mir is defending Torres, but we seem to be watching different fights. Torres rocks Miz with three of the best punches of the night. Mir still acting like Torres is ahead on all the cards. Torres throws his only good jab of the night with three minutes left. Torres pins Miz on cage, but is rather ineffectual and he ultimately falls to his back in the scuffle. Torres pins Miz on cage again after some open punching. One minute to go and both fighters seem tired. Miz mocks Torres. Both fighters punch it out hard for the last 20 seconds.

The lack of commentary at the end of the fight has to do with the fact that Mir et al. are trying to figure out how NOT to say that Torres just lost this fight.

I doubt the judges will go this way, but Mizugaki just won this fight.

Torres never even started to establish his jab in a fight that stayed on its feet. He underestimated Miz and got beat.

Here is the decision...

Miguel wins a unanimous decision. This is not correct or just. I love Torres but he lost tonight.

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Last Days of Pompeii

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In all his days, he'd never seen nothin' like this.

The Sarge wiped his brow with a hard, dirty, tan forearm - the grime running like fast, gray tears down either side of his face. The smoke bombs draped the whole scene in Tibetan prayer flags.

Drifting Yellow.

Rising Red.

"So, this is the bardo...?"

Chikkhai bardo (Tibetan): is the fourth bardo of the moment of death. According to tradition, this bardo is held to commence when the outer and inner signs presage that the onset of death is nigh, and continues through the dissolution or transmutation of the Mahabhuta until the external and internal breath has completed.


Press Play


a group of soldiers go insane in jamestown upon ingestion of cooked Datura plants.

Datura over-the-counter remedies for athsmatic difficulties are banned after people begin using them recreationally.

2b) General Overview of Historical Usage

Datura has been used for a very long time. Originally, it seems it was used as a shamanistic tool, one that could help a shaman gain entrance to "other worlds of existance." It also contains several chemicals that are helpful to the body in certain conditions. Atropine, a chemical derived from plants in the Solanaceae, is used in hospitals and generally a trusted drug. As such, one can imagine that it is fairly safe when used within the suggested dosages.

It would seem that people discovered its medicinal properties through shamans, or "Medicine Men." Often shamanism is used to cure illness, and certainly Datura would be a very good cure for some diseases.

6 a2) Tea

My experience with tea is also inconclusive. The first time I made a tea with boiling water, and seeds in a coffee filter. I used about 45 seeds, that were not quite mature (still rather small and somewhat yellow). The tea was very bright yellow and was not particularly pleasant tasting, with a mild spicy taste (like jalapeno) to it. The effects came on in about half an hour, with a mild stupor. Basically it was difficult to walk (I felt almost drunk) and thought was somewhat impaired. This didn't last very long at all, probably about 3 hours.

Note: This stuporous effect could have come from the blocking of anticholinergenic receptors. Drugs that produce acetylcholine have long been called "smart drugs" (Nootropics) for the way they make a user feel intelligent (and they actually perform better intellectually) and stimulated. Some have even been dubbed healthy coffee substitutes.

Perhaps atropine is a "dumb drug?"

My second experience was with more seeds, perhaps 60, but this time I ran the tea through the seeds 5 times. I added a very big (proportionally) amount of Grenadine and I also put a bag of Celestial Seasoning's 'Red Zinger' into the mix. The taste was mainly sugary, and the taste of the Datura was almost non-existant. The effects lasted about as long. The second dose was taken 2 days after the first, so it is important to note that they may have had a combined effect. After the second dose, I went to sleep, and had incredibly vivid dreams.

I remember being in a room talking to friends of mine. It seemed proper to speak out loud (I was aware that I was speaking out loud as well as in the dream), and was overall a very pleasant experience (the dream). This is probably delerium, along with interference in the brain stem.

My third experience was just the same as the first, and dreaming was no different than "normal."

This effect may also impair driving. Wearing sunglasses is usually a good idea when driving, provided they arent too dark, and with dilated pupils, it almost becomes a must.

Delerium/Delerium in Sleep

This is not well documented, so all I can do is hypothesize.

When one dreams, most of the images, sounds, et cetera, one hears, originate from the brain stem. Atropine interferes directly with much of the activity in the brain stem, ranging from motor impairment and tachycardia to the basal ganglionic blockage.

"One guy, who dealt drugs and wasn't particularly centered and/or able to connect with anyone else in the group decided to take off. Another guy and I understood that it was dangerous for anybody to become separated so we pursued him down to a busy boulevard where after a couple of blocks we became freaked and ceased trying to talk him into returning with us. We went back to the house. He went on his way, went to his house, got a suitcase full of drugs, walked to a strange neighborhood and into some old people's house. Whereupon, he began to behave as if he was in his own house. What occurred next I'm sure is obvious."

The baby cried out over the intercom and she climbed down off of the step ladder, jumping to the floor with the last step.

A young woman - given early to marriage and children - she had been up in the dark getting the older ones off to school.

"Just me and the baby, now." She thought the thought just before the house began to shake.

In the last days of Pompeii, there was a festival in the street. Thousands of people crowded the storefronts - smiles full of lamb, wine, cheese, and herbs - listening to the music, and dreaming of an Africa guarded by tree cats with sharp eyes and wide wings - a fresco of human movement, undulating in the sun like an iridescent snake. The girls dropped their dresses in the public fountain and the graffiti punned the walls it was written on until the writings - and then the walls - were covered in the light, gray ash.

The artillery continued in the distance. He could hear the squawk of the radio getting closer. "These birds only sing bad news."

"Sargent! We've broken through! We've been ordered to push to the border!"

The Sargent stared at the huge, smooth, silver disc, half-buried in the mud and trees, burning blue flames, so hot the surface distorted its reflection of the battleground like a not-so-fun-house mirror.

"We're way passed that, son." The Sargent emptied his rifle into the black ground.





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Joe Nolan

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