Friday, October 28, 2011

My Fave Dave Raves

One man's favorite Berserk songs on video

I was doing some Fall cleaning on my computer last night and dug up these videos gathering dust in my hard drive. They represent my favorite songs by Dave Cawley, erstwhile bassist in my favorite Baltimore band from the '90s, Berserk. Giant robots! Ultra 7! These are the songs that defined a generation of otaku pop-punk-purists - at least in Dave's Cawley's mind.

Watch the Berserk - "Giant Robots" music video.

Baltimore's Berserk play their classic '90s anthem, "Giant Robots" - Dave Cawley's love song to a boy's best friend.

Now watch Berserk play "Giant Robots" live at Ottobar (2005).

Grand finale number from Berserk's Reunion Show at Ottobar, February 7, 2005.

Watch the Berserk "Ultra 7" music video.

Unfortunately, this great song is only available on a Go Kart records compilation record, Go Kart Vs. the Corporate Giant. Forget Wall Street - Occupy the Corporate Giant and seek it out!

Now watch Beserk play "Ultra 7" live at Ottobar (2005).

Dave Cawley continues his love letter to Japan ("How do I love thee, let me count the ways...") with his sonic celebration of Ultraman (and, for vegan Brent, burritos that contain no meato). From the Berserk Reunion Show at the Ottobar, February 7, 2005.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Martha Colburn cuts out the boring parts

Martha Colburn, erstwhile Baltimore auteur

Baltimore has been associated with a number of talented filmmakers, but none more talented and creative than Skizz Cyzyk and Martha Colburn. Martha may have left town a few years back to relocate to New Amsterdam (Queens, NY actually) and ye olde Amsterdam, but her legacy lives on! Here's a recent profile of her by New York Close Up that the good folks at Art 21 alerted me to.

Watch "Martha Colburn cuts out the boring parts."

Martha Colburn Cuts the Boring Parts Out | "New York Close Up" | Art21 from Art21 on Vimeo.

In this film, artist Martha Colburn traces the evolution of her work, from her first found-footage films to subsequent hand-painted and stop-motion animations.

Anne Hornaday once described Colburn's work as "visually brilliant, politically trenchant, always imaginative and usually provocative." Speaking of politically trenchant, Martha Colburn recently created an experimental live action documentary short about the Occupy Wall Street protests.

Watch Martha's film "Occupy Wall Street."

Here's Bad Lit's Mike Everleth describing the new work:
Mostly known for her animated films, Martha Colburn returns to live action with a short experimental documentary on the Occupy Wall Street protests that have been going on since mid-September. The above embedded video is actually two short films that should play one right after another. Rather than get into the goals and message of the protestors, Colburn simply documents the scene, displaying the same kind of frenetic montage that her animated films have.

What’s particularly appealing about this short doc is that it also displays a heavy ’60s underground film vibe. While Colburn leaves her shots a little longer than the then-popular “single-frame” shooting technique, the effect is essentially the same, creating a disorienting, kaleidoscope documentary vision. The film is not unlike classic undergrounds like Marie Menken’s Go! Go! Go! and Shirley Clarke’s Bridges-Go-Round.

Also, the “single-frame” technique is particularly appropriate here, centering the action right in the middle of the mad crush of protestors and policemen so that the viewer can get a feel of being a participant and not just a spectator.

The music in the documentary is by Tom Carter, a frequent collaborator with Colburn, especially with performing live scores to her films.

The comparison to Marie Mencken's Go! Go! Go! and Shirley Clarke's Bridges-Go-Round (available on the DVD Treasures IV: American Avant-Garde Film, 1947-1986) is spot on.

Apropos of nothing, below is one of my favorite photos (taken from a video screen grab) of George Figgs cavorting with Martha at the 1999 Maryland Film Festival.

"Martha, I vant to bite your neck!" George Figgs amuses Martha Colburn at the 1999 Maryland Film Festival; George screened Martha's shorts at his Orpheum Theater

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Shonen Knife Cuts Thru Baltimore

Cutting Edge J-Poppers Finally Take a Stab at Charm City

Believe it or not, Shonen Knife had never visited or played in Baltimore in the course of their 30-year career. Like most big name J-pop bands touring the U.S.(Pizzicato Five, Puffy, even Kahimi Karie), they made the obligatory stop in the nation's capital, typically at the 9:30 Club, before bypassing Charm City to traipse up the East Coast to Philadelphia, New York, and other major ports of call. In fact, the last time I saw them was back in 1997, when they performed at the 9:30 Club in support of their album Brand New Knife (Baltimore's powerpop trio Splitsville opened for them).

That all changed October 24, 2011 when founding guitarist Naoko Yamano and the "new" Shonen Knife girls - drummer Emi Morimoto (2010-present) and bassist Ritsuko Taneda (2006-present) - visited Atomic Books in Hampden to sell their new all-Ramones-covers CD Osaka Ramones (Good Charamel Records, 2011), sign memorabilia, and hang out with fans, before jumping in their tour bus to motor down the street and rock out later that night at the Ottobar as part of their 30th Anniversary North American Tour. And so, "Baltimore, the city that reads" officially became "Baltimore, the city that bleeds" - for Shonen Knife!

Watch Shonen Knife arrive at Atomic Books.

Shonen at Atomic: a rendezvous with history?

As an added bonus, Naoko's sis Atsuko (Shonen Knife's original drummer) was also on hand to roadie for the band; though Atsuko left the band in 2006 when she got married and then moved to Los Angeles, she filled in during band's 2007 tour and, being Naoko's sister, continues to be involved with the musical family she created with Naoko and Michie Nakatani in Osako back in 1981. (Original bass player Michie Nakatani left the band in 1999, with Atsuko moving from behind the drumkit to replace her on bass guitar.)

Dave Cawley, Ichiban: "The early bird catches the worm," Dave smirks as he informs latecomers that the line forms BEHIND him. "Watch me and learn, minions - and please, DO envy me!"

Dave Cawley was the very first fan to arrive at Atomic Books (all the better to genuflect before his idols), which is somewhat fitting, as Dave used to correspond with Atsuko Yamano dating back when he was in Baltimore's pop-punk band Berserk. (Dave poses with Atsuko Yamano in pic at right.) Amy and I were the second to arrive and Atomic Books owners Benn Ray and Rachel Whang were greatly amused to see that Dave and I were both wearing the same 1997 Shonen Knife Tour shirts, the ones we got when last we saw the band at the 9:30 Club and interviewed them for Atomic TV (as seen on ATV's "Turning Japanese, Part 1" - check 'em out at the 54-minute mark of this episode). Rachel Whang captured the "Misfits-in-Matching-Outfits" photo op, below:

Tom: "Dave, this is kinda gay!" Dave: "Ya think?"

Dave and I loved Shonen Knife from the moment we discovered them - he first, of course, via his Pan-Asian Pop Cultural Studies (an ongoing obsession), me rather late in game thanks to Sassy magazine's championing of "Twist Barbie." We both agreed that they were the nicest band we'd ever met, and regretted that we hadn't seen or listened to Shonen Knife in a long time; in fact, 1998's Happy Hour album (my personal favorite and the last to feature original bass player Michie Nakatani) was the last CD either one of us had purchased. We decided it was time to make amends for that criminal oversight, and we looked forward to meeting the new "Brand New Knife." We learned that the first cut may be the deepest, but the new Knife cuts a pretty sharp figure as well!

Meet and greet the Brand New Knife!

First-in-line Dave Cawley strikes a Kamen Rider pose with Shonen Knife

Dave Cawley gives Shonen Knife his personal seal of approval

The fans behind Dave "I was first!" Cawley wait their turn at Atomic Books

Tom Warner makes peace with Shonen Knife

Amy had never heard Shonen Knife, but bought their "Fun! Fun! Fun!" LP as an introduction to the fun, fun, fun

Amy enjoys Shonen Knife's autograph doodles: Emi (cat), Naoko (bunny), Ritsuko (dog)

Shonen Knife's cute critter doodles

Our Facebook pal Gary Razorpop poses with The Knife

Shonen Knife really seemed to enjoy looking through the shelves at Atomic Books - where Naoko's book Shonen Knife Land was also available for purchase; they also explored the vinyls bins at Celebrated Summer Records next door (who splurged for donuts and other edibles).

Emi lets the cat out of the bag at Atomic Books

Just as fitting as Dave Cawley being first in line at Atomic Books was Shonen Knife's decision to release an all-Ramones song album, for Shonen Knife is basically an all-girl Japanese version of the Ramones. Both work from a foundation of simplistic punk rock buzzsaw guitar and lyrics celebrating everything that's good dumb fun in life - whether it be sniffing glue, getting kicks and scoring chicks for the Ramones or eating all that food ("Cookie Day," "Banana Chips," "Hot Chocolate," "Brown Mushrooms," "Froot Loop Dreams," "Ice Cream City," "Gyoza") that Naoko sings about in countless Knife songs. Osaka Ramones contains all the classic Ramones songs you'd expect to hear championed ("Blitzkrieg Bop," "Rock 'n' Roll High School," "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker") as well as an inspired surprise cover of "Scattergun," a rockin' tune written by Dee Dee's replacement C.J. Ramone (Christopher Ward) and taken from their last studio album ¡Adios Amigos! (1995). And it's not just Naoko handling all the vocal duties: Ritsuko lends her voice to "Sheena," while Emi gets to sing "The KKK Took My Baby Away." The album was recorded in Osaka and Buffalo, NY, with Goo Goo dolls bassist Robby Takac producing five tracks at his GCR studio in Buffalo and mixing the final album. (Attention collectors: The US album features a Road To Ruin-style drawing by Miyoka Hayakawa, while the Japanese release features a black-and-white photo of the band that mimics the first Ramones album.)

Watch Ritsuko sing "Sheena is a Punk Rocker."

Watch Emi sing "The KKK Took My Baby Away."

I enjoyed meeting the new (to me) Shonen Knife rhythm section. I quickly learned that sexy long-haired bassist Ritsuko Taneda used to sing and play guitar in the J-Pop bands Keihan Girl and Denki Candy (where her nom de stage was "Marilyn"). And I discovered that super-kawaii drummer Emi Morimoto (whose Louis Brooks-style haircut reminded me of Scott Pilgrim's girlfriend "Knifes Chau" from Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World), used to bang the skins for Ni Hao!, Ultra Jr, mamastudio, and NASCA CAR.

But I really enjoyed chatting briefly with Atsuko Yamano, Naoka's sister who helped set up the merchandise table and assisted with other tour details as needed.

Atsuko helps set up the merchandise table

"Excuse me, aren't you Big Dave Cawley?" Atsuko (far left) asks a bespectacled fanboy

Atsuko now resides in Los Angeles, where she has plenty of time (and sunny weather) to indulge in her latest passion of tennis. Both of us are Federer fans, and I told her I was equally impressed with Kei Nishikori who, at age 21, is currently the highest-ever ranked Japanese player (#30) on the ATP Tour. Alas, like Kei, Atsuko also favors a two-handed backhand, though I tried to convince her of the benefits of the one-handed slice. (Maybe next tour?)

Tom Warner bonds with Atsuko over tennis and their shared adulation of Roger Federer and Japan's own Kei Nishikori

I can't say enough about how sweet and friendly these gals are. They even indulged me when I went back for yet more merchandise for them to sign - and they signed everything, for everybody. Benn Ray joked that I had forgotten to get my '97 tour shirt signed, but I'm too much of an anal-neatnik (as far as fashion, at least, if not housekeeping!) to go that far.

Tom's Shonen Knife cache: Sign here, please!

"OK Mr. Warner, last one - our hands are cramping now!"

Alas, Amy and I did not join Dave Cawley later that night at the Ottobar show, as the prospect of having to wait through three opening bands on a Monday night (doesn't anybody in this town work?) didn't gibe either with our schedules or our aging bones. (Yes, we're old!) I'm sure somebody will post some video of the Ottobar show shortly, but in the meantime, here's what the girls looked like live when they brought the "Blitzkrieg Bop" to London's Windmill club back in August:

Watch Shonen Knife play "Blitzkrieg Bop."

And here they are rocking the Asia Society in NYC with non-Ramones ditties back in September 2010:

Watch Shonen Knife rock the Asia Society.

Shonen Knife's first-ever trip to Charm City, coming less than a week before Halloween, was definitely a treat for all Baltimorons!


Postscript (10-26-2011):
As anticipated, videos of Shonen Knife's show at the Ottobar turned up a day later. Herein is what went down as recorded by serenab4 and motionrotarytoad.

Watch serenab4's "shonen knife @ the ottobar (10/24/11)"

Watch motionrotarytoad's "The KKK Took My Baby Away/Rock 'n' Roll High School"

Watch motionrotarytoad's "Blitzkrieg Bop/Beat on the Brat"

Watch motionrotarytoad's "Konnichiwa/Bear Up Bison"

Watch motionrotarytoad's "Banana Chips"

Watch motionrotarytoad's "Devil House"

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

What's the Story, Morning Glory?

The mystery of the Parkville Phallus

Rock hard peter, Parkville style (photo by Amy Davis - but not the Baltimore Sun's Amy Davis!)

When Amy drove off to work Sunday morning, she was greeted by this huge dick drawing sketched in chalk on her apartment complex parking lot. It made her smile. It made me smile when I saw it later. I'm sure it made everyone smile because, well, everyone loves a big dick! They're a load of fun!

But who, we wondered, left this festive Sunday offering for the Parkville apartment-dwelling community to feast their eyes on (and tread their tires over)? Kids? Juveniles? Pube-escents? And why this tomfoolery before Halloween, still a full week away?

It made us both think of the UK's Huffington Horse etching and, while this was no Huffington Horse, it was certainly hung like one. Rather, it was more like an asphalt crop (cock?) circle, a mystery appearing at the crack of dawn to make onlookers wonder who created it and what was its purpose.

Having just seen Werner Herzog's latest documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, the night before at The Charles Theater, we marveled at the pavement penis as if we were Herzog and his cast of archeologists deconstructing the prehistoric Cheval Cave drawings. "Vot does this primitive representation of the male genitalia tell us about sexual mores in the new Millenium?" Herzog may well have intoned upon seeing this giant dick. "Does it point tovard der sun, that giant egg-shaped source of all life on earth, as if to fertilize it with man's essence, or is it a severed organ, representing Modern Man's increasingly marginalized and metrosexualized presence in today's vorld?"

Balls of Confusion: the situation gets hairy down below

Amy keeps an eye on her Parkville Parkin'lot Phallus to be sure the erection doesn't last longer than 4 hours (thus necessitating emergency medical assistance from Balto County road crews!)

"Story of my life - I always get the shaft!" Tom laments

We may never know the Parkville Pee-Pee's origin. But it made me pine for the days when Baltimore's Woodbourne neighborhood truly had wood. Yup, it made me think of The Penis Tree.

Related Links:
The Penis Tree (Baltimore or Less)

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What goes Round, comes Round at AVAM

"All Things Round: Galaxies, Eyeballs & Karma"
September 7, 2011 - September 2, 2012
American Visionary Art Museum

On Thursday, October 6, Amy and I attended the "sneal preview" opening night party for the American Visionary Art Museum's new exhibit, "All Things Round: Galaxies, Eyeballs & Karma." AVAM Founder/Director Rebecca Hoffberger's 17th annual show - co-curated with Mary Ellen "Dolly" Vehlow - bills itself as "a celebration and call to awareness of the circular and voluptuous nature of life" and features "the exuberant works of 70+ inspired, intuitive artists," including Scott Weaver's 100,000 toothpick wonder "Rolling Through The Bay," Adolf Wölfli's intricate mandala-like works, spherical sculptures of sight-impaired artists, the micro dot sock-thread embroideries of Ray Materson, Stephanie Lucas's Hieronymous Bosch-styled bestiary paintings, three-dimensional sacred yarn paintings made by the Huichol Indians, pictures of crop circles, Emily Duffy's giant "Bra Ball, and even gift shop employee Shawn Theron's 75,000-image digital camera montage of one year in his life.

The opening night galas at the AVAM are always a blast and the circular theme was evident even before we stepped inside the doors, as gaily-clad gals (and one dude) entertained onlookers by twirling glow-in-the-dark hoops round and round and round in the courtyard, creating parabolas of swirling colors that lit up the night like a July 4th fireworks celebration.

Watch the "Glo-Glo Go-Go Hula Hoop Hons" in action.

Day-glo hoopsters light up the Oct. 6 preview party...

...and trip the light fantastic!

Hipster Doofus crashes gender barrier to join hula hooping hons

After chowing down on the spread set up in the AVAM party barn, we headed inside for the exhibit proper. We took the roundabout way in.

We took a look a-round!

On our way in, we turned the corner and couldn't help but bump into Emily Duffy's buxotic "Bra Ball," whose cups had runneth over!

Sisterhood is powerful: the bodacious Bra Ball

Amy really liked Shawn Theron's year-in-the-life montage of digital photos, circle paintings, and spinning Tibetan prayer bells. Theron used to wait tables and manage the bar upstairs at the old Joy's America Cafe (which is now called Mr. Rain's Funhouse). Today his art is the first thing that greets visitors entering the museum, and you can't mis sthe man himself if you tried, because he currently works in the AVAM gift shop - where everyone ends up eventually before leaving! (Read more about Shawn Theron in Mary Carole McCauley's Baltimore Sun profile.)

But the highlight for us (admittedly among many highlights) was definitely seeing San Francisco artist Scott Weaver unveil and demonstrate his "Rolling Through the Bay" sculpture, which he calls the world's largest functioning toothpick sculpture. It took him over 42 years and 104,500 toothpicks to make (and even includes "Gay Pride"-colored picks for the Castro Street section) and he traveled over 3,000 miles to bring it from the West Coast to Charm's City for the AVAM show.

Scott Weaver with his Rolling Toothpick Revue (photo by Amy C. Davis/Baltimore Sun)

Scott Weaver's toothpick citiscape "Rolling Through the Bay"

Watch Scott explain the structure and demonstrate how to roll ping-pong balls through his hometown in the clip below by the Baltimore Sun's Amy C. Davis:


"I've got some dip stuck in my gums - you don't think he'd mind me borrowing just one little toothpick to get it out, do you?" Amy whispers surreptitiously

Detail from Scott Weaver's toothpick city showcasing its labrinthine chutes and ladders

Though "Rolling Through the Bay" may look more rectangular than round, it's actually filled with an abundance of cupolas, domes and other well-rounded shapes, making it an ideal structure for Weaver's ping-pong balls to navigate through. "It reminds me of that Milton Bradley game I used to have, 'Mousetrap'" Amy said, while Rebecca Hoffberger told the Baltimore Sun, "I've seen a lot of brilliant matchstick and toothpick work, but most people use them to make squares. There aren't very many artists like Scott who can make these incredible helixes and spirals."

(Read more about Scott Weaver's exhibit centerpiece in Mary Carole McCauley's Baltimore Sun review.)

Amy and I loved the new AVAM exhibit, but it was difficult to "take it all in" in one visit, especially the opening "preview night" when we had to navigate through so many hordes of people. So, we went back two days later when it was much less crowded - plus we could spend much more time (and money) in the gift shop!

"All life comes from eggs," Tom astutely observes outside the AVAM

Amy strikes her Art Babe Pose outside the AVAM

Devilish Amy got horny in the gift shop

Tom gets in touch with his feminine side (it wasn't hard!)

Amy pays props to her Wicca and Pagan peeps in this "Wicker Man" guise

"This pictures really jump out at you!" Amy attests

I felt a compulsion to visit my peeps in the OCD Gallery!

Dave Cawley Alert: Mazinger toy spotted in the gift shop!

Then, though we hadn't had a drop to drink, we got really twisted looking at ourselves in the funhouse mirrors outside the bathrooms on the second floor.

"Wow, instant Skinny Jeans!"

"Do these jeans make me look fat?"

"Hey, how'd you get in my pants leg?"

"That's MY pants leg now, sweetie!"

Finally, we checked out the massive collection of Pez dispensers on the third floor outside the AVAM's restaurant. We had never noticed them before, and were amazed at the variety on hand, from Star Trek and Star Wars to Pokemon and Ultraman figureheads.

On our way out, both Amy I agreed there was only one thing missing from the "All Things Round" exhibit: a picture of Ohio. "What's round on the end and hi in the middle?" I sang, to which we both replied "O-HI-O!" - a reference to the line in Devo's "Jocko Homo." Still, we were more than satisfied by this well-rounded new exhibit.

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