Subornation of Poetry

The Linda Lindas: A Self-Interview

Q. Good morning Brett. So tell us about the Linda Lindas.

A. Best band on the planet. Full stop.

Q. Really? You're serious?

A. Dead serious. Four supremely talented musicians with pitch perfect chemistry that is greater than the sum of their parts. And don't call them punk. Yes, they perform punk as well as it has ever been performed, but they're equally adept at pop, rock, and all permutations thereof.

Q. So let's talk about the members. Tell us about Bela.

A. Bela is an enigma because she doesn't put herself out there much. She's a really good rhythm guitarist, an important job in a band, and she commits herself totally to the service of the music. She wrote a song called Monica which starts out as a sweet, silly song about her cat, but quickly moves into deeper waters, exploring the bond between humans and their pets. I really like her fashion sense. Bela rocks.

Q. And Lucia?

A. Lucia is a Capricorn-Dog like me, so there's that. She has an unusual stage presence that is quite endearing, and she has a sweet, sentimental voice that nevertheless packs a punch. She went on Kimmel, the biggest stage of her life, sang lead on Claudia Kishi, pulled this incredible, soul crushing charisma out of her hat, and sang like an angel. She's a really good lead guitarist, and she wrote a song called Never Say Never which is almost too beautiful to bear. She's classically trained, and there is an impressive list of classically trained musicians who have ripped rock a new one. Lucia will be on that list someday; she's almost there now.

Q. Eloise?

A. Best bass player on the planet. Full Stop. She is the showiest band member, but she's never a show-off; she draws attention to the band, not to herself, and when it is time for someone else to front the band she happily moves to the backgroud. She's the punkiest member of the band but she wrote a sweet, hopeful song about the pandemic called Missing You where she sings about wanting to eat dinner at her grandma's place. Her vocals range from a bratty growl to a bratty howl, or from an angry growl to an angy howl, or from a joyous growl to a joyous howl, whatever is needed, sometimes all in the same song.

Q. Mila?

A. Best drummer ever. Full stop.

Q. You're serious?

A. Dead serious. And from what I've heard from their concert at the Palladium, she was the best drummer ever two years ago, and since then she's improved. She's an incredible timekeeper; she could synchronize an atomic clock. And she has a tremendous instinct for what is needed in a song and just gets it done. I'm sure she could show off if she wanted, but she always drums in service to the song. Okay, maybe she shows off a little bit during No Clue but that's her right; she wrote it.

Q. Favorite Linda Lindas moment?

A. Wow, there are so many to choose from, but one moment I really love is from the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) concert. During the last song, Big Mouth, after Eloise howls her first soul-shattering shreik, while she and Lucia are blazing away on their guitars, they turn to look at each other, and Lucia offers her back to Eloise. Eloise moves in and they touch backs at the shoulder for about a second, grinning like banshees. It is, of course, an ancient rock star cliche, but when they do it it is an acknowledgement that they realize they are catching lightning in a bottle and that they are, indeed, the best band on the planet.

Q. Favorite original song?

A. That's a hard one, they're all so good, but I have to go with No Clue, especially as it was performed at LAPL. Great lyrics, wonderful vocal performance by Mila, as good a drumming performance as has ever been recorded. But, man, Never Say Never is so freaking gorgeous. And Claudia Kishi...

Q. You've sold me. So where should I start?

A. Start with the viral video of Racist, Sexist Boy at LAPL, then I suggest the Kimmel performance, then the performance video from the premier of Moxie, and end with the full LAPL concert. You'll be so wrung out you'll have to have someone pick you up off the floor.

Q. Final thoughts?

A. I found a video online of one of their very early performances. They. Were. HORRIBLE. It was the most god-awful thing I've ever heard try to pass for music. But I realized how much hard work they must have put in to get to where they are now, and it deepened my admiration for them even more.

Q. Thank you, Brett, for this illuminating interview.

A. It was my pleasure.


early birdsong
morning dew on petals
all I sense are your eyes

half asleep I reach
out to stroke puss and receive
a flurry of claws

the cat and the orchid
ignore me

twin falls dammed
one fall

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*A work in progress

Avoid at All Costs

Film Review: She's Just A Shadow
Director: Adam Sherman
Release Date: 2019-07-19
118 min.

This is easily one of the worst films I've ever seen. It is vile, reprehensible, and degrading. I have watched a lot of bad films (I tend to seek them out) and this film is bad. It is bad in ways I never would have imagined films could be bad. Every scene invents entirely new ways for films to be bad.

I am including IMDB's content advisory because you need to know this in case you decide you want to watch this film:

Sex & Nudity: Severe
Violence & Gore: Severe
Profanity: Severe
Alcohol, Drugs & Smoking: Severe
Frightening & Intense Scenes: Severe

Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.

And yet...there is something about this film that exhilarates me. There is something about the god-awful wretchedness of this film that makes me feel more alive than most films. There is, incredibly, a moving and profound death scene ("Kiss me, I'm dying"). There is the amazing song Nobody Can Live Forever by Tim Maia, which is now on my Top Ten Favorite Song list, and which I might never have heard if I hadn't watched this film.

But this is not a great film. It is bad. It is a bad film. Do not watch this film.

9 out of 10 stars.

Ten Books That Have Stayed with Me

Recently I was challenged on Facebook to "list ten books that have stayed with you. Don't think too hard".

Here's what happens when I "don't think too hard":

My James Joyce obsession could have easily filled this list with books by and about him and his works. I finally decided to include just one, but which one? A couple of years ago it would have been Finnegans Wake, but since then I've reread Ulysses and Dubliners and gained a greater appreciation for them both. And Shakespeare deserves to be here, but does a single play constitute a "book"? I haven't read his complete works, so I can't list that. Moby Dick made a huge impact on me, but I skipped the boring technical chapters on whaling, so I can't really say I've read it. What about my love of hardboiled fiction? Raymond Chandler, Brett Halliday, Mickey Spillane, Dashiell Hammett, Ken Bruen? The Odyssey and the Tao Te Ching should be here but I couldn't decide on a translation for either. Yeats's poetry should be here but I never would have read it if not for Joyce. Is including a trilogy cheating? Shouldn't that count as three books?

Shut up Brett and just list ten books. Okay.

Journey to Ixtlan--Carlos Castaneda
The Hunger Games Trilogy--Suzanne Collins
The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis
The Diary of a Young Girl--Anne Frank
Red Harvest--Dashiell Hammett
Something Happened--Joseph Heller
Ulysses--James Joyce
To Kill a Mockingbird--Harper Lee
Lolita--Vladimir Nabokov
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas--Hunter S. Thompson

Oh, I forgot the MLA Handbook. 7th edition.

Those Satisfactions are Permanent

Film Review: Two-Lane Blacktop
Director: Monte Hellman
Release date: 1972-10-28
102 min.

As the film opens we meet the Driver (James Taylor) and the Mechanic (Dennis Wilson). They live to race and race to live. We never learn their names nor their relationship to each other. The Girl (Laurie Bird) joins them by removing her duffel bag from another guy's car and moving it to their car. Where are you heading? she asks them. East, the Mechanic replies. Her name, we learn, may be Higgins. They encounter another driver, GTO (Warren Oates), and engage him in a cross-country race for pink slips. GTO talks about himself a great deal, but because he contradicts himself at every turn we learn nothing about him. Other characters (hitchhikers, drag racers, a grieving grandmother, a driver in a fatal accident) drop in, ghost-like, just long enough to register their presence; we learn nothing about them. And then there are the cars. Two of them are given cast credits: a custom 1955 Chevy and a stock 1970 Pontiac GTO; we learn far more about them than we do any of the human characters. Along the way the Girl plays musical fellas and the fellas play musical cars. There's a whole hell of a lot of racing and a whole hell of a lot of going nowhere.

This film defies conventional criticism. The cinematography is gritty, stark, and beautiful. Warren Oates is brilliant. James Taylor flubs a few of his lines; somehow this lends his character depth. Dennis Wilson's performance, while lacking polish, is fascinating and compulsively watchable. Laurie Bird's character is easy on the eyes but hard on the psyche; her departure comes as a relief, even if it is in the penultimate scene. And when the film ends, it literally ends.

Two-Lane Blacktop seems awfully meaningful, but its meaning eludes me. I watch it again and again, each time hoping that this time it will reveal its secrets, but it leaves me mystified and frustrated every single time. Oh, how I love this movie.

10 out of 10 stars

A Million Little Pieces Reconsidered

James Frey's A Million Little Pieces is one of my favorite books. I am a recovering alcoholic/addict, and as I was reading it I was skeptical of the veracity of certain sections, but I understood instinctively what Frey was trying to do: communicate truths that transcend literal truth. And he was wildly successful: the book perfectly captures the psychological and spiritual landscape of substance abuse.

So I was quite taken aback by Oprah's hissy fit when it turned out that, as I suspected, the book was not entirely factual. Oprah isn't terribly bright (as is evidenced by her dangerous support of Jenny McCarthy's anti-vaccine campaign), and to see her impugn this wonderful book based on her complete misunderstanding of it frustrated and angered me. Even worse, the media, and the book's publisher, hopped on the bandwagon, and soon a man I deeply admired was persona non grata, and for no good reason.

Such is the power that Oprah wields, unfortunately, and I am at a loss to understand why. But A Million Little Pieces continues to live in my memory, and continues to guide me through the minefield of sobriety. Thank you, Mr. Frey.