Archive for June, 2013

Bobby Bland

June 29, 2013

Some smooth soul for those smooth seduction moments:

Dear Bobby (The Note)

Great sixties montage added.

History, Biography and Cinema.

June 29, 2013
Boss Kean - Cool Hand Luke

Boss Kean – What we got here … is a failure to communicate

Movie dialogue has a way of worming its way into our subconscious and speech. I personally opt for Stuart Rosenberg’s brilliant Cool Hand Luke 1967, which was mix of Christ-like allegory and general anti-establishmentarism. (Now there is a descriptor which has lost its currency. Many late 60s and early 70s films enjoyed sticking to The Man.) Totally brilliant script, awesome cast and rural prison farm sets which equal those captured in brilliant widelux black and white by Bruce Jackson of the Arkansas Prison Farm in 1975. If you appreciate photography, hit up Jackson’s 17 photos in the NYT and put them on full screen.
While we are into the chain gang theme, presently watching I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang directed by Mervyn Le Roy in 1932, and by god, is it realistic.

Shiela Terry: Pre-Hayes Office really hot babe from flic.

Shiela Terry: Pre-Hayes Office really hot babe from flic.

chain gangwhipping

Anyway, as most folk with half a film education would recognize dialogue from Cool Hand Luke, I will spare you.

Now, the apt dialogue for this post:

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” And you know who it was, okay.

Now, I thought I was finished with the Blue Sky Series, but since my library was kind enough to obtain some good reads by Ian Buruma, let’s really exhaust the Japanese theme.
The China Lover Ian Buruma 2008 Atlantic Books: London

Total lack of editorial control here: To be finished.

I Say Yeah: Rock Rap Confidential

June 24, 2013

Every month I receive a free newsletter by to-be-taken-seriously music critic Dave Marsh. Usually I skim them if they deal with roots-type musicians, others I simply ignore because the genre doesn’t interest me.

This month a piece which is very close to my heart, so I will cut and paste it in its entirety, and also suggest that you subscribe (free) if you want to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of post 1950s music (such as I do).

RRC Extra No. 39: Bobby Bland

Please feel free to forward or post this RRC Extra widely. We only ask that you include the information that anyone can subscribe free of charge to Rock & Rap Confidential by sending their email address to rockrap@aol.com. If you ever wish to unsubscribe, just send an email with “unsubscribe” in the subject line to rockrap@aol.com.

CRY, CRY, CRY…. Dave Marsh writes: Bobby Bland was, in his prime, the most powerful blues shouter of all time, though capable as well of a caressing tenderness. “Turn On Your Lovelight” is what the rock world knows, I guess, but the man’s legacy is also in “Ain’t Nothing You Can Do,” “Farther Up the Road,” “I’ll Take Care of You,” “I Pity the Fool,” “Cry Cry Cry,” “If You Could Read My Mind,” to my ear the finest “St. James Infirmary” of them all, the entire Two Steps from the Blues album (the best Southern soul album, even including Otis’s; it has the impeccable and beautiful and scary “Lead Me On,” for many the greatest performance of his career. The list goes all the way up to his Malaco sides, particularly “Ain’t No Love In the Heart of the City.” It is not true that Bobby Bland never made a bad record; it is true that his ratio of great to mediocre is as high as any other singer you can name, in any genre you care to cull.

To call him Bobby “Blue” Bland always seemed redundant to me—as if he could be heard for so much as eight bars and you wouldn’t know that this was his core, his essence and, one way or another, a heap of your own. But you can make too much of this essentialism–finally, you know Bobby Bland’s name and music less well because he was like his audience. He was a key voice of the black Southern working class from the ’50s onward. His role was to play the shouter from the anonymous ranks, the totally heart broken man among an all-but-totally heart broken folk. (And of course, once in a while, shouting with all the more exuberance because of that every day heartbreak.)

He was completely non-intellectual about the whole enterprise, as far as I can tell. He told Peter Guralnick that his ambition was to be able to sing each song the exact same way, every time he sang it. A strange kind of perfectionism. But his command of tone and phrasing was so great that for me he held the place that Frank Sinatra held for a lot of other people. “Lead Me On” in particular has never not brought me to tears. Not once, though I sometimes listened to it many, many, many times in a row–when I was by myself, the way that particular act of allegiance is best performed. And you know what? He sings it the same way every time.

Perfection is something he knew a lot about. And I, especially the I who found him on the radio and held him very close to the center of my being for the better part of half a century, will never be able to thank him enough. Or often enough. Or even express what I’m thanking him for altogether adequately.

I will tell you the real truth: He was, for me, probably the greatest blues singer of any kind, and the reason I can say this now instead of at the beginning is quite simple: I started listening to Two Steps from the Blues.

“No matter what you do, I’m gonna keep on loving you and I’m not ashamed, oh no, I’m not ashamed.”

Please forward this RRC Extra to five friends. To subscribe to Rock & Rap Confidential, just email rockrap@aol.com. Subscriptions are free.

For the uninnitiated, an obituary HERE and another HERE.

And a holiday to the Caribbean with a comely companion of your choice, if you can give me the Deadric Malone reference. No googling, please. Scouts honour.

I would like to add to Marsh’s selections by recommending Reflections in Blue.
Brilliant songs, silky vocals and brass riffs to absolutely die for.
Produced by Steve Barri (who cut his teeth recording early surf music) who understood Southern Soul to its very core.
Nothing from my recommendation on youtube, so here are two old chestnuts.

This Week in Sport.

June 21, 2013

Beginning on a positive note, the China Dream Team, coached by Xi Jinping, had a belated win in the Babes in Space Series.

“The Shenzhou 10 astronauts (or “taikonauts”) beamed down China’s first live space science lesson video to 330 elementary and middle-school children in Beijing from their position onboard the nation’s Tiangong 1 space module. More than 60 million students and teachers also watched the televised broadcast from around China, according to the state-run news agency Xinhua.

Nie Haisheng and Wang Yaping — the second Chinese woman to fly to space — demonstrated the high points of weightlessness during the lecture while Zhang Xiaoguang photographed the lesson, which was broadcast live on China’s state-run CCTV news channel”. Thnx to http://www.space.com
In a carefully choreographed number of set plays, Ms Wang struck martial arts poses, fooled around with scientific thingies, and generally smiled her way into the Sino pantheon of positive role models alongside Lei Feng, Gu Kalai and Li Peng.

While Mrs Wang, a married major in the Chinese air force and a rather plain looking doxy, scored big on the Dream Team’s propaganda leaderboard, cynics would be more interested in how the 330 school children were selected for this edutainment. You can bet the farm that Beijing’s power mums went into guanzi and red envelope overdrive when the selection process was announced.

Meanwhile, back in the real world of work, searching for work and weekend relaxation, China’s national football team is now on par with the Japanese Army during its period on the Mainland in the popularity department. Successive losses to Holland, Uzbekistan (where the fuck is that) and the Under 21 loss to a second string team fielded by minnow Thailand played at home, casts doubt on the whole football enterprise in Sino-land. Shanghaiist provides a pretty good account of this new low, and Why China hates its football team by Adam Minter must be the most syndicated article in months.

The Hefei defeat took place on Xi’s 60th birthday – Happy Birthday, Pal – but he has been displaying all the signs of some sort of serious mental affliction prior to this embarrassing drubbing. China Sports Review reported in July 2011 that:

“After the meeting, Sohn Hak-kyu gave a football autographed by Park Ji-Sung to Vice President Xi as a present. As a football fan, Xi expressed that China’s World Cup qualification, hosting of the World Cup and winning the World Cup are his three wishes”.

Now Xi is now suggesting some sort of football alliance with premier narco-traffickers Mexico during his recent visit South of the Border:

“I’m a football fan myself. The Chinese football players have worked very hard, but so far, our national team has qualified for the World Cup only once. It was Mr. Bora Milutinovic who led the Chinese football team to the World Cup and who also happened to be the head coach of Mexico’s national football team. We hope our two countries will win even more gold medals in cooperation,….”

Rather than mention his Chinese Dream in this speech, he envisaged a “global vision” and a “comprehensive strategic (Football) partnership” with Mexico.

Make of this nonsense what you will, but I think he is clearly deranged or has ingested some of the more dangerous substances which go into traditional Chinese medicine.

While the Chinese national men’s football team now ranks above Pitcairn and the Falkland Islands – no mean feat – readers would be wrong in blaming the monumental corruption which permeates the Beautiful Game from top to bottom, or the coach Jose Antonio Camarcho, who I note has a tightly written contract which the Chinese Football Association cannot simply cannot weasel out of without really pissing off FIFA. Among other things, salary and who on the China-side is responsible for covering his tax bill, Camacho’s contract wisely contained no mention of performance indicators. Wise fellow and welcome to world of real grifters like Mourinho.

No, to understand the root causes behind this lack of Sino football fighting spirit, we have to go back to a report in the Yangtze Evening Post (since deleted) when a coach from Tianjin Locomotive identified the key to football selection success:

“Genital examination is necessary. Looking at a boy’s penis size and shape can give you an idea of his hormone level. Boys with short, thick genitals and tight scrotum are good for football playing.”

Given its lack of success on the football pitch, we could draw some conclusions about the norm in China, but I’m not so sure, since we are entering the complex world of evolutionary biology and human sexuality.

Readers will recall the recent Report in the National Academy of Science on male member size and its capacity to attract women. I should add that the data used in this study was based on a large selection of Italian males, all of whom were no doubt relatives of Alessandro.

He has loved many women, very much. Thnx to  Heart of Beijing

He has loved many women, very much. Thnx to Heart of Beijing

The findings of this study really exercised the readers of Science Now – 280 comments in all – and many expressed scepticism, noting a range of other female considerations not factored into the investigation. The most interesting came from Ana Mercedes, independent escort based in Zurich, who argued:

“What about a pretty face, a nice refreshing smile, and even more important for male attractiveness, a beautiful and charming personality?”

You can meet Ana here and bring your cheque book. Harmless site, okay.

So if you are a member of the Chinese men’s football team and are experiencing member anxiety, but have a pleasant personality and a shit eating grin, Ana could be worth a visit when you next get an away game in Europe.

Your performance on the pitch might improve and you will help Xi fulfil his China Dream.

Tokyo Underworld by Robert Whiting

June 15, 2013

Tokyo Underworld Robert Whiting 1999 reprinted 2012 Constable:London

Last entry in the Blue Sky series and it promises to be fun to write. Also the perfect read with the perfect racy cover for when you take your next flight. Have fond memories of good reads while scarfing down in-flight hospitality: Ivan’s War: Catherine Merridale, Anne Applebaun: Gulag: A History, Tim Weimer: Legacy of Ashes: A History of the CIA, etc.

Well researched social history provides the colour and detail which fits somewhere between serious biography and big picture histories of institutions and government policy. It has the ability to fill-in the colour palette during a slice in time, and the capacity to describe a cultural formation during periods of stasis and/or rapid social change.

Amazon provides a host of reviews/overviews, some of which are hilarious, HERE and you can catch Chapter One HERE.

Have lesser review ambitions here, since I’m focussing on this guy and showing how he triggered Japans industrial ascendency in the world of electronics, namely in the shape of the television set.

Rikidozan demonstrating his spectacular karate chop.

Rikidozan demonstrating his spectacular karate chop.


The Destroyer grovels for mercy.

The Destroyer grovels for mercy.

“The Destroyer first gained popularity in Japan when he went there in 1963 as WWA (Worldwide Alliance) Champion and wrestled Rikidozan, the father of pro-wrestling in Japan. To this day, it was the highest TV rating in commercial television in Japan with 70 million people watching the match”. http://www.thedestroyer.com/photos.htm

To capture the real significance of wrestling as a morality play – theatre which enabled the Japanese to cast aside their self-loathing and humiliation post-1945 – we have to go back to 1954 when Rikidozan and his tag partner Kimura meet the truly large, grappling Sharpe Brothers before a crowd of 20,000 in a stadium near Shimbashi Station. Tokyo came to a virtual halt as other crowds gathered in front of small black and white tvs mounted on trucks.

Rikidozan involved in some close quarter armpit sniffing with the beef fed Sharpe brothers.

Rikidozan involved in some close quarter armpit sniffing with the beef fed Sharpe brothers.

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Ten to fourteen million Japanese watched that match and Rikidozan karate chop the White Devils into submission. Pandemonium ruled as they banzai’d themselves hoarse. Five heart attacks and numerous folk fell out of trees trying to view the action. Twenty four million watched the rematch. Pride was restored to the nation. The Victors, despite all their fouls and filthy tactics, were vanquished by Japanese fighting spirit in a spectacular (and scripted) piece of sweaty theatre.

Folk rushed to buy TVs to watch the Mitsubishi Fightman Hour. Sales rose from 17,000 in 1954 to 4,500,000 in 1959 and it was television wrestling which provided the trigger, and it goes without saying that Rikidozan became a national hero of beyond epic proportions, in addition to becoming fabulously wealthy. And for trivia buffs, Harold Sakata of James Bond’s Oddjob fame came out of this circuit.

But here is the kicker. Riki was actually born in what was to become North Korea DPROK, and for obvious reasons that was a major league state secret which was supported by fake biographies and other memorablia. His Korean love child was an active member of the North Korean Communist Party, and his brother still resided in NK commie land. He was also closely connected to Hisayuki Nachii the Korean gang boss of the Korean Tosei-kai, who kicked ass, took names and replaced the traditional Japanese yakuza as overlords of Tokyo Vice after 1945, commonly referred to as the “water trade”.

Nachii: always carried four guns and not noted for his mental stability.

Nachii: always carried four guns and wasn’t noted for his mental stability.

In addition to a booze and pill addiction, Riki was a commie sympathiser who offered to cover all costs of bringing the North Korean Olympic Team to the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. And if that was insufficient, he had involvements in secret US-ROK negotiations. Riki died after being knifed in the restroom of the new Latin Quarter Nite Club in 1963.

Now, its a natural fact that no post is complete unless it contains a value-add, usually carried out at the expense of some other site, so here goes.

Christopher Green, contributor to Sino-NK, recently uploaded – Up Close and Personal: Dennis Rodman Hits Pyongyang – where he discusses the Kim’s attachment to US trash culture, and this naturally included reference to The Collision in Korea, a 1995 wrestling event in NK involving young Rick Flair HERE.

Rick Flair: exemplar of sartorial elegance Rick Flair: an exemplar of sartorial elegance[/caption]

Since my attempt to post a polite back story on Rickidozan in the DPROK still remains in Sino-NK’s spam filter, I shall publicly upbraid Mr Green here. The 1995 Collision in Korea had serious precedents. Robert Whiting’s meticulous research points to the fact that Kim Il Sung, the first in the family franchise, was a massive fan of Rikidozan, and had a collection of all of Ricki’s matches. Since I’ve plagiarised liberally from his Tokyo Underworld, lets conclude with a quote:

Kim “….absolutely loved seeing a native North Korean beating the blue-eyed, white-skinned capitalist warmongers senseless”.

So there, Mr Green.

Blue Sky Markets: Part Six

June 9, 2013

If there is ever a bower-bird of Japanese cinema, it has to be Quentin Tarantino. The Kill Bill franchise contains a dozen references, and probably a ton more which are easily missed, not having the benefit of his vast film library. He pillaged Yasuharu Hasebe’s Lady Snowblood which is sort of okay – or at least made okay by the appearance of the catholic nun assassin team and some strategically naked swordplay scenes. Hasebe also turned out gems like Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter with teenage girl knife fights. Other pearls include Female Prisoner Scorpion #701: Grudge Song.

Female badass Meiko Kaji

Female badass Meiko Kaji

I’m certainly glad I wasn’t introduced to Pinky Violence flics when I was a young impressionable who regularly went to the drive-in. Gauzy soft porn, much envisceration with knives, swords and other sharp objects. They would have been responsible for destroying a whole generation of school boys.

Hasebe also made the pretty slick yakuza flic Bloody Territories in 1969. You can read a flawed synopsis HERE. Flawed, simply because the movie reflects the yakuza’s image of themselves:

Yakuza have always prided themselves upon the code of bushido, or way of the samurai. Violent death was traditionally seen as a poetic, tragic, and honorable fate, and the concepts of giri and ninjo are central to the relationships among members. Giri, or obligation, refers to the strong sense of duty that is felt between members, and in a sense is the “social cloth” that binds much of Japan together. Ninjo is roughly translatable to emotion, or human compassion, and denotes “generosity or sympathy to toward the weak and disadvantaged, and sympathy towards others (Kaplan and Dubro 28).” This tie to chivalry and patriotism gave the Yakuza a sort of Robin Hood type of romantic image when viewed in the public eye.
Reference HERE and some additional reading provided by Jake Adelstein, who has recently monetised his life of crime reporting in Japan into a Hollywood production. (Don’t expect much though.)

Brothers with full body tats. Men of honour in a tightly organised, rule-governed hierarchical order.

Yakuza inner-gang life was/is Hobbesian to put it mildly. Greed, betrayal, extreme violence, side deals at odds with the corporate charter, bosses who don’t think twice about sacrificing underlings, all in all behaviour which displays a distinct lack of brotherhood. If Bloody Territories reflects the conventional yakuza myths, Kinji Fukasaku’s Battles without Honour or Humanity is the ultimate revisionist take on the modern yakuza reality which rose out of the ruins of WW11.

Just dig this for an opening musical sequence.

Highly complicated plot which begins in a black market with a GI intent on rape, a murder and other general mayhem. Ominous RKO voice overs hold the narrative sequences together. Lurid burlesque jazz soundtrack. Reviews HERE and HERE.

battles without honor or humanity
Oh yes, the final scene – Shinto mob funeral – where protagonist Hironi rejects the code with some well placed bullets.

This is the big daddy of all yakuza movies. No competition.

Blue Sky Markets: Five

June 8, 2013

Whether Seijun Suzuki took LSD or not, he certainly had a monopoly on cinematic hallucinatory effects judging by Pistol Opera (2001), a remake of his earlier Branded To Kill. Wild explosions of colour rippling in perfect symmetry across the screen. Compositions which would have made Antonioni (think Zabriskie Point) green with envy. Also a massive dose of 60’s pop culture sartorial elegance if you’ve seen Tokyo Drifter. And I highly recommend the tribute site 45.Caliber Samurai, even if your interests don’t go beyond lurid film posters.

Tokyo Drifter

Tokyo Drifter

Pistol Opera

Pistol Opera


Wicki does a good job overviewing his life and films, and here’s the bit I like. Seijun Suzuki was born in 1923 and so got to serve in the Imperial forces during WW11. After surviving two shipwrecks, he wrote of his military career:

While I stayed in the army out of fear of being executed as a deserter as soon as I threw down my rifle and ran, it wasn’t long before I was promoted to trainee officer with a salary of twelve-and-a-half yen, comparable at the time to that of a departmental manager in business life. I went to the Philippines, where the war took a wrong turn for us. Then I was transferred to Taiwan, where I was stationed at an isolated airport at the foot of a mountain, with twelve others. Our wages were divided into thirteen equal parts; as in a perfect communist system. To avoid the outbreak of a revolt because of sexual deprivation, we didn’t just get food, clothing and shelter, but the army staff had also considered it strategically necessary to supply us with three army prostitutes. This isn’t a very edifying story, but I can’t help it: I spent most of my money on booze and women, and when I arrived at Tanabe harbor the year after liberation, I was completely destitute.

It was little wonder that he adopted a fuck you view of work in the rigidly controlled Japanese studio system of the-then five major companies. Lets not get too exercised by tight plot lines: narratives best unfold around over-the-top imagery, lots of violence and the occasional sexual peccadillo never hurts. And if you worry about your paraphilia’s, watch Youth of the Beast for the golf club scene (if I recall correctly), and you’ll feel ….um….normal. Tremendous set of stills from the film HERE.

In 1964 Suzuki returned to the extremely mean streets of bombed out buildings and black markets in post 1945 Tokyo with Gates of Flesh, a tale of a foulmouthed sisterhood of working girls (a futen and not futon, okay) “…maintaining tenuous friendships and a semblance of order in a world of chaos, …. when a renegade ex-soldier/black marketeer stumbles into their midst, lusts and loyalties clash, with tragic results. With Gate of Flesh, he ….. delivers a whirlwind of social critique and pulp drama, shot through with brilliant colors and raw emotions”.

An erudite essay HERE, and a youtube clip from the film – retribution for the new girl who broke the cardinal rule of the working sisterhood – no free sex.

Another really good overview of Suzuki’s life and the film HERE.

Finally, John Woo is undertaking a remake of Youth of the Beast. I don’t think I will be searching it out – probably all gloss and digital effects – having just been totally disappointed by Takeshi Kitano’s latest offering Outrage which as this review indicates is a pile of pointless crap. Need an introduction to Office Kitano, try Boiling Point instead.

If you can deal with youtube’s lo-fi colour values, here’s the original Youth of the Beast in its entirety

Just can’t seem to finish this series: McHale’s take on this blogging albatross series.

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