Posts Tagged 'calarts'

Kumamoto — Gerogerigegege and the Island Beauty

Hey gang. Yes, I’ve been an errant blogger as of late and to my legions of loyal readers, I bid you a heartfelt apology. Today was clear and not the blazing inferno it has been for much of the week. On Wednesday or so, the temperature here in Kumamoto was the same as Santa Clarita, that high desert suburban armpit where I call home, only Santa Clarita doesn’t have 85% humidity. Just walking from the tram to my office at 9:30 in the morning caused me to sweat through my shirt. Quite unseemly.

Today while eating dinner with R in front of the TV, I saw a show that featured an old man making out with a Boston terrier; a contest that pitted a group of comedians against a sumo wrestler (they lost); a guy who put crabs in his mouth to see what would happen (answer: excruciating pain); a wrestling match between bikini idols; and an Andy Kaufman-like Japanese comedian who was arrested for streaking in Pyongyang. The other day I saw a trivia show that included such morsels of information as very single member of the 1998 Yugoslavian soccer team had a name that ended in “-vic,” that spiders get drunk on coffee, and that if one where to buy every single item in a train station kiosk shop the total price is ¥940,000 (about $75,000). They arrived at that figure by actually going out to a kiosk in Ebisu station and buying every damned thing. The expression of the woman behind the counter was priceless. Sure, Japanese TV is mostly crap, but at least it’s memorable crap.

Anyway, today R and I spent most of the day hanging out with Chakko — R’s cousin. In a family that includes a Communist and a rock star, Chakko stands out as an eccentric. She is one of the few people I’ve met who seems utterly impervious to social expectations. She doesn’t give a wit to fashion, she speaks unselfconsciously in a thick Kyushu accent even though she lives currently in Kyoto and she refers to herself using ore, the coarse masculine word for “I.” She dropped out of art school a while back (she’s a very talented draftsman) and is now taking a stab at filmmaking. Yesterday, she showed us one of her videos, which was a portrait of her friend who makes pictures with his own bodily excretions. It was pretty harrowing to watch, but had a certain style to it. She’d fit right into CalArts. She also told me about a Gerogerigegege concert she witnessed a few years back. I became aware of Gerogerigegege when my friend Ted lent me an album called Tokyo Anal Dynamite — which is either the most God-awful album or the most brilliant album I’ve ever heard. I haven’t figured out which. Anyway, for the concert Gerogerigegege, who is apparently very fat, stood stark naked on stage shouting “Ecstasy” over and over again for a full hour. R, Chakko and I lamented that there this sort of weirdo decadence was hard to find in the states.

On Friday, a huge typhoon blasted through. Friday was also my final day working at BIG, which is ironic because my first day at BIG also had a huge typhoon rolling through town. It was a teary-eyed departure filled with promises to stay in touch and to work with each other again. Actually, Horita liked my work so much that I am the official head of the BIG Los Angeles office. I doubt this is going to lead to much actual work, but who knows. The night before there was a big blow-out party on my behalf at a recently opened hip nightspot build in a refurnished traditional house. Hereâs a picture of the gathering below:

The lanky white guy in middle is me. Going clock-wise, the guy in the greenish shirt is Fukushima-san. He’s a producer and was out for most of the day, so I really didn’t know him all that well. The guy with the glasses giving the requisite peace sign to the camera is Miyazaki-san. He’s the guy who I dragged all over hither and yon for my shoot and who likes to eat grilled tripe. Next is Oshima-san who was my producer for my Yamaga shoot, and finally there’s Horita-san’s wife Naomi who is in some convoluted way related to R’s dad.

Anyway, several pitchers of beer and several plates of sushi later they presented be with a going-away gift — the entire set of manga called Monster by a manga artist that Miyazaki and I both like. Then Horita-san ordered a local shochu made from potatoes called Island Beauty.

“You might not like it,” he warned, “it kinda stinks.” Indeed, it did have a strong though not unpleasant odor and did taste a bit like natto. That was the first cup, of course. By the fourth or fifth cup, I wouldn’t have cared if it tasted like Tom DeLay‘s jockey shorts.

Here’s a shot of Horita after two or three glasses of the stuff. Around this time, he said (translating roughly), “Y’know Jon, you have a really serious face and when I first met you I thought you were this real straight arrow guy who likes to study a lot. But somewhere along the lines, I realized that you’re a really weird American.” He then said that my Japanese was really cute and sometimes really funny. I found this a little disconcerting because most of the time I wasn’t really trying to be funny. As the night progressed, Oshima and Miyazaki made fun of the size of Horita’s head. Miyazaki and I complained about George Bush and the idiots in government on both sides of the Pacific.

And of course, lots and lots of silly and rather embarrassing pictures were taken with the company digital camera. Friday morning, most members of the BIG crew were staggering around in a post-Island Beauty haze.


Well, I’ve graduated. I’m done except for my thesis film which remains an albatross slung around my neck. I’ll think of more overwrought metaphors later…

Anyway, Ted came down and videotaped much of the ceremony, which was held in a large courtyard. There were African dancers, massive puppets, some weirdo painted in red, and a least one guy strutting around in speedos and a Mexican wrestling mask. We were told to wait in a nearby hallway where we made teary-eyed promises to keep in touch and we drank cheap beer. This was taken as me and my cohorts were being lead to our seats.

The speakers spoke. I and most of my friends paid more attention to each other and to the hipflasks of cheap whiskey being passed back and forth. It was a very relaxed affair. I got up, walked around a bit. Talked to some of my non-graduating CalArtians. Talked to my mentor who informed me that she suddenly thought that my thesis should be cut by half. If I hadn’t indulged in some of that cheap whiskey, I would have been furious. Not only does that suggestion indicate that she didn’t understand the intent of the piece (and as such has been less than truthful with me for a better part of a year) but her timing shows a real lack of tact. But fortunately, I was three-sheets to the wind at the time.

Later on stage, a fight broke out between Spiderman and a cowboy with another Mexican wrestling mask. Spiderman quickly vanished his opponent and the head of the department shoved them both off stage. By the time I got on stage, sporting my friend Jeff’s secret service shades. The Dean made it clear that there was no time for me dedicate my degree to Dick Cheney and the corporate thugs at Halliburton.

I was given a daisy and a class photo in a binder that looks like it should have a degree. (I’m assuming my degree will be mailed to me.) As I got off stage, someone sprayed that disgusting chemical party string stuff at my forehead.


I’m strung out on the latest digital addiction called Friendster. You can see who your friends’ friends are and your friends’ friends’ friends and etc and etc. If I were to get really hot and heavy into it, I’d suppose that I’d start making friends with some of my friends’ friends’ friends, but at this point my natural reserve — as such — is holding sway.

In other news, yesterday after the Cal Arts Showcase screening, Betzy Bromberg, the head of the Film and Video department came up to me and said, “Jon, I hear you had a really great party last friday.” Yes, you know it was a bitchin’ time when the faculty are taking about it. Afterwards, we all went to the Prince in Koreatown and regaled my cohorts (whether they wanted to be regaled or not) about my ill-fated drinking contest with a group of Russians back in ’98.

The Wild Beautiful People Premiere Party

After some ugly words from this blog’s more passionate readers, I’ve decided to actually update this thing and I’ll pledge to update this more regularly in the future. Well, in my world Beautiful People, my thesis film that I’ve been slaving away at for an entire year (literally, I started shooting the thing a year from this Friday) is finished. And not unlike sending a child off to college or putting a beloved pet to sleep, I feel a bit empty about the whole thing. Of course, I’ve been making up for that by binge drinking pretty much every day since last Wednesday. I’m graduating, and my art school cohorts are too. The economy sucks, we are all up to our ears in debt, what are you going to do but drink.

My premiere last weekend went great. Everyone seemed to dig the film. But then again, I think that most of the people in the audience was drunk. I was. I got so nervous as the lights went now that it took me three beers just to keep from running out of the theater. That night we went to the Rendevouz, the local dive bar in town. More drinking ensued as did a remarkable amount of kissing. I probably shouldn’t go into details (to protect the guilty) but a week later and that party is still the talk of Cal Arts.

Beautiful People Screening

Hello all. I had my thesis review today and all went swimmingly. I’m currently mixing my thesis film, the poster of which is below, designed by the divine Ms. Jussi Gamache. Outside from doing the sound mix, I’m putting the finishing touches on it.

For all you in the LA area, I’ll be having a screening of said film on Friday May 2, 2003 at the Bijou Theater in Cal Arts. Contact me if you have any direction type questions or questions of a more metaphysical nature.

Movie Reviews In Brief

I’m been remiss in my blogging activities of late, and for this to my handful of faithful readers, I apologize. I’m currently working on three films as I desperately try to ignore the fact that I’m being forced from the bosom of Cal Arts into the shark-infested waters of the recession job market. Or something like that.

Yesterday, I saw Lilya 4 Ever, the new movie by Lukas Moodysson. What is it about the Scandinavians that love to fuse grim social realism with the sort of religious hokum that would make Tammy Faye Bakker blush. Like the end of Breaking the Waves, this film’s ending is sappy featuring the protagonist and her only friend playing joyfully with fake-looking angel wings. This rankled me particularly because most of the film is a terrific (if brutal) critique of global post-cold war Capitalism that never feels didactic and never loses sight of its characters. The film’s swerve into Magical Realism at the end was little more than a cop out.

On a completely different note, I also saw Bulletproof Monk which — though poorly edited — was enjoyably stupid fun. Chow Yun Fat, who I think should be the next James Bond, was charismatic as ever in spite of some really insipid dialogue. The really funny thing about the film was that in spite references to America in the script and a couple stray USA TODAY vending machines, the movie was obviously shot in Toronto. Not since Rumble in the Bronx have I seen such geographic incongruity in a film.

June 2023

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