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The Thrillville Beat

By Will ("The Thrill") Viharo Waa! - Waa!



For those who’ve read this column for only a short while, you may be under the impression that I hate just about everything. Well, everything that isn’t “old.” This isn’t true. Well, not entirely. I don’t understand approximately 95% of what passes as popular these days. Imagine how that makes me feel?! Like I’m from another planet. I start fondling my own invisible antennae every time I hear, see or read about the massive acceptance and/or adoration shown for any reality TV show, American Idol, Friends, Frasier, Governor Shwarzennegger, , President Bush right wing talk shows, Imperialistic Pre-emptive Wars in the name of Fighting Terrorism, Hip-Hop (the sound and the fashions), whiney Rock music, “new Country,”contemporary “R&B,” Britney Spears, family-friendly Las Vegas, SUVs, Adam Sandler, Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, Titanic, video games, Rat Pack movie remakes, 80s nostalgia, media worship of British royalty, and the amazingly bland soundtracks of all recent Disney movies.

It’s not just that I don’t understand these very popular aspects of current pop culture. It’s that they are so alien to my sensibilities that to confront the reality that they exist so pervasively in our society is to come to terms with the fact that I am a stranger in my own dimension of time and space. Some of these things I outright despise, especially the political ones which adversely and directly affect my quality of life, but most of these are merely severe oddities that arouse intense apathy on my part. I do a pretty good job of blocking them out by concocting this little cocoon around myself, immersed in a culture of my own creation (Thrillville). But I also don’t want to bury my head in the ground and ignore the real world around me. I watch the news and read the newspaper every day, though I also do a lot of web searching for alternative news sources. One thing I find endlessly puzzling and frustrating is this: the open secret that the US Government supported, nurtured and virtually created Saddam Hussein’s evil reign is a fact reduced to the Op-Ed pages; whereas the fact we decided to take him out once he stopped cooperating with our insidious Middle East agenda makes worldwide front page news and sends W’s approval ratings soaring. This is simply beyond my comprehension.

Considering how many people think Bush is a good president and Julia Roberts is a glamorous movie star, it must be me that “doesn’t get it.” But to be fair, I do “get” many things I’m not particularly fond of – the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson, Nirvana, Brad Pitt, Beavis and Butthead, the TV show M*A*S*H, all the Star Wars movies, the Lord of the Rings movies, Star Trek post-Shatner, James Bond post-Connery, and even Ronald Reagan are some examples of things with large followings of devotees to which I do not belong,, yet I can grasp the attributes others see and worship in them. I can even understand why some people look to Religion for spiritual solace. That yearning for Truth above and beyond the mundane seems very human, no matter what anyone chooses to fill that internal void. But the short list above represents things I Just Do Not Get, from any perspective. I guess I’m just getting old. Forgive my ignorance, if you will.

But to provide a balanced perspective of my apparently warped character, I offer a few modern cultural lynchpins that I am very passionate about: The Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Real Time with Bill Maher and Sex and the City on HBO are all amongst the best and most socially significant TV programs every broadcast, right up there with established, timeless classics like The Honeymooners, Batman, 77 Sunset Strip, The Untouchables, Wild Wild West, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Miami Vice, Twin Peaks, The X Files, and Seinfeld. (Yes, I said Miami Vice, opening myself up to all kinds of ridicule from supporters and detractors alike, but I don’t care, I dig what I dig, no matter what decade it’s from. Ditto goes for my unabashed love of Mister Ed, certainly the silliest but also, in my world, one of the funniest sitcoms ever produced, and stupid sci-fi like Lost In Space or Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, which I prefer to more serious fare like Star Trek. Its’ all subjective, after all, but hey, whose column are you reading?) In literature we have some of the finest American writers of all time publishing today, including James Lee Burke, Walter Mosley, Carl Hiassen, James Ellroy, Barry Gifford, and Paul Auster, to name a few, whose work sit proudly on my shelf along with the timeworn classics by Raymond Chandler, Damon Runyon, Jim Thompson, Charles Willeford, Charles Bukowski and J.D. Salinger. (Granted, when I stopped writing fiction I also stopped reading it, but these cats still have enormous influence on me, and I continue to feel inspired by their art in my daily life.) We’re just saw Jerry Seinfeld at the Paramount in Oakland, and he’s just one of many great modern comics whose witty wisdom will live beyond our era, along with Chris Rock, Margaret Cho, Bernie Mac, and old timer George Carlin. There is also a lot of cool stuff going on in the world of comic books, and independent cinema. As I said, last year was a pretty good year for films in general (I’ll add Elf to my list of 2003 favorites, and Big Fish will probably bump my Top 10 up to 14. The film to beat for 2004 already is BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR, a 2003 sequel - the second, after 1990’s BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR - that saw some scattered theatrical/festival bookings abroad last year, but was just released here on DVD. It isn’t as great as the first one, but damn close.) Sure, my relative dislike of big time modern directors like Speilberg, Soderbergh and their ilk is well documented, but I always rush out and catch the latest from David Lynch, Jim Jarmusch, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and Tim Burton, who are among the ranks of my all-time favorite filmmakers, such as Douglas Sirk, Billy Wilder, Roger Corman, Russ Meyer, Jess Franco, Sam Peckinpah, Seijun Suzuki, and Sergio Leone. Modern music is the one area I have real trouble finding satisfaction in, but then I haven’t really looked too hard. I’m too busy blocking out all the abrasive din around me and listening to the Doo-Wop box set I just got for Christmas from the Tiki Goddess. But locally at least, there are many shimmering sounds to celebrate: Project: Pimento, APE, Pollo del Mar, Bud E. Luv, Mr. Lucky, the Saturn V, the Martini Brothers and the Phenomenauts are all great, great bands, among many others, and out of places like Chicago you have wonderful groups like The Moon-Rays (creators of the Thrillville theme song.) So yea, even on this barren front, there is reason to rejoice, even for retro rejects like me.

And still, I generally spend most of my column bitching. Case in point:


It’s official now: BUSH LIED ABOUT THE WAR. It’s not even an “open secret” anymore. No longer do we only hear cries of dissent from crazy-looking protesters wearing tie-dye T-shirts. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the U.S. Army’s own War College, and Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill have all confirmed, with detailed evidence, what we who opposed the war from the beginning already realized: Bush wanted Saddam out of power no matter what, and 9/11 just provided him a reasonable excuse. (Whether he knew about the attacks in advance is debatable, and might be a slightly hysterical accusation – in any case, he still exploited a terrible tragedy in order to fulfill his own cynical, self-serving agenda. This is an indisputable fact of history, folks) Sure, all politicians have hidden agendas, and they all lie to the people in order to enforce their subjective policies. But dig it: Bill Clinton got impeached for lying about a BLOWJOB. No matter what you think of the war itself, the fact is recorded for history to judge: BUSH LIED ABOUT THE REASONS FOR OUR PRE-EMPTIVE WAR ON IRAQ. So all those morally superior stone-throwers who successfully punished Clinton for his relatively benign transgression have already been shown up as the hypocrites they are. They like to point out is wasn’t just the blowjobs that got Bill in the trouble, it was the lying about it to the American people. Sure, blowobs don’t adversely affect American domestic or foreign policy directly (unlike, say, WARS) – it was just a matter of principal. We as a nation desire and demand honesty and forthrightness from our leaders. Okay, fair enough. But let me point out a more recent obvious truth one more time: BUSH LIED, AND INNOCENT PEOPLE DIED. And does the majority of the American public really give a damn? Where’s the indignant outrage that greeted Bill’s “overblown” offenses? Are we that jaded, cynical, stupid or just plain lazy? The upcoming elections will tell…

Wesley Clark recently told The Washington Post that if he doesn’t win the Democratic presidential nomination, he has no interest in playing second fiddle to Howard Dean and would pass on the bottom half of a much-anticipated Dean/Clark ticket. This made me very sad, because as I’ve stated, our one chance of beating the monstrous machine now in office is with this very one-two combo knockout punch. Anything less spells Doom, I fear. The other Demos vying for the nod are so intent on belittling Dean that they’ve lost focus altogether, embarrassing the party and providing ample fodder for Republican anti-Dean ads which are probably already being spun and filmed. This shameful, petty lack of unity means we’re going to be stuck with four more years of W’s ultra-conservative policies, and I will lose complete and utter faith in the American ideals and traditions of true Freedom and Justice for ALL. (Bush talks the talk about Freedom, but when it comes to opposing viewpoints, he is well sheltered by his inner circle and has no tolerance for “freedom of speech” that disagrees with his myopic vision – this is another tragic irony beyond my grasp.)

I gotta say, every time I see or hear from Lieberman I’m almost glad he never made it to VP – he is about as conservative as they come, and he’s damn unpleasant to watch as well. Gephardt, Kerry, and Edwards all might as well be Republicans as far as I’m concerned. If their childish tactics against Dean actually work in getting them the nomination, I may not even vote. Well, I’ll have to – but here’s another irony: if neither Dean nor Clark win the White House this year, it won’t make much difference to me personally. Most of the other choices voted for the War and perpetuated the Cheney/Rumsfeld doctrine of New American Imperialism. At least all are more articulate and presidential than Bush, but that’s about it. Otherwise, they’re all cut from the same cloth. What the other Demo contenders refuse to accept (even Kucinich, whose recent displays of sour grapes have turned me off completely, whereas before I at least respected him) is the simple fact that Dean is AGAINST THE WAY THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY HAS BEEN GOING: RIGHTWARD. This outspoken opposition to the losing status quo is the key to his meteoric rise. If the Liebermans and Kerrys and Gephardts had their way, the lines between both parties would be forever blurred. Dean offers a reasonable and realistic voice that is neither radical nor revolutionary: it’s just very straightforward in observing the obvious. He has wavered on a variety of issues but has remained steadfast in his opposition to the War, which is not only admirable, but also indicative of both his character and his success. I’m fed up with Democrats, sick of Republican rhetoric, and in general have lost faith in the Human Race. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m as wary of this November as I am anxious. The one deciding factor than can turn the tide in the favor of True American Liberty and a fresh start for the 21st century is this: the legions of complacent idiots who do not vote, and take their rights for granted. GET OFF YOUR ASSES AND STAND UP FOR ALL OF US! If all those apathetic assholes actually go to the polls this November, our chances of winning back our country are pretty good. But if we let the radical, regenerated Republicans stay in power, straight up this time, all Hope is truly lost. At least for the next four years – but think of all the damage that can be wrought in the meantime. Californians who voted for Arnie love pointing out he’s more socially liberal than many state Demos. This is true. But the recall was immoral, his current status is (to me) illegitimate, and he’s in bed with the most socially conservative administration of at least the past forty years, maybe in all of U.S. history. If he winds up bucking his own party and stumping for the Democratic candidate, I might begin to accept him as my Governator. But probably not.

If the Democrats really wanted to take charge of the situation, Arnold wouldn’t be Governor, and Bush would’ve been impeached already. Instead, all we can do is vote him out, and vote in hopefully a new breed of Democrat who is not afraid to stand up to this hostile conservative takeover of our once proud nation. Some people are suggesting anyone concerned about these recent outrageous allegations of the Bush administration’s bold pattern of deceit should write to their Congressman (or in California’s case, Woman). If it makes you feel better, go for it. Couldn’t hurt. Personally, I’d rather save my energies for something more practical: the elections. I’ve given up hope on the current Democrats in office. Time for a regime change all the way around.

Again, to be honest, I’m holding out little hope for real change come November, since this country has always been much more intolerant of sex than violence, and while Bush has caused the massacre of thousands of innocent people due to his administrations unilateral, imperialistic policies, apparently he hasn’t crossed the morality border in terms of gettin’ it on. Hence, his high approval numbers and good chances for re-election. That is really sick. Conversely, despite eight years of peace and prosperity, not to mention a solid record on civil rights, Clinton’s legacy will always be tainted by infamy. Why? BECAUSE HE LIED (like I cared about his personal life, but whatever.) It’s not like blowjobs are weapons of mass destruction. (If so – FIRE AT WILL!) But Republicans always draw the line with their own – I mean, violent screen action hero Arnie practically bragged about his real life sexual aggressiveness, and yet, all is forgiven by his supporters, since besides getting blown, he also blows stuff up. It’s a matter of balance. Sure, Clinton didn’t like or trust Saddam either, but he never ordered an outright unprovoked, unilateral attack on another country, either, thereby depleting our forces, world standing, reputation, morale and future budgets. If only he did, that whole blowjob business might’ve never raised an eyebrow. Oh well, too late now.

Okay enough of all that. God, I miss being apolitical!!


Since everyone else is talking about it, I assume as a point of distraction, I thought I¹d mention the recent successful landing of a NASA spy-satellite on the planet Mars. Okay, I¹ve mentioned it. Great, great, great. I love sci-fi more than anybody ­ and I¹d really love it if some giant bat-crab-spider monster suddenly showed up and swallowed the Spirit whole ­ but the fact is, we have to concentrate on successfully co-habituating on this planet in first. That¹s just my priority. However, I did like Kucinich’s assertion that Bush is suddenly focused on Mars while we¹re still in Iraq since he¹s "still looking for those weapons of mass destructionŠ"I think Bush¹s new obsession with space exploration can be easily explained: Republican redistricting. He wants to hurry up and colonize the Moon and Mars for the electoral votes.

Now, back to matters here on “Terror Firma”….


The Station Agent. Best movie about friendship I¹ve ever seen. I think this now makes 13 movies in my Top 10, but by now, I¹ve lost track. By the way, my #2 from last year, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, was previewed in Berkeley last year and qualified for my list, but actually, it¹s being released later this month. Watch for it.


One of my favorite film genres is Lesbian Vampires. The Golden Age was the ‘70s – a decade I’ve spent much ink (or cyber-type) denigrating, but as time goes by, more and more redemption of that funky, often fabulous era is re-discovered. Via the magic of DVD I’ve become (re)enlightened to the mythic merits of such erotic masterpieces as Jose Ramon Larraz’s Vampyres, Jess Franco’s Vampiros Lesbos and Female Vampire, Jean Rollins’ The Shiver of the Vampires, and from Hammer, the Studio That Knew How To Terrify And Titillate: Lust For a Vampire, Twins of Evil and this month’s THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (Parkway, Feb. 19), from 1970, a pivotal year in horror – gratuitous nudity became the rage, and it stayed that way for most of the time until things got uptight and puritanical towards the end of the 80s. (Lately, it’s been making a comeback in exploitation cinema, in everything from Freddy vs. Jason to Cabin Fever to House of the Dead, but still, a few boobie shots wasn’t enough to save any of ‘em.) And these are just a few primo examples; back in the day, there were scores of these babies pouring out of Europe and elsewhere around the globe, since this was not a homegrown specialty; at the time our drive-in export was Blaxploitation, while Kung Fu action epics were flying out of the Orient at an equally rapid rate. For me there is no bigger turn-on than watching two voluptuous, wavy haired, bedroom-eyed Euro-trash babes lick blood off each other’s pointy nipples. Nothing else compares - not hardcore porno, not lingerie ads, and certainly not anything Hollywood has produced in the last two decades or so (all those plastic fake boob jobs and hipless wonders are a major turn-off, man). Even the notorious lesbo-vamp art flick The Hunger, from 1983, possibly the end of the era, left me less than satisfied. If you want the Real Deal in its pulpy prime and gory glory, come witness the incredibly ethereal beauty of Ingrid Pitt as the evil, painfully sensuous, bed-hopping vampire vixen Mircalla in this gothic masterpiece of horny horror, co-starring that stalwart vampire hunter Peter Cushing, all soaked in lurid, sleazy, surreal and seductively sinister atmosphere.

Earlier in the month, I’m exploring the theme of “Strange Love” with another stellar celluloid exponent, BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE (Parkway, Feb 5) from 1958. This offbeat romantic comedy, based on a hit Broadway show, was shot in vibrant colorful hues and features Jimmy Stewart as a smitten New Yorker literally under the spell of blonde bewitching bombshell Kim Novak, whose brother is a beatnik warlock played by Jack Lemmon. Legendary comic Ernie Kovaks helps make this a vintage 50s time capsule for the ages, a supernatural valentine for romantic Thrill Seekers everywhere, in a rare big screen event that is not to be missed.

Along with Valentine’s Day, this is also Black History Month, and to help mark the occasion I’m hosting a theme night at THE CONGA LOUNGE in Oakland on Saturday February 7: MY FUNKY VALENTINE: THE SOUL OF TIKI, a night of DJ-spun solid gold from the heyday of funk, soul and R&B (60s and 70s) courtesy of Miles Goodrich (illustrator of most of my posters, like the current pop-up) and his Sound Circus.

So get romantic, get down and funky, but most of all, before it’s too late – Get Smart.


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