Doc Martian's Lounge: April 2008

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea - a Metzler/Springer doc

The Salton Sea. It lies about 30 miles southeast of me. I haven't been to it in nearly 30 years. Sometimes though, It comes to me. On hot muggy afternoons when the wind shifts just right. P.U. Smells like the oldest toilet in the world just backed up somewhere near you. It'll stink until late in the evening... then... the temperature drops and the smell drifts away. Used to do that about 10 days a year back in the 90s. Now? It does it about once every 3 or 4 years for a day or so. A lot of that has to do with the restoration started by Sonny Bono and continued with federal funding. The dead birds and fish get cleaned up by fish & wildlife officials instead of being just left to rot. Look, if you want the blow-by-blow of the Salton Sea and its ecology, pick this movie up. It'll tell yah all the whys and wherefores about the sea's creation and failure as a resort as well as federal response to the ecological disaster it became in the late 80s and early 90s. It also will give yah a good picture of the plucky folks that lived on down there or moved in since that mess. A wild bunch, from born again modern-day mountain men, to land barons out to make a fortune in one of the last open markets of land in America, to working-class heroes living on in a place that God forgot. Heck, one of the guys selling land down there I even used to do flyers for, a guy named Manny Diaz aka The Landman, who is now the Crazy Gideon's of real estate, back then he was just a laid back real estate guy moving land in a place where the fish die-offs and avian botulism were out-of-control. Now? I'd say he's got a chance. Not just of selling to folks looking for cheap land, but a chance of actually building a community down there. Some of the nation's top ecologists have been batting away at making the place liveable. There've been changes in laws regarding agricultural run-off, the dead things are getting picked up instead of left to rot, and the folks there are actually showing some hope that it'll become a place to raise families; even if it probably never will become a tourist mecca again.

This film tells it like it is, including artful narration from the little filmmaker that could, John Waters, it features a mixture of archival data, human interest, 60s promotional films, and community action footage from the restoration project. It also features groovy background tuneage by the band Friends of Dean Martinez. Lots of extras including a 60 minute Environmental Version of the Theatrical release just right for a biology/natural resources/conservation classroom session. Pick this up if you're a fan of John Waters, David Lynch or have an interest in the southwest, water utilization, ecology, the brown pelican, ecological disasters or people who have had their dick knocked in the dirt a few times and still came up swinging. Available through Amazon, Tower or the filmmaker's website which ALSO sells lacquered and mounted dead tilapia fish harvested by the filmmakers at the Salton Sea.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Trinity Revisited - Cowboy Junkies

Trinity Revisited - Cowboy Junkies

This is a review of the soundtrack album to the Cowboy Junkies film 'Trinity Revisited'. Fortunately they are both packaged in the same case so it'll be easier to find than the Bee Gee's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. First, a note about the album this is based on. Its one of my favorites. A treasure I carried through me during one of the more physically challenging periods of my life, that period just when you get out of high school where you get a job where you have to walk as well as do 10 hour shifts plus some hours at college. Yes, in a period where I drank way too much coffee and came home exhausted and wired 5 nights a week and just lay there tossing and turning trying to sleep; that album gave me moments of peace and calm that few others could approach. This one? Its as good. I know some purists are like, but... but... but..., and all i have to say to them is take a listen to "Help me, Ronda" (the lp track from The Beach Boys, Today!) and "Help me, Rhonda" (the classic single that we all know and love), there is the same difference in a familiar treasure to be found there. A harmonica wails.

Is it an improvement? Well, here and there. Ryan Adams vocal performance on '200 More Miles' is exemplary, Vic Chesnutt provides an entertaining alternative sort of like one of Dylan's re-interpretations of his own work, and Natalie Merchant does a stirring performance of "To Love Is To Bury". I'm kinda dodging something here though. Its hard to approach. OK. Here. Plop. This album made me cry, or at least the film did which I saw before I listened to the album. All the tension and things you leave behind from your youth, when they come back with added emotional resonance. My gut started quivering, shaking and tears started tricklin' down my cheeks when I heard Margo sing "Mining for Gold" again. You see, when you've done 10s of thousands of hours of human rights work, shit sometimes happens to things you love, they get stolen, wrecked, or damaged, sometimes happens to people you love too. There's always some asshole trying to fuck you up. Junkies albums are one of those things that have gotten stolen a few times. Enough that I don't keep 'em around any more because I love 'em (at least the first few) too much. Some stupid shit will probably happen to this one too, cuz its really good and nazis of various states are always trying to get even with me for exposing their crimes. I hadn't heard Margo sing the songs of Trinity Session for a long time. There was a period of emotional resonance that she provided a central calming end of the day soporific to, and man do I love this band, even though there are a few albums by them that aren't at the top of my list; but then there are albums by Pink Floyd that blow too. This isn't an album that blows. It makes a wonderful companion piece to 'Trinity Session'; and would be a minor classic in its own right. I'm really stoked they did this. Nice advancement in form too. Maybe not as big a leap as "Surfin' U.S.A." to "Pet Sounds", but as big a leap as "Surfin' U.S.A." to "Shut Down, Vol. 2".

Also, a note on the film. Noice.