A new release from my publisher, Monsoon Books, looks particularly luscious. Check it out!
Beneath Singapore’s sparkling veneer is a country teeming with shadows. Explore the city-state’s forgotten back alleys, red-light districts, kelongs and gambling dens with 14 illustrious writers, three of them Singapore Literature Prize winners. This exciting anthology — compiled by US-based Singaporean author Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan and part of the award-winning Noir series developed by Akashic Books in New York — promises to uncover a side of Singapore rarely explored in literature.
Learn more at: http://www.monsoonbooks.com.sg/singapore-noir-9789814423694/
Men…fishing…. So far ahead of its time it’s timeless: cult jazzman John Lurie, of Lounge Lizards fame, the resonant voice of Mike Hammer on John Zorn’s Spillane album, goes fishing with five of his cult-celebrity friends in exotic locations. Each episode was largely unscripted so the story, as such, was assembled in post-production editing, guided by voice over that often borders on the ludicrous. It’s “reel life”…or maybe not. The argument with Tom Waits apparently really happened. The gimmick with Willem Defoe must have been improvised. Lurie seems to have nothing to say to Matt Dillon, but they do blather about the TV show Gunsmoke. Two-parts with Dennis Hopper in Thailand are magical because they are genuinely absurd (beware the Squid Monks). The on-the-fly dialogue is often hysterical but flashes past, embedded in banter (Defoe: “I get a little sweet around bedtime”; Hopper: “That could only be in Asia, or wherever we are”), which means the episodes demand far more attention than the subject would initially seem to merit. The result is surreal and wonderful with surprising depth that, like all good TV, requires repeated viewings. Don’t miss the outstanding original soundtrack by Lurie, who dies of starvation while ice fishing with Defoe in episode four of six.
Episode one, shark fishing in Montauk with Jim Jarmusch…
I’m excited and honored to announce that my new column, ‘Opium Traces’, has debuted at Popmatters.com.
‘Opium Traces’ will meditate upon pop media about and from Southeast Asia (and slightly beyond) and will cover a range of subjects from film to books to music.
Check out the first article, an analysis of the psychedelic-noir style of Nicholas Refn’s 2013 film Only God Forgives:
More coming in June!!!
The Dogs of War, John Irvin. Scenes and images from this film have stuck in my mind since I watched it on late night cable decades ago. A mercenary picture with lots of grit and soul, intelligently plotted (from a Frederick Forsyth novel) and shot on location in New York, London, Paris, Africa, and Central America, the cinematography and editing are of the William Friedkin/John Frankenheimer school of film making. The choice of Christopher Walken as lead at first seems odd, with his slim frame and dancer’s elegance, but eventually his bug-eyed schizoid expression and barking nu-yawk accent convince. Unfortunately the final fifteen minutes follow what had already become formula by 1980: the shoot’em up commando raid climax now plays like a made-for-TV movie, though truth be told it still holds up better than most muscle-action films of the era (Commando  more or less stole the plot of DoW, turned it into a vehicle for Schwarzenegger, and is one of the worst offenders). The final scene of DoW is supposed to make us feel less guilty about the carnage-for-entertainment factor, but I’m not buying it: the murderous mercenary may have a proven he has a heart, but getting politically pro-active in the final five minutes? Fugget about it! That said, I still recommend this picture as a cut above most of the action dreck coming out at the time and head and shoulders above most of the action dreck they’re still producing.