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Columnists In Residence

1986

What is without reason, is monstrous. What is with singular reason, is monstrous. What ignores reason over a singular, driving motive, is monstrous. What is reasonable will get you from the top of the steps of your home, where you tie your shoes and feel the first breath of the day's weather on your skin, to a table across town that sits near the door of the place where you do business, but this will never be anything anyone would pay to see on a screen. Only the monstrous is entertaining and profitable.

1986
Columnists In Residence

1985

“The game is a machine composed of interconnected mechanistic devices. These devices facilitate bad faith interaction... A con or snow job is the site at which X preys upon the hopes, fears, and anxieties of Y for ulterior motives and/or personal gain. The machinations which vehiculate this manipulation can have wide effect—ranging from the aftermath of minor mischief to serial or mass deaths.” Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie cowrite the song ‘We are the World,’ which is sung by a juggernaut of celebrity vocalists. The proceeds of this, the biggest selling single ever, are donated to the impoverished of Africa.

Columnists In Residence

1984

At the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, filming a soft drink ad in front of a crowd of fans, a pyrotechnic malfunction ignites the singer's hair causing second degree burns on his scalp and face. The case is settled out of court and the settlement is donated to the Brotman Medical Center, which is rechristened in honor of their benefactor. The President invites the singer to the White House to give him an award for his support of charities that helped people overcome alcohol and drug abuse (the First Lady's pet cause). Inspired by this honor the singer continues to use his power as an icon to help those less fortunate.

Columnists In Residence

1983

Hard sunlight bullies through smoke and soot. Something awful is burning all the time and a haze mutes even medium distances into old photographs. Our town is shrouded in perpetual smoke that fades red to an 1890’s sepia, and clouds any blue to a dusty gray. Muted colors make us feel like we’re in some scratchy old movie. That in turn slows everything down. Traffic lights halt movement for almost all of a Linda Ronstadt song even when there’s nothing to wait for. Birds seldom fly and when they do they don’t flap. They circle the instant then of now, riding the heat that rises off pavement.

1983
Columnists In Residence

1982

Rainer Werner Fassbinder finished Querelle this year, and started work on another film, this next one called Rosa L. On June 10 the script for this project, based on the life of Rosa Luxemburg, is beside him when he’s found at 3:30 a.m. by his editor and companion, Juliane Lorenz, quite dead, a cigarette still between his lips. These are the years: 1964, 1972, 1977, 1981, 1989, and 1993, 1999, and 2003, and also the future years which do not have numbers yet, nor names, but are given all numbers and names. These are the ages of man: first crying, then screaming, then laughing, and then a different sort of laughing. Then hands-in-pants, then screaming again, then the royal bedroom, and then the endless job. But of all the ages of man, the most splendid is sixteen, just as, of all the regions of the land, the finest is the border, and of all the nights and days of the week, the most enticing is Saturday night; for each have the property of being neither here nor there.

Columnists In Residence

1981

AT SIXTEEN I THRASH IN SERIAL TRANSPORTATION AND THE BLEAK APARTMENTS OF FRIENDS’ OLDER BROTHERS. A road trip to San Francisco to see Prince perform from the Controversy album. Morris Day and the Time are the opening act. The audience is 99 percent African American, and dressed to the nines. Dancing with arms thrown up; we’re in church. Our minister preaches: I’ll Jack U Off! In May, I have my first gay sex. We warm up with vodka, orange juice, and his collection of every David Bowie video he recorded off Friday Night Videos. FNV is an hour-long program that airs weekly at midnight . . . pre-MTV (which will air for the first time this year). Not being used to alcohol, part way through I have to run from the bedroom to the toilet to heave. Unable to find anyone to go with me, I take a Greyhound bus to see The Talking Heads at the same venue where Prince played: the San Francisco Civic Center Auditorium. Afterwards, I go to City Lights Bookstore and spot Jim Carroll in the basement. He’s the author of The Basketball Diaries, which I haven’t read yet, and the song "The People Who Died," which I’ve listened to over and over. I’m too shy to say hello. We hitchhike to Berkeley to see a second-run screening of Rock and Roll High School, and then crash a dorm party to dance to Oingo Boingo and the B52s. In Sacramento I do poppers with straight stoners on a dirty brown carpet. An Iggy Pop poster is pinned to a textured wall, and Pink Floyd is on the turntable. I'm transported to a future past, and it feels like crystals are growing up out of my brain. What are these amazing sounds? The album is called My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. It's a double-barrel evening, because later that same night I read an article in The New York Times which also blows my mind, though in a much darker way. The story is about a rare cancer that is rapidly killing homosexual men.

1981
Columnists In Residence

1980

David Lynch’s The Elephant Man just opened at the Stockton Royal movie theater. Because you are a cool kid, and know about these things, you tell me that David Bowie played the part on stage. We love Bowie. We play your new Scary Monsters album as often as we can get away with it whenever I visit you at your home. When asked about his directorial styling, David Lynch has more than once quoted the Beach Boys, saying, “Be true to your school.” In 1968 Charles Manson and his followers moved from San Francisco down to LA. There, while hitchhiking, a couple of the Manson girls met Beach Boy Dennis Wilson. Wilson took them to his home, and then went to the recording studio. When he returned at three p.m., the entire family had moved into his home. There were roughly a dozen, mostly women, and this small, charismatic, bearded man named Charlie. Later Charlie and the girls would move to their most famous residence, a dilapidated western movie set called Spahn Ranch.

Columnists In Residence

1979

Bowie appears on Saturday Night Live flanked by two aliens. They send waves to the chip implanted under my scalp. That was last night, today we’re in a Chinese-American restaurant that has the shady comfort of a dive bar, and a lot of Beach Boy songs on the jukebox. Wild Honey was on a moment ago, and is stuck in my head now. Likewise, one of the monologues from the play Kennedy’s Children has resurfaced from the Stockton Community Theater production that ran last April: my first set design, in what I think will be a career path. This is my brain on a Sunday: rummaging through nostalgia’s yard sale, staring without thought at the same items over and over, with no intentions of buying.

Columnists In Residence

1978

These collaged meditations on “teenage visual dynamics” are by Norwegian artist Are Mokkelbost. In the last few you can also see the back side of the pages he glues together. I’m thirteen and have just learned, through a news broadcast at a party, about the Jim Jones massacre. A friend of our family—a woman who was close with my mom, and who was one of my first teachers—joined The People’s Temple some years ago. The television shows fields of dead bodies, and the anchor says something about how they cannot confirm yet if there is any link between these deaths and the recent assassinations of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and District Supervisor Harvey Milk. My friend Tim pulls me away from the television. We float through a fluorescent haze, round a corner hung with worried families, up purple stairs. We sneak into a closed room, and then into the walk-in closet.

Columnists In Residence

1976

Flight 401 was the plane I mentioned that went down in the Florida Everglades in 1972. There were human survivors of that crash, but also parts of the plane itself were salvaged and reused. In 1974, Airport 1975 was released (pictured below). This was the first sequel to the successful 1970 film Airport. It starred Karen Black as a stewardess who is forced to pilot a Boeing 747 after the flight crew are all either killed or injured severely in a head-on crash with a twin-engine piston aircraft. Encouraged by the success of the Airport films, there will be two made-for-television films created about Flight 401. Crash will star William Shatner and will focus on the crash and the investigation that followed. The other, shown here in its entirety, focuses on the sightings of the ghost of the pilot on subsequent Eastern Airlines flights. This later film, The Ghost of Flight 401, is directed by Steven Hilliard Stern and stars Ernest Borgnine, Gary Lockwood, Tina Chen, and Kim Basinger.

Columnists In Residence

1975

In Sacramento, one of the girls who stood vigil outside a Los Angeles courtroom waiting for her “father to be released” in 1969 makes headlines again six years later. Charles Manson follower Lynette Fromme attempts to assassinate President Gerald Ford in a gesture that she claims is in defense of the Redwood Forest. “I stood up and waved a gun (at Ford) for a reason,” Fromme says. “I was so relieved not to have to shoot it, but, in truth, I came to get life. Not just my life but clean air, healthy water and respect for creatures and creation." Does Fromme know that in Carbon Canyon Regional Park two hundred Redwood trees have been planted? A Redwood forest right there in Orange County!

1975
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