Monday, July 28, 2008


Have you seen this documentary by celebrated photog David La Chapelle called RIZE?

It’s a stunning piece of cultural investigation that is at once comprehensive, visually impressive (on oh so many levels), establishes emotional rapport on both a micro-storytelling and character development and socio-political macro level and is just all around wasak na wasak.

The first time I watched it I was mesmerized, then, at the end, I was shaking in my chair, a blubbery mess of indignation and wrath, astounded at the execution and crescendo of the narrative that nigh attains an apotheosis of all that’s great about this verite medium. I mean, there was nary a voice-over through out the two-hours plus running time. How’s that for organic storytelling? Wish I had the time and enough funds to do something like this.

Anyway, RIZE chronicles how the aggressive hip-hop dance now known as Krumping (or Krunking) came out of Southern Central LA’s inner city streets (that’s “ghetto” for you, bub) that’s plagued by gangs, violence, drugs and a history of catastrophic riots (remember the response to the 1992 Rodney King beating?).

Strangely enough the whole thing evolved from an upbeat, positive and decidedly comedic form of dance performed by party clowns known as, well, Clowning. I kid you not. Clowning was such a welcome alternative to gang banging and drug hustling that kids took to it with abandon. Eventually, the kids got bored and branched into their own style, naming it Krump.

If you’ve ever seen a Krump routine then you’ll see why having the muscular black physique is definitely an advantage in performing. The speed, aggression and fury of the dance reminds me of the But’oh (I think the Japanese call it the “dance of darkness”) and the film also posits that it bears resemblance to African tribal duels, ritual dancing and shamanic ceremonies that involve the community. But it is gaddam fast. There's even a caveat at the start that flashes: "The images in this film have not been sped up in any way."

Whatever. In RIZE you can see how it’s become not only the dance de jour but also an intrinsic form of spiritual communion as well as a way of life. This thing has saved them from selling cocaine. This thing has saved them from getting dragged into the Crips or the Bloods. That it's a lifesaver is an understatement when you contrast it against the background of gang-controlled neighborhoods.

While I saw this docu a second time with Tanya a month back I only thought to write about this now because, today, I saw L’il C (one of the docu’s characters) in a replay of So You Think You Can Dance? teaching one of the contestant pairs how to bust Krump moves. Krump has become such a phenomenon it's crawling out of the ghetto and getting legit. Well, I guess a variation of the Krump stripper dance being done by Beyonce was a sign.

That and a week ago the filtered water delivery guy (with offices next door, as in literally the next house) got shot in broad daylight by a guy on a bike a block from the shop. The shooter rode away clean. Plus, there have been long lines for the government discounted rice for weeks now. Plus, four days ago the street got woken up by the neighborhood tambays catching a thief in the act of burgling a house from a rooftop ingress. Yes, I live in the ghetto. No, the thief did not get caught but the tambays chased him away. It was 11PM.

“What we are is oppressed” says L’il C in one of the docu’s cutaways. Because oppression tastes the same in any language or country. Because you can taste the desperation in the air clear as fizz in a soda. Because a method of catharsis is a lifesaver whether it's horror or krump or heavy metal.

If you listen to the Youtube clip’s lyrics there are lines by Red Ronin that go: “You ever get so deep in poverty’s dirt the grid on your navigation won’t work?”

I remember eating nothing but fish balls for weeks in college because I couldn’t afford a decent rice meal `til my OFW mom sent us our monthly chunk of cash.

“What you know about rappin’ just to keep sane and selling coke or keep from killin’ you man?”

I remember writing scenes of violence and gore and darkness on a battered typewriter as a way out of the consuming hatred and loathing I felt at the world back then. See: I remember feeling horror at my own ability and total knowledge to say: yes, yes I could.

“I send a message to the distressed adolescent barely made it out of the hood on the wing of prayer and blessing.”

Watch the docu. We shall fucking rise.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Geddemit, it's finally here.

After much hoo haa and debate in hipster mags and geek publications (Wired, Wizard and Paste come to mind) about casting, directors, etc for the last few years, the WATCHMEN movie (incidentally, also directed by the guy who did 300) is going to be a reality in March 2009. And no, Doc Manhattan is not Brad Pitt. Sorry, girls.

If you haven't read the graphic novel by Alan Moore then do yourself a favor, stop reading this post and buy one. You know those idiotic stickers posted at artsy clubs swank or otherwise that say: "Around the corner a piece of art is going to change your life?" Well, stuff like WATCHMEN is what it's talking about. After reading it, you'll think: that's it, I'm never going to achieve something this Chinese puzzle-complex, this obsessively researched, this flawlessly executed and so mind-numbingly excellent. Makes you want to get a ton of cement blocks, tie `em to your legs and jump into Pasig. Mamumura mo talaga si Moore. Neil Gaiman ain't got nothing on this, bub. In fact, when Gaiman was starting out, he looked to Swamp Thing Moore to guide his direction and scope.

Sci-fi writer CJ Javier has mentioned that, in TIME Mag's 100 best books of all time, WATCHMEN is the only graphic novel the critics included. Forget Peter Parker, forget tin-can Tony Stark, forget flying mammal-obsessed Bruce Wayne -- this is how the superhero genre grew balls and gained grit, angst and transgressive glory.

Here, watch the geddem trailer (and tell me how to pronounce Rorschach). Thanks to Tanya for breaking the news to me and the original link:

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Clive Barker has been one of my heroes ever since I started writing dark fantasy and horror way back in the 1990s. Even if his recent works have suffered from alcohol and drug abuse he stands right up there with Peter Straub, Poppy Z. Brite, dear old HP Lovecraft, Black Sabbath and Ray Bradbury.

The short story where the upcoming movie below is based is one of his most powerful, allegorical and awe-inspiring -- though I much prefer the story "In the Hills, The Cities" from the same book.

In any case I hope Hollywood doesn't ruin this one like it did the Hellraiser sequels. I wait for this with bated breath. Mind the gap. Beware of the collector in the boxcar. Ladies and gents: welcome to the "Midnight Meat Train."