In the character-driven lineage of such classics as Goodfellas, Big Lebowski, and True Romance; Walk to Vegas (written by Vincent Van Patten and Steve Alper; directed by Eric Balfour) features a brotherhood that operates on an informal black-market economy impervious to the rules of law, other than the innate sense of honor established through direct eye contact, firm handshakes, and camaraderie. It is a den of high-stakes Hollywood gamblers continuously engaging one another in ever-more outrageous ante-upping, dares and bets that culminate in our protagonist, Vincent VanPatten, attempting a walk from LA to Vegas in seven days in a suit. The characters of this instant classic — played by such greats as Eileen Davidson, Jennifer Tilly, Danny Pardo, Paul Walter Hauser, and James VanPatten, are straight out of Cervantes. The result: pure comic genius. [Read more…]
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Freak Kingdom: Hunter S. Thompson’s Manic Ten-Year Crusade Against American Fascism
by Timothy Denevi
PublicAffairs, 416 pp., $18.30
On a cloudy Tuesday afternoon I found myself by a train station in Santa Monica ordering an Uber ride. To ride the train through the bowels of the city can be a daily reminder that quite a sector of our civilization has gone completely insane, but the Uber ride itself put the icing on the cake and confirmed this dark suspicion. The driver, who shall remain unnamed, was a jolly type with a curious name. I have a bad habit of getting easily into conversation with any human who crosses my path and asked where the driver hailed from. Poland was the answer. Ah yes, Poland. I mentioned that Poland has been undergoing quite the political sea change, using those words as to not say the current government as right-wing and nationalist. This was my second mistake. The driver quickly announced himself as a partisan of the ruling Law and Justice Party (what a shudder to even type such a name) because, hey, they were getting rid of “the Communists still left over from the past,” who are inevitably “controlled by the Jews.” [Read more…]
The recent documentary Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World is a revelation, from Link Wray’s monumental influence on the landscape of music, to the legendary stars paying tribute to the songs and rhythms of indigenous cultures whose struggles were hidden from history for far too long. The line up of celebrities in this documentary is impressive: Stevie Van Zandt, Martin Scorsese, Taj Mahal, Georges Clinton, Tony Bennett, Taboo, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Robbie Robertson and Steven Tyler, to name a few, including Iggy Pop, who owes his decision to become a musician to Link Wray’s infamous power cord.
Link Wray & His Wray Men, “Rumble” (1958) [Read more…]
Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you. — Friedrich Nietzsche.
It is hard to doubt that many inhabitants of the American imperium are going insane. The irrational nature of sudden, public outbursts of violence escalates to new levels of horror every year. The recent bloodbath in Las Vegas has raised many, quite necessary, debates over the gun-crazed culture that frames the American mindset, but little attention is being paid to the actual mental state of the republic. Surrounded by hyper-capitalism, predatory competition, and an increasingly isolated way of living, new monsters are being bred and formed, to roam the countryside and inflict new body counts. It is almost fitting that the current White House occupant is himself deranged, because shouldn’t a leader be a mirror image of his people? [Read more…]
For years, Rudy North woke up at 9 a.m. and read the Las Vegas Review-Journal while eating a piece of toast. Then he read a novel—he liked James Patterson and Clive Cussler—or, if he was feeling more ambitious, Freud. On scraps of paper and legal notepads, he jotted down thoughts sparked by his reading. “Deep below the rational part of our brain is an underground ocean where strange things swim,” he wrote on one notepad. On another, “Life: the longer it cooks, the better it tastes.” [Read more…]
Up-Close Magic — sometimes called Micromagic — is a genre of cards and coins, not smoke and mirrors. It’s an arena where the audience is small, perhaps a dozen, or twenty, and they are watching the performer from mere feet or inches away. There’s a lot of eye contact, audience participation is central to almost every trick, and the magician is basically daring you to figure out what he’s doing and how he’s doing it. [Read more…]