I’ve known Susie Ghahremani as an awesome indie illustrator, artist, crafter, and good friend for more than a decade but had only scratched the surface of her musical talent through karaoke. Last week I saw her play with a fairly new band, Bulletins, right down the street from my house at the Silverlake Lounge. The sound is both lovely and cosmic with elements that recall the energy-filled hooks of Velocity Girl and noisy undercurrents of Asobi Seksu. Afterward, I had to ask my pal from San Diego for more details… (more…)
“With coolness and precision, Specktor comes across as a West Coast Saul Bellow in this sweeping narrative, but his energetic, pop-infused prose is markedly his own.”
“Specktor’s book deserves a special space in the L.A. canon, somewhere looking up at Pynchon and Chandler. Even as the narrator searches through his past to uncover the truth about his family, the author is searching, too.”
“…Matthew Specktor’s American Dream Machine [is] a big and generous novel that functions both as elegy for a recent past and fictional anthropology . . . .it evokes a world with casual ease and unexpected tenderness, recalling and referencing lots of other fiction (both Hollywood and non) while contriving to establish its unique authority.”
—LA Review of Books
“Specktor’s great achievement is to make familiar territory original, the Hollywood novel born anew. It’s bold, weird, an d unforegetable, as startling as a poke in the eye.”
—The Sunday Telegraph Magazine
“Specktor does for L.A. what Hemingway did for Paris and what Hunter S. Thompson did for Las Vegas: create a character that lives and breathes a city. Like hotels in Vegas, we see characters rise, grow dusty, and collapse.” —Daily Beat, Hot Reads
“American Dream Machine takes readers into situations that might seem familiar: the drug-fueled party at a star’s house in the hills, tense meetings between executives, dimly-lit wood-paneled bars filled with players and movie stars. Yet Specktor’s lyrical writing and insights into human nature elevate the novel into fresh territory.”
“[American Dream Machine] is a vivid evocation of the entertainment business from the 1960s to the near present, an L.A. bildungsroman and a murder mystery, all wrapped in one . . . entertaining package.”
—New York Daily News
“American Dream Machine is grand, complex, lush, intelligent and lively, funny as hell and generous in ways you don’t often find. It’s also a strikingly original portrait of Los Angeles. People speak of Chandler’s Los Angeles, or Didion’s, or Nathaniel West’s. Someday, they’ll speak of Specktor’s the same way.”
—Victor LaValle, author of Big Machine and The Devil in Silver
“American Dream Machine may be the first literature I’ve read in which Los Angeles is assumed as London is assumed by Dickens and Paris by Proust and New York by a host of twentieth-century American writers. There is nothing ironic, ambivalent, or apologetic about Specktor’s relationship to Los Angeles — as it is and was, as myth and as a thriving capitol city. Los Angeles provides an animate pulse under the lives of these men and boys, a source of permanence that lends their struggles gravity.”
—Mona Simpson, My Hollywood
“Matthew Specktor has created a great American character in Beau Rosenwald. He is full of contradictions, full of ambition, full of raw life, and yet he manages to seduce us. This riveting novel shows us the existential desperation that lurks in the dark hunger of Hollywood power mongers. Specktor gets every detail right, and American Dream Machine‘s sentences are suffused with an elegiac beauty.”
—Dana Spiotta, author of Stone Arabia and Eat The Document
“American Dream Machine is the definitive new Hollywood novel. It’s almost
impossible to write now about the movie business without resorting to well-established
mythology. Somehow, here, Matthew Specktor has figured out a way to do so.”
—David Shields, author of Reality Hunger and The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead
“This is the novel about Los Angeles that I’ve been waiting for–a mythical LA full of longing and distances and illusion. Specktor has captured the LA I know, the one all around me and the one in my head, a city of invention and grit, surface and underbelly. Funny, poignant, and gorgeously written.”
—Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe and Sorry Please Thank You
“On the other side of paradise from Monroe Stahr and The Last Tycoon is Beau Rosenwald in American Dream Machine, the last agent who mattered as much to the movies as a studio boss. Against the backdrop of the possibility-plagued seventies, Matthew Specktor’s moving, witty, and irresistible epic captures as well as any novel in memory that time in LA when twilight could still be mistaken for sunrise.”
—Steve Erickson, author of Zeroville
GR: Welcome to Southern California. Tell me about your new place and your working studio set up situation?
Thank you very much. I currently live in the South Bay with some fellow artists including Aaron “Angry Woebots” Martin and Mathew Curran, a fellow North Carolinian that made the cross country move with me. We have a converted loft in the back of our house where we can paint, cast resin and sculpt amongst other things, all to facilitate the different types of projects that each of us might be working on. It’s definitely a change from being in NC where I was essentially working in an artistic vacuum on my own – being amidst many artists that inspire me has definitely given me a new-found appreciation for being able to share techniques, offer and receive critiques and have constant constructive feedback.
GR: This exhibition features pieces that are fully sculpted and not customized. Is this a new direction? Will you still customize?
For this particular show I wanted to focus more on form, rather than the narrative or emotive qualities in many of my previous pieces. Although I am often recognized for being a part of the toy customizing scene, I prefer to create original sculptures for shows where I have the opportunity to showcase a larger body of work, work that is not contingent upon modifying or customizing existing base platforms. That said, I will still participate in customizing shows depending on if I feel that I can create a piece that is fundamentally sound in theme and execution.
GR: Animals are an obvious theme this time out, yet it’s not limited by mammals, insects or reptiles, yet there’s a common bond between them. Can you talk about how you chose which animals to depict?
I chose to call this body of work “Biorgasmica”, a study of what it would be like to meld various elements of baroque stylings, the human face and the shape of various creatures together. When determining what animals I wanted to involve, it mostly came down to animals where I could envision how those disparate elements could more easily coalesce into one cohesive creature. The final roster of creatures tended to be those that were organically armored, whether with a carapace or scales, or those that had body shapes that would lend themselves to the incorporation of faces or detailing.
Reclusive novelist Haruki Murakami surprised and delighted the audience when he opened up about several topics during his recent speech at Kyoto University. Smiling and cracking jokes, the best-selling author and Nobel Prize contender was in high spirits from start to finish….
(Asahi Shimbun – Haruki Murakami)
File this one under C’mon, Chinese people.
A Chinese shop owner in Namibia, told one of his local employees to toss out a plastic bag of his wife’s poop. The employee refused and was fired. Story covered here by AllAfrica.com.
Problem #1 – Why is your wife pooping in a plastic bag? The story says she didn’t want to use the toilets used by the employees. I understand how desperate one can be when poop is eminent, but I’m not sure that I’ve ever been inclined to poop in a bag. Maybe she didn’t poop *in* the bag, but pooped somewhere else and scooped it up doggie style. I could maybe do that…
Problem #2 – If you poop somewhere no one else is pooping so that your poop then has to be disposed of, it’s pretty bad form to ask someone else to clean up after you. I’m cool with changing my daughter’s crappy diapers now, because someday, she’ll change mine (or pay a health care worker to do it). Maybe the wife who pooped handed the bag to her husband and asked him to throw it away, and he just passed it off to his employee. If he really loved his wife, he would have done it himself.
Problem #3 – Don’t fire the employee you just asked to toss your wife’s poop in the garbage. Maybe just pretend you thought he was walking past the trash so maybe he could toss in there for you, but that you’ll do it instead. Maybe offer him a bonus if he does it. Maybe hand the bag back to your wife and tell her she should throw it away herself, and use the toilet next time.
There are reported to be over 40,000 Chinese nationals living and working in Namibia. They’re there doing construction, manufacturing, retail and food service. China has been tapping into Africa’s mineral wealth for over a decade now, and nearly every where they go there have been culture clashes, rumors of corruption, shady labor policy, and mutual distrust.
The pains of being new the new Evil Empire.
It’s a fine saturday evening. Here’s the blunder of the week. This one uses LA City tax payer money to fund. It’s Yellow Face again. Somehow people think it’s ok to do Yellow Face and those same folks know it’s not ok to do Black Face. Dr. Greg Kimura from JANM and Guy Aoki from MANAA comment in the video. Sadly, they and many of you all paid for this.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Author Signing – Matthew Specktor
American Dream Machine
Sunday May 19 2-3pm
GR2 – 2062 Sawtelle Blvd LA, CA 90025
www.gr2.net 310 445 9276
Matthew Specktor is the author of the novels American Dream Machine, which is currently being developed into a series for Showtime, and That Summertime Sound, as well as a nonfiction book of film criticism. His writing has appeared in The Paris Review, The Believer, Tin House, Salon, and numerous other anthologies and publications. He is a founding editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books.
For any information:
Giant Robot Owner/Publisher
Judging actually matters. The results went to the top part of the Hollywood Reporter article which carries some weight. Great work winners at the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival. Glad to have been part of the Narrative Jury. (Hollywood Reporter – Judged)
Director Lee Isaac Chung took top honors at the 2013 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, which handed out its awards at the closing ceremonies on Thursday night, May 9. Chung’s Abigail Harm, starring Tetsuo Kuramochi and Amanda Plummer, won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature, and Chung also received the Outstanding Director Award.
Additional narrative film awards given out included: Outstanding Screenplay, which went to writer Jeff Mizushimafor the script for Sake Bomb, and Outstanding First Feature Award, which went to Keo Wolford for The Haumana, his feature directorial debut. Acting awards were given for Breakout Performance by an Actress, Vera Miao in Best Friends Forever, and Breakout Performance by an Actor, Jason Tobin in Chink.
giant robot time: 5.10.13 | print by: kozyndan
Another year, another Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. I’ve attended such fests in the past as a member of the press, as a presenter, as a judge, and as a contributor. This was my first time it was a committee member who helped select the movies that were shown, write synopses for the program, and then introduce movies and conduct post-screening interviews. Honestly, it was a little more work than I expected but how could I say no when I was recruited by my friend/Visual Communications Creative Director Anderson Le? And the festival duties have turned out to be a lot of fun.
Last night I was assigned to The Sound of Crickets at Night. I chose to write the program’s essay about the movie because I Ioved its honesty, rawness, and creativity when I saw the screener. So it was a real treat to introduce the Marshall Islands indie flick, see it on a big screen, and then have a brief chat with co-producer/co-director/writer/gofer Jack Niedenthal. Jack is a really personable and outgoing guy with a fascinating story (visiting with the Peace Corps, staying and entering local politics, becoming a self-taught filmmaker to represent the culture after his young son asked him why there were no movies about the Marshallese) so, really, I just had to hand him the mic and get out of the way. Almost too easy, but more of him and less of me is what the audience came for.
Tonight is the fest’s closing screening of the Japanese dark comedy Key of Life, which will be followed by encore presentations of some of the its most popular movies (none of my pics, oh well) over the weekend. Support indie film! Support film festivals! Who knows when you’ll get to see these films at the movies, meet the filmmakers again, or surround yourself with like-minded cultural connoisseurs and patrons of the arts again?
The Three O’Clock – Live at the Old Waldorf
Sadly, I missed the Paisley Underground band’s reunion shows at Coachella, The Glass House, and The Troubadour. But I couldn’t pass up this limited-edition live album, which captures The Three O’Clock at their arguable peak in 1983 with all of the swirling, ripping songs off their perfect Baroque Hoedown EP (one of the first records I ever bought back in junior high) as well as selections from their more psychedelic Salvation Army era (Befour Three O’Clock) and previews of their yet-to-be-released pop opus, Sixteen Tambourines (alas no “Jet Fighter”). The fact that the wafer-thin audio sounds like a bootleg taped off a Walkman will alienate lesser fans and the merely curious–who should pre-order the 20-track anthology with outtakes and demos from Omnivore Records instead–but this is a real artifact and a must-have for fans and survivors of the mod revival like me. [Burger Records]
King Tuff – King Tuff Was Dead
While I don’t have one friend who isn’t addicted to King Tuff’s self-titled perfect garage pop album on Sub Pop, I haven’t known anyone who has possessed or even heard his first album. Until now. The folks at Burger have resurrected their pressing of his impossible-to-find debut LP on Colonel Records and the grooves didn’t even require any dusting. It’s practically fuzz-free compared to his universally loved follow-up but has all of the hooks and melodies. Songs like “Just Strut” and “Animal” come across like an unholy mix of T-Rex and Bob Dylan–or just plain old great, stripped-down King Tuff. If you don’t have the budget to spend 15 bucks on the vinyl you can buy the $6 cassette version like I did since you’ll want to listen to it in your car al the time anyway. [Burger Records]
JT Habersaat & The Altercation Punk Comedy Tour – Hostile Corporate Takeover
I am totally out of the comedy scene and haven’t owned a comedy LP since Dr. Demento’s Dementia Royale. But I can connect to this sampler because of its connections to punk. Beyond having cover art by Raymond Pettibon, M.O.D. and S.O.D.’s Billy Milano has an extended and hilarious gag about being a single guy on tour masturbating into all the black T-shirts that bands would gave him as a bouncer for C.B.G.B.’s and Riverboat Gamblers’ Mike Wiebe recounts his encounter with The Boss. As for ringleader Habersaat, he is totally aware of his place in punk as well as comedy; when a comedian pal talks about performing alongside The Melvins, Slayer, and Skeleton Witch, he reluctantly recalls hitting the road with emo bands with ridiculous names like Cute Is What We Aim For on the Warped Tour. Meanwhile, his Clash of the Titans story is necessarily listening with the recent passing of Ray Harryhausen. Also features thoughts on lazy protesters, hipster chicks, and Panopticon’s Pet Money Shot by Mack Lindsay and Joe Staats. [Stand Up! Records]
Strange Symbiosis exhibition featured J*Ryu’s first exhibition as an LA resident. His work is entirely sculpted, ushering in a new look and thought process of his own career. He’s not abandoning customizing, but his ability to sculpt from “scratch” is demonstrated in this “black” themed animal kingdom. (Photos are currently up at the Gallery Store) Scott Tolleson brought is range of customized figures that include both his and other works all bearing his magical color palate and argyle style. His Bittacrittas resins are cute. He includes two painting works as well. Leecifer, from Oakland brought his spirited self and his wife down for a visit. Super jovial at all times, this man is a pleasure to have around. His line of works include his hand casted Gammy’s and his PickleBabies. It’s great to know that he uses traditional paints on the vinyl figures. It’s about preparation! Lastly, Aaron Brown in his first four person exhibition at GR2 brought his imagination to customizing Gargamel figures. He adds his succulent and natural look and mesmerized viewers.
Many photos were taken by friends, bloggers and fans, and we’ll hope to see them online.
No it’s really not a Versus, but it is a tiny spat in the media between the two. Perhaps it’s all out of context, but perhaps not. Perhaps it’s even true that Annapolis wasn’t a brilliant film and perhaps it’s true the staff worked hard on it. In the end it’s a non-factor, but it’s great to see Lin getting to defend his side which is something Asian Americans don’t get to do, often. This one can. (Huffington Post – Lin)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Game Night 14
Featuring Retron 5 and Supaboy by Hyperkin
May 18 6:30-10pm
GR2 – 2062 Sawtelle Blvd LA, CA 90025 www.gr2.net 310 445 9276
Scheduled are two Retron 5 consoles which as of this date has not been released along with 10 Supaboy handheld consoles. We’ll also be giving away 2 Supaboys and customized buttons. We’ll also be an official LA Streetpass event so bring your DS!
Since its inception Hyperkin® has rapidly established a reputation for developing innovative, reliable and cost-friendly video game peripherals. Hyperkin® designs, manufactures and distributes a wide variety of accessories for every major platform including; Nintendo® Wii™, Sony® PlayStation® 3, Microsoft® Xbox® 360, Nintendo® DSi®XL, Sony® PSP™ as well as an extensive catalog of peripherals for classic platforms like NES, SNES, GameBoy™, SEGA® Genesis™, Saturn™ and Dreamcast™.
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Giant Robot Owner/Publisher
Still can’t believe my friend Cate invited me to watch The Rolling Stones kick off their current tour at Staples Center last Friday. Still can’t believe how great they are live. Like the blues musicians they grew up idolizing, The Stones have become not only timeless but ageless masters… Yes, to kick off the evening they had the UCLA marching band play “Satisfaction” following a video montage of musicians, filmmakers, and fans sharing their devotion to Their Satanic Majesties; there were guest appearances by Gwen Stefani and Keith Urban; and the CSULB choir sang a chillingly beautiful intro “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” to make it a special night. But really it’s all about their enormously heavy catalog of songs. Everyone from The New York Dolls to Aerosmith has tried in their own way to channel The Stones’ primal, evil grooves but The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band remains just that. Everyone talks about how Mick and Keef have survived with style but Ronnie and Charlie are effortlessly on point and cool… (more…)
In 115 chapters, all shorter than a page and some as short as five lines of text, Salesses details a man’s life that is simultaneously falling apart and coming together.
A boy who is apparently his moves in with him after the mother passes away. Yet the man continues to juggle two affairs on the side while maintaining a passable relationship with “the wifely woman.” Meanwhile, his career advances, with no discernible effort on his part.
Possibly medicated (prescribed and otherwise) into ambivalence, the narrator puts in appearances where and when necessary most of the time, trying to stave off the genuine pain that comes from true engagement. And yet, by taking his poison a thimbleful at a time, the bite eventually seeps in and both the narrator and the reader come to an understanding about his place in the world.
Salesses is a husband and a father. His writing has been published widely. Recently, he took the time to share some thoughts about I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying with GR.
1) Is it harder or easier to write against type? I can tell you’re a nice guy and a good dad, so what is it like to write about a man who is ambivalent about relationships and fatherhood?
I’m not sure whether it’s harder or easier, in general. It’s harder for me to make up someone than to use myself as a character. One thing I like about nonfiction is that I don’t have to worry about how to create fully rounded characters; I only have to worry about how to represent people/myself as fully rounded.
The reason to choose fiction over nonfiction is to get at a truth that can’t be gotten at, or can’t be presented, as convincingly in an essay. Which means that in fiction I’m often writing against type, because I want to tell a story, and I don’t generally make a lot of interesting things happen in real life.
In this book, that choice meant using the voice of someone more directly conflicted than I am. I could have written nonfiction about my own fear of commitment, but it wouldn’t have been as interesting or convincing (coming from a married man with a daughter) as the story of this narrator, who is deeply afraid and makes choices out of that fear.
I guess to answer the question, it would have been harder to write this particular story if the narrator was nicer and a better dad.
I’ve never actually seen an Easy-Bake Oven, but I love the myth of it.
2) Flash fiction. Here to stay as a viable format, or something that, in the future, will date all work to 201X?
Here since at least Kafka, or maybe oral myths, and here to stay.
Also, I remember teachers telling me in undergrad to write fiction that is timeless and would last because it couldn’t be dated. I don’t think I believe that, now. I like fiction that represents a particular time and place, whether that’s Homer’s Greece or our present, and I don’t think that timeliness prohibits something from being timeless.
I don’t name a character, especially a narrator, unless I have to. If you call a character, “Mom,” then the reader brings up an immediate image (for good or bad), but if you call her Alice, the associations aren’t as evocative or useful–at least until you make her Alice.
4) Regarding the cover art, what were the circumstances that you first saw it? Does a fish on a line symbolize the narrator’s life? He’s thinks he’s somewhat free, swimming in the air, and yet he’s really caught?
I found the cover art years ago, and years before I started this book. I was looking for a cover for the magazine I edited then, Redivider. The image has stuck with me–partly because it tells a story of its own. There is a symbolism to it in the context of the image itself–the kite-fish is pretty clearly a symbol in the drawing.
Why I think it works as a cover for this book is that the association can be made between the story told by the cover and the story told by the novel. That is (I hope), it multiplies the associations and symbolism in a way. I wouldn’t want to say it means something in particular.
5) What are your favorite toys?
The Easy-Bake Oven–I’ve never actually seen one, but I love the myth of it. I love people’s reactions when it comes up in conversation.
My favorite toys as a kid were sticks and the bullet shells my friend and I used to find in the sand dunes behind his house. A toy is just something you make into play.