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RE/SEARCH Newsletter #30, April 2004

RE/SEARCH Newsletter #30, April 2004

1. Fri Apr 9 in San Francisco: 25th Anniversary SURVIVAL RESEARCH LABORATORIES Celebration at The Lab, 7pm-midnight+
2. Henry Rollins in San Francisco, March 21
3. Christopher Coppola’s new BLOODHEAD movie
5. The 9-11 CONFERENCE (“Was 9-11 an Inside Job?”) by S.M. GRAY.
6. How to Survive As An Independent Artist (Lavay Smith)
9. NEWSLETTER FEEDBACK – Amusing Letters From You, Our Readers!
10. WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT! Please buy us lunch! (We’re non-profit!)

**Dear Friends: Please note that our email address has changed to: (not:

last minute: Survival Research Laboratories founder Mark Pauline and RE/Search founder V. Vale will appear on (Bay Area TV) Channel 4, KRON, Sun Apr 4 at 9:30 AM to talk about the upcoming 25th Anniversary Event–see below)

1. Fri Apr 9, 7pm-midnite, in San Francisco: 25th Anniversary SURVIVAL RESEARCH LABORATORIES Celebration at The Lab, 2948 16th St at Capp (1/2 block from 16th St/Mission St BART Station), San Francisco (See for updated details, or call The Lab at 864-8855 or RE/Search at 415-362-1465.)

FEATURES: MATT GONZALEZ will dialogue with Mark Pauline from 7-8pm on “Cutting Edge Art and Social Change.” And, the Extra Action Marching Band will close the evening! This is exciting! Doors open at 6:30pm.

Prophets are rarely celebrated in their own town, but finally San Francisco is hosting a 25th Anniversary Survival Research Laboratories (SRL) Celebration, sponsored by RE/Search Publications and The LAB. This is the first comprehensive SRL historical retrospective in San Francisco. 2500 linear feet of enormous, beautiful photographic blowups, plus poster art, will document every SRL performance to date, all over the world. Rare videos will play, there will be Q&A panels, SRL machines will be present, and there may even be a “surprise event” from SRL…

Some background: About 25 years ago Survival Research Laboratories pioneered violent, uncensored, large-scale machine performances (well before “Robot Wars”). SRL shows display a war of ideas involving the challenging of clich�s and outmoded perceptions and beliefs. Iconography (often site-specific) in the form of large-scale dazzling graphic images, buildings, hand-crafted sculptures and other “props” may be burned to death, shot, ripped apart by claws, or otherwise “critiqued.”

The SRL 25th Anniversary party will offer a rare opportunity to engage with SRL artists, including founder Mark Pauline. Beginning the evening, San Francisco Supervisor Matt Gonzalez will dialogue with Mark Pauline on”Cutting-Edge Art & Social Change,” moderated by RE/Search Publications founder V. Vale. A spectrum of SRL artists and art authorities (including Berkeley Museum Director Kevin Consey) will participate in Q&A interviews, and the world premiere of the SRL Los Angeles 2002 video is scheduled. Jon Reiss (L.A.), original SRL videographer, will present a specially-edited “Best of SRL in the ’80s” compilation, and there will be a “live” surround video projection of SRL’s recent U.C. Berkeley Art Museum Outdoor Performance, Nov 12, 2003 (by Scott BealeMarian Wallace, and others). The evening will end with a performance byKaty Bell (performance artist) & friends, and then The Extra Action Marching Band‘s grand finale (they’re one of our favorites, ever–we think of them as the Merry Pranksters of this decade).

Other surprises are still being planned. SRL will make available posters, videos, T-shirts and other impossible-to-find rarities. Admission includes a $5 discount coupon good toward the purchase of a RE/Search PRANKS! book, which contains a lengthy interview with SRL founder Mark Pauline.

Also check and www. for more details.

The entire evening will be a testament to the complex genre invented in the Bay Area by SRL, which might be termed “machine opera“. Nowadays some 50 SRL crew members, many with advanced technical backgrounds and academic degrees, collaborate, co-invent, and co-operate to produce the massive live shows staged whenever and wherever the opportunity presents itself.

Why opera? SRL shows involve the construction and the operation of heavy stage machinery (to move sets and staging), the construction of the stage sets, actors and actresses (with their own “maintenance” crews), lighting and sound including pre-show and post-show music and show soundtrack, plus graphics, posters, hand-made costumes, iconography, plots and themes, the publicity campaign, the feeding and housing of the humans involved, and the all-important website by Karen Marcelo, backed by Eddie Codel. An SRL live performance is very similar to an opera, except that machines are substituted for human performers. Therefore it’s our contention that SRL has invented its own genre: violent machine performance art, or Machine Opera.

Again, this is a rare opportunity to dialogue with SRL artists who will be present in force.

2. Henry Rollins in San Francisco: the “Shock and Awe My Ass!” Tour

The ads for this show proclaimed “Top shelf war-time entertainment from your favorite all-American boy.” That’s right, we really are in the second year of a war, with 601 American youth (mostly from small towns all over America) killed to date. And besides the reminder that Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11…lest we forget, we’re also simultaneously involved in a different kind of global war: the privileged super-rich vs. everyone else (us). Or as Jello Biafra likes to remind us: feudalism–it yet exists, right here in Amerikkka. (laughter)

Sunday night, March 21, we walked on tenterhooks through the Tenderloin to experience an evening with Mr Marathon Man himself, Henry Rollins–original punk rocker from Black Flag in the early ’80s. At the Warfield on Market/Taylor St, 5 minutes after 8pm Henry took the stage–a muscular figure clad in a black t-shirt, dark blue slacks and black shoes. He started talking and didn’t stop until 5 minutes to 11–with only one sip of water. That’s 3 hrs. He didn’t use any notes. We were impressed.

Rollins has noticeably grown as a spoken word improviser and all-around performer. Right away he joked about how old and short he is: “Back in 1841, when punk started…” (Really, he doesn’t look short to us, at least.) Now he can mimic anyone of any gender with supple ease and fluid body language, talk super-fast if need be, and switch personas and voices back and forth–he’s become a real “actor” and more of a noir comedian–but without losing his original punk rock edge.

He did a perfect imitation of Star Trek‘s Captain Kirk (William Shatner), whom he recently recorded with in Nashville (along with cult-guitar-heroAdrian Belew of King Crimson) — that must be one strange recording. Shatner subsequently invited Henry to his home for dinner–and this could be the beginning of a “beautiful” mentor/adept friendship which personally we would like to hear more about. For the uninitiated, Shatner recorded a classic spoken word recording more than thirty years ago–The Transformed Man. Be sure to check out his “Mr Tambourine Man”; it’s an unforgettable classic of improvisatory “letting yourself go,” no holds barred, beyond the beyond, over the top. You can see how Shatner and Rollins could meld…they’re both kind of extreme, but in different ways. For example, on a lark Shatner paid for a friend/fisherman to fly into Nashville from the coast of Maine. This man allegedly gathers the best scallops known to mankind, and he brought them with him for one memorable meal…it was worth it, according to Henry. Extravagant? Maybe. But why not enjoy life–at Shatner’s age, every next meal may be your last.

But we’re jumping ahead. Rollins started out the evening saying he’d been coming to San Francisco for 24 years – first with Black Flag, and later with spoken word and Rollins Band shows. Rollins was a prime instigator of last year’s West Memphis Three national fund-raising tours (which Jello Biafra promoted, too). Three young rock fans, ten years ago, were accused of being satanists/ murderers and imprisoned for life, on the flimsiest of pretexts–really, just pure hysteria on the level of 17th-century Witch-Burning in Salem, Massachusetts. Now that’s the America that George W. would like to bring back!

Henry pointed out that when George W. gives speeches, a tipoff that he’s actually going to “improvise” a little is signaled when he pauses and looks diagonally to his left, then–if you’re lucky–he may let loose with some moronic malapropism. Recently, G.W. was praising the Space Program; then he paused and gave tribute to the “spatial entrepreneurs” who risked their lives … Did he say “spatial”? Yes… A little later G.W. was extolling faith-based welfare which would “unleash the compassion of American religious institutions.” Unleash?? No, you don’t unleash compassion… Compassion is not some rage you keep bottled up inside.

Rollins gave a very touching story of an encounter with a fan suffering from spinal ebifida [sic; look it up on the Internet] who resolutely refused to accept a ride or cabfare to the bus station, even though it was snowing and he only had just enough money for a bus ticket back home…He praised a militant, super-smart whistle-blower named Karen Katowski [sic] who recently had a feature in the L.A. Weekly…he reminisced on the theme of puberty and its nightmares, to the shrieking, arm-waving delight of the twenty-something females sitting around the table directly in front of us…he cited a great quotation, “Cynicism is the great temptation of intelligence.” (We all know that cynicism paralyzes one’s will to activism, leading inevitably to depression.)

Probably most people’s favorite narration concerned Rollins’ being hired for a U.S.O. tour [!] to Afghanistan (or was it Uzbekhistan–Henry did his best to give us a quick geography lesson, but we promptly forgot it), where there yet remain some 12-14 million landmines. Who was it who thought Rollins would be perfect to raise the morale of our troops overseas? After a completely frightening, body-battering ride in a C-130–at one point the plane suddenly dropped like a rock to avoid anti-aircraft fire–Rollins made it into the dimension known as Armed Forces Hell, where nobody knows where death may suddenly appear from, and very few know what’s really going on. His imitations of the soldiers he talked to were frightening–he has mastered the machine-gun patter of today’s 1984-ish military-speak. Clearly the military’s psychotic-psychologists have institutionalized a robotic, reductionist lingo which serves as a buffer against the imminent, real, horrific possibility of being killed or badly wounded. A sample, “Does this mean we might be shot at…or hit a landmine?” “Affirmative, sir.” Somebody gave him a helmet and a huge, heavy flak jacket to wear: “This will protect you from almost everything but a head shot, sir!” “Uhh–Great!” Somebody asked him to autograph a bomb, which he did under duress, and sure enough, photos of this bomb are circulating on the Internet: “Google” for “Henry Rollins” and “bomb” and you’ll see…

This kind of military-speak is simultaneously both reductionist (minimizing the horror of bodily injury or death) and conflating (“We’re fighting for freedom, sir!”). Joining the army is exactly like joining a cult. You have to dress alike, learn a new mode of speech, think alike, share a common “enemy” to hate, and above all worship and instantly obey without thinking those above you in the hierarchy. And you never, ever, ask the question, “What if there were no hierarchy?”

Our favorite speech was on the topic: “What if crime stopped?” Rollins skillfully developed the thesis of “we all have crime in us.” Imagine–no more lawyers, judges, bail bondsmen, police, prisons, police car mechanics, prison bus drivers, crime reporters, crime TV shows, Judge Judy, and countless other support staff–think of how much of our economy revolves around crime being committed. He ended up with an impassioned plea that everybody in the audience vote against G.W.: “I hate him so much! It doesn’t matter who you vote for as long as you vote against Bush!” Significantly, many of the states who “elected” Bush Our Prez. did so in numbers like, 650 votes! No wonder was organized by that NoFX firebrand “Eric” with the crazy label Punk Wreckords who is touring the country’s college campuses trying to get students to “participate in our democracy” — if only a million young people vote (who otherwise wouldn’t have voted), they could change the future of this country, and thereby the world! Well, we can still be optimistic, right?

The entire evening was entertaining and enlightening, not to mention hilarious and–yes–heartening, a word we dare not use anymore in this post-corny, ultra-selfconscious era. We wish it had been videotaped and then made instantly available afterwards for sale on blue-laser DVD, the way it’s done in Japan. Maybe someday… And, if you ever get to Tokyo, check out Nagoya Airport–Henry has a story about the ingenious way its foundation was constructed….In conclusion, we can’t help advising that you attend any and every Henry Rollins spoken word show in your town or city…it will always be different, relevant, and inspiring. Sorry you never saw Lenny Bruce live? In our opinion, Rollins is better than Lenny Bruce! His concerns are more universal, more transcendent. It’s not just crooked cops, sexual taboos and unjust laws being attacked, it’s global capitalism and imperialism in all its evils…

3. CHRISTOPHER COPPOLA’s new film “BLOODHEAD” at the newly-instituted San Francisco Horror Film Festival

Saturday, March 20, 8:45pm: We went to the top floor of the Kabuki Theater in San Francisco and there, unexpectedly, in the back row was SRL’sMark Pauline with wife Amy and three “crew” artists, Karen Marcelo, Eddie Codel and Marc Powell from Onstage Christopher Coppola, 200 pounds in a black leather jacket, shaven head/goatee, did a brief Q&A at the beginning: “I’ve been working in film for 20 years, and have made 8 features. I went to the San Francisco Art Institute and studied under legendary underground filmmaker George Kuchar” (George stood up, to applause). In making BLOODHEAD it’s been a privilege to work with actors I admired from the ’70s. Sometimes the temperature was 120 degrees where we filmed, way out in a small town in the desert. My wife Adrienne Coppola wrote the screenplay and had a small part in the film as the town movie-theater projectionist at the drive-in (aren’t old drive-ins great?). We did go over budget, but I don’t exactly know by how much–all I know is: we finished it. I don’t like to start projects and not finish–it’s very important to finish projects. [amen] This particular film features some real men as actors–265-pound men, bigger than me. And this is definitely an anti-racist film, too. In fact there were some skinheads living in the town where we filmed it–we had some problems with them because we had people of all races working on our film, and we didn’t want to get shot. [tells story] But don’t be afraid to laugh; this is a funny film. Even though it’s got some horror in it, it’s actually funny in a lot of places. So please laugh!”

Christopher was right. The film was genuinely funny in a lot of places. It had great dialogue that was perfect. It was our kind of Outsider Film, too (formerly known as B Movies). First of all, it appeared to be set in that exact same Southern California desert where Russ Meyer filmed Faster PussycatKill Kill! and other underrated Meyer mega-achievements. Some beautiful sets had been designed–especially the ritual earthworks area, complete with ancient simulated cave drawings, and the poignant, authentically-preserved drive-in movie theater–how many of those are left in America? It featured some great character actors from 70s television who could really act…real characters. We got the feeling they could improvise and make their lines more personally idiosyncratic. And the film had something very rare–a completely original plot (as far as we can determine). The two main protagonists are 100% masculine he-men ex-wrestlers who will learn some very surprising things about themselves…they will actually evolve. And the town siren must be at least 45-50 years old, but extremely well preserved–a kind of archetype, like Martha Stewart beckoning from a huge hot tub in a tree-shaded back yard…but in the middle of the desert.

With this film Christopher Coppola must certainly have found his unique voice. Maybe he can bring back the Great American Male, long absent from the Western Hemisphere. (We’re honestly not trying to be ironic here; perhaps our unconscious dredged up the memory of Tom Wesselmann’s Pop Art painting “The Great American Nude”). The two earlier Christopher Coppola films we’d seen featured some great vintage Americana Naive Architecture sets, like the Teepee Motel you can still stay at, with giant dinosaur replicas nearby. But the characters didn’t emblazon themselves in your memory as in BLOODHEAD–which incidentally may possibly be retitled The Creature from the Sunrise Trailer Park. (sic). This film is definitely an antidote to all the past 20 years’ worth of wimpy, p.c., diffident, confused, gender-questioning, shoe-gazing, passive, passive-aggressive, alterna-male “movie stars” that have been foisted upon us. Think of those actors and models who all look far too permanently boyish. They just don’t act or look like MEN. Who today remotely compares with Clark Gable in The Misfits or Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief or North by Northwest, or even more recently, Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson in our favorite Western, Once Upon a Time in the West (well, we like Johnny Guitar, too). These are men–not stick-figure masculinist Marlboro-smoking cardboard cutouts either, but men with character and depth as well as humor and charm…but definitely, unmistakably MEN. And not f–in’ “Metrosexuals,” either….


Our position is: ANYONE BUT BUSH. It’s not that we’re pro-anyone; we’re simply anti-Bush. We need to get the Bush criminals out of office —VOTE! — or we really will be in Dante’s 9th Circle of Hell…Right now we’re just in a Virtual Reality preview…We got a postcard recently with these statistics RE how Bush won the following states in the last election:

“Margins of victory in the 2000 Presidential election:
New Mexico: 366 votes.
Florida: 537 votes
Iowa: 4,144 votes
Wisconsin: 5,708 votes
Oregon: 6,765 votes
New Hampshire: 7,211 votes

“These numbers are small–smaller than the average university enrollment, smaller than the number of Yanni CDs purchased each year, smaller than the average White Stripes concert. There are 17.75 million unregistered Americans between the ages of 18 and 29. We can DOMINATE the elections if we want. Get your friends to vote.”

5. The 9-11 CONFERENCE (“Was 9-11 an Inside Job?”) March 20-22, by S.M. GRAY.

Note: the International Inquiry into 9-11 (Phase Two) will be in Toronto, June 7-13, and they need donations.

The three-day symposium at Herbst Theater focused on what really occurred on September 11, 2001, rather than the official version. Talks, panel discussions, and documentary films went on all day and into the night. On the second floor there were large rooms available for the audience to meet the writers, academics, journalists, and others who had done considerable research and published books on the subject.

The general thesis was: facts and evidence thought to be too disturbing for the general population had been suppressed. The speakers examined buildings, airplanes, and time-lines which cover September 11 minute-by-minute (see

Some of the anomalies are as follows:

() Why did Building No. 7 at the World Trade Center go down like an elevator at 5:30 pm when no plane had hit it, the fires were minimal, and no steel structure building has ever been brought down by fire? Why did Building No. 7 go down in the same manner as the Twin Towers? How is it that all three high-rises sank smoothly into their foundational “footprints” in the exact manner of a controlled demolition? Why would the towers explode into pulverized dust as they descended… or did the explosion come first?

() How is it an alleged hijacker’s passport survived the crash, but the black boxes did not? Why have no black boxes been discovered or released by the government? How do we explain the cover-ups or stonewalling by the government? Why did it take 14 months to set up a commission, when the average time is one week?

() If Flight 77 flew into the Pentagon, why did the military confiscate all photos and films of the event? Why did the plane vanish after it hit the building, leaving little or no wreckage of itself? How and why did it make a difficult maneuver in mid-air, circling around the Pentagon while descending at 400 mph in order to cause the least possible damage to the Pentagon in terms of human life and property, hitting it low to the ground and in a section which was nearly empty, being under reconstruction? Why is the hole in the building too small for a full-size airliner?

() If Flight 93 was steered into the ground, why is there debris miles from the crash site? The widespread debris would suggest the plane was shot down.

() How to explain Bush’s lack of a response after hearing the news of the hijackings, continuing to read a story about a goat in a classroom for another half an hour? Has any President ever looked so neutralized and ineffectual or clueless in a moment of national crisis? Or did he know he was in no danger? How to explain the stock market activity just before September 11 (1200 percent more “puts” on United and American Airlines), or the documented warnings to various officials not to fly that day. Why has so much evidence been quickly (and illegally) destroyed by the government, including steel beams from Ground Zero? Why were we told that such an attack was a complete surprise to the government, when we now know the warnings had been coming in for months? Why were the records from a flight school in Florida confiscated by the FBI and Jeb Bush, and never returned?

Obviously, a cover-up = obstruction of justice = a crime. Why is the government hiding the truth from us? These questions are open to anyone with a reasoning mind and a clear gaze to consider and analyze. For more information, go to

6. “HOW TO SURVIVE AS AN INDEPENDENT ARTIST” (LAVAY SMITH) This is a regular feature of this newsletter, and each time we try to talk to someone new. This month we advise you to See LAVAY SMITH for free MONDAYS 7-11pm at ENRICO’S (Broadway/Kearny), S.F. (Well, maybe not totally free; you can order a bottled water or a side of salad w/bread, and sit there and enjoy one or two sets of extremely listenable live, not recorded, music.) Lavay was featured in our SWING! book (www., and her music is classic American jazz standards from the likes of Dinah Washington, Fats Waller (“Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Honeysuckle Rose”), Ella Fitzgerald and many others. Tonight her backing quartet included Chris Siebert on grand piano, David Ewell on upright bass, Chris’s brother Charlie Siebert on guitar, and sixty-year-old African-American trumpeter Allen Smith, a very subtle and melodic player–especially liked his cornet playing (rounder, smoother tones) and his muted trumpet playing which seemed to come from a mile away.

Lavay Smith’s music demonstrates the furthest parameters of what can be done using acoustic instruments playing within classic 12-note, non-noise-music “Jazz” scales … without fuzz boxes, noise generators and other border-crossing electronic assistance. What they do demonstrates wit, spontaneity, improvisation, taking chances, going on flights of fancy…but always successfully re-grouping with the other players. Restated, the musicians take you on little diversionary walks, or complicated skipping walks, away from the original melodic development, but return you firmly to earth at the last micro-second–sometimes just barely in time.

Chris said that since the death of the short-lived ’90s Swing Revival, what with most of the once-hot “swing” bands giving up/throwing in the towel/breaking up, their band has actually done better last year than ever before. It seems there are still people who like swing/jazz music and want to hear it played live. The band just did a mini-tour to Philadelphia and Baltimore only, then returned home. A few months earlier they touredJapan, and plan to return next year. They mostly play “community arts centers” to audiences of 200-1000–these venues are often underwritten by civic sponsorship and grants. Once in a while they’ll play a nightclub, too.

But it’s not completely easy being an independent musician these days with no trust fund or day job. Allen Smith, the aforementioned trumpeter, is playing Tuesday nights backing Kim Nalley at the revived Pearl’s on Columbus below Broadway. Besides playing with Lavay, he also has his own quartet, and everywhere he plays he sells his self-produced CD for $10…every little bit helps. Chris and Lavay bought a small house in the Mission district a couple years ago, with help of family and friends, but it’s still a challenge to make the mortgage and taxes each month.

Like many creative musicians, Chris rails against “the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld cabal.” Bush is the figurehead for an oil corporation/arms manufacturing cabal, and now they’ve blatantly established their CEOs in power–government by corporate CEOs–to more obviously achieve their goals! Which are: annex all the world’s oil reserves as fast and “legally” as possible (i.e., change the laws so you can plunder the planet “legally”), and maximize your profits as arms manufacturers: bombing countries and then making profits by rebuilding them. To survive, arms manufacturers need wars! (obviously)

Bush’s background, besides oil exploitation, includes being head of a “failed” savings and loan which ripped unlucky citizens off for millions; Rumsfeld was the CEO of an oil company; Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton which under various subterfuges and corporate names deals in both oil resources and armaments. [sic] (And Don’t forget, Bush’s father was the head of the C.I.A., which in a way was a front for various corporations making predatory economic inroads into all the countries of the world.) Chris was about to say more, when Lavay called him away–somebody at the bar wanted to book the band to play Finland! Well, priorities are priorities. Personally, we wouldn’t mind going to Finland, right now (or was it a few weeks ago?) to see all those huge ice sculptures and ice environmental installations by various international artists, including Yoko Ono. Well, some other time… _________________________

April 2004 RE/Search eNewsletter written by V. Vale.

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