I tend to sit a lot when writing a book. Writing takes a physical toll on my body: the muscle aches, the sore backside, the cramped fingers shivering and withering. To combat this pain, I have to exercise. And, not only to wash away the physical demands of the craft, but to strengthen and sharpen my mind. That’s why when I exercise, I like to do it to David Carradine’s Tai Chi Workout. After a dose of Carradine, I feel rejuvenated and ready to work with the agility of a ninjutsu blade. My mind drifts to the tips of my fingers like little soft buttons of tranquility and I write. It’s magic.
During the composition of my latest work, Domo ArigaDIE!!!, I underwent a strict regiment of David Carradine’s Tai Chi workout, hard boiled eggs, and tap water. I was amazed at my sudden ability to crank out 3,000 words in one setting as my body disappeared before me in a dance of rippling currents. This Tai Chi workout is more than a retro oddity, a forgotten VHS gem. This Tai Chi workout contains the key to longevity, superhuman health, and creative fulfillment. Since I started this routine, I look younger, I feel younger, but I write with a maturity that is timeless and worth a million bucks. So, if you’re looking for a real physical paradigm shift that works, let yourself sink into the poetic fluidity of David Carradine’s Tai Chi Workout.
You’ll never look back.
The cover art for Domo ArigaDIE!!! was inspired by Noboru Iguchi’s THE MACHINE GIRL. I didn’t know Iguchi’s work when I lived in Japan, just came across his work a year or so ago. I had a lot of catching up to do. The man is a genius, a crazy movie genius.
From what I’ve seen of his work, he’s so able to effectively blend genres, make films feel like live-action comic books, make films that make you want to turn away AND keep watching. He’s funny, too. He makes you care about the characters, too. And his camera doesn’t turn away when the movie-blood hits the screen (buckets of it, usually). And this one, THE MACHINE GIRL, it’s got everything an action-horror junkie craves: solid revenge story, action, glory, and a protagonist with a machine gun arm. You better believe she has something to fight for.
So, for all his over-the-top bravery, I have to give Iguchi-san a heavy dose of praise! He’s out there in the trenches, making incredibly satisfying films that blur boundaries and push limits. And the films are fun, well-paced, and well-acted. I would love to create a movie (or a book) that reaches to the places that his work does. He gives me something to strive for. Thank you, Noboru Iguchi! Carry on!
Shintoism doesn’t play a major role in Domo ArigaDIE!!!, but its power certainly factors into the training of one of the major characters. I also spent considerable time listening to Shinto ceremony music while editing the book. Here’s a short educational video, long enough for you to reach Kami-sama. And for Kami-sama to reach you.
May the spirits of purification bless each and every one of us.
Welcome to my VHS childhood splattered in bronze chops.
READ: Domo ArigaDIE!!! (Rooster Republic Press)
It took years before I could actually understand (and LOVE) the humor of Downtown. This was the last New Year’s Eve special I watched before leaving the country. My wife and I watched the entire thing. And got it. For the first time in my life, I got it. Happy New Year!
The premise is classic: a group of extremely funny Japanese comedians must endure a night in a hotel without laughing. If they laugh, they are caned hard on their behinds by gimps. However, their whole night is rigged with scenarios designed to make them laugh. I honestly don’t think they know what is coming and that makes these yearly specials all the more entertaining. It’s a witty, violent and hilarious good time.
Though my fiction has many violent elements, I like to laugh. I love comedy. Even some (or most) of the violence in my books is framed in a surreal or comedic way, especially many of the scenes in Domo ArigaDIE!!! So, if I pick my own brain for Japanese comedic influences that may have seeped their way into the book, this Downtown special, “Gaki No Tsukai: No Laughing” must be there. The memory of watching and enjoying it is so strong in my mind. Now, if only I could get my Japanese language skills back up to where they need to be…
If you haven’t seen these guys before and you’re in the mood for a long dose of Japanese popular humor, then enjoy. And laugh. And laugh. And laugh.
File this one under, “FILMS THAT I RENTED AS A CHILD AND THAT SEEPED INTO MY SUBCONSCIOUS ONLY TO HAUNT ME YEARS LATER.” And I can’t even remember much about this film other than a kick-butt protagonist, a genetically modified army, and an evil scientist. Without watching the trailer again, I don’t even know if I’m right about ANY of those elements. But that poster is enough. The title is amazing. And my foggy memory of this film is enough. And the fact that I wrote Domo ArigaDIE!!! under the distant influence of this film–that, too, is enough.
I remember years ago a professor friend of mine said that “creative misinterpretations” of books, ideas, or art can be valuable. Something novel and mind-blowing can come from the simplest misinterpretation of a thing. Maybe my memory of some of these older films, though probably not faithful to their plots, somehow bleed out on the page in a compelling way (hopefully), and in doing so, transform (read: misinterpret) B-grade art into something higher like “B+-grade art.” I’m not sure. Probably never will be. At least it’s meaningful to me.
Domo ArigaDIE!!! came to me in fragments with certain overarching themes weaved in. Remembering Japan and heightening Japan kicked things off: friends, the cities, the food, the language. Not holding back kept things going. Battles that meant something. Twists and turns. Space. Regret. These are the tools I pulled from my toolbox when writing that book. But maybe every book we write is composed of all little things that have stuck with us through the years. Maybe it’s us trying to make sense of what we experienced. Maybe that all changes when we imagine things from the protagonist’s point of view, when we fall into the story and disappear for a little while. I don’t recall having much control over the story. It made itself fit together the way it did. For better or worse.
I’d like to believe that people are capable of superhuman acts. I enjoy the idea of heroes and villains in confrontation with each other. Recently, I’ve been thinking about slashers and horror films. I’m preparing for a new book. In this stage of thought, where the book is yet to be written, the idea of slasher films is so pure. It’s like a mythology to me. A template to live through. I want to become a part of that mythology and write a book that rivals the best slashers out there. But those are films. I want to translate those films into books. Is there an audience for that? It doesn’t matter. Is it fashionable? It doesn’t matter. What matters is expressing what you need to express while you can. That’s also how ArigaDIE!!! felt when I was writing it. This book meant something to me and there is a life bundled between its pages. My life. Alodia’s life.
And that makes it all worthwhile.
One of my goals as a writer is to create fiction that goes beyond the art forms that have shaped my mind. To graft myself to them and construct something new. One of those forms are 80s and 90s films. We lived next to a “Superette,” a small convenience store in the middle of northern Michigan nowhere. There was a wall of VHS tapes, freshly stocked each week. I don’t know if I first saw Future Kick on VHS or if it came to me through satellite television (Cinemax, perhaps), but it stuck. Don “The Dragon” Wilson was one of my movie heroes. An actor’s actor. At that time, I was unable to separate low budget from Hollywood blockbuster. If it appeared on VHS or on television, it was fair game, didn’t matter. Movies were magic. And in those childhood days, movies were the best thing in the world, only second to books. Maybe even better. I still don’t know.
When I was brainstorming content for this thirty day series, I knew I had to include a couple trailers of influential films, images still shaking around in my battered mind. There are more, I’m sure there are more. I didn’t list Future Hunters, because I’m saving that one for a special forthcoming project. Or, Executioner on Death Row, which I can’t even find a listing for. I had nightmares about that rat scene for ages. But this one, Future Kick: androids, martial arts, evil corporations, yeah, I wanted that all to feed into Domo ArigaDIE!!! To some extent, maybe I did. ArigaDIE!!! is more colorful, has a much larger budget, but we can all dream, right? That budget doesn’t need to be fixed. If you want to imagine the book as a 90s martial arts B-movie, please do. Otherwise, give it the special treatment and throw down millions for those prosthetic limbs, the buckets of blood, the fireworks. Honestly speaking, though, I prefer practical effects. I want it to be grainy. Let’s make it dated.
I’m calling New Concorde tonight. Maybe they’ll be game.
Oh yeah, if you want to watch Future Kick in its entirety, it should be HERE.