Taming of the Scrooge (Christmas in Korea) [Travelogue]

017drink up with me now,

forget all about,

the pressure of days,

do what I say,

and I’ll make you okay.

The celebration of the zombie Jesus for me was a mild one to say the least.  While eventful, it was unabashedly frivolous and coated with loneliness.  That’s not to say that it was all bad.  It certainly was eventful in some manners.  I awoke Christmas Eve around 1 in the afternoon after coming home from work around 7 a.m.  My head spun from tiredness and the three glasses of Riesling I had for breakfast.  But, overall I felt pretty energetic and ready to proceed with the day’s events.  The day’s events I had thought were going to happen actually turned out to be false.  I had thought that my beloved VFW was having a dinner during the day.  A dinner I was sure I would be late for, and be of no use to the volunteers involved.  As fate would have it, I was a day off.  Therefore, I would actually be in all accordance with lending my own hand to the celebration of the birth of a Christ I could never believe in.  But more of that to come.

With everything disarranged and disjointed, Christmas Eve almost became a pretty average night.  I played a few solo rounds of pool at the VFW.  And I was on a roll!  I felt as though I might be ready to actively compete in the upcoming pool and dart leagues coming our way soon.  I guess we will see what comes of the months to come.  But eventually my old pal Whitey finally showed up and we rejoiced in a couple of bottles of soju and storytelling before we headed out of the good old V and headed to a Christmas Eve party that Whitey ensure would be a pure a utter delight.  And I have to say, he was absolutely right.  If I can’t be with my beautiful family on such a ridiculous gathering, I am happy that I got to spend it with some very fun and adjective unknown worthy folks.

014

Whitey had always been rambling on about a bar that he tended to pass through for one final night cap before he headed to his apartment simply called, Song’s.  But, I had yet to stop by these place, and frankly I am mad at this man for not having me there sooner.  For I ended up spending my Christmas Eve night in a weird oblivion caught somewhere between confusion and utter bliss.  I met a very small family that owned Song’s Bar, and an unpronounceable titled restaurant next door.  We met in a small room in the back of the both, and we laughed, drank, and ate merrily.  Whitey had been a bit too late in having us come around, so the main meal was done and complete, but we still manage to eat like white trash kings.  Mr. Song, and Mama Song (the grandmother) manage to roll out fresh sizzling dishes of some very weird bar oriented foods.  There was a combination of ground hamburger and hotdogs on a hot skillet, mixed with some incredible spices that make American bar good sound even twice as terrible as it really is.  Following that we were served a great helping of what would basically be 016considered “doctored up Ramen noodles”.  It was indeed the same noodles made famous by college students and hobos living in studio apartments in San Francisco and Fresno, but it had a delightful kick to it that can not be truly explained in writing.  I know that so many Americans feel as though they know how to doctor up Ramen to make it amazing, but none of you can do it like this.  This is a true spectacle of Korea.  They can take nothing, and make it not just something, but something beautiful.  And, of  course, there was kimchi.  And dammit to 015I love kimchi.  But, after a few bottles of soju, it was time to say goodnight, and we parted ways.  I headed back to my dorm room with my bootleg copy of the adaptation of one of my favorite books, all the way to film, On The Road, and a bottle of soju stuffed in my back pocket.  Whitey headed to his own dream land, and the words were spoken.

Before even heading to sleep, I learned that my internet connection had completely ate shit.  And as you all might guess, I was immediately sent into a state of panic.  I awoke with the same disastrous notifications, but knew there was nothing I could do about it at that time.  I knew I had to get down to the VFW to try to lend a hand.  I ended up being able to speak with my family whilst stealing Wi-Fi from a nearby community center, and surprisingly enough the old heads down at the VFW actually have wireless internet!  I honestly was not expecting that!  And the dinner went really well.  Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners are the only days of the year that the VFW becomes a non smoking area.  That alone shows how serious they are about their holiday dinners.  There were children running around, conversations all about, beer glasses clinking and clanking, and a spread of all of your tradition holiday grub.  A couple of turkeys, a half a dozen hams, and all of the fixings, shoveled of paper plates, spilling in and out of mouths on to graying beards in some cases.  Yes, it was a pretty traditional American Christmas here in the land of the morning calm.  Of course, seeing all the young children and happy families sort of made me, well, homesick to my god damn stomach.  I opted for a few bottles of coke and decided to head out early, as I had to work the next day, and I was really feeling like a total Scrooge.

spread at the VFW

spread at the VFW

But, overall it was not a bad time.  As I stated before, I am not really a holiday person.  And I especially loathe this time of year when I am away from my family.  But, I couldn’t let it get me entirely down.  I still managed to laugh a little bit, and share a good time with the people I dig the most around here.  Yet, I am very thankful it is all over.  It’s been a long december, a wise man once said.  But, he also said there’s reason to believe that this year will be better than the last.  And I certainly believe it shall.  But, until then, onward with the Korean express.  Until next time……..

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Rob Schrab [Interview]

Rob SchrabThere isn’t (or at least there shouldn’t be) a self-respecting hipster or egocentric granola inhaling egotistic out there who doesn’t love The Sarah Silverman Program or Children’s Hospital.  And the rest of us who do, are probably just screwed in the head a bit.  But, dammit to we appreciate good comedy!  Good comedy is a jewel that seems insanely missing in a time where people are watching 4 drunk hillbillies telling mediocre to lame jokes about farting a potato salad, or watching a bunch of idiots living in Jersey talking about tanning and their biceps all damn day.  But, somewhere beyond this madness, there is some very funny stuff happening.  And behind the names you see, feel, and love, there is always the true genius behind them.

And Rob Schrab is definitely the elitist when it comes to masterminds behind the pen, behind the camera, and even in front of the camera (even more so, in drag at times!).  Whether it’s for The Sarah Silverman Program, Children’s Hospital, his latest stint directing new favorite hit The Mindy Project, or even writing the screenplay for a kids movie the way it should be written, Master Schrab has been killing it in so many different arenas.  Arenas that also involve the world of comic books as well.  There really isn’t much Rob hasn’t found himself unveiling his presence to the world with.  And now, he is unveiling himself (in the most appropriate manner, of course) to you, the lovely Trainwreck’d Society audience!  So sit back and enjoy a few words from one of the funniest men in comedy in this somewhat decadent time.

You have worked in almost every aspect of film and television, from music videos to film to sketch comedy and so on.  Is there any arena you have yet to touch, but would like to? 

I’ve worked in aspects of feature films but the end game is to create/write/direct a franchise.  I grew up with Terminator, Nightmare on Elm St., Robocop, Dr. Who; I hope my characters will one day live among those icons.

Rob in drag as the host of Cookie Party!  As seen on The Sarah Silverman Program.

Rob in drag as the host of Cookie Party! As seen on The Sarah Silverman Program.

How did you manage to get on the Sarah Silverman Program creation team?  And how did Sarah convince you to get into drag?  Did she have to?

Dan Harmon and I were one of many writing teams that Sarah met with. Coming from comic books I originally didn’t think I’d be suited for a sitcom, but Harmon was such a super-fan of Sarah that he wouldn’t let go. He’d be constantly sending her story ideas and jokes late at night until she was convinced to hire us. When it came to finding a director Dan and Sarah fought for me when the network was nervous about a first time director. It’s interesting, seeing as how I was skeptical about doing a sitcom when it was the best thing that ever happened to me.  Dressing in drag was my idea. Sarah saw a short I directed for Channel 101 called “Thriller Chiller Theatre,” where I played the cross-dressing horror host, Minnie Coffee. After the screening she said, “you HAVE to do that on the show!” And the rest was herstory.

You have an impressive resume of adult oriented humor, but you also wrote the screenplay for the hit children’s film, Monster House. What led you towards writing a children’s film?

I loved movies like Goonies, Explorers, and Monster Squad; they were fun and didn’t pull any punches. They had a respect for the kids watching, and knew they could handle scary themes. It’s a shame movies aren’t like that anymore.

Creating an opening segment for an awards event, as you did in 2009 for the 81st Annual Academy Awards, seems to an outsider such as myself as sort of a daunting task.  Was it similar or different to the work you had done prior to creating that opening?  

It was daunting for me as well –but how do you pass up working with Wolverine? It was the first time Harmon and I worked together since he left the Sarah Silverman Program. The country was going through a recession, and it seemed inappropriate to shove glitz and glamour down the world’s throat. We decided to shine a light on it, making it a song and dance number surrounded by cardboard and duct tape. It’s one of my proudest moments of my life. Hugh Jackman is a greek god; I’m a fan for life.

Since we always have to ask….where do you keep your Emmy? Any significance?

It’s next to my Channie (Channel 101 award). Both have equal value.

Scud3And with all of your other numerous achievements, you also created an amazing comic book series entitled Scud: The Disposable Assassin.  Can you tell us a little bit about that series?

Scud is, and always will be, closet to my heart. When Image ask to reprint the past issues, it was like a call from God. I had left the series unfinished for ten years, to go back to my roots and finish what I started was another proud achievement. I hand out copies of the Scud Omnibus around the holidays to friends and co-workers; the look on their faces when they hold that thick book is precious.

Would you consider yourself a comic book nerd?  If so, what is your take on the comic book industry in our modern times?

I consider myself a nerd, globally– comic books, movies, cartoons, toys, art. It’s hard to give an opinion about the industry.  When I was in it, I self-published– now that I’m out it’s even harder for me to understand. Comic Con is out of control.

If you had to pick one occupation in the television and film industry, what would it be?

Director, because it’s everything: writer, designer, performer, SFX. I like getting my hands dirty.

What does 2013 have in store for Rob Schrab?

More guest directing on The Mindy Project. I really want to do a low-budget feature, outside of the system that screams Rob Schrab.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My wife, Kate, at lunch.

Rena Riffel [Interview]

Rena Riffel

Rena Riffel came to the spotlight in the mid 90’s with a strong supporting role in the now cult classic film, Showgirls.  Not only that, she was also the almost single-handedly curator to keeping the Showgirls legacy relevant and in existence when she not only starred in Showgirls 2: Penny’s From Heaven in 2011, but she wrote the script, directed, edited, and produced the film herself through her company Rena Riffel Films, leaving her name edge in infamy in one of the most talked about film series in modern cinema history.

To date Rena Riffel has over 40 films alone to her acting credits, as well as several stints as producer, and much like Showgirls 2, prior to it actually, she found herself acting as an almost one woman show when she put out the Fangoria approved film Trasharella, once again taking of writing & directing and editing & producing credits.  Beyond all this you may also recognize Rena for her roles in films like Mulholland Drive, Striptease, and Candyman: Day of the Dead.  She is an amazing and talented woman who never seems to take a break.  But, we were fortunate enough to get her to take a quick moment for us to throw a few questions her way, and making her actually the second cast member from Showgirls to enter the TWS alum (see, Robert Davi).  So sit back and enjoy a delightful conversation with one of today’s hardest working women in show business.  Enjoy!

 

What was it like growing up in a family filled with so much talent?  Was there any pressure to succeed?  

It was always entertaining, lots of playing and make believe, using my imagination, arts and crafts, lots of music and singing.  My brother, Todd, and I put on a lot of musical shows in our house.  I grew up in a small town, endless forests and big oak trees, river beds, we rode horses, built tree forts, ect.  There was no pressure to succeed.  My parents encouraged me to accomplish my dreams, but they would have been happier if I would have stayed home in Atascadero and worked for my Dad, and had been successful by being happy in Atascadero, not in the entertainment biz.  But, for some reason, I had my heart set on having a career in Hollywood.  Achieving dreams takes a lot of discipline and sacrifice, gotta get your priorities straight.  And I realized sometimes you have to do what isn’t as much fun in the moment, more blood, sweat, and tears, to ultimately reach that goal that will be truly fulfilling.  It’s not instant gratification, it’s a long road to get to the end of the rainbow.   

You’ve become involved in producing some of your own projects.  What made you want to get behind the camera?  Do you prefer starring in your own works, or those of others?  Why?

I have been trying to make a movie for so many years.  I love creating fantasy worlds and putting them on film.  I really love what Sandra Bullock has done with her career, she produces all of her movies, and I’m inspired by Mae West who wrote her movies, and others like them. So, it definitely gives me more freedom to just do what I love to do, which is act, write, and make the movie.  But.. it’s great to just be an actress, especially if it’s an exciting project and getting to work with a great director and talented crew.  To answer your question, I prefer both, as long as I get to work and be creative and enjoy the process.

Rena Riffel2

Along with your illustrious acting career, you are also an acclaimed songstress as well.  Do you have any plans for advancing your musical career in the future?  If not, why?

Thank you.  I do plan to put more attention on my music.  Ever since I began making my own movies, which was in 08′, I slowly stopped being as interested in recording songs.  But, I would love to get my head around writing some new songs and going in the studio.  I love it, it really inspires me.  I would like to make some music videos for all my songs I have recorded.  I’m directing a new video for my brothers band right now, I really enjoy doing that.. (shameless plug, video coming soon at Slowfadeband.com )

What was the dynamic like in creating the sequel to the now cult hit Showgirls?  Was it difficult or stressful to try to recreate or reestablish the magic from the original film?

It wasn’t difficult creating the magic because I just let things happen, let the magic unfold in the scene.  I had hoped for the right chemistry, and had planned for the right elements. I embraced some of the flaws that happened, which brought a bit of a campy element to certain scenes.  Although, it is a parody, a satire, but while writing the script, I meant for it to be a drama, very serious, a thriller dealing with life and death dangerous situations.  The production was incredibly stressful, a lot of pressure on me, and exhausting beyond belief, and a certain part of my “perfectionism” gave up, and I just went with it, trusting in the process, and trusting that magic will happen again.  This movie is not quite “Showgirls”, not at all, it may be more like an early no-budget John Water’s film, but the audiences seem to get a kick out of it. Check out the magic at showgirls2movie.com 🙂

For those who may not completely understand, or have never heard of Czechsploitation, can you tell us a bit about it?  And what was your role in the scene?

It’s a funny word, but, there are movies they make in Czech Republic, usually consist of pretty girls, and most have to do with women-in-prison plot lines, wars, authority, with a tough dominatrix and slave girls.  It’s B-Movie exploitation, nudity, violence, sapphic/lesbian erotic sex scenes, ect., all those elements some people enjoy watching. ;-).  I first worked with Lloyd Simandl on “Dark Confessions” in 98′, starring in the movie.  He had directed the women-in-prison film, “Chained Heat II” (starring Bridgitte Nielsen), the sequel to “Chained Heat” (starring Sybil Danning and Linda Blair), and he has produced and directed a hundred other films, he is the best and very respected, even Tarantino says his films have influenced him in the Czechsploitation/exploitation genre. I’ve made 4 movies with him, you can see them and buy them at www.boundheat.com and learn more about what czechploitation is.

On a personal level, what do you believe is your greatest accomplishment to date?  Why?

That is a hard question… I don’t know… I am grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had, and happy I survived them all.  On a personal level, I guess my greatest accomplishment is that I have kept myself healthy, I don’t smoke, I am athletic and physically fit, and I am still dancing.

RenaRiffel32013 seems to be a big year for you as far as projects are concerned.  What are you most looking forward to in the coming year?  Why?

I am filming a new movie now, “Astrid’s Self Portrait”, it’s an avant garde/film noir, an experimental type art film. (that is the working title, it might change to just, “Astrid”.)  It’s kind of a blend of cinema verite’ meets Dogme 95.  It’s been a really great experience, which is just what I was hoping for.  Very relaxed and no stress, nothing like the “Showgirls 2” production.  I am working with my family on it, and my childhood best friend, Greg Heath, who I grew up with, he is my cinematographer and is also acting in the film. And my friend, Director Philippe Mora, will make an appearance in the film. (He is currently directing me in “Absolutely Modern”).   After I get Astrid in the can, I plan to make the sequel to “Showgirls 2”, currently Untitled.  I am really looking forward to making a new one, and some of the actors will be returning, Shelley Michelle, Paula Labaredas, and more.  I have written so many scripts, I would love to make them all.. especially my “Marie Antoinette” film and “Trasharella 2”.  And I am excited to wrap up “Spreading Darkness”, directed by Josh Eisenstadt, produced by Esther Goodstein.  I am one of the stars in it, along with Eric Roberts, John Savage, James Duval, Dominique Swain, Tara Cardinal, Louis Mandylor, and Nataliya Joy Prieto.  We’ve been trying very hard to get it in the can for 3 years now. And excited to start on the festival circuit with it.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Broadway, our very big cute dog. 🙂

Exci(Settle)ment in Songtan [Travelogue]

011With a month into my stay here in South Korea, I dare say most of the time has been wasted.  But, “wasted” might be a harsh term.  Although I have yet to travel too far out into the vast lands and many spectacles available in this country, I have indeed settled in quite nice here in the first month.  I’ve gotten to know the Americanized strip along Songtan, but like many people around here, I have chosen my watering holes and pretty much limit myself to certain particular places.  But unlike many of the foreigners around here, no places I frequent are not blaring out the latest Lil Wayne dance craze to entice passer buyers or filled with scantily clad Juicys wanting you to spend 20,000 won (18 dollars give or take) on a drink just for you to talk to them.  No, as I have stated before – The VFW, The Dawg Pound (the CE oriented joint), and for a wild card, a place called The Free Zone (which is finely bartended by the same gentleman who you can find at the VFW).  My wonderings around the city and base have eased up a bit because, well……it is freaking cold!

A couple of days ago, that devilish white powder began falling from the sky and a ridiculously rampant page.  I had arrived home at 7 a.m. from work, settled into my bed with a Netflix documentary on the drummer of Hole and nice glass of gin and orange juice, only to wake up several hours later to see the entire place blanketed in the filthy white mongrel sperm known as snow.  Now, I don’t particularly “hate” snow, I simply wish it only existed in regions of the world I will never live in, or even have to pass through in.  Whilst spending much of my time in the Northwest, I learned to endure the rain.  In fact, I manage to love and appreciate it.  I would still take a weekend in Manzanita on the Oregon Coast in February, over a week in the Jersey Shore or Miami Beach, places I can only imagine reek of fake bronzer, rotten silicone, and regret.  No, I like the dreariness.  It’s real to me.  But, this snow stuff is for the birds.  I spent 5 years in the desolate midwest, and 3 years in Eastern Washington (which everyone forgets is just a damn gaggle of prairie lands for the most part)….I want it gone!  Although I am definitely more fortunate now that I throw away all my blue collar shirts and am now a hack who sits in front of a computer watching YouTube videos of cats and answering phone calls from people I don’t care to talk to.  Unlike my first 8 years where I can clearly wishing death upon myself if it meant putting an end to the ridiculous frost bite my face was feeling at the time.  That sort of cold that does absolutely nothing but piss you off.

Rosie.

Rosie.

But, alas, I can manage.  It’s a cold walk in the mornings going either to or from work, depending on the schedule, but I have managed to make it work.  And I still have managed to make it down to The Dawg Pound and VFW (it was my one day off!  I’m going somewhere) to have a few OB Drafts or a couple of Korean Sunrises and to visit my girl Rosie.  Rosie being the sweetest pit bull you can ever know.  The bartender and owner of The Dawg Pound, an American named Max, began brining this precious little girl, who fits easily on a bar stool, around and we have started to bond.  And by bond I mean I always try to bring a pocket full of this disgusting to humans, but lovely for dogs, Korean beef(?) jerky (insert cannibalism joke here) and we are the best of friends for a few minutes.  These are the things I do to pass the time.  I feed dogs to dogs.  Whatever.

Although I do try to partake in as much activity as I can, I would be lying if I didn’t say I spent most of my time sitting in my room watching obscure documentaries about things that probably a dozen people in the world care about, watching my reoccurring TV shows (Can you believe the end of SOA?), and, most importantly, talking to my wife and kids via Skype.  The moments I get to see them are the best times here.  And since I work such an odd schedule, sometimes I get to talk for a very very long time.  Today was actually only the second time since I have been here that I have not gotten to see at least my wife’s beautiful face via Skype.  And let me tell you this….it sucks!  I can hardly wonder how it was so many years ago when I was lucky to get a phone call a day, and a few pictures every other week or so.  Such primitivism!!!  Alas, I am thankful for the communication I do have, and at times it really does feel like I am sitting back in that living room in Spokane that I love so much, with the people I love so much.  Almost, but not quite.

Whitey and I enjoying a freaked black and mild at the VFW.

Whitey and I enjoying a freaked black and mild at the VFW.

Beyond this, there is very little to report.  My dear friend around here, Whitey is soon be out of here at the end of December, and unlike I would be, he is seriously depressed about it.  He would love nothing more than to stay in this land for the rest of his life, and I will not be surprised to hear that he will be a permanent resident in the coming years.  So, I have been roaming from the V to Dawg Pound with this guy for the last month, and will continue to do so until he leaves.  But, when he leaves, he has left a trail of fine friends who have graciously taken me under their wing.  I’ve even subbed in for a couple of games of pool during the league (which is crazy intense and popular around here!) and sort of got the itch to join a league after a spot was offered to me (even though my official winning percentage is 0%), and I might just do it (stay tuned!).  I’m starting to become a bit more comfortable with my new job, and feel as though I could handle working there for another 11 months, and truly enjoy all the people I work alongside.  I feel as though I am going to make it, folks.  In the near future, when it’s not so damn cold, I will definitely be making some trips to Seoul, The DMZ, several museums, possibly Guam (when Melissa flies in), heading back to Longview, Washington (possibly for my 10 year High School reunion, ugh), and wherever I may find myself throughout 2013.  Basically I promise that the Travelogue sections of Trainwreck’d Society are definitely going to become more interesting.  Well, I can hope anyway.  I guess we will have to wait and see.  Until then…..

Anyoung he Kay Ship She Yo!