Local Hero

Well, looks like Mr. too-good to play Siren Records found himself a bigger audience. I am of course being sarcastic: he helped us out immensely, and maybe now that he's famous SOS cds might be worth a damn. I remember him playing at Solebury when I was in 7th grade. Christ imagine how lucky he must feel. Six years ago Scott Eckstein the social studies teacher introduced him in a high school theatre. Now Letterman introduces him in front of millions of people on TV. Best of luck, old man.

The Man from New York City

"Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single person to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do."

-Rudy Giuliani

And this suppurating fascist was almost president.
Just imagine someone being more proactive about the murder of civil rights for profit than the grazhny cowboy bastards in power.

The Underrated Work of Genius - Honeychurch Makes Me Feel Better

A few years ago, a band that about 1000 people know about recorded an album that is criminally beautiful. I say criminally because it is a tremendous effort and I may be one of a Bowery's worth of people who's ever heard it from start to finish. It is, on top of being on my top ten list of records from 2004, one of the simplest, devastating country revival records ever made. I don't mean Hank 3 or Jugband country or any of that CMT nonsense, I mean sun-drenched turn of the 70s country that came and went, and left behind some beautiful records. Larissa Hopwood, one half of the voices heard of Honeychurch and one of the most important people in my musical education, has been championing the songs of Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons and their influence is key to the awesome vocal harmonies and heart-melting songwriting. Shilough Hopwood, principle vocalist and rhythm guitar player takes the listener on a fantastic tour of past and future indie music and country ballads and does a much more elegant job of it than Wilco, M. Ward or Mason Jennings combined (Of course it helps to have a female voice and Tim Kratz' guitar player). The songs are fully realized and just become prettier with every new listen.

Honeychurch Makes Me Feel Better
by Honeychurch

I bought this record as it was going out of print. I was sort of in a big guitar phase and so it didn't initially strike me as the work of art that I've since recognized it to be. I liked the ninth track, Welcome Home, Spacegirl because it had an old-psych guitar break and it was nine minutes long. When I watched the Monterey Pop festival movie a while later I started to realize how important the record was. People were bringing back The Guess Who and Led Zeppelin but there was absolutely no one was doing a folk-rock revitalization. No one had thought to do for James Burton, Barry Melton, Roger McGuinn what Wolfmother, Mando Diao, Rooney and everyone at my high school doing for Pete Townsend and Jimmy Page. The Feelies and Tarkio had the right idea but never quite got it together. More importantly, at the time there was a shift underway among indie bands towards making studio-as-instrument records and making things as big as possible. Now I like it when music soars, but I also occasionally have to remind myself that you don't need a cast of thousands to do it. Every now and again four or five people can do the work of an orchestra. Rarer than that, however, is when those four or five people do it without theatrics.

I used to sit in my basement coming up with new lead parts for Welcome Home, Spacegirl. I hadn't yet started writing songs, so I would wait until dark and listen for Shilough to say "And rest your tired mind". That's when the four minute instrumental part happened and I would use all I knew about guitar playing to work through it as many times as I could before my eyes refused to stay open or my fingers refused to play. I wasn't very good (I'm still not very good) and more times than not had to stop and concede to Tim Kratz and Shilough Hopwood. The chords were strange and I wasn't used to such a progression. I was used to really simple stuff because that's all I had ever attempted at that point. Something was happening on this record that I'd never encountered before.

When I got a job at Siren Records and was slowly introduced to every band in the classic rock section, I finally got to see where Richard Thompson, my favorite guitar player got his start. It was in a band called Fairport Convention, a band that Larissa got me interested in. Fairport, a band that I've learned no one under twenty seems to have heard of, played folk rock before it was a genre, created new music generally using old poetry and ancient folk lyrics, though occasionally they wrote their own lyrics. The aim was to make music that was essentially timeless, rock that sounded like it came from the 14th century. When I came to Boston this January and started looking for a job in other record stores the first thing I noticed was that no one carried Fairport Convention. In fact no other record store I'd ever been to carried Fairport Convention. No one else I'd ever met had ever talked about them. I couldn't understand why. It's funny, a big part of maturing are those times when the pieces of a puzzle that have been floating around your head for a while finally fit together. Larissa knew about this band because she loved the music they played. She loved old folk music like no one else I'd ever met and that is precisely why the music she played sounded so very perfect. Some people will stumble upon a genre and then decide to devote themselves to it for an album or two, but for the most part don't really have much to say on the subject (Springsteen's Pete Seeger record, Cat Power's soul record, Ben Harper's gospel record). Honeychurch songs are so exceptional because they come from the minds of people who have lived the music all their lives. There is love on every Honeychurch song and it ties the Makes Me Feel Better record together with stronger feelings than any folk record in many, many years. I asked Larissa one time if she could put together her ideal band, comprised of any musicians living or dead, what would it be like. I'm paraphrasing, but her response was something like: "I don't know, I kinda like the band I'm in now." I didn't get it then, but I get it now. I have a band (I'm not comparing, just hear me out) and I understand that when you play together with someone even once in front of a crowd, you wouldn't trade them for anything. Now imagine you're in Honeychurch; you wouldn't ask for anything more, either.

There are a lot of bands used in sonic comparisons (Red House Painters, GP, Low, Mojave 3 (who Larissa sang with last year when Rachel Goswell fell ill), Luna, Crosby, Stills, & Nash, Neil Young) but truth be told I think these guys are the most unique of their type and much less aggravating than Neil Young or Mark Kozelek. They have the roots sound down in ways that Mojave 3 hasn't quite perfected, and they don't shy away from sounding like country like the Red House Painters. No one who listened to Honeychurch could accuse them of sounding like every other country band (especially by today's standards) and that they have the conviction to embrace their roots is admirable and honest. You can hear it in the first notes.

The record starts with "Fields on Fire", which after a few seconds introduces Honeychurch's most unique feature, Tim Kratz's guitar. Kratz, as far as I know, invented his method of playing the guitar. It sounds like a pedal steel guitar but it's actually a telecaster with a slide, a bigsby, and reverb and some other stuff I can't figure out. It's amazing, he can reproduce the sound of a lap steel on his six strings on command, which is to me more impressive than learning how to play an instrument. I may at some point get around to doing a Devil's Hands post about his playing, but he doesn't currently play with Honeychurch, it may be difficult. Tim is awesome because he can do both the subtle complimentary slide playing or more eloquent Peter Buck type stuff on what might be my favorite song on the record "From The Sky". That aside, his playing is brilliant and on the next track it takes a more central role. "Chancery Lane" shows Honeychurch at their strongest. Stefan Baker's drums set the pace, strings swoon beneath the Hopwood's heavenly voices, Tim's guitar reminds us we're still on earth and Shilough's guitar reminds us all this beauty came started small. It doesn't just come from nowhere, even genius starts small.

I've been meaning to ask Shilough if I could try and have my band cover "From The Sky" for awhile because it's the only one I'd not feel completely intimidated trying to play. On it, Shiliough's voice is as close to manageable as it comes, Larissa's voice stays in one place (albeit an impossibly high one) instead of showing the full capability of her vocal range like she does on "Birds" and "The Darkest Hour" (how dare she perform to the best of her ability!), Stefan's drumming is, thankfully, not as complicated as Tim's guitar, though here he takes a break from being virtuosic and is simply very difficult to keep up with. It's an incredible song and it finally clicked one night as I was driving. In fact, the whole record clicked that night. I was on my way back from somewhere and got a chance to listen to the whole record; a fresh start. I had always been envious of Shilough, but right then I was beside myself. Not just with jealousy for his talent but out of frustration at the world for not immediately recognizing this as the gift that it is. Maybe they aren't ready for it, who knows? Maybe they never got to "Chancery Lane (Revisited)" which serves as proof that any way it's played the music here is wonderful. You can hear four people playing guitar and singing or you can hear a string quartet playing it with reverb so thick you could get lose a shoe trying to walk through it. Maybe they, like me, need a few more listens to figure it out. Whatever it is, everyone who hasn't heard them is missing out.

I had the immense pleasure of playing before them not too long ago. I felt so small and silly when after all my songs had been played they set up and effortlessly played the music they were born to make.


I think what makes new bands stand out above all their peers is the approach they take to arranging their music once it's been written. Some bands are content to play the songs the same way again and again (now, mind you this does occasionally work), but in my experiences music becomes so much vital and exciting when the bands take the time to change the way they play them. Broken Social Scene changes the tempo of many of their songs and almost every guitar part changes at every show (not exactly the most original concept, but it saves their concerts from becoming reruns). There is one band in particular that has taken a really proactive approach to re-imagining their tunes: Grizzly Bear. It's hardly unexpected that a crew of chic artist types from Brooklyn would be so interested in turning each song into something new for every performance, but these guys do it better than nearly anyone I've seen. Seeing them live was a revelation because not only did it show me that every member of the band sings, they've all got a whole bevy of effects running simultaneously to turn the songs into a whole new fleet. They highlighted their spirit of change in the Friend EP, wherein they redid a few of their own songs, had other bands interpret their work and even did a Crystals cover (it's a faithful rendition but it's pretty amazing nevertheless). They have a style and a sound and so to hear them turn regular sounds into the heavy, crunchy Grizzly Bear sounds.

What's more every member of the band has their own personality that enters into the music. Obviously bassist/clarinet player Chris Taylor and drummer/keyboardist Christopher Bear add very unique elements to the music (Taylor's awesome backing vocals for one, Bear's light-delay heavy drums for another) but where the real difference comes in is the dynamic between lead vocalists Ed Droste and Dan Rossen. Ed has a much deeper voice and you could swim in it when it takes off. His tracks tend to be darker and sweeter. Rossen has a lighter, earthier sound and tends to accompany it with slighter instrumentation. Their voices appear equally on Yellow House, the bands first real record as a band (though technically) and the difference is at first so slight as to appear as if there might just be one voice, but, upon closer inspection the differences are made apparent. It's really cool to listen to Rossen sing his Deep Blue Sea and then hear Droste sing He Hit Me to see exactly where their styles part ways. Rossen is also a remarkable guitar player which just makes their improvisation and fascinating compositions easier to envy and impossible to turn off. What's more they seem to be completely unpretentious.

i wrote this way

i wrote backwards for you guys.  

Did Anyone Else Catch This

There's some stupid, mindless trashy film called Never Back Down coming out. The online advertisement campaign has started using reviews from members on IMDB, because the only people who liked it aren't critics, just people with Internet Movie Database accounts. Algigg said it was the best film he'd seen so far this year (good criteria, it's fucking march). Blinkmaneast89 had this to say:

great movie, 14 March 2008
Author: blinkmaneast89 from Canada
I went to the movies tonight not really sure what to expect. However when i left i was very pleased and i enjoyed this film very much.
The acting in it is very well done, and Dijimon Honsou adds a great character to the story. The plot is very good, and the fighting is also top notch.
Sean Faris as Jake Tyler really impressed me, i had never heard of him before this movie, but i thought he did a good job. Amber Heard also does a great job of playing Baja Miller, she is very attractive and is also very convincing.
Overall it was a very good movie and i would watch it again and again.

In case no one else figured this out: a capsule review with nothing but good things to say with an account name with no significance. I'm pretty sure the makers of this film just made somebody up and posted this comment so they could pretend someone liked it because no one else did and this user has never commented on anything else. This is the lowest thing I have ever heard of before. It was bad enough that this damned thing was made, but now to have to scrape the bottom of the barrel and then lie about what you found. Good god. On this same message board some other people said that they liked it because either the leads were attractive or they were fans of UFC. None of these were proofread. Someone said that Step Up 2 the Streets was a better movie. I can't believe my eyes sometimes. This means that producers know full well that there films are no good but insist on pouring money into them like feed into a trough.

My tolerance for critical opinion was already low, but now that I know that people legimately don't care what they have to say, I know that film criticism and producing as a career is ludicrous and irrelevant. Everyone involved should be more than ashamed of themselves.

To Death man swiftly falls a prey

That biased oscar montage is going to be packed like a marquee come next March. Arthur C. Clark, legendary Science fiction author and theorist, co-writer of Stanley Kubrick's version of his own work 2001: A Space Odyssey died on Tuesday. We have him to thank not only for 2001, but also Andrei Tarkovsky's filmic rebuttle Solaris. 2010 came more than ten years after and was a little more like Solaris than 2001. We also then have Arthur C. Clarke to thank for every pensive-dwindling body count in space film and serious take on space travel film that's come after it. Sunshine, Event Horizon, Alien, For All Mankind, Apollo 13, Star Wars; they all took something from 2001.

Anthony Minghella, director of many a flawed historical epic, died the same day. The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Cold Mountain and a few nothing movies in between were all his handy work. He took part in a project where many directors filmed versions of Samuel Becket's plays. I read one of Minghella's plays, Whale Music, about a group of lesbians who meet up for a weekend. They all have issues with romance and each other. It's not that it wasn't feasible, but it felt like he was trying for something that wasn't there. He had decent taste in music as evidenced by his soundtracks. Made a civil war film in which Jack White was the only American. His career was full of almosts and near-misses, but no one deserves to die at 54, of a brain hemmorhage no less.

I mentioned not long ago that the 1971 version of King Lear was one of my favorite Shakespeare adaptations. Well the title character was played by an incredible actor called Paul Scofield who died yesterday. Scofield hadn't made a film in almost ten years and just had his 86th birthday. He was a shakespearian actor, he was any kind of actor, he was a damn good actor. He played the ghost in Hamlet, Karenin in Anna Karenina, Thomas More in a Man For All Seasons and his theatre credits are too many to count. He was the voice of Akira Kurosawa in voice over for a documentary about the man. He was tall and broad shouldered and looked like what I pictured God to look like as a child of 6.

On Tuesday, 67 years ago, Virgiana Woolf killed herslef in Sussex, England. She inspired many actors to study her writings, become experts and partake in films of her writings. Kenneth Brannagh, Eileen Atkins, Rosemary Harris, Nicole Kidman, Tilda Swinton, Vanessa Redgrave, Natascha McElhone, even Michael Gough, and countless others have been moved to perform her words; perform words on a page never intended for such a thing. That is art; that transcends form and timee to inspire artists in all fields.

To Death man swiftly falls a prey, whither shall I turn?

snow cake.

I watched this movie this winter. It's really super.

Snow Cake is a film about a friendship between a man and a highly functional autistic woman.  Her daughter had been hitch-hiking and the man, Alex (Alan Rickman--he played Snape in Harry Potter, I think), had picked her up. They got into an accident on the way, and the daughter, Vivienne, died. He goes to talk with her mother, Linda (Sigourney Weaver), who convinces Alex to stay with her. One of the things she cannot stand is taking out the garbage and after a bit of persuasion he agrees to have a small stay with her. She becomes attached and he ends up staying with her for a long time. Throughout the movie, he develops a relationship with the neighbor (Carrie-Ann Moss) and has troubles with a local policeman who thinks he has unearthed a dark secret from Alex's past. In the end, Alex is changed and leaves Linda to be alone. She too has overcame many challenges. 

It's a very good movie and I recommend you see it. : ]

Love, Ginny.

"Amédée" or "How to Get Rid of It" - A Comedy

I cannot even begin to fathom how this play could ever be staged unless magic existed. Throughout it's three acts, mushrooms (poisonous, at that) spring up from the ground, increase in size, and glow. A corpse slowly, but surely, swells and lengthens. The corpse is pulled and pushed over distances by Madeleine and Amédée, and is finally wrapped around Amédée, who is then lifted off the ground and floats away. Day becomes night, shooting stars soar across stage, the hands of clock rotate in time with the growth of the corpse.

Regardless, it is amazing - mesmerizing! - and I highly recommend it. If you liked "The Bald Soprano", you will definitely love this one.

Favorite Films of 2007

I won't say best, because, well, you know...arrogance. But, favorite's alright. These are just mine, they speak for no one else. I do invite others to put theirs up.

3:10 To Yuma
No Country For Old Men
There Will Be Blood
Margot At The Wedding

[ed: here's five more, FROM THE FUTURE!!!!! Now it's an even ten]

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
The Diving Bell & The Butterfly
4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days
Water Lilies

The strength of the writing, atmospherics, cinematography, music, performances, directing, style, effects, and production and sound design make these films pretty amazing works of art. All but No Country are criminally underrated and all of them have the same qualities as some of my all-time favorite films. They make such precise choices in their construction and are masterfully crafted by people with brilliant minds.

I'd Sleep With Dreams - James Chance

James Chance and the Contortions were a band from New York's No Wave scene. The scene was based around the most anarchistic artistic types you'd ever meet; the kind of people who found Dada to be too calm. The movement consisted of many different people and a few different musicians and bands. The four core groups were Mars, DNA, Teenage Jesus & The Jerks, and James Chance & the Contortions. They played music that was frantic and pretty much unique at the time. It was a little like a mixture of the middle of a stooges song as played by the B-52s. The musicians all played with each other and collaborated. Contortions frontman James Chance and guitarist Jody Harris and Teenage Jesus frontwoman Lydia Lunch all participated in a number of other No Wave projects (including films by other artists in the circle, one of which I believe involved Chance murdering Lunch). The shows they put on are legendary among the six people who remember them. James Chance used to put on shows and in the middle of a song would leap into the audience, harrassing women (fondling and biting them) and then picking fights with the men (he and Iggy Pop had this in common, as well as their frequent losses in these fights). The music of these bands (Harris' guitar playing especially, nimble and angry) has influenced many, many bands. Morphine, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Kills, The Ladies, Pavement, Nick Cave (he even looks a little like Chance, come to think of it). They were artists as much as muscians and had a big entourage to prove it. Jim Jarmusch, John Lurie and Jean-Michel Basquiat all hung around the No Wave sceners putting on shows (or just putting on suits and tagging along with them). The picture above of is Chance and then girlfriend Lunch. It's like staring at Death's prom photo, isn't it? Tree-mendous

Anyway, Chance was a live-wire, a snake; The Contortions have an interesting little niche carved out for themselves in music history (right between Adrian Belew and the hobo in Gavin Bryar's Jesus Blood Hasn't Failed Me Yet) and I think that too many people look right past them. In fact kids look right past that whole period between 78 to 84 (selectively choosing their top 40, industry punk, and late-stage Aerosmith hits) to the time before it. Post-Punk has a world of excellence to offer the world (they had guitar heros: Andy Gill, Harris, Bernard Sumner, Keith Levene, David Byrne, Johnny Marr, Will Sargent, Robert Smith, Jim Morrison-type balladeers: Ian McColluch, Stephen Mallinder, Ian Astbury, Smith again, Ian Curtis, Peter Murphy, psychadelic wall-of-sound freak-outs that would rival Jefferson Airplane: Mission of Burma, Throbbing Gristle, Glen Branca, Sonic Youth, Wire, our heroes The Contortions). My point is this: Chance was by all means a crazy bastard. He became a legend purely on his own terms: he shouted, twisted, dressed nicely, and made art with his friends as long as it suited him. To just be and be revered, friends that's life as it was meant to be lived. If I could one day be called the James Chance of anything, I'd sleep with dreams brighter than the sun. Anyway, James Chance was far too effervescent and artistically furious to remain in charge for too long and the contortions had their headstone carved in 1980. Rest, my Contortions, and we'll toast your ghost nightly.

Dennis' Guitar

the finest in hobo technology

After being kicked in by a certain someone who will remain anonymous, (for referral purposes, we'll call him Stephen Penny) Dennis Liana's guitar went through several reconstructive surgeries in my basement.

It's latest problem was that the piece of wood holding the saddle in place snapped off, so none of the strings were raised and consequently muted.I have fixed this by making a new saddle out of a piece of wood and some notched nails. It is held in by bolts and can be easily removed from the face of the guitar, in case it doesn't work out too well. I'm worried the sharp metal edges may cut up the strings, but so far, under full tension, they seem to be fine.

Tale of Tales, by Yuri Norstein

Parents Who Fuck For Children And God, Their Children Will Fuck With Their Minds

The problem with some 20th century goddess traditions is that they unwittingly, or perhaps intentionally, get trapped in the mire of a matriarchy substituting past patriarchy, poorly disguised as something radically different from God the Father, Yahweh, and Zeus. It is not a matter of perpetuating some duality of gender through a polarized spiritual lens. In many respects, matriarchy/patriarchy is the very essence of duality or polarity, of antagonistic opposites, of bitter enemies that reconcile through copulation, only to separate again after the birth of their offspring. The preconceived notion of the offspring serves as a deus ex machina, an illogical equilibrium to an already illogical polarized “relationship”. And as soon as the offspring is given a form of its own, the illusion of balance shatters like a mirror - the mirror is in the offspring’s eyes, reflecting back to the dual-gendered parents their true forms, their real identities, which are so hideous! An oozing and stretching of countless faces, lips, genitals, colors, muscles…the very dissolution and fragmentation of their once singular identities! If only these two enemies in love could cast away their p(m)atriarchy’s handcuffs – two rings, always one in regards to one, one versus the other, one defined by the other. The final irony to it all is their dualistic understanding enabled a singular stagnant state of being. Although computer engineers will bear secular witness to the reductionist language of 1s and 0s as the true form of expression and communication, the building blocks of all numerical – and even aesthetic – value – even so, there are numbers beyond One, and beyond Two. Most importantly, Zero does not exist in our lives. Even in one’s absence is their a negative numerical value. Zero is death, or rather the fear of death.

Those two allegorical parents believed to be Two, when they were still only one versus one. Their attempt to join together, 1 + 1, ended up equaling a third being. But they clung on to that fallacy of an equation: 1 + 1 = 2 (?). The sum, as we all know, is never 2 – now there is a third, and some day will awaken to a fourth, and so on ad infinitum. Their child, Three, destroys their equation of (designed for) equilibrium. I repeat, the illusion of balance shatters like a mirror – the mirror is in the offspring’s eyes, reflecting back to them their true, 100+ digits form. If only, like their ancestors, they saw freedom in multiplicity and mutability. If only, like their ancestors, they saw Three’s two (?) eyes as circles, two loops of infinite dots and infinite time a reminder of the two rings, the two enemies in love, the two questions and the one solution….brought together, Three’s circular eyes become ∞… they are not their ancestors; the “distorted” mirrors of Three’s eyes are not circles, they are Zeros, the negation of circles, the negation of value. Their fear, itself a fittingly cowardly thing, flees the light sparkling in the corner of Three’s eyes. The fear is of death, and death is fear – the one last devolution of duality into singularity, linguistic logical loop severed and terminated. Rather the self-annihilation of one’s one Self and one’s one Other (itself too one Self / Its Self Two One Self), rather that than giving each other lobotomies followed by castrations.

Shakespeare on Film

There have been a lot of Ham-ful tellings of the bard on celluloid. If you'd care to see an excercise in scenery chewing take your pick - Kenneth Brannagh, Laurence Olivier, Orson Welles, Al Pacino. Not that watching seasoned Shakespearian actors isn't fun when you're in the right mood, but for my money there has to be something else to make the words of Shakespeare appear greater than they are. My issue with Brannagh and his type is that they're cause is to be faithful to the source while taking their characters for the most outrageous of spins. It's a little like watching the know-it-all in your class take his turn to speak when the subject of beat poetry comes up. They have EVERYTHING to say about Allen Ginsberg, but nothing that hasn't been said before. The real treat comes when someone puts a little something extra into the works of Shakespeare. Take for example, Mona's favorite, Throne of Blood. Throne of Blood, while it shrinks the action into almost blink-and-miss it status, but the things director Akira Kurosawa does with visuals is practically unrivaled (certainly in the realm of filmic Shakespeare). The details are played with (obviously feudal Japan and 11th century Scotland are too different to make similar), but to great effect. The three witches are made one (a ghastly ghoul he is), the guilt is shifted almost entirely to our Lady Macbeth and the death of the hero is one befitting such a cowardly king, not so heroic as being beheaded by his fated murderer. The barrage of arrows, forest witch hunt, and moving forest are some of the most interesting things Kurosawa ever filmed and serve to make Throne of Blood one of the most madcap and poetic adaptations ever. He knew that in order for an adaptation to be a success you had to have passion enough to throw yourself into the project with all the style in your bones. My other favorite retellings of the bard are chock full and are presented here in no particular order.

My Own Private Idaho: Ask someone what Keanu Reeve's good Shakespeare movie is and you'll likely get a blank stare. You wouldn't know it unless you were paying close attention (or were a theatre-queen like myself) but this dirty, moody gay love story takes its cues from three separate Shakespeare plays. Henry IV: parts I and II and Henry V. The sweetness of watching Keanu Reeves get Shakespeare's words right after muttering such things as "Some hustler, huh?" is gratifying indeed. Also, any film that features a post-pubescent River Phoenix gets an automatic pass over here, but he deals with the themes of the plays using almost none of the fancy wordlery. A triumph all around; the kind of style neccesary to breathe life into Henry V.

The Bad Sleep Well: Displaced from Denmark to the cutthroat world of Japanese capitalism, Kurosawa's take on Hamlet is white-knuckled and ruthless. The amazing use of black-and-white cinematography and contrast is perhaps the best it's ever been. Toshiro Mifune commands the utmost power and is more terrifying here than anytime he ever played a samurai or gangster. When spitting out the crimes of his intended revenge victims, it's more gripping than watching him cut someone's arm off.

King Lear: Peter Brooks adaptation isn't as colorful or stylistically alienating as Kurosawa's or Godard's version, but there's nothing but love here. Brooks shows he not only loves the play, but that he loves Orson Welles and Olivier's versions of his other plays, as by 1971 the definitive editions of most of his best-known tragedies and comedies had been made. The visual cues are taken from those earlier films but here Brooks takes all their missteps and crafts a flawless film of them. The gorgeous cinematography, the harrowing intertitle, the venom in all of his characters juxtaposed with the kindness that shows up in his title character and in the fool and the Earl of Kent, the switches from subtlety to ferocity. Lear is shown initially as a man too big to fit entirely in the frame, but he is slowly stripped of his stature, pride and giant prowess. Brook constructs a truly mesmerizing take on the story.

Romeo & Juliet: Now, I admit this is a straight-up adaptation, but I've never seen the details of the scenery and costume fit the story so like a glove. The dusty realism of Zefirelli's 1968 film is perhaps why it's so fondly regarded among all other versions. It has none of the glam-flam of Baz Luhrman's masturbatory 1996 film and for once the teenagers are believable - emotions, looks, and all. Zefirelli was a Shakespearean purist like Olivier (Olivier even shows up to narrate the thing, and he did it free of charge) and so none of the liberty taking of his peers rears its head, but his romantic style makes it all worth while. It helps of course that Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey are both reasonably attractive kids (Olivia Hussey looked that beautiful until she was about 45. She's gorgeous in Black Christmas six years later, looking like she hasn't aged a day. If there were any justice she'd have a bigger legion of fans).

Harry & The Potters send their love!

Lights In The Dusk

Aki Kaurismaki's Lights In The Dusk is a slow film. Jim Jarmusch slow. So slow that it makes its 78 minutes feel close to two hours. The hero of the story is betrayed, abandoned, beaten, put in prison, ridiculed, and left for dead. He gets angry and takes action once in the movie. It is about as simple a movie I've seen in the last year. Not a great deal happens, but it is pleasing to look at and somehow manages to make anger rise in the viewer with very understated actions and pretty motivated lighting. Like a Jarmusch film it has a style, but never extends beyond the realm of the possible. It felt a little like Broken Flowers meets Out of the Past. I was mostly unmoved by the things that happen to put-upon patsy Koistinen until towards the end when the final instances of passive action happens to him. That Aki Kaurismaki can elicit such a response with such a slight film proves there was more going on in the movie than I initially thought while watching it. It takes patience but you will come to seethat it is a purely emotional film. It is sad, touching, meditative, quiet and has something like a universally themed story.

The Devil's Hands - Michael Doerksen & Jordan Robson-Cramer

The Devil's Hands is what I'm calling it when I rave about a guitar player nobody else seems to have noticed or appreciated. Canadians Michael Doerksen and Jordan Robson-Cramer are two such guitar players. Their hands are skilled in the tradition of Frank Zappa and Adrian Belew. They share guitar playing duty for the band Sunset Rubdown, fronted by Wolf Parade key player Spencer Krug. I've been using the song "The Mending Of The Gown" as a standard for speed and agility. Sunset has no shredding and none of that Post-Rock string-scrape thing. The notes, though distorted, are picked cleanly and with purpose. The fact that their rhythm parts are as complicated and intense as many guitar solos, it makes their solos all the more devastating. Take "Up On Your Leopard, Upon The End Of Your Feral Days" the standout from Sunset's sophomore record Random Spirit Lover. The album doesn't credit them specifically so it's tough to say which of the two men is playing, but he, Cramer or Robson, starts out with a part that could have been played by a violin or an organ, but he makes it his own, and in doing so makes the song both original and unforgettable. Spencer Krug's layering of keyboards makes it possible for Doerksen and Cramer to craft the slick, athletic pieces they performs pitch-perfectly. The song "Mending Of The Gown" might be the most unique non-instrumental song structured around guitar playing in a good many years. Best of all they, like Broken Social Scene's Andrew Whiteman, seems to change their parts every show. They have hands that move like lightning and parts that cut through rhythm as in "Swimming" and "Stadiums & Shrines II" from the first Sunset record Shut Up I Am Dreaming. Of course, because America is so blind to anything but shredding and cock-rock and because Canada doesn't have the same tab on its guitar players, there's a pretty good chance they're never going to have their talent recognized in that sense. Krug gets the credit for his zany compositions and worldly song structures so much so that he overshadows the other three members of his band. Not anyone's fault, but that's just the truth of it. Doerksen and Robson-Cramer deserve some kind of recognition because he's one of the most talented young guitar players. He has more flare than most of the players who end up on best of lists, but they'll remain under-appreciated by everyone but for the seven or eight Canadian indie music fans who are also guitar aficionados.

You can't see anything in this video, but listen close and you can hear the guitar, its the first thing you hear.

politics today

Just to let everyone know, HIllary (sadly) won Ohio and Texas and is back in the race. I'm sorry to everyone who is for her because i isn't.

Last Year at Marienbad / Carnival Non Drôle

There is only one other movie that comes close to resembling Last Year at Marienbad. Last Year, directed by Alain Resnais in 1961 is about a man stuck reliving a memory differently as he tries to explain it to a girl (time and reliving mistakes, was Resnais great obsession). He's in love with this girl and tries to make her remember their time together. As he recalls it, he remembers the scene differently each time and soon the versions of the story begin overlapping. People drift from one evening to another, different clothes, same dialogue and events. All the while the man's pleading voiceover mixes with an almost perpetual organ score. The organ plays even when violins are played by musicians onscreen, making flesh the frustration at the heart of the story. It won the top prize at Cannes, and with good reason: there hadn't ever been anything like it. There is only one movie that has since come close to its haunting, dream-like, angst-ridden feel: Carnival of Souls.
As far as markets, personnel and reception are concerned the films are as close as an orange and a buffalo, but, in the reels lie similarities strong enough to make someone mistake them for brothers (albeit one elegant, the other deformed and awkward). They both feature characters stuck in a world they cannot control, alienated by the forces closing in on them, trying to probe their mind for some meaning to their suffering. In Last Year the stranger has his thoughts twisted and doubted by the woman he loves. He tries desperately to make her see that she too, once, distantly loved him as passionately as he did. The memories are clouded by thoughts of her rejecting him in the past, present and future. Carnival of Souls follows a woman for whom every aspect of her life is uncertain: she survives a car accident in which, it seems, all of her friends have been killed. She moves to a strange place and is menaced by a spectral face everytime she is alone. The people in her everyday life are intimidating and make her feel uncomfortable to the point where she doesn't feel a part of the living world. Both films have people wandering in and out of time and space. Both have a haunting face that disrupts their mental stability (Herk Harvey, our strange shadowy auteur, in Carnival; Sacha Pitoëff in Marienbad) and leads them into the darkest realms of their soul. Both films would have had to have been labours of love for their directors: Herk Harvey made only one feature length film in his lifetime and Carnival of Souls is a very pronounced vision; I say the same of Resnais simply because Last Year at Marienbad is such a strange goddamned film. Who would spend the six weeks shooting the same scene ten or eleven times over, only to lose most of the footage on the cutting room floor and have a gothic whirlwind of anti-baroque moodiness to show for it? I hope for his sake that he knew what he was doing.

The final thing that binds these films like split embryos in a womb is the soundtrack, oh yes, the soundtrack. The only music we get from either of these films is non-stop organ music. Wailing, noodling, aimless, screaming organ music from frame 1 to frame ∞. This can't be an accident. Harvey went so far as to make his heroine a church organ player; when's the last time you've seen a movie where someone goes out of their way to take a job as an organ player at a church no one is ever seen entering? Both of these men knew something and organ music was part of the plot. Personally, I like a violin or a tuba every now and again. Not these two. It's pipes or bust. Now of course Resnais had much else to represent his style and vision as a director (I highly suggest Hiroshima Mon Amour, it is the Frenchest movie of all time. And of course, a blinding masterpiece of eroticism and loss), but Harvey only had Carnival of Souls. This means that both men thought highly enough of the idea of gloomy tales of alienation to pour a hell of a lot of effort into making them. For all my jaw-clenching, these are original movies and were made by men with vision, which is more than most films can claim. Resnais was obviously rewarded more than Harvey (ed. Now both films share a Criterion DVD sleeve. Though Harvey beat Resnais to the punch by about four years).

Personally, I can't decide which one I liked better on first visit. Last Year pulled ahead lately, but you have to admire the purity of obscure vision from both films. As far as motivating ideas and atmosphere go, Harvey and Resnais are just about even in my book. Composition: Resnais wins by a mile with his nods to the geometric avant-garde films of the 20s in the garden and every sweeping run over the exquisitely crafted, but soul-crushing hotel corridors. The images themselves say as much about the facile arrogance of the rich and so it is clear that Resnais had the more hyper-active brain. The shapes and contrasts, the beautiful shot of the hotel alone at night. He had ideas about relationships other artists have never touched and his movies are a testament to the wonderful mind he's still putting to use today. Harvey had some wonderful compositions and I can't help but wonder as to whether he was a misunderstood genius or a creepy amateur with a whole lot of luck. That Harvey achieves a number of truly awe-inspiring shots is to his credit, but his background gives me pause in my appraisal of him. I've seen his other work, as a maker of educational/safety shorts, and clever though they are, they aren't exactly early Kieslowski either. One can't deny that these are unique; those great expressionistic shots of the organ; the silhouettes outside the theme park; Candace Hilligoss's hair deserves special commendation for being so photographable; the dance of the ghosts; the walk through the empty town; the infamous face. He really makes a showing of himself. He, like Russ Meyer, is one of the few men who have provided people with something else to look at other than the thing they've paid to stand in front of the camera. Intention is another matter, but such is the burden of the cinephile. Our reward is to be able to bask in the wonderful enigma of a case such as this and have both texts at our fingertips.

Both films undeniably served as an influence for The Shining. And for that we can all be thankful.

by the request of lina

i love everyone! i was forced to post because lina threatened to use the force on me or she did in my mind. so i decided to post. i love lina a lot because she rocks my sock and such. i also am in love with bumble bees because they can't sting you lots like other bees and yellow jackets. plus, shelley won't admit it but it is amanda's nickname.
amanda is at my house right now. there's a picture of us. hahahahahhhhh! we look weeeeeiirrrdddddaradffddd.

love, theo.

ps. amanda enjoys eating metal necklaces for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! (and snacks)

by the request of lina

amanda and me is best friends.
we are where it's at.

Klaus Nomi

While I'm at it, I DARE you to discover the incredible greatness that is Klaus Nomi. Designed David Bowie clothing, a gay performance artist who died of aids in the early 80s. And weird - no, that is an understatement.

After watching these, I suggest you type in Klaus Nomi Ding Dong, and Klaus Nomi The Twist in a youtube search. No, I won't tell you what it is.

And Also The Trees

No, I've never heard of them either. But apparently they've been around since 1980, worked closely with The Cure in the early 80s, distinguished themselves with a more progressive and experimental approach than other early goth/punk bands, and consequently never got very big.

Just thought I'd let you know. They have a new album coming out this month - I have it, and it's not very much like these videos. It is a weird cross between Brothers Grimm fairy tales, goth, neo-folk, circuses, and Chris Isaak ;)


Pasolini was what you might call a film theorist. Or anyway, that's what he called himself. No, more important film theorists came before and after him. Lars Von Trier, Peter Greenaway, Alain Resnais, Jean-Luc Godard, Ingmar Bergman, Paul Schrader to a certain, oft facile extent and certainly Tarkovski. Maybe Masahiro Shinoda. None of them is a perfect example, but if you've seen enough of their work you get my meaning. It deserves some more thought.

Film theorists, as Pasolini would like us to believe, are not people who concern themselves with plot specifics or reasonable character archs, but directors who manipulate both for the sake of proposing something greater. Teorema, the first movie where this was put into practice for the first time in 1968. It stars Terrence Stamp as a gorgeous divine force who seduces an entire family, even the maid, and then leaves. Their reactions are all different but it is only the maid, the sole member of the working class, who actually benefits from their encounter. Pasolini never said whether or not Stamp was supposed to be god or satan but it hardly matters. He is of some other realm and wields a great and terrible power. His desire to be a theoretical filmmaker was really part of a greater identity crisis that stemmed from a deep hatred of himself and the world that created him. He felt it desperately unfair that he was destined to be a wealthy artist while millions were poor and died. That's why his films were initially neo-realist in nature, he wanted to show the world what poverty and religion were doing to the people of slumland Italy. Prostitutes and hustlers were his people and he pitted them against priests, the law and the idle rich. Religious idolatry was another specialty of his. He wasn't satisfied telling the truth, so he left that behind and began his quest for spiritual satisfaction. He failed by his own admission. He did however get the wheels in the head turning like with his notions of theory. And so something else emerges - film as an idea rather than entertainment. Which is fittingly an Italian notion as they also pioneered the practice of making entertainments that weren't entertaining. Anyone who says they enjoy Late Night Trains, is, I'm afraid, lying. Teorema doesn't seem designed by someone out to assault you with aesthetics, yet its beauty comes through anyway, rather like a Bunuel gutted for speed. He uses shorthand like Terence Stamp and volcanic landscapes. You could mistake it for entertainment or surrealism, but it's something more and less. It's been covered many times since, because it is in essence, the perfect arthouse idea. The consequences of the visitor on each member of the family is where your new artists (Joe Swanberg, Takashi Miike) get to add their new coat of paint. In rejecting conventional narrative, and even his usual mise-en-scene, he created a whole new way to frame ideas. The world caught on eventually, but by then Pasolini was dead, killed by the very people he had set out to glorify, a rebuke to his own theory, having tried to walk among another class and failing to change them, only those who were his peers - other artists. Roberto Saviano quotes him in his book, the impossibly gripping Gomorrah, and it's clear that though many of us will forever be touched by his idealism, masked as it may have been behind mountains of anger, they may never save the people he wished, or touch the people who need it most.

Eva Hesse

Eva Hesse was a minimalist Post-modern artist active in the sixties and seventies who experimented with geometrical forms, repetition, and the concept of ephemerality. She steered away from the use of "traditional" art materials like oil paints and charcoal, and used instead industrial materials like sheets of steel and metal piping. Ironically the materials she used poisened her body over the years and led to her early death. Maybe artists are depressed loners because all of our role models died before they turned forty or killed themselves...
Anywho, Hesse was heavily influenced in her youth by the Gutai movement. This movement started in Japan and expressed that there is a power and a spirit in all the materials an artist uses, and that by manipulating the object or tool we only dull that spirit. Basically that we do not need to change an object for it to be art. Their art also focused on traces, like footprints on a beach or an tire tracks in the mud. This lead to many artists using their own bodies so that the process of creation, not the finished product, became the subject of art. For example, in a famous Gutai piece the artist stripped naked and crawled through the mud, the trace of his body. Movements such as this eventually gave way to what is known as performance art. But back to Eva:
She chose to work with materials that were not ephemeral, her pieces were not meant to last forever. Because she was influenced by the Gutai movement her pieces often look only half finished, or look like they were stolen from a gutted building and left on a stage. She also experimented with repetition, so many of her pieces are circles or other shapes repeated on a page, or identical shapes built and left randomly on a floor.
Her titles were inventive and she often researched latin orgins and created her own words so that she could express exactly what she wanted to by her titles. She said that the power of her pieces was the art and because that was not her production she did not have to work on them alone. She often had her students or her lovers help her construct and paint things and she said that at every stage they left the work at, it made a statement. This leads us to the ambiguousness of authorship. If an artist asks or hires someone else to paint a picture from one of their sketches, who is the author of the piece. Is there a difference between being the author of a concept and the author of a piece? Is a dead stick on the ground its own stament or does it need to be photographed or carved to be called art?

antarctica, blue whale islands, and The Tower

this summer i was fortunate enough to meet colin campbell, and he has become one of my favourite artists. he is stunning; he finds beauty in places that many people would not think to look. his imagination intrigues me. he brings us one of the last remaining wildernesses and shows us how gorgeous the earth can be. he captures the true colours of his subjects. i want to crawl away into one of his tree houses or sculptures and create my own art. i promise you that you will want to do the same.


because i have an inability to write anything else.

i have no ability to write anything besides tidbits about things that i do. today i made a bonfire from lots of fallen tree limbs and such. at my house, there is a small fire pit where we can make fires. it when away after awhile, so i found a stick made for a marshmallow, set it on fire, and tried to set other pieces of wood on fire. it did not work, but it was a good try. my dad came out and made it a big fire again. it made me happy. i like bonfires! hah. :]

the wonders of Microsoft Paint

shelly makes me happy

Me and Magritte

So as of now my profile picture is "The son of man" since I don't have a picture of myself and I am currently extremely taken by all of Rene Magritte's paintings. He is fabulous. Apparently there are pictures of me on facebook if anyone knows how I could get these onto my profile that'd be cool, 'til then it's going to be this...

Attention = Quality

Morning Theft's new album is available for free on the online. Just like Radiohead. Hey come to think of it, a lot of bands have been releasing albums and other music online for free before Madonna or Trent Reznor or Radiohead thought of it. John Frusciante, Explosions in the Sky, Nels Cline, Sonic Youth, Arctic Monkeys, Elliott Smith's entire B-side collection. Maybe it's cause all along there have been people who sincerely just want you to hear music and don't give a good goddamn who walks away with the money. Maybe it's been true all along but people don't pay any attention until arena-sized bands start acting strange.

You know what would be more groundbreaking and interesting? The vinyl only release renaissance. The Decemberists got the idea with their extra disc of Tracks and I think maybe it's Matador or Saddle Creek that started releasing vinyl with codes for free mp3 downloads of the entire album. That's a press-feast I could get behind.

My stuff keeps disappearing

Two weeks ago my purse went missing, and now my journal has joined it. Come spring, I'll likely be homeless.