The Problem With
Hmm, what to read next? I just finished Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians and now I need to decide which book comes next. Like most readers I have a queue that gets filled up over time with future endeavors. Unlike most Readers I chip away at mine with only a casual fingertip. I read a little now and then. Traveling is best but I don't have a normal hands-free commute. I used to be better about reading and writing on Sunday's but that's passed as my weeks have edged into my weekends.
I've got the Ellis and PKD I haven't finished... but I'm tempted to let those age: I enjoy them so much that I prefer to not waste them like an adolescent furiously masturbating in the few hours before her parents return from the movies. I sip their writing. There's some Bukowski... Eggers, Calvino. The non-fiction novel. The surrealist short story. Mmm.
I also use a lot of nonfiction to fill out my reading. I especially like it when I can take an author who's fiction I like (Murakami Norwegian Wood) and have them transposed into nonfiction (Underground, about the Aum Sarin gas attacks). I love the juxtaposition. It's a great time to be alive: to know these times where criticism and the art can feed back on each other in a self-sustaining loop. I'd like to thank the French for this; I'll give them the credit because a personal favorite is the edge where film and film criticism cross edges. There's something about film... maybe its the editing process... that makes/attracts certain creators to discuss it endlessly. If they aren't making it, they are talking about it. Martin Scorsese is such a pleasure because he's Martin Scorsese- director ('cuz he makes the best fucking films, he makes the best fucking films) and Martin Scorsese- film historian. His documentaries on American and Italian cinema are brilliant documents... Scorsese inserts himself and guides us through his own personal voyage through cinema. It's the impassioned subjective: not saying what he thinks it is important to all people but arguing only for the reason's why it is important to him. Probably one of my favorite books is Kurosawa's Something Like an Autobiography because it speaks the same way: it is lucid, personal, insightful and unqualified. He hides things and tells you why. He is overcome with images and can't explain it. He just lays out what he has and hopes that those words can explain them.
This school of critique we can thank the French for: Bazin, Cahiers du Cinema and the like. When the rest of the world was moving from just analysis of literature and drama, gangs of upstarts in the 50's began to look at this evolving art form of the moving picture. They began to develop theories and syntaxes, crafting a way to discuss movies as more than just empty entertainment. Film became something for the intellect. And from that we can trace a direct line to Pauline Kael and Ebert and the rest.
My favorite of that generation was Francois Truffaut... and not because of his movies. I must say I have no endless adore for his movies. 400 Blows seems to be one of those "you had to be there" moments. I respect the crosspollinating splash of Shoot the Piano Player but I can't say I'm his biggest fan. What truly attracts me to Truffaut is how he too bound himself to the art and became fused with it.
For Christmas my Dad got me Truffaut's The Films in my Life, a collection of essays on films, genres and directors he edited together. Reading through the first few dozen pages I remembered what made me love Truffaut while being so indifferent to so many of the other French vanguard thinkers. From the beginning his films were personal: if not autobiographical than dogeared with his own lifelong experience with movies. He was brash and combative. This made him unbelievably quotable. And yet none of his venom came out of insecurity. Because of that you never get the feeling of him being a villain. At worst he seemed Quixotic.
Truffaut loved Hitchcock almost to a fault. My friend Andy, any time I bring up Truffaut, will mention how he can only read so much about how great Hitchcock is.
Truffaut is usually considered a film intellectual and held to the breast by many elitists... but then he appeared in Close Encounters of the Third Kind as one of the lead scientists. Talking about movies it would only be a matter of time until he would bring up his childhood, going to the movies and being astounded. He never once seemed to lose that latent joy we all came into movies with. That years after crafting delft and "important" cinema that he would want to take part in a large studio blockbuster with the hottest director in Hollywood must have thrown some people off. But to know Truffaut is to know it makes perfect sense: what better way to fulfill the childhood love of these glorious Hollywood extravaganzas than to appear in one?
Of course the Hollywood of the 30's and 40's was not the commercial conglomerate that it had become in the 80's. For some it would be disappointing, an insult, or damning. But I think that it says more of the nature of intellect and the world than anything else. As I sat back remembering this the first thing I thought was "There's something very French about that" and then I laughed.
They say that the end of childhood is when you realize your parents are mortal. How you deal with that is what your adolescence is.
Most people when they become adolescents find their parents' humanity to be disgusting. You find out your Dad can't control everything. He has a boss. Mom drinks. Dad is weak. They shuffle, fail. And at sometime their limitations are exposed.
In some people this is a time of resentment and they feel rotten. Whatever simple morality and ethics they were taught and held to- are undercut like a sow hit at the knees with a hammer. Often it is easiest to still appreciate justice over inaction, ethical clarity over small selfishness. Our parents failed because they were not strong enough. Because they spoke and did not believe. Adolescents pledge: we will act were they did not. Say hello to your teenage socialists, reformers, young politicians and everyone else out there ready to make a mark on the world.
Adolescence ends then when you are struck by the realization you have become in part your parents. All of our young heroes go out and find the world to be hard, complicated. Every bright and hallowed thing they have casts a shadow in the sunlight. And they might not notice until one day when they see themselves from someone else's eyes. They get to see that they too bowed under gravity as they grew. That's when our adolescents become men and women. Your adulthood is all the remaining days you spend trying to reconcile the two.
Of course things aren't really that way: many people never become adults even though given chance and chance to do so. On a right and shitty day I'd say most. Children still become sick at their juvenile parents but never grow to be more than them. They are always suspended over the world, seeing it but never feeling its shape for themselves. Call it the nurturing womb of Suburbia. It's the flaw of a just civilization were we would rather rescue someone over and over than throw them to the wolves with finality. The damage is mitigated and some place deep in their brain their mistake this for immortality.
The lesser of this (but the most annoying because it is so damn common) is perpetual intellectual adolescence. The reason why it is so malignant is that it only takes simple intellectual exercises to never have to grow the fuck up. We can always reason selfishly- reason ourselves right out of a logical hole. We can undo our opponents as deceivers and take away their humanity. We can make it about everything but the question. We find then that it is simpler still to just ignore the inconsistencies and blissfully carry on.
When I was in High School I went to the local university as a part of a day they had there for HS journalism students from the area. I was glad to go: nothing like blowing off a day of classes and tooling about with a girl I like who would pen her eyes with eyeliner so she looked Egyptian, the girl who's surplus Army bag was covered in a dozen fascinating pins. It was a good time wasted on youth. While we were sitting there I was approached by this scraggly dude who handed me a flier announcing the next monthly meeting of the local Communist party. I looked at him askance. How old is he? Nearly forty? A beard? A beret? The olive drab? As much as he would deny it I knew it to be only fashion. Shit, kids I knew dressed like that. The last steel mills had shut down and left for China years ago then. In his eyes, he and I were probably no different. Psychologically we weren't: he had never left the protective sac of our suburbia. All the injustice he could cite, all the indignity he could spin up... what did it mean? He was the expression of his own fantasy. He could not realize the world as it was; how goddamn ridiculous he looked, how stupid he sounded.
I thought of him later too when reading about Sartre and Camus. Both French resisters and intellectuals they reacted to the Second World War by becoming Socialists. Not uncommon. This fed and grew from their writing and helped many a Baby Boomer get laid in college. The Soviets loved them and so they were feared by some on the West. It must have been very exciting, to be so polarizing. But then a curious thing happened: the Russians invaded Hungary to put down the rebellion there against the puppet regime.
So how did these two intellectuals, voices of social appeal respond? Usually an ethic is applied and a judgment found. That's what Camus did: the Hungarian suppression shocked and sickened him. It shattered his naive faith in a kind Socialist world order. He made appeals and when that fell on dumb ears he turned his back on his previous allies. He wrote Man in Revolt and at that moment Camus became an adult.
And Sartre? It's fascinating really, the amount of intellectual gymnastics he worked himself into. His assumption was in the rightness of his philosophy and out of that be bent and warped the rules until the world was made right again. He forgave the violence in Hungary and found blame in everyone but the Soviets. It would be hard to call them ethics- that implies standing for something (I like to call what Sartre did "Tail tucked by dog").
In greater and lesser forms most thinking seems to go. Where some seek truth as a vehicle to evolve their thinking, others hold on pathologically, for an endless domain of petty and all too human reasons. Ironically most are often in some way derived from a rejection of the human and the petty: they are achieving something by not accepting that part of their nature. As if it is somehow "giving in" or "giving up". Whatever it is a failure of the first order: the failure to empathize. The point were we lose our ability to see others in ourselves is the end of all functioning civilization.
You can see this in film criticism too. In The Films in my Life Truffaut talks about the wonder that overcame his generation when freed from the curtain of occupation and to see the outside world again for the first time. How they were enchanted by them: the dashing elegant musicals, the westerns where the spaces were from some place beyond the imagination... and they would go to the sky and on to forever! They would talk about these movies, talk about the people in them, people they had never met. And shared among them grew an idea of what these films represented: America.
Sure, if they thought about it, they might have agreed that what they saw and thought were probably only a fraction of the truth. That a part of it was myth. And even as seductive the myth was that they understood the humanity that crafted this artwork. But lurking in this too is an antipathy: the fiction of childhood fulfillment.
There is something very enthralling about the possibility of bulletproof men, places bigger- larger- purer than you've ever known. It haunts us the possibility that there is a place unlike this one: one that won't disappoint us.
Sadness then when it comes to the reality having to live up to this growing expectation... that some mortal must stand chest high with these gods these people have concocted.
I think that is the root of the French antagonism with America, beyond even just film. Every time you read an article about francophobia or its counterpart you get the appeals of "You have to understand- our people really do like Americans! We see all their movies! We buy all their clothes!" But have they really fallen in love with America? Or some company's marketing? The most powerful thing in the world is a blank space were everyone can paint their very own expectations.
And so who's fault is it that we can't live up to that? Who's fault when we didn't even know it to be? It's like joining a game at halftime and being admonished for not knowing the rules when no one told you what they were.
Truffaut had a great quote about American filmmakers and the Hollywood system: "We said that the American cinema pleases us, and its filmmakers are slaves; what if they were freed? And from the moment that they were freed, they made shitty films." It's funnier in context because the venom isn't directed at the Americans but at his fellow French critics. He seems to shake his head at the casual throwing around of Slavery; the sort of implied notion of a Gallic Moses bringing the Red Sea down on the gates of MGM.
These great filmmakers were magicians. To the critics they were exposed. Mere illusionists!
Truffaut too saw that these men who spun magic did nothing of the like. But like an adult he saw clearly: that it wasn't magic but stories they cast. And that was a more powerful and emancipating thing. Anyone could do it, participate, contribute. He would live his life, not pine for a world of spellcraft. That is a great thing.
Sadly a tumor took Truffaut's life. My dad and I were driving somewhere I don't remember. I can't remember what we were talking about. But he said "I wish that Truffaut was alive. I'd think he'd have something interesting to say about all of this."
Truffaut once said the greatest shame of dying would be not being able to read tomorrow's newspaper. Camus died early too. Automobile accident. Maybe it is somehow mystical: having a dead man you can project your thoughts on- instead of some crusty old man who can refute them.
It could be said the reverse is true as well: the shadow cast from that country's stylish cafes and art and the delectable tones of Flaubert. All weighed down by the horrific cliches and Jerry Lewis and Derrida. It would make you laugh: America and France answering each other's wonderful ads on Craigslist, meeting for the first time and being at once horribly disappointed. That sharp and instantly painful disappointment and we drift only further and further apart. But it appears the same as to see ourselves for the first time in a mirror with no soft lights and no distortion. To watch ourselves on video and hear our voices on answering machines. It's a horrible time to be alive. No one knows anyone. It is a shame.
Music flying over the Sky
Today I was amazed: I got a CD from Japan shipped on the 7th delivered on the 9th. Ok, so I shelled out mad crazy yen to get the disc but, seriously, what a great world were we can do such things. Of course now the fucking recording industry needs to get its head out of its ass and figure out a good scheme for handing out albums. Everyone knows the Japanese Album: the same as the domestic one but with all sorts of cool additional shit on it. It's probably an effect of the byzantine deals that the labels and artists set up in terms of distribution (usually one for NA, one for Europe proper... maybe one for the UK, one for Japan all on different labels)... but it is still insane.
See the album I got was the sophomore LP Conqueror from Jesu. Why did I order it from Japan? Well the Japanese release of the album comes with the two songs Jesu did on a limited edition split 12" with Aurora Borealis. Other than thieving the album from the internets there is no other way for me to get these songs because... shit, I don't own a turntable (too much of a temptation) and I definitely didn't see the use in fighting for one of a few hundred LPs.
This is completely perpendicular to the whole RIAA question because were not talking about any major label here. In the US Conqueror is distributed by Pelican's label (Hydrahead), which is at best a respected niche indie. Someone else did the split LP... while in Japan the distribution was handled by Daymare.
Of all the things that the indies have shucked off from the majors they keep this around? Its frustrating and dumb.
And I guess you can extend that to movies too: at some point here I'm going to get a regionless DVD player so I can order me all the Jun Ichikawa movies that were never released over here. I'm the customer media conglomerates should be fighting for: well endowed with cash and willing to pay a certain premium to get things I want. But they never seem to consider me. It always takes someone else smart (like Warp Records) to put something together (like Bleep.com).
Let's not even get into why it took almost a year for Peter Bjorn and John Writer's Block to get released here...
*sigh* This is why things fall apart.
Time Suspends Car Collisions
It's good to pull into your parking lot to see the UPS truck in front of your condo. It's good to know that he has your copy of Jose Gonzalez Veneer and Cocaine Cowboys . It's doubly good because you signed up for that free two months of Amazon Prime and so you got this stuff shipped in a day for no cost.
It's so good that even though he's blocking your parking spot, you put your car in park behind him and patiently wait for him to pull out and leave. Look- he's getting into his truck right now!
It's bad when he starts up his truck, you see the reverse lights come on and he backs right into you. It's bad when you gave him 15 feet and are fist deep into your car horn. It's bad when you hear that Krthunk. It's bad, that damage you see, the stuff your imagination comes up with.
So you turn off your car.
It's Not Too Bad
It's not too bad to see he only mangled your license plate, scuffed your bumper. It's not too bad when most of the damage is probably the styrofoam they stuff all car bodies with these days. It's not too bad to hear him really afraid. It's not too bad to know you are just relieved ("It's not too bad") and he would be glad to hear that. It's not too bad, sympathy, in the face of all that dickmangling antipathy out there. It's not too bad to live in a world like this; better than a world like that. Even when they hit your car, UPS is still better than fucking FedEx Home.
It ends with "Don't sweat it." "Aw thanks. Man, I'm so sorry- thank you." And he goes away. You pull into your parking spot and go up to your condo and you open the door while stooping down- scooping up the box the UPS guy left you. It ends with you turning on your computer and ripping your new CD and listening to "Crosses" and writing this journal.
Douglas Adams got me a Free Lunch
Today I had a group meeting and we were told that our department had produced XX many reports for customers this year. We were then asked to guess how many of those XX reports our group had been lead on. The closest answer would win a free lunch.
Ok: so what you know is that your group produces reports (so the number isn't 0). But you also know that the rest of the department produces reports as products too, so it probably isn't XX. So you have no real information to go on. So what do you do?
In the absence of a rational choice, make a ridiculous one. I went with 42.
The answer? 41.
Asked why I chose that number I said "It's the ultimate answer. The only real unknown is what the question is." You know who also chose 42? My boss. Same reason. "I'm glad someone else here has a literary mind!"
Sometimes the wacky answer truly is the best one :P
The Endtimes aren't Near (Children of Men)
Children of Men is a very good movie. Inside of it is a great movie that is sabotaged by a central plot that is explosively idiotic. This fact is difficult to tell, difficult to see through all the critical acclaim Children of Men is getting but in a moment walking right out of the theater you get stuck with it: what does anything have to do with anything in that movie, let alone infertility?
Children of Men is a crowning achievement in design and implementation. For people who wonder why the Michael Bay school of quick cuts is painful and boring, you can just show them this movie as exhibit A: a complete and believable world, painted before you with the drama of the story bouyed by these incredible, intricate long shots. [Spoilers] The shot leading up to Julianne Moore getting killed and then the one where Clive Owen, inside the refugee camp are just two great examples.[/Spoilers] Today, everyone is expecting the violence to rise up so quickly. We are all possible participants in some clown's asymmetric engagement. But how do most action or horror movies deal with this? By using the same jaded standbys: stuff shooting in from off-frame, quick disorienting cuts. Yes, this works in creating shock but it never creates the deeper and more withering emotion: dread. Thats what a long articulated shot can do: build grandiose emotions. From the glory of Henry walking into the Copa in Goodfellas to the shocks of Cache, long shots are the stuff of powerful cinema. They give us the feel of unrelenting, unblinking, unedited truth. That's what we see today, on Youtube, in a thousand torrents. No longer is there a middle man correctively sanitizing the world experience. We can get the Saddam execution near instantateously and uncut. Meanwhile we get these hyperactive ADD movies and we find them unengaging pap. After the third or fourth time, shock horror can be watched with detatched disinterest. We are no longer surprised; untouched. But calculated sequences can always bring out their emotions in us. There is a truth to them because they share the inevitiability of the real world.
So see Children of Men for this very thing. Cuaron has proven himself an easy master of evoking an emotion.
What's the problem then? As you are sitting there, there is a good chance you will roll your eyes at the plot- which can be one of the worst things for a film: it can snap the audience away from the spell being woven by the creators.
Let's diagram this out. What is the plot of Children of Men:
1. In 2009 the last child is born. Women en mass begin to miscarry then become infertile. As humanity can no longer reproduce, we are on the precipice of extinction.
2. Therefore humanity begins to fall apart at the seams, setting off wars, nukes and hysteria. Britain is isolated from the madness.
3. Therefore everyone starts emigrating to Britain creating a wave of immigration.
4. This is somehow a problem because... um, they really don't explain it. Regardless, the UK decides to begin mass deportations of illegal immigrants.
5. Therefore Britons and illegals start forming an armed resistence to... well they want to stop the deportations... anything else? Mmmm, not as far as I can tell. I could see one of the characters (played by Ricky Gervais probably) saying "It sounded like a really good idea at the time."
6. So when a young girl is found to be pregnant the rebels plan to give her to a mysterious group called Project Human. What this Project Human will do is... I really don't know why. They don't want to make it public though because... no one else has any interest in solving infertility?
7. But not all the rebels want to give the fertile girl over. So they secretly plan an ambush and KILL several of their own so they won't give the girl over and instead use her as a political symbol (instead of, you know, curing infertility... because they have no interest in doing that I guess).
8. This leads our hero and the girl on a long chase across the country to get her to safety.
9. BTW, since humanity is slowly dying off, the government is giving out free suicide kits under the brandname Quietus because, obviously, that when faced with extinction the human survival instinct is to... not to stay alive?
There is one way to describe this: a Simpsons Idiots-Riot Plot. You know those episodes of the Simpsons, were Springfield runs out of electricity or the sun is blocked by a giant machine and so the people instantly riot? That's what the plot of Children of Men is like. And there is nothing sadder than playing serious what someone else uses as a sharp undisguised satire.
There is a disturbing lack of sense to this plot. It provokes reactions like: "dumb", "idiotic" and "who's asscrack were you smoking when you thought this was a good idea?"
Ok, let's try to come up with some general guidelines for human behavior. People act out of interests, either communal ("I want to help others ") or selfish ("I want to help myself") and the whole of our history can be defined by those two and their interaction. The two aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. In a Hobbesian, zero-sum game world they are. To wit from Leviathan, life is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short". That could be described as a pure, naturalist view of the world. Dog eat dog. Of course one could say that civilization and human culture is the repudiation of it (a Kantian world view) and that the 20th century was a study of the lethal excesses of it (the supposed communal world view leading to socialist and totalitarian terror). But that comes out from either the truth or the false promise of life being a positive-sum game.
Our stories are us deciding if going with the crowd or going alone will get us to where we want to be. And this can be said of all stories. Even slasher movies: the slasher kills because he wants to kill or get revenge. The victims fight and resist because they want to survive. Slasher films then play with this by having characters' natures undermine or help them, making for interesting switches (like the suicidal behavior of the preacher in The Blob or the kids in Scream trying to use their knowledge of their genre only to have it blowback on them).
Now, consider Children of Men: humanity becomes infertile. So what happens? Humanity begins devouring itself.
No no. I understand that Cuaron wanted to have a near-future dystopia but the very nature of a dystopia is for the Hobbesian worldview to spring up in our Kantian society. This means some necessary resource (ariable land, gasoline, fertile women/men, food, water) needs to go from overabundance to limited supply. A million apocolyptic/post-apocolyptic have been build on this very concept (The Day after Tomorrow, Mad Max, Sam Hell Goes to Frog Town as some examples, ranging from the lousy to the great to the fucking brilliant).
The problem with the plot of Children of Men: there is no resource limited so much as to make a zero sum game.
Problem: 100% human infertility. Not 99% human infertility (it isn't like only people X have fertile women. There are NO fertile women, anywhere). Not 100% infertility over all species (so there is ample food, companionship, etc). It isn't like there is some environmental condition that makes fertility difficult. We. are. just. infertile.
To put it another way, this is a problem everybody can agree on. It's like the ability to wear pants and sunny June weekends. It has a 100% approval rating. The only person who would hate it would be an implausible character that a bad writer would use as a crutch instead of coming up with something good.
But Children of Men expects us to believe that this somehow leads to world unrest. At least if they gave us a Day of the Triffids answer and had two groups of people think that "the other" did it to them and a world war accidentally started (say, like the paranoid North Koreans, cut off from the outside world, believe that the Japanese did this to them and so they launch some nukes only to have them blow up early in their tragectory and the Chinese are completely taken by surprise and think its some goddamn US sneak attack from Japan and so WW3 accidentally starts only to end quickly as we realize the misunderstanding but its already too late for 80% of the world's breadbasket).
There isn't even the hint of human weakness or misunderstanding or shortsightedness. Nope. People just go crazy, like in the Simpsons.
So then what happens? People start going to Britain, the Brits start deporting illegals... and then an insurgency breaks out.
Huh? Again, what's the motivation? Illegals want to STAY in Britain. You know how illegals stay around? THEY KEEP A LOW PROFILE. Starting a fucking war and making the 80% of the population that didn't know you were there to get really scared of you isn't a good idea (and is why it hasn't happened). Maybe if the resistence were a bunch of unscrupulous thugs seeing a big payday in the world's only fertile woman... that makes sense. You can see some shortsighted moron thinking that. But then Britons and illegals forming a politically driven insurgency... why?
The one way that Children of Men tries to get around this by saying that most of the terrorist attacks were self-inflicted by the government (for the tin foil hat crowd, this would make sense and a perfectly good plot point. Right up there with no Jews in the WTC)... but then the movie has the "we're actually all peaceful now" rebels turn out to be a paranoid organization which, in the course of the movie, murders its own members, murders harmless people (Michael Caine, the people in the refugee camp) who pose it no threat while taking a joyous glee in it, start a battle in a refugee camp with the military and are by the end of the movie almost comical in their willingness to bend over for the plot whenever the writer needs the protagonists to be endangered.
The whole time you are thinking: what is the point of their actions? It isn't rebellion, it isn't to overthrow the government. They seem to be just violence as its own end. But the writer wants us to believe that they come from a place other than bloodlust (he has them say "political" many times). But not once after the 30 minute mark do their actions in any way support (or even derive from) their aims.
Finally, probably one of the most insulting things, is the ubiquitous suicide kits. Ok, who in their fucking right mind thinks that makes any sense? Isn't the hope of humanity lie in... humanity? In the immortal words of Hawkeye in Last of the Mohicans: "Stay alive! No matter what it takes! I will find you!!" It isn't like there is an inevitable apocolypse. Not once is the situation as dire as it is in On the Beach or the other nuke movies. A reasonable person would think "hmm. All living things have been fertile since the beginning of time. But only humaninty just stopped while everyone else went on. It seems to make sense that there is a causality to this and, once we find that, a cure."
Shit, even the Existentialists were for life in the face of death. One of the major points of The Stranger is how life is defined as the struggle against a real and tangible death. So much literature is about those very same things and it makes sense that it conforms to an agreed on facet of our natures.
The whole suicide kit just seems to lead to the whole approach of the story: images and icons used to create a sense of unescapable dread, no matter how retarded they are. The scenario of Children of Men comes off like some bad horror sci-fi written by an angsty high schooler. "So- dark... so cold, so cold..." I feel that a lot of this comes about for a particular reason: Cuaron, like many directors, had specific images or set pieces he wanted to create and he reverse engineered the story out of it. But that doesn't forgive anything.
One of my favorite definitions of SF/speculative fiction is by Theodore Sturgeon: "[A] good science-fiction story is a story about human beings, with a human problem, and a human solution, that would not have happened at all without its science content."
What betrays Children of Men is that the story actually harms the message it tries to pass along and is inconvenienced by its specific context. [Spoilers]And it is obvious by the scene of Key and Clive Owen walking out of the apartment and soldier and rebel alike showing her reverence. This ends with the protagonists out of danger... and the firefight instantly starting up again. It was powerful... but cheaply convenient and then quickly thrown away when it no longer served its purpose.[/Spoilers]
There are a thousand other plots that could have set up a this specific story. Too bad there was probably a sense to do something "different".
And I think that's one of the things that got the critics in such a pant about this movie (and had them in a less critical state of mind). The others being Cuaron himself and his obvious abilities to make a powerful technical piece. For critics who see enough movies to tire of filmmaking cliches pretty quickly, a movie that has its own fresh style can get by with a lot. Combine that with a hunger for movies to tackle the times we live in and that adds up to the critical praise this movie has gotten.
But I don't see it having any deeper penetration. Other than hat-tipping at things like Iraq and the London Bombings and Abu Graib this movie doesn't say anything about them. It has no opinion about them other than them being powerful images. And what the movie actually has to say is generic and uninspired, like the similar V for Vendetta (e.g. "Fighting's bad m'kay? Let's all just get along and work for a better tomorrow").
Watching this movie made me think wistfully about how great it would have been for Cuaron to have done V for Vendetta. His eyes-to-the-pavement London was one Alan Moore wrote. The way Cuaron had the refugee camps stretch on forever was how oppressive the camps should have been in V for Vendetta. And that story too had a good reason for evoking the Hobbesian Leviathan: a worldwide atomic war that left Britain untouched and a resultant anarchy that was crushed by a tolitarian regime. That book is a case study in how a revolution comes about even in spite of the dark philosophy that designed it. It's a story worth rereading and letting its questions wash over you. Sadly, Children of Men viciously needs antidote from such things: to think any deeper about it is to become disgusted with its actual true nature. Best to think of it as a beautiful moronic woman. You may have a month of exquisite pleasure... all the time waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Year in Music (2006)
(Probably want to go here for the actual Youtube et al)
Better late than never? I don't know. I've been waiting to get my copy of Black Devil Disco Club for about five weeks now so I've been putting this off... and putting it off... and putting it off until I realized "Shit, it's almost 2008. Better get this out the door." So... thoughts on this year: well, for about the first half I was damn sure that every album I liked that came out this year would actually be collections of material from previous year. Shit, we could do a Top Albums in 2006 of Rereleases:
AFX - Chosen Lords
Ricardo Villalobos - Salvador
Broadcast - Future Crayon
razor x productions - Killing Sound
And that list could probably be reems bigger. If those count as 2006 albums because they are collections of things only releases as singles or on vinyl previously, or that they contain some material never yet seen before the album release (or the tracks have been slightly modified from their original version as per the onus of Mr RDJ)... well, I leave that to the jury to decide. But it is still somewhat odd. For the longest time I thought I was better left to filling in my catalog with older stuff... and then I felt really fucking old. That's what you do when you have no more taste; when popular culture has passed you by. When you've gone to rot. Anarchronism. But then folks started dropping some real gems and the year turned around. So, in no real order-
- Favorites from 2006:
- Arpanet - Inertial Frame - I was half convinced this was never going to come out as it's release date kept on slipping. But then it finally came and renewed my faith. This came with the byline of being a Dataphysix Labs release, finally, with several sung tracks! HORJ! That spoke more to the most recent direction of Gerald Donald nee Heinrich Mueller as Dopplereffekt, Der Zyklus and Arpanet: he'd gone from the boom thunk of classic Detroit into the realm of space minimalism. Yes, it was a new artistic direction and, yes, he had earned it and ,yes, it was pretty good but it still wasn't what brought the punters to the kiosk. Folks wanted to hear about sex with mannequins and the like. And with Inertial Frame folks were going to get what they wanted. Thankfully that wasn't the case. This release seems to split the difference between early and later Dataphysix by combining the disorientation of the later work with the casual unseriousness of the the early stuff. Arpanet – Zero Volume is the perfect example as it consists mostly of rumbling bass ticks and emphyreal chorus. A chant of "Sin-gu-lar-it-y" pops up now and then with a kind of shattering crystal entropy. It's difficult to tell what face the track is trying to show you and forms a disquieting force beyond its components. Same with the similarly weird slowed vocals of [track artist=Arpanet]großvater paradoxon[track]. Just enough to get me excited for Dopplereffekt - Calabi-Yau Spaces and Black Replica.
- Boxcutter - Oneric - This album grew on me this year. More and more as I heard other dubstep releases and found how either stuck to their scene or lacking in skill they were (say, Skream's release which both underwhelmed by under-using Warrior Queen, and actually regressed to generic house-isms at it's end), the more I came to appreciate this. From the AFX ambient of "Chlorophyll" to the smart junglism of "Sunshine VIP" to the terrorizing bootstraps of "Brood" this album is a wonderfully verbose journey through the whole family of sub-ska styles. It's smart, it's clever and it's good both blowing out of speakers and in headphones. Of course the two biggest songs off of here were the original 05 'plate that got the kid signed...
- Red Sparowes - Every Red Heart Shines Towards the Red Sun - There is a good reason why I've never picked up a Red Sparowes disc. It is a side project of guys from Isis and Neurosis, doing what Pelican does. Well, I thought it was a good reason until I actually sat down and listened to this: a sharp turning opera of post-metal. It's one of the strengths of metal that it is unself-conscious enough to take something like The Great Chinese Sparrow War of 1958 and turn it into an album. One of the benefits of the post-metal construction is that when it comes to grinding on power cords, the album usually has earned it with studied contemplation up to that point. There is nothing shallow, cheap and masturbatory about this release. Instead it builds up a huge vision of a thing that never sells itself out with schlock.
- The Knife - Silent Shout - I feel bad for The Knife. I fear for their flame burning so brightly that it snuffs itself out unduely as the hungry mobs suffocate it. It's quite possible in two years everyone will have so gorged themselves that they might never touch their albums again and that would be a damn shame. And so much surrounding this band feels like back-handed compliments: how their earlier releases are treated as naive fumbling when the reviews could easily be described as "Reviewers have to come up with some reason why they didn't listen to them before this one or our scene credibility will be shot forever", the overproclaimations of genius (for probably the same reasons), the declarations on how unbelievably dark this album is when a good bit of it is goofy and fun (shit, they even say so. In that interview the kids seem pretty much good folks and have a good sense of humor. Why can't the reviewers recognize that?), how its a unique sonic masterpiece (when you can find that The Knife comes from a fairly well established geneology of Euro house duos. If anyone can listen to their work and not think of Björk they are lying). Why is all of this a problem? Because the scenesters will tire of the charade they started and it will come down as backlash against the band. Their next album will either be measured against the high false praise of this one or have it's hype held against it. The hard uncaring love of the scene. And its a problem because you can spend an entire paragraph (like I just did) talking about everything but the music. All of this noise turns off any techno/house/electronics fans out there (because the fauning cherry-picking by outsiders is fucking insulting) while at the same time the indie kids might just cast them off like they did their 2001 Electroclash phase. I hope Karin and Olof tell them to fuck off: throw on more damn guitar and sax. Make an acapella track. Stick a finger in their eye. Folks with ears will recognize the fact they've put out 3+1 albums of quality material.
- Final - FINAL3 - This could fall into that above list of rereleases, if it wasn't for the fact that no one had ever heard this stuff. But then you could call the whole Analords set as Richard D James releasing a making-of documentary for his next album. It's all kind of a wash. But this album got an incredible amount of spins from me. At some point I decided that it could be the Selected Ambient Works Volume 2 of the post-metal scene: an off-considered-secondary album that was listened to by all the right people in the scene. It has small and large places. A track like "Northpole" is as carefully considered as "Sorry". This album is good for the people, Justin Broadrick especially. As folks start building up the harsh and painful expectations for Jesu that helped kill Godflesh he at least find welcoming warm respect for folks who have an adult sense of taste. This album is an arctic landscape: easily mistaken as uncharacteristic flatness that is in reality shifting always beneath your feet.
- For Some Reason or Another...
- Various Production - World is Gone - PFM was wrong: this isn't the Portishead - Dummy. it's dubstep's Tricky - Angels with Dirty Faces: a production team with some vocals who's female companion provides the strongest vocals to the singles. This is a great disc... but who the hell threw on the neo-folk tracks? And coming off of "Thunnk" with "Circle of Sorrow" is the aural equivalent of premature ejaculation. Just a simple reordering would save this one from the weird shifts in tone and pitch. But that first one is enough to make you think you accidentally picked up something else. Is "Circle of Sorrow" not good? No. But it just makes for an odd release. Also the deliniations between the songs and the CD track listing seems to be fucked up on mine. Starting somewhere around track 4 the songs start on the previous track... which sucks.
- Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury - No, this album isn't as good as Clipse - Lord Willin'. For all the talk of how grimey it is, it could be described as something else: monotone. There's nothing to break this up, nothing to give you the sense that this is anything but a collection of singles. Of course if this means they avoided the dreaded hip-hop skit, then I don't think it's a loss. This album is in definite need of a shift in gears. For how awesome "Trill" is, there is no "When the Last Time" And how the fuck is "Zen" not on here? That's a fucking insult. That song is genius. This album wasn't the hip hop savior that folks wanted it to be. In a year folks will come back to their senses.
- Cat Power - The Greatest - Chan's best album but still lacking in something to string together the strongest tracks: the titular track, "Willie" and "Love and Communication". It feels a bit noodly. This album's greatness is just outside of it's grasp.
- Grizzly Bear - Yellow House - Let's say you burnt a mixtape for somebody and had "The Knife" and "Colorado" on there. Folks would think these guys were the second coming of Broadcast right? And what happens then when they listen to the rest of this? *sound of a squealing wheels and a car going off the road and into a tree. Gasoline explosion* Even the other kind-of-ok tracks ("Little Brother", "On a neck, on a spit") still make you think "Damn... why couldn't they let the guy who wrote those two good songs have a couple more on here?" The other stuff is undefined, unforgettable. Such are the Olympian heights, Bellerophon.
- Jesu - Silver - A good little disc. I had hoped by setting such wide posts between this, the debut LP and Heart ache that Justin would finally get folks off of his ass with what they expected from him. Sadly it doesn't seem to be the case. Memo to elitist metal jerkoffs: this is why folks leave the scene and never come back. There's a whole wide world out there beyond your mom's basement that folks want to partake in. Do us all a favor and fall face first into a mountain of hard dick. This EP? Great. From the pop of "Star" to the guitar weirdness of "Dead Eyes". The man is having a good time and making music. More power to him.
- Line - Snowstorm in a Globe - I liked this much more than I should. I stumbled on *this* Line while looking for more stuff by Dairmont Dalton's (of Jesu) Line. Sadly, that one was limited to the fucking genius "Hollow". But the synth-pop of Neil Wells hit me much more than I thought it would. He's got a great command of the low end (everyone seems to these days). He builds these catchy shoe-gazy singles that are worth endless spins. Yeah, folks will probably give it one sniff, mumble something about Pulp and shuffle elsewhere. They'd miss out on something here. You could work this into a mix and get the kids moving.
- Boards of Canada - Trans-Canada Highway - Folks will complain about the rehash of "Dayvan Cowboy" and ignore the fact that "Skyliner" and the rest are some more wonderously crafted IDM-scapes from the bros. If you listen you can hear how this fits into their current thinking. You could sandwich this stuff around "'84 Pontiac Dream". But it didn't fit with what they wanted on Boards of Canada - The Campfire Headphase, so they put this out. Maybe it should have been a freebie EP second disc. Still, this will probably go overlooked for years.
- Crappiest Disappointing Album of 2006:
Hecate - Brew Hideous - WTF? Who convinced Ms Kozak that her vocals were awesome? Even on her other albums she mostly did spoken word... which fit! Instead here we have growling sub-death metal crap. Knock it off- it's ANNOYING. Even her stuff as Raquel De Grimstone is fun. But this? DRRRRR! The switch to gloom dark elektro completely gets in the way of what we came for: beats and EFX. This disc is stupid. And it just supports the DJ-On-Album-Cover-Curse
Appearing topless didn't save her (and did anybody request that? Eh, no.). Every choice made on this album is a mistake. Hecate has earned a second and third chance in my book. Let's hope she realizes something went wrong.
Summary of 2006 Music Purchases
46 Albums (Way down from last year when I bought 67)
45 hours 49 minutes and 45 seconds time elapsed (Down from 60 hours 11 minutes and 46 seconds from last year... but close to 2004).
Total Expediture: $657.90 which is over the estimation of $634.55. This is the first year when that's happened. I haven't bought as much stuff used. But I'm still only at $13.43 a disc, again way below the FUD of the Anti-RIAA (*cough*music thieving, even from non-RIAA labels*) community. I spent just under $800 last year so this is down too (thank god).
Final Music Index (As compared to 2005): Down. My average subjective album rating was up but most of my purchases were not from this year. This year was underwhelming. It took forever for anything good to come out and even then it was sporatic. And it didn't help that the old mainstays just sort of flopped around. Here's hoping that folks finally get back to making good quality noise. Of course there's a whole slew of new shit (maybe) coming out that should get people excited. Maybe in 2007 we'll actually have a universally great hip-hop album again. This was a year of too many excuses.
Best Movies of 2006
- Favorite Movies of 2006
- The Departed You might have already read this. I'm a big Scorsese advocate. I really just decided that I gotta stand up for a man who will dork out about his favorite B movies from the 50s. All the acting is on fire in this movie. The movie plays balls out. No Pants. This is the sort of movie that is infinitely rewatchable, infinitely quotable and will age with every passing year. It'll be up there with the other cult/cable TV rerun staples of Scarface and Shawshank. Yeah, "I'm the guy who does his job."
- A Scanner Darkly Going into this movie had me at war with myself. I love Philip K Dick. I hate Richard Linklater. I don't care if he's the unsung first of the 90's indie filmmakers. He is just an unending avalanche of bullshit sliding into your face that the filministas think you should welcome with an open mouth. They don't care he has no directoral flair, his concepts are overripe crap that would get a resounding 'D- Get Over Yourself' in any Freshman level creative writing course, that he can produce almost nothing with good actors and that he craps out three movies a year.
But he's also a big PKD fan and by staying canonical to the source he's created a fantastic film about paranoia and notion of self... wait, let's just say that PKD created it and Linklater put it into action (like the apes in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes: "DO!") The only issue is having Keanu Reeves as the lead and surrounding him with Robert Downey Jr and Woody Harrelson acting their skins off. Luckily he spends half the time in his camo suit and someone else is doing his voice and we don't have to look at his dead eyes. That just lets us look at Winona a little more (still a superfox. It's a generational thing but it's absolutely true. She's our Brigette Bardot).
- Half Nelson Hollywood has completely eaten up and turned indie film into the same cookie cutter formula that the RIAA did to DIY music in the mid 90's. Now the Motley Group of Counterculture Characters Form a Functioning Family Unit while Indie Music Plays is one of the genres bourgies go to on Saturdays at one of their chain indie theaters and make themselves feel ever so smart. Half Nelson wasn't one of those movies. Along with the just shown (genius) Season Four of The Wire, this movie is one of the most piercing looks into public primary education. And don't let the groan-inducing concept of "White crack-smoking teacher tries to reach his students" make you get visions of Dangerous Minds. There is no Coolio in sight. And credit for that goes to the leads of Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie and Shareeka Epps who create characters of pathos while letting them fill them out with the all too human traits of stupidity, farce, and adolescent want. There are no moral heights in this movie. Everyone is allowed to be judged on their own choices. And the central question of who and what we let educate our lives runs through it all.
- Wassup Rockers Larry Clark finally made an accessible movie. Too bad his good karma from Bully didn't last six years and no one came out and saw it. This was the first fictional skater movie that was good. This was the first fictional movie about punk rockers that was good. Anyone who knows even the littlist about LA Hardcore knows how LA held it down and how the Latino youth there where a part of that. The genius of this movie is casting the authentic article and letting them skate and jam in the crazy fucked up world that is LA. If Hollywood did this movie it would be Heath Ledger playing Salvador Fernando or something and you would only see Latino faces and White faces. Wassup Rockers has the whole city rubbing shoulders with each other: Beverly Hills, the police, the squadrons of other neighborhood youth battling on little more than ethnic identity.
Wassup Rockers is The Warriors of the skaters. The boys odyssey is a litmus test of the state of the American Western city and all the worlds that compose it.
- Cocaine Cowboys Like Wassup Rockers this documentary covers history that passes both invisibly while forceably through our lives. Covering the Miami Cocaine era of the late 70's and early 80's, this movie brings to light a fascinating and powerful narrative of American culture and one that is often untold. What do most people think of when they think Miami and drugs? Scarface and Miami Vice. But what about the real world? If you asked someone to tell you who Mo Green in The Godfather was modelled after, they could tell you (Tony Soprano, right?) But the history of America's cocaine wars walks in the shadows mostly because it is composed of Latin and Carribean stories that the mainstream media has never beenable to see as anything other than ethnic "color". This documentary opens this world up to you: how they did it, how it rose and fell, the people involved. You'll go into hysterics, you'll be shot down by tragedy, you'll think. Like the best documentaries you'll be inserted into events that no screenwriter could conceive. Murderous hits, gutting guys with bayonents, bodies in boxes, coke dropped from airplanes into the sea in waterproof containers. I actually think the marketing campaign hurt this one: ads done up like Grand Theft Auto and music by Jan Hammer? All unnecessary for this riveting story.
- Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny I've made this Top 5 a Top 6 because I guess me and my buddies where the only ones to see this movie. Didn't You People Know that Tenacious D ROCKED?!? The first 5 minutes of this movie are a laugh riot: a young Jack Black stand-in (creepily good) sings the most outrageous song while Meatloaf (as Jack's father) and Ronny James Dio (from a bedroom poster) join in Andrew Llyod Webber style. It only gets better. Ben Stiller and Tim Robbins in great cameos, the Breaking In song, rocking out Beethoven on the beach and the "Little Devil in All of Us" speech at the end. Completely hilarious. But this movie dying a painful box office death just reaffirms my lack of faith in humanity.
- Also Pretty Damn Good in 2006
- Stranger than Fiction I like me a good Romantic Comedy: one that's more than just about costume changes for the female lead. A strong concept, no meet cutes, no fake crises. Why is that so hard to find? Too often RomComs are about quirks instead of character, about dumb sub-Sex in the City gags than actual comedy. This movie isn't really about bellylaughs but has a lot of strong performances and sympathetic characters. It has some great sequences and a real heart. Most of all it doesn't play you for a fool and that's a rare commodity.
- Casino Royale Steve Who Shot Himself and I agreed that this was a real enjoyable Bond. It shares a lot of the zest with the first Brosnan Goldeneye. Craig as Bond feels fresh. I could have gone without the "So how did he get his car" bit and I thought the first Bond Girl was disposed of a bit too quickly. It all feels like a rush trying to get everything in (esp Felix Leiter. How many lines did Jeffrey Wright have? Three? And he got fifth billing? I expect there to be a lot of metaarc then... which is good). Like a good Bond it attacks the screen. I'm perfectly fine with a redux or the whole canon. The more good movies in the world, the better.
- Pirates of the Carribean: DMC Your Boy's history with the first PotC: kind of excited to see it, heard it was dumb, went to it with low expectations, loved it. Same with this one. Sure, it was kind of long and it felt cheap bringing back every major character from the first... but this movie was fun and clever. The action was top notch and everyone seems to be having a good time (call it the Oceans 12 Effect). Cute babes popping out of corsets. Always a good time.
- Talladega Nights This is probably one of the weakest Frat Pack movies, but that's just because the core is so strong. And it is far from being the worst or even bad. A little robotic but still a good time. Some great lines and sequences. What theater didn't go wild when Ricky Bobby stuck the scalpel into his leg?
- The Queen A pleasent little Masterpiece Theater film. All we needed was Damian Lewis being a scoundrel (maybe have a 30 minute sequence of him as James Hewitt hopping from one manor to the next ravishing young contessas? I didn't say it had to make any sense to the plot as a whole). Enjoyable but it's no Ether either. Maybe in this year lacking any explosive female roles it stands out but folks won't remember this movie in five years.
- American Hardcore *Cranks up "Pay to Cum" on the speakers* Ok- wait a minute *turns down speakers to an appropriate level* Based off of the book and covering a vital yet painfully neglected part of American music. SST belongs in the conversation with Motown and Atlantic. Yes, it's that important. Basically if you listen to music with guitars now you need to doff your cap to the bands in this movie... too bad this film doesn't give you any of the greater narrative of Hardcore's place in music. This film starts and stops. You don't even get told what these talking heads went on to do after 85? A neophyte might look at the bald heads of Moby and Ian MacKaye and not realize that one went on to whore out every song on his crossover album for commercial use while the other is out still killing crowds, resisting commercial pressures, issuing discs for 10 bucks and keeping alive the burning flame of independent spirit. What we really wanted here was Our Band Could Be Your Life. But that would be a twelve part series... and probably would need to be expanded. That's the problem: the dirth of quality music artifacts makes even something passibly good feel deeply inadequate.
- This Film Is Not Yet Rated How is change affected? Especially in the case of naive neglect (that is the case where we tolerate something because we are ignorant of it)? Usually it comes from a steady feed of information where you slowly begin to realize there is no war and no Emmanuel Goldstein. This Film Is Not Yet Rated is the same. Did you ever wonder how a movie gets rated differently than another? It happens at least once a year: "How is that PG-13?" Did you know Red Dawn was the first PG-13 movie? How many 'shits' are allowed in a PG film? And all of the implications this has: how NC-17 rated movies can't be advertised on television and won't be stocked at Blockbuster and Wal-Mart (although in this Netflix/streaming age that's becoming less of a barrier). This movie explores the MPAA's self-regulation and how in fact it is negligent, hypocritical and biased. How we so easily accept ignorance as strength.
- Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story Now this was a creepy ass movie. Everything you fear about the North Koreans turns out to be true. The genius is keeping the North Koreans out of the picture. You get the sense they are everywhere, in everything. As the story unfolds the conspiracy deepens: a 13 year old girl disappears in the late 70's and then a decade later it is revealed she was kidnapped by the North Koreans to train their special force operatives. Then it turns out at least dozens and maybe hundreds of Japanese where kidnapped. Her parents seek at all costs to find out what happened to her. Oh and it's a documentary (in case you thought otherwise). Enough humor to keep you from wanting to kill yourself.
- M-O-O-N Spells Dumb in 2006
- Factotum Everything is wrong with Jim Emerson's review of this movie: it isn't good, it doesn't capture Bukowski, Bukowski is the bees knees and Emerson doesn't have a functioning brain. I hope this burnt Matt Dillon's undeserved credit for Crash. Sadly it probably won't and we'll have to live with more poor attempts. I really wonder what people see in Bukowski's work if this is the sort of product they turn out. They never appear to grasp the smile of the desperate beaten.
- History Boys It's Dead Poets Society basically... oh, but some of the characters are gay. SHOCKER. Gay is now just one of the quirks crap writers give to characters in absence of actual writing. You can easily tell if this is the case by switching the genders of one of the characters. If this now heterosexual story is absolutely cliche then you have a worthless movie. It used to be switching the male/female roles from dominant/submissive was the risque thing. Then making the ages extreme was en vogue. Now its 'gay'. How 'zzzzzz'. What's next? "Oh upside-down chair leg! How I BURN for you! But- it's forbidden!! No- no!!! I can't give into temptation! You- bastard! [pause] Ravish me! [jumps assfirst at chair leg]" Without that this film would fall into that Motley Group of Counterculture Characters Form a Functioning Family Unit while Indie Music Plays I described above. But even those movies don't stoop to the hilariously stupid oncoming headlights/squealing tires/funeral ending. LAME!
- Lady Vengeance We need to start keeping records. It'll be like a little High School yearbook. We'll break out people's inkbukkake years later to embarrass how totally they overrated certain fads. J-Horror, and Chan-wook Park. DID YOU KNOW THAT CHAN-WOOK PARK IS HARRY KNOWLEZ FAVOREIT DIRENATOR EVAR!!!??? People who will buy that Oldboy tinbox are idiots. Confusing well made films with vision that have dumb dialogue and lazy plotting with actual good movies is the path to getting clowned mercilessly. It also keeps directors from growing and actually becoming something to really get excited about.
- Fastfood Nation Exhibit Q as to why Richard Linklater is dumb. Ethan Hawke getting self-righteous, stupid plot that doesn't go anywhere, an unshocking shock ending, wasted talent, Avril Lavigne. An 19 year old would have written this. And it didn't even register a blip on the consciousness. GET OFF THE STAGE!
- All them Grindhouse/Torture Horror films out there Turistas, The New Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Saw 3, Hostel, Yawn, Whatever. We are not obsessed, we are not consumed. It's cheaper and more thrilling to buy a stun gun and stick it in your face. People don't do it to shock themselves. It's visual alcohol; they do it to feel numb. All the dread of the 21st century and they think this will cure them or make them any less afraid. A thousand little deaths of who cares.
- The Science of Sleep IT'S SO FANCIFUL! IT'S SO MARVELOUS! IT'S THE CINEMA EQUIVALENT OF A HOWIE MANDEL STANDUP! If Gondry got Bjork to squawk for 90 minutes of the visuals this would have been better. This isn't anything more than a video installation. Don't pretend this is a movie. Just because you can eat it doesn't make the turd cooking in my bowels a meal.
- Dual Turn of the Century Stage Magician Movies set in Old Europe Who thought America wanted this? "Finally, a stage magician movie for My Generation!"
- Marie Antoinette Sophia Coppola makes the same movie: white girl alienated with cool music in the background. Sadly there is no Bill Murray or Anna Faris to rescue this one. Dumb dumb dumb. Oh, and ask mekkab: the drink named after her is as crappy as it sounds. Someone get this girl an album made after '95.
- Unseen in 2006
- Beerfest Smart dumb comedies I love. So they made a beer drinking championship movie set in Germany that involves a lot of Das Boat references? How'd I miss this? This should be up on Encore On Demand.
- 49 Up Fascinating but I haven't seen the other six films in the series. Since this is part seven and it follows the interesting tragectories of these people and their lives... starting here seemed like a bad choice.
- L'Enfant Incredible reviews... bland premise that kept me from going to the theater. It sounds like hard realist fiction. And I hate hard realist fiction.
- Inland Empire I have an admire-despise relationship with David Lynch. But I always give his movies one chance. I just don't see a 3 hour Lynch movie making it out to many theaters for long
- Jackass 2 I love Jackass. But I was never really in a comedy watching mood this Fall. I'll probably see it on TV and die laughing. It's one of those odd things of loving something but not becoming obsessive.
- United 93 Great reviews, I love Bloody Sunday it's just that I've seen like a dozen 9-11 docs and I decided "You know, all of these get me really really depressed. I think I'll stop watching these." It's like watching video of your parents die in a car wreck over and over again.
- Flags of our Fathers/Letters from Iwo Jima They all seem to be getting props... but Eastwood is WAAAYYY overrated as a director. Million Dollar Baby was trite self-righteous crap. A part of me thinks that there was probably no need to fictionalize this and a documentary would be far more powerful. I'll wait to watch it on HBO and will be glad to be proven wrong.
- The Good Shepherd It isn't out yet. Bobby D returns to direct. Joe P back in movies for the first time in eight years. I have a mancrush on Team America Voice>MATT DAMON</Team America Voice> This could be really good.
- Le Petit Lieutenant French cop movies are highly underrated. But it was out for a total of two weeks here. It's coming out again... when I'm back in Ohio for the holidays. Shitty fucking luck.
- Pan's Labyrinth Not out yet. Del Toro is always worth a look. Don't hold Hellboy against him. At least see its finer points.
- Children of Men Not out yet. The Onion AV Club had it as their best movie. I dig Clive Owen. Creepy Post-apocalyptic movies rock.
- The Fountain Haven't found anyone to go see it. I'm afraid I'll probably miss it like Jackass 2. Again maybe low expectations will save it for me.
- Jonestown: Life and Death of the People's Temple Jim Jones fascinates me. Cults fascinate me. The psychology and sociology and spirit of the times. There is something great and dreadful walking over the earth. Too bad it didn't come out here.
- Idiocracy This was in and out of theaters in 5 minutes. Mike Judge got the same treatment he got for Office Space. Average man gets unfrozen in the future and finds out he's the smartest guy in the world. What sounds better?
- The Good German Not out yet. I dunno about this. So often an homage often means "boring and forgettable". Still, it's Soderbergh. He's in good with me. Plus it has Toby McGuire playing an asshole.
- Borat Same as Jackass 2, I just couldn't get myself to comedies this Fall. Add onto it most people saying it had three funny scenes. I think South Park might be ruining me. My expectations for comedy are so high. I want layers and layers of satire and parody. It's hard to live up to.
- The Bridge Didn't come out here and I can see why: it's about one year of suicides from the Golden Gate Bridge. It's a topic that is both fascinating and repellant to all people. I doubt there will ever be a showing of it though. So now I play Wait For the DVD.
- Actually Came Out Before 2006
- The Proposition Best Western in 15 years and it's set in Australia? Nick Cave wrote it and did the music. It's a complete concept. It reminds me of J.M. Coetzee (Dusklands, Waiting for the Barbarians). It's a Western but intangled with the racial and historical politics that make Australia what it is. It's about the compromise on ones soul when you ask to have civilization. At what costs?
- Overlord Abstract WW2 movie about Normandy that used a lot of real archival footage you never saw (mostly because it's British). Wild shit like the rocket powered wheels the UK used to blow up beach defenses. Exceptional and weird.
- Army of Shadows Not one of the best Melvilles but a great film about the French Resistance. Again it's cool and existential. Kind of drags in some parts but has a real sense of itself.
- Excitement in 2007 And let's not forget that there's a lot of cool stuff coming out next year. Sadly all the low level indie stuff is hard to spot until after Sundance and them start making noise. Still I leave you with the following list:
Family Portrait (Family in Hellfire)
Two weekends ago I was about half way through the previous self-portrait when I had the idea that I should do one for my parents. For one I had never really been big on keeping art: I was more interested in the next piece and there was often enough distasteful about the final project that it wasn't a problem. So that means the decade of art that I did there are no artifacts of. That really isn't the point. The point really was that two weekends ago I was doing all of my Christmas shopping and I realized I could do a picture for my parents. I guess this kind of was the point because it should be the sort of thing that they could hang on a wall somewhere. Something they could touch and feel and somehow have me near by.
So the obvious choice was to do a family portrait. The picture I used was from two Christmas Eves ago of the four of us (Dad, Mom, myself and my Brother). It's a good standard picture.
The issue: fucking around your own or a stranger's picture is one thing. Fucking over someone else in the name of flattery is a whole other issue. Yeah, this kills any experimentation and winnows down your choices to basically doing a fair representational tract. The whole point is to avoid this conversation:
Person, dumfounded, "Oh... nice. Who is this?"
Person, looking back down at the painting "Oh...," looks at you with fake grin on face "It's- good!"
So starting off I had to make sure that everyone looked approximately the way they do in real life. This is kind of complicated by my working from a 9" by 6" photograph (It's kind of hard to set up a painting and scale when working from such small confines). Even blowing it up blurred things. And this was complicated by the photograph being kind of busy (stuff in the background) that could take away from the focus of the painting and make it all too busy. It was complicated further by the figures being backlit... so you have an odd reverse lighting effect. Basically it wasn't the optimal source to work from.
Finally, I had seven worknights to finish it (from last Tuesday to Thursday, taking a break as my boy was in town, and then starting over until I leave for my parents' on Friday). This meant I was going to have to take shortcuts and couldn't get hung up on A being out of scale or not the right color. I guess I could have worked and worked at it until the product was completely polished but there really wouldn't be an appropriate time to give it to them until next Fall. I'm always keen to choose speed over precision. I dunno, maybe its the wrong choice. But then there's always the next painting-
So in five evenings, about nine hours of work I got this. It's a 2x blowup of the original and it turned out pretty well. I captured my parents and my brother really well. My Dad and my brother had a nice oblique pose that had the light hitting their faces interestingly. My Mom was a bit more difficult. I was the hardest as I come off a bit flat... but I did in the original picture as well. The clothes where all simplified- cleaned of most textures and lines and reduced to primary shapes. Again, if I was working from a larger print it would have been much easier to capture the nuances of the image. There just seems to be a point where that is a losing battle. The painting is good at a distance. It seems to lose something under close scrutiny (although I find that very feature intriguing itself). The results reminds me of the images from the late 70's that seemed to be in all the science journals and textbooks I had. It was a sort of quick elemental realism: the image is composed and feels right but it somehow sacrifices a bit of its truth.
The apocolypse background might have something to do with it. Ok, maybe it doesn't look like fire. Maybe it looks like those bland billowy backdrops you get at Sears Photo. But it still seems to change something about the picture to make you say "This is not how it happened". Yeah, I cut out a Christmas tree, a picture in a frame, and a doorway. The background seems to be plausible enough to explain the lighting. And I think its a good combination of colors. Unintentionally there is a top to bottom complimentary color things going on. ... I do like how the brooch turned out... it works because of the texture from the red of her jacket. Those two are very tactile.
It turned out well. It should be an adequate gift. It is definitely no DeKooning... which is a good thing.
Final class project. Between this and the last the classwork was... classwork. Things I did because we where in class not because I had any feeling that I was getting anywhere working on them. So the final project was a self-portrait. The picture I snapped the day I got back from Thanksgiving so I could print it out and grid it up (after doing a left-right correction for mirroring of course). The instructor had the idea of doing all of this errata of our lives (things that are special to you, etc) but I just wanted the simplicity of painting a face. Reality wasn't the reason. Chagall said that art should begin where reality ends. So a painting could be representational without being realistic.
I came out ruddy in the picture I took and so I thought I should run with that. I wanted to have uncut red in the final painting. The hard hue itself. It all worked out from there. I started above my left eye, running down my left cheek, across my mouth, over my nose and then making a loop around save the right eye which was the last thing I did of my face. I then did the glasses, the ears, the shirt collar, the hair, the shirt and then the background. The background you see is actually the third and the most true to the tone of the room I was standing in. Originally it was a shade of navy blue... which I then blew up because I didn't like the use of all the primary colors. The effect evened out all the colors and I felt it lost something. So I went over it again with burnt sienna and dark green... but it still wasn't right. The lighting effect on my face makes it obvious that there is a light right above my head. So the dark background gave me the look like I was under spotlight: the reporter-on-the-scene lighting.
So I then went with this linoleum green. I think it makes it pop a bit more. The instructor will probably tell me I should have done something to fill the space more but I think that isn't true. The interesting thing about this painting is the shading/tinting technique I used on my face.
Because I don't have any proper painting setup at my condo right now (which will be remedied soon) I paint flat on my table top under my lights. Well the lights are pretty hot and going right at my acrylic which causes it to bake and seal even more quickly. I've gotten retarder and played around with it but I found the results suboptimal... mostly because of my weak use of it. What I wanted was to understand the theory of composition of color: how two colors aligned next to each other blend in the eye and produce an effect neither has alone.
The classic is to look at a Seurat and La Grande Jatte. I wish I could find a better page with an actual closeup of the piece because you would see how Seurat put on his oil pretty thick and so you have these little bauble twists of color on each other. Velasquez did something similar with these very diffused brushstrokes (a good close look at Las Meninas illustrates this). Anyway, to do this isn't just dumb luck: it's knowledge accrued with the experience of taking something and trying to replicate it.
Me shooting the original picture in low light had the benefit of bluring the picture a bit and the resulting image having a lot of blurred pixelation. Looking at it, you could see the colors seperate. So this helped me with the relational color but had the drawback of the picture being undetailed. As I am working in 28" paper that has the drawback of not providing fine details to draw. So the resulting piece up close is wanting. But the results are interesting. The mix of the red with the yellow sierra and black made for some interesting color clashes. It might have benefited to try the technique universally instead of having it only on the fleshtones. Of course that then makes the face (more) the focus of the work.
City by the Sea
"This story you're writing-"
"I don't get this one part."
"Yeah. Here," points. "She says 'City by the Sea'." Flips through more of the story. "They actually say it all over. All the characters."
"So where is it? 'City by the Sea'?"
Well it's a city. And it's near the sea.
"Yes. But is it a particular city? Where are these characters exactly?"
It doesn't matter.
"C'mon. Tell me."
It doesn't matter.
No. The city isn't even near the sea. It's on a bay. The bay flows into the sea.
"So it is a place! Tell me!"
It doesn't matter.
It doesn't matter. I could tell you and it wouldn't change anything. You seem interested because you think that by knowing it will reveal something deeper. As if you had that once piece and the rest of the puzzle would all fall in place around it.
"I think you're lying. I think you know and you know it's really pissing me off and you just being spiteful. I'll get angry and there's nothing I can do to you to tell me."
It would be nice to think that. But it isn't true.
"So it's some metaphorical place then?"
You mean imaginary. No, it's not that either. You're still asking the same question. Real or imagined, you want to know because you think it means something. It doesn't. You want to see the other side of the wall and I won't let you. You'd go over there and see it is just another wall, the same wall only from the other side. You think it means something. It doesn't.
I did it on purpose.
"You're being mean. That's all you are doing."
God, the itch is so bad! You want to scratch it! You can beg for it, you can demand it, you can threaten something. It doesn't even matter what I say. I could lie to you and make something up. Truth or lie you'd at least have some answer.
"Don't be a dick."
Baby, it doesn't mean anything. It's intentional. If it hurts you, it hurts everyone else. But I didn't do it to be cruel. It's only a point. The story illustrates it.
"What is it you're trying to say. If the 'City by the Sea' isn't a real place- if it isn't a fake place- why go through all the trouble?"
It's where the story came from. All if it grew out of that.
"It's just a story. Some guy. The girls in his life. A lot of talking. But it doesn't go anywhere."
You could go to his city. You could go to his street. But if you had never read it it wouldn't mean anything to you. That townhouse could be any other townhouse. The trees, the asphalt, the road. Every person who reads it would see a different street, a different house. In time that neighborhood wouldn't be there anymore. The tenants would leave, be evicted, the building demolished. A fire comes, paints up all the maples in black ash and they fall over and it becomes just a big field of wild unkept grass.
All places are like that. Places, people that are all unfamiliar to you are just a tapestry of noise. It could be anywhere else. Here is everywhere else: the same chains, boutiques, coffeehouses, stores. We go all over and are miraculously untouched by anything. We take treasures back home as artifacts, those being better than our memories.
But that neighborhood, in that city? It didn't mean anything. What did matter? The boy. The girls in and out of his life. The girl who was gone and even thousands of miles away he couldn't escape. Between the four of them was a place that will always be there. Four people as the cardinal points of a human cartography.
Our hero- he was alone. He was in this place and it was quite obvious that there was life all around him. The 'City by the Sea' breathed in and out beautiful girls and places and things- but he did not know them. And so it was just a tableau that if he paid attention to all that would come from it was disgust. All the city's brilliant lights and marvels where kept from him by a sheet of impenetrable glass. They could be miles away for all it mattered. The 'City by the Sea' was a desert.
The place-that-was were himself and those three girls, how far or close they might be. And he couldn't see that. So he just starved in the desert-
until he left it. And it didn't mean he physically travelled. He realized what sort of ground that he needed to cover. His legs wouldn't take him to that place.
"Well I guess I don't need to read this then!"
Wasn't it good?
"It was. But it made no sense. You explained it to me and I don't know how finishing it would do me any good now."
I see. Well if that's all you needed, I could give you the whole story without you having to read it.
Yes. The story is as simple as this:
King Rat lived in the desert. ...
King Rat didn't always live in the desert- he lived by the ocean once. ...
And that is how King Rat left the desert.
"Well that's helpful..."
You can be sarcastic but it's true. That's the story.
"But who the hell knows what that means? It doesn't mean anything!"
It does. You can read that story. You can finish it. And then you can read those three lines. You can forget everything else but those three lines will walk you to that place: that boy and his three girls. You want to go to the 'City by the Sea'? Read the story. And later, when you need to remember, read those three lines, and you will be taken back there.
Philip K Dick in the Library of America
It was confirmed yesterday: Philip K Dick is getting the Library of America treatment. Very cool. It's Ubik, The Man in the High Castle, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. Personally I'd take A Scanner Darkly, Maze of Death or (to be completely biased) Lies Inc. in the place of DADoES. But he's the first SF author so honored. I'm excited. Plus the actual cover picture of him is hilarious (the one with the cat). Street date of May 31, 2007.
NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! (Fed-Spears Dynasty Over!)
Britney Spears and Kevin Federline are filing for divorce!!
THERE IS NO GOD!! What will we do? How many marriages, already on the precipice, surviving only by the gilded thread of the Spears/Federline collective will pass through this turbulent time? I'm telling you now, citizens, a pale of darkness is cast over the American family. I guess we where not ready to HANDLE THEIR TRUTH!!! All things have changed... I feel... diseased...
So cold... so so cold...
Whoever had the over/under of 31 months gets the pot.
Anyone with half a brain right now is thinking "What took so long?" Especially since Sir K-Fed is now on the East Coast leg of his world tour (so fantastic that he begged for his show in NYC to not get cancelled, then waited for 2 hours for more people to show up, and when the number didn't swell over 300, he performed for only a half an hour and then left).
This is so classic. K-Fed is the prince of chavs. Jaime Kennedy and Ali G where unnecessary. He gave us Teh REALNESS. Every horrible stereotype of the suburb-nursed white boy G wankster jerk off who bumps ghetto bass in their car and wears wife beaters and gold chains in an effect to show Just How True to The Fucking Game They Are can be dismissed by the prosecution producing only K-Fed as Exhibit A through ZZZ. Everybody knows twenty assholes like this from high school: the guy who wasn't going to college because he was totally going to get an apartment with his girlfriend and they would get smashed up on purple and they where totally and forever in love and he was going to work on his fucking album and their studyhall was spent arguing over a Benz or a Caddy. Of course each and every one of those guys ended up changing oil, three kids out of wedlock, a venomous ex-babymama and a permanent anacronysm to the past you escaped and the one which they wished was forever. JUST WAIT UNTIL I MOVE OUT OF MY MOM'S BASEMENT!
A billion other lifetimes ended that way. K-Fed was the exception that proved the rule by stumbling into a millionaire prefab girl brand who's career genius lay solely in the hands of a cohort of coaches and marketeers. I guess we could say Mr Federline was smart enough to see the dumb bewildered girl under all of that: the one who still talked too much with gum in her mouth smacking wildly. And all that marketing mastery couldn't save Ms Britney from herself: the same doe eyed dunce who scribbled K&B4ever on every page of her notebook in Social Studies.
That she was dumb enough to not have the perception to see that a guy who casually fell dick-first into his previous girlfriend without protection and who was quite happy to do the same to her was mistake #1. That she let the moron put a whole mess of baby sauce up in her guts was mistake #2. Letting him blow through her money while thinking that the Super-G fiction he swept her up in was real was mistakes #3-4.
Why? Because why the fuck should he care. He's got money. Shit, he'll probably live out his days at the end of a 3 foot long novelty bong in the tasteful ranch he paid for in cash while never having to lift a finger again.
K-Fed comes out of this a winner.
He'll never have to pay child support. He's miles away from the life of lateshifts at the Jiffy Lube. He can get his tubes whacked and live out his days. He's an evolutionary success: he's procreated and his seed will be well taken care of. He should make a boutique line of shirts that say 'Come Fuck the Fed'. Hell, I'd buy one.
The best part is the amount of flotsam that this car wreck of a marriage produced. Their Reality Show, His album, the Teen Choice Awards, Britney looking like a fat tranny when trying to work off that second round of baby weight. It's a disaster caught in slow motion. Like a airliner crash or a man jumping off the building, the sort of content that will spin infinitely on YouTube now and forever.
But probably the best thing is that maybe a dozen other dumb young girls out there will hesitate, reconsider their boy's devotion, and have him throw on a jimmyhat at least. I doubt it. History and mankind is built on the failure of reason to overcome instinct. Because our love? Our love is eternal. Something unique that will burn through the ages. A continuum of mistakes.
K-Fed, I salute you.
Got up at 0600. Showered and out of the door by 0622. It was about even between permanent night and transcient dawn. None of the reported rain. Fog swept in and had eaten up everything. The neighborhood is quiet, save the trucks and early commuter traffic.
I got to walking. Not much in the way of sidewalks here. Too hilly, too old development suburban. Vines and sheer front yard edges. Wet rotting piles of leaves tracked from the curb into the street. Parked cars sat in them.
Got to the elementary school: around a corner and dug into a hillface. The school had set up a table to buy a coffee and a bagel. A half an hour early. The line was maybe a dozen. Kids off on election day? Washed-in cocoa powder. Milk? Is that how elementary schools smell? There was something that gave the air that very taste. More people came. Damn, I was about two sawbucks younger than everyone else here. Cute election observer. A college freshmen? She had no where to stand so she just stood there: off to the side in the school auditorium, rolling her foot in its heel, clutching a clipboard. All the lunch tables where stacked in the cafeteria. I waited behind the duct tape line.
My last name, my address, my DOB. Got my slip, signed it. Poll worker lives just down the street from me. Got my smartcard. Pushed it into the machine. Goddamn the GUI of this thing is hideous. Am I a dork because I spent yesterday reading up on the issues, the candidates and then looking at the sample ballot they mailed me? It was mostly punching numbers. Name: X. "Choose no more than four". Double check, next page. The same. Review. Submit ballot. Took my smartcard to the kids who dropped it a box. Took my sticker. Put it on my sweater.
The parking lot was filled- people coming and going. Some election workers outside. I was glad I walked. The fog had begun to clear. A man walks out of his house with a dog. I go down the street. A man with a greyhound crosses my path. I come to Wayne and see a jogger. She's wearing a TERPS sweatshirt. 0712. I get in my car, take off my scarf (warmer than I thought today... wow, the high's 60F?), drive to work.
And here you are.
Just Bought a Cadillac
11/01/2006 Throw Some D's
Class was yesterday. Only two others showed up. Of course only one student has been there all five classes. Seems odd to me: we only have ten classes. Missing one is basically throwing 25 bucks away.
This was our second OpArt piece. I had no real plan coming in on it. I knew I didn't want to be the guy at next week's critique who said "I only did one". Of course considering that all but two of us have missed one or more of the three classes we spent on this I got a feeling that it might not turn out that way.
But the last one I finished on 10/24/2006 I had a plan. This? No plan other than "Still gotta do squares but fuck setting up that 1" squares with 1/2" offset" and "Maybe earthtones". So I went with a dark blue, a crimson, a burnt sienna and light brown. In a way it forms a shaded RYB triumvirate but *meh* I went with just a normal 1" grid. Originally I thought of using the light brown as a base and then having a selected group of squares drop red shadows of uneven length. I didn't mask this and so the results where weak. Also the light brown was not a good choice as a base. To light, too middling. It is neither dark nor light nor warm nor cool. Maybe as an accent but not as a base.
That kind of led this piece to a series of midcourse corrections.
So I then masked off the random assortment of squares to then drop a mix of the dark blue and burnt sienna. Well one thing by mixing I found was the red root of the burnt sienna. So when mixed with the blue you got this very verdant green. A lucky mistake visible in the lower right. Also I had dropped a base of white down on the masked over squares so I could get interesting sharp changes in tone. That's what got that squares so aquatic in the middle lower left.
But the background still stunk. It was too light. Too atonal. Removing my masking I had these neat squares set on crap. It was the family heirloom vase on the card table in the dining room. A bad look.
So I had to do something. For some reason I stood next to my mix of light brown and crimson. I wanted something interesting and my hope was by repeating the steps I did in the last mask and paint I could get some interesting results. So I masked off the blue/sienna and several others and then went to town dipping heavily into the crimson and ended up with the product above.
I think I would have been better if I would have used more red- try to shift away the primary color from light brown. I do like how the shades of light brown sort of interlock on the left. Maybe mixing the light brown with white was a bad choice. It moves the image off in a poor direction. But this seems more like a hail mary than anything else. The result is adequate. Just shows you what planning does for you. Ok, I did have the very rough margins of a plan, but said plan needed more working. It was all theme and no conclusions or measures of effectiveness.
10/24/2006 Simulated Annealing
It's whatever you say it is. Finished this up today. Total execution time: 3.5 hours spread over two weeks? Two classes anyway. Bear with the picture. I was shooting it at night in my kitchen. Like I mentioned before we where working in an OpArt project to get a handle on the fundaments of color theory. I think this piece illustrates the main thrusts of it. Mostly that abstract art is no less about technique or talent than realism. The focus is all that has really changed. And this gives you a better sense of color theory than hearing 'complementary', 'adjacent', 'balance' and all of that. Here we see that color is often just as much about shade and temperature than tone.
I mostly lucked into it. In the examples we looked last week one piece did an interesting transition over about half of the RYB color wheel. What I liked was that the piece had two primary colors, and two secondary colors which where compliments. I just thought of rotating it and seeing the effect.
So I came up with my scheme: two gradients that overlapped. One Violet->Red->Orange. The other YellowOrange over the Orange->Red seems to even cause the air to appear distorted by the heat.
The imperfect transition also adds to the effect. Like a lot of painting that was luck: I didn't mask the image so I was filling in my grids by hand. So up close you can see the imperfections in the coloring. The lines aren't straight. But that sort of frustrates the eye: we don't get the expected smooth transition. So we get this wierd uneven heating sensation.
Taking the above picture I had to find a way of displaying it so that there was no direct light. Why? Because I didn't want any false lens flashes. That one in the upper right? It's painted that way. I decided to have the Orange tint higher. Yeah, it was a break from the pure color theory of the above, but it also counterwieghs the lower left. While Violet is very dark and the Yellow very bright, you don't have that with the Orange and Red. Orange and Red are more medium bright. More towards the upper-right middle do you see how the two full tones of Orange and Red interact. So I thought it would be interesting to even out the contrast and match the Orange to the Yellow by making a lighter Orange. By doing so we get the feeling of a spotlight falling on that part of the grate and the background falling into a shadow of Red.
Like I said before I should have masked off what I painted. I made a template today but the paint would bleed under it. So the lines are uneven, the mixing poor. Trying to solve the problem by cutting it with water only made for washes instead of prolonging the acrylic. Next time I'll need to get some retarder to allow me to work the colors more fully. If I was sure I was going to mask off the grate and then paint the background, I should have just painted all of the background, mask over it, throw down a coat of white (to neutralize the background to paint on) and then do the squares. I need to do another. I'll probably do that then. Of course I'll be using a different scheme. I was thinking more earth or wood tones.
Whatever. It is just an exercise about feeling out the relationships of the color. The weakness is in the smooth transitions of color. I need to work quicker, get the paint to work together instead of dealing with unappetitizing thin dry coats.
So I'm a big fan of Scorsese. He brings so much to film: as a filmmaker, as a director of actors, as a cinephile. To watch his career is to get an education on the history of cinema. His movies drip with the touches of DeSica, Hawks, Ford, Ozu and countless others. Moreso Scorsese is impressive because of his indifference to scholarly groupthink. His documentary A Personal Journey through American Cinema with Martin Scorses begins not with any Citizen Kane or Tolerance but with the schlocky Western Duel in the Sun that was about a rancher and the half-breed maid he assaulted, fell in love with and was finally killed by. The movie was decried by the Catholic Church. Scorsese's mother took him to it as a young boy, using the young Marty as an excuse to see what all the fuss is about.
That story is very important. Not only in explaining the perspective Scorsese has towards cinema but how all people come to art. Art isn't only a flawless totem. Often it is entertainment, pleasure often excited by some of its own forbidden corners. Art can many times be part gaudy and cheap. But how it serves us is much more profound then that. Often many of the things we love are flawed or careless. The love operates on many parts of the anatomy that aren't the brain. The flesh, the fingers, the sex. To talk about art where those parts are forbidden from the conversation is to not talk about art at all. It's academic wanking.
And so when many talk about Scorsese they give you the high pillars: Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas. The really impressed break out the underrated second tier: Mean Streets, Last Temptation of Christ, The Color of Money, Casino. As great as these films are they give you a heavily biased perspective into the Scorsese oeurve and this is the one that most people live with:
What sort of movies does Scorsese make?
"Gangster pictures... um, movies about psychos and outsiders."
Of course the real filmheads then break out the whole third string class of his films: Scorsese's coked up highly flawed musical New York New York, King of Comedy, the atrocious After Hours, the highly flawed Gangs of New York or the highly underrated Bringing out the Dead. He's done all sorts of films. But even with all of these considered, there is an inherit bias: that of high art Importance and Reverence.
And that leads us to The Departed. After seeing it I knew exactly what was going to happen: people where going to compare it to his last Scorsese (e.g. modern gangster) movies, Casino/Goodfellas, and either declare it the greatest fucking thing ever or calling it a sad impersonation of himself.
The dickweeds (see Jim Emerson... who BTW now that Ebert is back, should stop writing reviews and just go choke on an exhaust pipe) will then gloat that The Departed is "obviously" inferior to the film that it is a remake of, the Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs.
The reason? Because movies from other countries where people don't speak English obviously are much more Important. Also a Remake is automatically inferior to the Original. It's the same hipster insecurity complex that is consently seeking for authenticity and does so by attaching itself to older or indigenous things disregarding any actual objective comparison of quality.
Listen, I own Infernal Affairs and I've seen The Departed twice. I'm also a big fan of Scorsese and HK crime films. The critics are full of shit. Mostly because they are judging The Departed on their preconceptions and not the movie that it is.
The first thing the elitist dildos will tell you is that The Departed doesn't have the gravitas of Goodfellas or Raging Bull or any of the top flight Scorsese films.
Well no shit. Neither did Infernal Affairs. Both are action thrillers. This should have been obvious by the levels of over the top violence and ridiculousness going on. A movie about a gangster turned cop and cop turned gangster double agents is supposed to be realistic? Getthefuckouttahere. Movies like this are supposed to quicken the pulse, ratchet up the tension and settle big scores. That The Departed does that where most mainstream movies fail by making the audience numb with their endless onslaught of noise just tells you about the relative quality of the two.
Anyone with half a brain and IMDB would have seen that Scorsese had already done this once before: Cape Fear. Just like The Departed it was a remake (check) of a classic crime thriller (check) with a huge actor (check) playing the major antagonist role (check) who, in Scorsese's movie, was built up to an unreal level (check).
Of course Cape Fear was a fun, creepy and exciting movie. It was also the only Scorsese movie (until The Departed) to win its opening box office. It was his only movie (until The Departed) to do very well in the box office. Of course like other Scorsese movies it worked extremely well, was highly quotable, and got fantastic performances out of its cast (like The Departed).
The jerkoffs completely forget about it- because it seeks to please the crowd. Because it has no deep penetrating levels of Importance. Because it wasn't made with just them in mind. But fuck them. Scorsese knows the truth: that Big Hollywood has been many times Important. That accessible satisfying films can have breadth as well as depth. That the mainstream isn't only just the mob to be cowed with circuses and fights. Many great movies operate on all the other endrogynous zones. Many great movies are Duels in the Sun. And what Scorsese has created with The Departed is a great action thriller, the sort Michael Mann or DePalma make (btw, if one of those two had made this movie we wouldn't be having this conversation).
So what is so great about The Departed? What I said above: Scorsese built a great movie. It is two and a half hours long but it flies by. It's gripping from beginning to end. Matt Damon as the cop with a bad side is charismatic, and wiley. He wields his boyishness to wind his way through his doublelife. Leo finally got a role that sat well for him. I'm not a big DeCaprio fan because he thinks he's Johnny Depp when he isn't. Leo has a far more limited range. He can't do brooding/tough. He doesn't feel mysterious. His ability to be subsumed by a character is not great. He can emote and hit all the notes in a role but you can't expect him to transform into a 16 wheeler. There's a throw away line where he says "You don't have cats... I like that." It's the sort of banal conversation we have, we feel how stupid it is as we're saying it, but we let it because of our own lack of saying what needs to really be said. Leo hits it right on with a sort of "I just noticed/I don't know what else to say right now".
Jack Nicholson is great as well. It's a Jack role: he's expected to be the sort of looney he's sort of hinted at for a while. He's the 800lbs Gorilla in this movie. And he carries it that way. In Infernal Affairs the boss character Jack plays was much more bland. He was threatening but more of just a functional component for the two leads to orbit around. The critics have rolled their eyes at the over the top touches added to the boss but I think it fits perfectly. To make the character any less would have him disappear into the background. Scorsese and Monahan (the screenwriter) knew that they wanted him to be brought out into the front. You do that in an action movie by giving the character bite. You do that by not just making the character eccentric but by giving him an autonomy so that when you put him solo on the screen, he bleeds over the edges. The entire opening with Jack in silhouette grinding on about Boston and crime or when he's feeling out Leo's character in the restaurant because he fears that there's a rat in his unit... well the scenes only carry with their weight because the boss has been given ample notes to carry the solos. The same shit is said about Pacino in Scarface, DeNiro in Cape Fear or Tom Cruise in Collateral (though that one now seems that it wasn't much of a stretch *zing!*). As the zeitgeist has taken in these roles, the critics have been forced in time to give them the basic respect they deserve.
But Scorsese's acumen is demonstrated by how he's able to squeeze so many fucking great roles out of secondary characters. Mark Walberg and Alec Baldwin are so fucking over the top, so fucking goddamn quotable, as the police leads. They hit the Boston accent right on while building up these wonderful characters. Goddamn, do you know how ready I am to break out "I'm the guy who does his fucking job. You must be the other guy." at work? C'mon.
"Go fuck yourself/I'm tired from fucking your wife/How is your mother?/Good, she's tired from fucking my father."
"Patriot Act! Patriot Act! I love the Patriot Act! "
"Want a smoke? What you don't smoke? What are you some kind of fitness freak? Fuck you."
"You may play a tough guy for your gangster friends, but you don't get nothing past me, you lace-curtain Irish fucking pussy!"
"Marriage is an important part of getting ahead. It lets people know you're not a homo. A married guy seems more stable. People see the ring, they think "at least somebody can stand the son of a bitch. Ladies see the ring, they know immediately that you must have some cash, and your cock must work."
And then there's the criminals. "What, you on your period?" The whole "If they don't look at you they must be a cop" conversation. Everything so classic. And that's important in a thriller: because it gets the audience empathizing with the characters. Both times I saw the movie the audience gasped when Martin Sheen was thrown off the building. He was the most sympathetic character. He as a father figure to Leo. When he died Leo was in the fucking dark. I would also give some time to Vera Farmiga but she has gotten two Gray Lady blowjobs in the last month so no reason to treat it like a Cuban sex show.
Of course the complaint is that Scorsese lost all the "seriousness" that made Infernal Affairs so great. No way could Matt Damon text a message one handed. The whole quadruple cross at the end with everyone dying from a headwound and the rat in the last shot. Uh, yeah. Does anybody remember that the two leads in Infernal Affairs met when one of them sold the other guy audio cables after they sat quietly together in front of the showroom speakers listening to music with their eyes closed? Infernal Affairs was so over the top in the two leads so like totally knowing each other but not like knowing the other guy's the other guy's rat!!! Monahan did the smart thing and spread the two out. Anyone with half a brain and access to the two would have otherwise figured the damn thing out. And there are a half-dozen characters like that in this movie: the two undercover police heads, the therapist, the crime boss. Infernal Affairs was *this* close to having them run into each other at the same Starbucks every morning.
And texting in a pocket is bad? How about nonchalantly leaning out of a window to tap Morse code into a wire you placed under the windowsill?
The ending of The Departed is over the top. But hopefully by now that would seem to be natural to the movie itself. The one thing its ending has over the one in Infernal Affairs was that it provided a satisfying amount of closure. Infernal Affairs doesn't end with Leo and Matt and Anthony Anderson and that other guy all dying from gunwounds. It ends with the undercover dead and the Matt character going to jail. Freezeframe. Roll credits.
"... Oh," is your reaction when you are sitting there.
It explains why there have been like five sequels to the damn thing too: the original ends on such an unsatisfactory note. Nothing really gets resolved. One guy's dead and the other is going to jail... ok.
Now could have The Departed ended on less of a slapstick sequence? Probably. By the third headshot the audience is usually laughing out loud. A lot of people hate it. If they just would have avoided killing three people in a single shot (setting up a triple cross) and instead had Leo get shot, Anthony Anderson get shot and then Matt and the other guy drive away only to have Matt, I dunno, shoot him then? It might have seemed like less of a Greek tragedy. But Scorsese has also always held a love for old black Italian drama. The sort of thing where EVERYBODY DIES IN THE END. Shit, it's how all three of The Godfather movies work. In a way The Departed doesn't earn that sequence.
But it at least tells you there ain't going to be no damn sequel directed by Michael Bay.
Scorsese had fun with this. Like After Hours you can see him having fun with this (after the similarly soul-crushing expeditions to create Last Temptation and Gangs of NY). The rat running along the last shot? That's him winking at you. That's him throwing it in the faces of the critics who want to drop him into a five by five cell of Goodfellas and Raging Bull. The sort of assholes who would never enjoy a Jerry Bruckheimer movie or some piece of shit starring Stallone in the 80's. They're the sort of guys who can't ever approach a John Ford or Sam Peckinpah film with the glee of a teenage boy. You wonder if these guys have ever used their dicks in their lives. For them, the rat running across the last shot was Marty squirting a big load of jizz in their face.
The Departed is an action movie. It will thrill you, you will laugh with it, you will laugh at it. You will be entertained. Such are the things that make life good.
Some things are starting to come back to me.
I had a different Art AP teacher my Sophomore and Junior years in HS than I did my Senior. That first teacher, Mr B, retired and went off to his house near the lake with his daughter and daughter. Of course Mr B did come back once in a while. He was friends with the other art teachers.
Senior year I saw him. He smirked and said "You're an asshole. But you're a talented asshole- and I respect that."
What a dick.
Art teachers where a bit different than most teachers I had. Or maybe it was just me. Mr B. could be- was combative. In the fine art context there is a lot of conflict: art is often about choices. You do something because you have an idea or are good at it or are bad at it or want to get better. Those choices may be in direct conflict with the idea of "organized classroom".
But I probably didn't help things.
I am painting many small 1" rectangles, spaced by 1/2" in a space of 15" by 18". I drew the field first in pencil. I then began to paint the spaces between the 1" rectangles in acrylic. The assignment was supposedly more complex: add in repeating simple shapes for something akin to OpArt. But I stuck with just a fleet of squares.
Because I'm uninterested in shapes. I am interested in paint as a medium. I am interested in color theory and expressing it through paint. That's why the background space transitions from purple to red to orange. When I go back and paint the squares they will transition from red to orange to yellow. It's a hypothesis of color adjacents and near-complements. It's also a skill challenge: to get me familiar with blending tones and colors. The effects of washes and strokes.
Many lines drawn in pencil. A lot of primed material to cover. I start small but I become impatient. One line is overstepped, than another. The uniform grid begins to vibrate in a handcast uncertainty.
I thought of Mr B. Not the asshole thing. Assignments: we always butted heads on assignments. I generally hated his assignments. He'd pick out one piece of crap in his classroom and tell us "do that". A sketching exercise I'd finish quickly and then doodle on the edges.
"I like that."
"That," and he'd point to what I had drawn in the corner. "That's interesting. The rest of it. Is just-," the word escaped him; still he was dismissing it. "Why can't you apply what you did there to the actual excercise?"
Exercise. Everything is an exercise. The big assignment was an exercise. The sketch in the corner was another excerise. Every class composed an exercise. My attention loosened, filling pages of college rule with faces is an exercise. Again. Again. Repeat again. Each face wasn't the last face. Each drawing wasn't the final drawing. None of it big, important. This wasn't going onto any wall. This wasn't going to be judge by any contest that mattered. Where was the test? The real one that would divide away the wheat from the chaff? Fuck this scholastic shit. All training. No battles.
What where the conditions of finally sitting down and creating A Piece of Work? Something final and complete? Something that would be worth the effort and patience of staying within the lines? Exercises lead to excuses. Excuses lead to compromised conditions. Compromised conditions lead to impressive but flawed products.
There is structure to a class but its conditions are a permanency of training wheels. Every piece of art is a warmup for the next piece. It goes no where.
I would never hang a piece of my art on my own wall. I'd never give one as a gift. Some one would ask? I'd let them take it. I'd never go to any celebration of any of my accomplishments. All my accomplishments are banal. A birthday, a graduation, a wedding, a funeral. If you did not know me you would not care. We do not notice those things: bodies far and alien to us. No different than darkness. They are not important. I am in more individuals' black inky nights than I am in flourescent awareness. I am not important. No star to navigate to. Only void of years of exercises, compositions of gas. Do particles wait to be fused? This is stupid. The gray stretch between two integers. Lives quite unremarkable. Still lived.
Everyone here's a smart kid.
You shrug, "I'm not that smart."
And you have a gift.
"Eh. I guess."
Talent is like every other rare sought-after commodity: it both at once attracts and repulses. Wealth, beauty. We love these things. No, we adore them. We covet them. We know that they are a finite quantity and so we seek them out. But their rarity also makes us... hedge our bets. We know full well that there is a chance that we may never be talented enough, beautiful enough, wealthy enough. So we hold these things at arms length. Worst would be for us to become frothing envious of something that we never come to possess. The thing is subjective because it is just not the thing; it is the thing and our relationship to it. The distance is how it appears to us (a speck of faint light, far off; in our grasp, brilliant, blotting out all else). There is no real truth to any of it, we know. But what we do see is everyone else, aligned as constellations, hearts, satellites, in their orbits around it. We can gauge distances. We know the record, who is closer, warmed more at the bosom. There is a measureable quantity and we all fear to be found wanting.
Money. Polite company doesn't talk about money. A friend's wife drunk on three glasses of wine pulls out a check for contract work she did.
"Look how much I made for," holds up fingers, "twenty hours of work." Proud. Smiling.
Her husband quickly grabs it and puts it away. "He doesn't want to see that."
To humiliate me? Or would it be worse: "Oh nice. Maybe in a few years you'll be making as much as I do an hour."
A poor measure of all the human characteristics we treasure. The quality of a man. But money is finite and absolute and though it does not say anything about us, it speaks clearly in a striking voice much much else.
So polite company doesn't talk about money.
The same with talent. Eight students at easels, drawing a still life in tones and shades of one color (blues, oranges. Choose one and only one). Two hours painting. Ten minute open critique period at the end. "Let's take a look at what everybody is doing"
So this is an intro to painting class. All skill levels welcome. Noncredit. The actual composition is from no art outside of decades ago mandated art classes to dabblers to those who decided to pick it up again after a detour in occupation.
So what do you say when you can paint? Not just paint but compose, calculate tone, understand the physics of the color, of the brush. You are more interested in how the paint works. How capture how you see it. Or think it should be seen?
They are impressed. Of the eight students you where the only one to attempt to paint the bust. You draw faces all the time. You understand the human face. So many of the steps are already done for you. ...great.
Talent can be abrasive. Yes, the adolescent fear of difference. But talent too can be sweetly off putting. It deliniates the gulf, a wide invisible chasm. They may praise you and at the same time begin to drift away from the shore. What you have done has shown how alien you are. Somehow we are not of the same species.
"I loved that. How did you do that... with the eye?"
How can you take critique? "Are you going to hang it up?" Actually I don't think it's that good. I think that it is a reasonable first stab at painting for the first time in nine years. But there is much to be desired. If we worked in a dark room and with only a single spot of light, it would be much better: its easier to disguise missteps in tone when working with high contrast. This was fine but left much to be desired.
You wouldn't hang this painting on the wall. Right now you are thinking about saving yourself the 2 bucks and painting over it. Perfect your technique. At this level, the rules have changed.
You can't say that. "This isn't good. I plan on destroying this. I will level this forest and plant another. You couldn't do this. If you finally did, know I would destroy it as well. Just think of what I would do then with what you just painted here."
The rules change but the metric is identical. They would never live up to your standards. And they at some point realize it. And soon they too will drift away. The mountain is very high. It pierces the clouds up into thin air and the gaps of empty space. But it is an island. From its very top you can see all the foreign lands. They can all see how close to the heavens you are. Is that some how glorious? You can see how distant all of them are from you. And all together, at the same time. That is how each of us go about this life.
NOW FUCK Comcast in the ASS with a KNIFE
Why am I in at work at 6:50 in the morning on a Friday with no deadlines? Is it because I had to leave work for 2.5 hours yesterday afternoon to wait around for a Comcast tech who DID NOT COME?
Excellent. So it's either burn vacay or make up the time. I'm more than happy to make up the time- if the reason why I took off was fulfilled. But it wasn't. Luckily my problem is so spazzy (my Comcast internet goes in and out) that the previous three techs each thought they had solved it only to have the problem come back.
Well, now I've heard the rumor the New Brooklyn has FIOS and I'm going to check on that. Then I can dump these ass clowns.
Really... the guy schedules a tech visit on Wednesday for Thursday 2-5pm, says the tech will try to call twice and then I get nothing. And Corporations wonder why people burn, ravage and riot.
Today, In the Lab
Me: "A dolphin goes: 'Ort! Ort! Or- waitaminute. That's more of an otter. A dolphin really goes 'Eek! Eek! Eek!' A Manatee goes: 'Uhhh... I'm so fat! Where are my fat jeans?!?"
J: "C, don't you miss working in your office?"
C: "I don't get entertained when I sit up there."
Me: "Did I ever tell you about the woodpecker that got in my parents' chimney? It would peck away at the metal lining because it was mating season or something. Made all kinds of racket. This was in their second to last new house. Not their new new house. Anyway, so my dad bought a pellet gun and waited for the bird to perch itself on the the chimney and then *makes motion like aiming rifle. pulls trigger* PSSHT! Tink! 'Eekeekeek!' And the woodpecker never came back."
J: "I really got to meet your father some day."
[Walking out of Trapeze. A restaurant that just went up. Underwhelming. It's like Surf Bar 'cause Surf Bar sucks now]
Me: *Does 'Entrance of the Gladiators'*
Me: "If I was a gladiator, I would never come out to 'Entrance of the Gladiators'. I'd just let the Emperor kill me."
J: "'Entrance of the Gladiators'?"
Me: *Does 'Entrance of the Gladiators'*
J: "You mean that circus music?"
Me: "Yes. 'Entrance of the Gladiators'"
J: "No way."
Me: "Yes. Doesn't sound bad ass at all. Even the 'Sabre Dance' doesn't sound like something Cossacks would go rocking out to."
J: "The 'Sabre Dance'?"
Me: *Does 'Sabre Dance'*
Me: "Though now most people would probably know The Gayne Ballet Suite for 'Lullaby'. It's used in every sci-fi movie set in space. 2001, Aliens."
Me: "Very slow and majestic. Khatchaturian, one of those great 20th century composers. So good that Stalin loved him and he got his ass thrown in a gulag."
Me: "Yes. He wrote a symphony that the High Soviet found to be-"
C: "How do you know this?"
J: "I wish I had a photographic memory."
Me: "I don't have a photographic memory."
C: "But you remember all of this stuff."
J: "I bet you only read about that stuff once before, right? You have a photographic memory."
Me: "I dunno."
C: "What's a gulag?"
Me: "A forced labor camp for criminals and political undesireables."
[I don't have a photographic memory. I don't read things and the data gets sucked off of them. I remember things but a lot of it is hazy. I can remember parts of songs, the pages of this month's Esquire. The blurb at the bottom of one page about memory. The color of the page. The bubbled shape of the sidebar. I can see pages and know the information is there, but I can't produce the words and letters. There are so many gaps. I struggle to remember things. But then I like information. Information is interesting and interesting stuff is easy to remember. I can't just remember a line of numbers if you asked me]
Two weeks ago in Orlando, sitting around J's hotel room after the per diem buster meal
Me: "Shit, it's 10:30. We've been sitting here for three hours shooting the shit."
J: "I haven't been doing anything. You've been talking and I've just been agreeing with you."
Me: "Thanks. Now I sound like a fourteen year old girl."
J: "It didn't mean anything. You're just more observant than I am. You bring up all this stuff I never notice."
Two weeks ago, on The Wire
Teacher [to Prez]: "You need Soft Eyes."
Prez: "Soft eyes?"
Today, as I was Leaving Work
T: "Hey s." [She always says my name. But then J and I share the same name. This really tickles her to no end]
Me: "Hey T."
T: "Haha. I love watching you walk."
Me: "What? What's so interesting about how I walk?"
T: "I dunno. You are always so *leans to the side as to demonstrate* laid back."
T: "Have a good weekend."
Me: "You too."
J [to me]: "I'd love to be in your brain- just once. To see what it's like in there."