Saturday, December 20, 2008


I can't help but come back to U2 - hokey as they've become and perhaps always been - again and again. It's usually over a song or two (The mournful yet urgent Achtung Baby stand-out, "Acrobat." The murky, chilling one-two dry gulch of "Exit" and "Mothers of the Disappeared" on Joshua Tree. Then there's War's wonderful, elegiac closer, "40.") that I just have to hear over and over again. There will always be self-indulgence fueled missteps on Bono's part - no matter what. The Edge, however, just always seemed to have a way with that warm, gauzy winter guitar sound.

Nowadays I don't quite feel the same magic, and there always seems to be times when one feels compelled to keep their U2 affinity to themselves. This is not one of those times. There's a moment (2:45-3:00) in my current favorite "An Cat Dubh" that sounds like the coolest song that U2 never wrote. It's charmingly reminiscent of the best Joy Division, This Heat and Disco Inferno material. Instead of staying in this alien territory, the song resumes it's oh-oh-oh-oh-oh wordless chorus then segues sweetly "Into The Heart," which is a great song that brings to mind instrumental band Explosions in The Sky till a certain Irish yodeller:

hams his way into the heart -- of a child no less! Not sure what he's going on about here. But Boy is an album to be enjoyed for its heigtened fall colors melodicism and soft focus, roomy atmosphere. It's also got three of the band's best anthems: "Out of Control," "I Will Follow" and "Electric Co." Each one is a pleasure to blare and sing along with (you may even want to make like Kevin Bacon and Footloose and pony about). This album has aged well, I daresay. There's something odd about listening to some of the newer music influenced by this album. It's usually better, but it brings up the same emotions. There's that drama and grandeur, but it's one borne of resolution rather than letting go in a frenzy of sex crazed rock rage (though there's certainly nothing wrong with this). It's life affirming music that is somehow just as good for its proto-emo indulgences as it is bad. Hell, take off some the unnecessary synth bells and whistles and replace the vocalist with the guy from Wilderness, it would be hip to play this record.

But it is something on its own. It's an already tight band, showcasing its strengths with great aplomb and showing the root of what makes all their best subsequent songs endearing: collaboration. These guys play well together -- like em or not. They're off on some bland trip now, but one can always go back - and Boy is more than worth going back to. The follow-up was pretty good too:"Rejoice" is the best track. Doesn't Adam Clayton look so cool? He's all like, "yeah, all the lasses think I'm the guy from Tears For Fears." And Bono's all "Comes in handy, no?" and Edge is like "Of course bloody not!" Larry Mullen can only glare and wonder how much longer he'll be looking like David Gilmour.

It's the holidays and sure is cold. Me I'm gonna be keeping toasty with some hot mulled cider and one of my absolute favorite sounds on the planet:

My U2 love is officially out. I refuse to write off something that feels so right - no matter how wrong it very well may be. Everything they touch may not turn to gold, but when they touch gold its a thing of pure joy and uplift. Here's to good ol' eighties style joy and uplift! If you can feel what I'm getting at, give the early U2 another listen - emracing all flaws. You just might rediscover that inner glow. They're an easy target, so friends and family might try ruin your reverie. When it comes to that, it's hard to say it better than Bono does in "Acrobat" -- "Don't let the bastards grind you down!" And you bet our poet whoreate means it more than the person who came up with that expression ever did!

Remember that we cannot always be like Lily Taylor in Abel Ferrara's own rough diamond: The Addiction. She tried to resist, chanting "I WILL NOT SUBMIT!, I WILL NOT SUBMIT!" and flagellating her hunger. But just look how happy she was having given in:

Friday, July 25, 2008

the titans GATHER!


Lately it’s consumed more of my life than I care to admit. I’ve mused on the world ­David Milch has created so much as to treat the inhabitants of the filthy Black Hills town like gospel. I’d been watching and grappling with the show since the beginning. It’s brutal, overflowing and bears repeated viewings cause there’s so much absurdist, laugh—or-you’ll cry poetic brilliance in almost every scene. I've never had cable, so I spent a lot more time at the folks' place (how my mom can hate so many of the violent movies I go for and still watch this show is beyond me) than usual. If not to see the season as it played, it was to catch a re-run. Stacks of tapes (disordered due to missing a few here and there) are rifled through on a pretty regular basis. As with The Sopranos, I'd implore parties (interested or not) to take the trouble to rent the show. Having caught an episode of Sopranos on Bravo, I have to say it's a lousy way to watch the show. Not just because of the distractingly idiotic profanity substitutions, but due to the fact that commercial interruptions pretty much destroy the carefully constructed connective environments of the show. The profanity being rampant as it is in Deadwood, the thing would likely never be considered for network syndication. That, and the show obviously didn't find a wide enough audience. This is a big part of why I'm writing this.

Twin Peaks, as good as it was, never had the freedom that this show does. Chances are, some nitwit was tapping those writers on the shoulder going - hey, let's have more people talking about “ooh boy, that pie”. How bout that wacky old log lady. She tested very well! Like many HBO programs, there's a signature quality to Deadwood -- one that dismisses any inkling that you're a target audience. Though, I suppose, you are. However, I'd like to hear just what the target audience is for a show like Deadwood. Western fans? They're few and far if current trends are to be considered, and the ones that are left are likely not thrilled with the unusual levels of Shakespearean talkiness, depravity and general weirdness of the series. So… Open-minded western fans? I guess so. That's me more or less. So there you go. Anyone wondering why the show won far more critical than popular acclaim, perhaps this is why. It was too damned particular!

Uniqueness being a dubious gambit to begin with, there's no use in trumpeting this as one of the major reasons to watch. The show's backwards sort of hook may be the very thing that makes us so damned fickle in the first place -- simple comings and goings made agonizingly complex by over-thinking. The show is chock full of this kind of stuff. Every character, no matter how insignificant to the ringmaster Al, is given their turn to expound on their lot and the lots of their chosen companions. If this sounds tedious, I might suggest you reconsider just how enticing the mundane can be. Like when you say "bike" and suddenly it's just a meaningless sound that drops out of you. It's important that we don't close our minds to things just because they don't manipulate us in a way that popular entertainment traditionally dictates. Though the show does uphold this tradition, it also subverts it beautifully. In time you'll find yourself fascinated at something startlingly un-immediate in its appeal, like a boney preacher bending at a crazy angle and proselytizing to a horse's ass. The bizarre fact of the scene is that it's not obviously played for laughs. As with The Sopranos, you'll find plenty of moments that are as confounding as they are enticing.

Fiction loves itself -- above all things it must. So when I start to feel like the Deadwood camp has gone a little Fraggle Rock with its clannishness, I don't balk. When I consider how much of a dark, fragile place it is, sometimes I feel I wouldn't mind if they all had a big group can-can in the thoroughfare to the tune of "Hog of the Foresaken." I find myself wanting certain villains squashed and certain characters avenged, despite the show's insidious subverting of these pleasures. Yet, for every god-awful thing that the camp exposes us to, we get a little hope and illumination.

I suppose this sort of alchemy is nothing new. Most every drama dealing with dark subject matter has used some measure of lightening the load to keep things from getting too overwhelming. Especially when we're talking television. It's rare shows like Twin Peaks, The Office or Deadwood that get the balance right -- as much as producers may have tried to nudge the series toward a more temperate clime. Sometimes, for the heights to be assured the lows have to be downright abysmal. Rather than striking an artful balance, other TV dramas suffer from too much having their cake and eating it. Hence the liberal use of benign ghosts (Six Feet Under) and predictably poignant moments punctuated by the invisible rumblings of a gazillion cliffhangers (Lost). Alan Ball likes to stroke his audience with self-involved, moody characters writ large. Milch slaps us around a good deal with crusty, belligerent sorts that test our ability to feel compassion when it seems most out of reach. Much like the characters in Carolyn Chute's The Beans of Egypt Maine, audiences likely find it difficult to see in them any kind of moral through-line, but that's just what saves us from our finicky 'ol selves. To see humanity flourish where it seems least likely should be a challenging process, and with Deadwood, it most certainly is.

I may've found myself at odds with the show's runaway verbosity for a good stretch there. It seemed so excessive that I lost patience trying to figure out everyone was going on about. The diction of the characters was so convoluted and pretentious. Then I began pushing myself to comprehend these various grandiloquent conversations and soliloquies and eventually came around. I now see that it is one of the show's greatest strengths. Because of this dialogue, the show is blessed with the rare distinction of being truly novelistic in scope. While It's tragic that the show is no more, when I think of how much is packed into the thirty-six hours that have come, I am thrilled with the achievement. No doubt, the indelible, unforgettable cast of people and places helped to seal this achievement. I can't say enough good things about every last actor in the series. Each one understood the deft direction of his or her role so admirably that the exceptionally lavish set pieces all around them became as natural as the drab cubicle landscape of The Office. To describe them meanly would be a disservice, so I'll use what poetic talent I have as a tribute that tries to do a few of them justice.

E.B. Farnum

That yellow on your ruffle?
That perpetual egg sting your face?
In a flinch you're the go to
And get away
You're the gunk slopper ev'ry day
Service with a smile
tear a hamfist swathe
off that awkard pause
then demure
scuttling off to indulge
in your giddy guile
your place is in question
eyebrow arch and forehead crease
at the faintest suggestion
the drab
the mundane
the half-taken pains
childish glee
at the yanking
of near-existent reigns
putting it strained
you're a fine example
of a sprightly stain.

Doc Cochran

Sawbones, clenched teeth
Constipated at the sight of it
No justice, nor peace of mind
Degraded by the self-righteous
And reluctantly wicked
A soldier of morbid focus
Hunched over the sick and
The dead with as much
Fascination as disgust
Sometimes the two become one
And your good heart smiles
Cracked on reflecting.


Had me a doggy
God bless 'im
God bless 'im
Thanks for the listnin
I told him, I told him
If I weren't somewhat civilized
By golly I'd kiss him
He's better than y'all
God bless 'im
God bless 'im
Doesn't vex me atall
No evil arrests him
There's a peace of my mind
Digestin', digestin'
In that doggy by my find
God rest 'im, god rest 'im!

Analysis, metaphoric readings, investigation into its creation be damned - deep down, all I want to do is share my love for a gorgeous, grandiose work of art. I mentioned some other shows before by way of showing Deadwood's superiority. That sort of exposition is either a necessary evil or a bad habit -- I haven't quite decided.

While HBO programmers may want to compartmentalize their viewers, I see no reason to suggest it's better than something you've already grown attached to. You could be a reality television obsessive, or a game show freak and still find much to love here. As for Deadwood, rest assured, once acclimated, there's something in this saga for any damned one of you out there. Don't let anyone say "It's not for everybody" to you. As far this show's watchability is concerned that's just another way of saying you wouldn't understand.

Part of the reason there are no "classics" any more is because the term itself has been bought and sold. Don't let marketers feeding into your knee-jerkingest inclinations dictate your tastes for you. Get defiant and get immersed -- you'll be happy you did. No matter how hard combing through the frustratingly cold machinations of fate can be, Deadwood shows how we can come through the process feeling somewhat enlightened. Did I mention the thing is a big ball of bawdy fun? Well it is. Take it to the bank, friends. The fact that it's more or less bereft of safety nets should only encourage you to make the thrilling jump.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


blog or songlyrics, blog or songlyrics-KILL THE ANT! got im. songlyrics or blog? i know!!! i'll do both!

only fibbing. this is just a regular old, opinion-o-nated bloog utree.
but i do have ants here. and it stands to reason and all that is primrose that they must pay for traipsing on any carpet but they own.
but naw, i'm not writing about insect creature features. to be 100percent honest i don't have the first clue what i'm-

(gimme a sec)

Alright. Things have gone too far. it's all well and good to go delving in the vast world-o-sphere circles of slimy, blasted 80s horror gems, but you have to accept the fact that there is no end to how subversive things are behind the film's likely intent: $tuff. Both Clownhouse (1990) and Pulse (1988) spend an unnerving amount of time shooting adolescent boys in an almost lascivious manner. It's one thing when you're seeing the eighties bvd commercial-style homoeroticism (there's almost zero sexycamera time spent on the female love interest) in A Nightmare on Elmstreet 2. It's one thing when you're peering into Neville Brand's soppy malt whiskey commercial gone horribly wrong in Eaten Alive.

When you're looking at this.
But there's something about Joey Lawrence being photographed as though there's volumes to be read in his self-conscious child actorness that just crosses a line. Clownhouse, like Pulse, was a film from my childhood that creeped me out. rather than waste time wondering why i find clowns scary, i'm more likely to be fathoming how in blazes anybody wouldn't. That clown doctor dream sequence, and the laughing parking lot clown that Pee Wee tied his stolen bike to in Pee Wee's Big Adventure both still creep me out. But, whereas Pee Wee was a quality film, Clownhouse and Pulse are decidedly not.
Though, admittedly, both have their redeeming factors for us mouldering vhs nostalgia hounds. In Pulse (probably the more watchable of the two) there's a ridiculous scene with a tv repair man where the actor is seemingly trying to stuff his entire resume into one two-minute confused, drifting snore of a monologue that seems to portend, and then just dithers about. Is he coming on to J. Lawr's step-mom or is he shaming himself before her? is he a pro with secret knowledge of electronics (the flick's about rogue killer electronics, or - as they are known in legend - "voices in the wires") or just a worker drone who reads the diagrams in his tv repair guy guidebook. This performance is so bizarre it almost eclipsed the film.
If only!
And Clownhouse, aside from having an insufferable, Tales from the Crypt-style soundtrack, is something that my friends and I really dug as a kid. naturally, we didn't notice the overly reverent, fawn-the-boy camera work, so it was just left to those scary scary clowns*. Years later i found out that the director had molested the young star of the film at the time. naturally this made watching the film a distracting, morose experience. decidedly more morose an experience than any horror, pure exploitation or otherwise, oughta be.
It raises the question: what separates the rarified septic glisten of a Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Martin from the wilted, sour dregs of a Maniac or Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer? Since none of the people involved with any of these films have any kind of bonafied artistic clout it must be left to chance. Some slapdash kind of race for something signature combined with an unrelenting, airtight foray into blankest of evil. The former are rewatchable while the latter only serve as cautionary tales for when you go buying into everything that gets dubbed a "cult classic". Nowadays, it seems to be a cheap way for some round-the-bend hack to try and cash in on us discerning esoteric bygone pop culture fans. I'll tell you all right now - stay away from The Garbage Pail Kids. I know, I know - but stay away! it's just nowhere near as amusing as it oughta be. Shoulda been a animated.

There's no telling how to separate good bad taste and bad bad taste but I'm pretty positive the distinction exists - and that it isn't completely mind-numbing and geeked out to some diseased degree. It has a lot to do with technique, and as many of these film-makers had particularly finite budgets, its whether all the ridiculous amount of facets that go into making a film are all in accordance with one another. a miserable film is a gorgeous one when it feels melodious and of a piece -- when (as is true in Martin and TCM) there's merciful/crafty editing and purposeful, uniquely choreographed camera work. if the idea isn't 100% or the crew as slick and professional as they'd like - there's still a belief in creating something truly memorable and deserving of its own consideration outside of any marketing context.
If I had my way, Let's Scare Jessica To Death (which i hope to acquire loads more images from to plaster all over this sumbitch) would be, not a midnight movie, but a midday movie. I saw it during the day as a kid and still enjoy it at this time today. I think this film, in some part, helped to show how horrifying a scene shot in broad daylight can be. Actually, one should try, right as the sun is coming up, watching Let's Scare Jessica To Death with headphones on. it's as rarely perfect and delectable a mood as you're likely to find. Cult schmult. This is something special. You don't know about it? I'm telling you now. Others likely will as well.
There are too many films that've taken a sledge-hammer to my proudly warped sensibilities and been revelations but some have merely been soul-sapping excursions to creatively bankrupt half-assery. Street Trash is another of these which one ought to steer clear of (unless you're dying to see a slapsticky some rancid homeless folks playing keepaway with a penis). It has the charmless feel of a Troma Production and Troma sucks because they're so self-consciously "cult" as to be more naseating with their leaden attempts at humor than the actual gore that is their stock and trade.
I can't commit to putting quotes on the word "cult" or not. I believe it's generally used in the negative, David Koresh sense, so there tends to be a trendy, in-the-know feel when you refer to a movie as such. yet there's an implicit meaning behind it that more benignly suggests something uncategorizable. Something that sticks out. Then again, my favorite films are exactly these sort, and sometimes catch myself resenting word "cult" being thrown at some of them. Homogenization is beyond threatening to me. If i'm part to be part of something, whatever it is, I want to consciously align myself. in turn, each film should be taken wholly on its own merit, and not in the context of what cultural trend it corresponds to. I'm sorry, but vh1 must die. They're shitting up the mystique and pretending to be celebrating in the process.

But there's really no need to get all up in arms about it. In the end, all art appreciation is destined to become fetish. Something strikes us and glitters our eye. But in this dizzingly chaotic world we inhabit, something like Invasion U.S.A. needn't be camp. It could be prep school! no, seriously, its a work of art worthy of the blissfully uncoveted Road House Award. You should see it.

Don't believe me. Read this:

Lou Tetry, Grade Six

Chuck likes the life of a swamp rat. he has an indian friend in there and they boogie around in the swamp when chuck thinks hes getting to get killed its only his armadilla i named him Quincy. the goverment want him to stop the evil forein guy and his multi-racial army from shooting the entire world. chuck doesn't wanna do it, but he has a guilty consciense when his indian buddy is killed by the evil foreign guy who has blonde hair and doesn't liken to Chuck one bit. Chuck kills his adversery and then some before the movies thru. the best is when they attack christmas and the mall. i think this would make christmas shopping a real good one! there'd be chuck driving a truck thru kaybee and then back into record town. i think this is the best imagination of the movie. it stops and starts, but not too much - mostly all chuck, all action! he could kill my uncle bert with one punch. he totally could kill the entire evil empire that makes everything bad in happen in the world. he could kill a gorilla. there's nothing on earth we wouldn't kill so much as lookit. and when he's done, the stupid dumb reporter girl gets left with the mess so Chuck can get some quality time with Quincy on the bayou. that's a movie if you ask me.


*interestingly, i noticed that the real clowns were uncannily more chilling than the escaped murderers that replaced them -- somehow, clowns trying to scare you are not nearly as unnerving as clowns just being clowns.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


And, naturally, it's all thanks to friends and to Youtube. Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends, Peep Show and Look Around You have stolen my heart and run away laughing and screaming. Hopefully they'll all (Peep Show Series 1+2 are already out) be available on DVD over here soon. These are all now as beloved to me as The Office, and that's no small compliment.

Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends

I've been helplessly compelled to immerse myself in Theroux's winning explorations of American life ever since seeing the powerful (there's scenes so surreal as to be like a waking nightmare) San Quentin episode. Weird Weekends is the show that begs the question: can you be respectful - or at least unjudgemental - of people while inevitably laughing about them? I think Louis consistently winds up (i use these words to emphasize the very open, genuinely curious feel his investigatiions have at their start) doing both and, as the results vary, things never feel formulaic. The viewer, as i noticed from many you tube comments, usually reads things one way or the other. I think Theroux - as long as he hasn't minced his words - is likely fine with that in the end. The show feels like it was meant to be the anti-Awful Truth. He's striving for something less political and more, well, neighborly?

Theroux clearly has his own moral stand on things, and perhaps (as is anyone who goes poking around in peoples affairs with a camera) he is really no less exploitative than the next prime time muckraker. But his pieces are so imminently watchable and inspiring cause he's so damned incisive and, I think, stout-hearted or down to earth about it. It's always a nice extra wrinkle (as the camera gives such careful attention to the people at hand) to see him switch from neutral and unassuming to opinionated and unyielding. He's human - precocious, sometimes pushy.

He's particularly human for someone trying to be themselves on camera - sometimes letting themselves go, sometimes mugging and putting us on. The integrity lies in the sense that he doesn't take himself all that seriously - and at the same time doesn't let people and places intimidate and back him into a corner. It seems he's only cavalier to convince the people he's interested in that he's not someone to be self-conscious around, or - simultaneously - disrespectful towards. He wants people to present themselves as unencumbered as possible under the awkard circumstances of him and his crew being there.

Sometimes the uneasy mix of graveness and hilarity on these shows can be a bit bewildering (especially on the one about "The most hated family in America"). I find it all goes down best when he genuinely bonds with his subjects - there's a sense of mutual respect, if not total understanding and that's a reassuring thing to take with you as a viewer. But sometimes its an inescapably bitter pill, and our intrepid guide's final thoughts are of little reassurance. This is what makes the whole thing smack of genius to me. It's entertaining and it doesn't begin to pander. Most criticism i've read of the show comes off like things i thought and then rejected. I think it's best taken, with each completed episode, at face value, without reading into it too much (Theroux is very careful in how he words things and very pointed when he's -- usually apropriately -- taking the piss).

I think there is something to be gained from seeing his approach to people from different walks of life. When you're making your way in a foreign place, you want to ingratiate yourself, but you want to be yourself as well. The challenge can come off immense - nearly impossible - and Louis Theroux makes pretty neat, engrossing work of it if you ask me.

Peep Show

Having watched all five six-episode seasons of this show (the first on netflix, the next four on Youtube) I can almost safely say that it's pure farce. But not quite. It's just that there's this cumulative, yet elusive, sense that its saying something somewhat profound. As we are frequently in the principal characters heads and perspectives, our knee-jerk sympathy/apathy/rancor sensors are rendered hopelessly spastic. Sometimes its like Mystery Science Theater - you can't help but sympathize cause you're trapped in there with 'em. There's really no endearingness about it. If the movies don't inspire good humor, then you're stuck with the ugly truth of things - and Mark and Jez (played by the plucky comedy duo of David Mitchell and Robert Webb) have plenty of that in store. Some of their pratfals might be high-flying and indeed farcical, but there's an underlying sordidness to the truthier moments that makes our funny bone go a little molten in the marrow.

All five seasons have that slightly off-putting, Adult Swim-like mix of laughs and squirms. Peep Show is as unapologetically filthy, subversive and morose as an Irvine Welsh story. Jez is patently immoral. I'm reminded of the trailer for Naked, where a voice over speaks on the film's antagonist Johnny "This man does not like you. This man does not like you... But he needs you." It's not like Jez is a rapist or a "pedo", but there's still more shows being made so... Let's just say - you wouldn't want to rule anything out on him. Mark is somehow tragically harmless, yet he's hopelessly purposeful. So when he screws up, he screws up big. He's probably, as his Mum's suggested, somewhat corrupted from living with Jez. He seems to have a smarmy, hyperactively self-righteous side that pops up every now and again to try and outpace the riptide of the messes he's made. In the course of the shows i've seen he practically excavates his own ego, somehow still scrambling and swiping for what he wants. Is this inspiring? Naw. This is not the show for that. It's more like a refreshingly riotous take on The Myth of Sisyphus.

So, if you have a dark sense of humor and can get past the seasickness that occasionally occurs from the POV stuff, this show is well worth a look. It has the bouyant feel of good 'ol Odd Couple personality clash and the insidious acidic bite of a Solondz film. It's awkward, pathos-soaked, repugnant, ludicrous, overzealous and utterly memorable. The only thing I'd change is one thing that they did change. They went from a nice, kinda spookily low-key, opening theme (for the first season) to some horrible one hit junker from the nineties. In any case, all of the actors involved are superb and this might be what sells the piece. Mark's more like something I've never seen before, where Webb's performance as Jez - while funny - frequently comes off like one of those obnoxiously heavy-handed tough-guy-soliloquy-spouting characters in a Guy Ritchie film. But since he's a cad and consistently gets his just deserts, the style works.

David Mitchell's performance as Mark is, physically, one of the best things i've seen in comedy. No matter how he bums us out with his delusional and confoundingly drab outlooks, he absolutely brings us around by his impish display of latent insanity. Like a lot of us, maybe, he figures out that he wants to get more from life only when that something more happens upon him. But - before too long - it all gives way to disappointment. Watching Mark be rash and uppity, you oddly feel like you're seeing him at his best. It's an invigorating, if absurd process, only made stranger by the sense that the other characters - whose thoughts we don't hear (actually, one episode reveals the thoughts of another character) - have just as much chaotic rebellion roiling about inside them.

It's got a hearty feel to it. It's a nasty little show, but its substantial. There's love interests, but they never play out the way you expect. The ingredients are all sharp and after spending hours upon hours with the screw-up cast of characters the performances never once began to feel shallow. It's a show that knows how to have some brazenly off-color fun and leave plenty room for realism. A great way to kill time and utilize it all at once.

This one breaks my heart, cause its so innately bizarre and retro as to almost be a work of fetishizable fetishism. It makes me want to list aimlessly on things like Paper Rad, Boads of Canada, Dig Dug, Brainstorm*, Add N To X, Ken Nordine, Dreamscape, Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, 3-2-1 Contact and other examples of quaintly absurdist eighties joy. This show is a miracle. I'm absolutely thrilled that they did it the way they did it and that they sometimes seemingly go more for eye-narrowing sniggering than out-and-out laughs. The second season is a bit less replete than the first, but it is no less tonally on point. What was more fascinating about the first series was that it was a comedy show that didn't rely too heavily on acting. It really feels more like a dry, almost hypnotic, tableau of absurdist runs than a full-on parody. It has a bit of a Python feel, but without the need to excuse the randomness - every potential turn to a logical play of events is hopelessly "something completely different." It's a good program because it feels like a lost world - its completely contained and not locked into current events, pop cultural or otherwise.

The episodes - or lessons - of the first series give the show a show a real air of authenticity, thereby strengthening the punch of the ridiculous non-sequitors that ensue. The little acting there is works wonders with its woodenness and restraint. Even when the actors are being goofy, there's a blase sense of going-through-the-motions to it that keeps the tone airtight. The second series turns its attention to newscasters, which i daresay have more or less been covered, but the show still has a recognizable charm. It reminds me of the sketch-like moments in Boogie Nights, where the joke needn't be much more than an earnest appraisal of bygone styles and media motifs. Perhaps it could come off as trite and self-consciously cultish to some, but to me its fresh almost sheerly due to its breathtaking attention to detail. Both series are transporting, strangely unnerving programming. It's just that the first is much more unique and therefore rewarding.

We live in a trendy world. It very well could be the success of crap like VH1's I Love The 80s that gets bright projects like this green-lit. It's a shame there are so few trendsetters and so many trend followers. As long as trends determine what makes money, they may as well determine a certain quotient of quality as well, right? Well, I can dream anyway. I'd say David Bowie might get that ball rolling, but... Guess that's a subject for another time. Anyway, as I've said before, there's no underground. Anything you or I could want to see/hear/experience is out there and waiting. I really just wanted to say thanks to those responsible and give a heads-up to fans of unusual programming who haven't been clued in.
That's all for now! Next time i'll talk about real life stuff. PROMISE.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

00 baby! the first new decade's almost over and its bound to signify somehin! right!?


well, maybe not.

i think we're in a very business as usual chaos state that's been going
on probably since human beings got together. but it keeps producing amazing artists, pranksters and bona-fied entertainers. there's no voice one of a generation (was there ever truly, or is this just a ridiculously romantic notion?) and that's fine.

folks that watch an excess of tv and follow pop charts may have some amalgamation of an identification with the state of the world's mind, but there are many of us who've made it a point not to be so blindly reverent of a time that is not our own. we ought to embrace those who are laboring in relative obscurity, because relative obscurity -- more and more -- is not all that obscure (i'm looking your way, mistuh www).

merely classifying something as weird will no longer do. now, as it ever was, is a good time to take notice of what artists and aesthetes are doing and who's doing it -- purely out of the desire not only to express themselves -- but to challenge all the bossy aesthetic templates being hammered out by hard liner vicious cyclers who only want a fashionable sort of zen garden, not an open-minded far-reaching excursion into appreciating the sounds that aren't being so agressively marketed at us. Sure, good stuff can be discovered by mere bombardment, but it pays to spend some time on the outer margins -- in my experience, pleasant to awe-inspiring surprise always awaits.

i'm finding myself decidedly irked by all the damned vintage Sabbath or Beatles youtube clip comments saying that nobody makes great music anymore. it's just that it's no longer in the limelight! the hard-liner marketeers have smoothed out the kinks and slipped solidly into the grooves of knee-jerk taste cycles.what do most people want from the arts nowadays? pure relevance? your life is not a movie - but if it were, you wouldn't want the soundtrack to reduce it all to a pat, predictable pastiche -- right?

do we want rose colored-nostalgia? the sixties wasn't a place. It's tempting to contextualize this decade in an idealistic fashion, but it's merely time gone by at this point. cheeseball mockumentaries at its worst and glimpses of brilliant music at its best. and, thank the heavens, there's ALWAYS been amazing music to be found in this world. Perhaps some folks should admit they don't like music at all -- just multi-media accessorizin.

i know this all sounds kinda smug and self-righteous, but i've always felt really strongly about this issue. flawed as i am, i think i'm just plain righteous when it comes to this. i don't need to be of a generation. i don't need anthems -- inspired sounds are inspired sounds old or new, meaningful or aimless.

below are some of (i'll add things i've missed as i think of em.) the best documents of such inspiration i've found so far in this, OUR ALMOST COMPLETED NEW DECADE OF OUR BRAND NEW MILLENIUM--dunt-dunt dunnnnn!

Animal Collective - Sung Tongs / Feels
Bjork - Medulla
Radiohead - Kid A
Joanna Newsom - The Milk-Eyed Mender
Cat Power - You Are Free/The Covers Record
Guided By Voices - Earthquake Glue
Manitoba (aka Caribou) - Up In Flames
Toumani Diabate - The Mande Variations
Pink Reason - Cleaning The Mirror
Sigur Ros - ( )
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Master & Everyone / Superwolf
Vetiver - To Find Me Gone
Brightblack - Ala.Cali.Tucky
Grails - Black Tar Prophecies/Burning Off Impurities/Take Refuge in Clean Living
Colleen - The Golden Morning Breaks
Max Tundra - Mastered By Guy at the Exchange
J Dilla - Donuts
Deerhunter - Cryptograms
Tim Hecker - Haunt Me Haunt Me, Do It Again
Do Make Say Think - (everything cept the first album which was 1999 anyway)
Trail of Dead - Source Tags and Codes
Blues Control - s/t
Fennesz - Endless Summer
Times New Viking - Present The Paisley Reic
Outhud - S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D.
A Sunny Day In Glasgow - Scribble Mural Comic Journal
Lightning Bolt - Wonderful Rainbow
Guided By Voices - Earthquake Glue
Spoon - Girls Can Tell / Kill The Moonlight
Portishead - Third
Deerhoof - (especially The Runners Four. but really, everything they've done in twok so far has been exceptional.)
Japanther - Dump The Body In Rikki Lake
Campfire Songs - s/t
The Drones - Wait Long Enough By This River... / Gala Mill
Prefuse 73 - One Word Extinguisher
The Books - Thought For Food
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig Lazarus! Dig!
Beach House - s/t
Xiu Xiu (all albums, 2002-2008. an album a year and not a bummer in the bunch!)
Yo La Tengo - And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out
Unwound - Leaves Turn Inside You
Excepter - Ka
Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings - Dap Dippin' with...
Microphones - The Glow Pt. 2
Jana Hunter - Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom / There's No Home
Comets on Fire - Avatar
Xiu Xiu - Knife Play
The Strokes - Is This It? / Room On Fire
TV on the Radio - Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes
Boards of Canada - Geogaddi
Neko Case - Blacklisted
Breeders - Title TK
Oneida - Each One Teach One
Sam Prekop - Who's Your New Professor?
Clientele - Suburban Light
Boredoms - Vision Creation Newsun
Broken Social Scene - You Forgot It In People
DNTEL - Life is Full of Possibilities
M. Ward - End of Amnesia / Transfiguration of Vincent/Transistor Radio
Tortoise - Standards
Antony and the Johnsons - I Am A Bird Now
Black Dice - Beaches & Canyons
Panda Bear - Young Prayer / Person Pitch
Manitoba - Up In Flames
Polmo Polpo - Like Hearts Swelling
Tom Waits - Alice/Real Gone
My Morning Jacket - It Still Moves

Friday, July 4, 2008

shake me up, you cagey filmworld bastards!

There's a lot to be psyched about.

There's been so much great art and trash and art trash seething forth out there, I'm just lost in the timing of it. While I don't necessarily mind rags concerned with being timely and caught up in pop culture movements (Pitchforkmedia) I feel more at home in the random, Wheel-Of-Fish style content presented in The Onion A.V. Club (you owe it to yourself to check out their Films That Time Forgot or Commentary Tracks of the Damned features).

I just finished reading an A.V. Club article on the Funny Games remake and an interview with star Naomi Watts. After seeing the original recently, I've become fascinated with seeing this. Everyone writing about this film seems to be sparring with arch nature of the director (Michael Haneke) both evident in his interviews and his work. He and his films are pretentious and there could be silly, theatrical reasons why he's chosen to remake his own film (apparently it's shot-for-shot). I, for one, am more interested in the experimental, for the love of one's work side of it.

While it can be damningly soporific, the original Funny Games (1997) has a film style that is nothing if not bracing static (Haneke’s Cache did actually make me pass out, incidentally) . Due to the commitment to realism from the actors (actress Sunsanne Lothar’s performance – mostly in facial expressions and body language -- as Anna takes you to some pretty harrowing places) a remake would be fantastic just to see strong actors (Tim Roth, Naomi Watts) getting some healthy, hearty exercise. Michael Pitt, through the trailer shows me something less intriguing than what the actor displayed in Last Days. I’m not saying he’s gonna be bad, but at first glance he’s not as effectvely unnerving as the original actor (Arno Fisch). Maybe with the spazzcore, blast-beat soundtrack (John Zorn, from his Grand Guginol LP with The Naked City Orchestra) he’s better?


Yes he is. And he also shows admirable commitment to form, but lacks the sunken, skeletal blankness of Fisch. Playing dazed, aloof and reclusive suited Pitt fine in Last Days, but here he's less than ideal. The actor playing Tubby is fairly reminiscent of the previous guy. Watts and Roth are amazing (both have an intuitively adept leg up with daunting, ugly situations played out in real time). But did this need to be done? My question is -- just why is everybody asking this question? Why am I? If you aren't moved enough by this film to get beyond the context, then there's really no point wasting time and energy writing it up. This is a powerful experiment in terror (i know it's a tagline cliche, but it's truly applicable here. It's like Haneke is saying -- hows about we let this horror sink in a bit? Part of what's immensely gripping about both versions of this film is the stark depiction of human frailty and the oppressive and regressive ways it manifests itself in the most extreme of predator/prey scenarios.

I found it to be just as engrossing the second time around. Watts has this impeccably immersive approach to acting that made even the awshucks-style character of Betty in Mulholland Dr. (2001) seem somehow grounded. Roth, who's been a little less blessed with good roles (though one need only see his film, The War Zone (1999), to see how far into absolute bleakness he is willing to go), really comes through with a jilting performance one of the rawest displays of middle-aged humility commited to film. I think the best way to look at Haneke re-doing Haneke -- no matter what the guy might say -- is as though it's a stirring, taut play with a revolving cast. It's ugly, it's merciless, but it's gorgeous. It feels more inspiring to me as a refreshing genre exercise than any satirical statement or societal critique. To me, Haneke's making a bid for film makers working with a potentially potent genre to make better use of the basic ingredients of fear in us all that never truly becomes desensitized. I was shocked and horrified by this story, and I'm okay with that.

But people have certainly gotten caught up with shock movies and I’ve fallen prey to it myself. After sitting through (i don't quite know how I manage it) something like I Spit On Your Grave (1978) or Last House On The Left (1972), I'm frequently left with that big empty WHAT WAS THE FUCKING POINT feeling. Irreversible (2002) prompted me to write a seething, admittedly overzealous, diatribe against it. There’s something just so despicable about a film with no ideas other than to show you something truly foul. I can’t say I’ve stopped subjecting myself to these kinds of flicks. Fulci treads a pretty thin line -- or perhaps he’s just another hacky but died-in-the-wool horror director who wants to have his cake and eat it too. I recall reading Steven Soderbergh had suggested that all films are exploitative. Sometimes you forget that for many people who’ve lived a good chunk of their lives through a ravenous home video coma (see: yours truly) are actually, subliminally letting these movies subtly tell them how to live (more on this later!). This is what makes action and horror, for better and worse, the most crassly exploitative of film genres. The worst examples of this (Cruising, Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects, Magnum Force) are always best avoided at all costs. I only saw the first twenty-some minutes of Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and that was enough, thanks. I’d rather watch (blahrf) Sleepaway Camp (1983) again. So why, exactly, am I going to watch N.Y. Ripper (1982)? What purpose is this piece of shit going serve me?? At least Funny Games had the decency to be a structurally compelling (the unique framing, minimal editing and roomy sound and lighting more than anything else) as it is revolting. From what I’ve gathered, this is some of Lucio Fulci’s most heinous, hamfistedly-put-some-doo-doo-in-yr-soul, work. On with the train-wreck, then.


Bleccch! Phooey! Bluh-kowee! Nyueck! (I hate myself)


Best Disturbing Films:

Night and Fog (1955)

Fog of War (2003)

Blood of the Beasts (1949)

Naked (1993)

Crash (1996)

Naked Lunch (1991)

Straw Dogs (1971)

Fire Walk With Me (1992)

What Happened Was… (1994)

A Woman Under The Influence (1974)

Ichi The Killer (2001)

Bring Me The Head of Alfred Garcia (1974)

Bad Timing (1980)

Runners up: Baby of Macon, The Doom Generation, Bad Leuitenant, Happiness, Requiem for a Dream.

And the worst I've more or less covered. I gotta say, though they're disturbing in the most unimaginably nauseating ways, mst'ers like Manos: The Hands of Fate, The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies, Skydivers and Girl in Gold Boots -- for starters -- are all bizarrely immersive in their own right.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

There's lots of little demons

and they win ev'ry time. It's colorfully bright outside and i'm doing this. There's more devil in the details than any monster masquerading as human possesses. We are all escaping confusion. I do it all the time. But I think its no use. I want to embrace the resulting emptiness of finding out how disfunctional every aspect of everyday life consistently becomes.

Now I don't mean to be a downer here. It's just that this site's gonna be chaotic. And I hope that the freedom from sense that results is eminently pure, celebratory and -- erm -- bloggable. I'll review things cause i'm one of those people (don't get me started on how perversely pointless editorializing things can begin to feel). I'll post some pictures from nature (though I must agree with Herzog, the woods are often a brutal place of "overwhelming collective murder"). I'll make sure that you see some choice Youtube (aka Heroin) clips. I'll make some fascist lists for those who want to know whats good without any mincing about.

But we'll be cavedwelling it. If I start blogging on Obama or something similarly in the common knowledge, please hit me with that two by four there next to the circular saw. If I persist, you know what to do next.