Sunday, April 29, 2007

I just watched the movie Gilda, because seemingly I've seen everything that's actually up my alley and am now just watching movies that are classics of one type or another. I liked the Rita Hayworth movie The Lady From Shanghai, but that had number one best dude Orson Welles behind it. Gilda is seemingly better-regarded though. It was directed by a guy I never heard of, but there is that bit of film history that cares more about movie stars than I do.

Casablanca is directed by a guy whose name I can't remember either, very much a studio film, and I don't like that one at all- I don't like the quotes associated. There are little scraps of dialogue in Gilda that I think are amazing, which is why I'm writing about the fact that I saw it. "Statistically, there's more women on Earth than anything else." "You can only die once, and he committed suicide three months ago." These are paraphrases.

I mean, most of the dialogue is impossible to follow the train of thought and meaning behind it, because it's just ridiculous and circling around points. But there are these little bits of straightforward lucidity. :

"and think about- would it be corny to say your sins?"
"yes it would."
"well, I said it anyway."

and those bits are amazing. I'm sure that if I watched it multiple times I would be able to quote from it as casually as any song lyric or good season of The Simpsons.

It's almost comparable to lyric writing in the way it works- Really inconsistent, but pitched at this certain high level so the bad is kind of atrocious, but you go with it for the moments it works- the punchlines and the choruses. And maybe these isolated lines don't work so well on this page, stripped of context, the same way "I'm out for presidents to represent me (say what) I'm out for presidents to represent me (say what) I'm out for dead presidents to represent me" might not work without inflection.

All talking about rap is done at least halfway for the benefit of Sam Hockley-Smith, who links to this blog from his sidebar.

But yeah seriously, pretty much any Orson Welles movie is better than any movie it would ever be compared with- even if the comparison isn't one of genre and shared star, but just time period and quality. If you were to compare The Trial to Psycho on the basis of Anthony Perkins being in both, I would assert that The Trial is better.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

I'm not going to talk about music this go-round, I'm going to talk about cereal. These new Choco-Nilla Cocoa Krispies, where half of them are vanilla flavored, are killer. I am a sucker for vanilla in cereals, remember my talking up the Vanilla Creme Frosted Mini Wheats, but vanilla is a pretty good bean.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I think I've mentioned my fondness for the Spank Rock record Yoyoyoyoyo on this blog- At the time I did a best-of-2006 records list, I had only heard half of it, but it's come up as being a contender. I'll say this now- For what I've heard, it's my third favorite/"best" hip-hop record of last year.

But this is funny- It got a lot of negative reviews and hand-wringing over perceived misogyny. Maybe it's because the first person I knew to actually say "Holy Shit Spank Rock is amazing" was a woman that I don't really think much of that. It's just kind of frank and occasionally goofy- it's talking about sex, but it's certainly not violent or in any way off-putting. It's a party record.

Meanwhile, other rap records with way more offensive content get a pass- The crack rap, with all the violence a life of drug dealing implies, gets shitloads of praise. I imagine it's the same type of thing as in movie rating, that people are much more comfortable with violence than they are with sex.

And the beats, which were praised, still may not get enough credit for their ability to actually develop- "Sweet Talk" and "Bump," as dance songs, both have these shifts towards the end in speed which are pretty rewarding, which delineate them firmly as songs while still seeming like shifts in a DJ set in a way that having numerous switches into and out of a different tempo for a chorus or something wouldn't work.

I kind of think of it in the same terms as Girl Talk's Night Ripper, without all of the annoying samples that show up around "Friday Night."

Saturday, April 21, 2007

What's odd is that I haven't written a Kurt Vonnegut obituary here. I've been bringing up his death to people, and getting kind of meager responses. Maybe people felt guilty, as I did, for not having read the majority of his work- He was a prolific dude. And, after a certain point, you feel like you get it, you get the thing. This seems insulting, but really, no. I think his work was incredibly successful in what I think art is supposed to do- communicate a consciousness and a point of view.

The awful Fox News obituary is hilarious because of the way it misses all of that for how it's tied in with politics. Because Vonnegut was political, but his politics were tied to his humanism, and what he valued in such a way that to talk about him simply as being liberal or Socialist or whatever is to miss the point, because political party is all just gang affiliation. With Vonnegut, the politics were never as poorly thought out as all that, they were deeply felt based on principles of what human beings deserve.

I never thought that Vonnegut's narratives were the best thing about his work- The metafiction conceit of Breakfast Of Champions worked the best for me, but the more straightforward stuff always felt almost hampered by its plot convolutions. I also don't think I ever laughed out loud reading his books- There's a sense of humor, but the jokes aren't laughers, at least for me. The jokes are nonetheless a part of what makes it all work, though. Because the thing that makes Vonnegut so successful is related to the jokes, and his humanity- It's the moments of clarity. Vonnegut saw the world so clearly. There's always this single point of view, but it's always so right on in its sense of humanity and dignity. Part of that is the acknowledgment that humor gets us through it. I can't even talk about it. Basically, I think that to not like Kurt Vonnegut is to be a bad person. He's dead, and you have his books, which really do say all he had to say and map out his consciousness.

The tragedy of his death is that we no longer have the best dude who is right all the time to say what is right. We have people who can do it, of course, but there's a power to around-the-blockness. In Man Without A Country, it's discussed that Bush is the worst president America's had, worse than Nixon and Reagan. He says this as someone who lived during the time of a truly great president- Franklin Delano Roosevelt- and who, at the time, didn't even vote for him in favor of voting for the Socialist candidate in at least one election.

In the same way as there are people who are willing to claim Christianity for the side of conservativism and people to claim Jesus as a hippie, there are people who argue where George Orwell would stand on the war on Iraq. We know where Vonnegut stood on the current set of world affairs, but maybe that clarity will get lost to time's future history. That's one of the tragedies. The other is simply that the world lost a good person.

Friday, April 20, 2007

This new Wooden Wand record, James And The Quiet, is pretty good. Alex says it's great when you're drunk, which seems really likely. There's this country vibe at work- According to the MySpace, Wooden Wand lives in Tennessee now, and I had been under the impression that he used to live in Brooklyn. There's this summertime humidity, sweet tea on the porch feeling.

It's not my favorite Wooden Wand record- There's this CD-R from a tour last Spring that's all demos and covers that's sparse in all the right ways. It's got songs on it from his tour partner, Hush Arbors, including one where high notes are hit and sustained in a way that's unnerving and seems really loud, and that unlistenability works really well with the rest of it, and its cold lonely nights. The Flood, recorded with The Vanishing Voice, is really good as well- That's like a jammy concept record. When I say jammy, that brings awful music to mind. It's not jam band music- There's none of those bass tones that people only do the worst dancing to. There's limited chords and a lot of call and response, and it goes on for a while, but the noise apocalypse is summoned with acoustic instruments.

This is more straightforward. It's twelve songs. There's harmonies, which I had heard on Wooden Wand demos at the house of a guy who worked at 5RC who would've lost his job had said demos ever been released. They were amazing there, but I feel like I maybe imagined them, sitting in the dark around a campfire after a backyard barbecue. This record would work well in that context, which is a really good memory. People from Sonic Youth play on it, and it remains a country record. I don't like Neil Young, but it works for me the way some of those records work for other people, but there's a deeper voice and no unpleasant connotations.

The title track is by far the high point. That's what's playing right now. It's hard to point to a high point on a record like this, where there aren't really singles, and there's limited variations to what's overall a mood piece. It's the next to last song on the album, where the energy picks up a little, but the arrangement remains stripped down, with no drums. The phrase sung in refrain is "the shame, shame, shame of love; James and the quiet and the stars up above." Sometimes "stars up" is replaced with "angels." That sums up how it all works. To continue to work it out: Wooden Wand's real name is James Toth, and the song hits direct.
I've never seen the MTV show My Super Sweet 16, so the most offensive thing I've ever witnessed on TV would have to be an anti-smoking ad. It begins with the statistic that 86% of teens would prefer to date a non-smoker. It then shows a girl saying she'd date whoever, including a smoker. The viewer is supposed to be disgusted by this girl, and so, theoretically, if they have high standards, they won't smoke so they can have their pick of the dating pool. The girl shown isn't actually that bad-looking. She is, at worst, just a normal person, and could even be described as kind of cute. She has glasses and an overbite. That's about as bad as it gets.

This ad is awful for a number of reasons- The first thing that jumps out at you is its assertion that this completely normal looking person should be considered disgusting and unlovable. Then there's the larger fact that these anti-smoking ads are only targeted to teenagers who are underage- Once you turn eighteen, the only thing telling you that smoking is a bad idea is the Surgeon General's Warning. Said Surgeon General's Warning make a much better anti-smoking advertisement than those shown on TV, which I believe in general are subsidized by tobacco companies. Even the whole fact that all of these ads for teenagers are targeted so much towards shallowness and seeming attractive and relationships is kind of offensive- Like the anti-pot PSAs which make a big deal about how you will eat more and thus gain weight.

Although again: I have no problem with the Souther Salazar anti-pot ads. I think those are great.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Earlier I was reading this book, a collection of lectures talking about music and sound design in film. I put it on my contract after I came across it in the stacks of the library. It's awesome. Basics of film-making come up, and so does the minutiae of sound. It's illuminating. The only bad thing about it is this: I started reading it just thinking in terms of sound design for this thing I'm doing that's going to be really odd. The first thing I read was Carter Burwell's piece- He does the soundtrack for all the Coen brothers movies. It's interesting for a number of reasons, but early on, within the first paragraph or two, he convinces me that this thing will need to have music in it. I didn't want to do that, because I'm not a musician and so can't compose things. But he talks about how the place of music in film is to create this blanket of affect and emotion, to create feeling, and suggest things going on beneath the surface that you can't see- And because these things are suggested, music leads to increased suspension of disbelief, because you feel things intuitively and tie them to what you see. So now I think that my weird and ridiculous thing will need music to guide the audience towards emotion when faced with this weird ridiculousness rather than away towards revulsion. It makes perfect sense. My previous stance was that music was this thing in movies that throws up an aesthetic more forcefully than anything else that will occur, and thus will alienate some people. I'm not going to renege on this opinion now, but there's certainly a truth to what Burwell says.

I'm listening to this record, 'Blue' Gene Tyranny's "Out Of The Blue" from 1977. I guess he was an avant-garde composer, but this is his "pop" record, which is still four songs long, with the last one over 26 minutes long, with the shortest six minutes long. It's occasionally pretentious, especially on this last track, but on the whole, it's interesting and kind of moving. A lot of the pretention is just this long-winded and digressive way of circling around things, without stating them, because the things in question are hard to state, but they're no less universal than things found in other pop songs, probably. The last song is a letter that spends a great deal of time talking about consciousness. It's an alright album for one in the morning, which is true for a lot of experimental droney stuff and a lot of folk music as well. It's neither of those, but you know.

"Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke" and "Don't sweat the small stuff... and it's all small stuff" might just be different ways of saying the same thing.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

About a week ago I had a dream where I went to Boston, a city I've never been to, and is by all accounts a racist shithole. The dream of Boston had nothing to do with Boston and my knowledge of it so much as just a dream image of a city- It was amazing, all high bridges and cheap foreign restaurants, and music stores going out of business and offering things for dirt cheap, and nothing to fear because there were other music stores nearby to take its place.

Last night I had another dream, one so exciting that it got my heart to beating faster and woke me up. In that dream I was reading Ian Svenonius' The Psychic Soviet, and read an essay that started off by saying "If Olympia Washington is Fort Thunder, which it is, in that it's away from everything and you can do anything you want to there;" I got so excited that I ran around on an office chair in the parking lot in front of Grocery Outlet, where Rainy Day Records used to be, singing the Pavement refrain "I'll try and I'll try and I'll try and I'll try and I'll try, I'll try and I'll try and I'll try and I'll try" until the dream reality could no longer sustain itself.

The truth is closer to the dreams on the edge of sleep where you're reading imagined Batman comics and want to say the dialogue aloud into a tape recorder, because they have a certain weird poetry to them, but the ability to be able to operate a tape recorder and talk can't coexist with the ability to read the comics that only exist in your head.