Wednesday, May 30, 2007

After an extended period of not even attempting to write these books in favor of working on this video, which followed an even longer period of just not getting a lot of writing done, I finally wrote a sizable chunk of prose. Awesome.

I also came to a way of describing the writing I do, in these books. No one really asks, but they do tell me that certain experiences are worth writing about after I express disinterest in them. Basically my writing is collections of crazy thoughts and jokes that aggregate to give the impression of intelligence and a structure and meaning. My books aren't even all that funny, so it's kind of a lie, but it seems a good way to explain it in the context of how I actually live, when I am forever making jokes and saying crazy shit.

I wrote a letter to the editor of the school newspaper the other day, telling them to please stop writing seminar papers as if they were opinion pieces. I singled out the Evergreen classes "Art After The End Of Art" and "Writing Beyond Language" as being particular signals that things were going to go badly. The latter I hold in particular low regard, although I realized that if that class was about comics, it would make sense. I then realized that a combination experimental fiction/comics program would be amazingly up my alley, but that no one at Evergreen would teach it due to either snobbery or reverse snobbery. But I think such a thing would make a lot of sense- a lot of the theory espoused by the experimental prose people is that words are just symbols, and a lot of theory talked up by a certain type of cartoonist is based on this kind of cartoon shorthand symbology. Basically, I could teach this class if I spent a year actually doing research into these things I feel like I already vaguely understand. Anyway, book one on the syllabus would be Daniel Clowes' Ice Haven. I don't talk about this theoretical class in the letter, I just make masturbation jokes.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Last night I watched the half-amazing I Am Cuba, a piece of propaganda made by the Soviet Union in the sixties and not released in America until 1996, when it was presented by a joint alliance of Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese. It's a really well-done film, one of the shots was stolen for Boogie Nights. The first chunk is really joyful and ecstatic filmmaking, weirdly- It's set in the times of Capitalism, and there's these scenes shot at danceclubs and poolside and stuff that are kind of tinted with bad vibes and misdeeds, but there's all these long tracking shots of beautiful people set to music. Capitalism rears its head, but oh man, the joy at work as this camera just runs around Cuba. It's so immediate. The only thing that's distancing is this weird voiceover, translating what the Cuban characters are saying into Russian for the Russian audience. There's also some English spoken, by the Americans who ruin everything.

I have this kind of ongoing and kind of racist conversation about what countries, in general, don't make good movies and which ones do. In this, Asia and Spanish-speaking countries come out well, and France and Russia get it pretty hard. For different reasons. Russian films, as well as literature, are just these miserable depressed things. And that emerges in I Am Cuba, in voiceover talking about how certain sounds of the ocean might as well be constant tears. There's kind of a weird tonal disparity.

The director's Russian, so I kind of do have to attribute the fun and joy that's present to him.

Anyway, as the movie goes on- it's over two and half hours long- it becomes tiring. There is a transition as the revolution begins. This stuff is presented with some of the same joy- molotov cocktails are thrown, there's a certain romance at work that allows for it. At the end it becomes a bit more of a war movie, as people die and get caught up to join the struggle. I was imagining that the finale would just be ecstatic, some kind of presentation of a utopia, although I guess that would just be people working and not really as fun-seeming as the swimming in pools footage. But no, it definitely just becomes less fun as it goes on. But it's pretty amazing on the whole, really moving movie-making.

It really reminded me of the strength of cinema as a thing where visuals can accompany music and really communicate joy in a way similar to how music can. It's not all dance numbers, I Am Cuba- There's also shouts of defiance against the forces that control us, which is the same principle, even though there's more drama at stake. People just tear themselves apart and give in, and there's always just this energy at work.

Friday, May 25, 2007

I had a dream the other day that I went to see a Man Man show and the band was selling sandwiches that they had kind of branded with their personality. The drummer was selling a sandwich that had thinly-cut steak topped with cottage cheese and peaches. In the dream I thought that was a really good idea for a sandwich. When I woke up, I realized that the idea of a band selling sandwiches is actually a good one for your more stoner-y bands.

Monday, May 21, 2007

So, after my post with videos a few days ago, Julie Klausner of those videos sent me an e-mail, which was slightly unnerving. But more important than that is the fact that after that post, I watched a lot more of her videos posted on Youtube, including the very funny "Cat News" series. I'm also fond of the "How We Met" video, which has a cameo appearance by cartoonist Lauren Weinstein and her husband, writer Tim Hodler. I don't know where, but they're named in the credits. Watch them.
I saw Dinosaur Jr. last night. They played at the Capitol Theatre, and I worked security, asking for IDs and such. Here is my response to that show- There is nothing I love more than losing my shit. But there are times when it feels like faking an orgasm. That was how that went. An added parallel could be made about the lack of intimacy in such a venue, a large theater, with a balcony and a stage.

But more blog-about-able than the actual show was the fact that I worked security. I worked for a little over two hours, in time to watch the band Awesome Color. Anyway, they weren't so good, and I milled about the theater. I saw a friend of mine outside, standing with her boyfriend, who is a dude I don't like at all. Still, when I went out to say hello to them, they ignored me and ran inside. I grabbed the dude I don't like at all by the arm, because I had been working security, and they were running in seemingly without paying. He brushed me off. I talked to one of the on-duty dudes. He went after them. I talked to the guard on duty a few minutes later.

"He said he was in a band, I think he's in Awesome Color."
"Awesome Color is the band on stage right now. He's just in a shitty local noise duo, and was acting entitled. Jesus, what an asshole." I think I might've thrown in the word "scenester" as well.

So after Awesome Color finished their set, some people I knew were outside smoking. I told them, "hey, if you see (name omitted), kick him in the balls."

It's worth noting that the people I was talking to like dude in question more than they like me, I am pretty sure. So they defend his not paying. But one of them then says, "hey, he's jewish, he's cheap, you can't expect him to pay for things." "He's special." "That's like insisting a person in a wheelchair use the stairs."

At the time, I was just frustrated at them defending their friend's kind of douchey behavior. And I didn't want to get off-message, and so just reiterated- "What an entitled ass. He's only 'special' inasmuch as he's retarded." But as I was walking home, I realized- Hey, what the fuck? Not like I don't do the thing where racism is brought up for comedic purposes, and it's not like I would consider a lot of the people who do that to actually be racists- but the statement actually was presenting a stereotype at face value, with no actual form of criticism behind it. It was just based on "It's not racist if you like the race." There was also talk of me being racist for being mad at him, which is actually a joke about racism, and thus more forgivable.

There was also talk about how I shouldn't care, how I didn't have a stake in the theater. I explained that I do volunteer at the theater, and can see movies for free because of this, and I like the place a lot. The response was they they didn't see why I had a stake in it. The argument could've been made that I got in for free, and didn't have to pay- even a joke about me being jewish and cheap could be made in that context. Anyway.

So, Dinosaur Jr. live- I had earplugs in. They played a lot of stuff off of Beyond, it seemed like, although I could be wrong about that- Certainly I don't know all their songs. But it is weird, that reunion concert thing, where people want to hear certain songs, certain routines that they know. As opposed to shows with smaller bands, where, because it's a given that a lot of people there don't go in caring, they then have to play harder, make a more forceful impression.
i sure am glad evie nelson is my friend! she just enabled comments on my blog after giving me shit about it for almost four years. what a gal. you can tell she didn't write this blog entry herself b/c what kind of asshole would link to her own myspace in someone else's blog?

oh shit.

Friday, May 18, 2007

I think this is great.

I stumbled across it while searching for the Michael Kupperman TV Funhouse cartoon "Big Boobs Einstein." I've established that I think that Michael Kupperman is the funniest dude in comics, for his sense of absurdism- his Snake And Bacon's Cartoon Cabaret book is amazing. It is maybe too unrelentingly ridiculous for most people- it's not character-based comedy at all, there's nothing to really ground it. I found that cartoon later, somewhere other than Youtube, but this is better. It's made with Julie Klausner, who I had heard about due to her comedy show in New York with Jackie Clarke, Obsessed, probably when I heard that Tom Scharpling had done it once. There are other Julie and Jackie shorts on Youtube, and I think they're great. The video of the live performances don't work so well for me, but I can't even really watch live performances by bands on Youtube. The short film format is great, well-suited for parodies of videos made by soap opera actresses.

They're really funny- as two-woman sketch comedy duos go, I'd put them above the L.A.-based Clifford And Kidd, who came to my attention from their talking about candy bars, which is the type of thing that makes me pay attention to people.

Also from L.A., I like the videos made by Neil Campbell and Paul Rust. Neil Campbell also does a comic strip, found online, called My Naked Dad, that is intermittently funny. Rather than link to that, I will instead point to when his blog had an entry I thought was great.

This post was edited because I got a name wrong, in a way that bothered me, because the name I said that was wrong belongs to a person I don't think is very funny.

Monday, May 14, 2007

I feel weird about posting about a music thing right after Pitchfork wrote about it. I'd read about Dan Deacon before, but felt put off by the album title, "Spiderman Of The Rings" and had reservations about how contrived the guy's physical appearance seemed. Anyway, the record's actually great. I don't know how well it'll hold up, for how stripped-down it is, but for now, it makes an immediate impression powered by positivity.

This is most true on the twelve-minute long "Wham City," named after an art collective/building that housed shows in Baltimore. Oh man, but how I love collectives- the mystery evoked. The Lisa Frank imagery of that song, "there is a castle that glows, there is a fountain" combined with the whole collective bit along with the music- It's all old electronics, put towards poppy effect, bringing Nintendo to mind- signals "this is of the same mindset as Paper Rad, which I love" in a way which should put all of the things that get me on guard in the right context. There's not the same sense of noise and overload. It gets closer to something a kid would actually like, although I don't have kids around to play records for.

Anyway, it's good.

Have I written about Marnie Stern? I went to her show, saw opening acts that weren't loud enough to cut down on the sound of snare drums, I went out front and talked to friends and missed the main event because it turned out that she was playing second to last, with the not-very-good-at-all Barr the actual headliner. I'd heard a few of her songs at home, and felt like they were hit and miss, but that a live show would be fun rock and roll times. After the show I heard the rest, and it actually started meaning a lot to me- The lyrical content is these weird anthems for art-making: "I've been off the radar way too long." This peaks with the last song, which is seriously amazing- it's narration and guitar, explicitly trying to evoke imagery through sound. What turns it into a song instead of just Peter And The Wolf in miniature is the - well, there's a chorus- but large chunks that state the intent, which is art-making. "I will paint you a picture that's inside my head, but first I must carve out a space." This sounds pretentious, but coming after an album's worth of guitar shredding craziness and a vocal style that caterwauls within it's small singsong range it's just this affirmation- A tiny break from the sameness to put it all into context, so it stops being this tiring thing and starts being a lucid moment.

That then turns into a framing device for discussing this art and music collision point, which is the space where the ridiculous figure of Dan Deacon resides.

Oh, and the guy from Barr, Brendan Fowler, has a magazine, ANP Quarterly, the last issue of which had a great Paper Rad cover story, so that ties it all together too, if poorly.

Friday, May 11, 2007

I just wrote some stuff about this elsewhere on the internet, but I just watched the Alejandro Jodorowsky movie The Holy Mountain. It's awesome, I loved it. It's the weirdest movie I've ever seen. So weird and off on its own shit that I can't even imagine it being someone's favorite movie because of the way it falls so outside human experience that you can't make certain connections to it. But it's amazing. Like, the best science-fiction world-building ever. But then cross that with like VALIS-level psychosis and Borges-type thought-processes and mysticism. Alejandro Jodorowsky stands on the highest mountain with his pupils huge and hallucinates it all, but he does it completely sober. If you saw this movie while tripping on acid it would rip you to shreds. Seriously: Weirdest movie ever. Not in a pretentious way- Who would you be trying to impress by pretending when you make this movie? God? And not in a weird to people who don't watch a lot of movies way. It's a masterpiece, and not in the way that a Hitchcock movie is a masterpiece- It doesn't give a shit about the rules of film or whatever, and it can't be evaluated in terms of technical skill or anything boring. See it if you want to know how much more there is.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

It's late at night, and I've been sewing by hand. I was listening to Wooden Wand, and the urge struck to listen to Wilco. That urge has been in my head off and on for a while recently, with Jesus Etc. running through my head, as well as vague memories of Misunderstood and Via Chicago. I haven't listened to them in ages- At some point I realized that I didn't actually like them, I just liked Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and a few songs apiece off the two preceding records. And I had fun at their show on the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot tour. Also, freshman year in the dorms, my official copy of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot kind of disappeared, and was replaced in the packaging with a burn labeled Yankee Hotel Buttfuck. I never listened to it because of my fears that the audio would be much lower and that this would really bother me. Somehow I think also that this experience and relabeling got into my memories, like I would associate it with freshman year and not the time I actually listened to it the most, which was high school.

Specifically, the room I had in high school, and the rust belt summers, hot and humid. My room was a loft that went unreached by the central air conditioning, so it got to be pretty sweltering. Somehow in my mind Yankee Hotel Foxtrot got haunted by humidity. It's a warm weather record, but that country vibe that hangs over it reminds me of the south. It's not even an alt-country record. Still, when it's hot in the poor places at night, I'm not going outside, I'm listening to that Wilco record. Even that production, thick with noise and odd percussion rattles like insects in the night. Or the feeling of sitting in a car with the windows up and heat accruing in between the glass. I remember Jesus Etc running through my head as my mom and stepdad looked at houses to buy and move into after I graduated high school.

Now I'm living in a moderate climate. It's starting to get warmer, t-shirt weather, but in the night I am very very comfortable; still keeping a blanket on my bed rather than investing in an oscillating fan. The Wilco record isn't alone in seeming like hot weather music- This Silver Jews record I'm listening to right now? Or those Wooden Wand records. Looking at my 2007 playlist- that Modest Mouse record that's not too good, that Shins record, Deerhunter, The Ohsees, Boris with Michio Kurihara- all of these would benefit from that type of thickness to the air and the drunkeness of dehydration, and a different relationship between the inside and the outside.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Has there ever been a hip-hop record called Don't Fear The Rapper?
I stumbled across a news story which will now be the default thing I bring up when the subject of astrology comes up. A scientific study found that students conceived between May and August had lower test scores than those conceived at other parts of the year. This is just on average. But it was across the board, regardless of things like race or gender or class. The theory proposed on why this might be the case is that during the months of May through August, that's when there's the highest concentration of pesticides found in ground water.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

I saw Grindhouse, finally, as it showed at the Capitol Theater, with a beer and wine garden for its opening night. Because of the platter system of projection at the theater, there was an actual intermission. This will be annoying as shit next week when INLAND EMPIRE is shown, and the intermission destroys the delicate vibe of terror and people will have time to talk to people about what they think about the movie thus far.

But wait, I want to talk about Grindhouse. First off, these movies aren't that different from other movies made by the same director. Every Robert Rodriguez movie is as retarded as Planet Terror. I like them all, but they're retarded. This just has fake film grain, added digitally. And a large chunk of plot removed.

I keep on talking about Death Proof more though. Tom Scharpling, of the Best Show On WFMU was hilarious- he hated these movies, but he also hated Kill Bill. You know, he's wrong about stuff. But, when talking about Death Proof- he says it's a tribute to "those great grind house movies, like My Dinner With Andre" because it's so talky, also comparing it to if Kevin Smith had directed Cannonball Run. I think Death Proof becomes a lot better when the cast switches- the second group is a lot more charming and entertaining. The first set of characters has a great soundtrack, but there's also long lingering shots of text messaging that become kind of tedious. Also the first part has bad actor Quentin Tarantino in it, along with bad actress Rose Macgowan. Rose Macgowan's a lot more watchable in Planet Terror, because that movie actually does things.

Kurt Russell's pretty much the only watchable actor in the first half of Death Proof.

Oh man, you all know about Quentin Tarantino's foot fetish, right? If you know about it, there's a lot more flags raised in Death Proof than in any other movie of his I've seen. The fact that one of the actresses actually had a foot double is my favorite revelation of the credits, better even than that Tarantino's character in Planet Terror is just called "rapist # 1."

I like the second group of actresses in Death Proof a lot. Not for all the pop culture referencing, but just for- I don't know, there not being shots of them doing text messaging? Although how weird is it that everyone is psyched on them kicking ass at the end as they've abandoned the fourth member of the group to pretty much get raped? Maybe that's because the audience was drunk and forgot about her.

Weird uses of actresses though- I thought that abandoned girl was really pretty, she had like five lines and was just dismissed as being stupid. In Planet Terror, the one bit that establishes the doctor, with the needles, is fucking amazing as a sequence, and makes that character awesome. That's like two minutes, and then she just becomes really generic- not a small quirky supporting character, just a female lead who doesn't get a gun for a leg. Planet Terror doesn't really have characters so much as just a relentless plot. Death Proof has characters, and a plot that meanders between shots of asses (and feet) and a few crazy stunts.

Planet Terror seems like a John Carpenter movie, but that's mostly because of the soundtrack, as actual John Carpenter movies aren't as fast-paced.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A brief expression of concern for the future of journalism:

Circulation in general is down with newspapers and magazines, because people can get the information for free from the internet, just as fast.

Prose reporting has a large edge on television reporting, because television reporting is more responsive to video, and thus, spectacle, than the actual details of things like legislation.

However: New technology is moving news on the internet in a direction that's further from newspapers, and closer to TV news.

These are generalities, there's still a lot of writing on the internet. But I'm referring to a direction things are moving in that I think is kind of undesirable.