Let me say from my heart: please engage in the things we're talking about. Don't give up on mass culture. Contribute to it. Break your heart in trying to make it better, instead of standing outside it. Our species is in a fight for its life, and nobody says the decision is gonna go one way or another. So put your bodies out. Put your spirits out. Feel as if this stuff about, "We don't have the vote anymore"...we're just not voting in the right election. You all come vote with me.
Monday, March 30, 2009
David Milch, closing remarks from his MIT lecture.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
It's a really, really, really fucked up show, and not being a fan of surfing the way I'm a fan of westerns and cop shows, it's not as immediately accessible as Deadwood or NYPD Blue. But I'm enjoying it. Knowing as much as I do about David Milch, it's neat seeing aspects of his life brought out in the characters--he was a doper and con artist, and the main character's son is a doper and con artist. Both Milch's father and brother were doctors, and the doctor on the show, played by Garret Dillahunt, is perhaps a tribute to his brother. But Ed O'Neill's retired policeman, Bill, is the weirdest.
I'm only two episodes in so far, but the weirdest thing I've seen so far--weirder than the levitating surfer and the bird that makes braindead children come back to life--is that Bill looks, talks, and dresses EXACTLY like David Milch, the show's creator. What up with that? Who given their druthers would hire Al Bundy to play themselves?
To be fair, Ed O'Neill is a much better actor than I gave him credit for. So is Rebecca DeMornay as the mom, Cissy. And seeing all the regulars from Deadwood is a treat--Charlie Utter, Ellsworth, Trixie, Wolcott. And Bruce Greenwood is great, hitting the same note of tiredness that Keith Carradine hit as Wild Bill. Luke Perry is still a turd, though.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Something that pisses me off: When people talk about the great singer-songwriters and don't mention Joni Mitchell. She writes better lyrics and melodies than anyone, and yet she's totally overlooked. Just because she wrote a few well-crafted pop hits in the sixties and early seventies, the rest of her work is seen as somehow less than Dylan's or Cohen's or Neil Young's.
If Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell were both drowning and I only had one life preserver, it sure as shit wouldn't go to Dylan.
Joni Mitchell wrote the most challenging, introspective, poetic work of her generation. Listen to Hejira and tell me this is not so.
Sure, she wrote Big Yellow Taxi and Woodstock, which are okay pop tunes, but she also wrote album after album of amazing shit. Hejira, Mingus, Court and Spark, Blue, Ladies of the Canyon. And her live albums, Shadows and Light and Miles of Aisles, sound more professional than most studio albums. She sings with perfect pitch and intonation, and her band always sounded amazing. Her track on The Last Waltz, Coyote, sounds the same as on the album--note perfect.
And it's like those things are held against her--because her albums don't sound like Dylan's--badly produced, the lyrics hastily mumbled, wheezy harmonica between verses--like because she can actually sing, she's not as much of an artist. This is the point we've reached with music: not sucking is actually held against you.
And there are people at SFU who study Leonard Cohen like he's a real author--that's how desperate and sad Canadians are for literature. Talk about overrated, Cohen wrote two great songs--Hallejulah and First We Take Manhattan--and neither of them were recorded all that well by him. And you know what else I should confess? As much as I like Jeff Buckley's cover of Hallejulah, I often skip it to get to the songs Buckley wrote himself. A lot of Cohen's songs make me want to punch him in the face. "And Jane came by with a lock of your hair..." Fuck Jane, fuck your hair, go away Leonard Cohen.
I realize it's not like Dylan and Cohen are keeping Joni Mitchell from being appreciated. And Herbie Hancock won a Grammy last year for covering Mitchell's tunes, so it's not like she's off the radar. But she's more often lumped in with James Taylor and Gordon Lightfoot as commercial soft-rock , or worse, with Alanis Morisette as part of some sort of feminist continuum. Give her her due: she's the greatest singer-songwriter, and if her audience is smaller than, say, Dylan's, it's because she's more challenging.
With Pat Metheny on guitar, Michael Brecker on sax and Jaco on bass:
Saturday, March 21, 2009
I've argued about this before with Josh. And I'm still not convinced that diegesis is the right word for describing aspects of film. According to Aristotle, the difference between diegesis and mimesis is the difference between telling (narrating what happened) and showing (dramatizing or reproducing the event itself). Here's the Wiki entry on it:
The classical distinction between the diegetic mode and the mimetic mode relate to the difference between the epos (or epic poetry) and drama. The "epos" relates stories by telling them through narration, while drama enacts stories through direct embodiment (showing). When we come to a modern consideration of the cinema, it may appear that the medium is a straight-forward example of mimetic storytelling--but it is not. In terms of classicalpoetics, the cinema is an epic form that utilizes dramatic elements; this is determined by the technologies of the camera and editing. Even in a spatially and temporally continuous scene (mimicking the theatrical situation, as it were), the camera chooses where to look for us. In a similar way, editing causes us to jump from one place (and time sometimes) to another, whether it be somewhere else in the room, or across town. This jump is a form of narration; it is as if a narrator whispers to us: "meanwhile, on the other side of the forest". It is for this reason that the "story-world" in cinema is referred to as "diegetic"; elements that belong to the film's narrative world are diegetic elements. This is why, in the cinema, we may refer to the film's diegetic world.
I don't know about you, but that's not very convincing to me. Maybe it's the unsupported italicized "but it is not." Film still seems mimetic. It shows. The choices made by the film seem to me more like extensions of dramatic conceits rather than literary ones. Bottom line: to me it seems imprecise, the kind of word--and this is not a dig at you, Josh--that academics and critics would trot out to impress the hoi polloi. "Diegetic narrative." It's a fucking narrative, okay?
But to give the other side its due--they're wrong. And their only recourse would be to attack my film-critic credentials, which are admittedly weak. I am the worst movie critic and the worst movie academic. I used to love Kurosawa and Bergman and all that shit, but I've kind of given up on films--if it doesn't have a bank heist, a murder mystery, or someone killing people with a shotgun, I'm not interested. However, ten hours of surfers pondering the mystery of God on HBO? Hell yeah!
I used to eschew television for movies because films had better stories. In the last decade that has completely reversed. People don't say it enough, but: God bless you, HBO. Thanks for The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Mr. Show, Lucky Louie, Real Time with Bill Maher, Rome, Extras, Angels in America, Band of Brothers, Generation Kill, The Corner, Dennis Miller, John From Cincinnati, and thirty years of George Carlin standup specials.
Next week: Sam looks at the word "syncretic," and why it should or shouldn't be applied to the work of Maxine Hong Kingston.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
One of the great overstatements was always made about "The Wire" is "There's no good guys or bad guys." I was always amazed by that. Marlo's not a bad guy? Do characters acquire a bit of nuance as you live with them longer? Of course. The more time you live with them on screen, the more chance you have to add nuance. And I know I said good and evil bored me, but the notion that all characters are treated equally is sort of a misunderstanding of point of view.'
Saturday, March 14, 2009
There's no easy way to say this, but:
Today I saw a Kevin Costner music video set at a Nascar rally.
Yes, you read that correctly. Kevin Costner has a band, that band has a music video, that video is set at a Nascar rally.
I just spent ten minutes trying to rid that image from my mind by watching the live-action Flintstones movie. All right, so I only turned it on to see Halle Berry in an animal-skin dress, but do you know how painful it is see John Goodman showering under a mammoth trunk and think to yourself, 'That's the second most disturbing thing my eyeballs have seen today?'
Kevin Costner's music video is the anti-Wire. It has undone all the work that HBO and AMC have done to establish television drama as a viable art form. An evil far greater than that of genocide has been condensed into three minutes of Country Music Television.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Something I thought of while looking at Harry's blog and drinking:
Perhaps Sesame Street and the Muppets influenced what kind of music a person grows up to like. Each Muppet kind of represents a type of music listener, or a specific genre. Par example:
Kermit - People who love Kermit probably love singer-songwriters. The austere strum of an out of tune guitar, the lonely croak of a voice buoyed on only by honesty and raw emotion. People who love Kermit probably really dig Woody Guthrie.
Miss Piggie - The sexy chanteuse. Not only the current crop of female tune belters--Beyonce, Christina, the gnomes from American Idol--but also the classy older women who used to sing Bond themes. I could see a Miss Piggy fan listening to Shirley Bassey's "Goldfinger".
Gonzo - Gonzo's a bit of an exhibitionist, which would translate into rock groups that depart from the norm. Bowie, P-Funk, maybe early Chili Peppers, probably Faith No More. The kind of music that takes a few chances.
The floppy-headed piano dog (wow did I research this well or what?) IS Stevie Wonder, and that's who his fans would listen to. Boogie On, Reggae Woman.
Cookie Monster IS Death Metal. That's not even a joke, it's a sad, sad fact. Good luck with Cannibal Corpse.
The Count - Progressive rock. Yes, King Crimson, Rush, Tool.
Bert and Ernie - Queen. Yes, because they're gay, but also because they rock.
The Swedish Chef - Bjork.
Elmo - Cutesy, self-referential and woefully overextended his welcome...Coldplay!
Grover - A loveable monster. Sort of like Ozzy Osbourne. Or Britney Spears.
Animal - Drum solos and only drum solos. Go Neil Peart!
Beaker - Brilliant and talks in gibberish. Late-period Radiohead?
The balcony critics - Pitchfork reviewers.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Yesterday at the Learning Center this woman came in. Big woman, Russian, heavy accent, supercilious attitude. Her name was Visnia and she is nursing student in forff year of studies.
She made an appointment with me and asked me to look over her nursing paper. Fine. Where is it, I ask, and she tells me she hasn't printed it off, and would I mind reading it over her shoulder at a nearby computer. I hate reading off screens, but fine.
Her first paragraph is three pages long. When I point this out to her, she says "I don't vant your advice on paragraph. Just tell me vhere I make grammar mistake."
I tell her she has some problems with articles, which we can work on, but that I'm not going to stand over her shoulder and point out all her grammar errors, for the same reason that a math tutor won't do equations for you--you don't learn, and I don't need to demonstrate my skills. She says "Zen you are no help to me" and storms off...
...only to come back as I'm filing out my sheets and say "Cvoss my name off, ve did nossing."
I explain what happened to the Learning Centre coordinators. No big deal.
End of the night, Stegosaurus Lady comes back to complain about me. The only other person in the centre at 7:00 is the 80 year old midgit who fills in when the secretary takes a day off. Visnia tells her I refused, and the old bat says that, since it's a nursing paper and not an English paper, I should've edited it for her. Great. An hour to go and I'm fighting in the Menopausal Moron Main Event against an angry piece of shit and Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies.
Well, no. So not only do I have to fend off the accusations of the Beast From the East, I have to educate my moron staff about what it is we do at the Learning Centre.
Fuck. The worst part is, I'm still upset about that, because I'm a nice, sensitive person who would like to have helped her. Ivan the Terrible probably drove her fucking Yugo to the grocer's to buy fucking Stoli and cabbage, and Chapters to buy a copy of Das Kapital and probably berated a whole shitload of people on her way home to an apartment that smells like sourkraut, where she can beat her fucking Chernobyl mutant Stegosaurus children before falling asleep watching Yakov Smirnov performances from Hee-Haw that she taped on Betamax during the Reagan Years. Fucking asshole bitch cunt.
Comrade Drain-on-Society-ovich will probably come back again today for another round. Beware the Red Scare.
Funny, the only other person who ever caused shit for me was also eastern/middle-European, an asshole customer at the Liquor Store named Horst. Horst said I should be whipped because I didn't find him a bottle of discount Argentine merlot chop-fucking-chop.
White people complain about Asian and East Asian immigrants, but I've never had a problem with anyone from either group. It's white immigrants that should be turned away at the fucking door. Although they'd probably complain to the boss.
As Hitchens says, "Mr Gorbachev, Build Up That Wall!"
Monday, March 9, 2009
Vanity Fair had this to say about this clip:
If you don't find yourself nodding along with C.K. in fierce agreement, and even occasionally pumping the air with a raised fist salute, you're either dead inside or a member of that “crappiest generation” C.K. was talking about.
And from the VF interview with Louis CK:
A little less time on Twitter would be good for everybody.
Exactly! Twitter and Facebook and MySpace; all that stuff makes you warped. We've all basically given ourselves data entry jobs. I've actually heard people say things like, “Aw shit, I have to update my Twitter.” Really? You have to? That's a big priority for you?
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Yes, THE WATCHMEN should be a limited series on HBO and blah blah blah IT WAS NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN THAT WAY. Zack delivered a 2 1/2 hour, honest attempt, and broke his ass cranking out tons of free extras. Hell, he even animated The Tales of The Black Freighter for you chumps. Plus, he gave you a kick-ass DAWN OF THE DEAD remake, plus 300, plus whatever else he's got coming down the pike. He's the best friend the Nerd Mafia's had since Joss Whedon and Brian Michael Bendis, so everyone please crack the tab on a frosty can of Go Fuck Yourself and go see the movie version of THE WATCHMEN.
And no, the movie will not have EVERY LITTLE ELEMENT FROM THE GRAPHIC NOVEL. That's why the graphic novel exists -- you can go read it after you see the movie. Adaptation. Parallel visions. When you adapt a book, you cut things out, combine and conflate, streamline and linger.
L.A. CONFIDENTIAL stands as the best Ellroy adaptation to date, and it throws away massive chunks of the novel's narrative. THE BLACK DAHLIA slavishly sticks to its source material and it's almost un-watchable.
I do not invite debate.
--Patton Oswalt. The rest of this rant is up at his website, and it's awesome, a litany of why television in the 2000s is the Hollywood of the 1970s.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Today I happened to click over to MuchMusic, a channel which, ten years ago, broadcast music videos by artists who devalue the term 'artist,' but now programs only reality shows featuring Screech from Saved by the Bell or Danny Bonaduce from whatever Danny Bonaduce is from.
While channel-surfing I inadvertently caught a minute or so of MuchMusic programming, a show called 'Dancing with the Stars.'
On this show, two white teenagers competed in a 'dance off.' Both wore white T-shirts. One wore hypno-glasses.
Both danced quite poorly, by my amateur estimation.
The song they danced to was called 'Stronger' by an artist named Kanye West.
'Stronger,' and much of Mr West's ouvre, sounds like an effeminate African-American with Down's Syndrome raping mid-90s Cher.
I fear that we have now become our own punchline.
The west coast of North America should probably be jettisoned, and the non-corporeal entity known as 'the internet' should be exterminated. Ladies and Gentleman, I bid you good day.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009
freedom of choice...is what you got (You gotta appreciate a post that starts with Devo and ends with the Coen brothers)
...And religion scores again. Read this: A U.N. Resolution seeks to criminalize opinions that differ with the Islamic faith.
I watched Christopher Hitchens on CNN the other day talking about this. In a resolution sponsored by Pakistan, ostensibly to combat Islamophobia, freedom of speech is to be limited to protect, not the rights of individuals, but the rights of religions. Hitchens, in his spare time from cheerleading for the Iraq War, happens to be one of the most perceptive watchdogs oin the area of religious and civil rights, and exposes what a sham this resolution is. Hitchens writes:
Having briefly offered lip service to the rights of free expression, it goes on to say that "the exercise of these rights carries with it special duties and responsibilities and may therefore be subject to limitations as are provided for by law and are necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others, protection of national security or of public order, public health or morals and respect for religions and beliefs." The thought buried in this awful, wooden prose is as ugly as the language in which it is expressed: Watch what you say, because our declared intention is to criminalize opinions that differ with the one true faith. Let nobody say that they have not been warned.
There was a time when it was only polite to keep your religious non-beliefs to yourself. But that time is over. I don't hate Muslims; however, Islam is a fraud, just like Christianity and Judaism and Hinduism and Buddhism and Scientology and Native Spirituality and Jainism and Marxism and Mormonism and all the rest. Frauds one and all, which simplify the infinite complexity of life to a formula. Instead of reveling in the unanswerable questions of existence, these warmed-over faiths ignore its contradictions and provide half-baked answers which they swear are objective and universal, though blatant evidence exists to the contrary. This is not to disregard personal spirituality, or the wisdom of some of these religious founders, but the oppressive, dogmatic, get-em-while-they're-young pseudo-spirituality championed by hate-mongers and racists and bogus authorities.
We NEED the ability to criticize religions, especially religions that treat women as chattel, that give tacit approval to murder, that pursue their goals through terror. Again, this is not an attack on individual spirituality, but corporate entities which monopolize interpretation of the holy books. And it applies to Popes as much as Ayatollahs. We have to hold them all to account.
Religion as a personal belief may be sacred, but religious ideology must be held accountable. Enough is enough. Like John Goodman says in The Big Lebowski (quoting Bush the First), "this aggression will not stand."