A place to share enthusiasms

July 2002

Round Midnight (Bertrand Tavenier, 1986)
This movie remains for me one of the best movies about the connection between creator and creation, connecting the artist’s inner and outer life in a way other popular films like Amedeus and Bird do not. Jazz musician Dexter Gordon’s character, Turner, moves through his last days wrapped in silence, almost totally isolated even among friends and fellow musicians, suggesting that the most profound music comes from a profound silence. The music is great and I dreamed of taking up the sax again and blowing like I never could.

June 2002

Lester Bangs
Bangs believes that the best rock is loud, crude and menacing. And you’ll have to agree that the music of barely controlled excitement has always made the best rock. Bangs writes some of the best ranting rock coverage ever. Reading a whole book cover to cover, misses some of the excitement of coming across his stuff in the midst of otherwise timid writing. Nik Cohn is the only other author I’ve read whose writing is as exciting as the music.

"The lesson of wild thing was lost on stupid fuckers sometime between the rise of Cream and the fall of the Stooges."

"Rock 'n' roll may turn into a chamber art yet or at the very least a system of Environments."

All too true.

May 2002

The Kingdom (Lars Von Trier, 1994)
I was more intrigued by the first two segments than the last two when the ghosts became so literal and communicative. It was more plausible and creepy when it was partially concealed. The finding of the girls body in the specimen jar was a phenomenal moment. Von Trier has an amazing ability to strike many contrary moods in short succession and make it all cohere. The end segment when all the story lines are coming to a head (nudge, nudge) and the inspection by the minister is happening was hilarious. AS was that scene at the end when the evil father's head is coming out of the woman, trying to be born. I was laughing and cringing at the same time.

April 2002

L.A. Confidential (Curtis Hanson, 1997)
Watched LA Confidential again. It holds up really well. I can't help but think of Chinatown when I watch it. There are many elements that are similar: the background of a growing city, the involvement of cops and politicians in this growth, the real incidents and the plausible incidents all mixed together. One of the reasons I find Chinatown such an amazing film is that there is such a sense of menace, evil if you will, while everything is filmed in bright California sunshine. LAC uses violence to create that atmosphere. In CT, there is very little onscreen violence (at least by comparison).

February 2002

Drunken Master
Fantastic, fluid martial arts scenes. Turn off the sound and put on some music and watch the dance. In the "Making of Crouching Tiger..." on that DVD, someone claimed that martial arts where the Asian equivalent of classical music. I think he has something there.

December 2001
"How limited a part reason plays in some of our most important decisions." Robertson Davies

"Men are influenced more by their passionate illusions than by their rational interest." Vizinczey

June 2001

The Servant
I got interested in this film because of what David Thompson said about it in Salon. The subject is no longer a surprise, but it is well done and doesn't try to explain the actions, it just shows them. Pinter wrote the screenplay.

November 2000

I was thinking about how most critics hated "Eyes Wide Shut." It seemed they were mostly disappointed with having their expectations dashed upon the cool attitude of that movie, (probably expecting hot sex). They were not watching for what was there, but what they expected. And it seems that the trend has been to believe the hype, an Emperor's new cloths sort of thing. And I made a connection with the art world: Since the dadaist era, advanced art has increasingly relied on explanation to shape its meaning. People don't trust their eyes anymore. They can't, because there's so little to look at. So, who says art is irrelevant. It has lead us down a path of invisible cloths.

I've also been reading some letters from Capricorn, Henry Miller. Not very exciting, but I'm sure every artist would love to have such a friend. Always encouraging and at such great personal difficulty (failing eyesight, bad hearing).

May 2000

I don’t read much poetry these days but these lines reached out and grabbed ma and won’t let go:

If you are Love’s lover and seek love
Cut modesty’s throat with a knife

March 2002

Ali: The Whole Story (J. and S. Consentino, 1996)
This 6 hour documentary was fantastic. Even though it is almost entirely congratulatory, you really get a sense of how many people he had to defeat to make it to the top and what a fucking beating he took. It also gave me more respect for his opponents, both for their skill and for what they suffered under his glove.

March 1999

Pole — 2 (Matador)
Most recording engineers spend many frustrating hours on a search and destroy mission trying to eradicate the sounds that comprise the backbone and surprise of this experimental dub record. The blips, squibs, pops and static create a mysterious and charged rhythmic atmosphere, replacing the standard drum kit with an electronic universe of sounds that ricochet like super-charged particles across the musical spectrum. The deep and slow bass lines and the reverb saturated keyboard add up to an intriguing mix of sci-fi and lo-fi. And the simple red cover only enhances the total effect future-world effect.

February 1999

Sleater-Kinney — 3 Song CD Single (Kill Rock Stars)
Bristling with nervous energy and edgy, highly caffinated vocals, "Get Up" is another luscious bit of riot-grrrl aggro-pop-fizz. From the newly released "The Hot Rock" album (title taken from the1972 heist-film starring Robert Redford), the dual vocals of Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein lay it on like a good-cop bad-cop routine, first threatening and then soothing. Along with angular guitar lines and snappy drumming, they make a lean and simple sound that is more than the sum of its parts. The two other songs included here, "By the Time You're Twenty-five," and "Tapping," are new tracks exclusive to this CD. While "Get Up" is the star here, the other two hold their own and have been burrowing into my cranium since I first put it on. Caterwauling has never sounded so good.

October 1998

Unkle — Psyence Fiction (Mowax/Island)
This project from DJ shadow and Mowax's James Lavelle has much of the cut-up technique, the trance-groove feel and multiple voices of Mezzanine but with a jazzier and very lush sound. 90% of the record is right up there with a Massive Attack or Portishead. It takes you on a journey, leaving the impression that you've been somewhere, been given a piece of someone's melancholy drama to hold in your hand for a while - but without the rock opera pomposity. The many guest artists bring their own voices and lyrical subjects to the mix, but DJ Shadow corrals them into a coherent whole. The Verve's Richard Ashcroft, Radiohead's Thom Yorke, Metallica's Jason Newstead, Atlantique, Alice Temple, Will Malone, Badly Drawn Boy and more are here and you should be too.

September 1998

Belle & Sebastian — The Boy with the Arab Strap (Matador)
This album is a kind of pleasant dreamy affair with a definite connection to the late sixties records of Donovan, and when Isobel Cambell sings, Nico's "Chelsea Girls." It's a perfect musical description of every "we're in love and having fun in the park" movie montage - the light's always dappled through the trees as they chase each other on the merry go round. Its kind of the soft pink center of young love turned out for the world - innocent beauty slightly tinged with doubt, and has been growing on me with every listen.

August 1998

Catpower — Moon Pix (Matador)
I'm so glad I gave this album a little more time on the box than normal because its quiet power takes some time to come through. The delicate beauty of Chan Marshall’s voice can seem a bit standard in a country-folk sort of way, but as she sings, the power of the songs becomes clear. They are served up in plain straightforward way that builds in its intensity, not depending on the drama of the delivery. There's no twang, no affectation, no irony. They can be a bit wistful or world-weary, put never precious. They have a naked kind of honesty that has no relation to the current talk-show-tell-all style but instead is based on an older tradition of folk ballads. My favorite tracks are "Metal Heart" with a few lines ripped straight out of "Amazing Grace," and the traditional "Moonshiner." It's not all gold but there's a definite wealth of riches for willing soul miners.

May 1998

Garbage — Version 2.0
Sometimes I pine for the heyday of the LP, when the music was separated into "a" and "b" sides because even pop music this good loses focus after 50 minutes ... and this is my kind of pop music - sweet topping with a hard chewy center. Choruses blossom and guitars grind vying with processed sounds while the slower cuts cruise in an interior groove. There's a lot to sing about here. Pick up a copy and keep your ears humming and your feet thumping.

March 1998

Pere Ubu — Pennsylvania (UBU Projex)
For years now, since I first heard their brilliant debut The Modern Dance, I've been regularly checking in with Pere Ubu. Leader David Thomas has always been expert at teasing out delicate moods against a noisy attack, but many of his forays into his own headspace have found me wandering off again. Though not as rockin' as early Ubu, this is a tantalizing thick sonic soup. Here are 70 minutes of pounding, sneaky, moody, sometimes annoying sounds and I love it. This is a very au currant record from some alt-music vets.

January 1998

Bob Marley — Dreams of Freedom (Island)
Ambient translations of Bob Marley in dub
It took me a while to realize that there is not a single line sung by Marley on this entire hour-long CD, making me question whether these are remixes of the original tracks or remakes (the scanty liner notes suggest remixes). Ambient seems to be the key word here because there are no really exciting moments, no surprising juxtapositions, no extreme sonic changes that made dub the original model for the ever popular remix. That aside, it’s not bad but nothing to sing about. It has a nice chill-out background feeling with many of the great musical phrases from the Marley catalog.



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