Thursday, April 30, 2009

NP casting

NP is producing and acting in Hesher, an "indie dramedy" that at first pass sounds like the kind of movie with a soundtrack that will make more money than the film. Co-stars include Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Rainn Wilson. (THR)

Wilco (the blog post)

A title and more semi-insidery details about the forthcoming Wilco album. (Rolling Stone)

There’s a little something for everyone on the group’s new disc, which they recorded in their loft space in Chicago. “One Wing” and “Sunny Feeling” are breezy, pop-friendly tunes; “Deeper Down” is a mellow ballad spiked with atmospherics and chamber strings; the nearly-six-minute jam “Bull Black Nova” starts with rollicking drums, stacatto keys and guitars before exploding into a killer solo from guitarist Nels Cline. Think of the it as a sonic follow-up to the kraut-rockin’ “Spiders (Kidsmoke).” “That one’s a really intense, powerful song,” says Kotche of “Nova.” “It’s got a static groove that’s really insistent. There’s a lot of great guitar moments on that song.”

Moving Megan

Though this sounds more like a story for my sister blog, there's something interesting about the forthcoming Megan Fox photo shoot in Esquire. The spread was created by selecting the best still images from video footage of the actress. Here's a good explanation of why this is important. (Kottke)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Informers

Based on the book by Bret Easton Ellis, The Informers contains "scenes" of "characters" doing "things" and thus can be called a "movie." In all other respects this monstrosity feels like something a Communist country might churn out in an effort to both trumpet its new film state-run industry and decry American excess. Devoid of interesting characters and full of vacant acting (a comment on the superficiality of Los Angeles perhaps) the film's biggest mystery is how exactly Billy Bob Thornton, Winona Ryder, and Kim Basinger were clubbed into submission and convinced to act in it. Why does Mickey Rourke kidnap a child off the street in broad daylight? What happens to Chris Isaak as he attempts to pick up two women in a Hawaii bar? If you can answer these questions you saw more of the movie than I did. I bailed right about the time two characters were debating whether their friend was or wasn't a male prostitute. RIP Brad Renfro, it isn't right that your final screen appearance was in this blink-and-you'll-miss-it turkey.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Missing Margaret

There's plenty of blame to go around with regard to Kenneth Lonergan's still unreleased Margaret, his follow-up to You Can Count On Me. Lonergan (who has final cut) has been curiously unable to finish the film after literally years of editing, but do producers bear some responsibility for failing to fork over promised money? (LA Times)

A number of producers and editors -- including Rudin, Pollack and Martin Scorsese's legendary editor, Thelma Schoonmaker -- have tried but failed to help Lonergan complete his movie, court documents and interviews show. With his financing from Gilbert and Fox Searchlight cut off, Lonergan borrowed more than $1 million from actor and close friend Matthew Broderick (who has a small part in "Margaret") in an attempt to complete the editing of the movie, according to a person close to the production. (A Broderick spokesman said the loan was a private matter and disputed the dollar amount but did not provide another figure.)

The film's lengthy post-production sparked two lawsuits, which are scheduled to be tried in June and September. Last July, Fox Searchlight sued Gilbert and his production company, claiming he failed to pay the studio half of the film's production costs. Two months later, Gilbert's Camelot Pictures sued Fox Searchlight and Lonergan, alleging that the studio and Lonergan thwarted Gilbert's many attempts to finish the movie, forcing Camelot to pay for "a clearly inferior and unmarketable film" that Lonergan, several people say, will not support.

Quick Reaction: Bob Dylan's Together Through Life

I didn't know until I opened the CD that Together Through Life is (with one track excepted) a songwriting collaboration between Dylan and Robert Hunter, lyricist for many a classic Grateful Dead song. Hunter didn't write the music, but could his involvement have been responsible for the new album's shuffling, bluesy, after-hours feel? To my ears, most of these cuts would have fit nicely on a Dead album circa 1976. Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers plays guitar, but I barely hear his work at all here. David Hidalgo (Los Lobos) and his accordion are far more prominent on most tracks and hints of mandolin and steel guitar hang around at the corners of several songs. Lyrically my favorites are the bone-dry "My Wife's Home Town" and the summer evening on the porch flavored "I Feel A Change Comin' On." Overall "Together Through Life" is strong second-tier Dylan; I don't see it being remembered as a classic. Rather it's the sound of an artist flexing his muscles and enjoying himself in new company while figuring out what to do next.

Rainbow Bright

Is it counterproductive for "Queer Prestige" films like Milk and Brokeback Mountain to hew so closely to familiar Hollywood storytelling archetypes? I'm not sure I agree, but the post is well argued (and comes from a sincere place). (Reverse Shot)

And when Hollywood tries to do history—particularly the history of minority rights—it often inevitably comes back to the same tired tropes: the individualistic social leader scrubbed clean of any but the most socially acceptable flaws (you work too much!); the authenticity-upping montages interspersing recreated events with documentary footage; the rejection of more ambivalent considerations of past events for a positive, linear narrative of upward historical progression. These elements creep into even the best films about the Civil Rights Movement or the women’s suffrage movement, and I can’t help but worry that the gay rights movement will be understood by the viewing public in the same easy, guilt-soothing manner. You can only watch so many scenes of fiery young radicals holding up signs and yelling out protest songs before they all start to feel like the same damn march.

Specter switches parties

It's being widely reported that Pennsylvania GOP Sen. Arlen Specter will switch his affiliation to Democratic, giving the Democrats 59 votes (not including Al Franken). From the NYT:

If Al Franken prevails in his ongoing court case in Minnesota and Mr. Specter begins caucusing with Democrats, Democrats would have 60 votes and the ability to deny Republicans the chance to stall legislation. Mr. Specter was one of only three Republicans to support President Obama’s economic recovery legislation.

Democrat leaders expressed their enthusiasm. President Obama was handed a note from an aide at 10:25 a.m. on Tuesday during his daily economic briefing. The note, according to a senior administration official, said: “Specter is announcing he is changing parties.”

Seven minutes later, Mr. Obama reached Mr. Specter by telephone. In a brief conversation, the president said: “You have my full support,” according to the official who heard the phone call. The president added that we are, “thrilled to have you.”

While I'm definitely pleased on a certain Us v. Them level, I've never been convinced that elected officials should be allowed to switch parties with impunity. Voters elected Specter as a Republican and he is breaking faith with them in a very real sense. Specter also says today he'll run for re-election next year as a Democrat, so I suppose the reckoning will come.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


NP has just announced the launch of an new site called MakingOf, a "behind the scenes web portal" designed to provide civilians like us a inside look into the making of movies. There are a few interviews up, including this one with Aaron Sorkin, and a collection of backstage stuff from upcoming releases. While at the moment the site could do with a little more content I think the basic idea is sound: a Web home for the discussion of craft as opposed to just another hype and rumor driven blog. I'd advise the site's keepers to link to on set blogs and Twitter feeds from as many working actors and filmmakers as possible to give the site a sort of "you are there" feel that no one else has.

Writer's Notebook

John Ashbery: (Boston Globe/Orange Crate Art)

Q. Why is poetry important?

A. Its beauty is its impracticality. It's also a way of connecting with our lives in a way which I don't see any way of doing otherwise. It's not only the daily emotional life but also the life of our dreams.

Sunday Music: Steve Earle - "Harlan Man/The Mountain"

Sorry about the video quality (well actually, I didn't shoot it...) and the fact that this only catches parts of both songs, but Earle's live version of "Harlan Man" has been on repeat for me lately and I first heard "The Mountain" on the You Can Count On Me soundtrack.

"I work backwards...."

Jim Jarmusch, out with a new film (The Limits of Control w/ Tilda Swinton, above) and not content to repeat himself. (NY Times)

“Being in a place where you don’t understand certain things is really inspiring for your imagination,” Mr. Jarmusch said in a recent interview in the Manhattan office of Focus Features, the distributor of “The Limits of Control,” which opens on Friday in New York and Los Angeles.

“Maybe it’s because I grew up in Akron, Ohio, and never thought I would get out,” Mr. Jarmusch said, reflecting on the importance of travel in his films. It could also be, he added, because his first trip abroad, as a college student in Paris, reading André Breton and watching movies at the Cinémathèque Française, had such a mind-expanding effect.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

State of Play

Russell Crowe spits out the word "blogger" like an obscenity in State of Play, the adaptation of a BBC miniseries that succeeds in putting the pleasure back in movies for adults in a way that this spring's Clive Owen vehicles somehow couldn't quite pull off. Note the meticulous production design of the fictitious Washington Globe newsroom and particularly Crowe's desk, which looks like a fortress against the onslaught of digital media. Rachel McAdams plays a blogger whose talent for serious journalism is revealed when she teams up with Crowe's reporter to investigate the death of the aide to a Congressman (Ben Affleck) who's investigating a private security contractor. The plot is laid out unusually well for a movie of this kind, with only the reveal of a crucial piece of information at the end bobbled slightly. (In retrospect Robin Wright Penn as Affleck's wife is saddled with an almost unplayable role) Reviewers have called State of Play a dying shout from the world of the daily newspaper, but the issue of the Globe's financial troubles stops the movie cold. We're told that the "new owners" might have reservations about Crowe's ever-expanding investigation but there's never any evidence of this. Helen Mirren as an embattled editor gets to spout off about falling profits but other than that Crowe and McAdams operate unimpeded. A cast that also includes Jeff Daniels and a surprising Jason Bateman in small roles just adds to the fun; and State of Play is at its best when it stops trying to be relevant and gets out of its own way.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A better fit?

I guess Angelina Jolie is a good choice to play Dr. Kay Scarpetta, the medical examiner heroine of Patricia Cornwell's novels, but I'm sorry to see Jolie potentially become involved with a character that has gotten less and less interesting with time. The early novels had a nasty page-turning kick, but my memory (having not read one in several years) is that Scarpetta becomes increasingly dour as the series goes on. Jolie is too much fun for this role and I really can't see this franchise catching fire post-C.S.I..

Arthur Phillips

A chat with novelist Arthur Phillips and review of his iPod-centric new book The Song Is You. This is next on my reading list. (HuffPo)

CZ: You say that we tolerate songs without redemption. Will the one I love be coming back to me? Can you give me some examples of your favorite songs that express this longing and loss?

AP: Well, that one ("I Cover the Waterfront") is a pretty good example. It ends with a question: the singer is still standing on the dock waiting to see if her lover is coming or not -- no resolution, and possibly no happy ending... I also like songs about despair that still manage to have a sense of humor about them. Morrissey and the Smiths are unequaled at this: "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now", "King Leer", "You're the One for Me, Fatty."

How do you solve a problem like...

...making a follow-up to your hit debut album? What Vampire Weekend is up to. (EW)

After that, it'll be back to Brooklyn, where the band hopes to finish its second album in time for a September release. As with their debut, VW keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij is producing the sessions. "For the last month or so, it's just been us by ourselves in this small studio, working every day," Koenig says. "It's nice after having been on tour so much to be in a slightly different situation, but it's pretty intense. We're really trying hard to do everything that we want to do."

With the songwriting process more or less finished, Koenig says the band has moved on to refining its studio approach. "It's definitely going to be a recognizably Vampire Weekend sound, but there are going to be new sounds. We're trying to challenge ourselves not to use the same bag of tricks that we used on the first album -- different instruments, stuff like that."

Hipper than thou

Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint as the first hispter novel? (TAS)

But I think we may already have a good model for what such a novel would look like: Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint. Here’s a novel about an arrogant, self-deprecating young New York striver who ( much to his parents’ dismay) gives up on God, dates a ditzy model, has a threesome (twice!), rabidly pursues his sexual obsessions, feels guilty about his sex life, brags about his IQ, stands up for socialism, takes a job in public service, and so on and so forth.

It’s the hipster habitus, nearly in full; all that’s missing, really, is the indie rock and internet. In fact, Portnoy’s Complaint may actually already be the great American hipster novel. From a stylistic perspective, it seems to have helped capture and set the tone for indie/bloggy snark: All those exclamation points! And italics! The hysteria and snideness! The manic self-examination and self-deprecation!

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Another good post that really gets at some of the classist assumptions behind Twitter hatred. (BLDGBLOG/Kottke)

if you were to go around the United States reading the handwritten diaries of, say, high-school girls or adolescent boys or even well-read college students, you would find equally inane chattering: "I feel fat today." "Can't wait for summer in Boca! But I need new shorts." "My history professor is HOT." "I hate holidays. Christmas at home is so boring."
Are you really going to tell me that the average contemporary, hand-written diary is any more interesting than that? In fact, one could easily argue that private, paper-based journals would be volumetrically much worse than Twitter in their sheer scale of self-obsession.
Yet the anti-Twitter crowd doesn't appear to oppose the use of personal journals during adolescence. For instance, will Dowd soon also be writing an editorial that excoriates lonely teenagers for writing down their thoughts on paper? After all, she bizarrely implies, "high-school girls" shouldn't be allowed access to new forms of writing technology, so she must have been apoplectic when cheap pens and affordable notebooks first arrived in the office supply store: suddenly anyone, even blonde girls, could be writers.

" no longer even know what it is."

From 50 years ago today, Jean-Luc Godard on learning The 400 Blows had been accepted at Cannes. (Criterion)

What matters is that for the first time a young film has been officially designated by the powers that be to reveal the true face of the French cinema to the entire world. And what one can say of Truffaut could equally well be said of Alain Resnais, of Claude Chabrol if Les cousins had been chosen to represent France at Cannes, of Georges Franju and Head Against the Wall, of Jean-Pierre Melville and Two Men in Manhattan, of Jean Rouch and Moi, un noir. And the same words apply to other Jeans, their brothers and their masters: Renoir and his Testament du Docteur Cordelier, and Cocteau, of course, had Raoul Lévy at last made up his mind to produce Testament of Orpheus.

The face of the French cinema has changed.

Cannes '09

The Cannes Film Festival lineup has been announced, with Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds and Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock representing the U.S. in competition. Anyone want to bet on an American win this year? (Indie Eye)

I had fruit and coffee

Why it's OK to post your breakfast menu (and anything else) on Twitter. (Kottke)

So when you run across a Twitter message like "we had chicken sandwitches & pepsi for breakfast" from someone who has around 30 followers, what's really so odd about it? It's just someone telling a few friends on Twitter what she might normally tell them on the phone, via email, in person, or in a telegram. If you aren't one of the 30 followers, you never see the message...and if you do, you're like the guy standing next to a conversing couple on the subway platform.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bret Easton Ellis

Bret Easton Ellis on the upcoming adaptation of The Informers (above) and why writers shouldn't promote movies. (AV Club)

AVC: The tone of The Informers is really funereal. This isn’t a terribly funny movie.

BEE: No, and the script was really funny. [Laughs.] So what do you do? This is why the screenwriter should never be interviewed when a movie’s premièring. This really should be the director’s job, because it’s a director’s medium. It’s not a screenwriter’s medium. And actually going through this, being on the set and meeting the actors, you’re even more aware that it’s an actor’s medium, much more than it is a screenwriter’s medium, because they change so much of what you’re doing in terms of how they interpret it. Personally, I always think a lot of my work is funny—at least, I think it’s funny, I’m amused by it. Certainly I think in Rules Of Attraction that comes through, and in American Psycho. I think a lot of the work is funny, and in the script for The Informers,there was a lot of comedy in it. I wrote the script, it was made, and now it’s not funny. What do you do? What do I do? Do I sit around and complain about it? Not really.

In context

Is the purported interconnectedness of all books in the forthcoming digital age a good thing? A related question: is there a more ephemeral and probably useless job title than "futurist?" (Text Patterns)

Just yesterday I was teaching a class how to use Google Books and Amazon’s “Search Inside the Book” feature to find passages in the books they’re going to be writing their papers on. But I already dread what this is going to do to my students’ papers once they seriously glom on to these new technologies. I’ll have essay after essay analyzing every occurrence of a particular word in a novel or long poem. Why? because that’s what these technologies see: words, or, more precisely, strings of characters. Papers built on the powers of string search will find every use of the word “honor” in the Iliad, but may well be blind to passages in which honor is granted or withheld without the word being used, or where some related concept is invoked: “glory,” say. To someone with a hammer, everything looks like a nail; so someone with a search engine, every book looks like a set of strings.

Dikembe Mutombo

The NBA's oldest player called it a career last night after a knee injury in a playoff game against the Trailblazers. Dikembe Mutombo is 42 and has played 18 seasons in the league. (Casual Hoya)

Mutombo is a great ambassador for the game of basketball and will be most remembered for creating the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation and opening the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital in Kinshasa, his birth city in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has also participated in events for Basketball Without Borders, CARE and the United Nations Development Program.

Do the Shuffle #30

  • Bruce Hornsby & Ricky Skaggs - A Night On the Town
  • Bruce Springsteen - Out In The Street
  • Eef Barzelay - I Love the Unknown
  • My Morning Jacket - Cold Sweat (live)
  • Breeders - Bang On
  • Madeleine Peyroux - Damn The Circumstances
  • Whiskeytown - Kiss & Make Up
  • U2 - In God's Country
  • Chatham County Line - The Carolinian
  • She & Him - Sentimental Heart
  • Spoon - Finer Feelings

    Total Songs/Minutes (approx.): 11/44
    Miscellaneous Fact: I saw two friends running together in the park and each pushing a stroller.
  • Sounds like a double so far

    Casting and more details on Soderbergh's adaptation of the baseball book Moneyball. (Variety)

    Columbia Pictures and director Steven Soderbergh have set Demetri Martin to star alongside Brad Pitt in "Moneyball," the adaptation of the Michael Lewis book about ballplayer-turned-Oakland Athletics g.m. Billy Beane and his attempt to field a competitive team on a slim payroll.

    Also joining the roster is a group of actual baseball players: former Oakland A's team members David Justice and Scott Hatteberg have signed on to play themselves in the picture, while Daryl Strawberry and Lenny Dykstra are among those who will be seen on camera being interviewed about their experiences with Beane when he was a phenom drafted by the New York Mets before flaming out and becoming a baseball scout. Shooting begins in June.

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009


    These people are about to charge you $175 for their life's work; if you're reading this blog there's a good chance you already own some of it. (Stereogum)

    Rolling Stone reports that the band's studio output is getting the Limited Edition and Deluxe box set reissue treatment. The collections will be packaged together as Minotaur, available 6/15. That's the Come on Pilgrim EP, Surfer Rosa, Doolittle, Bossanova, and Trompe Le Monde. RS also reports that the sets are "being repackaged with the assistance of [Vaughan Oliver and Simon Larbalestier,] the two men responsible for art directing and shooting the photographs for the original albums." Things to keep in mind: The recordings won't be remastered, just repackaged. Also, there won't be any live recordings and bonus tracks aren't figured out yet, but you can expect bonus art. In a way all of that makes sense -- why fuck with originals that were so great to begin with? Oh, right, because when you spend this much you might want some extras:

    For $175, the Deluxe Edition gives fans the five albums on a 24k layered CD and a Blu-ray for a total of five discs, plus a DVD of the band's 1991 Brixton Academy gig (a year before their split) that also includes all their videos. The Deluxe Edition features additional artwork by Oliver and a 54-page book. The Limited Edition costs $450 and includes the entire Deluxe Edition plus all five albums on 180 gram vinyl, a Giclée print of Oliver's artwork and a 72-page hardcover book. The Limited Edition comes with a slipcase, the Deluxe in a custom clamshell.

    Big (Wallet) Gulp

    Would an extra tax on sugary drinks help curb the obesity crisis? (Brain Blogger)

    Price does influence food purchases. Several studies have shown that manipulating price in vending machines, cafeterias, and restaurants influences food choices, leading to less consumption of high-calorie, high-fat foods, and more consumption of nutrient-rich foods. Obesity is more than an economic issue and a single intervention, such as an excise tax on junk food, is unlikely to shrink the waistline of America, but it is one option in the fight against overweight and obesity that may have limited benefits. Would a new tax on food bring us closer to a nanny state, or help Americans live healthier, more productive lives?

    The Big T

    Celeb Twitterers are taking us back to a pre-Web 2.0 era. (Advertising Age)

    Just that the utopian rhetoric of social-networking aside, the lesson of media history is that, regardless of the rise and fall of media conglomerates, media is almost always about The Few profiting at the expense of The Many's attention. To put that another way, The Many are actually investing their mind share -- their currency in the Attention Economy -- in a way that leads, for the most part, to the enrichment of The Few. To put it rather cynically, a certain portion of The Many are getting ripped off -- deprived of more and more of their mind share for little or no gain (or possibly a big loss).

    Dept. of It's Not Ready Yet

    Jason Kottke on the problem with our glorious ebook future.

    Aside from some notable exceptions like Project Gutenberg, e-books are currently only as open and free as the publishing companies (and Amazon and Google) want them to be. I think those two initial conditions change the playing field. Copy/paste/publish to your booklog without significant restrictions or payment? Sharing a passage of a book with someone who doesn't own that book, as verified through a third-party DRM system? Good luck! Readers will have to fight for those kinds of features. And perhaps we'll eventually win. But for right now, the bookloggers that Johnson speaks of are only two letters away from how the publishing industry might label them: bootleggers.

    Monday, April 20, 2009

    ...and the Pulitzer goes to...

    This year's winners. I regret to say I'm not familiar with the winners in the fiction or drama categories, but wins for Jon Meacham and Eugene Robinson mean that MSNBC's Morning Joe should be even more self-congratulatory than usual for a couple of weeks.

    "But I hope she finds out."

    NP as a symbol of America's promise. (Edmonton Sun)

    "I think Natalie Portman is the best America has to offer, the ideal that America has to offer," said k-os, who sampled Phantom Planet's California on the song.

    "I think it's my subversive thing on, 'Go south, Kevin.' I was afraid of America for a long time. When I toured, I opened for a band called Gym Class Heroes, and it was the first time I went to Alabama, Oklahoma, New Orleans. It blew my mind because I had considered myself a fairly well-read, intelligent person (but I ) had all these preconcieved notions about America based on press and I was meeting amazing people every time, every night, so that and Obama becoming president, totally made me cut ties with fear of America. So I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman over this California beat is kind of like I'm ready to sort of immerse myself in that. Maybe it's not really necessarily about being a superfan of a beautiful woman."

    Monday Music: Wilco - "Monday"

    I know I tend to go a bit heavy on the Wilco, but the new live DVD is worth every penny and I'm eagerly anticipating the next album in June. Enjoy.....

    Sunday, April 19, 2009

    Dept. of Social Networking Freak Outs #2

    From the NYT, a classist diatribe against the use of Twitter. If you're Twittering or know how many Facebook friends you have, it's apparently because you have no chance of ever making anything out of your life.

    The implications of Sterling’s idea are painful for Twitter types. The connections that feel like wealth to many of us — call us the impoverished, we who treasure our smartphones and tally our Facebook friends — are in fact meager, more meager even than inflated dollars. What’s worse, these connections are liabilities that we pretend are assets. We live on the Web in these hideous conditions of overcrowding only because — it suddenly seems so obvious — we can’t afford privacy. And then, lest we confront our horror, we call this cramped ghetto our happy home!

    Friday, April 17, 2009

    What's up with the What

    An interview with Dave Eggers on his activism in Sudan and on other fronts; there's no mention of his writing efforts on the upcoming Where The Wild Things Are and Away We Go. (Wag's Revue/Kottke)

    Thursday, April 16, 2009

    At Least That's What You Said

    Wilco in concert. (Muzzle of Bees)

    “Hemispheres” or “Diver Down” - A few (false) hints were dropped from stage about the title of the upcoming LP7 from Wilco. Jeff threw out “Hemispheres” (twice) and “Diver Down.” I’d say it’s safe to assume that unless “Tom Sawyer” or “Jump” make their way into their catalog that we’re still in the dark as to the title.

    De La Decades

    A two part oral history of the making of De La Soul's 3 Feet High And Rising,which turns 20 this year. This is what they sounded like in 1989 on the Arsenio Hall show. (HipHop)

    Posdnous (De La Soul): We were the same kids who had every Kool G Rap album, every Rakim song, all the early Juice Crew stuff. We loved Run-DMC, knew every lyric to Criminal Minded. We were just fans of the music. Whatever was out at that time, that's what we were on, hardcore or not. But regardless of what we were into, we always were all about what we were gonna do when we ever got the chance to get out there. It wasn't like we thought to ourselves, 'We're gonna try our best and make sure we come out as different as possible from what's out,' it's just that it was the natural way how we were. We had the funk and soul from Mase's side, the calypso and soul from Dave's side, and my father's jazz and blues and soul and gospel side, and we just put that all together with our own influences.

    Words from the Prince

    I didn't think my posting would be down this much. Anyway, musician/actor Will Oldham has some definite thoughts about music in movies and about Wes Anderson in particular: (AV Club)

    Well, for a while, it seemed like you were always seeing movies where all the music was determined by the music supervisors and their special relationships with certain record labels. And I just felt like, “Wow, I’ll bet they spent months or years writing this screenplay, and I’ll bet they spent months shooting this, and I’ll bet they spent months editing this, and now they’re spending no time at all picking these completely inappropriate songs with lyrics to put under a scene that has dialogue.” How does that even work? How can you have a song with someone singing lyrics under spoken dialogue and consider that mood-music, or supportive of the storyline? As somebody who likes music, when that happens, I tend to listen to the lyrics, which have nothing to do with the movie. And then I’m lost in the storyline. Not only is that a crime, but it’s a crime not to give people who are good at making music for movies the work. It’s like saying, “We don’t need you, even though you’re so much better at it than I am as a music supervisor.” Like the cancer that is that Darjeeling guy… what’s his name?

    There's more on Anderson, trust me. I also liked this on the amount of background information we need with our movies and music:

    Again, when you leave the theater after watching a movie like Milk, there should be a lot going on inside you. And if the first thing that you do is sit down and get that weird little facsimile of an important piece of information, some part of you is going to be satisfied—quieted—by that weird little bit of insider knowledge. And what a terrible place for your satisfaction to lie, when it should or could lie in something, I don’t know, that might benefit somebody else, or might benefit you tomorrow, rather than just in this five minutes today when you feel like “Oh, that was the real camera shop. Neat.” I mean that’s the kind of thing that could be neat to know in five years, if you work in film or you work in progressive civil rights for homosexuals, and in casual conversation someone says, “Oh yeah, in the movie Milk, that was actually Harvey Milk’s camera shop.” That’s when it’s a valid piece of information. But not when it’s just in a magazine article or on an IMDB page.

    Tuesday, April 14, 2009

    Delusions of...

    What if Anna Faris's "Why are you stopping..." line in Observe and Report was another character's delusion? (Greencine)

    Now, why didn't it occur to me this would strike most people as date rape? Mainly because Brandi isn't a real person. Observe and Report is incoherent in a lot of ways—it's fatally unclear on what's funny and what's unsettling, to the point that I suspect not even writer/director Jody Hill knows most of the time—but Ronnie's characterization is clear and psychologically unified: he's violent and bipolar, but he thinks he's a good guy. No one else in the movie gets that kind of treatment: they're all caricatures to varying extremes, as is Brandi. Everyone in the film is more or less presented in the warped way Ronnie perceives them from his delusional P.O.V., and that goes double for this encounter. It's hard to take things seriously when Anna Faris slays with her finest bubblehead act.

    What, no Starbuck?

    A review of the pilot of the BSG spin-off Caprica, out on DVD next month. (Televisionary)

    In Caprica, we're seeing the seeds of that destruction as we witness the birth of the Centurions, a military project overseen by defense contractor Daniel Greystone (Eric Stoltz), a brilliant inventor responsible for the creation of holoband technology, a virtual reality module that allows the users to escape their mundane lives to experience, well, anything they desire. It's a technology that, like most things, has been corrupted by its users, which include Caprica's jaded teenage population, including Daniel's genius daughter Zoe (Alessandra Toreson) and her friends Lacy Rand (Magda Apanowicz) and Ben Stark (Avan Jogia).

    This post contains no carbs

    Scarlett Johansson takes to the blogs in an effort to use tabloid coverage of her weight for a good cause. (HuffPo)

    While training for an upcoming film, I've come to this conclusion: chin ups are near impossible and lunges suck. There is no magic wand to wave over oneself to look good in a latex catsuit. Eating healthy and getting fit is about commitment, determination, consistency and the dedication to self-preservation. While I've never been considered a gym rat, I have, in fact, worked up a sweat in the name of cardio before, and although I enjoy a grilled cheese as much as the next person, I combine the not-so-good foods I crave with an all-around balanced diet.

    #amazonfail aftermath

    So an apology of sorts has been issued and an explanation given. But is it enough, and do we know the real story? (Cheryl's Mewsings)

    I don’t for a minute believe that an evil wingnut hacker was responsible. I know it is all very dramatic, and people on the left seem to love any story that portrays them as victims, but I’m pretty sure we’d have heard about it long ago, and for different reasons, if Amazon’s systems were that vulnerable. Not do I believe that this was a deliberate policy on behalf of Amazon’s senior management. It could have been a deliberate act of an individual employee; there’s a story that it was the fault of a French employee who misunderstood nuances of English; or it could just have been a screw-up. We may never know.

    Once this happened, people started to complain. They may well have got the standard, canned response about “adult” content. That’s because the people dealing with customer complaints initially had no way of knowing that something awful had happened and were simply following their script.

    Monday, April 13, 2009

    Dept. of Unnecessary Spoiler Alerts

    So if you haven't seen Observe and Report yet and you want to, stay away from this post that goes beyond the date rape imbroglio to examine the craziness behind some of the film's assumptions. (Cine File)

    It’s almost as if the film shares its character’s delusions. As they become more and more severe, Hill becomes more and more indulgent, even to the point where he seems to buy into Barnhardt’s belief in his own superhuman physical capabilities. In one scene, the security guard, who has aspirations to become a policeman, weasels his way into a ride-along with an unwitting officer and as punishment for his unwanted presence, the cop drops him off at the city’s most notorious crack spot and drives away. Threatened with a gun to the head by a local dealer, Barnhardt manages to not only escape from the bind, but to kill three men and bring in a child dealer on a citizen’s arrest. Again, since the scene is mostly played for laughs, we may be expected to indulge the director in a certain suspension of disbelief, but the action is so farfetched and the film, despite its comic orientation, so darkly attuned to character that this bit of “heroism” seems less like a plausible event in the film’s reality and more a fantasy playing out in Barnhardt’s head.

    Sunday, April 12, 2009

    Grab bag

  • Sunshine Cleaning boasts two leads (Amy Adams and Emily Blunt)I'd watch in just about anything, but the movie itself doesn't stray too far from the formulaic. Adams is the ex-high school cheerleader who hits upon the idea of a crime scene cleanup business to help send her son to private school and Blunt her "edgy" sister who tags along to help out. There's never too much doubt that healing and life lessons will be provided for the entire family (including Alan Arkin as the girls' dad); the optimism of Adams's character needed something rougher to rub against, more could have been made of a rival cleaning business that's brought up and disappears. Blunt has some fun with her role and has a nice chemistry with Mary Lynn Rajskub as a woman related to one of the victims of a crime the sisters must clean up. Must it all lead up to confronting the pain of their mother's suicide? Worth seeing for Blunt and Adams.

  • Maybe I'll write more about Synedoche, New York, but for now I'll just say that the directorial debut by the beloved Charlie Kaufman is an exceptionally dour piece of wankery that seems to call into question a number of the attitudes about life and the possibility of connection that Kaufman introduced in earlier scripts. A large cast is given far too little to do, with Jennifer Jason Leigh, Emily Watson, and Dianne Wiest being especially ill-used.

  • Amazon Rank!
  • Sunday Music: Radiohead - "15 Step"

    From 2006. The YouTube page for this video says it's their first live performance of the song.


    Why do Internet companies do stupid things?(net.effect)

    Thus, I can't reasonably explain what good Amazon expected to gain by removing sales ranking data from all LGBT books that it sells. All it did was to fuel a Twitter-swarm that is now ripping Amazon apart (not surprisingly, using a shared Twitter tag of "#amazonfail"). Even though LGBT books are not singled out by the company's policy and are included as part of the "adult" category, I thought that a company like Amazon - weren't they supposed be the powerhouse of tags and labels, the emperor in the kingdom of the miscellany, the master of the new digital disorder?- would know the value of tags as emotional symbols and wouldn't stupidly insist on a policy, which, to say the least, is misguided and belongs to the pre-digital world. It's as if they didn't know that anyone armed with Amazon's own search engine would discover those books within seconds anyway - why even bother with removing sales ranking? This is no longer a physical vault, where stealing the catalog would leave people without access to the books they need...

    But deranking Lady Chatterley's Lover, seriously? What year is this, 1928?

    George Singleton

    I'm pleased to announce that novelist George Singleton has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. George is a faculty member at the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts here in Greenville and a friend from my days managing a bookstore. (He's also the only person ever to send me a drink in a restaurant, but it's not what you think) Other winners include Wendy and Lucy director Kelly Reichardt. Full list

    Amazon goes crazy

    There's controversy brewing over Amazon's decision to strip "adult" products of their sales ranking. It is looking like a disproportionate number of gay and lesbian themed titles are affected, and blogs and Twitter are buzzing. I'm removing my Amazon links from the right hand column; is anyone up for ordering something from Powell's?

    UPDATE - One blogger's efforts to Google Bomb Amazon Rank

    Do the Shuffle #29

  • Yo La Tengo - Did I Tell You
  • The National - Looking For Astronauts
  • Whiskeytown - Dancing With the Women at the Bar
  • Lyle Lovett - Who Loves You Better
  • Scarlett Johansson - Falling Down
  • Ryan Adams - Oh My God, Whatever, Etc.
  • Radiohead - 15 Steps
  • Wilco - I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
  • R.E.M. - Losing My Religion
  • M. Ward - For Beginners
  • The Jayhawks - Tampa to Tulsa

    Miscellaneous Fact: I deleted the playlist before I could add up the minutes.
  • Saturday, April 11, 2009


    The recent New Yorker piece on Duplicity writer/director Tony Gilroy celebrated Gilroy's love of "reversals," those moments in a movie when your understanding of what you're watching is completely inverted. Gilroy's script for Michael Clayton was a tasting menu compared to his Duplicity, which takes bluffs and misunderstandings to an almost absurd height somehow without losing coherence or narrative energy.

    A film this dense needs an engaging center and in Clive Owen and Julia Roberts Gilroy gets two capital-M movie stars in good form. I've never gone out of my way to be a Julia Roberts fan. It's too easy to say Erin Brockovich is my favorite Roberts film; it's probably her best but I prefer the superficial pleasures of Notting Hill and even her scenes with James Gandolfini in The Mexican. Roberts genuinely surprised me in Duplicity; she hits reserves of bitterness and suppressed longing that I suspect may even transcend what was on the page. She's matched by an unexpectedly light Owen, and their late scene together in the Zurich airport is a minuet of finally acknowledged passion. The actors (including Paul Giamatti as an insecure CEO and Denis O'Hare as a corporate spy) give Duplicity its heart but it's Gilroy's control of information that prevents it from being another Ocean's 11. There isn't a wasted moment, which is quite a feat for a 2 hour plus movie.

    Every flashback and repetition of dialogue in Duplicity has meaning, but as pleasant as the ride is it's the payoff that disappoints. Parts of Michael Clayton may have been set in deep Law & Order territory but that film had a specificity of place that Duplicity never achieves. There's an airless quality that's ultimately frustrating and it was difficult for me to imagine Owen and Roberts's characters existing outside the movie. I'm sold on Gilroy's command of structure and narrative process (the film is better plotted than Michael Clayton in my view) and Duplicity looks great, but next time out I'd like to see him give his characters a little room to breathe.

    New site alert

    A place to go for reviews and discussion of books new and old. (Second Pass)

    Dear Readers,

    Over the past couple of years, as newspapers throughout the country have cut back on books coverage, there’s been a great deal of hand-wringing in the critical community about the future of reviews. I have attended more than one panel dedicated to the subject, and despite some distinguished, eloquent participants, these get-togethers are ultimately ineffectual affairs. The extinction of book pages are just another sign of the extinction of newspapers themselves, which are likely to keep folding at a healthy pace in years to come. This is not something I celebrate. But even a relative Luddite such as myself (no BlackBerry, no Kindle, no Twittering) gets most of his shorter-form journalism online. I read the New York Times almost exclusively on a screen.

    Because Lists Are Cool

    10 Design Thinkers To Follow On Twitter. (Atherton Bartleby)

    I employ the completely made-up term “designer-ly” because not all of the individuals on my list are graphic designers. But since, as a designer myself, I always gravitate toward those thinkers and designers who speak on a variety of topics (because, really, design inspiration can come from anywhere), I decided to highlight those individuals whose content inspires me. I also tried to select “designer-ly” Twitterers who maintain impressive blogs and / or websites, as well, and whose Twitter streams augment their excellent thoughts on design, art, or technology as presented in their forums that go well beyond Twitter’s 140 character confines. Lastly, I sought to focus on those thinkers who tend to be more engaging with their followers on Twitter, and not only follow / engage with the “Twitter Design Elite”; I am not criticizing those who do this, but I personally get more out of following design thinkers when they actively engage with their audiences.

    Thursday, April 09, 2009

    ...and Mississippi is last...

    Electoral math guru nate Silver thinks the next 15 years will see the end of gay marriage bans nationwide. (FiveThirtyEight/Kottke)

    Marriage bans, however, are losing ground at a rate of slightly less than 2 points per year. So, for example, we'd project that a state in which a marriage ban passed with 60 percent of the vote last year would only have 58 percent of its voters approve the ban this year.

    All of the other variables that I looked at -- race, education levels, party registration, etc. -- either did not appear to matter at all, or became redundant once we accounted for religiosity. Nor does it appear to make a significant difference whether the ban affected marriage only, or both marriage and civil unions.

    In The Arcade

    A review of a new Arcade Fire documentary; it and the above performance of the song "Haiti" (not from the DVD)make me want to revisit the band's first album. (Pretty Much Amazing)

    For a minute during the film, I clicked away to type up some notes for my review, choosing to just listen to the song. But I realized this was a big mistake- the music is only a part of Miroir Noir; the beautiful images that Morisset chooses to shoot during the concert are just as important. Take, for instance, the crowd being lit up at the climax of “No Cars Go,” or seeing, from behind, Regine chanting the triumphant “ooos” from “Haiti,” or watching the camera focus entirely on Will Butler, Win’s younger brother, as he pounds away at his drum- or whatever else he can find. At the particular concert I was at, on Randall’s Island, Butler climbed a pole like King Kong, and proceeded to bang it with his drumstick AND drum set. Thankfully, Moon captures this moment too.

    Facebook is now friends with ads

    A Facebook executive dresses up the company's ad-related strategy in lots of fancy tech speak and maybe accidentally reveals what that redesign was all about. (Rough Type)

    Because the realtime stream broadcasts all interpersonal communications among the members of one's "active network," Sandberg says, it leads to "greater connectedness" across the network, which also greatly expands "the ability for people to influence one another with more speed and efficiency." By "people," Sandberg means, of course, "advertisers." She explains: "Our Engagement Ads on the home page allow you to take common activities like commenting, RSVPing for an event or giving a virtual gift directly in the ad. If any of your friends have already taken an action, that appears in the ad as well. We've found that interaction with those ads increases 50 percent when someone sees a friend's action, such as a comment."

    If you must write prose and poems....

    The making of Morrissey, courtesy of Margaret Thatcher and Mr. Johnny Marr. (Slate/photo by Louise Wilson)

    That was May of 1982. By January '83, the Smiths were gigging. At their second show, in a Manchester club called the Manhattan, Morrissey concluded the evening by reaching into his back pocket and raining confetti on a delirious crowd. The following May, the band released its first single, "Hand in Glove." It's a solid debut but nothing compared with November's "This Charming Man," one of a handful of perfect A-sides ever produced by such a freshly formed band. Marr's guitar attack is angular, like post-punk, but also graciously melodic; Morrissey's singing has fully evolved, from the nondescript droning of "Hand In Glove," into … well, into Morrissey. "I would go out tonight/ But I haven't got a stitch to we-eeear. …" No band had ever sounded so good so quickly. The song has not aged a day, and when I listen to it, neither have I. How did it come together so exquisitely?

    Worst Blog Post of the Day #5

    I'm hardly the first to link to this Vanity Fair blog of a Brooklyn performance art piece, but the sheer provincialism of it is almost worthy of Blair Waldorf. To wit:

    So on Tuesday night, I boarded the L train (heading away from the West Village) and made my way to hipsterville. I’d heard from my more global friends that Brooklyn is a charming borough inhabited by cool young families, gourmet cheese shops, and creative intellectuals. It has parks! And trees! And slow walkers aren’t mowed down on the sidewalk! But I’m what you might call a bona fide Manhattanite. Or, to be more precise, a bona fide Upper East Sider. I’ve traveled the world, I said to myself—how exotic could Brooklyn really be?

    Dept. of Evolving Standards

    A popular news site has some work to do on the way it links and attributes material to independent bloggers. (Waxy)

    Metafilter creator Matt Haughey's response was similar, after his article on social media was featured shortly afterwards. "This is weird, apparently the Wall Street Journal's All Things D does a reblogging thing," he wrote on his sideblog. "I sure wish they asked me first though. That's a hell of a lot of ads on my 'excerpt.'" Matt also pointed out the existence of comments makes things problematic. "If they're just trying to drive traffic to articles, why have comments on excerpts? That makes no sense to me."

    Tuesday, April 07, 2009

    Top Ten

    The re-mixed version of Pearl Jam's Ten puts the band in context with regard to "grunge." (Acts of Volition/Kottke)

    To be clear, these are not remixes as in "m4tr1x RaVe Ed1ti0n", they are remixed in the true sense of the world. O'Brien mixed down the album as he would if he were to record the album today, with all of the skill, taste, and equipment developed since the original release.

    Monday, April 06, 2009

    Dept. of Critical Drum-Banging

    Glenn Kenny also likes Adventureland, digs Kristen Stewart, and is clever enough to look past the superficial similarities to broader films. (Some Came Running)

    And there's one of the rubs about Adventureland; one of its many aspects that puts it a whole bunch of cuts above less considered, more studiedly "nice" fare—the character of Em, the fellow amusement-park worker James falls for and forms a sometimes rather tentative affinity with. While her stature and relatively infrequent smile evoke "pixie" somewhat, the character is hardly manic; indeed, actress Kristen Stewart, giving a remarkably calibrated performance, gives Em very sleepy eyes a fair amount of the time. (All the kids in this picture are really into pot, as who wouldn't be at such a summer job with no drug tests?) The last thing Em is out to do is "save" James, although she's intrigued by both his honesty and his virginal condition; she just wants a good guy to hang with. A good guy who maybe, not coincidentally, might be able to serve as an escape hatch from the screwed-up amorous situation she's already trapped in.

    Sean Burns in the Philadelphia Weekly said the picture "at times feels like a John Hughes movie directed by Francois Truffaut," and as odd as that might sound, he's on to something. Mottola's frequent use of blackouts—a Truffaut touch Robert Benton also lifted for Kramer Vs. Kramer—is one example. Another is his treatment of Em and her storyline, which is subordinate to James' but is treated with as much scrupulousness. Mottola gives us just enough of Em's backstory to let the audience know her situation's a bad one, but never bends over backwards or try to rationalize how this essentially good and smart person has made at least a couple of fundamentally bad and dumb choices. Mottola will often end a scene of Em's home life by merely letting it hang, not giving us the fully-resolved blowouts that seem to be required in mainstream American character studies. As a result, what we don't hear being said has a peculiar resonance.

    Theatre in 25 Years

    Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency) on what theater may look like in the year 2034:

    What do I hope will happen? I hope producers will get brave again and decide that it's all right to use an actual stage actor or "theatre star" for their next show—that it will be okay to use someone who's not a household name, but instead to make one. I hope there'll be no more casting of Celestial Beings (who've maybe never seen the boards before, forget sending a voice to the back row) so they can work near their spouse or their vet. I know people in this city (people without health insurance) who are so talented that if they let out on stage an inkling of what they had, it might cause a Times Square brownout or a government investigation into hidden WMDs! Twenty weeks of work, one year of coverage—for many, accomplishing that is rare. I hope that changes. I hope Broadway stops being a reality-show consolation prize.

    More responses here. (TCG)

    Remember, you are paying Bezos's electric bill

    Reservations about the Kindle. To be fair, this is taken from a longer post expressing great satisfaction with the practicality of the Kindle 2. (Whole Lotta Nothing)

    I'll admit my biggest problem with the Kindle is imaginary. I have to say that I trust Amazon and I love books, and the Kindle is the most convenient device on earth for any book lover, but deep down, I know it's a dangerously convenient device. There's a central point of control (Amazon, which I trust to do the right thing for now, but in the future, who knows), there is DRM, it isn't the most open device (PDF support can be shaky), and you can't really share e-books with anyone like you can an actual book. I say this as a book lover -- I have walls of bookshelves and I love to loan stuff to friends, and I love that my nightstand no longer is crowded with a dozen titles stacked next to it, but I fear for some future 10 years from now where libraries suffer from people no longer having huge amounts of physical books to donate and share, or something awful happening to Amazon and books being banned from the device, or even if the central servers fail and I lose my fake electronic books. I wish there were more free public domain options and I wasn't just lining Amazon's pockets any time I pick up the device.

    Sunday, April 05, 2009


    I happened on Say Anything this morning while flipping channels and as usual paused to watch a portion of one of those films that, if you saw it at the right time in your life, made you feel a little better about being a sensitive nonconformist. As I compose my thoughts about Greg Mottola's Adventureland, the film I saw this afternoon, the chance encounter with Say Anything proves a unexpectedly inspiring bit of luck. Say Anything was released in 1987; director Cameron Crowe was beginning his transition from underaged rock journalist to Oscar-winning filmmaker and the world was ready for an optimistic teen comedy about the relationship between a sweetly goofy dropout and Ione Skye's adorable do-gooder. (What a performance by John Mahoney by the way, but that's a topic for another post) Adventureland is set in 1987; its hero James (Jesse Eisenberg) is a slightly older but perhaps more naive version of Cusack's Lloyd Dobler.

    In the summer of 1987 being a virgin with a liberal arts degree and parents who had screwed up their careers wasn't that fun. When his parents are unable to fund a pre-grad school trip to Europe Jams is forced to take a job at a rundown carnival called Adventureland. His coworkers are a collection of burnouts with the exception of the cynical but good-hearted Joel (Martin Starr), hot-to-trot Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva) and NYU undergrad Em (Kristen Stewart), with whom James quickly becomes infatuated. James is an honorable if slightly clueless guy who's honestly unaware of most of the erotic intrigue going on around him; his speech about why he didn't take advantage of a chance to sleep with an earlier girlfriend (it has to do with a Shakespeare sonnet) is one of the movie's funniest moments. Em is darker and more complicated creation and it's to Mottola and Stewart's credit that apparently no one was interested in making her a Garden State/Elizabethtown-style Manic Pixie Dream Girl. (Though the site of her in a Husker Du T-shirt does have a restorative effect on James) Em is just realizing her power to hurt and her ability to be hurt, and when James discovers her affair with maintenance man Connell (Ryan Reynolds, good enough here for me to put my unexplainable visceral hatred of him on hold) it seems his idyllic summer of pot smoking and making out with Em will turn into an unpleasant memory.

    Adventureland is being marketed as a teen comedy based on Mottola's success with Superbad, but its laughs are laughs of recognition as opposed to crudeness. Mottola does two things that comedies about people in their late teens/early 20s usually don't do: he grounds the story in some kind of economic reality and doesn't let his characters forget that the way people behave towards each other has consequences, as when James's date with Lisa P pushes Em back towards Connell. James and Em aren't an obvious couple at first, but Eisenberg gives James just enough self-confidence to make the pairing believable and Stewart cements her post-Twilight status as the go-to actress for "Young Everywoman unaware of her own hotness" roles. There are plenty of movies about graduating from one stage of life to another, but far fewer about the time spent stuck between stations (Hold Steady reference unintentional). The quiet triumph of Adventureland is its ability to capture the mood of the time when your parents start to feel like strangers (there's a brief scene involving James's father and a liquor bottle that's heartbreaking) and that sound you hear is your childhood comfort zone falling apart. The ending will surprise few but that's OK; in Adventureland summer ends but life goes on.

    Sunday Music: Alex Chilton/Yo La Tengo - "Femme Fatale"

    Just saw and loved Adventureland, so it's a good excuse to get Yo La Tengo back into Sunday Music. The work of Lou Reed also plays a key role in the movie, so here's a cover from '07 with Alex Chilton.

    Saturday, April 04, 2009

    Do the Shuffle #28

  • Lyle Lovett - I Can't Love You Anymore
  • Van Morrison - Lifetimes
  • Smashing Pumpkins - G.L.O.W. (why did I download this?)
  • Dan Auerbach - When The Night Comes
  • M.I.A. - Paper Planes
  • Fiona Apple - Shadowboxer
  • Conor Oberst - I Don't Want To Die (in a Hospital)
  • Robert Forster - If It Rains
  • Josh Ritter - To The Dogs Or Whoever (live)
  • Kathleen Edwards - 12 Bellevue

    Total Songs/Minutes (approx.): 10/37
    Miscellaneous Facts: This playlist is a little shorter than usual because I was running instead of walking - for some of it. Let's just say my new iPod armband got more of a workout than my running shoes.
  • Quick notice

    I've just started a new theatrical project, so posting for the next few weeks may be a little lighter than usual. I'll try to keep an eye on current movies and some music releases while looking towards the end of the TV season and summer blockbusters.

    Friday, April 03, 2009

    4th gear

    I'm not too proud to admit that Fast & Furious is on my to see list for this weekend, even if it's behind Adventureland and the still unseen Duplicity. I'm also not too proud to admit that my main interest in the film is Michelle Rodriguez, whose blunt instrument acting style would surely shift the balance of power on Lost this year. This review makes it sound like F&F is about what I'm expecting. (National Review)

    Like all the previous films in the series, Fast & Furious plays out as a crude parody of urban masculinity. It’s packed with violence, cars, buff bods, bravado, and babes, and, whenever possible, it tries to have all at once. The various permutations result in a film that essentially has only three types of scenes: car races and chases, macho one-upmanship between competing alpha males, and sultry flirtations with scantily clad young women. (Sample male-female exchange: “Something interesting about this car?” “Just examining the body work.”) All of this is cut to a thumping rock and hip-hop soundtrack, and interspersed with what seem to be more or less random shots of sub-Maxim model flesh (the film’s title actually blinks rapidly in and out of shots of gyrating female bodies). As gender roles go, the film’s not breaking any barriers: Women are almost exclusively treated as objects, and the only one with something like a real role is continually shown buying and preparing meals for the two male leads.

    Thursday, April 02, 2009

    Arthur Phillips

    I loved Arthur Phillips' novel Prague when I read it a few years ago and upon reading his Living With Music post was reminded I haven't read his other stuff. As the author of a screenplay about a musician and the man who (almost) falls for her, I was especially interested to read: (Paper Cuts)

    For the past two and a half years, I’ve been writing a novel about a singer-songwriter and the iPod-obsessed man who falls in love with her. As a result, I’ve spent months snuffling like an aroused beagle through my music collection, trying to find the right songs to put in her mouth and his ears. Their musical taste, not surprisingly, hews quite close to my own. Some of the music that ended up in the novel is in this iTunes playlist.

    Buy now -

    Prague: A Novel

    From Within and Without

    A bit too much inside tech baseball in this post on Twitter, but the point seems to be that:

    But what the pundits don’t know is something we do: the more we are challenged about the value of our intuitive meanderings, the more we know how lucrative they are becoming. Over and over again, these systems are bending to our will, ill-defined, untamed, irrational, whatever.

    I agree. Twitter, Blip, and the next social networking site du jour will rise or fall on how effectively they adapt to a host of yet unimagined needs and not because of marketing or VC funding. The future is us. (TechCrunchIT)

    Artists' playground

    Will artists be the biggest beneficiaries of the economic crisis? (Renegade Futurist)

    The arts community isn’t just moving into one downtrodden urban neighborhood; rather, they’re taking on the ruins of the unsustainable. They’re taking on big box stores, shopping malls, and grid-connected homes in the car capitol of North America. And they’re not just creating new art. They’re seizing the opportunity to turn old shells of buildings into independent, renewable energy-powered, 21st century-ready spaces.

    DFW annotated

    if you read the recent long New Yorker piece on David Foster Wallace then this attempt to annotate the article Wallace-style may be unnecessary, but it will be a quick catch-up for those unfamiliar with Wallace's abbreviated life and career. (The Rumpus)

    26. Some of Wallace’s notes on endnotes:

    “He explained that endnotes ‘allow . . . me to make the primary-text an easier read while at once 1) allowing a discursive, authorial intrusive style w/o Finneganizing the story, 2) mimic the information-flood and data-triage I expect’d be an even bigger part of US life 15 years hence. 3) have a lot more technical/medical verisimilitude 4) allow/make the reader go literally physically ‘back and forth’ in a way that perhaps cutely mimics some of the story’s thematic concerns . . . 5) feel emotionally like I’m satisfying your request for compression of text without sacrificing enormous amounts of stuff.’”

    “He was known for endlessly fracturing narratives and for stem-winding sentences adorned with footnotes that were themselves stem-winders. Such techniques originally had been his way of reclaiming language from banality, while at the same time representing all the caveats, micro-thoughts, meta-moments, and other flickers of his hyperactive mind.”

    Wednesday, April 01, 2009

    Paul Williams

    A pioneering rock journalist (who's also Philip K. Dick's literary executor) needs your help. (Boing Boing)

    Build the house, then decorate it

    Playwright Theresa Rebeck likes plot and doesn't care who knows it. (LA Times/Adam Szymkowicz)

    I seem to be constantly confronted by theater professionals who are more or less annoyed by the prospect of structure. One time I was at a wedding reception, for crying out loud, and I got seated at a table with a really famous genius of the contemporary American theater who had directed a play I admired. He had deconstructed a well-known play but the essence of the original story was still there, and the artistry and strangeness of his interpretation was beautifully balanced within the original tale. When I told him so, he went into a drunken rage. "All that structure, all that story," he growled, pouring himself more wine. "What a nightmare."

    "I love structure," I confessed. "I think it's beautiful."

    "Yeah, the audience loved it too," he sneered.

    OK, I condensed that conversation; there was actually more yelling and drinking involved. But the essence of the exchange is accurate: He was a great artist who looked down on structure and managed to admit that he looked down on the audience too.