Sunday, January 31, 2016

Further adventures in ???

Sadly, January passes without a Final Song. Soon enough there should be another one.

Welcome To Devils Island from Lana Connors on Vimeo.

Yeah, I don't know what this is about either. But somehow I dug it.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Walkin' after midnight, searching for you

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is an unusual horror movie in a few ways.

For one, it apparently aspires to look like Prince's Under the Cherry Moon. Well, that might not actually be the model. But it does evoke the era circa 1986-89 when rock videos classed up by going monochrome. Its black and white is much more reminiscent of old MTV than old(er) movies. My speculation on the reasons for that in a minute.

It does not really have a lot of jump scares. The direct cause of this absence is that the vampire is also the protagonist. You could call her the hero, even. With one apparent exception her attacks are on behalf of wronged women.

Still, while there's not a lot of shock horror, the film maintains a very eerie atmosphere in its unusual urban setting.

The third quality that sets it apart is that the dialogue is in Persian. This despite the fact that it was shot entirely in California, and Elijah Wood is one of the producers. Its setting of Bad City is both an American and an Iranian one, really taking place in a world of symbolism.

Due to its content, this is not a film that could have been shot in Iran in its current political state. But I feel it was made for Iran. This is a movie made to be secretly traded as a bootleg in places it's not supposed to be. That's the reason for the rock video aesthetics. It's part of the tradition.

I like that, because while America's successful movies are exported all over the world, we don't often take the trouble to talk to other peoples on their own terms.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Matt Fraction is an interesting comics writer. He wrote a too-short-lived Marvel book called FF, about a handpicked substitute group that watched over the Fantastic Four's property while they were away.

He also turns out to be a pretty sharp film critic, here analyzing a memorable but somewhat controversial scene in the Coens' Fargo.
It doesn’t come immediately after the Mike Yanigata scene (there’s José Feliciano, sex, violence, a box of money, and a red ice scraper before we get there) and, like that scene, it feels weird at first blush: “Hey remember that funny scene a few minutes ago? Yeah that guy was even sadder and creepier than he appeared. Ha ha! Can’t believe you fell for that.”

It lets us know, though, that Marge pushing the guy out of her booth and back to his own wasn’t remotely selfish or unkind. Her evil detector pinged. She forced the bad guy out of the frame. 
A few people have expressed bafflement to me over what the Mike Yanigata scene was doing in the movie. While I never objected to it, I had a hard time coming up with a straight answer. He does come off as manipulative, in a way that men would do well to memorize with a "don't be like this" warning appended. Adding him to the mix as a demonstration of Marge's policewoman instinct is a move of sneaky brilliance.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The long haul

I heard - overheard, the conversation had started when I got there - a bus driver saying that he gets up at 3:20 in the morning. I had to ask to make sure I'd heard that right. But he was used to it because he'd been a long haul trucker before that. Trucking is a notoriously weird and disorienting job, and you can see why.

He also said that he knew a bus driver who kept a six pack in the trunk of his bus. Thereby hangs another tale.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Whiteout weekend

I have a theory that when it snows on the weekend, everybody goes into emergency shutdown mode much quicker.A storm is a storm, but it gets inflated. No one really wants to work on Saturday anyway.

This past one was a string of little inconveniences. Some places never opened, like the library. Others closed early sometimes before I could get there and sometimes not, but when not I was cutting it close a lot.

A Meetup I was in on wound up not happening, but I only found out when I realized I was the only one there.

Of course looking at other parts of the country, hung up by much larger snowstorms than they're used to, and with a few fatalities, it becomes clear. Not only are thse First World problems, even some others in the First World have it wrose.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Old friends

I recently started William Browning Spencer's Résumé with Monsters and I figure I'll finish it soon. It's not long, and perversely fun.

The Old Gods of H.P. Lovecraft have their part to play in it. But here's another thing. The protagonist is named "Philip Kenan", which made me think right away of Philip Kindred Dick. And the book has the feel of his work as well. Bleak hallucination bleeds into bleak reality.

There could be some Raymond Carver influence as well. Or at any rate someone who's practiced the art of writing about shit jobs.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Posters, people

Direct your attention to an interesting story on anartist's progress. Mark Grotjahn had already started on his art career when he, in essence, went back and became an apprentice sign painter.
Painters often go through a phase of not painting in order to make their way back to it. Grotjahn's way back to painting began in a conceptual discourse on the function of painting itself, how it communicates, where, to whom, and possible processes open to it. Donald Judd memorably wrote that the chief challenge for any artist is to find “the concatenation that will grow.” Meaning, a chain of abstract ideas that can produce things the artist cannot predict, and that can sustain an artist for a lifetime and grow. That's what this exhibition shows us: a fabulous lesson for young artists looking to buck rigid artistic structures and find their own art.
I'm not, I must confess, real familiar with Grotjahn as a painter, only having seen a few works. So I don't really have a verdict on the worth of his work. But it is kind of cool that he's showing his roots, putting the broadsheets that inspired him out front there.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Good approach

I'll probably see Anomalisa at some point, because it looks interesting. I'm not in a big hurry, though. I respected Synecdoche, New York when I saw it, but watching it felt like holding a movie's hand all night and keeping it away from the knife drawer. (They say compassion is a virtue, but I don't have the time.)

I do, however, admire the way Burr starts his interview off here. Charlie Kaufman strikes me as a potentially difficult interview. Not necessarily someone who'd sabotage an interview - which some subjects do - but maybe someone who'd bail at the first sign of trouble. So asking his advice on a subject that has the potential to be embarrassing to the interviewer is a cunning move. It establishes a kind of equality between the three of them, and allows the conversation to flow in a more relaxed way.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The locked door

The branch library was closed today because it's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday. Which gives the people working there a three day weekend. Which might be good, I don't know. Two weeks ago it was closed Saturday because it was the day after New Year, and the Saturday before that because it was the day after Christmas. (Officially the US doesn't have Boxing Day.)

The thing about closing on the Saturday before a Monday holiday is a regular feature, although I'd forgotten about it. On regular weeks they're open six days a week, Sunday excluded, but with limited hours. So I have to wonder when you add in extended holidays does that make it hard to work forty hours a week, and also accrue personal vacation time?

Haven't heard any of them complain. And it's possible I'm just making up problems where none exist for anyone else because the closings kind of inconvenience me. But part of me is just genuinely curious.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Taking the plunge

During the summer I keep water in the fridge, not too surprisingly. If it's a little too cold coming out it will warm up within minutes.

Sometime during the fall I start leaving it out. And on a night like this one, drinking anything resembling ice water is pretty much unthinkable. In fact I'm sure there will be a few nights this winter where hot tea is the way to go, as far as getting in a little H2O.

Monday, January 11, 2016

A man who's left the world

Always, the camera loved him. It wasn't primarily a matter of looks. They were fine, even distinguished, but a little off. Nor was it the outlandish costumes, which came and went. The theatrical and mime training he underwent before breaking through helped. He knew which gestures would communicate the most.

But even that's not all. Underneath the flash and the dramatics you could detect a very human warmth, a quality that's almost impossible to fake.

That's part of what he brought to his music too. Things could get weird and they could get dark, While Diamond Dogs is sketchy as a concept album, the one thing to understand about it is "bad→worse." But there was always a heart beating within, if sometimes an angsty one. That may have been the secret to his success, and it's definitely worth remembering.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Johansen the living Doll

Today David Johansen turns sixty-six. The venerable New York showman led the classic New York Dolls and eventually reunited with a new lineup of the band. With the old one he co-wrote this memorable ditty.

Johansen has also performed as Buster Poindexter since the 1980s. In this guise he may be best known for his cover of Arrow's "Hot Hot Hot." That version is heard hear. Johansen/Poindexter does not appear, but I believe the video illustrates the good times that can be had to his music.
Maya Pallageez - Hot Hot Hot-HD from MissMayaPallageez on Vimeo.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Thai game

On advice from a trusted source, I'm currently reading Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl. It's quite enjoyable, for someone like me. Putting the plague-stricken dystopia 200 years into the future might be a little optimistic. Who knows?
There are four viewpoint characters. Three of them hail from Asian cultures: Native Thai, Malay Chinese, Japanese/artificial. The fourth is an Anglo-American businessman, Anderson Lake. As it happens, the character closest to my own culture is the one I have the least sympathy for. It's not like I have any special hostility toward my fellow whites. We are what we are. But Lake represents some unwelcome trends in real world economics. He's completely smug about this, against all evidence.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Motion sickness

There are ways in which I may not be suited to this modern age. Animated GIFs, for example. They bug me. I can deal with one here or there, but they show up everywhere. And more than one in a single blog post/article/message board is too much. I have a feeling something like this may have an interesting point, but I'm too distracted to get there.

What's the root of my aversion? GIFs never advance but never stop, either. They just repeat the same 3 second action over and over. And I've had periods where my mind has fallen into that kind of repetition. That's when I look for a way to get out of it. I'm certainly not going out to look for more.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Not so invisible

invisible cities animation from ceciliareeve on Vimeo.

Intriguing bit of animation here. Some parts of it remind me of Terry Gilliam's Python work, but overall it's a different experience.

I've actually read the book that inspired it. Seems to be a loose interpretation, but I'll have to reread it one of these days to remind myself. Calvino's a pretty intense pleasure.

Friday, January 1, 2016

The eyes have it

Just watched Wise Blood, a 1979 film directed by John Huston. Quite good, and very faithful to Flannery O'Connor's book as I recall it.

Brad Dourif is magnificently intense. This comes just a few years after he debuted as the ill-fated Billy Bibbit. in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. On the other hand, his career as psycho villain in the Rings movies and every sci-fi/paranormal TV show from 1990 on still lay in the future. As Hazel Motes, a veteran who protests a little too much at the existence of God, he's nasty to everyone and shows no sign of any sense of humor. The effect, of course, is hilarious.

Ned Beatty makes a good appearance too. Overall this is a bonanza for character acting.