Tuesday, August 18, 2009

BMFA

The first of these two songs has been on my mind lately.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

On Vacation

I'll resume blogging later this week. In the meantime, here's an acoustic rendition of the most underappreciated pop song of the past few years--The Guillemots' "Trains to Brazil":

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Homophobia

The Conservapedia entry on "fear of homophobia" may be the most homophobic thing ever written:
It may be speculated that the widespread response to labeling all who oppose homosexuals "homophobic" may itself be driven by an irrational fear of those who oppose them, in which homosexuals imagine that most or all of those who oppose them are motivated by irrational fears, and wish to do them harm, and from which type of people they must be especially protected. Homophobia has also been stated to be the real cause of AIDS[24] Such fears may explain the perception that "the nuclear family is a microcosm of the fascist state...", [25] and similar attacks on heteronormativity. It has also been stated by preeminent pro homosexual psychotherapist, John J. McNeill, that "Interiorized self-hatred is the sin of gay people, and we must learn to see it that way."

Uh, sic.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

EVERYTHING MATTERS!


Hello, person who stumbled upon this blog while investigating the epitaph in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. While you're here, permit me to recommend a book you (as a Vonnegut reader) will no doubt enjoy. You may even fall in love with it.

It's Everything Matters! by Ron Currie Jr. The book was published by Viking last summer, so it's still warm off the presses. And, though it has gotten far less than the attention it deserved, several critics named Everything Matters! in their year-end best lists. Also, E.M.! was nominated for a handful of literary awards, and its film rights were optioned by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, the director of The Lives of Others.

So, if you have the chance, read Everything Matters!

Ron Currie Jr.'s first book--God Is Dead (a collection of linked stories, or a novel in stories, depending on whom you believe)--won major awards. Everything Matters! is Currie's second book, and it garnered rave reviews in major newspapers.

And, as I mentioned, it's really, beautifully, compellingly good.

Sorry for repeating myself. And sorry for gushing. But nope, I have never met Ron Currie Jr., though we have corresponded. He's a good guy.

Let me add that I've read all of Kurt Vonnegut's novels, including his first two or three. They're pretty good, but they don't compare in quality or ambition to what Currie is doing at this stage in his career.

Read this book. It will change your life.

New Model Army, "Love Songs" (live)

Here is someone's personal video, posted on Youtube, of New Model Army performing "Love Songs" (one of my favorites) at a German music festival this summer:



I've never fully understood it, but NMA is apparently very popular in Germany. Or, rather, I've never fully understood their lack of popularity in the rest of the world. Apparently the Germans get it. Oh how I'd love to see the band there someday--or anywhere, again.

And, for good measure, here's an NMA song I'm not familiar with--"Autumn":



Click here for NMA's 2009 North American tour dates, thus far.

New Decemberists Songs

Via You Ain't No Picasso, here's a pair of new Decemberists songs that made their debut at the Newport Folk Festival:

MP3: The Decemberists "Rox in the Box" (live)
MP3: The Decemberists "Down by the Water" (live)

Have we seen the end of their misguided prog-rock experimentation? Fingers crossed.

For good measure, here's Colin Meloy and the band re-enacting Bob Dylan's historical "going electric" fiasco:

Monday, August 3, 2009

Woody Allen's First Stumble

Alice is the first mediocre Woody Allen movie of his later, faltering years, bringing an end to a solid run of good and great films that begins with Sleeper in 1973 and ends with Crimes and Misdemeanors in 1989 (though I'm sure I'd dislike 1987's second Allen movie, September, if I had the stomach for it now). It's also Mia Farrow's first outright awful performance in an Allen movie. I know some hate her work and most are indifferent to it. I've always been a fan, myself, but her performance in the title role here is embarrassing. There's a scene when she takes secret Chinese herbs that supposedly make her bold and seductive; instead, she comes off as utterly, pathetically goofy. I suspect she was imitating some schtick Woody asked her to give, a la his flirtation scene in Love and Death:



Consider yourself lucky I couldn't find a youtube clip of Farrow's Alice pulling those faces. It gives me shudders to think of it.

But Farrow's empty performance is not the only problem here. Alice, herself, is the only semi-believable character. The rest are static. They're stereotypes: the wise Chinese herbalist, the rich gossip, the aggressive TV executive, the ne'er-do-well musician. Judy Davis is squandered in this, though she gives the only passable secondary performance. Even William Hurt is wasted as the stuffed shirt husband, despite his best efforts. That's because this movie lacks warmth and humanity. It's all flights of fantasy, dream visions, and cheesy special effects--A Christmas Carol for the uber-wealthy. We get none of the heart, none of the wit we've come to expect from Allen (and, for that matter, from Dickens), and dumb contrivances are apparently supposed to show us it's better to give your kids an experience of real life and real love than to raise them in some sanitized cocoon of wealth. I don't know, and don't care, what Allen wanted to say here.

I only finished watching Alice because back when it came out I thought it was all right. I don't remember why I felt that way. Of course, our Woody Allen comes back strong after this, with a few more good films (especially Husbands and Wives, Bullets Over Broadway, and Deconstructing Harry--the last of which works similarly to Alice but gets better every time I see it). Still, with Alice, we see the beginning of the end.

I'm not saying Allen is finished, but this is where he begins to lose his grip on what works--and what works is definitely not "whatever works." I need to watch Husbands and Wives again soon, to cleanse my palate.

(As an aside, I'm happy to note that Woody's next project is another movie set in London.)

The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner left me bawling, but for personal reasons that had little to do with the quality of the movie. You see, I lost a niece earlier this year, and the movie's protagonist has a chance to rescue a long lost relative of his. So, for me, the story hit home. Beyond that unhappy (if cathartic) coincidence, though--or perhaps because of it--I came away disappointed.

This is one of those movies that amounts to less than the sum of its parts. It's a sweeping, dramatic story, played out by an excellent cast and shot quite beautifully in most scenes. The story is very human, and it certainly does manage to evoke compassion for the people of Afghanistan in general and the two boys at the heart of the piece in particular. Yet the film turns on a couple of baffling decisions made by the main character (trying to avoid a spoiler here), and it lacks a comfortable intimacy with the boys. Somehow, too, the movie manages to show its big Hollywood budget at almost every delicate moment, usually with oddly timed crane shots and poorly done CGI effects. And significant chunks of the story take place in California. Those scenes sap the power out of the story.

I wanted much more. In fact, I probably wanted the impossible: a film made by and for Afghans. This is not that film.

This is just a movie.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

My Life According to Momus (the Facebook meme)

(Posted this on Facebook, but it fits here too. By the way, Momus--whom I mentioned the other day, has made all of these MP3 files available for free via his website.)

Using only song titles from ONE ARTIST/BAND/COMPOSER, cleverly answer these questions. Pass your answers on to 4,962 people you like, 17 you dislike, and think fondly of me. You can't use the artist I used, not that you've ever heard of him. Try not to repeat a song title, because that would make this meme even more boring. It's a good way to waste half an hour! Repost as "My Life According To (Artist/Band/Composer Name)," or whatever. Or don't.

Pick your Artist:
MOMUS

Are you a male or female:
“Ice King”

Describe yourself:
“I Was a Maoist Intellectual”

How do you feel:
“Made of Rubber”

Describe where you currently live?
“In the Sanatorium”

If you could go anywhere, where would you go:
“Closer to You”

Your favorite form of transportation:
“The Cabriolet”

Your best friend is:
“The Marquis of Sadness”

You and your best friends are:
“Murderers, the Hope of Women”

What's the weather like:
“Hairstyle of the Devil”

If your life was a TV show, what would it be called:
“A Complete History of Sexual Jealousy (Parts 17-24)”

What is life to you:
“A Dull Documentary”

Your relationship:
“I Ate a Girl Right Up”

What is the best advice you have to give:
“Flame Into Being”

Thought for the Day:
“What Will Death Be Like?”

How I would like to die:
“Amongst Women Only”

My soul's present condition:
“Breathless”

My motto:
“Trust Me, I’m a Doctor”