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Jan. 20th, 2009

Come On Get Happy

While I don't regret my decision to avoid DC''s frozen wasteland today, I do regret choosing to work today a little bit. Primarily because it meant that when the store was opening at 11am, the inauguration was really kicking off and that pretty much meant that anyone coming into the store at that time was someone who had better things to do than witness history. Which basically meant that I had to serve people for whom I kinda have less than zero respect.

It should be noted that all of the customers who came in before Obama was sworn in were white. My first customer, the one dropped his used porn on the counter just as Joe Biden was stepping up? Gay. Perhaps a Log Cabin Republican? Who can say? He was a little grumpy. Who cares? I just don't see how anyone, regardless of party affiliation, would willingly avoid watching today's events.

And that's how I stumbled into a self-selecting the company of people for whom I felt more irritation and distate than I would likely have felt had I packed myself into a MARC train. At least those folks would have seemed, for the most part, happy. I don't plan to make that mistake again.

In other news, I am auditioning performers for my new movie about the days of the Bush administration called "What Ever Happened To Baby Cheney?"

Jan. 15th, 2009

Mother Night

For one reason or another, it never until today occurred to me that when James Taylor was singing "Steamroller" he was being anything but serious. But today I heard a recording of him performing the song in 1970; he introduced the performance by poking fun at the then-current presence of white males playing very loud blues music. The ensuing performance was met with the knowing laughter an appreciative audience saves for precious parodies.

It never until today occurred to me that James Taylor was actually interested or engaged with irony in his songcraft. But then again, it doesn't seem that he gave me -- or any of us -- much reason to. It is certainly the only parody song included on his greatest hits collection, buried amidst some very earnest songcraft: "Fire and Rain," "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight," and "Carolina On My Mind."

It's not like I really thought that he was seriously thinking that in the course of the song he really thought he was a steamroller or a napalm bomb, readying himself for some expolosive sexin'. It certainly seemed like he was joking, but all that plush earnestness in his catalog seriously cushions the blow. As with most jokes, for this to be funny it would seem that I had to be there, wearing a Paul Butterfield Blues Band tshirt.

American Idle

Let's say you really were going to audition for American Idol -- stand in line for a day or two, gather an entourage, the whole thing. What song do you do? It's always seemed to me that the song choices have been a little silly, particularly those who choose to sing the hit songs of today. You probably wouldn't get far auditioning an acapella version of "Who Can It Be Now?" but I'd probably be more interested in the show if that was the sort of thing I could expect to see when I tuned in. 

I'm not sure yet what songs I'd attempt, especially given that I'd have to go acapella, so doing my cover of  "Candy Says" wouldn't have nearly the same punch that it does when the Degenerettes perform it. I might, however, deliver a rock-apella-billy version of "Never Say Never." 

I will probably ponder on this for a long while, particularly because I will never audition for American Idol. But it's fun to imagine my acapella rendering of Pariah Piranha's "Get Yr Lighter On" or the Dead Milkmen's "Nutrition."

Jan. 14th, 2009

Dying Happy Now 1

The other day one of the members of Matmos, after browsing the convoluted shelving of the video store asked me, "Where is the end of the alphabet?"

Jan. 12th, 2009

Having my vegan banana nut bread and eating it too

2009 will be my year of putting out.

I got a residency at the Experimental Television Center this winter. I'll be there a week, and I'm really excited to anticipate the results. I heard tonight that Equal+Opposite will be included on the Tranny Roadshows happening in the Midwest in the next couple of weeks. Good news all around; this year is already off to a much better start than last year.

I'm getting very excited about recording my second solo record, and it looks like I might have some fun accompanists as well. More on this as it develops.

Go see Milk right now if you haven't. Quit putting it off; bring a hanky. What percentage of last year's films contained Ben Kingsley? Mamma Mia has a terrible, terrible story and it really should be shunned by self-respecting fans of hedonism. It's got an insidious culturally conservative undercarriage; it should not be overlooked that last year, when "John McCain" listed his top ten songs, many of them were by ABBA. Beware -- Mamma Mia is symptomatic of why Proposition 8 passed. Watch it and see.

My favorite podcasts right now? Why, sure! So glad you asked. Philosophy Bites,
Harry Shearer's Le Show, WFMU's Do or DIY and The Dusty Show.

Dec. 28th, 2008

I thought the sign said "Martini Arts," not "Martial Arts!"

Since my last post, much has happened but I'm gonna stick to The Movies because I want closure on this issue before I traipse on to the other tangents. While I load up the next reel, go check out this awesome profile piece that my new BFF Defekto scribed about me in Baltimore OUTloud.

So I contributed to the City Paper best movies of 2008 list, but it's a list I can't quite comprehend. Tropic Thunder had no subtlety and will not age well; I'll venture to guess that neither will Harold & Kumar nor Iron Man. My pal Violet Glaze has quite a passion for Speed Racer; she's calling it the best movie of the year, but I personally have to give the film a pass because I'm not sure I'm capable of putting myself at the mercy of those Wachowski brothers again. I've never liked their movies and Speed Racer has no chance of being the movie that's going to win me over. The only filmmaker who shows such promise for me this year is Darren Aronofsky. I loathed The Fountain so much that it deepened my dislike of Requiem For A Dream and cast doubt my on my judgement of Pi but I'm guessing that The Wrestler will win me over.

I know that Batman and Wall-E were sorta gimmes and I admit that I'm a sucker for certain stupid spectacles, the kind of guilt thrill I still intend to get from Australia; but there were so many more satisfying and pertinent pictures available to us this year. After all, who needs a conflicted hero like Batman when you've got the moral clarity of the Man On Wire? And jeez if it's a conflicted hero you want, well, not even Batman could hold a candle to Frozen River's Ray Eddy.

My top ten movies of 2008
1. Man on Wire (James Marsh, UK)
2. Kabluey (Scott Prendergast, USA)
3. Savage Grace (Tom Kalin, Spain)
4. Derek (Isaac Julien, UK)
5. Standard Operating Procedure (Errol Morris, USA)
6. Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, USA)
7. Frozen River (Courtney Hunt, USA)
8. Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan, UK)
9. Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, Sweden)
10. Turn the River (Chris Eigeman, USA)

There were a bunch of films I have not yet seen that I anticipate might knock some of my favorite films down a peg or three -- The Wrestler, Vicky Christina Barcelona, The Edge of Heaven, Benjamin Button, Still Life, Trouble The Water, Milk and My Winnipeg. I'm still kicking myself for not getting out of work to see Guest of Cindy Sherman and Falkenberg Farewell. I very much liked Mister Lonely, Paranoid Park, Chop Shop, Funny Games, Snow Angels, and Burn After Reading, but I guess I've talked about most of these already. A pretty great year for movies, all in all. It would be a shame to limit yourself to the perpetual puerility of Hollywood's least common denominators. Wouldn't the world be a better place if you never had to watch Will Ferrell rub his scrotum on a drum kit? Isn't it better to be bothered by the behavior of the riche à vide as seen in Savage Grace (which, I feel I must mention, is the first film since Pink Flamingos to do what it does)?

Before I go, this was an awesome year for DVD releases as well -- White Dog, Derek Jarman's Glitterbox (including Wittgenstein), the Salo rerelease, Brand Upon The Brain, Ladies & Gentlemen The Fabulous Stains, The Boys In the Band, Lynch (One), The Night They Raided Minsky's, The Delirious Fictions of William Klein and Alex Cox's Walker, to name just a few. Our culture may be in irreversible decline but while we still have electricity, we've got some great documentation to keep us painfully aware of how great things really used to be.

And how about some of the greatest Baltimore film & video events of 2008? Just off the top of my head...
* The outdoor screenings at the Maryland Film Festival, particularly Strait-Jacket
* Thunder's performance after a screening of Song Sung Blue at the the Maryland Film Festival
* The advance screening of Jay Dreams by Catherine Pancake
* Agenda exhbition at Current Gallery
* Microcinefest and Youtube screenings at Wind-Up Space
* The veritable explosion of outdoor screenings on Baltimore summer nights
* Screening of Melvin Van Peebles' new film at the Maryland Film Festival
* Screenings of The Landlord, Falkenberg Farewell, et al at the BMA
* Stephanie Barber screenings at MICA and the Red Room
* Premiere of Proud Flesh by Chiara Giovando and Jenny Graf Sheppard
* Premiere of aminibigcircus' Sorry For The Cold Fusion
* Premiere of Bmore Hacks by Maxie Collier

And one more thing -- if I had it to do over again, my published blurb about Synecdoche NY would have concluded with the revised sentence: "Put this in a triple-feature with The Savages and Before the Devil Knows You're Dead and you will doubt following Philip Seymour Hoffman down a dark alley again." Curses be to the deadline!

Dec. 11th, 2008

Joke Book: Stop What You're Doing

Tom Cruise lost his phone.

Hey, did you ever notice that a diamond is just a really hard, shiny rock? 

Hey, did you ever notice that if you leave a gold ring on too long it gets all this nasty, smelly build-up?

How do I know if I'm bankrupt? I mean, morally? If you're talking money you can just ask my bank. 

Is that a Barthesian "Well...?" or are you happy to see me? 

Good night, Mrs. Calabash. 


Nov. 26th, 2008

Approximately 70% of precincts have been counted

With a deadline at hand and a large handful of candiates which I have not yet seen, I have submitted my top ten films of 2008 to my editor. Which means that there are a host of films -- such as the indulgence I will take in Australia -- which have been eliminated from competition purely because I had to draw the line somewhere. I mean, I'm sure that Milk is gonna be great; but I can't say what I think unless I've seen it.

So while I'm not yet gonna reveal my picks for this, the best year for movies since last year (which itself was the best year for films in at least a decade), I'm gonna tell you about some of my Coulda Woulda Shouldas for this year. Herewith, in no particular order, are my honorable mentions for both first-run and new-to-DVD films in 2008:

Grace Is Gone: John Cusack provides his best performance in quite some time, showing us that all men in midlife crisis don't have to turn into Michael Douglases.
Snow Angels: The bleakness floodgates that last year poured forth Before The Devil Knows You're Dead, The Savages, and most of last year's big Oscar contenders continue to flow free; keep in mind that is was the guy who did Pineapple Express directing Amy Sedaris and you're not laughing.
Noise: Hilarious, especially if you watch with your noise-nervous friend.
Wrangler: Talk about queering the paradigm! Jack Wrangler, the first gay porn star, marries Hollywood royalty. Take that, Prop 8!
Transsiberian: Sure it's all been done before, but a good thrill's hard to come by.
Chapter 27: Jared Leto goes all out and manages to paint himself into a deservedly unsympathetic character.
Paranoid Park: Great atmosphere; the first Van Sant movie to haunt me since To Die For.
Reprise: A great coming-of-middle-age film about punk rebels moving on; I'd rather have watched a film about women following the same trajectories (something like a sequel to Ladies & Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains) but beggars can't be banqueters.
4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days: Watch it with the friend who was trying to convince you that Sarah Palin wasn't so bad.
August: A film about the dot-bomb that cuts close to the quick, and all the whatnot that pours of Josh Hartnett's mouth is verbatim.
Gonzo: Stylishly perfect for the Hunter S. Thompson story that contains truly eye-opening testimony.
Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten: The completely necessary story of a punk rock victory of substance over style.
War Inc: I hated it at first, but my opinions have softened over time; I'll rewatch it and I'll probably have something to say about it, but it will still remain far from my top films list.
The Search For John Gissing: A Fish Called Wanda meets Office Space; it's nowhere near as solidly entertaining as its parent films, but it's delightful fun; it's weird that it sat on the shelf for so very very long.

Burn After Reading, Otto or Up With Dead People, Milk, and Australia might have been contenders, but I have not yet had the time.

The worst film of the year, without question, is The Happening. Worse than Stepbrothers and It's A Boy Girl Thing and Expelled and The Love Guru and The Incredible Hulk, all of which are pretty terrible movies.

So what made my list? Gotta wait -- but I'll tell you this much: neither Wall-E nor Batman are on it.

Nov. 21st, 2008

Get Lijit 2

Well that was a complete failure.

Lijit Search

Get Lijit

While in elementary school, I endured a week with my classmates in a cabin in the woods. One of the head camp counselors was a Neil Diamond tribute act, sorta kinda, and he tried to coin a cool phrase with us: "Be legitimate"  Like this: "Man, I'm really freaking the fuck out!" "Man, you gotta chill out. Be legitimate!"

Well, now I'm gonna try this little Lijit widget on this here blog of mine. Take it for a test drive. Let's see if it works. If it does, I'll know you're reading my blog -- I hope.

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