Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Tax appointment (that 'old advertisement' paneling in the bathroom -- you know, cigars, foot powder, corsets, just like the tables in Wendy's when I was nine), haircut (probably too short but I don't want to have to think about it), eyeglass adjustment (they were looking crooked on my face, not the impression I want to give my students right off). 'My accountant' (a family friend) is in Upland, so I've been in the Empire all day. Some things change: The who-goes-there? 'ladies' shop' near the barber, full of cat sweatshirts (and, strangely, a Warhol poster I unsuccessfully tried to get the crazy owner to part with five years ago) is now empty. But some things don't: The moment I walk into the used bookstore, "Chick" Goldsmid is rambling some poor Pomona freshman who's just bought a Borges collection about Robert Mezey and Dick Barnes, ex-Pomona English profs who translated a good deal of JLB's poetry and then turned out not to have the rights after all. "Robert is coming back to live in Claremont next year -- you must look him up, don't be shy, use my name...." He neglected to mention the pompous-ass/last-poet-I-liked-was-Thomas-Hardy part. (Dick Barnes, a locally beloved figure, passed a few years ago; he taught the only creative-writing I only took, and all I really recall was him getting on someone's ass for claiming in a story that there were no seasons in So. Cal.) Picked up a Herbert Read pb with the notion it might give me a couple of extra clues about what to say about a certain kind of position on art and education when I lecture on The Republic in a couple of weeks. (Sasha, I'll be back to you on that Thrasymachus query soon.) Ran into a couple of other people, nothing to go into here.

I'll get to Pretty Poison in a day or two -- for now, just some scatter on:

Play It As It Lays (1972). I believe I've read the novel twice, but it's been maybe 6 years -- this adaptation seems faithful in most respects, but I don't remember the Beckett-in-Malibu quality being quite so pronounced. (For the record, I quite like Didion; I respond to the cheapness of the paranoia.) Some very heavy-handed existentialist moments, esp. a shot of Tuesday Weld's hand scrawling 'NOTHING APPLIES' across a psychological questionnaire, and the closing bit -- her voiceover says "...but I keep playing." Anthony Perkins' voice-from-the-grave: "Why?" TW: "Why not?" This is salvaged a little by the running joke about the word itself: "Existentially, I'm getting a hamburger."

The only other film I've seen by David Perry is The Swimmer, a Cheever adaptation/expansion that is again much less subtle than the original, but actually somewhat harrowing, thanks to a just-starting-to-age Burt Lancaster. But it's a horrible mess stylistically -- water on the lens, light sources going out of focus, the montage scene of Lancaster cavorting with the neighbors' daughter that he mistakenly things he is still stallion enough to conquer. Straight TV movie, I don't care if it's ironized -- something about that movie puts me in mind of Smithson ripping on color-field painters, and not just the word 'wet' either. (Never been a fan of 'New Hollywood,' really; possibly just a kind of directing that's lost on me.)

The point being, Play is considerably crisper -- much fast or before-the-beat cutting, even between longer shots. It's all toward the usual what-it's-like-inside-a-mind-coming-unhinged purposes, but watchable. Many fragments of traffic signs; one reads "Do Not Drive Into Smoke" -- I've never seen that one anywhere in L.A.. Truly ugly shot of the whole freeway sprawl; just awful, and this is 32 years ago, which explains my commute.

Weld variable -- I guess this is her great lost performance, but I couldn't connect. It may not be her fault. The film (maybe the book as well) has a huge dramatic problem, I think: We're supposed to go down this road from innocence to 'nothing matters' (she lets Anthony Perkins commit suicide on her lap) with her as though it's the spiritual crisis of the age, but it doesn't seem to occur to her that maybe part of her problem is that the particular people she's surrounded herself with are utter moral cretins. The brilliant-director/oh-you'll-have-the-abortion husband, especially, is beyond belief -- we'd like to see how he got that way.

That said, Perkins completely great, not doing the nervous thing at all, just a terrific reader of lines. And some appreciated, though fleeting, support from two musical-theater oddballs: Ruth Ford, ingenue of several '30s (maybe even late '20s) Rodgers & Hart shows -- I think she introduced "Here In My Arms." And Tammy Grimes, her scratched purr instantly recognizable. Grimes had almost no film career -- the old Merman/Stritch curse, a face slightly too odd for Hollywood. Her big Broadway hit was The Unsinkable Molly Brown (Debbie Reynolds in the movie), but I'm very fond of three late-'50s cabaret records, one with the classic two-cocktail-piano backing; the album I learned to love "Let's Take A Walk Around The Block" from. Irrelevant, I know -- the point here is that she does gossipy bitch here to a fine turn, and even gets to scream a little at the end.

Had to stop by Aron's at the screening to look for a Tyde record to check a lyric/title I'd quoted in a recent live review. Turns out the song I wanted was on a CD-EP who's non-album track is called: "Play It As It Lays." (Hey, a band this self-consciously Californian have every claim to the title, and it's good too -- not specially connected to the book, but another trials-of-the-non-star-rocker saga, which probably sounds awful but earns my empathy b/c I know them. And for a band that's supposed to have exclusively '60s influences, this sounds remarkably like better-than-average late Grant McClennan.) This song, "Milkshake," and a chirpy Johnnie Ray/Doris Day duet called "Let's Walk Thisaway" are this week's in-car heatseekers.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Nothing like constructing a CV for purposes other than a straight academic gig to bring home the point that your life, especially for the past 5 years, has had no discernable plot. There's some resume cliche about this, right? -- "It should tell a story." The story here is: This person has no idea what he is doing, or what he will do next.

Somewhere in the last 48 hours, I went from having little or no idea what I might teach in the guise of "Topics in Aesthetic Theory" in one-week-and-change to drafting a proto-syllabus that would have them reading an article per session. Better just print up the first half of the packet, and see where we are in 5-6 weeks.

Will try to report later on last night's screening of Play It As It Lays (1972) and Pretty Poison (1968); both with Tuesday Weld and Anthony Perkins, both enjoyable but not particularly subtle, neither available on video.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Started an account of the talk I chaired at the American Phil. Assoc meeting in Pasadena today, but you don't really want to read that, so, I'll just mention two things the (quite witty, heavy-gauge linguist) commentator on the (somewhat dull, Powerpoint-assisted) paper said, and an anecdote.

1) The sentence "Everyone everyone everyone left left left" is perfectly grammatical, but most speakers would not say so; this illustrated a point about our false beliefs about the language which we in fact use perfectly correctly. (It's hard to parse -- you can maybe hear it if you take it as equivalent to "Everyone whom everyone whom everyone left left left.")

2) "The only different between a dialect and an idiolect is that the other speakers can die."

3) Chatting between talks with Jay Atlas, my old prof. at Pomona, when these non-conference hotel guests just nose right up to him, lift his name-tag thing off his chest, and peer at it. I don't know if the exact question was "What are these?" or "What are you?" -- something like that. Jay answered, bemused but politely -- response, "Well, what are you philosophical about?" Other guy: "Heh, they haven't decided yet." There were about 5 of these guys, waiting for their table at the Pasadena Hilton restaurant -- they all looked like golfers. Fucking rude.

Split after doing my professional duty, decompressed (not that chairing is all that stressful) by having pot roast, plain noodles, and peach cobbler at Beadle's Cafeteria, your basic old-folks place, once in a very prominent location on Colorado Blvd., closed for a few years, opened under the original name in a bank complex a while back. Very comforting -- the food hasn't changed, and there are very few of these places left, let alone in So. Cal. (Clifton's downtown, and a place in the Valley, basically.) Read a bit of the introduction to a Lovecraft paperback I've been carrying around in the trunk for a few weeks, but no further.

(Flashed on The Hollander, a cafeteria with a vaguely Dutch theme, which closed long ago and was for years the only restaurant my paternal grandfather would happily eat at -- he could see what he was getting. I consumed a good deal of Salisbury steak and bread pudding in my pre-teen years.)

I have my doubts about academia, but there's a certain appeal to a line of work that doesn't involve publicists. "Hey Franklin, just checking to see that you'd received the new Hilary Putnam and if you could pitch something to Mind. Give me a shout if you want to set up an interview. The book comes out May 24."

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Actually drove over to Silverlake Lounge for Metal Urbain, a while after I'd told Rael I was too tired; he wasn't there. (Sorry -- I suddenly realized I might want to write about the reissue). I guess I don't really know all that much about them -- thick guitars, slightly different tones but all chordal, incessant programmed beat (it looked like there was a screen up there, I wonder if it's the same drum machine tracks/sounds they had in '79 in digital files, or new ones?), shouted French vox. Samey -- one song seethed better/differently than the others, but I have no way of i.d.ing it. w/o further study of the recordings. (Might have included the words "coca-cola.") Main surprise was that the crowd was not so much old as dirty, more scuzzypunk than artypunk or Echo Park hip.

Otherwise, Bree now out of country until I am a doctor (insert tedious story involving her credit card and Fed Ex same day service), first trip to gym in mos. this a.m., not as horrifying as feared, nothing afternoon of stuggling with a personal statement for a fellowship ("Statement: I'm a person"), not finding my outside member at UCLA, and tracking down citations in the department library. (I'm still here, timing my drive home for radio drama.) Tomorrow, resequence next (presumably last) opb disc at David Trumfio's, then my Phx piece and more fellowshipping. Wait, that means I'm going to convert someone.

Need to be taking care of Everything Else in these few days of respite while my chair is reading my draft. I begin teaching "Topics in Aesthetic Theory" two weeks from this date, w/ two weeks grace to file the beast after that. Syllabus?

I apologize. It's going to take me a few days to get back into the habit of being interesting. If not longer.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Yes, well, an absence of not quite a week, the longest by far since letting more than 2 people know of this address sometime in late January. With good reason: Yesterday found me printing the first physically extant copy of a complete draft of my dissertation and delivering it to two of the three reading members of my committee. (The third is sometimes a bit difficult to find. Do I sound nervous?) Last week was spent, first, expanding the last chapter from a 12 page kernel to a 50 page, er, cob; then, cutting 30 pages of redundancy, irrelevance, and specious argument out of what had turned into a ridiculous 260-page document. (Also, far too many occurrences of the phrases "Notice that...," and "One might try to argue...." Some of these remain to be rooted out.) I await word from my chair on how much else can go straight out the window; 180 is closer to the norm in our department. (Shorter still if it's a highly technical work in logic or semantics, or if you actually happen to prove something.)

Almost too perfect: Finishing the cuts on Monday night (though I normalized some citations the next a.m.), leaving the house at 9:30, and walking into the Troubadour three minutes before the Mekons took the stage. I cannot remember what they opened with (though the dusted-off "Corporal Chalkie" was second), but between this and the previous evening's acoustic, seated (the band as well) show/reading at McCabe's guitar shop (which began with a very abstruse mbria/harmonium "This Sporting Life,") they played a number of songs I haven't heard them do for several cycles: "Oblivion," "Prince of Darkness," "Hey! Susan," "Ghosts of American Astronauts" (the line "A flag flying free in a vaccum" had not struck me so hard before), plus, on the 'folk' night, "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere." Hilarity and joy I can't capture here, especially with the complicating feature of Sally Timms' simultaneously enthusiastic and annoyed stage manner. Fortunately, I wasn't there to be a critic -- I danced, did the prescribed wave during "Now We Have The Bomb," and considered the fact that I've been seeing this band, probably on average once a year or a bit more, since 1988. As much as I loved Honky Tonkin' and Rock and Roll (the ones that came out when I was doing college radio), I don't think I would have expected them to be not just good, but vital, 15-or-so years later.

I also managed to see Dizzee at the Key Club (formerly Billboard Live, on the site of pay-to-play haven Gazzari's) Thursday. Unpleasant place, bad sound (worse for the headliner than opening crews, one of whom should probably not make a big deal out of being from Colorado), uninspiring DJ (fucked up badly at least once -- I almost think digital tracks would have been better) and sidekick ("if you know this one, sing along; if you don't, buy the album!"), but you know, the kid has it -- the best parts of the show were three voice-only raps, one about how he got started, one along the lines of the street-life tracks on the album ("from the gift of the gab to the gift to the gauge" was one line I caught), and one, to close, seemingly about his doubts about the music business. Rapid, showy, and extremely musical -- I assume there are other MCs who, for practical purposes, act as their own beatbox while actually speaking words, but this seemed top-flight, I don't think entirely out of ignorance. Crowd 90/10 white, at least; Rael said it looked like the people you'd see at a Squarepusher show; this music clearly means something different here than at home.

Also: His voice has deepened a touch since the record -- the "Wot!"s in "Jus a Rascal" did not sound as poultryish. Still, it's all up for grabs -- I thought I heard him say "Chateau Marmont!" between songs, but I could also swear he says "grade complaint" on the album.

I'm between set tasks at the moment, so I may see Metal Urbain this evening, if this little nap notion I have right now works out. After that, probably in and out of this space for the next 3 weeks. (Though, the annual Film Noir fest at The Egyptian starts in early April, so there will probably be more screening notes.)

Lastly: It looks 95% certain that I will be writing 30,000 words about an album I've owned since well before I'd ever heard of the Mekons. (And someone will be paying me, modestly, to do so.)

Friday, March 19, 2004

Ex-WHBRer Aaron Mandel tracks down my lead:

The Oulipo referred to writing under the illusion of constraints as "Canada Dry". A websearch reveals a sentence which sounds familiar and may have been the only thing actually composed in this form:

"Crack legions apprehend undue assaults," said conductor of lead tank, staccato.

No attribution, but since it's in English, probably Mathews.

fjb: Yes (and thanks for reminding me how his name is spelled) from somewhere in the Mathews-translated/co-edited Oulipo Compendium, of which my copy is packed away somewhere, along with most of my HM and Perec. What I do have on hand is The Human Country (Dalkey), his recent collected stories, which ends with "Clocking the World on Cue: The Chronogram for 2001," which is a collection of sentences in which exactly enough letters that are also Roman numerals (c, d, i, v, l, m, x [but see below]) are present to add up to, yes, 2001. It's an ancient form with mystical/predictive overtones; each sentence here is a present-tense description of something expected to go on in some city or other nameable place in the given year. E.g.:

"In Sing-Sing, wearing surreptitious attire, spiting the surprising North Irish negotations and shrinking tensions, Phineas, retiring Bishop of Ossining, with the authorities' requisite inattenction, is tonight anointing fifteen Fenian ("Fighting Irish") priests in a rite of injurious piety."

"In Whitby, seagoing Einar, finishing his fifteenth pink gin, instists he is quite fine."

"In Ostia, engaging Ethiopian waiters trigger big tips by squirting nips of grappa into porringers of out-of-season fruit."

There are about 10 pages of this; the entire title is one as well. In looking at this now, I realize that he's done something he doesn't mention in the introduction: He counts every two 'n's as one 'm' = 1000! If fact, the whole piece has no 'm's at all, on quick perusal. One never knows with this sort of things whether the variations are there to make things easier or harder. (Note that a univocalic, ala the sections of Bok's Eunoia, with exactly 2001 occurrences of 'i' would satisfy the constraint as well.)

The piece was written just before 2001 actually started. Encountering it a bit later, it felt like the most oblique and unintentional elegy ever, and a restrospective 'comment' on the uselessness of divination.

Apologies in advance; feeling trivial.

My new grime name: Disoriented Scamp.

Appealing and/or appetizing: The vanishing use of 'delicatessen' as a mass noun, as in "Now, Albert is obviously not a lover of delicatessen and you are well rid of him." (A Thousand Clowns. Very Knipl. Thoughy also inspired by lox nicoise (sorry, this is LA) at Jerry's Famous yesterday.

10:00 this a.m., from upstairs: "Break On Through." A few minutes later: "Riders On the Storm." Any points in your favor for being young and alive are immediately taken away, and then some, for listening to "Riders On the Storm." (That was originally "Riders on the Strom," which I don't want to think about.)

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Duplicate posts gone. Going a bit nuts. Something later.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Very little for you today: I don't think I've had a coherent thought not about the ontology of musical works or the pursuit of nourishment for the last 36 hours. Did see Franz Ferdinand at their Amoeba instore Monday evening, but I'm saving it. Rael led me to the $2.95 cut-outs of consonant's 2nd disc (sad, but I bought three, and they'll get good homes), and saved me $5 by finding a used OutKast disc.

Oh lord, that reminds me -- there's something under the OK filecard called The Lounge Below an instrumental tribute to OutKast. This, they have, and no grime comps?

Actual sentence from an earlier part of my dissertation: "It is conceivable that my grandmother is not a rheumatist." And they wouldn't hire me to write LSAT questions.

Lastly, a quick word for Macgregor Card's two procedural poems in The Hat #5. Somehow based in palindromes, but with other complicating elements, which I can't quite suss -- the effect is, ahem, 'astonishing.' Card's Germ co-editor Andrew Maxwell (also of Open City, Curtains, and, apparently, the Wes Clark campaign for a couple months) said something about 'vowel mirroring' and other, further constraints, and that they could have used an explanatory note. I like them quite well without -- it's clear that something maddeningly picky and labor-intensive is going down, but what? Bok-y.

They can't exactly be given 'readings,' but here are the titles:

A Mirror, Retrofit, I Repaired Nude to, Very Lyre Voted Under -- I, Apertif or Terror Rima?

and (this one's not a palindrome):

On Deify'd Nadir, Atop a Manor I Apsed. For I, Dante, Ye -- No Graffiti for Terminus Gate, Vital Lieu.

[Hasn't Harry Matthews written something under the constraint of 'appearing to be written under heavy constraint' and no other?]

Are you a graphomane if you're just typing?

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Wrote the below yesterday, but the Akerman notes got too long. Will just add -- Open City/Animal Charm at Beyond Baroque Sunday. OC like a homegrown, very loud and guitar-based AMM (not that I've ever seen the latter) -- 'no sound is innocent,' especially when it's icepicking your eardrum. I've seen AC do their found-video live-manipulation thing more effectively on two other occassions, something just wasn't happening tonight, esp. during the last-third, where they and OC 'played' simultaneously. But they've assembled some amazing footage, from industrial videos, informercials, Japanese children's shows, and the 'work' of a dismaying sub-Vanilla Ice rapper called "Blazin' Hazin." The tone of all this reminds me of Joel Huschle's largely unseen videos, which, in a fairer world, would occupy considerable space in the Whitney. "If we do our jobs correctly, we'll sell you Rogaine." If any of the four readers who know what I'm talking about want to figure out a way to organize a showing of this material (sometime after April, please), I'm game.

Also -- word-stem that often appears in poetry-crit, rarely in rock-crit, and which I would be unlikely to use in either: "Astonish." (Also -es, -ing.) As in: Much in X astonishes, but. I just get this picture of the critic gaping, stricken, imbecilic, at the book.


Strangely, I was at an IKEA Sunday as well. I won't go into it, but my tip: Bring that receipt. And if you ever find yourself in that part of Burbank, try to make your way over to the other side of the mall -- there are a couple of blocks of older downtown, inc. 3 or 4 used bookstores, and an unpromising looking record-store that has an interesting vinyl annex downstairs. Just to give an impression, yesterday's trip netted, between Bree and myself, for chump change: Karl Capek's War With The Newts, the old Scribner's edition of Creeley's Pieces, Max Weber's Basic Concepts in Sociology, a passel of pamphlet-sized 20's-30s' children's books (for 50 cents a pop -- possibly later printings, but still), ZE 12-inch of Suicide's "Dream Baby Dream," and a couple of older non-soundtrack Disney storybook records narrated by the great Sterling Holloway*

*Not just the voice of Winnie the Pooh; he introduced R&H's "Manhattan" on Broadway, and has a small but wonderful part in one of Lubitsch's Chevalier/MacDonald operettas -- I think The Merry Widow, but it might be another.

Burbank's City Hall is also very attractive, though who knows what goes on inside.

Song of the week, by some distance: "Fat Fanny Stomp," 1929, apparently the only side recorded by one Jim Clarke, included on the rent-party boogie piano disc I mentioned a couple weeks back, slightly beating out similar material by the far-better known Meade Lux Lewis, Pine Top Smith, and Jimmy Yancey. It's not news that this subgenre is the forerunner of all sorts of black dance-call music -- this one has especially striking similarities to Ray Bryant's "Madison Time," (which I, and probably you, know through Hairspray. Yancey describes what you're to do when he says, "Hold It" over a static, rather delicate vamp, then goes into some equally distinctive blues for the dance itself -- I'm not able to capture the odd, almost sarcastic urgency of his voice throughout. "This time, I want you to Sally Long -- Sally that fanny!" Francis Wilford-Smith's notes say that Clarke "is otherwise completely unknown, unless he is the Alabama pianist 'Boss Clarke' remembered by Joe Williams.:

Runners-up: Dizzee's "Sittin' Here" -- I still think the structure has as much in common with a Fall track as any hip-hop I know much about. The whole album's having more staying power for me than I'd expected -- I've made a good faith effort to be led to other grime, but I've gotten blank looks in two record stores (not specialists, but you'd think the hip-hop buyer at Amoeba would know something). I guess it's time to locate myself in the vicinity of some wi-fi and search "Wiley" and "esky."

(Although, we now know Sasha doesn't want us to like grime too much. I see what may be one of his points -- it may be easier for some, I mean white, Americans to
groove on this, as it's more possible to view it abstractly, I mean not in its sociopolitical context, than U.S. hiphop, thanks to ignorance. Exotica.)

Franz Ferdinand: "Dark of the Matinee" -- I'm enjoying the superhyped album well enough, but this is the one that makes the end-of-year mix. "Leave this academic factory...you will find me at the matinee"; what, are they reading my mind? Song also has a more elaborate structure, w/ neat transitions, than the Strokes comparisons indicate.

Aerosmith, "Jamie's Got A Gun," encountered in the car Sunday -- have always loved it, but I was particularly noticing the weird, not-so-rockist drum part, esp. in the outtro, and Joe Perry's contentful solo, played with a clean, uncreamy (single-coil?) tone that works against expectations.

Kayne West's College Dropout seems likely to repay further listening, though I've only gone through once. Production style remarkably varied, and I have no idea what to make of "Jesus Walks," which rhymes "rental car from Avis" with "only Jesus can save us." (And there's a lot of context not to ignore.)

Monday, March 15, 2004

Delphine Seyrig fan Elisabeth Vincentelli, whose book on Abba's Gold should appear from Continuum this month, comments:

"You owe it to yourself to check her out in Donkey Skin, a truly bizarre musical by Jacques Demy, and Truffaut's Stolen Kisses. Small parts in both, but memorable. Seyrig was one of the few militant feminists in French mainstream cinema and she really stuck to her guns--she even codirected a staged reading of The SCUM Manifesto in the mid-70s."

I've only seen her in Marienbad and Resnais' Muriel, which now strikes me as not unrelated to Dielman. I should have tried to see Daughters of Darkness at LACMA last month, in which she essentially plays a latter-day Countess Bathory, just for contrast. I vaguely remember bits of this movie from early-'80s cable, but I'm sure I never saw it straight through.

I'll be a Europhilic snot for a sec and admit that I wish U.S. film culture had more actress who are genuinely huge stars but are mostly (though not, of course, exclusively) known for appearing in fairly difficult films -- Seyrig, Moreau, Deneuve. I suppose Nicole Kidman has been trying to make these sorts of moves; I'm fond of To Die For, and will see Dogville. (She's just so awful in Moulin Rouge, though.)

Friday's Akerman screening -- Felt distracted/not-quite-there for 1993's Portrait of a Girl from the Late Sixties in Brussels. Autobiographical in tone, if not in fact; the lead actress has the same baby-fat prettiness of Akerman herself in Suite Ma Ville. I don't know, it might have been my mood, but this one didn't do much for me, even though she's picked up in "the dark of the matinee." Sensitive and all that, but talky in an direct, not very interesting way, and the use of songs, esp. "Suzanne" was fairly heavy-handed -- though it's funny when she shoplifts Songs of Leonard Cohen earlier. Noticed what seemed to be a French version of "Black Is Black" early on -- turned out to be by Johnny Halliday, per the credits.

But both films after the intermission were interesting latter-day variants on Snow's Wavelength (as Farber/Patterson say, "a big item in the background of any structuralist."), using the central visual strategy for political ends. Against Oblivion is a 3 min. 4 sec. Amnesty International PSA; one shot, gradually tightening, of city street at night, as Catherine Deneuve approaches the camera reciting a poetic monologue (gist -- "You and your death won't be forgotten") about the death of Salvadoran activist Febe Elizabeth Velasquez. Simple, focussed, and very effective.

A Voice In The Desert is more complicated. This is apparently the single-channel version of an installation video-work, and I have no idea what the other elements are. But: Screen begins completely dark except from a square in the middle, which at first appears to be a digital-editing 'inset.' Here, we get bits of what appear to be aerial surveillance footage, followed by a unedited shot from the front window of the car driving down a section of Hwy. 5, right here in LA.) A voice-over, first in Spanish then in English, describes the apparent disappearance of a Mexican woman working in California ("the money orders stopped coming") -- her son "crosses the line" to look for her, and the 2nd 1/2 of the monologue is the reported speech of the landlady who last saw her. These visual and auditory elements loop (each language, 5 times), as the area around this central rectangle just described gradually lightens -- we're seeing dawn in the desert, seemingly in real time. One or two cars pass, but that's it. As this happens, it becomes clear that the central image is actually being projected on a large screen suspended in midair by guywires leading off screen -- something that looks like embroidery on the sides indicates that this could be a very large sheet, connecting with the domestic work of the 'protagonist.' By the end, it's fully light out, and the image on the screen is barely visible at all. This takes 52 minutes.

The sense of death happening offscreen is common to both pieces, and to Wavelength as well. What's fascinating about this one is that it splits the effect of Snow's shot into two elements: The shot from the car gets the forward motion, though, because of the difference between a road and a room, the scale doesn't change, and there's no logical 'endpoint' to be arrived at. And the desert 'frame' captures the sense of inexorable, gradual change (and produces a change in the effect of the central image w/ out any extra manipulation -- very elegant). The changeover from night to day becomes a metaphor for the desert's contested space between nation's. The position of the screen is interesting as well -- does it stand in for the 'border' (it implies a plane parallel to the camera), or does it obscure the border (it hides part of the road that runs through the middle depth of the external shot)? The notion that borders aren't physical, but still real, is a cliche, of course (see also the last sequence of Grand Illusion), but no less powerful for that.

I think the piece would have been just as effective with one fewer iteration -- by the fourth, I had parsed the monologue (which is difficult to follow at first, even in English), and the light didn't change much in the last 8-10 minutes. But it didn't feel exasperating or overlong at all to me (though there was some attrition in the audience from about the 1/2 hr. mark on). Possibly the best thing I've seen in the series, along with Dielman itself. I don't remember another occasion when I've seen a narrative film and a non-narrative film in the same evening, and preferred the latter. I'm surprised; I didn't know I'd become so comfortable with this sort of thing.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Needful break from diss, which I've been at pretty hard since, hmm, 6:45 this a.m.. I am going to finish this section today if it breaks me. A little tough right now anyway, what with the dogs upstairs. I ought to write about last nights Akerman (which might be last in the series that I'm able to go to), but for now....

I don't think I've said anything nasty about contemporary/mersh country lately (ever?), so I assume my blog friends aren't calling me out (baiting me?) specifically. Perhaps I gave the wrong impression when we discussed this face to face (though Jane was masked). So I'll go on record as being entirely sympathetic to the genre, probably more so than your average art-rock snot. I'm not following it now, true, but there were significant chunks of the '90s where So Cal's KFRG was one of my presets, and I still check in with available equivalents on longer car trips. (There's at least one station between here and Tucson that mixes current hits with older ones, some Roger Miller even, and I find that the most palatable mix.) Garth's "Papa Loved Mama" was in (very) heavy rotation when I last listened regularly, and I turned it up everytime; the last specific song I remember liking a lot was "I'm the Fool in Love with the Fool Who's Still in Love with You" (though that may not be the actual title, and I have a poor grasp of the relevant capitalization conventions).

Worries about hybridization or authenticity are obviously nuts; what the hell do you call "Lovesick Blues"? (Or R. Cash's "Seven Year Ache," pretty much disco-via-pre-'rootsy'-John-Hiatt. Man, I think I'll listen to that right after I post.) I also have no principled problem with the hyperslick production; the notion that Telecasters might be made to sound glossier/brighter that the output of your average digital workstation is both interesting and appealing (and I wouldn't mind knowing how it's done). Really, I'll take (what I count as) a good song wherever I can find it.

I do (as Jane has heard) find both my pleasure and my appreciation somewhat diminished by an apparently new attitude toward rhyme, on which any two words containing the same vowel 'count.' Life/right/time/died/gripe/pie -- all are one. I'd love to know how and when this arose; I suppose your 'real' folksongs have a lot of this, though to somewhat different effect, but most of the pre-'80s mersh country I'm familiar has it's game down pretty tight in this respect. This is idiosyncratic, perhaps, but it's not just because I'm a showtune snot -- I'm not expecting Sondheimian anality outside of the theatre (where it's just part of the rulebook), much less 'originality,' and I find it much less distracting in uptempo numbers than in ballads, power or no, where a good bit of weight is being placed on every syllable/note of the vocal line. Maybe this is just a craft issue; I find the image of Music Row staffers hacking it out in their whiteboarded cubicles fairly romantic, but that doesn't mean I want to hear their evident desperation. But also, when a big couplet doesn't 'close up' right, I just can't, well, feel it in the intended way.

I will confess an intense, entirely personal aversion to Shania's "Man! I Feel Like A Woman!" Around the turn of the millenium, Bree was taking singing lessons, and got sucked into a couple of 'cabaret performance' classes which climaxed in 'showcases' (generally attended only by friends) at McCabe's Guitar Shop. It appeared to me that these classes were largely attended by older professional persons, more for the purpose of 'building confidence' than in pursuit of any particular musical ambitions. A woman whose name I remember perfectly but will not reproduce performed "Man..." at one of these, backed by a keyboardist-w/cheap-rhythm-programming, in a breathy, putatively sultry -- also, flat, metrically inept, and utterly confident -- manner that ruined the song for me forever. You do not want to hear the "whoa-ho-ho" bit sung by someone with poor pitch, trust. Actually, her delivery could best be described as Dylanesque, which might have been interesting but was not. (Her other choice was "Black Coffee," which I know best in a great Rosemary Clooney version -- another travesty.) I can muster some admiration for the difficulty (I learned that night) of phrasing the chorus naturally, though the song's meet-me-at-Bennigan's vibe fails to resonate, as they say, with my own experiences, and puts me in mind of mid-'70s talk-show appearances by the author of "(A Woman's Look At Men's) Buns," perhaps too vividly.

Bree, if you're wondering, sang "Milord," a lesser-known Edith Piaf song, with intense pathos, and not in translation either.

Friday, March 12, 2004

In the course of the Dielman post, I neglected to give out my free idea, hereby bequeathed to any experimental film/video type who wants it: June Cleaver, 211 Pine Street, Mayville, Ohio [zip?] would consist of whatever sequences can be clipped from episodes of Leave It To Beaver that feature the mother engaged in domestic tasks -- preferably when she's alone in the shot, which will usually be just before another character comes in. Should be as long as possible, which probably wouldn't amount to more than 15-20 minutes. Comic or other effect would of course wholly depend on editing. I can easily imagine this on some experimental-shorts nite, can't you?

(This was inspired by seeing an episode of LITB at Bree's the night before the screening -- June at the kitchen table, Beaver enters, "What'cha doin', mom?" J: "I'm dicing carrots." B: "Gee, why do you have to cut 'em up when they're gonna get mashed up in our stomach anyway." J: "Well, Beaver, don't you want your food to look nice?" B: "No, I just want it to be ready when I'm hungry.")

Skipped CA screening last night; didn't do any honest work until about 2 p.m., then stayed at it (w/ a couple of Dragnet breaks) until 2 a.m. or slightly after. Even did something I rarely do now -- worked in a diner, after midnight. This sounds more desperate and fevered than it actually is; I'm just working on a short but dense concluding section to my penultimate chapter. Getting back to it right after this post and a little email cleanup.

Late start caused by my finding the cheap/rights-expired DVD of Lang's Scarlet Street (1945) that I'd bought months ago and lost under my car seatly. Immediate interest -- kept-woman motif in common with Mon.'s The Captive. Not the tops, but one of those cases where watching a movie at home just means I'll seek out a screening later. Disc is from a pretty bad print -- I got the sense of the expressionist bits near the end, but not the full effect. Not as effective as The Woman In The Window (same director, same leads, same year!), which scrambles the noir structures this embodies. Ed. G. Robinson's performance the best thing in the film (though his wife's back-from-the-dead first husband, played by Russell Hicks has a good casual sleaze, and comes off as an unusual type); I love Joan Bennett (as I've mentioned before) and Dan Duryea, but their characters (and most of the dialogue) her are pre-cut yardage. ("You! Marry me! Ha!") One exchange I liked --

He (complaining): ...And then when I showed up you gave me a dirty look.
She: I did not give you a dirty look.
He: Any girl who waits two hours in the rain for a guy is gonna give him a dirty look.

Also good to see any studio film in which 'modern art' is not automatically a joke -- some of the usual references to "longhairs," but I think you're actually supposed to think Robinson's no-perspective paintings (who did them, I wonder?) "have something." (Flash on the moment in one of the Mabuse films where one character asks another -- "What do you think of expressionism?")

SFJ-ish sight -- arrangement of cigarette butts, Jordan almonds (some wrapped in silver, some partly or wholly unwrapped [white], some cracked open [bits of dark brown]) and a couple of pennies scattered in dirty-white rocksaltish substance at top of combo ashtray/trashcan outside door of Denny's.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Long one today, friends, as I wasn’t up to getting my impressions of Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (n.b. not ‘Dielmans’) down after Tuesday’s screening; and now I’ve seen The Captive as well, so if I don’t dive in now, I’ll never catch up.

First of all, see Dielman onscreen if you’re ever presented with the opportunity. I cannot imagine trying to watch this at home on video. If you’re unfamiliar with the film, I’m afraid much of what I say will slide right by; but I’m not under any obligation to give a complete or cohesive accounting in this space. (Am I?) I wish I could imagine exactly what the experience would be like if one didn’t already know the ending, which I won’t give away (though, insofar as you now know that there is something to wait for, my apologies.)

I have to comment on the screening itself. (1) Fellow sitting two seats from me read a paper during long intro by UCLA curator, then grumbled something like “Finally,” when she finished. Fine – I empathize; sometimes ‘introducers’ go on so long you’d think they’d directed the damn thing. (E.g. that guy who puts together the annual noir series at American Cinematheque.) Then, as the film is starting, two late arrivals slide in right in front of him –grumbles something like, “Always happens…” Again, fine, though this isn’t so bad at UCLA b/c the theater’s fairly well raked; LACMA’s much worse. But: once the film starts, same put-upon fellow beings flossing his teeth with a great deal of audible clicking and sucking for (I checked) the first 20 mins. of the movie! I’d have said something snide, but there was something appropriate about this, given the film’s own subject matter – Jeanne’s washing, Neighbor Guy’s flossing away, works for me.

(2) Well into the 2nd hr (of a 200 min. film), one reel starts out misthreaded – first it’s canted on the screen, then a delay, then it’s doing that in-and-out-of-focus bit like the top of the screen is a clothesline and the image is a slowly flapping sheet, then another delay, with the announcement that the projectionist is figuring out the problem – and that he’ll begin the reel from the beginning! Remember that we’re mostly watching someone dredge veal cutlets and polish silverware. Outcry from a by now divided audience. I’m all for the repetition – I have a special place in my heart for projection screwups, which I always seem to be present for in the case of lengthy, indifferently preserved European art films (notably Celine & Julie Go Boating, which took something like 4 1/2 hours to get through at LACMA once, and Greenaway’s early The Falls, which I’ve still never seen the last 40 mins. of.) One guy shouts “If you can’t take it leave” – some, of course, do, though I must say that you really have wasted your time, in this case, if you watch an hour and then give up. (Not half the room-clearer that Godard/Gorin’s Letter to Jane is, though.) During the pause, I told the curatrix to “hang in there.”

(3) The usual laughter in odd/wrong places – to the extent that Akerman is trying to drive you nuts, this didn’t really bother me. (“Shussh – it’s Art!” would be missing the point.) Though why one dishwashing scene in particular dishwashing scene got this response, I’m not sure – I think Akerman/Seyrig/Mangold do an amazing job of making a mute image (a housewife’s back) speak here.

The above will have to stand in for a lengthy discussion of the movie itself. Farber/Patterson, surprise, make many of the right points – noting the connection to Belle de Jour and Two or Three Things…, quoting Mangold’s “a Forties story filmed by a Seventies camera.” (Or, as I thought at one point – if Mildred Pierce was actually about making pies.) They’re also right, I think, in citing Vermeer. A few points are notable b/c they’re not mentioned in the criticism I’ve seen (though I haven’t read either major book on Akerman, so I’m probably going over well-covered ground here).

--- The only ‘action’ in many shots, esp. in the living room, is the play of car lights from the street outside on the furniture. We know from the exteriors, and the street name in the title, that this is a busy thoroughfare. This is never commented on, but it seems an additional torture.
--- Also nicely unemphatic – the wedding photo (one assumes) on her vanity table, which we never see very clearly.
--- In the mind-bendingly long meat-loaf-kneading shot, the raw meat itself becomes intensely watchable, almost sculptural – I feel a subtle reference here to your grosser forms of body/performance art, cleverly folded into the quotidian limits of the movie. [Seems plausible given CA’s NY-avant connections.]
--- Early on, it seems like the movie might respond to a certain kind of literary-allusive reading, what with the son’s recitation of a Baudelaire poem and the bits of opera on the radio. Aptly, and I’m guessing intentionally, this sort of material drops out entirely after a while, as the events and tone grow blanker and less inflected. (The average shot gets longer in the last 1/2 hour as well.)
--- Where the hell do mother and son go at the same hour every evening? Just a constitutional? I thought at first they might be attending mass – I can’t tell if there’s supposed to be a time-gap here.
--- The structure is very canny – we see Day One from a certain point on, all of Day Two, and Day Three up to just a bit after Day One ended. This gives the impression that even more of a life has been shown than actually is.
--- Two things don’t work for me. (1) The scene with the baby – wherein Jeanne ignores it while it’s crying, and then goes and disturbs it every time it settles down. Anti-maternal (she’d probably love to slap her son around a bit) and quite funny, but it makes it a little to obvious that she’s come undone. (2) The son’s habit of trying to start a ‘deep’ conversation once he’s tucked in; why doesn’t he have a damn thing to say otherwise. Especially obtrusive on the second night, when he starts heading in a birds-and-bees direction, inc. comments on orgasms. Just about the only really forced sequence in the film, to my mind.

In any case: Talk about your critique de la vie quotidenne. Here is a movie that entirely lives up to its reputation for being exasperating, compelling, and utterly assured for any director, but dismayingly so for a 25-year-old. For all it's radicalism, formally and otherwise, it's definitely, you know, a movie. It also retains considerable bite -- this may well be what your mother-gradmother-wife are actually doing with their day-after-day-after-day. Except for the sex-worker bits.

Tonight -- The Captive (2000), Akerman’s modern-dress adaptation of Vol. 5 of Rememberance of Things Past. Good after-movie conversation (Joseph, Rita, Chris, Dawn, Jim, Shoshanna – this is just so I don’t forget people’s names) about differences, both in story and ‘point,’ between this and the book – my Proust is in Unpacked Box #18, so I’m not equipped to go into this right now. (Stranger in line for tickets asking no one in particular, “So, who’s read the book?” Smug.) Except – I like how Marcel’s various illness are translated as Simon’s ‘allergies’ (he dreads ‘pollen’); I missed the whole ‘mussels, mussels, alive-o’ section of the book – and, more importantly, the point where Albertine finally breaks and exclaims, “Why don’t you leave me alone and let me get my pot cracked!”; and, of course, Marcel would not have been likely to heroically attempt to save anyone from drowning. Otherwise:

--- There are 24 years and many projects between these films. Still, after three straight nights of interminable static shots and intense formal rigor, this felt more conventional than it probably is. I mean: There’s plain old shot-reverse-shot going on, p.o.v. shots, extra-diegetic music, the whole shebang. Compared to Dielman, this is Lawrence Kasdan.
--- But: The sequence just after the credits is interesting in this regard. It’s shot-reverse-shot, except the ‘other party’ is just the home-movie that Simon rewinds and reruns, trying to read the subjects’ lips. At the end, the shadow of his head enters the frame, which is co-extensive with the home-movie image. I’m not going to put this well, but I take this to be a comment on the conventionality of the cinematic language used in the remainder.
--- Early car-following-car sequence is a direct homage to Vertigo, right? Though this film is about unsuccessful/disastrous attempt to accept, rather than transform, the beloved.
--- Why do the whores in the park look the chorus line from a ‘80s revival of Sweet Charity?
--- Hard on the heels of Dielman, it seems strange, almost dishonest, to see domestic things ‘just get taken care of,’ as they are in most movies. Also in light of JD, Simon/Marcel seems pampered/oblivious in just the manner of Jeanne’s son.
--- Note that JD, this, and Man with a Suitcase all include scenes where the focal character is unable to write.
--- Interesting line: “As you know, I have no memory.” Is this in Proust? Nice moment, in that one knows that the character will eventually acquire one. (Also correctly Proustian in presenting the character’s literary pretensions, at the time of the events narrated, as nothing more than that.)
--- “They tell me it is not the same – but what is not the same?” Spoken out of self-torture re inability to understand lesbianism. Tres Lacanian. As Joseph pointed out, this concern doesn’t seem very contemporary – nor do various young women’s passive acceptance of Simon’s creepiness.
--- There’s someone in the credits (a ‘mechanique,’ whatever U.S. film-crew job that is supposed to be equivalent to) named Christian Metz. Surely not….
--- Akerman still loves her ambient sounds, and her hallways.

Not quite entirely off-topic: Someone was reading what appeared to be a UCLA library copy of A Lover’s Discourse when I took Bree out to coffee at the bistro-y place on Vermont this afternoon. (I think I wanted to go there because of the café in Dielman, site of one of the movie’s most attractively composed shots.) Entirely off-topic: Pleasantly warm evenings, finally. Noted actual floral aromas between my house and the corner store. Of course, I also noted a filthy but otherwise inviolate corndog lying in the gutter.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Some of the strangest referrers to this blog are from search engines. (Referrings? References? I'm not sure of the grammar here.) Two recent ones: 'Google search on bree rael' -- I can't think why anyone who knows that these two oddly named people might be mentioned here wouldn't know the url already. And: 'Google search on sociological attitude to punk, metal, goats.'

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Going to keep it short for a few days. Worked (wrote) off and on for about 6 hrs yesterday, resulting in one 377 word document and a few paragraphs of notes, largely quotations. It would be good to improve on this today.

To my relief, Ackermania! more engaging on Sunday. I didn't realize that she was such a frequent performer in her own films. Her first film, Blow Up My Town (domestic silliness and suicide in a Brussels kitchenette), is about 13 minutes long, was made while she was 18, and could easily fit into a riot grrl festival. Great device, which I will steal in the unlikely event of moviemaking: "Music" is just her voice humming and la-la-laing along with the image. (Soundtrack is mostly, but not entirely, non-sync.)

Her first feature, from '74, I...you...he...she is more the sort of movie that has to be made than the kind that has to be watched. Think a cross between a Bruce Nauman video and '70s porno. Eats sugar from a bag; jacks off (male) truckdriver; has one-night stand with (female) friend who initially rejects her. Reads as a very 'young' film; I've read at least once that it was put together very quickly b/c she couldn't get the funding for Jeanne Dielmans w/o a previous feature.

Man With A Suitcase is a hour-long TV production from 1983 -- has a parergon feel, the sort of thing one might do between larger projects. But it's very engaging -- she's sublet her apartment to a huge American who seems to have no intention of leaving. She has writer's block; he -- typing in a mad clatter offscreen -- doesn't. She arranges her day to avoid him, eventually shutting herself in one room and ordering canned food and a camp stove, waiting. Another all-interior piece, much lighter in tone than Bomb My Town, but it does reach a surprising intensity near the end, when she's gone from piqued to passive-aggressive to pathological. The last shot, under the credits, where she's typing away furiously, now that he's finally left, is my idea (for obvious reasons) of a feel-good ending.

Lisa Kuta informs me of a "Double Life" (no 'the,' which makes it entirely different and worse) from Milwaukee; one s/t CD and one Albini'd 3-song EP. Their entry at Milwaukee Rocks contains the phrases "united with the intensity to create" and "raw but intensely full sounding"; also mentions that they have garnered "repetitive airplay" on college stations in Wisconsin and Michigan. Why do I imagine that they sound exactly like Arcwelder? (Actually, the one review I found indicates straighter metal.) Maybe they'll break up. (Actually, I'm thinking they already have -- EP is from 2001, link to bandsite goes nowhere, find no listings for the band after 2002, even when searched in conjunction w/ "Milkwaukee.")

Sunday, March 07, 2004

John Latta confirms tongue-and-cheekness of 'once-popular-music' jab -- still, it activates a concern I sometimes have about how much of my own response to nearly everything is filtered through music (in my case, often as not, never-very-popular). I mean, even some of my broader metaphysical views stem from a view of the relation between musical works [inc. 'songs'] and their performances. A distorting lens, surely, though I suppose everyone has one.

Candidly*, my Chantal Akerman experience did not start all that well. (Oh -- context? Major retrospective of her films over the next 3 weeks at UCLA and Disney Hall's 'alt'-space Redcat.) An 2000 'autoportrait' by the filmmaker from French TV was engaging; 1st half direct address by Akerman to the camera, reading an explanation of the impossibility of the project [this feels like a particularly French (well, Belgian) strategy, using apparent straightforwardness as a way into 'the difficulties']. 2nd half clips from her various works arranged for (perhaps) autobiographical significance. It would be interesting to see this again after the whole series.

But I dozed off for bits of the feature, All Night Long. This happens; it's as much an indication of my physical state, and the fact that my filmgoing muscle has atrophied somewhat over the last few months, as anything else. But a not-great print of a film whose first two-thirds are shot entirely at night didn't help. Turns on the combination of 'structuralist' presentation and 'romantic' concerns; curiously, the best effects are comic. (In one sequence, a middle-aged woman packs and leaves the house while her husband is sleeping, though she makes no special effort not to wake him. Quite a bit later in the movie, in the morning, she comes back w/ her suitcase, changes into her nightgown, and gets back into bed -- the husband might as well be furniture for all he's moved. Seconds later, the alarm clock rings, and she gets up to start a presumably normal day. This gets, and deserves laughs, but it felt a little unfair in the context of the film's slow-developing method -- we're seeing just the stretches that make the joke work.)

I was a bit phenomenologically absent for the film (poorly put, I know), but sense that I got 'the point': The 'romance' of a summer evening engenders moments of crisis and passion (we rarely see what leads up to/psychologically 'explains' these), which to one degree or another dissipate in the morning. You know...the day destroys the night, the night divides the day. (Sorry, John.) In any case, I expect to be more alert for tonight's screening; and I'd better get a good night's rest before Tuesday's showing of the three-hr Jeanne Dielmans -- which I also need to see for comparison with Farber/Patterson's final published essay, "Kitchen Without Kitsch." (It's possible that once I saw this scheduled, I subconsciously 'timed' my work on the Farber piece to finish up around the time of this screening.)

Earlier that day, reading/'salon' at Green Integer offices for/by Charles Bernstein. (The wine I had there may have wrecked me for the movie.) We spoke a bit about the death, last year, of Rogers Albritton, who, along w/ Cavell, was one of CB's Wittgensteinian teachers at Harvard; some time later, he settled in at UCLA. I could go on more than a tangent about Rogers, and ought to here or elsewhere at some point; my contact w/ him was brief (he was just going emeritus by the time I got into the program) but significant. Reading: Two 'didactic' poems, one closely based on Austin and Ayer; all of a new war-related chapbook called World On Fire, w/ many Tin Pan Alley refs. (inc. Kern's "The Folks Who Live On The Hill); an oddly lyrical new one, "The Bricklayer's Arms"; and a section of new libretto (Shadowworld?), voiced by a cross between the figure in Durer's Melancholia (sudden flash on Coolidge's chapbook) and Klee/Benjamin's Angel of History (sudden flash on Mekons and Laurie Anderson). This last included a good bit of rhyme, and sections of 'sound poetry' that were, one gathers, meant to mime back-masking. Seemed pretty singable, but I doubt I'll be in Berlin or NYC to find out. Dustbin, necessary but now-moved-beyond theoretical position, yes, yes -- still considerable juice there.

Good conversation after with Catherine Daly and Scott Saul about the difficulty of getting reprint permission for lyric quotes, even in academic and poetic contexts. Catherine says that the music-copyright activists she's engaged don't seem to care about this end of things much. (Seriously: While we're agitating for a standard rate for sampling uses, what about one for print quotation? Authors and publishers can get gouged on this, badly.) Scott says Mingus' people, and John Sinclair, were very fair and easy to work with; Knopf (for Langston Hughes) was not. Both gave me something great -- Catherine, her new book DaDaDa from Salt; Scott, a sheaf of copies of guitar chords to Caetano Veloso songs (many from the very early Domingo, plus meaty sections of an instructional book on samba and bossa nova guitar styles, w/ accompanying CD. I'll be excited to delve into this -- the mission statement of this blog has not reflected my activities very well in recent months (and probably won't until April).

Also in the house (at both events), Joseph, to whom I will look for more informed (and alert) treatment of Akerman-to-come.

*People always think I'm being cute when I use the word "Frankly."

Friday, March 05, 2004

"...it was warm in Los Angeles."

Douglas loves Dragnet. Me too, but not as much as Dragnet. (New episode at that url most Mondays.)

From Wed 3/03 entry at John Latta's Hotel Point:

"(Be suspicious of anybody—once the round percentage of allusions to once-popular music exceeds ten per cent. of one’s publick discourse.)"

Oops. But, why, exactly? [Context: I'd be worried too, if I'd just quoted The Doors.]

Steve Folta (of Speed Bumps/Junket/The Uncalled For/Some Fancy Studio fame) writes:

"Irving Berlin used the same rhyme in his 1952 campaign song for Eisenhower: "(something) and warm and human / Why, even Harry Truman / says, 'I Like Ike'". But you probably knew that already."

You'd think, wouldn't you? No, forgot. The rewrite quoted yesterday must be earlier, if Truman himself was campaigning. This all makes it sound like I think this was the most inventive rhyme ever. The Berlin song (from the later Merman vehicle, Calle Me Madam, his last really successful show) starts with one of his most wooden: "I like Ike / Shout it over a mic." I'd quote more, but I loaned Berlin's collected lyrics to Ben Schwartz, who needed the songs from The Marx Bros. The Cocoanuts.

Heard OK's "Roses" on the radio a few days ago; Bree thinks it sounds like Steely Dan. (She, too, prays like a Roman with her eyes on fire.) The part where Andre sings "bitch" 40 or so times? I don't like that part so much. (Not on radio edit, obviously.) Once, to set up the very Ogden Nashish "ditch" rhyme, I can deal.

That's, what, eighty-five per cent?

Thursday, March 04, 2004

The academic job market giveth, and the academic job market taketh away.

Farber state-of-play; decent running draft, w/ a 3-4 paragraph mess where the discussion of the relation between Godard's La Chinoise and MF's mid-'80s painting should be. Other than that, needs tightening, but the points are onscreen, finally. Letting it sit for a few days.

Phoenix piece on Mekons' Punk Rock and The Sundowners' Chicago Country Legends (possibly the "Ugly Band" of the thusly-named Mekons song). Note to self: watch sentence length.

Alice Faye presently singing campaign rewrite of "I'm Just Wild About Harry": "It's only human/to vote for Truman." (I've never heard this version before, but I used the same rhyme for one verse of a still-incomplete song, "Never Tell Your Lover How You Voted," which I'd almost forgotten about.)

Most pleasurable listening of the last few days -- first 5 songs of Rainer Maria's Long Knives, repeatedly. Really dies after that. Non-rockist move w/r/t to previous records, in context of heavy g-b-d manners; only letting the one with the pipes sing. I will state right here that their lyrics are uncut emo-goes-to-writing-workshop, and that, except for the outchorus about "individuality" in "The Awful Truth of Loving," which casts a pall over what follows (it's song 5), I do not care a whit. "Have faith in the blue lady."

Which reminds me: Is "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" even more a part of the indie lingua franca than The Smiths in general? "The Double Life"*(song 4 of above) seems closely modeled thereupon; Lucksmiths' "There Is A Boy That Never Goes Out"; line on new Destroyer, "There is a light, and it goes...out."; cover by Montreal's Stars on first album (which I haven't heard). Others? Funny, I was stronger on "Cemetery Gates" and "Boy/Thorn" at the time. (Insert personal memory of listening to The Queen Is Dead with [relatively] punkier, mildly disapproving highschool bandmates here.) Related: The prospect of seeing L.A.'s premier Smiths cover band (The Sweet and Tender Hooligans, no lie) "perform Louder Than Bombs in its entirety" is not as unappealing as it might be, though I don't think I'll actually make it.

*This is a strong contender for my new 'band' name. Looks good in a couple of typefaces, no caps. Thinking also of Cukor, and Kieslowski, and direct applicability to my own doings. Hey, it's not as pretentious as "Rainer Maria," or the name of this blog. If this is taken, please write me immediately -- otherwise, watch this space.

Also had something to say about The English Beat's still-great Wha'apen, but this would lead yet farther afield. "This one -- your unity rocker!"

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Free postcard: "L'Oreal: THOSE ROCK STAR EYES -- glam metal lids and lashes now on tour spring '04 -- because you're worth it" Back: "L'Oreal Proudly Celebrates Women Of Rock & Their Music." Model: Milla Jovovich.

Free name for all-female metal band, pref. older: Battleaxe. (Extra 'x' optional.)

Poor day for productivity after two excellent ones; difficulty downshifting from writing to errands (2 hrs. min. in Kinko's). Thrown for loop by potential good news which I won't jinx here in a.m.; difficulty getting back to business. Did watch Grand Illusion; tunnel-digging ("Watch me play the mole") scenes repeatedly. "The arts aren't forbidden here." Also rented Ikuru, couldn't get to it; eyes bigger than eyes.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

(written yesterday for a.m. posting)

In confirming my suspicion that this DVD of D.W. Griffith's Biograph shorts miscredits Lilian Gish as Dorothy in Musketeers In Pig Alley (see Negative Space, p. 210), came across this. The rest of the same site consists of early screenplays (Dreyer's Passion, The Golem) and demands further exploration (wouldn't you want to read Satan McAllister's Heir?), but on Musketeers (silent, 1912), we get a synopsis, and a list of shots, entitled "Cutting continuity," and otherwise headed:

Copyright Descriptive Material, Library of Congress, November 4, 1912, LU90

I can't say I've ever thought about what early filmmakers might have had to submit toward a copyright. What's weirding me out (can't do better right now) is that both synopsis and this list of shots elide or mangle the very mysterious penultimate shot, right after the ridiculously apposite final title card, which reads: LINKS IN THE SYSTEM. Shot in question, "Snapper Kid," leader of the street gang, has just been released by a cop on the strength of Gish's vouch. He's just standing there, smoking and smiling, when an arm, no idea whose, stretches out of the right side of the screen (there's supposed to be a doorway to an adjoining saloon), holding a wad of cash, which our anti-hero takes. I can't figure this out at all; the hoods have already given back Gish's beau's money (shot that follows this is the couple embracing); I didn't see any other money change hands. I've watched this 3 times, not counting a screening in San Diego last fall, and I cannot rationalize it.

In any case, the plot synopsis (also registered, apparently) doesn't mention this at all, and the relevant bit of the continuity script runs [sic, believe me]:

Room: Man and girl talking - man enters

Sub-title: Links in the system


Policema[...]g in hallway

Room: Young man holding arms out to girl

Trade-mark: [AB logo]


Somewhat disturbed that I had not heard about the disappearance of Spalding Gray until now. (Link from Maud Newton.) Doesn't sound good.

Episode of Suspense on radio last night featured Ethel Barrymore and Gene Kelly; the last as a psychopath. "They told me there was something wrong with my mind..." This was a little over the top, though I don't in principle mind Kelly in 'darker' roles; he has a good (speaking) voice for it. This is reminding me of 3 things.

1) The time I mentioned Gene Kelly to Robin [last name?], a mildly swing-revivalish gal from Claremont. Immediate response: "Best ass in Hollywood." On some accounts, Vicente Minnelli agreed.

2) Another recently heard radio line: "It's wonderful what you've done with monkeys, doctor, but that's as far as you should go right now."

3) The husband of a cousin of Bree's just moved here for a play at the Ahmanson -- "The Royal Family," by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman, based loosely on the Barrymore clan. He's playing the businessman beau of the Ethel B.-equivalent; tries to get her to leave the theater. I'll see that. (Bree always claims that Drew will look exactly like Ethel when she's older.)

The Business of Strangers just ok. Read as a distaff The Company of Men (similar unity of place/time, lifeless business hotel setting, gendered vengefulness). Stockard Channing watchable, of course -- 'iron lady' racked w/ 'self-doubt' and 'control issues.' But, as MF says of Ida Lupino in High Sierra, she's a specific woman in a cliche role. (Tempting to digress on Lupino.) Julia Stiles has tolerable moments, and very fake ones; the performance is saved by the fact that the character is an annoying Dartmouth (unless she's lying) student -- one can assign the actress' self-satisfaction to the character. A more appropriate vehicle than Twelfth Night (a couple years ago, my one and only visit to Shakespeare In The Park).

No idea why this post is so actorcentric; though it reminds me that I don't have to take a six block detour around the rehearsal tents on Hollywood anymore, now that the Oscars are over. Company town.

Monday, March 01, 2004

"micro-grievances disguised as thinking" Ouch.

work self art self love self self self

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