Saturday, February 12, 2005

Spent 1/2 hr. watching MTV "Hits" while Bree tried to decide on a filing technique for our now more or less co-joined collections of sheet music. (Xmas songs, pathetic ballads, Italian novelties....Where do you file "The Old Grey Mare"?) Never seen The Ashlee Simpson Show, don't care either way about the lipsynch; like the hook of "Pieces Of You," dislike the rest of the song and everything about her presentation, too many cutesy moves at the mic. Kelly Clarkson "Since You've Been Gone": Completely enjoyable teeny-rock, combination of 'can sing' w/ controlled feedback surpringly effective; verse better than chorus, points off for 'destructive' video. Lohan's "Rumors," oh, like heck you want to be left alone. Nelly/Tim McGraw duet: Well, I can manage to recall the chorus after one hearing, but otherwise, doesn't really go anywhere; point of the video is that these guys (who never appear in the frame together) are basically the same, fixing their do-rag/hat, pining over 'her' picture, signing autographs, pumping their own gas (?). I bet the drummer from Jet is really glad he found a job where he doesn't have to shave his neck to show up for work; even Bree notes, "Oh, they're trying to be like the bad Beatles." Couldn't get into the Ashanti song; switched to a few minutes of Walker, Texas Ranger, in the course of which Chuck Norris (or his body double) bested a black guy at kick-boxing and wrestling, then turned it off.

Enjoyed myself at Mtn. Goats show Thurs.; always weird for me to see the mix of worshipful strangers and people we've known for a decade or more. The "devil's work" song from the Transmissions To Horace CS -- haven't thought of that one for a while, nice choice. Overall, the set seemed the best of the last 3 or 4 I've seen. Ended up on stage for: Two songs from the upcoming one, an unrecorded Extra Glenns song, two with drummer from the openers (Radiation 4, a tense, unglamorous art-metal band from Diamond Bar, CA who John befriended on tour; the singer had Peter's ex as his high-school physics teacher). "Palmcorder" rocked, I will say even as one who helped it do so; my gtr started to cut out on "See America Right," but by then looseness prevailed anyway. Encore of NPB's "Houseguest" (John's idea, not mine); I ought to figure out how he gets people to respond to the lyrics so strongly. And a "Going to Georgia" with ex-bassist Rachel Ware, who hasn't been on stage w/ John in six or seven years, and w/ me I don't think ever. To state the obvious, playing (even half of) that kind of show is somewhat different than my daily life. 2nd billed band was, to everyone's surprise, a new power trio led by Jon Wahl of Clawhammer -- I couldn't tell if there were songs or not ('Hammer had some fine ones), but strong players, esp. this bassist Steve Reed who I've seen in a couple of bands; a monster, as they say.

Saw Billy Wilder's Five Graves To Cairo, w/ von Stroheim as Rommel, last night; second feature w/ The Grand Illusion, which I'd rented a couple mos. ago but dropped into the last fifteen mins. of to see the scene I used in the Farber piece. (You actually can tell Dalio from Gabin in the last shot, by the scarf.) Five Graves is entirely diverting but not entirely defensible; I think it's the first Wilder/Bracket screenplay, but it's closely based on a stage work, and Franchot Tone's speeches remain overwritten. Anne Baxter's French accent comes and goes; Italians are casually made fun of for their military uselessness and voluptuary tendencies, though I think you're ultimately supposed to prefer them to the Germans. As their general puts it: "Can a nation that belches understand a nation that sings?" Most interesting to me for a scene where Rommel uses salt-and-pepper shakers for an impromptu demonstration of military strategy, in essence the example that I used in my diss to think through the possibility of modes of representation not based on previously established convention (i.e. not language). If I ever grow up to teach exactly the courses I'd like to, this might get screened alongside The Crack-Up and Celine and Julie Go Boating.

Resisted Joanna Newsom for a while, but in vain; never quite imagined I'd hear a record that reminds me of both Victoria Williams and Peter Blegvad. (Yes, it all comes back to an '80s-'90s cosmology.) A few precious moments, like the one where she moans "Cassiopeia" several times, are exactly what one expects, but not many; most of the inelegance in the lyrics doesn't bother me in that she's usually trying to get something fairly complex across. Like the material better than the singing, but the harp is not a gimmick; in fact, the disc's main failing is that the those arrangements are so much better-realized than the piano/harpsichord numbers.

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