Sunday, November 18, 2007

Art cinema: ignorant!

In general, I'm not into Maya Deren; I think if I'd met her I would have hated her, and there's something too-too about most of her films. Her last one, The Very Eye of Night which you can watch here, blows my mind, though. It is SO IGNORANT. In the Deren documentary, J. Mekas talks about how, at the time of its release, people pointed out how easily you can perceive the stars to be spangles on a scrim being pulled along.
How beautiful is it, though? It's like the dream you'd imagine a kid having after she'd gotten dragged to the ballet. If it were any more adept, it would lose its janky-atavistic power.

In other news, it's weird that I've had this blog for over a year, and now I've started walking around in my red coat and listening to my Neil Young mixtape again and remembering how the winter was passed. It is again the season for a new job and pulling out records from the 1990s (Moss Icon, for sers, and Unwound and Rodan) and buying whiskey for hot toddies and socks without holes. At the beginning of this month, I started writing down what I do every day, just short bullet points. I recommend it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

long ignorant post bout seeing some movies

One twilight this past summer, distraught after a petty fight, I pedaled unthinkingly up an unfamiliar route that led me beneath the alien residential high-rises on 1st Ave. in the 30s and 40s. At stoplights, I'd look up into lit windows set inside heavy concrete casings and see the TV news up on the 10th floor, or a person putting something into a microwave. I had been reading some books about architecture, about glass and its mystical or maybe democratizing properties, and in this moment it made sense: the contiguity of my isolated experience of the city, by myself on my bicycle, with that of these lone figures exposed in their miniature domestic scenes.

I was reminded of this moment by an opinion piece in the Times a few weeks ago, and then again when I went to see Chelsea Girls at the Museum of the Moving Image. Warhol once analogized the movie's spaces to "cubicles in hell," but it just as well mirrors the way you would watch people stuck in a glass highrise across the way: the two simultaneous situations established by the side-to-side projections, the limitations of the film's audio tracks, which either overlap and confuse or leave one scene silent. After we left, I said to Ned that I spent much of the movie with a visceral desire to throw open a window. It's an airless film, with tight shots of characters who stagnate in rooms. They refrain idle threats and slip druggedly from sense to abject incoherence. No one seems depressed, even; more terrifyingly, the repetitive, drawn-out scenes they act have a practiced normality.
The film's beautiful moments do not redeem the characters: these segments or instance come as aberrations and thus, ultimately seem all the more pathetic. I mean like when Brigid Berlin winks bawdily at the camera, or like when Ondine shoots up and raves about god, self-anointing himself the pope of Greenwich Village, while on the opposite projection Nico brushes her bangs out of her eyes and unnatural colors drift across her face and a keening VU instrumental plays. These bits would be intense in any context, but in a movie that maintains such a dull level of intensity for 3.5 hours, they really smart.

You would kind of be an idiot to watch this on DVD, unconfined to a dark space, not subject to the projectionist's decisions about how to show the two reels and synch the audio. Despite the movie's length, you experience it in spatial rather than temporal terms. At its most boring you think not "how fucking long have I been sitting here?" but "how the shit can I get out of this room and away from these people?"

That's really deeply cinematic, I think. Here is a picture of Andy Warhol in the "invisible cinema," a theater designed by Peter Kubelka in the late 1960s at the height of the dogmatic New American Cinema scene.

He demanded the whole theater be painted black, and installed blinders between the seats so you could touch, but not see, the person sitting next to you. It has a house-of-worship vibe, right? So cool. BTW, if anyone has a copy of Jonas Mekas' Movie Journal she's looking to deaccession, get in touch. His film writing is my new favorite thing, all ecstatic and full of pronouncements vague and specific on the nature of cinema and the beauty of some corner in the west 20s and 8th Ave. and how cool his friends are, explicating movies' aboutness by saying "it's about diagonals. it's about girls. it's about love. it's about good camera angles." HERO.

Anyway, today I saw No Country For Old Men, which is the real virtuoso shit that ought to be seen a.s.a.p., because the dreadful expanse of Texas sky and the sound of a pneumatic cattle-butchering gun just demands a real theater. A.O. Scott self-consciously nerds out in his review in the paper, describing it as a moviemaker's movie with near-perfect editing, stunning cinematography, and generally a barrage of smart decisions by the Coen Bros. And yeah, early on, there's a scene that foregrounds a corpse's bullet-strafed boot and you can see the sky through a bullet hole in the boot sole and you just kind of think, holy shit, who thought of this and then executed it? Even at its most portentous--it's about, Mekas-style, God and masculinity and America and evil--the film stays uncheesy. It is also probably in my top 3 "most violent movies ever seen," after aforementioned Eastern Promises but well below The Proposition, which is really the next level.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

i finally saw mika miko

No, but seriously, I am not one to judge what is or isn't punk; I didn't own Rocket to fucking Russia till Ben gave it to me for my birthday LAST YEAR and I had a korperkultur job interview in an east midtown highrise yesterday that left me so dizzied and confused that I bolted about 50 blocks in high-ish heels and scarfed a weird hippie Chinese-flavored burrito I was barely hungry for before I knew what had happened. But after I saw this band all I could say to anyone was "that was the punkest thing I have ever seen in my life," because if there is anything more punk than wasted L.A. teenagers falling on top of each other barely sober enough to play, telling their even drunker audience to fuck off and die, and still somehow emitting raging near-danceable jams that have obviously heard like, the Raincoats but also like, the Middle Class, it would probably have my brains spewing out of my ears or something. I have rarely felt more inspired.

Friday, October 12, 2007

we die and we're born again

Remember when we were little and in college and every week would vie for free tickets to this or that unmissable thing at the Knitting Factory or Northsix, or trek down to ABC No Rio in what was invariably dreary weather to stand twixt mouldering crusties and then wait for an hour to get an Unturkey Club at Kate's? And we'd see grad students who'd go to maybe 1 show a year and think how hard it must be to grow old?

Right. There are like five bands I like in America now, primarily, as the Gnars points out, in the subgenre of Hipster Hardcore, and they're all playing in the next few weeks. So while enjoying a temporary burst of youthful raging, I can soon refocus my attention on things like the $468 coat I want or going to the farmer's market, or um, school or something silly, and not worry about seeing bands for another while.

10/18 and 20 Clockcleaner, whose hilarious-offensive shtick would be so tired if they weren't the best T&Gcore band since uh, the days of T&Gcore.

10/17 and 21 Mika Miko, who I missed every one of the like 10 times they played here this summer. After I heard their newest ep-thing, 666, I texted someone, "now I like music again." On the 21st they're playing with Finally Punk, who I'm stoked to see after reading Layla's many ardent recommendations.

10/17 (reputedly, can't find any info on this) the mighty SEX/VID, severely awesome hc from the northwest for whom I am skipping class. Sophomoreyearin'!

In a different vein entirely, members of Espers are playing their original soundtrack for the stunning insano Czech movie Valerie and Her Week of Wonders at MoMa on 10/27.

Finally, on 11/10 Fucked Up are playing.

Oh also, guess what, I am affiliated with yet another blog. Since IFD is (alas!) kind of fallow of late, I feel ok about this one. Here are my co-bloggers on our trip to Lancaster County:

Sike! Sarah is not a pony! But anyway, it's a group recipe blog (uh-huh). Let's eat!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

blithe ignorance: a noble tradition.

From someone named Jean-Paul Richter ca. the turn of the 19th century, quoted in Kittler, F. Discourse Networks 1800/1900 p. 145

"The feminine reader, her reading habits are ten times worse, but a hundred times less curable. Let us by all means leave her to do what she will--the silk scrap or thread may fall out of her book, or the open book on her lap may be turned upside down and sht by someone else, so that she won't know where she was. Or, for the sake of the story, she may begin with the Revelation of St. John and then read until she reaches Genesis and the creation--at least she will finish her book, and let that be sufficient for everyone. Indeed she will finish it sooner than a male reader, because she is not delayed by any sentences, to say nothing of words, that she doesn't understand; rather, more concerned with the whole, she will continue on. She owes this splendid habit at least in part to the conversation of men, where daily hundreds of technical words from law and medicine and other areas fly by her, without anyone taking the time to explain them."

Sunday, September 30, 2007

no, really, next year is now

well, at least I can still root against the yankees.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

i write really good sentences but cannot construct arguments for shit.

Je veux voyager en France. Did you have this book when you were a kid? Serious-ment, dudes, I have wanted to go to Paris ever since I pored over its pictures of the bird market and the Rive Gauche, but I've been Google-image-searching like a fiend, ever since I read this tres etupide article and then one of my professors happened to say "when I was at the Cinematheque Francaise last summer," and I realized, Miss Rumphius-style, "I, too, can travel to faraway repositories." No matter what Jacques Austerlitz says, I find the idea of the sunken forest at the Bibliotheque Nationale tremendously appealling.

Lately, I feel a little self-conscious about having this blog, but at the very least, I like having a record of all the movies I see, which reminds me where and with whom and that I was doing something. So I saw Helvetica. Highlights included the enormous banner, in the offices of a Dutch graphic design firm, done in the style of the Emperor logo but reading "MODERNISM" and the fact that despite the tiresome aspects of its repetitive montages of Helvetica appearing all over the goddamn place set to boring idm, this movie will prove a perfectly accurate depiction of the urban Western world of 2006 for future generations. It's a bit long, but full of insights into the thought that goes into making things look the way they do. Additionally, for both interviewees and audience it becomes a really focused experiment in forcing yourself to ponder something you never think about (one designer says "it's like talking about off-white paint"). Also noted: graphic designers can be sassy, and universally have really nice glasses.

Also, I saw Eastern Promises, which I don't have much to say about. It's well-done and gripping throughout, though the more I think about it the more I dislike its resolution. Viggo plays a slight variation on his usual character, which suits him well. Cronenberg uses a similar discomfiting cinematography to that he employed in the inferior, more heavy-handed History of Violence: painstakingly slow pans and shots that linger just a bit too long when you expect them to cut away. I've been wondering, though, if this movie bears some secret metaphoric weight as almost all his other shit does, or if he really just made a dark, nicely constructed genre thriller.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Il Posto

Just read yet another article about "mumblecore" (seriously, people, doesn't anyone remember the keen experience of seeing Low described as "sadcore" and thinking "oh ok, nothing can get worse than this crap term for an ersatz genre?), about how these are the ideal movies for Generation Indecision. Without spewing speculative venom in the direction of those movies, I'll talk about Ermanno Olmi's Il Posto, which I finally watched. Here's the story: Domenico leaves school (high school, mind) where he studied some things he realizes will bear little pertinence upon his money-making life, applies to and gets a bottom-tier job at a big corporation, and--and nothing. At some point in the application process, he meets a girl, whom he fails to court. The film ends with a desk-jockey's death, which allows Domenico to take over his soulless calculating job.
The film alleviates total grimness in several ways. First, it has a heavy dose of black humor: a Band of Outsiders style diversion into the lives of Domenico's officemates and their lives and perversions is particularly well-timed. Perhaps more importantly, though, you suspect the whole time that Domenico is so much smarter than the system that he'll work his way out of it. Kent Jones talks about this in the Criterion booklet essay, actually, but whatevs: the character seldom speaks, but you see him watching the people around him all the time, pacing himself and his reactions. You get a sense that he's as on top of his own situation as you are of his--I mean to say, whichever type of irony it is where you know what the characters don't (dramatic?) is the opposite of what's going on here. While he's taking the entrance exam for the corporation job, he receives a pretty simple math problem to solve. Olmi cuts to a p.o.v. shot that has you, along with Domenico, staring upwards into the high domed ceiling of the exam room, as if to show you both that Domenico's rolling his eyes and that you and no one else in this movie know exactly in what sense, but that he aspires higher.
& that's how you make a movie about our troubled youth.

I also saw some Yugoslavian short movies at BAM, which were pretty hippie-flighty. It was all fun and games, but let me just note this one kind of anthology film, I Miss Sonja Henie made at I think the 1972 Belgrade Film Festival, that incorporated a 3-minute long Paul Morrissey movie which was, amazingly, no more and no less a Paul Morrissey movie than any 90-minute or 20-minute or 3-hour-long Paul Morrissey movie. Bravo!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

jobs suck

Let me just say that the film noir series at F. Forum failed to bring it--or, perhaps, that July-August 2007 was not the time for me to indulge with any enthusiasm in cornball dialogue and chiaroscuro. I remember Phantom Lady and Killer's Kiss as notably whatever, and can't even recall what else, if anything, I saw. Besides that, I saw Superbad.

But this is the question that I've been thinking about, to the exclusion of thought about any movies, really, the more time I spend around people who spend all their times MAKING THINGS and WORKING ON THINGS TO MAKE, like art or ideas or dances. What I have, can we call this life: a job--the goal of which, no matter what it is, seems to be to do such good work that every trace of my labor and being is effaced from the end result--plus the spare-time cultivation of tastes [cf. this very blog!], plus cameraderie and alcohol?

Let me know.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


When I think about next week I draw in a sharp breath involuntarily because I have so many things to do and mull over and fret about and throw myself towards, and in fact I should be doing one of them here in my office but instead I've pulled my legs up onto my chair highly unergonomically and am swilling black coffee and wishing there were some way to listen to R. Kelly here at my job. Mais n'est pas possible, and so I will just recommend the new highlight of the internet
This here blog.
Before I met Layla I read a guest column she wrote for Maximumrocknroll that took a strong stance on retaking feminism from the craft revolution ie emos who knit skull-and-crossbones scarves for their boyfriends in bands and it was like she'd read my mind, which she has continued to do over the course of the MRR columns she's posted on this blog. I mean shit, I too love X and Anne Briggs and Koro and hate on farmer's market-politics and khaki wearers on a daily basis. She writes in this amazing voice, breathless and obsessive, that makes her writing sound like a favorite remembered maybe half-drunk conversation. Sorry if this is creepy, L., but whatever, you should read these.

Friday, August 10, 2007

friday 9:42am

Here are three things said to or about me at work this week:
1. "Ella tiene cojones."
2. "That was a whirlwind job."
3. "Will you clean my apartment?"
Here are the movies I can remember seeing in the last few weeks but not writing about in a whirl of heavy cart-pushing, mojito-drinking and focused reading of Muriel Spark novels:

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning d. Karel Reisz, which has a fantastic carnival scene until you remember that honestly, anyone who can't pull off a carnival scene should probably not direct a motion picture; Albert Finney seethes with the kind of jovial rage those kitchen-sink dudes opt to portray; the book was better.

This Is England d. Shane Meadows. As my punk crush Layla would say, totes bogues, except for the use of the Toots and the Maytals song "54-36" and I think this fall's the time to retrieve my Docs from my parents' house.

Bob le Flambeur d. Jean-Pierre Melville. Bob is my favorite character in cinema. Look at him there in his tux (he was the first to imitate les Americains), attending to his gambling with the delighted raptness of a fingerpainting child.

Masculin Feminin: 15 faits precis d. Jean-Luc Godard. My friend who saw this with me believes that JLG sometimes doesn't always know precisely what he's doing, that he knows moments and scenes mean or stand for something but hasn't fit them precisely together, hasn't worked them through in the way I imagine he has--I picture a chart on which you could link scenes and themes and lines, all under perfect control. I think I'm right, but I found the notion of loose ends in a Godard movie to have a certain really lovely optimism.
Classes Tous Risques d. Claude Sautet. Pretty second-tier if enjoyable French noir.
It rains it rains; I came to work too late, at 8am. I have felt little urge to blog since I wrote last but I have moved to a pink building with a garden, have cut my hair. I want a burned cd of that Ghostface album that the white guys I know jock hard, a used lp copy of X-Los Angeles, and a shiny new Studio One Roots.

I want to go home.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Kes/Summer afflictions

Whatever color process or film stock or chemicals in the air and water produced the color scheme of certain late '60s British movies like that of Kes, very similar to that in the color portions of If. . . . should find its way into an art museum: thick, rich browns, blacks, and greens, so warm brighter colors seem an intrusion. Would I watch anything that looked like this? Maybe.
Kes's story's so simple it seems like a folktale and indeed, it has the requisite elements: a boy, a wicked relation, the animal companion he captures and tames (the kestrel of the title, which a review of the movie informs me was the favored bird-companion of the peasant class in the Middle Ages). It's a bummer, sure; you never imagine that things will turn out a-ok for little Billy Caspar. At the same time, as crushed as the movie's end might leave you (spoiler whatever, you can tell what'll happen by the movie's poster and you've heard this story before), Loach's rapt attention to little Caspar's inner life leaves you with an inkling of hope. Two captivating scenes stand out particularly. One occurs near the beginning, a scene of Billy that kind of envelops you in his worldview: he sits down to read an amusing fight in comic book and the camera zooms in on its frames as he reads all the text, sound effects and all, aloud in his head in his flat tones of voice and Yorkshire accent. The latter comes at the film's end, as Billy describes how he trained the bird to his class at school; the camera seizes on him and draws in closer and closer, giving the viewer a sense of his undeniable importance and endowing his breathless monologue, broken by questions from his teachers and classmates, with urgency, excitement. The more I think about it, the more the-end-of-400 Blows this movie seems; you and little Antoine/Billy end up alone together, but shit, that's better than hanging tight with your philandering mom or drunk, crushed brother, innit?
Ignorant analyses aside, hearing the English language as spoken in this movie is worth the price of admission--it's in this weird Yorkshire dialect that leaves out "the"s and incorporates "thee"s and "thou"s. & Finally, Loach's typical fuck-capitalism politics appear in earnest but not overly obtrusive fashion, unlike some of the other movies in the Lincoln Center Woodfall Series (The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, e.g.), which, while generally wonderful movies, all but squash the viewer with a morally indignant club on which is writ How Capitalism Destroys Our Poor Youth.
A tally of summer injuries thus far:
Beer Toe (National holiday. Hand>glass>foot>floor)
Moving Elbow (but I do not even have that many records! )
Pretzel Tummy (Thanks, Pennsylvania)
Rollercoaster Chest/Rollercoaster Neck (Thanks, the Cyclone)
Bike Wrist (Someone who laughed just like Dr. Hibbert stuck his head out an SUV window and commended me for this as I dusted myself off)
Pride (Several incidents besides the above sadly come to mind)
Also a box of reel-to-reel tapes fell on my head at my internship.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

whatevs tidbits

Rescue Dawn's a fine movie that might ascend to excellence if it lost its maudlin, cliched soundtrack that conditions you to feel and expect conventional things from moments that might otherwise be interestingly off the usual kilter of 'Nam or prison-escape movies. Christian Bale and Steve Zahn are great, and the physicality of their relationship as the one drags the other through the jungle has an odd, motherly quality, absent the sappy homoeroticism of a similar film like uh, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Some severe WTFs ensue at the end, though: we're in a war, Werner! All that backslappy cameraderie? But you know, exciting, and the characters were well-drawn: just eccentric enough to be Herzogian but credible human beings.

Ok dudes, I saw Ratatouille. I love cooking shows and um movie-Paris and I don't have air-conditioning and the Times and Ned said it was good and Ben wanted to go. It reminded me that I also adore Vincente Minnelli and various movies with enraptured, swoopy shots of bodies at work. But jeezlouise, it's boring and besides a few bits, neither funny nor "cute," and now I have contributed some percentage of $11 to Disney.

I have wanted to post about this for a while so I'll stick it here, I guess? A few weeks ago a friend of mine claimed the Linkin Park/Jay Z collaboration album as both great and "criminally misunderstood." While I sputtered vehemently and incoherently, another bro said well, it's ok, he probably listened to the Crash Test Dummies every week. In abject shock, I deferred my "guilty pleasure." Since I do not live an unmitigatedly high-class, capital-C Culture lifestyle (I've gotten pretty indiscriminate about coffee lately), I don't entirely believe in guilty pleasures, since generally I like what I consider good and worthy, dislike what's not, and take or leave the whatever. One's audience also factors in heavily to a declaration of a "guilty pleasure," right? There are certain people to whom confessing my affection for the first few Ted Leo LPs or for certain things that may or may not involve Stephen Stills (oh man, some of his Buffalo Springfield material is top quality) would have me picking at the ends of my hair and maybe coloring gently; I know others who'd be offended if I said that sometimes I feel a little silly for clapping along to the clap part every time I hear "Timorous Me."

But here's my "guilty musical pleasure:" Discount, whom I first "got into" at the age of about 22, when a 14-year-old girl on the internet demanded to make me a Discount mixtape.

"They changed my life," she said, and this is music that'd do just that, were you a girl and 13 and things unfold in sucky and weird ways that sound exactly like this: bombastic vocals, compressed guitars, the occasional fist-pump chorus or acoustic ballad, lyrics in breathless cliches or nonsequitors. Listening to Discount demands your indulgence in--if not actual reminiscences--that old way of feeling about things. That, I think, is something to feel the little prick of guilt about.
(& now you know, guys.)

I'm Against It Part 2:
Those giant cafeterias with a salad bar and a hot-food bar and "panini," inevitably, and smoothies that appear all over the city but particularly in midtown and near hospitals. I understand their function and I suppose having vegetables as opposed to merely McD's around is desirable, but something about them seems to represent the bleak plight of the salaryman so fundamentally, and moreover, they're usually fucking pricey.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Belmondo!! + I'm Against It Pt. I

Everyone talks about Belmondo's "cool," but I think more precisely, his face expresses this unmistakeable confidence: you don't want that sneer in your direction, you desire that broad smile. In a mini-Belmondo Bonanza, LGI saw Pierrot le Fou a few weeks ago and Le Doulos a few days ago. I've yet to see Jean-Pierre Melville fuck up in the slightest; although I've only seen his gangster movies and Army of Shadows and not, like that Cocteau movie or anything, he seems to have mastered the tense-yet-rueful in a way few filmmakers have consistently commanded a mood (a vibe, if you will) without letting things get repetitive. Bob le Flambeur remains my fave, maybe since the main characters--if you'll permit me, I mean both Roger Duchesene's Bob and um, Paris--have such depth and are portrayed with a not uncritical warmth. In Doulos, some of the climactic flashbacks in this one could've been left to the imagination, but it's essential, and the more I think about it, the more I appreciate Belmondo's performance in a role that's a kind of red herring. Oh, remember when I wrote about how it's hard to portray friendship in movies once, and my mom and Ben were all, "Westerns! Fool!" As much or more than they're about gangsters, Melville movies (aside from Le Samourai, natch)are about friends.

I don't have much to say about Pierrot except that the more I remember little fragments of it, the more I like it. It had so much more heart than I ever expected to see in a Godard movie. I mistrusted this emotion the whole time I watched the movie, expecting some kind of trickery or irony to undercut the main characters' love and disillusion that's expressed so frankly at the narrative level. As great as Belmondo's "cool" is, seeing his character clowning around or floundering or coming apart is at once charming and unnerving.

Shit, gotta go to work. Before I go, I would like to instate a new blog-feature. It's called "I'm Against It" and it's a list of what I'm against.

1. The craft revolution
2. The urban suburb
3. Dance parties
4. The pricing of Luna Bars above $1.79
5. Expansion teams

Sunday, July 01, 2007

where i was from?

The only thoughts on "home" I can recall commmitting to writing appear in this essay I wrote for 12th grade Spanish that I still have on my computer. I assume the grammar is a giant tangled dreadlock of atrocity:

No siempre he vivido en South Orange. Viví en Canada, y después en Cincinnati. Cuando era niña, creía que todos mis problemas serían arreglados si me mudara a otro lugar. Imaginé casas bellas y grandes en lugares distintos y exóticos como Francia o Inglaterra o una granja o una isla pequeña en el mar, llenas de cosas bonitas y de amigos.

That's all true. Although I should probably have a rote answer by now, I find myself at a loss for words almost every time someone asks me where I'm from, a tendency which frightens more often than it intrigues. Sometimes I say "I moved around," but that's a lie: I've moved twice, once when I was 2.5, which is I guess around when you stop being a baby, and once when I was 13, which is whatever, being 13. I half-expected my family to leave Cincinnati the whole time we lived there, because we moved when I was at said "formative stage" and cos my parents hated it, and as soon as you start high school they start conditioning you for your departure, so that house certainly seemed impermanent. Nor do I feel, really, that some essence of Ohio or New Jersey has affected me in any way beyond the facts that yes, I've ridden the Beast at King's Island and yes, I've eaten at the Golden Touch Diner on Route 10; perhaps that best answer to the question's just "the suburbs," but that's kind of annoying and not my steez. The point is: I have never considered any structure I've lived in my "home" in the profound sense I think that word's supposed to imply. I have resided in buildings with families, friends, and things.

Last night I stayed out late in Brooklyn and slept over at a friend's in a conscious effort to avoid the mass of belongings I spent the last week consolidating and moving around that's filling the room I'm subletting in Washington Heights. I wanted to see what it'd be like, also, to wake up in the morning, tie on my sneakers and toss on my purse and head home to a home that had never been my home before.

I got out of the subway at Delancey-Essex almost without thinking; I knew that I'd find a cup of coffee with soymilk at the expensive natural food store on Ludlow and since it's Sunday there'd be a farmer's market at Tompkins where I could buy greens and then proceed across 10th St. and up to Trader Joe's for cheap cereal for tomorrow morning, and as I walked past familiar trees and shops and puppies I had the strange and potentially terrible realization that the routine of running errands downtown might be as familiar and comforting and reassuring and sometimes awful as people's "homes" are, for them, that I maybe ought never to buy nice furniture but can and will always find organic strawberries and a bench where I can eat them. That comes dangerously close to me saying "ah, the city is my home," which is, ok, almost what I mean, but not quite. I mean maybe, I might not have grown up here, my parents did not even grow up here, but the first time I came to this city at the age of 11 or so, I remember staring down 9th Ave. during some wack street fair, seeing the largest assemblage of people and empanada-vendors I'd ever seen outside of a baseball stadium and thinking right, this place makes sense.

The point is, I moved out of Inwood and now I'm perched on top of a stack of shelves from my bookshelf in a dark room and I feel a little weirder than before. I did watch TV for the first time in ages only to experience a devastatingly shitty episode of SVU about whether a 30-year-old who dates a 17-year-old with a genetic condition that makes her look like a child is a pedophile, with the worst "oh hey Stabler, I'm your new partner!" scene I could possibly have imagined. I guess, if anyone wants a lesson in "how not to organize a move," or can recommend me more jams that sound like that Northern Irish punk song "War Stories" on the Fucked Up mixtape we listened to for the 500/501st time while cleaning our old apartment, or has cable upon which I can watch "The Bronx Is Burning," you can always find me here on the internet.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Although I have seen movies aplenty lately (myriad Herzog docs and picks from the series at Film Forum; Mafioso), I have a dance piece I saw stuck in my head like a Kelly Clarkson song. "DANCE, Ms. Ignorant?" a reader might query, perhaps noting that I have never danced a step in my life. But one of my dearest friends, Ms. Ana K. (as featured previously on this website) is a brilliant and up-and-coming dancer/choreographer, and I accompanied her to see some of her friends and acquaintances perform at St. Mark's Church. It cost $5 and 2 cans of Goya beans, guys.
Most of the dance Ana and I have seen together has an oddly arch, removed tone--can dance have a tone?--that alienates a spectator coming from outside the choreographer's milieu. In the half-dozen or so shows I've attended over the past couple years, I have seen dancers recreating others' dance work to pay tribute or mock, polemicizing against former teachers, and, as another dancer did at this particular show, combining really clever kinds of movement with in-jokes and goofy props. This kind of dance has come to remind me of the "j/k" you dash off in a g-chat conversation after tapping out what seemed to be a funny but which, you quickly realize, might prove offensive or embarrassing.
Much of the non-self-referential and quirky dance I have seen has, indeed, been embarrassing: an older woman wrangling a lightbulb to the accompaniment of some "experimental" post-Bright Eyes duo had me biting my lip and picking my cuticles.
So, having endured that, and some stone-faced asynchronous side-to-side hopping, and a political piece involving a Stevie Wonder song and the setting up and dismemberment of a wall of cans, I had low expectations of the final piece, "Colt," at this show.
Two spotlights shone on the floor; a woman in a retro-looking party dress in one and a man in short-shorts and a retro-looking party top in the other, and an instrumental brass-funk piece played, and they danced in their respective spotlights. Just danced, is all: sometimes they moved in synch, sometimes just a little off each other, sometimes completely separately. Although they started off slowly and got more wild as the piece went on, it wasn't a strict dynamic progression. Their movement seemed as vernacular as choreographed dance might ever be; one wouldn't move as they did as a party, but enough workaday-dance-style made its way into the piece so that it became, if not naturalistic. . .joyful. Certain repeated arm-and-hip motions (do you call these "themes" in a dance?) came and went. I see what they say about "dancing about architecture" now; I wish I could convey the pleasure of watching really skilled dancers perform a piece like this, professionally yet exuberantly, sans forced self-consciousness. When the music ended, the two left the floor and a little girl came out and slowly and deliberately reiterated a few of the dancers' moves.
It was satisfying like a great painting or a short story with components that fit together organically. Unlike most dance pieces I've seen, a non-dancer spectator left thinking not "I bet that was fun for the people who were dancing," but "I am so glad those people let me watch them dance." And I have felt like this for a week.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

capsules/capital: an excursion into the heart of ignorance

A recent post on the Chicago Reader film blog (a worthy endeavor I should try to read more often) reminds me of an interest-slash-hobby I indulge all the time but seldom discuss: blurbs. Given a copy of, say, New York, I tend to devote as much time to poring over three-sentence descriptions of plays and gallery openings I have no desire to attend, steakhouses where I will never eat, or movies I don't like as I do to reading the actual articles, which are probably stupid or boring. Seeds of this definitively ignorant avocation lay fallow in LGI for ages: as a kid, I read--I say read, not skimmed nor rifled through nor admired product illustrations with longing or envy--every catalog that came to my house. I favored Harry and David and Levenger ("tools for the serious reader," natch). It was the prose that appealed (appeals), I guess, as I recall no yearnings for "Moose Munch" or teak lap-desks. Why? I have no idea. But I truly admire the diction of a good capsule review/catalog blurb (they're about the same--after all, as they appear in magazines, critics' capsules sell you their opinions): it should tread a line between the precise and the absurd that, limited as it is, leaves you utterly convinced.
Ex: Harry and David pears often "melt." Fruit does not melt, fools, but this verb concatenates pear->chocolate->woman, granting the item an infinite desirability and the word a (ridiculous) precision and appropriateness that sells me on both the awesomeness of $30 pears and this writer's craft.
Or, here is a mediocre movie blurb I wrote while in the employ of a now-defunct and unlamented DVD retail website: "What happens when you flush a baby alligator down the toilet? In this 1980 horror flick, it ingests hormones and starts eating the neighbors." Indeed, this approximates the plot of Alligator and tries to be cute, but lacks the terseness it'd need to be witty or, alternatively, an extra two or three words that would truly sell the '80s movie buff who, FOR SOME REASON, has not seen Alligator that he'd fucking better SEE ALLIGATOR.
Without overburdening you with examples, here's a third example of a more nuanced blurb, Time Out's review of some whatever Chinese restaurant that damns effectively with faint praise. That "pleasant," ouch.
So I suppose that it's something about a prose that eliminates ambiguity--this pear is good, that restaurant is whatever; you need to purchase the one and will do fine at the other. It is also a prose you cannot contest: you trust it to judge your pear or Chinese restaurant for you, you rely on it to condition your expectations. It tells you nothing it does not want to tell you and everything it believes you ought to know, pinpointing both the item and its market (a description of an '80s cult movie does not and will not resemble a description of an expensive fountain pen, which ought not to be that far removed from a capsule review of a show at the Whitney ). And hey, is this not the "affirmative demeanor" of the culture industry? It has seduced me and I have been seduced.
And I wonder where I can separate whatever it is late-capital has wrought on my psyche from any kind of deeper tendency I have to heart the tangible hard--I have always vaguely considered W.C. Williams' "no ideas but in things" a cliche to live by, can better summon to mind an upturned table or an image of a prison with a guard-tower at its center or a chess-playing automaton than describe a great bit of philosophical insight.
This means 2 things: you can now think about whether or not I mean "ignorant" ironically, and also that I plan to write future blogs more like capsule reviews or catalog copy. Unwaveringly precise, saleable: this is our new goal.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Champion sandwich/Celebrity Sighting #3/What I Listen To

The prospect of an unlimited toppings bar at a falafel joint filled me equally with anticipation and apprehension, sensations heightened--again, in equal measures--by Christy's delighted description of Maoz Vegetarian's Madrid outpost, where (she says) the town crusties expend the coins they've spanged on a falafel sandwich. Using their crusty eating-tools, they deliberately scoop out the falafel innards, refill their preserved pita bread with toppings, consume, and repeat, for the rest of the day.

I have now eaten at the NYC Maoz twice; both times the toppings seemed so appealing that I just got a pita filled with hummus rather than a legit falafel, which seemed both excessive tummy-wise and further, would clearly leave insufficient room for cramming in tiny bits of everything. Here's how it works: you get your pita with hummus and a bit of salad in a weird cardboard pita-sandwich-holder, and then you can add as many toppings from the ten or so at the little bar, so you get a few slices of vinegary cucumber, a couple beet pickles, some carrot salad, a piece of fried cauliflower, several varieties of harissa, etc. This sandwich is the closest thing to being a snack that a sandwich might ever be: it's like being at the best kind of party, where there are chips and dip AND carrots and hummus AND peanuts AND cookies and you have a little nibble of each. Or better: it removes the terrible necessity of choice one feels when ordering food elsewhere, knowing that you must commit to a singular food item when really, all you want is a forkful of six. Everything tastes fresh and not horrifically unhealthy; the pita is thick and fluffy and the hummus flavorful and not too tahini-y. While my Union Square falafel allegiance remains with Rainbow Falafel--and I remain uncertain about the ok-ness of a falafel "chain"--I declare the Maoz hummus pita a Champion Sandwich.

As I type this, I remember that I have Celebrity-Sighted Troy Dyer before; last time he wore sweatpants and was in Union Square, while yesterday, strolling down 13th St. he sported a red tshirt with what I believe was a Native American's head, so whatever that.
Ben--half-jokingly, I think--inquired "what DO you listen to now?!" on our way home from the greatest baseball game I've ever attended (a run was BALKED in, guys, BALKED!)and then double-checked if I still like the Gun Club record he really wants me to stop liking. The answer's yes to the latter and to the former, music that makes me tip backwards on my computer chair and watch the warm breeze in my curtains and think about the delights of doing nothing when it's hot out, and the slight melancholy that the nicest weather brings:

This kid has a really great post about this album, to which I have little to add, besides that this might be the only record that uses pan-pipes without annoying, and that it takes the affectations of Paul Simon's singing voice to imbue the most fluffy things with a sort of sadness and the heaviest notions with a vibe of "ah well, so it goes."

I bought this record because of King Sunny Ade's gratuitous appearance in the most underrated Robert Altman movie, the undeniably great O.C. and Stiggs. I know very little about Afro-pop, but I love this album, less dance music than a soundtrack for staring into space while tapping your foot or nodding your head as a steady, not-too-hard goes on while dub parts, pedal steel, I think maybe even a flamenco-y guitar, and call-and-response type vocals wend their way in and out

Monday, May 28, 2007


Happy Memorial Day! In remembrance of our nation's war-dead, LGI may be doing some or all of the following: picnicking, helping snaxblog buddy IKIW emigrate to Brooklyn, seeing some Werner Herzog picks at Film Forum, cleaning my room, and having that Sleater-Kinney song "Jumpers" stuck firmly in my head [DAMMIT]. Part of the second-from-last effort involves looking up words I've written on receipts and envelopes on the feeble free reference resources of the internet, before the little pieces of paper get too crumply to educate. And honestly, I couldn't think of a better place to record them than my blog. What does that mean?!

pulsion- A swelling or pushing outward.
atopia-a society which does not have territorial borders.(?)
ludic-playful in an aimless way.
tmesis-the interpolation of one or more words between the parts of a compound word, as "be thou ware" for beware.
erethism-an unusual or excessive degree of irritability or stimulation in an organ or tissue.
syncope-1. Grammar. the contraction of a word by omitting one or more sounds from the middle, as in the reduction of never to ne'er. 2.Pathology. brief loss of consciousness associated with transient cerebral anemia, as in heart block, sudden lowering of the blood pressure, etc.; fainting.
atabrine-a drug (trade name Atabrine) used to treat certain worm infestations and once used to treat malaria [syn: quinacrine]
Canute-king of England, Denmark and Norway, celebrated for "trying to hold back the tide," commanding the waves of the sea to retreat as a reprimand of his courtiers
Coueism-The application of French psychologist Emile Coue's familiar conscious autosuggestion, "Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better" (Tous les jours à tous points de vue je vais de mieux en mieux).
laterite-1. a reddish ferruginous soil formed in tropical regions by the decomposition of the underlying rocks.
oleograph-n. A chromolithograph printed with oil paint on canvas in imitation of an oil painting.
nugatory-1. of no real value; trifling; worthless. 2. of no force or effect; ineffective; futile; vain. 3. not valid.
friable-easily crumbled or reduced to powder; crumbly: friable rock.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Heroes, #1

It is one thing to make great sweeping statements about the human condition, and another to insist that in order to lay a foundation for such a claim, you must traipse for miles through the rainforest with a team of locals and oxen and a little grey monkey named Lucinda clinging tenaciously to your left boot--and once you've found the most bare, basic, untouched specimen of humanity you can find, realizing that it's sort of just people like anywhere else, except you really, really don't speak their language. It took me a few years to finish Tristes Tropiques, in no small part because every time I put it down I wanted to start again from the beginning, the sun setting at sea, the coastline of Brazil appearing slowly in the distance.* Between this book and the series of Herzog documentaries at Film Forum, I feel a little like a jug-eared boy-nerd from the '50s, poring over accounts of Great Adventurous Khaki-Clad Men who strive to find the heart and origins of man (and no shortage of feathered headresses) in the darkest jungle, daydreaming about someday striking out there for myself. Especially given Levi-Strauss's poetic melancholy about the loss and decline of the unspoiled places and the ultimate futility of his quest, it is a romance that's easy to find yourself sucked into.

A key aspect of both this book and Herzog's documentaries' greatness lies in their ability to mix philosophical or anthropological or metaphysical insight with adeptly pinpointed disarming instants (aforementioned Lucinda, querulous fellow-travelers in L-S, Herzog cajoling an old Bayreuth fire inspector into singing along to a (live) Lohengrin aria). I find that it's these parts, as much as the sight of the rainforest canopy from a balloon or Mohenjo-Daro might seem appealling, that fill me with a gentle, entirely dreamy sort of yearning for faraway lands.

*I think I sounded STUPID trying to explain this to someone the other day, but also, the layout of the Penguin Classics edition of this book is bizarrely prohibitive: it's a long work, and the pages are enormous with really squashed-together type that, combined with L-S's elegant yet oft rainforest-dense prose, makes reading a single page take as long as about 3 normal pages. IT TOOK SO LONG!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Celebrity Sighting #2

My thoughts on Joan Didion's writing inevitably return to the remembered row of white paperbacks that sat on the top shelf of my mom's bookcase throughout my childhood, which I thought had intriguing titles. I asked her to lend them to me once, and again, until finally she deemed me grown up enough to understand them. I wasn't and maybe, to an extent, I'm still not, but that's not the point, which is that when I saw a tiny-tiny gaunt woman in rust-tinted glasses and a drab suit perched on a bench outside a pre-graduation luncheon I was doing sound for, I smiled at her and almost waved, as though she were an old family friend or a former teacher. Then I realized oh, this familiar face belongs to my hero, Joan Didion, who's sitting on a bench outside the James Room, where she will shake hands with some trustees and privileged graduates and eat some grilled salmon. I did not walk up and shake her hand and tell her oh hey I'm a fan; I have read too much of her autobiography. I thought first, that I imagine I know her too well to gasp out some banalities, and second, that I could almost predict the impeccable sentence she might--if she wanted--construct about me.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Swimmer/The Summer

Perhaps watching a movie that uses the summer as a metaphor for the transiency of pleasure and the inevitability of disillusionment is not the best way to kick off summer fun 2k7. But ever since I saw aforementioned Play It As It Lays, also directed by Frank Perry and also a misfit-who's-losing it-too-publicly-vs.-tightly-knit/homogenous/wealthy social circle-type story, I've been itching to see it. Also, while I haven't read any John Cheever in a while, I was a big fan in high school (side note: the cover of that volume of his collected stories deserves some kind of medal for iconicity), and seeing how a filmmaker spins a movie out of a short story (let's see, The Killers, Short Cuts, Rashomon, kinda-sorta the Hammer Poe movies, also-kinda Jesus' Son, what else?) holds some interest.

As far as I recall the story, the movie follows it closely: a man (a well-preserved if suitably wrinkly Burt Lancaster) appears at his neighbor's pool in a swimsuit and realizes that he can "swim" home by traversing every backyard pool in his ritzy Connecticut suburb. A sort of Rip van Winkley time-shift occurs, though; as he swims, unbeknownst to him, years pass and the season moves from summer to fall and his neighbors tell him (to his increasing confusion) about the unravelling of his life. The movie displays the different moments of the story as these bizarre, stagey tableaux as Lancaster walks into various people's backyards to interrupt their lives and afternoons. Possibly jokey tres-late-'60s montages of people jumping over steeplechases and baked orangey colors, along with Lancaster's acting--stylized or marginally competent? In one amazing scene, a former mistress in a fantastic bathing suit tells him she was faking it the whole time, and he enunciates, shaking his fists at the sky: "YOU.LOVED.MEEEEE!!"--make this movie a tough nut to crack: it's either hyper-obvious or aestheticized to attain peculiarly deep level.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

let's recommend me a book!

A fact about LGI not evident to all but university chums: I read all things except philosophy and "theory" at a terrific pace. Most novels, regardless of length, take me under a week to read. I also live in a very remote locale, so when I don't spend my subway rides staring into space, listening to the Kids, and daydreaming about cheap shoes or Klute-era Donald Sutherland or grocery shopping or whatever it is I think about, I go through books real fast. I pretty much only do read novels, though.
Thus, although I know about a number of things (9 different ways to cook lentils, how to file a FOIA request), I know surprisingly little about The World. I would like to use my fantastic reading ability to stopper this gully of knowledge. Please recommend me history books!
Here's what I have a pretty great awareness of: American history, especially the Civil War, the history of "westward expansion," and the 1920s and 30s; Japan, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries; India (ditto); Israel; and the European theater of the Second World War.
I would like to learn about other parts and non-honky peoples of the earth. G. has recommended the new Hamid Dabashi book to me w. tears in her eyes, so I may start there. Mind, I am not looking for brutally scholarly endeavors (like that Robin Blackburn book about the slave trade, which I was supposed to tackle for a reading group, merciful heavens shit was dense). I also have little interest in military history and I really think I know enough about Europe to serve my present purposes.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

some mediocre movies

To be fair, Night Walker, which I saw because my pal misread the BAM skedj, kept me consistently amused for its 86 minute running time, in no small part thanks to the woman behind me whose chatter the phrase "running commentary" barely does justice ("Is she walking into the room? Oh my gosh, he might be there, scary! OH is he not dead?" etc). It also has a really high-concept-hilarious scene, which I have now attempted and failed to describe twice, so tantilize yourself by imagining some combination of a mature Barbra Stanwyck, a flaming skewer of meat and veg, a solicitous would-be psychologizer, and a maitre d'. To be truly fair, this movie, which fluctuates from moments of genuine suspense (genius sound-editing, A+ exploitation of wax figures and blind people) to instants of undeniable ineptitude (too many to list), is straight-up IGNORANT of everything from cinematic convention to uh, how humans think, so I guess I ought to use this particular space to appreciate it and its auteur, William Castle (pioneer of gimmick horror) wholeheartedly.

The Spy Who Came In From the Cold d. Martin Ritt, showed at Film Forum tonight, and this noise is, let me tell you, DELIBERATELY PACED. I have little else to add--it's fine, ultimately plodding rather than thought-provoking due to its even-handedness, although I do want to work in the library where Claire Bloom's mod-Commie character works in the darlingest little lace-trimmed dresses, where every book's about apparitions or lycanthropy.

Let's be posi, though: great things include springtime, maintaining the venerable LGI tradition of the Black Sabbath room at house parties, hummus, roomie/bro Trevor's new blog, Dead Moon, and X-Under the Big Black Sun, which has inexplicably taken over my brain and turntable for the last month to the point where I'm thinking of going to see the inevitably embarrassing X documentary+accompanying John Doe solo set (YIKES) @ aforementioned BAM next month--are YOU down???

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

getting ignorant at the museum

In school, maybe once a semester, I would find all of my classes somehow synching up with each other, and have this heartstoppingly clear FLASH, which had no particular significance besides a sort of pop-Zen realization that everything, somehow, fit together. These fleeting moments, when things fundamentally made sense if for no deeper reason beyond their lining up to make a clear and complete picture, made school worth it.
Something like that happened to me today,

in a few instants when I was standing in front of this Jeff Wall photo (note: probably about 5' long) at the MoMA, and I thought of a part in the Barthes book I'm reading now (The Pleasure of the Text) when he describes his pleasure in reading an overly detailed description of a clothesline-- "manic exactitude," he calls it. And you can't see it here on the internet, but this photo has a similar excess of detail; each blade of grass and pinpoint flower in the tripartite cascade in the center of the picture picture seems all too vivid, an overload of texture that reminded me of something I did when I was a kid and we drove on a road called Spooky Hollow on the way to elementary school, when I'd stare out the window at the gravel and dirt and weeds at the margin of the road until they coalesced into a transfixing earth-tones blur that I would watch morphing as we drove forwards.

The clarity of this sense-memory returned me to another book I'm reading now, Sebald's Austerlitz, which is kind of an attempt to engage with history's sweep via intense, visceral memories; and this idea of the epic scale of history mingling with highly personal moments and recollections brings me back to the picture at hand, named "The Storyteller," after (natch) the Benjamin essay about the loss of "epic memory" in the age of capitalist modernity and the resulting decline of the "storyteller" figure, as seen in this romanticized photo of a group of homeless First Nations people, the kind of people whose practices--as I wrote in the paper I turned in last week--various and sundry government bodies have made desperate efforts to museify, to turn into "cultural treasures" or "human heritage" or whateves, to artificially recapture a kind of re-telling that may or may not be lost to us.

This paper earned me a barely qualified "very good," a sort of grade I haven't received since high school, when I used to skip out early on my internship to go to
the MoMA, where I hadn't been since it reopened, which gave me (earlier today) the peculiar sensation of finding myself in front of, of all things, the Demoiselles d'Avignon and feeling a warm coming-home sensation.

The photo, though, also put me in mind of my friend Veronica, who tells the best stories and who used to live in Vancouver, where Jeff Wall took this, and who has singularly detailed memories, like you'll be talking to her and she'll bring up a fleeting incident from when she was a kid that fits the situation at hand perfectly in a way no one else I know can manage. I texted her from in front of the picture to see if she'd seen the exhibit.

and that's what I thought about when I saw this picture.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Rohm-in' Around

No one could deny the influence of the setting of one's viewing of a movie on one's ultimate opinion of the thing itself: if I hadn't watched Talladega Nights with a team of howling bros, maybe I'd be convinced of its inferiority; similarly, I liked Two-Lane Blacktop well enough after watching it with a pal who H.A.T.E.D. it, but seeing it in a theater full of rapt fans pushed it into the ranks of my all-time faves. Ben thinks that I'd concur that Cache suxx had I watched it with him rolling his eyes next to me and not in the theater with a couple hundred other people also taking part in the most profound collective gasp-of-horror at that part, but I dunno about that.
In sum, a million thanks go to Lev and Whitney for putting together one of the nicest afternoons in recent memory: 3 Eric Rohmer movies, copious snax and white wine, a jaunt in the park and an espresso, good company, a porch, etc. A regular rite of spring!
Prior to this afternoon, I didn't like Eric Rohmer particularly--I think I saw part of My Night at Maud's and found it dull--and was kind of theoretically against gabbing bouge Frenchies, but this shinding turned me around completely. We saw La Collectionneuse, Love in the Afternoon, and Suzanne's Career. Perhaps I have just partaken in an atypical number of "girl problems" conversations this past year? But I found these movies engaging, even delightful.
First off, even if we don't go off on jaunts to the Riviera or buy cashmere buttondowns (?!) on our lunchbreaks or roll with the world's most attractive people, the shown in the films are beautifully familiar. The voiceover narration Rohmer uses in all of these (all of his?) movies works really well: as I think many have pointed out, it allows you to see the disparity between thought/plans and their true-life manifestations, but further, it permits you to envelop yourself in the narrator's mindset and, even if you rarely actually like him, to understand him to a point of sympathy. The two color films looked stunning (though to be fair, if you're filming on the Riviera you kind of can't help that, I think. See: the work of xoxoJacques Demy, esp. the b&w Lola and La Baie des anges). Also, this may sound ignorant, but for movies that revolve almost exclusively around the question of "should I do this chick," the lady cipher/characters have unexpected richness and depth, particularly Chloe in L'amour, who's persistently a wreck but in so many different and surprising ways that you understand the narrator's confusion perfectly.
When I was trying to explain to Ned why I liked these so, I started off with, "well, they're kind of like real life," which I instantly realized was insufficient reason to qualify a movie as "good." Recently, though, I've felt especially drawn to this kind of film--Killer of Sheep as mentioned below, that movie Funny Ha Ha (the protagonist of which officially reminds 4 people of me)--as opposed to, I dunno, more epic-scale world-problems-focused movies with more drama and guns and shit. There's something fundamentally bougie about this, I think; no one whose life isn't kind of ok anyway likes movies that are just about how ordinary life functions, and there's something narcissistic about watching things that "bring out the drama of everyday life," that valorize the scale of yr own navel-gazing. But I dunno, I'm down.
These movies have a lot of really delightful bits, too. The past few days, the fantasy sequence in L'amour, L'apres-midi and the seance in Suzanne are stuck in my head like a song.

Friday, April 20, 2007

dear movies, i miss you

LGI's prone to fits of unreasonable enthusiasm; if you ctrl-f enough rest assured you'd find at least every month I see some movie with the greatest x in cinema and that every record/garment/website/produce-aisle item I buy blows my mind.
That said, The Long Goodbye, playing this week at Film Forum, has been one of my favorite movies since I was in high school and not in the Ghost Dog I see-why-I-liked-it but maybe-it-doesn't-quite-hold-up model; I have seen this again, and it still slays just as hard. Those washed-out colors, those Altman asides and details ("el puerto del gato"), and most of all, Elliott Gould as an unshaven Nixon-era Marlowe, as sad as he is sassy.
Recommending an article in the Voice is a little embarrassing, but J. Hoberman's piece on Gould (whose amazing vibe I have discussed elsewhere in this blog) his performance in this film, and, uh, Jews in Hollywood in the '60s and '70s is excellent, but maybe I only think so because it's a goddamned cover story about Elliott Gould.

In other news, is anything showing at Tribeca worth my time and of heaps of cash? I don't even know what all's playing.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Is Grunge Next?

This blog post is based on a conversation Ben and I had a few days ago, wherein I proposed that EARLY GRUNGE will be the next postpunk/stoner-rock/freak-folk/noize-influenced black metal/whatever.
-I think maybe grunge happened in fashion? Is that why my style-star erstwhile co-snax-blogger Piper had a lumberjack-style jacket a year or 2 ago?
-In any case it REALLY happened the other day when this hipster in one of my classes rolled into the computer lab in a loose flannel/white tshirt/black leggings/like 30-eye Docs ensemble.
-The next day, Snake Apartment did a Dusted top 10 list of grunge/80s and 90s Pacific NW heavy rock. Looking at it again, I see they reference "grunge revival of '08." Is this facetious? Probably as much as this blog post.
-The next week, Dan Gr.'s song of the week was the Nirvana cover of "Return of the Rat" from a '90s Wipers tribute comp (I confirm: it is good, though I'm not a big fan of the guitar sound. The Hole cover of "Over the Edge," however, is the stuff sad places are made of).
Past evidence includes:
-My former co-dj Hunter jocking the first Soundgarden lp like 2 years ago
-This fall, that guy at Academy Records Annex (you know which guy I mean) rocking the living shit out of Little Baby Buntin' by Killdozer. His enthusiasm for it proved so persuasive that although I didn't buy that record, I bought a CD of their first album the very next day. It's really good. It's called Intellectuals Are the Shoeshine Boys of the Ruling Elite. They cover "Run Through the Jungle."
Possible evidence:
Wipers LP reissues?
-Resurgence in Flipper's popularity and rise of that sort of ugly, nasty sound (cf. Clockcleaner)
-Reunion/rediscovery of Dinosaur Jr.

Ben counters:
-It sucks. Obviously, one can argue this point sort of, but I will say that as much as I like the Melvins, I have always WANTED to like Green River and never succeeded.
-This happened in all of our lifetimes, unlike previous trends. We (well, not me, but some people) already own "seminal grunge" from when it came out.
-Similarly unlike previous trends, the grunge lifestyle cannot really be romanticized. Postpunk has the nice political posturing and graphic design, freak-folk the back-to-the-land and yes-it's-still-offensive Injuns fixation; grunge has SELLING OUT.
-In that vein, grunge, we all know, was strip-mined by major labels post-Nirvana; EVERYONE got signed. Really early stuff and early Sub Pop shit aside, it has as of yet--as far as I know--little record collector cachet. A lot of this music seems to be total dusty 2 for $10 7" bin fodder, which either makes it ripe for the picking and stockpiling, or straight-up worthless, or bad.

What do we all think?
If yes, will a RIOT GRRL revival happen alongside this? (SLANT 6 4EVAR)
Why in the name of everything holy am I displacing my anxiety and terror and anger about this week in world news (seriously, everything from overseas to at home to my high school's gym getting destroyed by flood [HA]) into this blog post instead of using it to write my gargantuan term paper?

song of the day

Once again, the battlefield is your body
and those who want control have laid down their terms in black & white and red all over they keep the backstreet butchers in business as advertised from a bullhorn and the all knowing man has set up his make-believe graveyard with tiny white crosses for millions of make-believe souls someday I'd like to see a cross set up for a real live human being who bled to death to maintain the sanctity of mary mary & child
scream the bigots who couldn't care less about human life obey their self-righteous lies while your sisters & daughters die all decisions are final your body is forbidden.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

ok ok ok

I'll admit a tendency to dismiss things enjoyed by people I dislike, particularly music-wise. This habit has proven itself as often ill-advised as not. And today, I come before you all (at least the 2 of you to whom I may have broached this topic in the real world) contrite, once again:

So, I downloaded this off some sendspace business and I've listened to it a bunch the last few days. And I realize, not only do I enjoy it a whole lot, but it's undeniably some kind of key that unlocks so much of the music I like already. Most "indie rock" and even some "hardcore" (you know what I mean by that quote un-quote) I like I tend to describe to whatever random as "dark and discordant and shit"--but a decidedly teenage darkness, the kind you imagine as hammering on your skull rather than sort of seeping inwards, best epitomized by that Unwound (xoxox) song wherein Justin starts out sort of moaning and ends up shouting "i tried to search for you..." and extending to Drive Like Jehu or something. "Propulsive," I'd say if I wrote for, or maybe "autumnal?" I accept it now, that Big Black might have invented this and that I have been denying that for too long.
I guess that in my experience, Big Black tended to attract a "too grown up for punk" element--like, kids who listened to whatever raging as kids and matured got into this and then it led them to Sonic Youth and then whoever, minimalist classical music and Deleuze or something; this led me to think "in addition to the obvious 'fuck Steve Albini,' fuck this band beloved by sellouts or poseurs" (also their weird sort of sexism didn't help) and never give them a chance. But whatever times 4. I'm gonna go to Generation tomorrow, where hopefully I can buy this album AND Milo Goes To College (!) and feel that I have fulfilled some unfinished business with my 16-year-old self.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

David Copperfield (for real)/Killer of Sheep

Oh! Sorry, I had to do some work and cut my last post short. The George Cukor David Copperfield, at least the first half, receives the resounding thump of the LGI approval stamp. Pluses: W.C. Fields as Mr. Micawber, the CUTEST winsome big-eyed little thing as petit-David, and basically being the kind of movie little nerds watch through their enormous-framed glasses (bought "to grow into") on PBS on snow days with a big cup of hot Nestle's Quik: looong, generally delightful with some remarkably sad and dark parts (being a girl sucks for most everyone who has to contend with that problem here, although D.'s batty-yet-sensible aunt is our new role model). To be fair, I haven't read the book, but according to those in the know (Ben), most of the dialogue comes straight from its pages. Things get hurried towards the end when it seems like Cukor (a new fave, who wants to watch The Women?!) realized oh crap, after all the charming travails of lil' D., I have about 300 pages to get through about his winsome puppy-obsessed first wife and the slimy dealings of Uriah Heep (not the band), so there's a lot of expository dialogue and such. While definitely no the David Lean Great Expectations, it's worth it.

So, the hype in town these days is the revival of Charles Burnett's long-lost Killer of Sheep at IFC. See it. You have a couple more days (I'm sure it'll be back and then on Criterion but, it's here now!).
I feel a little weird about it, though: I've been reading some would-be motivational "radical librarians" literature lately to try and re-stoke myself on this field (not working, all these bitches seem to do is complain about their jobs and the Man), I've been thinking about the whole by/of/for The People thing--like, yeah, Chris Dodge can talk all he wants about fighting for your library's right to stock Street Spirit or anarcho per- zines but really, patrons want you to have a million copies of The Five People You Meet In Heaven and Zane, right? So, while Killer of Sheep is mos.def. by and of the people, it has ultimately become destined for the educated bouge who can sit back and admire the warmth and closeness of the devastatingly poor Watts community depicted in the film and tsk-tsk the protagonist's alienation from his family, self, whatever because of the murderousness (literally, he works in an abattoir), of his daily routine. The people in the movie would probably find it pretty boring. What I mean to say is: I found it effective, politically, but who cares what I think?
That said, whatever. It's a beautiful movie, replete with what Vern accurately described as countless "disarming moments," like a tiny girl singing along to a soul record at the top of her lungs, an upwards-looking shot of kids leaping across a rooftop, a shot in which a boy bikes forwards from behind the camera into a bunch of girls who beat him up and break his bike, etc. A scene of two men trying to carry an engine down a rickety staircase holds geniune suspense. It seems, to the layperson, a textbook in how to film everyday life compellingly, with equal doses of hilarity and tragedy.

Total side-note: if you saw/enjoyed David Gordon Green's George Washington, realize that pretty much everything good in that movie was jacked from this.

Let me add further that my room presently smells like a mixture of nail polish, coffee, and "peaches and cream" lotion. AMAZING.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Great life events/David Copperfield

This morning (ie. around 1pm), while trotting down to return the 9/11 Commission Report to the public library and obtain some non-bread items from the farmer's market (alas, only onions and apples remained), I reached the intersection of Broadway and Dyckman and, omg times 1000, there was MR. MET standing in the sun-roof of a Mets-logo painted SUV, followed by the drum majorettes of Mother Cabrini High, followed by about 10 Inwood Little League Teams in full uniform, with banners, chanting. Based on team spirit, this will be a good season for Grandpa's Pizza and Dyckman St. UPS, and not so much for Dyckman St. McDonald's. Bummer that I didn't have a camera. Seriously, though, is your neighborhood officially allied with Mets baseball?! NEXT YEAR IS NOW.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

let's get, um, perked up via exercise

(or, if Michael Bluth can do it, so can I)
I guess I am turning this into a legit livejournal-style endeavor now? Today I rode 11 miles from my house to Canal St. to have lunch/hang out with Vern, then pretty much the entire way across town to eat the world's greatest cupcake, then up to Trader Joe's to get some life essentials like 99cent Luna Bars and baby spinach, then over to school where I had planned to spend all day in the computer lab, where I am now. I totally hate it when other people are right, especially bike people, but this ruled and I don't hate this city any more. I don't LIKE it here again yet, but riding your bike in the street (SAFETY FIRST, MOM) is sort of the best thing ever. Also, if you see me slithering on my belly across 14th St. later on, feel free to scoop me up, toss me over your shoulder, and bear me to the subway. My quads feel. . .amazing.

Friday, March 30, 2007

let's go outside/the world's greatest salad.

Whatever it is that makes my hands and wrists hurt when I type too much has been doing that lately. I've seen these movies, all excellent:
Born Yesterday
Billy Liar
The Big Clock

One of my all time favorite movies:
The Earrings of Madame de...

and a sort of crap movie, which was massively inspirational nonetheless:
Unknown Passages: The Dead Moon Story

Since I cannot decamp to the Yukon, build my own town, or subsist on $2000 a year while churning out primal rock and roll like Fred and Toody, I've just been trying to ride my bike and listen to the Wipers and stay off the internet as much as humanly possible. Hence the lack of Substantive Blogging. Perhaps once I finish all my skewl-type things for the semester I will devote a larger share of my waning hand-strength to ranting about Robert Altman on the internet, but for now, smell you later, amigos. I might post some what-I've-seen lists just to keep a record.
Before I embark on a blog hiatus, though, let me leave you with The World's Greatest Salad. I pretty much get out of bed every day so I can eat this for lunch.

1. Chop up some tomato and cucumber; tear up some spinach, or if you prefer, romaine lettuce. Dump in a bowl with some chickpeas (rinsed).
2. Optional: chop up a little bit of onion and/or parsley and/or shred a carrot. Dump in bowl.
3. Lightly toast a sliver of pita, tear this up, dump.
Toss, let the pita get a little soggy.
Then squirt on a decent amount of lemon juice, drizzle a little olive oil if you're like that, and sprinkle on some sumac powder (available fr. local middle eastern food purveyor) and black pepper. Toss, annihilate.
Olives (esp. the wrinkly oily ones) or capers might also be a nice addition but I keep forgetting to put them in.

FYI, this is a butchery of something called "fattouch" people like to eat in Lebanon.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

drinking black coffee

Forthcoming: reviews of three movies about reading: Zodiac, Born Yesterday, and Billy Liar. Right now, though, I will list my five favorite cups of bougie coffee in New York City. Bear in mind that despite a few years of being a "barista" at a Border's Books I don't really know anything about what makes coffee delicious. This isn't about espresso crema or latte art or whatevs--just straight up medium coffee avec soy milk--nor is it about ambiance, which is entirely another matter.
1. City Bakery (I dunno why I like this stuff so much, but I used to get back to work late from my lunch break every day so I could wait in the painfully long lunchtime line at C.B. for a delectable cup of their coffee. Also: they have very well designed paper cups, and a next-level, astronomically priced salad bar.)
2. Gorilla
3. Joe
4. Mud (note: the best cup of Mud coffee I've had came neither from the truck nor the 'spot, but from this yuppie fried chicken place [fuck this city] near my school, where they insisted on brewing a fresh pot of coffee for me and cajoling me to wait until the pot was brewed, although I was already late for class. I was rewarded with one of the best cups of coffee I have ever consumed--and black, at that).
5. 'snice

Most disappointing cup of coffee: Porto Rico, which despite selling delish beans serves up a weak, watery, off-tasting brew.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I and I Survive

(warning to my gentle readers: this may get a little livejournaly. but don't worry, once I get back into the swing of things I'll start going to the movies again.)
Before my plane landed at LaGuardia yesterday, it flew low over Manhattan. I pointed out Madison Square Garden and Central Park and my job and my building to the boxer sitting next to me whose main concerns were ascertaining the location of "downtown" and gauging the drinkability of NYC water. The city looked sort of pallid, all snowy and grey, but it was kind of a nice way to come home; I don't feel elated to be back amid responsibilities and atrocious messiness from my longest trip away from the East Coast in a decade, but seeing everything laid out below me reminded me ok, here's what I know, here's home. I realize 7 days (supposed to be 5, but thanks snowstorm+American Airlines!) isn't very long, but it sufficed to slightly denaturalize things: I was surprised at the musty books/peach hand-lotion smell of my room, forgot the E doesn't stop at 59th St., etc. This indicates, I think, how off-kilter I find my everyday routine.

Besides the annoyingness of San Francisco public transportation and a definite excess of crusters and hippies, I like that city ok. The weather ruled while we were there, so I got to walk around to many different neighborhoods and to the ocean; I ate an unimaginable quantity of delicious food, saw a killer photo exhibit at SFMOMA, met some good kids and hung out with some old friends, heard some massive West Coast slang as well as by far the greatest response possible to the question "what is your favorite food?" (given by "Gnars'" roommate Chris, who deserves a rare power-pop record for putting up with Ben and me for 7 consecutive days: "something like a burrito, or a breakfast scramble, in which everything is evenly distributed so you taste all the flavors in every bite"), flipped through about 10,000 records, and was reminded of an important life fact:
The world's #1 activity, which may be even better than watching movies, is listening to records with friends, preferably while imbibing cheap sake (an innovation!) or coffee. HEAVEN.
As a side benefit of staying in a record library, I got to hear a heap of great jams of varying attainability (please Fred and Toody, pretty please reissue The Rats In a Desperate Red lp and someone find me a boot of the Middle Class ep, so fucking great, and any number of other Spanish and Italian and Finnish eps Ben and GN dragged out for me--but then guess what, the new Black Lips ep--what's up New York Timescore--and the raging new Totalitar lp which was waiting for me when I got home, and, shit, the Descendents first record which if I ever listened to it before, did that in 1998 and had no memory of, also kill). Since every winter I end up listening to the same things over and over and over to stave off the darkness (see below), getting re-excited about non-bummer records proves that I'm ready to pull myself out of the shit and into the springtime. I'm cleaning my room.
ps.-one love to #1 bro Parker, who even after days of little squabbles and mopes and inability to get back to the proper coast rallied (around Jah throne) to discuss Abyssinian spearsmen and pull out a stack of Misfits boots and sketchy jams for our enjoyment. And to G., A+ hostess and pal, who'll be picnicking in the park out here sooner than you know.
pps. this is what I've played no fewer than 6 times today.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

if i lived in san francisco

i would be fat and broke from eating delicious food and buying records all the time. i would probably have nice calves from walking up all these mountains, though.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

2 things u should do

1. See Vengeance Is Mine

I think it's done playing at BAM now? But the good snobs @ Criterion Collection will release a premium DVD within the next month or so. Prior to its jolting end Vengeance Is Mine takes a matter-of-fact, journalistic (I mean old, elegant journalism, right) approach to its charismatic subject, Enokizu, a con-man, lady-killer, and ultimately, serial killer. Hilarious at times, moving at other, and occasionally almost unbearably intense, the movie never plummets into gratuitousness: its violence and sex offer no thrills, and it seldom--if ever--psychologizes its characters. There's little to summarize: he cheats, kills, fucks, and gets caught (in the movie's opening scene; the film plays with frame stories and chronology purposefully). Let me just say, though, that the old-lady character in this movie is my new hero.

2. Eat at Souen

Ok, I eat a lot, but I rarely exclaim "whoa!" after tasting a food, which I did upon digging into a plate of the special crispy tofu w/veg in ginger-miso sauce at Souen. Unlike other restaurants I frequent this place is macrobiotic, meaning 1-they have fish but no, uh, potatoes or eggplant and 2-if you didn't eat too much of it, I think it might be legitimately Good For You; even my tofu was grilled not fried. The enormous bowl of noodle soup my dinner companion (thanks mom!) got also tasted delish.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Forevs, or, ignorance in consumption

At work tonight, one of the girls was jazzed post-shopping and I said, where'd you go, and she said, oh to Victoria's Secret and Forever 21. And before you could say "prison labor," I blurted out "OHGOD I LOVE FOREVER 21." Now you know.

What the girl I work with said: "They have so many clothes. . . I mean, I've been to the giant Macy's, and I don't think that has so many clothes." I can't verify the truth or falsehood of this statement but my goodness, Forever 21 has an intimidating amount of clothes, organized--I think--mainly by color, although sort of by style and sort of by purpose (different nooks for ugly satiny flower-patterned things that Facebook tells me are knockoffs of what my high school classmates wear for goin' out; a million variations of cheap b&w working clothes; the perpetual Marc Jacobs (I think) plagiarizations for little weekend jaunts, etc.). Bizarrely, it carries almost an incalculable number of different styles, so if you want a brown shirt and you find the primary place of residence for brown shirts, you'll pull out one in a v-neck, one with a button, one with a boatneck, but never 2 the same, and certainly not the one you like best in your size. As their website says, "did you know [they] get new stuff every day???"

Unlike, say, a Uniqlo, with its pretense of class thanks to towering pristine stacks of sweaters, unlike a department store with carpeting, tiers and hierarchies, unlike a genuine bargain-bin-type store, Forever 21 does not intimidate. Everyone is there for the same reason: they want cute things and they want them cheap, so cheap that the fact that these things will probably chafe and shrink horribly in the wash is immaterial. Forever 21 does not care about your walk of life--as implied earlier, probably any woman could walk in to one of their stores in a bind, and come out with at the very least a plain tshirt that has cost her $4.80. I like the Union Square store, where I often used to spend an odd 40 minutes between my old job and class.

Lately, I've been reading blogs by people in other cities to ascertain if anywhere else is vaguely liveable (doubtful), and this one L.A. artsy-type lady uses Forever 21 as an even more derogatory adjective than how I use Urban Outfitters like "even though she was head-to-toe Forever 21, this girl was cute." Forever 21 differs from the Urb in a couple ways though: one, no pretense of "cool," really--the Urb is overpriced to give a vague illusion of elitism, and it has an attitude. It wants you to need what it'll give you. Also, there is more cohesion in what it tries to sell you each season; thus it's clear when someone's Urb-ed out, whereas someone in cheap tightass bootleg black dress pants and someone in jeans a tshirt and hoodie, and someone in some plasticky (f)au(x)-courant type apparel are equally Forevs Girls. I'm saying: this is democracy, made in China with a good chance of melting in the dryer. As their slogan declares: "fashion for all."

Forever 21 just wants you to be 21 forever, with age-appropriate fickleness and vicissitudes and undeniably poor decisions made possible and often unavoidable. At no other store have I ever understood that my resolute decision to buy a top I don't need results entirely from the persuasiveness of the establishment's soundtrack (I sort of feel like Lily Allen owes me three $15.80 tops, but then, I sort of thank Lily Allen for being there on that day at that time, for enabling these three $15.80 tops to take up residence, tags on, in my bureau drawer. FYI, "do you know [their] return policy?" You would if you'd ever shopped there, cos they ask you and tell you every time you pay. Store credit only. You are bound to them forever.)

I don't know anything about fashion; I know that never in my life will I buy underwear from that terrifying giant chest of drawers they have near the checkout. Sometimes, I worry that if by some odd chance I have a daughter, I will not be able to pass on well-made cashmere sweaters and pricey shoes as my gran and mom have endowed to me, just a heap of raggedy discount chain retailer shit. Sorry in advance, little Angel-Eyes, but if you could have half of a decent pair of pants OR a striped tunic in every color of your video display, which would you choose? Presumably--like everyone I know, undoutedly--the moral and aesthetic high ground that would lead you far, far away from the inviting all-glass facade of Forevs. Not me.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

what's good?

It turns out that when she wrote "great job!" and "develop further" in red pencil on my paper to which she awarded an ignominious grade, my cataloging professor actually meant that I need significant help learning how to write and structure an essay. So before I embark on a rewrite of this painfully flawed 4-page exploration of how to catalog your books on some books/social networking website, not my idea, let's think about things that are great.
-ginger tea
-the first pair of boots i have had in years that actually keep my feet dry and warm.
-wow, NOT this phil ochs album i found in the basement
-seeing Ana AND Hannah tomorrow
-Fucked Up playing Saturday
-my brother's pictures of Olmu and Valparaiso
-Arrested Development Season 1
-going to San Francisco in a week and a half
-the homey little sort-of-expensive Greek deli/bar/restaurant that Cory likes near Columbus Circle
-a tape Lyle made me for my birthday a couple years ago that I like a lot and inadvertently left off my top mixtapes list; I like it particularly because of its near-disturbing breadth and scope--like, he taped what he liked at the time and what he thought I'd like, so there are Blind Faith songs and Woody Guthrie songs and ska and mid-'70s Chilean protest music and it works. Few are this daring.
-not usually a music blogs fan but this rules
-Art Garfunkel's website, a bizarrely fascinating and needlessly detailed thing. You learn: Art Garfunkel has walked across America. Art Garfunkel has read many books. His taste in music sucks but my God, he or whoever runs this site is a compulsive record-keeper.
-Shohei Imamura and Graham Greene series at BAMcinematek
-Alternatives to copyright
-finally, this video as seen on Ben's myspace, about which all I have to say is that I once had a dream (prior to watching this, and also before I found out even l-skewl papers need beginnings, middles, and ends) about Glenn hiring me to be his personal librarian, and also that I presently have "The Occult Roots of Naziism" on hold for me at the nypl. Make of that what you will.