A New Year Upon us...
I don't have the words. I hope the relief effort continues without hindrance and that the further loss of life is kept to a minimum. This event is beyond comprehension.
FLIX: THE INCREDIBLES (fookinbrillllyannnnnnnnt!); ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (caught up with it on DVD and was blown away!); SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW; THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE
BOOKS: JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL (CLARKE)...forget the Harry Potter for Adults hype...this is a great novel. The imagination on display is astonishing.
MUZAK: THE CURE (Unexpectedly great!); HOW TO DISMANTLE AN ATOMIC BOMB (U2); ANTICS (INTERPOL)
Keep the faith. The Republic can endure another Bush term.
I threatened a new look for this space but thought better of it. I have gotten used to this OLE thang so I think I am gonna keep it. I am going to shift a few things around but nothing too radical.
I also wrote I would make a big announcement in the film section...that is coming...soon...so there!
My daughter Luna turned four...My Oh My....HAPPY BIRTHDAY MY SPICY PEANUT! Papa Loves You with all his heart.
2005...Planet Earth limped into the New Year. Tough times, but we march on.
I wish you all....life...and peace.
It has been a long time since I posted. If you actually read all of this...you have too much spare time.
I neglected to list my 2003 Favs--come down off the stool and remove the noose from your neck. Here they are--quick hit style and in no particular order! I didn't attribute authorship here. If you give a shit, scroll down, peep a review--you will find the names of the talented artists who created these works I enjoyed last year.
FILM: LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING; SPIDER; THE GOOD THIEF; LOST IN TRANSLATION; 28 DAYS LATER (mostly for the amazing first hour); LOST IN LA MANCHA; THE MATRIX: REVOLUTIONS; IN AMERICA (I caught up with it on DVD but technically it is a 2003 release); CITY OF GOD; MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD; HERO and BATTLE ROYALE (I saw these on bootlegs and they are furious fucking movies).
BOOKS: ASHES (The Yakuza lead character is no fucking joke--this book is hard); FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE; SAMARITAN; PATTERN RECOGNITION; WHEN THE WOMEN COME OUT TO DANCE; 101 REYKJAVIK; LIVE FROM NEW YORK; THE GANGSTER WE ARE ALL LOOKING FOR; IN BLACK AND WHITE.
I also devoured some older Haruki Murkami books which I enjoyed immensely (DANCE, DANCE, DANCE is great).
MUZAK: KISH KASH; SPEAKERBOXX/THE LOVE BELOW; THINK TANK; LOST IN TRANSLATION SOUNDTRACK; HAIL TO THE THIEF; CLIENT; ELEPHANT; REALITY; ECHOES.
TV: CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM; THE SIMPSONS; SAMURAI JACK; MY LIFE AS A TEENAGE ROBOT; THE SOPRANOS; FRONTLINE.
I don't have the energy to write anything about the current state of this planet. Not just Iraq but the whole fucking Rock. It seems like I can't go one week without seeing something that burns my mind's eye.
MAY U LIVE 2 SEE THE DAWN
When I first heard they were remaking DAWN OF THE DEAD I had the usual knee-jerk geek reaction: whyyyywouldtheydefameanoriginalclasssssssicc? The first film is first and foremost a very good zombie flick and a worthy sequel to the classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Like all good genre films that transcend the limitations imposed on them, it is really intelligent. From the opening in a housing project, to the shifting action in the mall...straight to the end when the bikers show up...and you're left thinking just who is the enemy, the zombies or us?
Imagine my surprise when I saw the new one and thought it was really good! It just might be the sharpest directed film I have seen this year. The opening ten minutes is a good example of how fluidly it is put together, it flows so well. The cast was solid--Ving Rhames is the one motherfucker I would want on my side if the Undead took over (given the past four years, maybe they have)..
There is this amazing, very touching (!) scene with a character holding a sign...I don't want to blow it but I was impressed with the way the filmmakers made a peripheral player a major part of the film with a few very brief scenes and no on screen dialogue.
It loses its focus towards as it goes along but the images maintain their punch. It isn't as smart a movie as the first one but it has its own integrity. Elvis Mitchell (formerly of the NY TIMES) gave DOTD a scathing review. I don't know what the fuck he was writing about? We clearly saw a different film.
The opening and closing credits are mini-masterpieces. They stand on their own as short films.
KILL BILL VOL. 2 delivers what I thought was missing from the first part. Props to QT for not shying away from pathos and attempting some emotion here. Once again, his directing skills from a technical standpoint are at their height. David Carridine gives a really sly performance as Bill. He almost makes you forget that the character is a piece of shit who shoots a pregnant woman in the head. Uma is great and has to carry this film which she does with steely determination and reserve. Still, when The Bride throws down with non-martial artists (the fight with Daryl Hannah is feral in the best way) she shines, but against those who can fight she is behind the beat. This is no small quibble 'cause she is supposed to be a Killing Machine. If you contrast the efforts here with say Keanu Reeves and Carol Anne Moss in THE MATRIX films you will get my point.
Another problem I had was The Bride is at times the sharpest knife in the drawer and other times gets caught in the dumbest fucking situations that puts her life in jeopardy. The film also drags, Tarantino still takes too much time with things when he should be wrapping shit up.
Other than that, I enjoyed it much more than the first volume--still think it should be one film though. I must mention a friend of mine Helen Kim who has a badass scene in a hotel room with Uma towards the end. Miz Kim shines so brightly!
Recommended: COLLATERAL--no director shoots L.A. the way Michael Mann does.
Feh Corner (should have been better): THE BOURNE SUPREMACY; I. ROBOT
THE RETURN OF HIS ROYAL BADNESS
MUSICOLOGY is the first solid Prince effort in I don't know how long. I admire his music tremendously but fell off after a succession of recordings with religious rants, bad fusion jazz, race baiting, and horribly paced tunes. The new one has lush melodies, beautifully ornate instrumentation (courtesy of Prince himself, who performs nearly all of the music here) and some flashes of humor. The hooks are back too. I do wish he would shut the fuck up about our Culture In Decline in every interview he is gives. There is nothing worse than a reformed motherfucker who has made money and had fun off of vice and then SEES THE LIGHT. Now that you have stopped wearing corsets and using sexual lyrics...you're down on them? I don't take the Jehovah's Witness shit he is kicking seriously either. This bloke is fickle...remember the album EMMANCIPATION...it was a monument to his wife and everlasting love Mayte. She is gone...like long gone...new wife, new songs...new hypocrisies, and END OF MY RANT.
Buy the record, ignore the man.
If I run for office, that is my slogan.
Also Recommended: A GRAND DON'T COME FOR FREE (THE STREETS)--fucking hysterical for the over-the top cockney rap, shallow POV (text messages are an extremely important part of this bloke's life) and sparse beats.
STRUNK AND F'N WHITE
Someone wrote me a few weeks ago about a typo in one of the sections on this site. It was done sweetly out of concern--surely I wanted to correct it kinda thing--which I did. Ironically it wasn't my error but part of something I downloaded, cut and pasted from some other web page run by a major company. But Mea Culpa: my sins against the English language are legion.
I have gone out of my way for this spot to have an informal feeling to it. No one would pay me for the shit I have posted here or my loopy-opinions. If there is a typo or two I am not going to break a sweat. I will save my editorial energy for other parts of my life. I know that some of you will read that and shake your head. I know your type...you meant reign not rein...gently not lightly...you paid attention in Freshman Comp and have utter contempt for those who cannot be bothered to master these simple concepts; WilliamSaffireRules! Without this linguistic precision, there would be chaos! AHEM. While I can appreciate your discipline and admire that kind of dedication, if that is how you feel then you don't understand language, how it evolved, how it is used and why we use it. But feel free to walk around feeling superior...hehehehe.
I will try to keep it tight but there will always be bad grammar on these here premises.
I do think THE ELEMENT'S OF STYLE is required for anyone that writes. I am not a total prick.
Lastly: I took an online Grammar Test from a link on my good pal Adriaan's site and it turns out I am a Grammar God (according to the rankings listed in the results section). That test MUST be useless.
REST IN PEACE
This year has the stench of death on it for me. This is for family and friends gone too soon...
Thea Mertz was elegance personified. Silver voiced and full of heart she made many contributions to the field of voice work. Her life took her from the stage (where she worked with Fassbinder among others) to remote parts of the planet. She was an amazing woman.
Helmut Mertz was precision meets soul. Photographer, nature lover, builder--he was a master of many disciplines. His photographs were technically perfect but always conveyed his heart. He was a brilliant architect and his buildings will grace the streets of Munich forever.
I met Jennifer Chamberlain through a friend of mine she was seeing. He was a breakdancer and did shows in Toronto where he hooked up with her. Back then she called herself Lady Flash and did some mean locking. We hit it off immediately and became friends. Over the years, she put away her Adidas (heheh) and started a successful business. We stayed in touch and I always felt comfortable around her--like family. She fought her illness for a very long time with bravery and positivity.
Greg Scott was a fixture in the New York music scene for over a decade. Some might explain his work as extreme, alternative, experimental but I don't think it does him justice. He was beyond labels. He was a sweet, warm and passionate person who was the sharpest knife in the drawer but never felt the need to show it. I didn't know him as well as I would have liked to but when we met I knew I was in for a good conversation and laughs. We have a shared history and I will not forget him.
Rest in peace good people.
Now...on to the usual shit..
Jonathan Lethem's novel FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE is genetically designed for me to like it. New York City in the 70's; racial dislocation; love for comic books; the wonderful babysteps of Hip-Hop and Punk. Still, I know when he writes about the test for Science High Schools (if you went to a P.S. in Nueva York you know the deal) it won't have the same resonance with some readers it has with me. I am so close to the material that I feel like I need to read it again in a few years and see if it holds up. For now, it is the best book I have read all year.
Give it a look: IN BLACK AND WHITE (Haygood)--slow to start but a very textured bio of Sammy Davis Jr.; DANCE, DANCE, DANCE (Murakami); LIVE FROM NEW YORK (Shales)--Dishy history of SNL; MYTHOLOGY (ROSS/KIDD).
Tunes: Two absolutely stunning records were released this fall. Basement Jaxx's KISH KASH and Outkast's SPEAKERBOXX/THE LOVE BELOW. Each record rages hard with beats, clever lyrics and hooks galore. Nothing wrong with that.
Prick Up Your Ear: ECHOES (The Rapture)--over-hyped but there is some good shit here; LOST IN TRANSLATION SOUNDTRACK (Various); ELEPHANT (WHITE STRIPES) stripped down and unnnghh!; CLIENT (Client)--love/hate for me...all the music sounds like it was generated (not played) by a $75 Yamaha keyboard circa 1980....Okay, I love it.; DEAD CITIES, RED SEAS AND LOST GHOSTS (M83); REALITY (BOWIE) My Man continues his streak of strong records though I must admit this one didn't grab me as much as HEATHEN. There are still some fine songs here (NEW KILLER STAR, LOOKING FOR WATER, BRING ME THE DISCO KING are standouts). I saw him live recently and the tracks from the record kicked a little harder on stage which I think was his intention.
Sin-Nuh-Mah: KILL BILL VOL. I should have just been plain OLE KB over and out. I don't see why it was split in two. I know, dollahssss baby but it might just fuck the film up. This is a very well crafted picture--anyone who ever doubted Tarantino's technique will have to throw him props for this one. He also has balls, he continues to stubbornly do things other filmmakers would have been frightened to do after their second movie (like sticking an animated clip right in the middle of the movie to give backstory to a second string character).
But this everything but the kitchen sink rampage doesn't transcend what is on the screen. It is just cool in bits. Now, perhaps he was building up to some genuine feeling in the second half, but here it ends where it started from an emotional standpoint...and I enjoyed this film but all it really tells me is how much Quentin Tarantino loves movies and that isn't enough.
CHARLIE'S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE (saw it on DVD) made my head hurt. I'm serious.
INTOLERABLE CRUELTY is a funny fucking movie. How is that for a pull quote?
I thought THE MATRIX: REVOLUTIONS was fucking brilll-yant...and you didn't! I am working on a massive post in defense of it.
THIS IS NOT A PROPER BLOG
Posted By: Mr. Arkadin Comments: 0
This isn't a proper Blog. Several friends have told me so. It must be true. I confess. I do. I do.
Blogging is exploding, more and more every second. I have been in Blog land recently--checking out the work being done. This is in many ways a new and exciting thing. At their best they are a mix of photography, newspaper, library, diary, salon and personal space. At their worst...well, a set of clichés have already sprang up around some of the Blogs I have been hitting.
Web Evangelist who is a prophet of the Blog, Technology as a means to Tear the Roof Off the Motherfucker; The Sensitive-Hipster Guy who is troubled, can't quite get it together might be pining for some woman who left him 'cause he can't get it together BUT he has a firm POV and a tight group of pals who support him. He travels, writes poetry and may have given up on his band; Scowling-Minky who digs Rock, posts her poems, MP3 clips from her band and Babe-Shots of her in action; and so on. Add to this the digital photos of the Chinese Restaurant menus in their lobbies they noticed the night of the Big Storm and Something New and Different isn't looking that way anymore.
No one is immune...Me...I am in the Above it all, embraces mainstream shit but throws in the obscure piece of pop culture he is vibing on to keep a semi-hipster cred and really has a site to promote his wares camp...hehehe.
I feel like I am observing a trend AND I am exaggerating (having fun here, don't get pissed). Perhaps there is a sociological reason why there is a like-minds vibe here. You know...67% of all Bloggers are more likely to listen to Stereolab, own Macs and so on. I also think...the roll, as it is now, the way most Blogs are designed might contribute to this sameness. I don't like the boxed in feeling most of them have--Recent Post Left or Center, Books I read Right, Bio Right and Down...Link sources in Blog, Movies to IMDB, a place for people to post responses.
Okay, but why? I mean, did the Ministry of Blog suddenly say THIS IS A PROPER BLOG? Perhaps one feels the above setup (My God, Please don't use the term Information Architecture if you put up a site for your fucking band) is part of a wave that must have these specs in order to make sure this catches on. The first Blogs were link-driven but does that mean everyone should follow suit?
Already there are cries from the Strunk and White set and journalistic community about the lack of standards on Blogs and how they should have editors. See, for me, the whole fucking point of my writing this is to have someplace with no standards....poorly written (mission accomplished you say!) and all over the fucking map. Blogging means never having to apologize for a typo brothers and sisters!
YES...I KNOW...it is about connections...hitting one site with a review of RETURN OF THE KING and ending up linking to one about transferring land deeds to farmers in underdeveloped nations. There are going to be levels of this though, hence this rant!
If I had a proper blog I would use my pal Adriaan's. He is a smart motherfucker and his Blog is quite nimble and cliché free. On it are links to other many fine Blogs so I suggest you head to my Links Section and give it a spin. It'll be Posh!
I prefer to think a Blog can be anything you want it to be. At its heart...a WEB LOG of One's Experiences. This is a New and Exciting Thing we have just touched the surface of. A new art or the Web Cam of the mid-00's (remember when everyone and their mother had one of those; this is me scratching my balls at work)!
Let it breathe.
And if you think I am being hard on people--I am a big fan of Stereolab, Scowling-Minky Women, and photos of Chinese Food Menus in Lobbies.
As Michael Corleone says in THE GODFATHER PART II (no IMDB link, won't fucking do it): "We are all part of the same hypocrisy."
All that aside I might just rename this section...WEBAIRY?
GET THEE TO A WEBIARY!
Fun, fun...don't be so fucking serious.
SADDAM HUSSEIN DIDN'T LOOK LIKE MUCH OF A THREAT TO WESTERN CIVILIZATION
And that is how this was sold. The guy they caught went out like some common thug on AMERICA'S MOST WANTED. He was a murderous bastard and I am glad he is in custody. He had it coming BIG TIME. I disagreed with the Invasion but I want the Iraqi people (no one else) to put this man on trial for his crimes. And now, where does all this go from here?
IN WITH THE NEW
Photo By 'Nane
I am going to tweak things here and there before the year is up but this will be the last big update. Watch for a Radical Redesign of this Site in 2004--rest assured it will still be low-fi with a crappy Blog! Big Announcement in the film section come March or so and all sorts of other stuff. For everyone who stumbles by, I wish you all the best for the new year.
Every single one of you.
I began this post with a tribute to the dead. I want to end it with a tribute to life. My daughter Luna turned three years old this month--time doesn't fly, it warps. This has been a very tough year but through it all my lady and I only had to look into Our Little One's Eyes to find our way out.
Thanks My Spicy Peanut.
And Happy Birthday.
Two years...they've passed just like that. Still, no matter how much time goes by you can never shake the experience. In 2001, some days after the attacks, I was down by Canal Street--sadly there was a circus-like atmosphere about. The morbidly curious wanting to get closer, people selling pictures, etc. I remember one woman walking alone, a picture of a man was taped to her blouse along with a sign asking if anyone had seen him. She had a slow but sure gait and her face was locked in grief.
I will carry that image the rest of my days.
I was born and raised in New York City and I was so proud of the way the town came together during that hard time.
Here is to those who lost their lives in that tragedy. Rest in Peace...
This hasn't been the best of times. A close relative and an old friend passed away this summer--it was just fucking awful. Troops are bogged down in Iraq, the economy is in the shitter and many parts of the planet seem to be in a state of chaos.. Time to put aside the heaviness and get into some Cultcchhh-urreee...unghhh!
'Tis the Season: Most people I know were disappointed by THE MATRIX RELOADED. It is easy to see why and yet I feel like people are being too hard on it. Yes, it takes itself way too seriously, is slow to start and some of the CGI work was shoddy; playyyystatttttttiiion!
Still, you have to give The Brothers W. some credit for this film. Unlike other sequels, this one really makes you rethink what happened in the first part. When is the last time that happened? Although some of the SPFX don't hold up, many are quite spectacular and the action (especially the freeway chase) is killer. Perhaps they came up a bit short because they aimed so high? I was going to post a longer, more detailed review here but after thinking about it I've decided to wait until November and bore the shit out of you with an overlong, overblown, over the top....review of both movies. So there
Flick from outta nowhere...28 DAYS LATER! The little zombie movie that could. I don't want to hype this too much. I think it is a very well made horror film. In a very prescient way (keep in mind it was shot right before 9-11) it conveys the fears and anxiety of many people during these uncertain times. A virus unleashed, empty cities, a mass of bodies coming towards you in a dark tunnel--these images have a real power to them. This is all the more surprising because the film was shot on Mini-DV (a low end digital format) but it is perfect for the story, giving a chiarascuro-type effect that is erie and beautiful. It loses it focus at the end but what film doesn't these days?
TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES was much better than it had any business being. Just a fun ride, nothing more, nothing less.
I haven't seen PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN but everyone is raving about it so...
I caught up with Neil Jordan's (remake of BOB LE FLAMBEUR) THE GOOD THIEF. There is a lot of energy to the filmmaking and I liked the characters a lot.
Recommended Books: 101 REYKJAVIK (Helgason); BANGKOK 8--the tale of a Thai detective (who is also a devoted Buddhist) involved in a particularly nasty case. I loved this until it makes the loopy fucking twist at the end that nearly ruined it for me.; A HISTORY OF THE FRENCH NEW WAVE CINEMA (Neupert); ANY HUMAN HEART (Boyd)--what could have been a literary hat trick comes off really well; Better late than never: CRYPTONOMICON (Stephenson)--one doesn't read this book as much as one lives it--amazing in parts, too long though.; THE GANGSTER WE ARE ALL LOOKING FOR (Thi Diem Thuy)--a thin novel that is strongly written and very moving.; DREAMING PACHINKO (Addamson).
Muzak: Radiohead's HAIL TO THE THIEF falls right between OK COMPUTER and KID A...which is fine by me. The rock out at the end of THERE THERE is worth the price of the CD; Blur's THINK TANK is the shite--poly rhythmic world-breakbeats with guitars and trippy lyrics.
The new X-MEN movie is great fun. Director Bryan Singer has an obvious affection for the characters and the performances were all dead-on. The scene in the middle of the film where Wolverine (very well played by Hugh Jackman) goes off on some unfortunate people who cross his path is worth the price of admission!
The war is over or is it? There is no question that U.S. forces did an incredible job of taking control of the country and that the removal of Saddam Hussein from power is a great thing. Still, all this talk of it being a cakewalk is offensive--many Iraqi civilians were killed, U.S. and British forces took casualties and the country's infrastructure was badly damaged.
Now, Iraq didn't come across as a viable threat to Western Civilization and they have yet to find any WMD but hey. It is the irony of ironies that the Bush Administration is now saying the same thing the U.N. weapons inspectors did: "We need more time."
One hopes the Iraqi people will be able to rebuild their country free from tyranny. Our reasons for being involved aren't altruistic and I think this will be revealed in the future. Is the war really over? I expected we would go in and secure most of Iraq quickly.
In my opinion now the Real Work begins. How long will we be there? Will forces opposed to the U.S. invasion launch a guerilla war campaign? How long will the Iraqi people tolerate an American presence in the country? Will factions begin to clash over who will control the country? Will the U.S. stop here or are we planning on moving into Syria or Iran?
In today's papers there were several articles about the United States wanting to install permanent Military Bases in Iraq (this is being denied though not entirely ruled out by Rummy). This tells me that the situation in Iraq is going to play out over years. Perhaps Fox News is crowing a bit prematurely?
We are exactly where I thought we would be when this began...a fog of uncertainty.
On to the bullshit...it is April...so why not My Favs of 2002 list?!
Genre films, guitars, Hip-hop with Prokofiev pulses, Iceland and a Wunderkind writer seemed to rule the year...
Film: Minority Report (Spielberg); CQ (Coppola); Twenty-Four Hour Party People (Winterbottom); Gangs of New York (Scorsese);Y Tu Mama Tambien (Cuaron); Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Jackson); Reign of Fire (Bowman); Spirited Away (Miyazaki)
All praises due: the restored version of Fritz Lang's Metropolis might be the best film I saw in a theater last year. The print was beautiful and the film has held up remarkably well.
Better late than never: A friend hipped me to Djibril Diop Mambety's The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun (released in 1999 and recently shown on PBS) and it is a fucking masterpiece! A powerful and very simple story of kids (in particular one special girl) on the streets in Dakar, Senegal. Some of the best filmmaking and storytelling I have seen in a long time.
I also caught up with Donnie Darko (Kelly) as well. It is a fine film indeed.
Couldabeen great but sank like a stone:: Signs (Shamalyan); Road to Perdition (Mendes)--there are some stunning sequences in this film but it never came together as a whole.
Records: Heathen (Bowie); Under Construction (Missy Eliot); Turn on the Bright Lights ( Interpol); Gee-Tar Corner: Hives, White Stripes and Strokes put out records I liked in late 2001 and in 2002; Twenty-Four Hour Party People Soundtrack (Various); Point (Cornelius); A Rush of Blood to the Head (Coldplay); Have You Fed the Fish? (Badly Drawn Boy); Yoshi Versus the Pink Robots (The Flaming Lips); Ice, Ice Baby: [ ] (Sigur Ros); Enter Space Bar (Trabant); Finally We are One (Mum)-Iceland rules!
Singles: Made You Look (Nas); PDA (Interpol); The Seed (The Roots); Is John Fucking Crazy or What: Jenny From the Block (Lopez) and Can't Get You Out of My Head (Minogue) are great pop songs-go ahead…LAUGH; You Were Right (Badly Drawn Boy); Do You Realize (The Flaming Lips); Slow Burn (Bowie)
Books: Everything is Illuminated (Safran Foer); The Conversations (Murch and Ondejete); Third Face (Fuller); After the Quake (Murakami)-an amazing collection of short stories; When the Women Come Out to Dance (Leonard); Atonement: A Novel (McEwan)
Great Ideas Botched: Prey (Crichton)-kind of expected it to fuck up but damn; Prague (Phillips)-potential but it fell apart.
Was too hard on it when I first read it: Zadie Smith's The Autograph Man...any book that uses the term "infinity slap" to describe the discovery of a terminal illness can't be all bad. It is no White Teeth but why should it be?
Television: The Simpsons; Curb Your Enthusiasm; The Sopranos; Six Feet Under; Frontline; Samurai Jack; Oswald
Comics: 100 Bullets (DC COMICS); League of Extraordianry Gentlemen Vol. II (ABC); Catface (Shiot Crioc)--a brilliant, poetic piece by Chris Keegler and the very talented Dave Mckenna
Something happened on Sunday.
Ever since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began the major network news coverage has taken on a nearly macabre tone. There was barely disguised glee at the ease in which U.S. forces were able to mobilize in such large numbers and race across the border unopposed. At various times the broadcasts didn't resemble a conventional news program but a History Channel Special: America's Most High Tech Military Equipment.
Something happened on Sunday.
American soldiers dying in battle, friendly fire, ambushes, POW's, innocent civilians being killed and on and on. Not too much talk about precision missiles and bunker busters the whole day. There was a pause.
This is war.
Today was a day for a mother on television seeing a ghastly image of her captured son. A lot of shock and not much awe.
I am against this invasion-but look…fuck Saddam Hussein, I will be happy when he is gone I think we would have been able to use different means to achieve the same result albeit with a different timetable. I will get into this in more detail down the road. Good people are going to continue to passionately disagree about this conflict but I hope we will all have the proper respect for what is going on here. This isn't about military hardware or satellite technology giving us a seat like no other during a war.
It is about sacrifice and loss. For our troops and the innocent (nonmilitary) Iraqi people.
Something happened on Sunday.
William Gibson's PATTERN RECOGNITION works best (and overtime) on two levels. One is something we have come to expect from the author--his visionary extrapolations. This is all the more amazing here because the book takes place in the present. The other fascinating aspect of this work is the way it sells us a lifestyle that many of his readers aspire to but few will ever reach.
The book is as much about beautiful, talented people, lugging their i-Books around the world while racking up minutes on the world phone (all to solve a mystery of course) as it is about anything. This is not a swipe but much of it functions the way a good Bond novel does (high stakes, danger, casino, beautiful woman by your side and the bulge of your walther).
If you are into this sort of thing one cannot help but feel envy over the ease in which the characters get on flights (in first class) and hop to Tokyo-on the company's nickel no less. Gibson keeps these two elements in balance and manages to create his strongest work since NEUROMANCER.
Cayce Pollard (pronounced Casey so we don't confuse it with that other guy) is a Design Consultant with a killer rep and an international client base. Spotting trends or picking logos she is the Go-To person in her field. One of her wealthy clients hires her to find the source of The Footage. These brief, enigmatic video clips are being released on the web and have cultivated a devoted following (Cayce was aware of their existence before she was brought in). Her client is convinced that this is THE NEXT BIG thing and wants the BEST person on the job.
She takes the gig and gets more than she bargained for. It takes her around the world and back-mixes her up with crime syndicates and hackers, corporate sharks and to the mystery of her father who disappeared two years prior. It is all here…watermarked footage; streams of manipulated data; drugged cocktails and all that shimmering static.
This is all very compelling but for me the book is about communication and art. Everyone seems to be searching for something here…clips, a logo, a lost relative and so on. In a world moving faster and faster a white i-Book in a white airport isn't so much pretentious as much as it is a pathetic lifeline.
In this book all roads lead to art. Those who want to exploit it for profit, be healed by it, or produce it. Roads worth traveling-pick it up!
A New Year is here, so let's go...
LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS is as good (if not better) as the first one and much more powerful on an emotional level. All praises due to Peter Jackson for what he is accomplishing with these films. What I love most about the experience is that you feel the primary concern of the filmmakers is not to toys or making their money back. It is to the characters and story--the best evidence of this is Gollum. This character could have easily been tweaked to make him comical or cartoonish--to bring younger children in. Instead he is portrayed on screen as he is in the book...mysterious, dangerous and tragic. See this one on the big screen if you can.
I am midway through WIlliam Gibson's PATTERN RECOGNITION and I am happy to report that so far the buzz is right. I think it is his strongest work since NEUROMANCER. I will write a detailed review of it when I am done.
REIGN OF FIRE is out on DVD--now some of my friends have told me I am insane but I loved this film! I don't want to make more of it than it really is but not only is it a bad ass apocalyptic dragon film but it also a metaphor (unintentionally perhaps) for the world being both attracted to and terrified of the United States! The images have a real texture to them and I don't know what the fuck Matthew McConaughey ate but he does an about face from all his other performances and does a strong, scary turn here.
I will be posting my 2002 favorites list in a week or two. And why not?
MINORITY REPORT IS FOOKIN' BRILLIANT! One of the most fully realized motion pictures I have seen in years. The images pulsate and shake--this was unexpected as it was not high up on my list of films to see...but do check it out.
CQ: Directed by Roman Coppola (yup, the son of Sir Francis) tells the story of youg filmmaker trying to make his way in Paris in the late sixties. His day job is editing a film in the DANGER DIABOLIK/BARBARELLA mode while on the side he is trying to create a more personal autobiographical piece. French New Wave, Beautiful women in spy suits, retro soundtrack (the score was done by the French band MELLOW and it is amazing) and old school filmmaking--Steenbecks and all. This is a small film but you can see it was created with a lot of care. Amazing art direction and the film within a film (DRAGONFLY) is spot on. It really won me over.
A friend gave me an advance copy of David Bowie's new record HEATHEN. Bowie has been leading up to this for some years now, doing some of his finest music while still being dismissed by a large portion of his old audience who want him to do Ziggy until he dies (that's the butch period hipsters cop to liking Bowie during). 90's CD's OUTSIDE, BUDDHA OF SUB., EARTHLING, and HOURS have culminated in this latest piece of work. A nice mesh of old school Bowie (circa SCARY MONSTERS) and modern ideas--the lyrics are spot on as well. Simple, deceptively so. His old pal Tony Visconti produced and it's one of his best sounding records (in terms of audio quality) ever. Slip Away, Slow Burn, I Would Be Your Slave, A Better Future and Heathen are the choice tracks...check it out, why don't you?
VESPERTINE--Bjork: Brilliant and beautiful. Pick it up-now!
THE COLD SIX THOUSAND--James Elroy: He is pushing language in popular fiction just about as far as it can go. Imagine if James Joyce wrote crime fiction-dig?
DK2 (DC COMICS)-Frank Miller and Lynn Varley; 100 BULLETS--Brian Azarello and Eduardo Risso (VERTIGO/DC COMICS): Bad Ass Comic-Noir Shit!; DEADLINE--Bill Rosemann and Guy Davis (MARVEL): Super-heroes from an off kilter POV--great lead character
Roger Deakin's Cinematography in THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE: The film was feh…but the black and white images were lovely and haunting. See it projected if you still can! It's just out on DVD.
Denzel Washington in TRAINING DAY: Again, film was feh but he was the shit. He channeled his inner homeboy or something. A well-deserved Oscar win.
AGAETIS BYRJUN-Sigur Ros; ROOTY-Basement Jaxx; MISS E…SO ADDICTIVE-Missy Elliott; DISCOVERY-Daft Punk; THE ALTOGETHER-Orbit; STANKONIA-Outkast; GET READY-New Order; MUM and TRABANT: two bands from Iceland doing lovely...lovely work.
EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED--Jonathan Safran Foer: Believe the hype; SPUTNIK SWEETHEART--Haruki Murakami