“You’re brilliant, gorgeous, and ampersand after ampersand.”

Last night after I got home from work, I decided to go for a walk. This is something I do more and more of late, possibly because of the slow seasonal change, but I don’t complain. I’ve been lucky enough to excise most television from my life and whatever remnants I had of a social life as well. And sometimes nothing cleans out the cobwebs in your head like headphones full of music and a brisk walk to… Wherever. Nowhere. Everywhere.

As I was coming back last night, I passed by one of my neighbors in front of her house. She’s a young girl, her age being in the vicinity of high school-ish, and she was talking with her boyfriend. I wasn’t really paying attention to them at first and thankfully couldn’t hear them since I had the head phones on and the music blaring, but after a few moments in the slow passing of them I realized that they were having an argument. And not just an argument, the mother of all arguments. And not just the mother of all arguments. They were breaking up. Bitterly. And nastily.

When you’re young and stupid and awkward and think you’re alone in the world, there’s nothing so wonderful as the onset of love. That feeling of some part of yourself starting to resonate in another and the coming together of two souls (take this as either a romantic or sexual metaphor, I don’t care), and that first feeling that life may not be so horrible after all… Ah, there’s nothing like it.

But then you get older and jaded and mean and you know that you’re alone in the world and you take a certain satisfaction watching a relationship end. There’s a certain, sad optimism in it. You smile a little to yourself and you think that suddenly there’s a little extra happiness in this bizarre and amazing world. And hey, these two certainly aren’t using any of that happiness right now so maybe you’ll just snatch it up for yourself.

And I’d really like to thank the music of the Magnetic Fields and Stephen Merritt to be piping through my headphones as I watched the dissolution of that relationship last night. Perfect synergy.

This is the wiki for the 69 Love Songs.

The Magnetic Fields “I Thought You Were My Boyfriend” (mp3)

The Magnetic Fields “Heroes” (David Bowie cover)(mp3)

The Magnetic Fields “Too Drunk To Dream” (mp3)

The Magnetic Fields “The Book Of Love” (mp3)

Are You Fascinating?

I’m looking for new subjects for my weekly interview series so I can actually start publishing it weekly and not when I feel like it.

For a glimpse into what a typical interview looks like, check out the three previous installments:

1. Tess Lynch

2. Peanut St. Cosmo

3. Topher Chris

Whatever you do, don’t make me create another video of myself talking again. No one wants that.

If you’re into it, comment via this post or email me: dancethis@gmail.com

LG aka MD

Our Nada Who Arts In Nada.

Ernest Hemingway with Fidel Castro in 1960 during “The Ernest Hemingway Fishing Competition,” which just sounds like crazy good fun.

I don’t know why, but I’ve been thinking about Hemingway a lot lately. He’s one of the greatest American writers and probably one of the most often imitated writers, because his style is so simple, and yet the imitation does no justice, usually. It just comes out like half bad Hemingway and half bad Mickey Spillane.

by Benjamin Stone, from here and here.

Who knows, maybe it’s the death of Sylvia Plath’s son recently that made me think of Hemingway,  in that sometimes great talent runs in some families, but maybe so does great sadness. Or just bad brain chemistry. And that seemed to be the case with the Hemingway family tree, which quite possibly had suicide as it’s seasonal fruit.

Or maybe it’s just that the idea of the tough guy is over, except in the rare screen commodity like Clive Owen, and… well, I don’t know. The tough guy and the cowboy have kind of become jokes these days, haven’t they? But the writer, ah, the writer is as lonely as ever…

from here.

“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”


Hemingway and Marlene Dietrich. Ernest, you old dog you.

What follows is Hemingway’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech:

Having no facility for speech-making and no command of oratory nor any domination of rhetoric, I wish to thank the administrators of the generosity of Alfred Nobel for this Prize.

No writer who knows the great writers who did not receive the Prize can accept it other than with humility. There is no need to list these writers. Everyone here may make his own list according to his knowledge and his conscience.

It would be impossible for me to ask the Ambassador of my countery to read a speech in which a writer said all of the things which are in his heart. Things may not be immediately discernible in what a man writers, and in ths sometimes he is fortunate; but eventually they are quite clear and by these and the degree of alchemy that he possesses he will endure or be forgotten.

Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.

For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with good luck, he will succeed.

How simple the writing of literature would be if it were only necessary to write in another way what has been well written. It is because we have had such great writers in the past that a writer is driven far out past where he can go, out to where no one can help him.

I have spoken too long for a writer. A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it.

Again I thank you.

Sadly, Hemingway was unable to accept his prize (which consists of $36,000, a gold medal, and an illuminated diploma) from the Swedes in person because of a repeated series of injuries in the month and years before (possibly because of his increasingly self destructive nature), so John C. Cabot accepted it for him and read Hemingway’s prepared speech.

One of my favorite Hemingway bits of all time is from A Moveable Feast, when F. Scott Fitzgerald confesses to Hemingway that Zelda said he (Fitzgerald) had a small penis. Hemingway tries to tell his friend that it’s just Zelda being her usual self and trying to mess with him (or psychologically destroy him, since they had a very complex relationship), but verbal reassurance alone wasn’t lifting up Fitzgerald’s spirits. An excerpt from the autobiographical book:

“Zelda said that the way I was built I could never make any woman happy and that was what upset her originally. She said it was a matter of measurements. I have never felt the same since she said that and I have to know truly.”

“Come out to the office,” I said.

“Where is the office?”

“Le water,” I said.

We came back into the room and sat down at the table.

“You’re perfectly fine,” I said. “You are okay. There’s nothing wrong with you. You look at yourself from above and you look foreshortened. Go over to the Louvre and look at the people in the statues and then go home and look at yourself in the mirror in profile.”

Now that’s just being a good friend right there. A version of the same moment is done in Jason’s lovely graphic novel, The Left Bank Gang, in which all the great expats from the tens and twenties are gathered in Paris, but instead of novelists and poets, they’re struggling artists working on their comics, and they look like highly anthromorphized animals. The usual characters – Hemingway, Joyce, Fitz, Zelda, Ford Maddox Ford, etc. – are all there, in perfect caricature form in so many ways, and it’s a heist story, hilarious and brilliant. And at one point, Hemingway checks out Fitzgerald’s stuff in the bathroom and tells him not to worry because Zelda’s crazy and just messing with his head. Oh, Zelda.

I’ve been lucky enough to read several of Jason’s books, and just like The Left Bank Gang, I’d highly recommend just about all of them.

Now, without thinking further, he would go home to his room. He would lie in the bed and finally, with daylight, he would go to sleep. After all, he said to himself, it’s probably only insomnia. Many must have it.

-from “A Clean, Well Lighted Place,” of which James Joyce once remarked: “He [Hemingway] has reduced the veil between literature and life, which is what every writer strives to do. Have you read ‘A Clean Well-Lighted Place’?…It is masterly. Indeed, it is one of the best short stories ever written…”

7 Questions with… Topher Chris.

7 questions returns! And in tonight’s very special segment we talk with internet enthusiast and prolific web developer, Christopher Price, AKA TopherChris. And though he’d refer to himself as an “internet jackass,” we’d seriously disagree. Hell, even Julia Allison would have to disagree with that.

Well… You never know with her. But we’d rather talk with Topher instead:

1) How tall are you and how tall do you feel?

This is a good question for me, because a serious gulf exists between the two values.  According to my official identification, I’m 5-9. Clearly, a lazy government employee screwed it up.  I can’t explain how, but I just _know_ I’m really 5-10 1/2.  I can feel it.

from here.

2) You awake to find an alien using your computer staring endlessly at a picture of a pirate eating a cupcake wrapped in bacon with the words “fuck yeah sharks” written on it. He asks what a meme is. How do you explain it to him?

Indeed, this is always a possibility to be prepared for.  I have to say, when I got your interview request, I thought that’s exactly what was happening.

It really all depends what kind of alien it is.  For instance, if they’re the kind of alien that bred our entire human civilization, then I really have bigger things to worry about than an answer to his meaningless query.  He’s just making small talk before he and his minions capture me, since those particular breeder aliens only make house calls to “fix” certain problems with the system.  If you catch my drift.

But the response to use in the more typical humanoid alien situation would be something like: “A meme?  First, let’s talk about what Wikipedia is,” and then look it up with him.  I figure, since I might accidentally say something that offends this guy, better to let my laptop do the explaining and end up disintegrated than me.  I don’t know his background or his values.

But if we’re talking the most nonviolent creature in the universe, which presents no reason at all to fear it…  Well, I’d probably try to trap it.  I mean, this is a huge deal obviously, and I could teach it about internet culture or I could trap him and become rich and famous.  Seriously.

But finally, a straight answer, since I assume aliens will receive this signal in 10,000 Earth years, and I don’t want them to be offended:

A meme is a nugget of thought, which is much less than an actual idea. When you break up the human thought process in the smallest chunks you can find, memes are what you’re left with.  Memes are like atoms. Or, more accurately, single-celled organisms, because memes are very clever at reproducing.  They evolve faster than fruit flies.  They can be about anything our tiny brains can wrap itself around, but the most popular use of memes in internet culture is for humor.

3) What kind of single use website would you use to propose to someone?

I have two distinct, unrelated answers to this.

- One that says “If you’re seriously considering an agreement to marry me through a proposal on a website, then please run in the other direction.”

- One of nothing but my face and some text about how you’ll have to see it for the rest of your life.  I’m also thinking an age slider that ages my face as you move it to the right.  I think it’s fair that she know what she’s in for.

4) Of all your projects, which is your most favorite? And don’t tell me they are like your children and you can’t decide. And on the same tip which is the red headed stepchild you wish you’d put in the orphanage?

My most favorite is the one that’s the most appealing to me on any given day.  (Technically that was a cop out, but I didn’t break your stated guideline, so I feel okay about it.)

To be honest though, I’m being honest.  I get bored with my own stuff easily, just like most of the rest of you, so I switch gears often. If I feel like using one part of my brain, I have a project for that. If I feel like using another, I can start one.  In the end, the one that people like the most is my default favorite, because I’m just an entertainer who happens to use the internet as my weapon.

I’ve definitely killed off some embarrassing projects, too.  The one that hurt the most to close down was a little site where people submitted photos of the last animal that bit them.  I was sure there was a book deal in there somewhere, but apparently people rarely have a camera ready right after they got bit by something.

5) Dance party break! What song do you pick?

No question: I’m On a Boat — The Lonely Island (Feat. T-Pain).  Or anything by Steve Perry.

6) Obama is thanking you for the Obama porn tumblr by creating a special Topher Chris Day. How do we celebrate?

Huzzah!  We write bad poetry and read it to each other.  We dress up in nonsensical costumes.  We pick up brushes, instruments, hammers, and make stuff.

Holy crap, did I just describe Burning Man?  Oh no.

Well, there’s all that, plus the annual Jerry Lewis telethon, the running of the bulls, and cake.  The official drink is the Irish carbomb.

You are required by law to decorate your home with old pizza boxes.

7) How long have you been doing this Internet thing and how did you start? (I’m an Internet historian, I gotta ask)

I’ve been on the internet since it was possible for me to be on it.  I used every free webhost I could find (Tripod? Holla!) to do wacky stuff.  This was before blogging was even a thing, so I’m not even sure what I did.  Crossing the threshold into the territory of paying for domains and hosting was a big deal.  I mean, how could I rationalize this?  That was easy, actually, since I was just a kid.

I got some notoriety early on for doing satirical campaign websites for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and former President George W. Bush, and I started a satirical news site for the area’s favorite NFL team.  This was back when people wrote in newspapers and gave you radio interviews about your funny website.  I suppose the rewards of those early experiments shaped my ethos on the entire enterprise of doing whatever it is that I do.

Thank you for answering our silly questions!

My pleasure, Maria.  Hopefully I don’t come off too insane here.  It’s early and I was up until 4.  So, uh, please tell me if I’m an idiot. :)

Thanks so much.  I’m really honored and tickled by this.  I hope I didn’t let you down.


TopherChris, with his thinking cap on, hard at work on the task of making the internet a better place for the likes of you.

Counterforce After Dark: Your Housemate Woke You Up So You Cannot Go Back To Sleep and You Can Not Sleep The Day Away Tomorrow So You Are Sad Edition

Songs to listen to at 5am by the blue light of the MacBook:

80 Windows is the best song on Nada Surf’s sophomore debut, The Proximity Effect. It is insomnia, dark nights, expanses full of nothing. And lyrics so exquisitely sad you’ll want to scrawl them all over your mead composition notebook.

My co-bloggers like the more recent Death Cab for Cutie, which makes me want to bleed from my ears. I prefer the angrier Ben Gibbard, before he cashed in on the Dork Lottery by marrying Zooey Deschanel. Something About Airplanes is DCFC at their lo-fi, un-polished amateur, biting, cynical best. The selection: Champagne From A Paper Cup.

Most of Elliott Smith’s catalog is perfect for middle of the night self loathing, but Between The Bars is hit going to hit really close. I promise.

Being up all night produces rapid mood swings, from euphoria to profound sadness to frustration and back again. This song, a remix of a Modest Mouse/764-Hero song is for the happy stage. Lay on your bed and stare at the ceiling. If you have windows and live in a place where stars are viewable, look at them. Smoke em if you got em. Etc.

When it comes time to think of all the relationships you’ve no doubt messed up and get wistful and longing, the time has come for Depeche Mode. Go ahead and mouth the lyrics: vows are spoken to be broken, feelings are intense, words are trivial.

When the sun starts to come up, you’ve finally hit that elusive wall and the exhaustion settles into your bones, put on Zero 7’s Distractions to slowly carry you onto the other side. Congratulations. You’ve made it. See you in a few hours.

I am a traveler of both time and space.

When he wakes up in the morning, Sayid from Lost takes a shower, makes himself some breakfast, cereal probably, and then goes out and creates red hot paradoxes!

Last night’s episode of Lost, entitled “He’s Our You,” wasn’t a great episode, but it was certain a damn interesting one. And, at least for me, a welcome return to the single character flashback system, focusing wonderfully on Sayid, always the coolest character in any room, but also one of the most interesting, and played with graceful nuance by Naveen Andrews.

And it looks like Ben was right all along about Sayid’s killer nature, years before he ever knew it. Or knew he knew it. Of course, it’s easy being right when you’re laying face down in the mud on the Island.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it looks like Sayid’s bullet hit evil little Harry Potter young Ben right in the chest, practically right in the heart, right? A killing shot, to be sure, and yet I somehow suspect we’re in for some twisty simple non-super crazy fun paradox way out of it. Was little Ben wearing a bullet proof vest? I almost wouldn’t put it past him.

Though I’ve got my fingers crossed for some hot, raw paradox action. Maybe Desmond’s not the only person that the rules don’t apply to.

Even more fascinatingly to me at the moment was the book that Ben gave Sayid to read during his captivity: A Separate Reality by Carlos Castaneda, the fiction-as-anthropology dealing in Mesoamerican neo-shamanism. The book, one in a series by Castaneda, detail the author’s many years in an apprenticeship with a Yaqui shaman named don juan Matus. Matus, who was perhaps the original Tyler Durden or Jacob, identifies Castaneda as having the energetic configuration of a nagual, essentially saying that he has the soul of a leader-sorcercor, one who can percieve the higher planes of reality via the use of psychotropic plants and may quite possibly have the gift of transmogrification.

Even better: Ben tells Sayid that he’s read it twice. There’s so many shades of things we’ve seen in the technoshamanism that Lost dabbles going on there, that it makes sense. I’d read it twice too, you little shit.

Many critics have doubted the authenticity of Castaneda’s works, including Joyce Carol Oates, and Donald Barthelme even went so far as to parody his books, though substituting any uses of the word brujo with “brillo.” Castaneda is a classic plastic shaman, but he’s an entertaining one. Just don’t forget to wear your God helmet!

Being a mega-dorky fan of this and an even bigger fan of implied connections a la synchronicity, all of this double interests me because of my recent viewing of Altered States (thanks for that, by the way, Benjamin Light), the 1980 film written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Ken “Apocalyptic Sexuality” Russell.

The film stars William Hurt as a scientist trying to study other states of consciousness while getting over his loss of (Christian) faith in the world, and ends up experimenting with a fictionalized form of the psychoactive amanita muscaria mushrooms in a sensory deprivation tank because they can supposedly bring about the same hallucination in every user: unlocking the keys to genetic memory. They do in his case, causing him to de-evolve into a type of primitive man beast, and then later into a form of man-shaped cosmic energy. The special effects for the hallucinations and the genetic changes are both amazing for their time period and predictably horrible.

Blair Brown plays Hurt’s wife in the film, and of course his savior, because predictably it’s discovered there really is no God, no Jesus, no higher plan (which makes sense), there’s only now and love, and, sigh, love conquers all. Young Blair Brown, incidentally, is gorgeous and is bascially eye candy in the film, her acting talents totally wasted accent in a typical wifely “Be careful” whisper as Hurt’s scientist character goes off in search of different levels of understanding. She is currently playing a cyborg on Fringe, which had a scene with a sensory deprivation tank in it’s pilot which worked as a nice little in joke to the film.

Meanwhile, back on the Island…

I like how so many of our main characters on Lost are still so grounded, despite all the weird shit going on around them. At this point, they’re so used to it, so when Sawyer says, “Oh, by the way, we’re in the 70s,” Jack just kinda bobs his head in an understanding way. In fact, he looks like he’s still on the hillbilly heroin in some of these scenes.

But as much as I like Jack, and wold like to see his character return to the fore in a decent way, I’m kinda digging Sawyer as the main man in the 70s. I can’t say that I’m really excited about a love triangle there, but was happy to see that the Juliet/Kate “confrontation” played out much more civil in the episode than the advertisments would’ve lead us to believe. Essnetially, Juliet: “I’m giving Sawyer what he needs, Man Hips.” Kate (feeling dejected): “Well, shit. Maybe Jack needs a pity fuck…” Juliet: “Or some pills… Oh, hey, there’s Sayid. I bet he’s about to go do something awesome.” Kate: “When is Sayid ever not doing something awesome?”

You got that right, Kate.

The Spiders From Mars!

I’ve got two words for you today. Just two simple words. They are:

Jazz Odyssey!

My friend is obsessed with the new Mastodon album. They’re not really my thing (nor are most of the metal genre or their fans, especially), but he bought it yesterday (it’s been leaked for weeks, but he’s refused to download it, instead wanting “to experience it in it’s purest form”), but in reading about it out of curiosity, it makes me wonder what happened to the idea of the concept album.

Back in the 70s it was practically the de rigeur, wasn’t it? These days, other than metal and prog acts, the last concept album that springs to mind is, what, American Idiot? Green Day? Not fucking good enough. Who’s going to go out and write today’s version of The Wall or Tommy or Sgt. Pepper’s?

I remember reading a few years back that Trent Reznor brought somebody in to help him write the story for The Fragile. Is it me or is that not impressively lame?

And one should not confuse a concept album with a theme(d) album. All albums, in my opinion, should be theme albums. They should all come from the same place, chapters from the same novel, short stories from the same messed up thought process. Every artist should be able to say, “This is my divorce album,” or, “This is my ‘I just beat cancer album,'” or, “This is my Here, My Dear.”

But still, nothing can match the beauty of a concept album, the combination of an indepth story set to sometimes poppy, but sometimes also slightly avante-garde-ish, tunes is a magical combination. That’s right, I said it: magical.

Stepping back a bit, this is Brann Dailor, the drummer from Mastodon describing the “story” on their new album, Crack The Skye:

“There is a paraplegic and the only way that he can go anywhere is if he astral travels. He goes out of his body, into outer space and a bit like Icarus, he goes too close to the sun, burning off the golden umbilical cord that is attached to his solar plexus. So he is in outer space and he is lost, he gets sucked into a wormhole, he ends up in the spirit realm and he talks to spirits telling them that he is not really dead. So they send him to the Russian cult, they use him in a divination and they find out his problem. They decide they are going to help him. They put his soul inside Rasputin‘s body. Rasputin goes to usurp the czar and he is murdered. The two souls fly out of Rasputin’s body through the crack in the sky(e) and Rasputin is the wise man that is trying to lead the child home to his body because his parents have discovered him by now and think that he is dead. Rasputin needs to get him back into his body before it’s too late. But they end up running into the Devil along the way and the Devil tries to steal their souls and bring them down…there are some obstacles along the way.”

Wow. That’s impressive. On top of all that metaphysical hootenanny and sci-fi mad craziness, there’s a more personal element, a deeper meaning, if you will, dealing with the drummer’s sister, Skye, who committed suicide at age 14, and that the timeless emotional story of the element has to do with the moment in which you hear that a loved one has left the world and you become filled with so many feelings rising up high enough that they could crack the sky.

Well, whatever. That’s heavy, man.

Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool is no MACHINA/The Machines Of God or Kid A, but it’s got it’s own charm.

I think I want to get a job writing ridiculous concept album concepts. Probably for a group like Mastodon, whose last album, Blood Mountain, didn’t just have a wonderful title, but also packed a similarly crazy story to go with it (again, sonically/musically they’re just not my thing)(though as someone who plays guitar, I can admire their technical expertise and their ability to seriously shred). And certainly Trent Reznor needs the help because those tales of woe and bleak futurescapes just aren’t going to write themselves. And of course there’s always a Slayer-ific group like Coheed and Cambria. Those guys are just dying for new concepts for their wacky albums. Claudio Sanchez, the frontman from Coheed, eventually turned all the wacky material from his albums into a comic book series, The Armory Wars, parts one and two, and here’s the solicitation from The Armory Wars II #5 (of 5):

Coheed and Cambria are dead, Mariah’s Rebellion is destroyed, and Supreme Tri-Mage Wilhelm Ryan rules the expanse of Heaven’s Fence unopposed. The final issue of “The Second Stage Turbine Blade” cuts to the quick – and all that remains is a bloody trail of death, destruction and self-immolation.

Self-immolation. That sounds about right.

Incidentally, this is my favorite new comic book. Word to your momma.

The beauty of me getting a job writing concept album concepts is that in the off season, I can just loan out my big beautiful brain to the Japanese. It’s kind of funny, if you think about it, in that we know Japanese cinema (usually horror movies) and we know about the anime, but I can’t say that I’ve ever heard anything about a Japanese sitcom or a Japanese one hour drama, you know? Regardless, I’m not one of those weird anime lovers, but I’ve seen a little, and I like it. I like the depths of imagination they mine for some of their work (and some of it sounds like it was concocted in the throes of a serious peyote binge). When it’s not about giant robots and tentacle rape, that is. Maybe they’ll let me throw out a few ideas for them, not that those crazy wonderful bastards need it, of course.

So, in conclusion:

1. Concept albums rock. They need to come back in a big way soon, but not just in hands of metal bands and shit acts like Insane Clown Posse.

2. I’m aware that a better concept album/idea was discussed in This Is Spinal Tap, but I didn’t want to call this post, “Saucy Jack,” though now I kind of wish I had.

3. ELO’s Eldorado is one of the greatest albums of all time and if you disagree, I will fight you. I will fight you to the death.

4. Blind Guardian, leaders of the pack on Tolkien music or Lord Of The Rings-core, fucking shred:

The Auteur Theory, part five: More like music than fiction.

“A film is – or should be – more like music than fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later.”

-Stanley Kubrick.

Here we are again with part five of our films that we love, and perhaps even adore, that we feel should make the jump over to the Criterion Collection, if, for no other reason, just to make ourselves a little happier. Or maybe we just want to talk about them because we like them.  Or because we’re sick, sick people

August Bravo: One of the newest films to hit the Criterion Collection (this may actually be a joke):

Marco Sparks: Ah, interesting. You saw that, right?

August: Yes, I not only saw, but I also immensely enjoyed Benjamin Button. My opinion may be a little biased since I’m a  huge Brad Pitt fan. I often feel his performances are highly underrated, as well as most of his movies. Shut up, Benjamin.

Marco: Is it as remarkably Forrest Gump-like as it appears?

August: Well, I hear that a lot, people comparing it to Forrest Gump. Yes, I realize they have the same screenwriter and that they were both nominated for 13 Academy Awards, but the only way they are alike is the way they recap a man’s life, Benjamin Button being far more accurate though.

While they both are farces, maybe is far more of one, the emotions are so real and gives to much to what many people consider a long and boring film. It’s length really is staggering, but I would have loved to see more as David Fincher’s pinpoint accuracy  at directing really made this movie so much better. It’s continuous subtly is something that struck me the most, probably. It doesn’t have to have a lot of noise or dialogue to mean something profound, just picture. Just visual. This made me sad as you could only imagine, if you don’t already know, what happened. All good things must come to an end.

Marco: That really is so poetic that I might cry, August. Really and truly. Besides doing an update on one of our previous posts in which I’m happy to say that My Dinner With Andre will soon be a Criterion release, I’m going to have to say that you should probably do your pick while I do some very manly crying here.

August: Uh huh. Today’s pick is Sex, Lies, and Videotape, 1989, directed by Steven Soderbergh.

Sex, Lies, and Videotape isn’t my favorite movie. It isn’t even my favorite Soderbergh film. But it’s good. I can’t tell you how I came across it. I probably saw the title and thought it would be a different kind of movie. But that’s ok. I’m glad it wasn’t.

This follows a younger married couple. John, Peter Gallagher, and Ann, Andie MacDowell. John’s old college friend, Graham, James Spader, comes back home to visit a friend. He stops at John’s and finds Ann there alone. What ensues is probably exactly what you’d expect from someone visiting an old friend’s wife. Awkward conversation and a lot of confusion. When John arrives Graham changes his demeanor to a little less open. John mocks him a little and makes you think that’s what he did during their college days. Throughout the movie you learn that John is having an affair with Ann’s sister. You also learn that Graham videotapes people talking about their sexual experiences. While that is very interesting, it’s not what makes this movie worthy of being a criterion. The best thing about this movie is the conversation between the characters. How they interact. Also the fact that there isn’t any nudity in the entire movie. Not that that’s something special, but in a movie with sex in the title, you would expect oodles of tits and ass.

While this movie accomplishes nothing, which, as you know, I’m into, it’s an extremely intriguing movie that I think about often at completely inappropriate times. Not for sexual reasons, but because of how real the movie portrays itself to be. Graham’s interaction with Ann and sometimes Cynthia, his anger over John’s infidelities, Soderbergh directs this movie to perfection. A criterion collection would do this movie very much justice.

Marco: And don’t forget that this is the film (along with Richard Linklater’s Slacker) that basically invented “independent film” as a viable genre for both people like the Weinsteins and the soccer moms alike.

I feel you though on this not being Soderbergh’s greatest film, and I’m a huge Soderbergh fan, but I almost feel like this is my least favorite of his films, except for maybe something like Bubble. It fascinates me though that Schizopolis is in the Criterion collection – even though Schizopolis is a fantastic film and definitely deserves the recognition – and not this. Though the commentary on the Sex, Lies, and Videotape DVD with Neil LaBute is very interesting and informative about the art of direction, even though I tend to find LaBute to be slightly reprehensible (not just for his cinema of the destruction of women, but for his cinema of the destruction of cinema).

And since I mentioned him above, might as well go with my picks for today, which are Before Sunrise, 1995, and Before Sunset, 2004, both directed by Richard Linklater and starring Ethan Hawke and the always incandescent Julie Delpy.

The thing about a filmmaker like Soderbergh to me is that he just lives and breathes film. He’s a lifer in the game of cinema and while he’s not always producing winning material, he’s always experimenting, always reaching. He may as well have a deal with Criterion to always produce his DVDs because he, in obviously a much different way, is doing something very similar to someone like Wes Anderson to me. Constantly taking the language of the film from the past and using it to do something new. Linklater, to me, is doing pretty much the same thing, but just at a much less interesting level usually.

The first of these two films, Before Sunrise, written by Linklater and Kim Krizan, and based on a real encounter that Linklater had with a woman, has the simplest of a premises: A man and a woman meet as complete strangers on a train, and find that they have some time to kill in Vienna. The man, played by Hawke, is American, and the woman, played by Delpy, is French, and they have trains and flights to catch the next morning. and spend the night together, walking around the city, exploring it, talking, and exploring a brief romance with each other. When the sunrise comes and it’s time for them to leave each other, they make a promise to meet again in the same place in six months time.

The sequel, Before Sunset, set nine years later (the script by Linklater, Krizan, and the two leads was nominated for an Oscar), deals with the two of them reconnecting, dealing with the outcome of whether or not they met again six months after the first film, and getting to know each other again. Admittedly, that is the worst possible way to summarize these two films, but it’s difficult to do so in that they’re not heavy plot films, they’re mood pieces. They have the real ups and downs and uneasy flows of actual conversation between two people who are smart and funny and interesting and have problems. Really, the saddest part about picking these two films to talk about today is that I’m revealing myself to be, like all sleazy guys, somewhat of a closet romantic. Pathetic, I know.

The films, with essentially consist of two people talking about the big issues in life while slowly falling love with each other, have a little bit of that Eric Rohmer vibe, and there’s always talk of a third in the series (though technically there was as the cameo made a rotoscoped cameo in Linklater’s Waking Life), which would make sense since Linklater seems to have a hard on for Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel series (and is doing some kind similar project with Hawke and Patricia Arquette, filming a few scenes every year for a larger project tracking the growing life of a child). Like I said, I think Linklater wants to just keep experimenting and turning out real films, but I think you could make the argument that there’s more craft at work with Soderbergh, and that Soderbergh tends to have a higher win ratio over Linklater.

The last thing I’ll say about these films is that it’s just amazing how well they work. You want to hate them, but you’ll be charmed instantly, especially considering what a douche Hawke tends to be elsewhere (and in real life). Many prefer Sunrise for it’s idea of a first meeting, a first falling in love in a kind of pedastal way, very idealized and romantic, which is great, don’t get me wrong, but I’m a Sunset man. I’m fascinated watching the two come back together after their 20s, after they’d have their hearts broken a few times, and you see that shine growing in their eyes being around each other, that brightness that probably hadn’t been around for a while. The last 20 minutes of Before Sunset is pure cinematic thaumaturgy.

Well, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve rambled on (and by we, I mean the royal we)  enough there, so we’ll catch you another time with more diatribes about our classic films. Go enjoy yourself a nice progression of moods out there.

Fatal Attractions.

I believe in starting the week off with a bang, so here’s a quick one (not too big though). Here’s us in the Milky Way:

And here’s our nearest neighboring spiral galaxy, the lovely Andromeda:

Aren’t they cute? I mean, as cute as two massive celestial bodies with big nasty black holes at their center can be, right? The reason I bring these two adorable kids up is that they’re quite possibly on their way to a massive collision.

Like that up there. Or like this right here:

Supersex in space!

Granted, none of this is set in stone, because Andromeda is 2.5 million light years away and this isn’t projected (projected being the key word in all this) to happen for another 3 to 4 billion years, but even still… Neat, huh?

The new galaxy that will exist after these two collide and merge and sort out into one is being called Milkomeda, which is at once kind of ridiculous and nice, I think. That’s not the definitive title, not that we’ll really get to pick it, but that’s the leading contender of the proposed ideas. And that name, Milkomeda… Well, it’s got a certain, sexy charm to it, I think. Here’s what that merge could quite possibly look like:

Wow, that’s awesome. Granted, even though we’ll most likely be dead, and the Earth uninhabitable by then and our own star exhausted, it’s important to note that a majority of the stars within each galaxy will probably never each touch each other because this is all about the gravity and pull of the galaxies alone.

Space is filled with big bright shining stars. Earth too, just… different.

A shame too since in just under 2 billions years from now alone, you’ll probably be able to see Andromeda up there in the sky at night as it does it’s radial velocity mating dance right into our back door.

The sad thing is really that we won’t be here for it. Again, not just us living right now, but quite possibly the human civilization or the planet Earth itself or the star Sol. I don’t have the specific numbers on when our star is projected to burn out, but I do know that it’s battery power is just not infinite. Neither is ours the way we beat up our planet or, really, ourselves. Or, maybe things will go bad in a Battlestar Galactica kinda way because we’re just not good to our robots.

And yet, it’d be beautiful to see what that looks like up there/out there/right here on our doorstep as two galaxies combine into one. It’s not just a lovely idea, it’s one that makes sense. To me, at least. We are all made of stars and space can come through anyone.

And not that I really want to start your week off with tales of woe and galactic doom, though… well, let’s face it, nothing you do will ever matter since all of your accomplishments will be rendered unto space dust in a coupla billion life cycles. But, then again, when your week starts off accepting that fact, things can only go up from there, right?

But, no, my original intent in all of this was just to say… Well, isn’t it nice to know that out there in the cosmos, amongst the infinite sounds of the music of the spheres, there’s a song of attraction and need?

Can’t you show me nothing but surrender?

When he was 15 years old, Michael Stipe saw Patti Smith on the cover of Creem magazine and thought that she looked like Morticia Addams. And because of that he went and bought her seminal album, Horses, and and album that he says “tore my limbs off and put them back on in a whole different order.”

This album, if you didn’t know, is good. It’s desert island good. And whenever you see someone compiling a list of top albums, be it 100 best or 500 best or even just a 20 Near-as-damn-it perfect initial efforts list, then guess what? This album is on there.

And while a song like “The End” by the Doors may be talked about more, and may even have made a bigger splash on the cultural consciousness, which is not something I can say I always care about, especially since Patti Smith’s Horses contains probably one of my favorite songs ever in rockdom, “Land: Horses/Land of a Thousand Dances/La Mer (De),” a nearly 20 minute mega-opus (suck it, “The End,” which is only 12 minutes long) to something dark and primal and horribly and wonderful danceable in our core. It makes “The End” look like an even bigger cartoon than it already is.

Of course, that doesn’t say much at all, really. Patti Smith was developing a raw but intellectual and very feminist kind of rock n’ roll and Jim Morrison was just getting fatter and more ridiculous in his “Lizard King” and “erotic politician” rut.

Like so many men, Robert Mapplethorpe had a thing for women and snakes.

As a classic rock fan, especially growing up, I went through a phase of idolizing Morrison, rock n’ roll’s favorite jester, and most everyone else probably did too. It was junior high for me, as I sat there and read John Desmore’s biography, and thought about how much it sucked that Jim died and entertained notions in my brain that maybe he faked his death and was alive somewhere out there playing Chinese checkers with John Lennon and Elvis and JFK and… man, what an idiot I was.

“Most of my poems are written to women because women are most inspiring. Who are most artists? Men. Who do they get inspired by? Women. The masculinity in me gets inspired by the female. I fall in love with men and they take over. I ain’t no women’s lib chick. So I can’t write about a man, because I’m under his thumb, but a woman I can be male with. I can use her as my muse. I use women.”

-Patti Smith, from Please Kill Me: An Uncensored Oral History Of Punk by “Legs” McNeil and Gillian McCain.

But that was a long time ago and eventually I went through a Patti Smith phase. I don’t know when it ended, if ever, really, but I can tell you where it began, it’s infancy being somewhere in 1996. That’s when REM’s New Adventures In Hi-Fi album came out, with it’s first single being “E-Bow The Letter,” featuring Patti Smith.

I had always known of REM before that album because I was a child who grew up with the radio and the MTV within reach, but with this album I realized that they were something better than what the radio or the vapid “music television” of the time could offer you. There was an eccentric warmth and depth to their music, and with this single, I was captivated because at the time, it was just so wonderfully bizarre. I wish I could post the actual music video up there for you, but that live performance will have to do, If not, here’s REM performing the song at the Tibetan Freedom Concert back in 1998 (God, do you remember those?) with that lazy eyed (that’s for you, Light) Thom Yorke. I remember that Yorke did a fine job with the song, but you can’t tell in the video because of the poor sound recording on his face. Though he does a fine job here on another song I love off the same album, “Be Mine.”

That’s where my Patti Smith phase began. It crystallized roughly a year later while watching the second season finale of Millennium. Remember that show? Probably not. It was Chris Carter’s second baby after X-Files, during the era of weird grim and gritty crime procedurals that featured vision-having (“It’s my gift, it’s my curse”) psychics, this one being Lance Henriksen, who has a face like a wall of stone and a voice like a rock polisher. The first season was fairly decent enough, but you could tell that Carter was getting bored running the show, so he handed it off in the following season to his proteges Glen Morgan and James Wong (and the proto-Charlie Kaufman, Darin Morgan), two guys who can’t possibly do a decent movie, but you hand them genre TV and they may very well be geniuses.

I assume that their only direction in taking over the show during it’s second year was “Hey guy, I don’t know how in the fuck we got a second season pickup, but I’m sure we’re going to get canceled. Do whatever the hell you want, be weird as shit, and have some fun,” and that’s what they did, and let me tell you, it was excellent. Possibly one of the smartest and coolest single years of a TV show that I had ever seen, but a dangerous beauty it was. And then there was the apocalyptic season finale of that second year, in which a character has a… Well, to call it a mental breakdown brought on by the heaviness of the moment would be a bit of an under statement, but it’ll do in a pinch. But what makes the breakdown so perfect, and helps solidify that year of TV as a strong one for this show is that they developed a whole act of the show to that moment, which took the form of essentially a music video for Patti Smith’s “Land” off of Horses:

There I was back in 1997, a stupid kid in high school, curious as to how the season would end when this season came on and that scene comes on, and my mind blown and possibly ruined forever. Without describing the previous year of the show to you, let’s just say there’s a nice bit of imagery summing up events there and offering portents for quite a few of the characters. And it’s a pretty wonderful interpretation of the song as well (as well as a decent job of editing the song down to an under ten minute run time).

Patti Smith “Land: Horses/Land Of A Thousand Dances/La Mer (De)” (mp3)

Broken Social Scene “Horses” (doing a partial cover)(mp3)

Patti Smith “When Doves Cry” (Prince cover)(mp3)

REM ft. Patti Smith “I Wanna Be Your Dog” (live Stooges cover)(mp3)

Other than those two bits of anecdotal history, I’m not going to talk about what this song means to me personally or anything of that nonsense. That’s just for me. Listen to the song, hopefully enjoy it, and find your own meaning and enjoyment in it, if there is any in it for you. I will just say that I do love the way the verse appropriated from Chris Kenner’s “Land Of A 1000 Dances” fits into the song, and other than that… do you remember an artist from several years ago by name of KT Tunstall?

If you don’t, well, then it’s not surprising since it’s been a few years. She was a harmless enough artist who I only bring up because her song “Suddenly I See” (and her career as well, possibly) was reportedly inspired by the cover to Patti Smith’s Horses album (which was shot by Robert Mapplethorpe), by the sight of a woman who was confident and comfortable as a rock n’ roll star. The cover to Tunstall’s album Eye To The Telescope is supposed to be an homage to the cover of Horses, but personally, I don’t feel it.

There’s a little place, a place called space, it’s a pretty little place…

Well, that’s just a bit on one of my favorite songs. Now I’d like to hear about one of yours.