Sunday, February 28, 2010

25 Months (part two)

Quinn is growing up really fast all of a sudden. No longer is she a baby. She tramples around the house, walks all the way to the park and engages in all of our conversations with equal enthusiasm. She is a lovely and beautiful girl and every day I get to see a little golden ray of sun right here in my own home.

We watched Pinocchio the other night. I have this sense of nostalgia with many of the films from my youth, so that I have some euphoric fantasy of when we will get to watch them with our children. Unfortunately this often turns out to be a complete disaster. For one, the movies almost never live up to the hype (like every over-hyped movie ever in the history of film). I think this is evidence of a certain amount of amnesia that develops when we age. I've always been aware of this because there are so many things in life that we conveniently forget in order to survive throughout. Also, I've never been one to say that I won't do that when I grow up as we contemplate all of the terrible actions of those older than us. I like to have hope that I may be a more enlightened human being but I know that I do many of the things to my own children that I absolutely hated when my Dad did them to me.

You see, most of these movies are simply bad films. Because of the age of our children, many of the movies that we see are movies that we watched when we were that age. That means Disney! And boy Disney has a knack for seeming like they make good movies but actually totally failing over and over again. Their movies often reflect the era, which isn't so uncommon for movies to do, but why must they always choose to reflect some of the worst aspects of humanity at the time. Pinocchio is a perfect example, it was made in 1940 and it is racist and sexist and violent and derogatory. And don't think that they only did it back in the day, when people were more naive. Go ahead and watch something from today and try to convince me that none of those despicable traits are inherent within the film. Pinocchio was not a pleasant experience and may have traumatized our son. Now Quinn on the other hand loved it.

She isn't quite as sensitive by her environment as her brother. Lucas' nature is delicate and tender and beautiful. Now, Quinn is delicate in her own way but she has yet to be influenced greatly by what is happening upon the silver screen. Perhaps it is due to her age (although I seem to recall Lucas forcing us to stop when the scary part came on even at the beginning) and maybe we've allowed her earlier access because of her brother's increased viewing time, but so far she doesn't flinched when a child is swallowed by a whale.

I have a feeling that she is going to shrug off a lot of things that the rest of us find difficult to face. She has a glimmer in her eye that demands that others take notice and she won't back down from a fight. Her mother has that steely resolve within her and when it comes out it is hard to shake, but it is amazing to see and rally around. There's a little bit of Joan of Arc in my little girl and if we help guide her steps so that she can one day lead people in a positive way, then the world is hers for the taking.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Reflection Pond #1

Nneka - No Longer At Ease (2009)

Every year there's one great find that you never imagined was out there. It isn't found through the regular sources or tapped from the vein of gold that provides instant access to the wonderland of music that I've become so accustomed to, but it is pure magic when you hear it. This year, for me, that album is Nneka's No Longer At Ease. Infectious and groovilicious and conscientious and thoughtful and soulful and lyrical and beautiful and intense, Nneka has become a constant present in our house. I often catch Quinita dancing around whenever Heartbeat jumps out of the speakers with its rhythmic beats and I can't help but jump around the room with her. It's so fun to enjoy music of this caliber because it raises you up in so many ways. The lyrics bring light to the blind with awareness and insight. The groove lifts your spirits when the wane of the day is trying to drag down the essence of your heart. To be elevated with music is a precious commodity and now that we have such amazing access to the furthest reaches of the planet, we are able to tap into so many different sources. Nneka hails from Nigeria, with a German mother, and she sings in both English and Igbo, a traditional language from the eastern part of Nigeria. She's on the map now and we are so fortunate to have access to this amazing talent.

Dear Zachary: a letter to a son about his father - Kurt Kuenne (2008)

This movie is psychotic...and I mean that in only the most wonderful way. Trust me when I say this, "Absolutely one of the greatest movies I have ever watched in my life." I get chills just thinking about it and it's been five months since it was on my teevee. And it's a documentary! You can't make this stuff up. A film-maker sets out to make a personal film for the son of his friend who died. But nothing is ever so simple. His good friend was murdered and the prime suspect is an ex-girlfriend who just happens to be pregnant with his child. Somehow she manages to escape the country and the long process of extradition gets under way. Meanwhile it is up to the grand-parents (parents of the murdered guy) to do everything that they can to gain custody of the baby to be. They move their entire life and head to Canada to face their son's murderer and mother to their grand-son. Somehow the woman is freed on bail even though the evidence against her is overwhelming and the grand-parents are then forced to interact with her just to see their grand-son. Simply amazing and that's only the icing on the cake. There are so many layers within this story that if I told the rest, you would not believe it. The entire documentary is filmed as if it was a home movie and since it was began as a gift for Zachary (the baby), it is so intimate and personal and heartbreaking in every way...but damn good. It is absolutely a must watch and that's what I say to everyone I see, no matter their personality. It is one of those rare films that doesn't fit into any mold, so it fits for everyone. Please, no matter what you do this year, get this movie and watch it. You will not be disappointed.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Reflection Pond #2

XX - XX (2009)

Okay, I thought for sure that this would be my favorite album of the year and for the longest time that was the case. It's right up my alley, a wonderful gentle version of indie rock with quirky sounds and interesting lyrics. They are currently the darlings of college radio and have swept through the year end best-of lists. For good reason, XX is an album that is infinitely listenable. They have a sound that doesn't seem very complicated in the least but spreads across the lines, attracting all types of audiences. They even have a woman named Romy in the band, which is incredibly cool. I don't know what else to say, perhaps I'm becoming bored of it all. Is it really important for us to dwell on the merits of today's music and give our opinions to others? Hmmm, maybe it's simply that I'm being affected by the XX's music. It doesn't come across as trying to be super hip in any way but it just carries that sort of weight. The sight of hipsters trying real hard to be hip has been a recurring dilemma of our generation. How do we look cool without actually trying to look cool? We try so hard to impress everyone around us (substitute lack of parental attention here) but end up losing our true self in the process. I hope that one day we may discover a way to believe in ourselves with complete conviction and without the the need to have or seek the approval of others. Sounds like a form of enlightenment, which I feel the XX embodies, as when I listen to their beautiful music, I think about shit like this.

The Visitor - Tom McCarthy (2007)

This is one of the most humanistic, heart-warming, aggravating and frustrating movies I have ever seen. I am of the type that a story that carries some personal transformation within the arc is important. When you watch a movie that has some jackass for a main character and that person continues to act like a jackass throughout the entire movie, well...why do I want to watch a jackass for two hours? Now, if that jackass actually comes to understand that they're a, well you know, at least I feel some appreciation for the time I spent with such a character. The Visitor doesn't have anyone like that in it but it does have an old over-privileged white guy who doesn't know what to do in his waning years following the death of his wife. He stumbles upon a couple who happen to be renting his New York apartment, unbeknowst to him. They are undocumented immigrants but have been living here for most of their lives. Amerika is their home. The old guy ends up feeling obligated to them for some reason and allows them to stay with him. Soon they are having an incredibly positive influence on his life and he begins to look at the world through new eyes. Everything about this film is done right; the acting, the locations, the mood, the extras. It is a work of realism that completely wrenches your heart. It addresses such prescient topics like immigration and privatization. The borders are beginning to blur in our global community and the lines of enforcement are blurring, as well. We are walking a perilous line where our inhumane nationalistic fervor is causing the soul of our nation to crumble. The Visitor is a wonderful film and I can't manage to shake it's warmth and humanistic message even though it's been six months since I saw it. A good movie stays with you like that.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Reflection Pond #3

Santogold - Santogold (2008)

This album is so diverse that after a few listens you feel like it's absolutely perfect. Electropop, Hip-Hop, Groovilicious, StutterJam and utter bliss. Every song hooks you and dangles on the end of the line until you gasp for breath. Santogold is unique in that dance-pop-electro-groove-punk-clash-cultural kind of way. In our modern world we are able to cross so many barriers and have so many different influences incorporated into our work and that is simply a dream landscape for an artist. Those who strive to learn new dialects from all over this planet are continuously growing and there has never been an artist who continues to have creative success after becoming stale. Stagnation is the root of dissolving into nothingness and how many times have we stared into the waning light of a creative career and the epicenter of wonder in their work was far gone into the past. What does this have to do with Santogold? It's her first album after all and she has many years of striving and learning and growing and creating dynamic music. If she has the ability to hold onto the essence of this album and if her life embodies the expanding and diverse principals so apparent here, then she has nothing to worry about because this music is golden.

Inland Empire - David Lynch (2006)

David Lynch is psychotically wonderful. I don't know how that is even possible? It's so difficult to be both psychotic and wonderful...but somehow he continues to master the effect. You know, I wasn't always a big fan of his; Blue Velvet always seemed weirdly perverse, Dune was garbage, Wild At Heart demented violence and even Lost Highway, which is considered by most the point when he devolved into sheer maniacal genius, was way over my head...maybe it's just that I don't enjoy the presence of Patricia Arquette when she's on the screen; but there is one undeniable truth that continues to grow beyond cult status; David Lynch is considered one of the greatest amerikan film-makers ever. Everything I read, the way I feel inside when I witness the effect all points to the blossoming madness of his influence and ability. He is unconventional and weird and crazy, but he makes amazing art and all the reverence that is bestowed upon him is well deserved. For me it all began with Mulholland Drive, an incredible dream-like movie flowing through the heart of hollywood and delving into the destructive nature of a business that chews people up and spits them out. Sometimes you watch a movie and, for whatever reason, everything about it just clicks with you even if it seems like a complete mess. That's exactly what happened to me when I watched Mulholland Drive and now it appears that I have a mind-meld with Lynchian art because I felt the same way about Inland Empire. The person that I am today wants to make art in just the same manner. I don't mean that I want to copy David Lynch but I want to create with the same spirit; searching and weaving and juxtaposing and blending and submerging the material all with a supremely strange and subtle vision. I want people to look at what I have to offer and even if they don't understand a second of it, as long as it sticks with them and eats at their insides then my mission will be complete.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Reflection Pond #4

Milosh - iii (2008)

Milosh grooves right through with a sweet serenade, lofty and precious. His music swirls around a sense of peace and serenity so that you feel eternally good inside. If the world began to listen to Milosh on a regular basis, I truly believe that the strength of the heart would overtake all of the anger and depression that has plagued this planet. The inherent nature of the universe is compassion and when I listen to this album I feel that insight. Though we have tragic occurrences that happen everyday, life continues to strive forth with eager determination. The essence of life is built on creating a quality and effective existence focused on the happiness of everybody. This is at the heart of Milosh's music, with such a beautiful sound to settle the red in your life. Take a moment and settle down, take a moment and look around at the wonder in your life, take a moment to cherish the essential nature of the universe that wants to embrace life. We have the ability to truly affect our lives in positive ways. There's an ancient Native-American proverb that says, "Inside each of us, there are two types of wolves. There's an evil wolf and a good wolf. Both wolves are hungry. Your life will reflect which wolf you choose to feed." So pop in Milosh's third album and meditate on the good wolf inside.

Man On Wire - James Marsh (2008)

The quality of the documentary is evolving in wondrous ways and Man On Wire is at the peak of storytelling. Part adventure tale, part mystery, part passionate dreamer, this movie kept us on the edge of our seats. From the imagination of one man, the image of the twin towers never seemed so magical. Our perspective on this view of the skyline in New York has been dramatically changed since the attacks on Sept. 11th, 2001, but Philippe Petit takes us back to the initial dream of those two towers and to his dream to attack them in his own right just as they were being built. In 1974, as the buildings were reaching fruition, Petit and his accomplices planned to climb to the summit and put a wire across the gap between the buildings so that he could walk the tight-rope. In a variety of ways and through ingenious methods, tripping along the path occasionally, Petit accomplished his feat on August 7 of that year. He stood on the world and for forty minutes, no one could bring him down. Man On Wire is a beautiful expression of the nature of humanity, to boldly express itself through creative vision. Petit's art was of the body, the way that he could tight-walk a line with delicacy and magic. Watching this movie filled my heart with appreciation for my fellow human beings. May we all learn to live so vibrantly and walk on the top of the world.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010


Did you know that Love causes a physiological reaction in the human body? That the mind of a person pushes forth when a surge of Love enters the mainframe? Were you aware that the simple essence of a caress at the base of the neck will fill the brain with enough endorphins to create new life? That drugs are forever trying to simulate these sensations?

The reason that I mention these strange phenomenon to you is simply because I think that it's enlightening to discover the foundation for what we have when we are together. It gives me great joy to understand that there is a reason for the way that I feel when I'm with you. That it can be so thoroughly and wonderfully explained in this life. I find comfort in that truth, just as I find comfort when I look into your eyes and you show me another truth. I truly appreciate the wonders of our physical connection, just as I yearn for the dream that envelops us when you take me into your arms.

None of this may be new to you, or to me, but it will always be electric, reflecting the connection that we have. We are conductors for each other, shining a light forward onto each other's path. We are supports that anchor us with strength that forms into a cohesive combination of unlimited power and potential. We have a new hope with each rising sun that brings us together again, folding upon one another with the breath of each day that feeds our lifelines.

It's magical, isn't it? To grow up together within such a framework of happiness? It's physiologically imperative that we continue to give each other such wonderful gifts. They bring smiles and laughter and hugs and endearment and forever and hope and desire and pleasure and lust and comfort. To cherish something as divine as the warmth of your hand is more powerful than any self-help guru because it gives without asking and it nurtures. It's constantly evolving into new shapes and dreams. It's Love and every time you give it to me, I never feel the same again.

(Valentines Day 2010)

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Reflection Pond #5

St. Vincent - Actor (2009)

I am enamored with St. Vincent. Her unconventional beauty both ethereally and spiritually. Music is a spiritual endeavor after all and St. Vincent, aka Annie Clark, has a divine spirit. I adore her music, her smokey voice cascading around groovilicious and jazzilicious melodies, occasionally bouncing off the reverb that her current has pulled loose and launched down amongst the bottom of the falls. Then she drops in a viciously crunchy guitar and mashes our brains for a moment or two, just in case we were starting to drift off on the sweet lullaby of beauty. Hers is a sound that really connects with my soul, like a karmic link that gives me great joy to understand. I fell for her first album a couple of years ago and this being her second, Actor doesn't need rehearsals or blocking, it simply knows how to impress the living daylights out of you. No rewards required to recognize the aural mastery of another great chanteuse.

Sin Nombre - Cary Fukunaga (2009)

What a wickedly great movie. Traversing the trail of tears that is the anguish of many immigrants and their families, Sin Nombre chases after the illusion of prosperity in the midst of a world that tears at the eyes of humanity. Through the heart of one young woman we see the tortured road from Honduras to the United States, passing through La Bombilla where they run into a vicious gang. One of the gang members, Casper, descends into exile due to twisted means and our heroine befriends him in order to help complete her journey because she dreamt that the devil would see her through. This film is so incredibly sad and poignant, to see the way people live and survive in order to try to create a better life for themselves and their families while the dregs that have been exhumed by our greedy world prey on everyone. We've been reading so much about the devastation around the developing world and the means of control that those in power initiate and it's so horrifying and unreal that it breaks your heart. I think that's what happened a bit when I watched this movie. Fukanaga used real immigrants and gang members when he made the film in order to create a sense of honesty and it comes across the screen to scratch at your soul. What do we need to do in order to build communities where people appreciate one another before trying to steal another's livelihood? These huddled stories that happen "out there" in the small places of the planet are directly linked to our own well-being...after all, a person's a person, no matter how small.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Reflection Pond #6

Black Milk - Tronic (2008)

When it comes down to beats, this guy has got the mojo. With an immense groove that immediately pulls you into the depth of each composition, Black Milk is thrusting himself amongst the great hip-hop artists of all time very quickly. When I heard Tronic for the first time I didn't know how to describe it. Nothing seemed overly extraordinary with his delivery or lyrics or whatnot, but the beats kept bringing me back. They're hypnotic and essential. They're fluid and powerful. After awhile you don't need to hear the lyrics or the nuances of his flow to understand how masterful these songs are. It's just simply amazing and you are hooked. I have a feeling that once the annals of the hip-hop era are compiled a hundred years from now, Black Milk's Tronic will be right in there as one of the greatest representations of the mastery of the craft. It's one of those items that will stand the test of time and keep delivering for generations to come. So in the future when some DJ mixes a groovilicious beat with Black Milk's signature sound and you can't help but wonder where it all came from, just hearken back to 2008 and rediscover the love.

Burn After Reading - Joel & Ethan Coen (2008)

This is classic Coen Brothers comedy magic. And we all know how I feel about the Coen Brothers. They have a knack for creating wonderful and smart characters that are quirky and funny but brutally honest as well. I think that's what makes us appreciate their movies in such an intrinsic way. The way the story weaves through and the decisions that each person in the film make are unique and real. It's very easy to feel the frustration and the dumbfounded ignorance and the eager excitement flashing upon the characters faces when they're painted with the Coen brush. Burn After Reading follows along the same path of their other comedies (see The Big Lebowski, Raising Arizona, The Hudsucker Proxy, O Brother Where Art Thou), following a group of people who are connected via a meandering path that takes them through the scorching burner of the Coen lens. I can't even begin to describe it with any clarity but let's just say that it starts with the discovery by a clueless Brad Pitt of the life works of an aged CIA agent, which inevitably leads to a clueless George Clooney leaving the country under false pretenses. Most of the people in between are clueless in some way or another and they all bumble around until the dust finally settles. It truly is a work of art and you will definitely find yourself chortling at many of the ridiculous scenarios that happen upon the screen.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Reflection Pond #7

jj - jj No. 2 (2009)

What the hell is stoner music? Does it turn into a magical elixir whenever you smoke a bowl, imparting infinite knowledge unknown under the auspices of soberhood? Remember back in the day when you supposedly could listen to a record in reverse and satanic verse would pull you into the darkside? Maybe that's what it is except this is some form of enlightenment Timothy Leary Ram Dass kind of thing. Although, when I happen to be under the roof of smoker's heaven, pretty much all good music is absolutely fantastic. It immerses me into a euphoric bliss that allows me insight into the nature of humanity and our deepening development as a species. This album is no different. Ram Dass says, "Psychedelics helped me to escape...albeit momentarily...from the prison of my mind. It over-rode the habit patterns of thought and I was able to taste innocence again. Looking at sensations freshly without the conceptual overlay was very profound." Perhaps that is the mantra of the band or maybe they just want to make good music. I personally appreciate what they are providing for my listening enjoyment. Light and airy, jj has the voice of heaven and you don't need to be in St. Paul's waiting room for stoners to understand that.

Frozen River - Courtney Hunt (2008)

I love this movie. Here's what I love about it. I love that it was written and directed by a woman. I love that it was a film about women. I love that it was a film about an american native woman. I love that it was made with people that look like real people. I love that it was made in someplace that no one's ever heard of but everyone can relate to. I love the natural and honest aspect of the film. This movie was just down to earth and great. It follows the story of a woman who is trying to make ends meet while she deals with the repercussions of a husband who has ripped her off to support his gambling addiction. In the process of trying to find him she stumbles across a Mohawk woman struggling to support a family of her own. Before long the two of them are smuggling undocumented workers by driving across the frozen river that runs along the border. They toil through a variety of moral issues before eventually getting busted. It's a wonderful and rare occurrence to come across a movie that attempts to look at the true experience of women in our culture. This is Courtney Hunt's first film but I am definitely looking forward to anything that she has to offer in the future.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Reflection Pond #8

Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009)

I'm officially on the Animal Collective bandwagon. I don't know if it was simply a matter of time or if the band has evolved to the point that they have finally reached my aural hemisphere. Maybe my stubbornness has finally begun to fade because it was a good eight years ago that a friend of mine touted the benefits of the AC experience (though his wife often made crude gestures behind his back when this topic animated him). For me, they were always a mess of noise, which isn't necessarily bad because the noise was definitely unique and aggressively experimental but I couldn't stomach it. Immerse yourself, was the advice I was often given but even in the primal confines of my own headphones the space of time overcame the sound until I forgot what came to drown me. It wasn't until I heard the song Summertime Clothes that I began to understand Animal Collective's autistic wonder. Loops blending in rhythms blasted with infinity, Merriweather Post Pavilion has become an opus for the new lost generation, those of today who don't find comfort in the shape of our world. Animal Collective's massive joy pulls us back into orbit and helps find focus amongst the cacophony of tortured anguish inherent in the cloudy abyss that threatens armageddon. Meditation is a powerful tool to overcome the clutch of apathy and these songs have the hypnotic effect of enlightenment if you allow them to swallow you whole.

The Limits Of Control - Jim Jarmusch (2009)

This movie is weird, supremely beautifully weird. What an amazing flow of images that stun the senses, imaginative and divine. It took us five days to watch this and by the end we had completely forgotten exactly how it began. So we went back and watched the beginning again and were blown away by the symmetry of it all. The narrative follows a mysterious stranger who must navigate a constant exchange of information through shifting locales. His mission is obviously of extreme importance and it meanders through the underbelly of everyday life. Eventually he ends up in a room with Bill Murray (a Jarmusch regular) discussing the way the world works, Murray representing the elite corporate element of life and our mystery man representing the opposing forces of imagination. It's an exploratory metaphor for the genius of the creative spirit overcoming the hindering, debilitating and numbing aspects of our materialistic experience. Shot through a repetitive and deliberate pacing, Jarmusch begs you to follow through with determination when it feels like your life will never go beyond the mundane quotidian banality of it all. There is a reward in the end if you want to find it...just be patient and use your imagination.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Reflection Pond #9

Portugal. The Man - The Satanic Satanists (2009)

I don't think it gets any better than this for Portugal The Man. Perhaps, but in the meantime you can take some time with this album that just feels perfect. There's a maturity found within these songs but they still jump at you with PtM's typical intensity. I didn't know what to expect from these guys. They were a wonderful jolt for me a couple of years ago that blasted me from my reverie and I adored them for it. Then they released an album last year that I just couldn't quite grasp. I don't know if I was coming down from my high, or what? But now they hit us with The Satanic Satanist (my father-in-law's favorite album title BTW) and I went through various waves of appreciation. Liked the tempo at first, hanging hard on Lovers In Love and wallowing in some of the softer stuff like Mornings. Then I kind of blew it off and didn't listen for awhile. Lately I began to absorb it again and the charm and momentum of these tunes continued to build until I absolutely began to love what was hitting my ears. These guys must work a lot to have three albums in four years (and if you don't believe me, follow them on Twitter) and it's been a nice ride, but can they top this beautiful blend of music? I guess we'll see in 2010.

Let The Right One In - Tomas Alfredson (2008)

Swedish vampire movie filmed in gorgeous cool light with all of the action/gore oriented aspects subtly removed from the frame. That description may not be typically attractive but all you really need to know about it is that it really works. Horror movies have reached their limit. It's very easy to watch something nowadays and realize that you've seen that sequence in a film about a million times already. It's really brought hollywood schlock back down to earth and I find that I'm quite often bored when I see what the corporate movie-going experience has to offer. I even think the guy who made Cloverfield is going to do a remake of this one. I shudder at the prospect. Why does hollywood need to go on this regurgitation diet? Instead of wasting all that money on a remake, here's what I would do. Take a quarter of that money and invest it in marketing for quality foreign films like Let The Right One In, as well as promoting other good film-makers from said country until we have equal access across the board. Then the movie-going public will embrace quality movies and the art of film-making will move up one notch on the scale. The rest of three-quarters of original money that was going to be wasted on this ridiculous remake can be invested in typical Amerikan shite that those corporate studios churn out regularly for the brain dead masses or the straight to video fair that is the meat and potatoes of their business anyway. Everything will be the exact same except the quality foreign vampire movies will be easier to see. Yay!

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Reflection Pond #10

Psapp - The Camel's Back (2008)

Psapp uses toys to make their music. Toys! What the fuck are we doing here?! It's not that goddamn complicated! We should all be making music. Actually there's an entire movement that espouses active living. Meaning that we take everything that we are consuming and make it instead. We create. We grow our own food. We build our own land. We make art, music, love. We appreciate the life around us by composing the beauty in our life of consuming it. It sounded pretty interesting when I first heard about this philosophy but I was concerned about certain abilities that I hadn't exactly mastered, such as making music. Now, I listen to the wonder of The Camel's Back and think, 'They fucking made that with toys?!' We must try new things and learn and become dynamic individuals. Psapp has provided this lesson for today. Appreciate them in your own way.

Cowards Bend The Knee - Guy Maddin (2003)

There are a few film-makers who don't do things conventionally...ever. Sometimes those people are called auteurs or experimental. Sometimes what they make is laughable, but every so often you come across a master and it's so damn fun. Guy Maddin is a master film-maker. This movie is so strange and fantastic that I can't even try to describe it without driving people insane, yet I love everything that I see. Cowards was filmed in Super 8 and made as a silent film, such as those from a hundred years ago. It looks and feels like something from the era of our distant ancestors but with extremely high quality editing, of course. When it comes down to creating something different or unique or, hell, even if you are just trying to make a quality film (it doesn't even have to be weird) editing is key. So many elements of film-making matter obviously but you can turn something that would otherwise be complete garbage into a fine film with a great editor. Guy Maddin and his colleagues create these types of movies and Cowards Bend The Knee is an amazing trip. I could get lost in his wandering static-starts and jump-cuts and bounces. He's a trapeze artist pulling maneuvers in the air while we all stare in wonder from way down below the skyline.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Reflection Pond #11

Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle (2009)

Bill Callahan is a Zen musician. What does that mean really? I don't know but if there were such a thing then Callahan would be it. Originally showering the masses with wisdom through the guise of Smog, Callahan weaved his magical karmic blend for over a decade. Now he's brought us the second of his solo work and it is a crisp strange blessed event. Both Xtimu and I have sat on the sofa in a mellow fog and devoured this album, wondering about the intricacies of the lyrics and the tenor of his thick voice ravaged by years of song. Eagle slowly built up in appreciation from not being able to understand any of it to complete enlightenment, which is why I call it Zen music. Here's an example: perhaps what turned into one of my favorite songs of the year, Eid Ma Clack Shaw, was originally just something floating in the background until I actually listened to the lyrics. These lines stand out,

I dreamed it was a dream that you were gone
I woke up feeling so ripped by reality
Love is the king of the beast
And when it gets hungry it must kill to eat
Love is the king of the beast
A lion walking down city streets
I fell back asleep sometime later on
And I dreamed the perfect song
It held all the answers like hands laid on
I woke halfway and scribbled it down
And in the morning I read what I wrote
It was hard to read at first but here's what it said
Eid ma clack shaw
Zupoven del ba
Mertepy ven seiner
Cofally ragdah
Show me the way Show me the way Show me the way
To shake a memory

Sometimes the words we are looking for, the tone that will give our lives immense meaning isn't something that we can understand unless we are lost in a dream.

Revolutionary Road - Sam Mendes (2008)

Revolutionary Road is adapted from a book that was written in 1962 and was obviously an indictment of the 50's way of life. I though that it was banned for awhile and that if you had it on your bookshelf then you were considered a communist. I can't seem to find anything regarding that in the history and since it came after McCarthyism, I guess it wasn't directly immersed in the heavy politics of the time. It definitely is a harsh statement against the increasingly corporate environment that was emerging in Amerika during that time and gives you the sense that our capitalistic culture is ultimately soul-crushing. The story is still completely relevant today and as our house of cards comes tumbling down around us, we may find a new avenue toward revolution that was inherent in this film. Another aspect of the story is that it shows in glaring detail the oppression that women faced in the culture at the time and as our current Supreme Court slowly erodes women's rights, the plight of April Wheeler may not be just a distant memory. Directed by Sam Mendes with the lofty and talented Kate Winslett and Leonardo Dicaprio, Revolutionary Road is an extremely good movie. It gets everything right, while creating the exact feel of the era, as well as tapping into the heart-wrenching emotions of the characters. It's lovely to look at but hard to watch, hard to digest as we trudge along in our false sense of security.

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Reflection Pond #12

Joglaresa - Dreams Of Andalusia (2009)

This is a found band for me, which basically means that I didn't get it through the usual channels, which actually quite often means that Xtimu discovered it somewhere and told me about it, since I only have four or five outlets from where I get most of my music. My Baby really connected on Joglaresa. Love the gypsy inspired spiritually tinged music from an era long lost in the past. Joglaresa has been playing since the early 90's and it appears that they are really riding the peak of the wave at this juncture of their career. Tapping into a variety of influences from Irish to the middle east, from Judaism to Islamic to Christian verse, from Spanish-Hebrew to Arab-Andalusian poetry. This group of individuals are truly connecting to a divine voice in this sphere of life. Just take a moment to silence your brain and then put Dreams Of Andalusia on the player and measure your worth. They will take you into another atmosphere where humanity and dignity spread across the lines we've laid in the sand.

My Neighbor Totoro-Hayao Miyazaki (1988)
Whisper Of The Heart-Yoshifumi Kondo (1995)

I could put a Studio Ghibli film on the list every time they release a movie because they are simply that good. Forming in the mid-80's with the intent of moving anime toward a new tomorrow, they began creating beautiful and luscious imagery combined with very imaginative storytelling. These two films are both at least fifteen years old but they resonate with clarity even today. Miyazaki is the master director behind many of the great Ghibli movies including the only oscar winning anime film in history, Spirited Away. My Neighbor Totoro is a classic Ghibli tale about two girls who move to the countryside with their father while their mother is in the hospital with a life-debilitating illness. They run into a wild group of creatures including many different rabbits of various sizes, as well as a bus that is actually a giant cat. Yeah, complex and interesting, it delves into the emotionally fragile life of children when they are faced with a crisis, Incredibly, the story and animation work with both children and adults and the artwork is mind-blowing. Same thing goes for Whispers of the Heart, although the kids in this one are high school students who are learning about love for the first time. Studio Ghibli does a wonderful job tapping into the essence of human nature, mostly through the perspective of children, and every movie seems to have a genuine sweet spirit that embraces life with magic and love.

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Friday, February 05, 2010

64 Months

Lately, I heard through the grapevine that Lucas doesn't find me very funny. The exact phrasing was something like this, "No, my dad isn't that silly." Lucas loves to be silly. He reminds me of the falling on the floor comedians of old, throwing himself around with a big hysterical guffaw bellowing from his lips as he flops down. He makes faces and tells the same joke a hundred times trying to get the same initial laugh. He's a crack-up and he wants everyone else to be a crack-up too.

So I started watching his reaction toward things that I said and did with him and sure enough, I have a difficult time getting him to smile, even when I'm trying real hard. That really made me pull out my prime stuff, making a big effort to get in through his skin and tap that funny bone of his. It's been slow work but I'm starting to recognize his particular brand of humor and learn how to emulate it for him. Whew, it's hard work being a dad.

I've never been the funniest guy in the world. I've always been a pensive, wait until I get comfortable before bringing out my best material kind of guy. There are certain people who somehow bring it out of me and they usually end up being some of my best friends; my old roommate, cousin, and of course my beloved Xtimu; but good laughs are not my forte. Even when I look at my creative work, it usually comes out very somber or dramatic or thoughtful, not that humor can't be any of those things. The closest I get to being funny often ends up being just strange and quirky, though I like to think that I get a smirk every now and then.

I don't know what it is about our culture but one of the rites of passage that youth are continually faced with is the pressure to perform in front of their peers. Everyone must outdo their buddies and this quality only escalates once drinking and drugs enter the equation. That's why so many bars are filled with a cacophony of shrieks and cheers and groans as the clientele attempts to purchase their portion of the pedestal of cool. Perhaps that's why so many teenagers are sullen creatures whose thick hides adults find so difficult to pierce. When they are away from their comrades they are constantly trying to come up with new material so that they might not lose a rung on the social ladder. What a nightmare to have to participate in such a ritual and when I see the youth of today performing in this way, it just makes me cringe. I never imagined that I would go through it all again, vicariously through the lives of my children.

Perhaps I'm making more out of it than the situation really displays. Very little bothers me nowadays with my social interactions amongst those in our Amerikan civilization but I do worry a little about my relationship with my children. I have faith in my ability to do the right thing for them and I usually am very confident with the path Xtimu and I are guiding them toward, but there are times when the idea of walls being constructed between me and my children looms in my mind. Traditionally our western culture doesn't provide much guidance in the ways of creating intimacy for fathers and sons. So when I hear about Lucas expressing concern about some of my behavior the first thing I think about is how to overcome this barrier. I know that the only way for me to remain in his heart is for me to be truly sincere with him at all times. Sincerity for me is a true expression of the soul and that's when my romanticism comes out and what is more romantic than connecting intimately with your family?

So I guess the question I'm faced with today is how can I remain sincere and make him laugh his ass off?

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Reflection Pond #13

Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Phoenix has been a dominant force in our hemisphere over the past decade. First they hit us with United, a stellar pop debut that was a cross cultural mish-mash of fun music. Then came Alphabetical, one of my favorite albums, a mixture of funky pop songs that graced our ears with a blissful bounce. In 2006 we were granted with an old-fashioned album of rock-n-roll called It's Never Been Like That, not the best offering but loved by critics around the globe. Now we have Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, an aspiring album to be sure, mixing between Alphabetical and It's Never Been Like That, we find a band that is pushing all the right buttons. Pleasant pop songs that weave through the atmosphere with a sound that is all their own, Phoenix will be considered one of the great bands of our generation. I know that I have a certain criteria when I search for new music, mostly meandering away from mainstream culture and hoping to find the fringe voice that is genuine. Phoenix has somehow found a way to cling to edge of popular culture but somehow continue to remain true to their own heart. It's a confident attitude that you can hear in their music and hopefully they move forward with the same defining spirit.

House Of Eliott - Jean Marsh & Eileen Atkins (1991-1994)

Okay, so part of our Netflix experience has been sifting through the occasional teevee series that we hear is worth the effort. Since we don't have access to any shows at all, beyond the DVD delivery service or something online that gives us direct viewing, it's difficult for us to spend the time with television programs that take years of our lives. Yet, every now and then we'll hear about something that shouldn't be missed and divest the time to figure out whether or not it really is worth it. House Of Eliott was definitely worth it. A BBC show that ran for three seasons in the early nineties, it has all of the elements of pure boredom, yet manages to elevate above the fray with a beautiful creative spirit. Two young women at the turn of the twentieth century suddenly find themselves in a precarious situation after their father passes away. He didn't leave them with the means to continue to live within the upper tier of society even though that was how they were raised for their entire lives. But they do have something that is more powerful than anything that might cause them damage. They have their incredible love and devotion for each other, and an indomitable spirit to strive forward and make something for themselves. Soon they embark on a career in fashion and with Bea's (older sister) business sense and Evie's (younger sister) creativity and both with enough courage to stand against even the most domineering force, mainly being men in some way or other, they thrive and quickly become the talk of the town. Written with endearing characters and intriguing story lines, it was refreshing to watch a series that truly reveled in the remarkable aspects of these two women, fleshed out and honest in how they make their mark in this world. Rarely do we get that perspective in any sort of cinematic entertainment these days.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Reflection Pond #14

Ladyhawke - Ladyhawke (2009)

This is my guilty pleasure for the year. A pot full of fun mixed with an ounce of nostalgia. I used to live in Chula Vista and every summer we would play out in the street all day long: baseball, basketball, football, hide-n-seek, flirting and kissing. I was fourteen and we were going to move to a new house. I would be at a different school, trying to discover new friends and new adventures. I was scared out of my wits. That's when Matthew Broderick stumbled upon Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfieffer's doomed loved. They were cursed, you see, couldn't ever see each other in the flesh; Hauer was to be human by day and wolf by night, while Pfeiffer was a hawk by day and human at night. They traveled together but only ever caught a glimpse of each other during sunrise and sunset when they transitioned from one form to the next. It's a great concept and one that my teenage self connected with, but unfortunately, like most movies during the 80's, it had a certain sense of the ridiculous. They tried to keep true to the style of the medieval tale but let's just say that the 80's version of a movie score often left a lot to be desired. I loved it though and still find myself quoting lines from the movie to my children, so when I heard about a woman who was going by the moniker of said film, I immediately felt a kinship. It's perfect too! Her music has the same sense of 80's nostalgia but geared toward our current decade. It's a little ridiculous at time but always seems to catch itself at the right moment and come skating back into harmonious bliss. Phillipa "Pip" Brown creates wonderfully smooth music and if you were ever a gawky teenager during the 80's who didn't quite know how to transition into the great night of adulthood that loomed before you, then this is the album for you. Since it's Ladyhawke's first, hopefully we have many more years ahead of us to delve into the light of those days, only catching a glimpse of the divide between the two.

Hawaii, Oslo - Erik Poppe (2004)

Okay, this was my favorite movie for awhile this year. I love movies that take you along a strange circuitous route through the lives of a group of people who are somehow connected and where you know there is going to be some profound revelation at the end. We see these types of films all the time and half the time they totally suck (Crash anyone?) but the other half of the time...well, sweet fucking bliss according to moi. But then I confided my love of Hawaii, Oslo to someone I know that I respect more than anyone else in the world and convinced this person that they must watch it. So we watched it together and all of the interesting aspects of the film that I enjoyed so much before, really began to annoy this person and now that I knew the ending, all of the rest of it seemed terribly plodding and monotonous the second time around. So my suggestion is that you watch this film once and have appreciation for what it is: an extremely well-made film by an auteur who has a succinct vision. Just allow the gravity to pull you in and Hawaii, Oslo should be a pleasant viewing experience. There are guardian angels all around us everyday and in turn we ourselves are also guardian angels as well. We all have a need to take care of certain people in our lives and that obligation allows an element of protection for those people's lives. Whether it's that great teacher that we had in fourth grade or the doctor at the emergency room who takes special care of our son or our own parents, spouses, friends. These special people in our lives love us whole-heartedly and that love guards us in wonderful and profound ways. Those are the angels and spirits that I believe in and I don't need to look to heaven to feel them in my life.

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Monday, February 01, 2010

Reflection Pond #15

Bruce Peninsula - A Mountain Is A Mouth (2009)

Back in the early nineties we were given a gift of a film called The Commitments. It was an interesting romp of quirky characters as they try to start a band in Ireland. Not everyone loved the movie but I thought it was great watching this eclectic group of individuals form into a cohesive creative thing of beauty, only to eventually fall apart under the weight of their collective egos. For some reason when I see or hear Bruce Peninsula this movie comes to mind. Though they don't hail from Ireland, coming from Toronto instead, Bruce Peninsula has the same sort of aesthetic, weaving through a large group of quirky individuals, some of them permanent while others are members for life even though they may not officially play with the band anymore. It all began as a dream by Misha Bower and Matt Cully and has since mutated into a rollicking rollercoaster of fun. Belting out the songs with fervor, appreciating the voice of magicians, Bruce Peninsula has developed a wonderful sound that we can cherish amongst the madness. Every year I find a band that comes out of nowhere and somehow communicates effectively with my soul, as if this was the exact time for it. Eventually it will lead to a lifetime commitment on my part so I hope these lovely individuals know how to keep their egos in check.

The Edge Of Heaven - Fatih Akin (2007)

Fatih Akin is one of those film-makers who take the harsh aspects of life and discovers tiny little lights of beauty that make everything worth living. His movies deal with the cross cultural realities of globalization and the way they affect people's lives. Born in Germany and with strong Turkish roots, Akin's films focus on the way heritage struggles against the cult of conformity in our modern world. I simply love his honest approach to this exceedingly human quandary. In The Edge Of Heaven he follows three families as their lives intersect and divide and reconcile across the space of two countries. Ali, a Turkish immigrant living in Germany, consoles his loneliness by visiting Yeter, an aging prostitute whom he eventually encourages to come and live with him, which his son, Nejat, isn't very happy about. After a jealous bout, Ali kills Yeter and ends up in prison, so Najat heads to Turkey in order to find Yeter's long lost daughter, Ayten, who happened to be living in exile in Germany. While staying there, Ayten meets and falls for Lotte whose mother, Susanne, finds as many ways as possible to discourage her daughter's relationship with Ayten. Eventually Ayten ends up being deported back to Turkey and immediately gets thrown into prison as an enemy of the state, where Lotte soon follows against the wishes of her mother. Meanwhile Najat is now living in the same city despite having no luck at finding Ayten, putting up flyers with her mother's photo on them and eventually buying a bookstore. Lotte rents a room from Najat and proceeds to do everything that she can to get Ayten out of prison with the financial support from her mother, even though Susanne doesn't approve of what her daughter is trying to accomplish. In the process of these efforts Ayten guides Lotte to the location where she hid a gun earlier in the film while living there as a student dissident hoping that it might help with her case, but Lotte ends up getting murdered with that very gun after some street kids steal her purse. This brings Susanne to Turkey in order to retrieve her daughter but then she decides to take on the task of freeing Ayten. She takes over the room that her daughter had rented from Najat and eventually convinces him to reconcile with his father, who has returned to Turkey after being released from prison. As Najat leaves he removes all of the posters of Yeter that he had put up in the bookshop where Ayten eventually ends up staying once Susanne helps gain her release. At the end we simply see Najat waiting on the beach for his father to return to the home they shared together many years earlier. Ahhhhhhhhh...we go running from the theatre! No, it actually was a very interesting movie and now that I just described the entire movie I can see how it is one big metaphor for the difficulties that arise when children separate from their parents. We may go through our entire lives struggling to reconnect with them only to suffer through obstacles that ultimately deny us a reconciliation. Since I now have children of my own, these topics in film are much more interesting than before. I've always had difficulty staying connected with my own parents and Xtimu consistently encourages me to work to change that part of my life. Now, my relationship with my parents may not be as convoluted as a Fatih Akin movie but I can see that it's important to make the effort. I think I'll go call my dad. I haven't spoken to him for awhile.

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