Friday, July 31, 2009

heep see (special summer reading edition)

José Donoso: The Obscene Bird of Night
"Boy was to grow up believing that things came into being as his eyes discovered them and died when he stopped looking at them, that they were nothing but the outer shell perceived by his eyes, that other forms of birth and death didn't exist, and, so much was this the case, that the most important among the words Boy would ever know were all those signifying origin and end. No whys, whens, outsides, insides, befores, afters; no arriving or leaving, no systems or generalizations. A bird crossing the sky at a certain hour was not a bird crossing the sky at a certain hour, it wasn't headed for other places because other places didn't exist; Boy must live in an enchanted present, in the limbo of accident, of the particular circumstance, in the isolation of the object and the moment without a key or a meaning that could subject him to a rule and, in subjecting him to it, cast him into the infinite void it was necessary for him to avoid."

Janet Malcolm: In the Freud Archives
"When I was little, I remember how astonished and interested I was in how easy it is to take life-- when you're driving a car, all you have to do is move the wheel a few inches to the left and you kill somebody and also die yourself-- and how difficult it is to keep alive someone who is sick. Building is interesting, because it's ultimately impossible, I suppose, but killing is boring. It's easy to see through something --to show how stupid it is, or how wrong-- but that doesn't take very long, and then you're finished."

Jean Renoir: Renoir, My Father
"What most struck outsiders at first meeting were his eyes and his hands. His eyes were light brown, bordering on amber; and they were sharp and penetrating. He would often point out a bird of prey on the horizon flying over the valley, or a ladybird climbing up a single blade in a tuft of grass. We, with our young eyes, had to look carefully, concentrate and examine everything closely, whereas he took in immediately everything that interested him, whether near or far...As for their expression, they had a look of tenderness mixed with irony, of merriment and sensuousness. They always seemed to be laughing, perceiving the odd side of things. But it was a gentle and loving laughter. Perhaps it also served as a mask. For Renoir was extremely shy about his feelings and never liked to give any sign of the emotion that overpowered him when he looked at flowers, women or clouds -- other men touch a thing or caress it."

John Williams: Stoner
"But he was not beyond love, he knew, and would never be. Beneath the numbness, the indifference, the removal, it was there, intense and steady; it had always been there. In his youth he had given it freely, without thought...He had, in odd ways, given it to every moment of his life, and had perhaps given it most fully when he was unaware of his giving. It was a passion neither of the mind nor of the flesh; rather, it was a force that comprehended them both, as if they were but the matter of love, its specific substance. To a woman or to a poem, it said simply: Look! I am alive."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I haven't had health care in the 21st century. Instead, I have the God-given, American-brand freedom to practice alternative medicine techniques as I see fit, such as: only crossing busy New York City streets with the light, brushing my teeth three times a day, not letting my glasses slip off my face and break, and uh...never ever getting sick. It's my catastrophe/ dental/ eye package.

As I toil through yet another freelance gig that doesn't quite pay enough to sign up for the Freelancers' Union, one of the job's temporary perks is getting a constant cable feed. Meaning CNN for a daily fix of being filled with "O-motion" (that indescribable feeling of peace, well-being and sense of benevolent intelligence from above that stems from President Obama).

Between being inundated with updates about how his "universal health care" will be his Waterloo and/ or if Michael Jackson was killed by prescription pills (forget about any news about Iran, Honduras, North Korea, China, etc.), I've been seeing lots of commercials about how univer-- uh, "socialist" health care will take away MY rights. Thankfully, seeing the same commercial hundreds of times a day, I've finally been able to read the fine print.

Just being curious, I looked up the Patients United Now group behind the TV spots, finding out that they are in fact just a front for the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. (Turns out they share office space with the Independent Women's Forum, who have stood up for women by claiming that "the battered women's movement has outlived its useful beginnings." Or perhaps you recall them in a previous incarnation,Women for Judge (Clarence) Thomas, when they defended pubes on a Coke can for the sake of womankind.)

So when not defending women's rights, which somehow also has something to do with supporting free markets and a strong foreign policy, APF also fights for "my health care rights" by opposing clean air laws and cigarette taxes in Texas, Illinois, and D.C. And just last year, they again helped save me from health care and skin cancer with their campaign against Global Warming Alarmism. Why start worrying about my health now when we have more pressing matters for the future, like...the passing of HR 1503?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

heep see (special silverdocs edition)

The September Issue

directed by R.J. Cutler

Made by the same folks that did The War Room, a shot of the interior of Vogue's offices as it gears up for their largest issue ever (a/k/a the September issue) feels more war-like than anything in the movie about James Carville. One person esteems Vogue to be more like a church, with main subject Anna Wintour the pope, "the most important woman in the United States." But strangely enough, the film's heart does not reside within this expressionless, sunglass-hidden cultural icon, but rather in her foil, Vogue's creative director Grace Coddington.

"You don't have to look perfect," Coddington assures the cameraman as she puts his beer belly body into a fashion spread at the end of the film, "It's enough that the models are perfect." She at one time was such perfection herself, modeling with the likes of Twiggy and making the swinging '60s London scene, before a car windshield put her on the other side of the camera.

Now fraught, aged, unglamorous, stressed-out, a powerful foil to that Prada-wearing devil, "a romantic left behind" as Grace puts it herself, Coddington might be the first such female figure on the big screen to be all of the above. And as the film makes evident, she's a total artist and genius as well.

No Impact Man

directed by Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein

A Gawker comment that appears in this film about Collin Beavan and his year-long experiment to leave absolutely "no impact" on the environment by not generating trash, riding in a car/ train/ elevator, and --six-months in-- not using electricity labels this man "a bourgeois fuck." And I can't say I disagree with that sentiment, as Beavan is one of the least-appealing characters of recent memory. Even though the film does inspire one to shop exclusively at farmers' markets with ones own canvas bags, staring at the smug-mug of this Fifth Avenue Co-op owner also makes one want to drive out to Wal-Mart in an SUV, throwing out Starbucks cups all along the way.

Act of God
dir. Jennifer Baichwal

Missed about half of this film, so I found myself adrift in impressionistic imagery of lightning storms. The film is about people randomly struck by lightning, and how they interpret it: as either the epitome of a random act or else its polar opposite, a determined act. Baichwal really plays with structure here, but to the point where it loses its grip on reality. There's also this immense leap into a digression about how the creative act itself is like a bolt from the blue. perhaps it doesn't quite fit, but the film ends in this uncanny duet between Paul Auster, reading a short story about a boy he saw struck dead by lightning when he was a child, and an incandescent guitar improvisation by Fred Frith.

Still Bill

directed by Damani Baker

From the outside, it seems almost impossible to fuck up a documentary about Bill Withers, especially when it opens with a pulse-raising montage of the man grooving through a series of live performances on Soul Train and other sound stages. And as a subject that probably doesn't quite get why he's getting the feature film treatment himself, he continually downplays his work with a knowing self-deprecation and wit.

Yet the film's pacing and editing runs contrary to the man's own powers. Emotionally-attuned but never maudlin, crafted but never rambling, direct and never aimless, Bill oeuvre has little in common with his documentary. He's burned out on the biz twenty minutes into the film. Chronology is abandoned midway through, amid a montage of live performances from the Bill Withers' songbook at Prospect Park, the concert strangely mute as old footage of him gets super-imposed. By film's end, we're suddenly back here.

It's fine enough to plunk the man into a backyard BBQ chat with Cornel West and Tavis Smiley, but it never quite moves beyond the novelty of its participants. We see Bill get teary-eyed over any number of things, from talking to a class of stutterers to watching his own daughter sing a song in his studio, but that sacrifice of cohesiveness for such moments still isn't quite Bill.

Bloody Mondays and Strawberry Pies
directed by Coco Schrijber

What does a dessert maker strumming Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" have to do with no-necked stock brokers, American Psycho, a Frenchman painting numbers, football hooligans, a guy lounging in the desert, a 101-year-old businessman, the woman who "doesn't like Mondays," a toothless guys selling newspapers on Wall Street, Danish teens, a female spy, and $40K wrist watches have in common? Uhhhh....despite the chicanery of editing that seemingly makes this into a meditation about "boredom," absolutely nothing.

Dancing With the Devil

directed by Jon Blair

You'd be forgiven for thinking you stumbled into yet another remake of Miami Vice at the start of this film about life in the favelas. Bombastic, brutish, with ludicrous "cop show" aesthetic choices that beggar belief. Both the muscle-bound cops and hideous drug dons of this film thank God for (fill in the blank). Well, God has alot to answer for with this one.

This is documentary porn at its most cruel. Let's get a close-up on this guy's ear, mangled by an attack dog. Now let's get a good look at his broken foot. How about this woman shot in the face? Let's hold that shot until everyone in the theater has to turn away. Now let's talk to this drug kingpin, making sure to pan down and sloooowly regard his mangled tree stump of a leg, looking like it's got shelf mushrooms growing all over the diseased skin.

But whatever we do, let's not pause to understand just how fundamentalism, religion, and capitalism helped to create this mess in the favelas. And let's be sure to only put a female in the film when it's time to show young woman dipping low to a hot favela funk track that goes "Just spread your legs/ Just squat." What ultimately wound up running through my mind while watching a pastor hand out food to these poor kids was if they were going to recycle those plastic cups or else continue to negatively impact the environment.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Treehouse 003

As seen in the New York Times!

Just don't be intimidated by the quote that Treehouse is for "serious technoheads" as --simply put-- it's party music for party people. And who better to elucidate that quality than our special guest, Alex From Tokyo. As always, it's upstairs at Frank's Cocktail Lounge. The needle drops and the disco ball starts spinning at 9pm and yours truly will be on by 10 (no doubt some of the records listed below will be in the gig bag). Hope to see you out!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

heep see

Been buying up heaps of tunes while out on the road, so thought I'd laundry-list a few recent favorites:

Talking Heads: Speaking in Tongues LP (with the Rauschenberg art)
Voyage: Disco Around the World LP
Everly Brothers: Stories We Could Tell LP
Chilly: For Your Love LP
Keith Hudson: Steaming Jungle LP

Kikrokos: "Jungle DJ" (Spectacular Disco Mix by Jim Burgess)
John Tropea: "Livin' in the Jungle"
Beautiful Swimmers: "Swimmers Groove"
The Winners: "Get on Up and Do It/ Love is Free"
Hot Chocolate: "Every1's a Winner/ Put Your Love in Me"

Permanent Vacation feat. Kathy Diamond: "Tic Toc/ Zucker Hut"
Eletrik Dred: "Butter Up (Gimme Some Bread)"
Ann-Margret: "Love Rush"
The Bombers: "The Mexican/ Dance Dance Dance"
The Bombers: "(Everybody) Get Dancin'"

Sinnamon: "Thanks to You"
Susan Stevens "Boogie Walk"
PiL: "Memories"
Diskjokke: "Asa Nisi Masa"
Prins Thomas: "Mammut"

Barbara Roy: "Gotta See You Tonight"
Barbara Roy & Ecstasy, Passion & Pain: "If You Want Me"
Staple Singers: "Slippery People"
Rockers Revenge: "Walkin' on Sunshine"
Gary's Gang: "Keep On Dancin'"

Saturday, July 04, 2009

washington, b.c.

The only time I had ever visited Washington, DC previously, it was for work, in the middle of the abject purgatory that was the previous regime. About the only thing I recall from then was how unsettling the Washington Monument was up close, how we had to walk past a crackhouse to get to our fancy boutique hotel, how a five-minute drive from the capital unveiled women in crusty Daisy Dukes, shriveled and toothless from too much Tina.

Not that Chocolate City has changed too much, but the entire place feels suffused with O-motion (def. that wondrous sensation of well-being that floods one's self when Obama's name gets mentioned in conversation or in a newspaper article) upon my return. This go-around, DC feels like a dream come true, to the point of it almost being ludicrous:

*Randomly run into Fugazi's Brendan Canty on a street corner, buzzed and about to go sing karaoke? Check.

*See Christo and Jeanne-Claude give documentary legend Albert Maysles a lifetime achievement award and hear Maysles talk about how in seeking to understand a person, you grow to love them? Check.

*Gardens in full bloom (and in full utilization) in every single front yard I stroll past? Check.

*Delirious amounts of Ethiopian food? Yep.

*Ridiculously great 12"s sitting in the dollar bin at Som Records? Untold amounts.

*Seeing R.J. Cutler's brilliant new documentary The September Issue that seemingly is about Anna Wintour and Vogue, yet trenchantly reveals instead the genius artistry of creative director Grace Coddington? Yes.

*Attend a block party with Trouble Funk dropping the bomb on my ass? You betcha.